E3 is a time of big announcements and unveiling. With the event right around the corner, the gaming space has been filled with folks making predictions and laying out the list of games they’re looking forward to seeing. Our very own Adam Beck has done just that with his recent article discussing his most anticipated titles of this year’s conventions. So because that kind of thing has already been covered, I thought I’d go in a different direction today. Thus, I want to talk about my most anticipated E3 2013 announcements, that clearly won’t happen, but probably should.
10. Nintendo unveils F-Zero U
F-Zero is one of the franchise’s that Nintendo rarely re-visits. The game skipped over the Wii generation entirely, being seen last on the GameCube, and is just generally not talked about much by the big wigs over at the Big N. With the Wii U struggling to stay afloat, though, due to its lack of software, Nintendo would do well to load the system up with as many well-known IPs as possible. While the E3-related Nintendo Direct will presumably be filled with all sorts of awesomeness, it wouldn’t kill them to throw in F-Zero U, as a little added bonus.
Arcade-racers are extremely hard to come by these days. Sure, we might get the random HD version of Daytona USA, but a fully fledged retail release of an arcade racer like F-Zero just doesn’t happen anymore. What better way to capture an entire market than to unleash the grand daddy of said racers onto the masses?
09. Virtual-On 5 is announced
Virtual-On is a series of games that has never earned the respect it deserves. For starters, it has mechs, which makes it exponentially more radical than 75 percent of all other games on the market. Secondly, it’s an arena fighter that takes into account quick wits, precision timing and a keen, tactical mind. Oh, and it’s also fast as hell. Lastly, it’s one of those titles that anyone can pick up and play and almost immediately enjoy.
There’s something inherently enticing and fully satisfying about a fighter than can be played by anyone, but mastered by only a select few. That’s Virtual-On in a nutshell. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the game is flashy as all get out, with mechs that aren’t overtly battle-torn, rather aesthetically loud and fluorescent, bulky and impractical. You take all of this, throw it together with some new modes, the subtraction of the balancing issues that made this generation’s Virtual-On Force such trash, provide access to a (reasonably priced) Twin Stick peripheral for people to attain maximum enjoyment from the game, and you’ve got yourself a winner. Let’s make it happen, Sega!
08. Kojima announces Policenauts localization, David Hayter to voice protagonist Jonathan Ingram
Hideo Kojima is something of a master at storytelling. He can craft a tale that is compelling and humanistic, even when there’s outerspece, ninjas that strap swords to their feet and death-dealing mechs involved. The guy just knows how to gift a gripping tale that puts its players in a stranglehold they never realized they desired so badly.
Because of this, it feels like a travesty that we gamers of the West missed out on one of his most coveted creations, Policenauts. As something of a spiritual successor to the fantastic Sega CD gem, Snatcher, Policenauts is a cinematic sci-fi drama that plays out very much so like its predecessor. Meaning to say, it’s heavy on characterization, plot development and spectacular set pieces. The game is essentially a point-and-click adventure, but without the restrictions seen in other titles of its kind. So outside of the traditional adventure elements, and much like Snatcher before it, there are shooting segments that are akin to on-rails sections where the action ramps up, delivering thrilling moments that are hard to forget.
The truth is, Policenauts is one of those games that feels so sound because of how succinctly all of the moving parts come together. When this occurs, the title feels unlike anything else out there, which makes this yet another distinct and wholly unique experience, only possible because of Kojima’s crazy vision for how game’s should be enjoyed. Localizing this 18 year old game would be a blessing to gamers. It would also show people how games can transcend their medium because Policenauts certainly does just that. To top it off, you throw in David Hayter to voice the game’s hero, Jonathan Ingram, since Keifer Sutherland booted him out of his Solid Snake role. It’d make sense, people — Hayter’s already going to be at E3, and has been teasing something on his Twitter!
07. Former CAVE developers form new studio, and have next gen SHMUP in the works
CAVE was one of the most important studios when it came to SHMUP development. Being a part of the game since the mid ’90s, the Japanese-centric developer was best known for series such as DoDonPachi, Mushihimesama and Espgaluda. Although their ways were only seen by the most niche gamer, the kind who enjoy hardcore shoot’em ups, their existence in the industry overall was important. Unfortunately, just days after the release of their last, and quite possibly most anticipated shooter, DoDonPachi Saidaioujou, the company went under. This had been a long time coming, and those of us in the STG community knew that their existence was all but hinging on a thread. Alas, when the announcement broke at the end of May, so did my heart – but I wasn’t all that surprised, regrettably.
Thus, at E3 it would be marvelous to hear that the key players from CAVE have formed a new studio and are working on a next gen SHMUP. This would be music to my sweet, little ears, and would certainly enthuse STG fans around the globe. Let’s make it happen, guys; the world is in need of more bullet-hell shooters! It’s time for the king to sit on his throne once more.
06. Crimson Dragon is made an Xbox One launch title; gameplay is shown off, Kinect controls dropped entirely
Crimson Dragon is more or less a new installment in the Panzer Dragoon series, just without the namesake. Headed by famed Panzer Dragoon designer, Yukio Futatsugi, the game has looked magical in the few videos shown off to the public. What’s been strange, then, is the game missing its release date last year and then never being talked of again. Now, we know the game is still in the works, but other than that, all has been quiet on the Eastern front.
This is precisely why it would be splendid if Microsoft came out and stated the game had been delayed in order to drop its Kinect-exclusive controls as well as to make the Xbox One’s official launch lineup. This is the type of game that rarely comes along in today’s day and age, so Crimson Dragon’s release is tantamount to niche gamers, if for nothing else than to show them that hope does exist, and the entirely industry isn’t headed in the direction of shelling out more Mass Effect’s, Assassin’s Creed’s and Call of Duty’s (not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with the former two).
05. Call of Duty franchise ceases development, forever
Annual releases for games are obnoxious. It’s somewhat tolerable with sports titles, but even then it feels like consumers are just being taken advantage of. But regardless, it still sort of makes sense for Madden to be released on a yearly basis. A shooter, however? No. Just no. So, that’s point number one.
Point number two is that Call of Duty has done so much damage to this industry, that it’s almost unforgivable at this stage. CoD has set an expectation, at least in the eyes of mainstream gamers, that has done no favors to gaming. It’s set an expectation that folks should play games with paper thin stories, marginal gameplay tweaks from last year’s iteration and contrived shooting elements that rarely seek to innovate. In fact, I’d go so far as to say Call of Duty is just lazy gaming, for all involved actually.
From a design standpoint, the franchise is a joke: all the stories more or less go down in the same way, and the core mechanics never feel unique, built upon or all that interesting. The multiplayer modes change up one or two elements in each entry, but by and large, the multiplayer I played in Black Ops 2, is the same shit I played in the original CoD. From a gamer’s perspective, however, it’s also lazy, as it requires no work to blow through the shallow singleplayer and then mindlessly shoot dudes in an online match. There’s little-to-no forethought that needs considering while playing these games, it’s just all about the run and gun — which is fine, by the way, except when each entry in a franchise forces its players to engage in the same mundane, uninspired shit time and time again, just against a different backdrop.
There’s a time and a place for games like CoD, but every year certainly isn’t it. I’ll even go out on a limb and say any year going forward isn’t Call of Duty’s time. Just kill the franchise already. When your biggest addition to the series in years are dogs with tattooed ears, you know you’ve officially hit rock bottom.
04. Shenmue III coming to PS4
Shenmue is one of those franchises that evokes feelings of love or confusion; when the first game released on the Dreamcast over a decade ago, it was met with this kind of mixed reception. Some fans and critics adored the game, and its sandbox nature, while others scratched their heads at the lack of direction, a reliance on QTEs and too much downtime between story segments. But the one aspect that everyone can agree on is the fact that Shenmue had heart, and a ton of it.
I personally found the game to be brilliant, and still hold it in high esteem all these years later. It’s also one of those titles that has managed to withstand the test of time, still relevant and on equal grounds with many games released today. Shenmue was massive for its time, and had a way of storytelling that simply wasn’t seen in those days of gaming. It also employed a combat system that was deep and exhilarating, often times feeling like a fully fleshed out 3D fighter, rather than the battling system of a roleplaying game.
All that aside, though, what certainly made Shenmue so special was the classic tale it told. Not only was the plot itself solid and involved, but the pacing and writing of it all was constructed in a way that left players hanging on every word and cutscene. I played the game for hours on end just trying to see what Ryo would stumble into next; the best part was I could never predict how the narrative would unfold. Of course, the first game wrapped up on a cliffhanger, which then gave way for Shenmue II. At the time, the second game never made it to North America on the Dreamcast. It took until Microsoft’s original Xbox to continue Ryo’s tale, which also possessed many of the same qualities that made the first so wonderful.
It’s unfortunate, then, that the sequel ended on a cliffhanger too. I say “unfortunate,” not because I have something against such endings, but for the fact that the third game, which was to conclude the story, was never released. The cost of Shenmue’s creation was astronomical, even by today’s standards. Because of this, and the lower-than-projected sales, the franchise simply could not continue, not from a logistical and financial standpoint. Series creator Yu Suzuki has expressed interest time and time again over the years, though, in finishing up the franchise with a third and final game. Whether it will happen or not remains to be seen, but if there’s one way to make this E3 memorable, for me anyhow, it’s to announce that Shenmue III is in the works, and will arrive on Next Gen consoles sometime in the relatively near future. Now, THAT would be an announcement.
03. Square Enix Announces Final Fantasy VII Remake
What would this list be without the obligatory rant about a Final Fantasy VII remake? But seriously, listen: all I’m saying is, if Sony wants to come out of the gates swinging, ready to bury its competition, they need to partner with Square Enix to unleash a world-stopping announcement of a remake of one of the most influential video games of all time. Final Fantasy VII was the game that got the PlayStation ball rolling almost two decades ago. It can happen again. It’s really a win-win situation for everyone when you think about it. Longtime fans would finally get what they want, newer and younger gamers would be able to play an updated version of the game they’ve heard so much about, Square would actually make money, and Sony would solidify themselves as the top contender for the Next Gen world heavyweight championship.
Such a bold move would not just merely shock audiences, but realistically, inspire and excite them beyond reason. There’s a reason why VII is considered timeless — it’s because it embodies this very medium, down to its core. It has a captivating, intimate story to telling, a giant world to explore, yellow feathered birds to capture and more Malboros to kill than one can shake a stick at. It’s the total package, really. With the next gen technology, this could be the perfect time to show off how great VII can look in full high-definition, and without character models so sharp and angular that they could cut cans. Final Fantasy VII’s impact would not have been as poignant if it was released on PS2 or 3, like so many wanted; but now, there’s enough of a jump in technological capabilities that such a remake would actually hold weight and mean something.
The long of the short of it is this: Square Enix have been hemorrhaging money for some time now, thanks to a few tankers. The luster of the Final Fantasy series at large has also diminished greatly over the years, no thanks to some installments that weren’t quite up to par. Thus, it’s no secret that both the franchise and its creator need to get back on track. This is how they do it. Whether you love Final Fantasy VII, or despise it, you can’t argue that a remake of the game, at this point in time, would do wonders for the companies involved, and just the industry at large. Developers, publishers and gamers alike all need something to get excited about again — and if you ask me, this is how they do it.
02. Sega reveals Dreamcast II
Sega certainly has seen better days. While they still ride Sonic’s coattails for a pretty penny, the company has offered very little to the industry as of late, at least in comparison to the influence they once had on the market. The truth is Sega hasn’t been the same since they exited the console race back in the early 2000s. Since then, they’ve been stuck in a purgatory-like state, trying to figure out what exact they have to contribute to the industry. This is why, at E3, the biggest and best news that we could possibly dream for, would be a Dreamcast 2 reveal.
Yeah, yeah, not going to happen. I get it. But a guy can dream, right? If there’s one thing the Dreamcast was known for, it was its library of games that never forgot that they were, in fact, video games. While the PlayStation 2 and Xbox were making games more productions than things we played, Sega’s magical Swirl-emblazoned machine never forgot its roots. If we look at types of titles the Dreamcast offered, we see just how many arcade-like experiences were made available. In hindsight, the system was probably the closest thing we’ve ever gotten to a home version of an arcade machine (barring the Neo Geo), and it’s because of this emphasis, that the console has earned itself such a cult following.
If you think about, the DC innovated in so many ways. It was doing online before online, console gaming was really a thing. It was doing console-based Internet browsing, before that became a standard. It was doing interactive controllers (via the VMU) before Nintendo’s GamePad. It was doing beautiful 3D graphics before Sony, Microsoft and the Big N got in on the goodness. It then had games that weren’t available anywhere else: Shenmue, Skies of Arcadia (though, that would later be ported to GameCube), Phantasy Star Online, Seaman, Rez, Space Channel 5, Jet Set Radio, Soul Caliber, the entire 2K series of sports titles, Sonic Adventure, Resident Evil: Code Veronica and the list goes on. The thing was a monster of a console, but unfortunately, most people only recognized that in retrospect.
What I’m meaning to say here is this: the Dreamcast did a lot for our industry. I’d go so far as to say it paved the way for some of the conventions we just assume will be present in our hardware and software today. Without Sega’s influence, who knows where we would be game-wise, and that statement applies to their work long before the DC existed.
When Sega is on their A-game, they can innovate. We need that right now. Even with all the hoopla over the forthcoming generation of systems, neither are all that ground-breaking. A successor to the Dreamcast could not only offer us much more, as gamers, but it would do wonders for the competition. I can only think that the PlayStation 2 and Xbox were as strong as they were because they knew they would have to one-up, or at the very least compete with, Sega. That generation was arguably one of the best we’ve seen. We don’t often give them credit for it, but perhaps it’s because Sega that things turned out that way.
01. Microsoft says, “We’re just kidding about the DRM stuff, our console being an “entertainment” machine, our arrogance in assuming you all wanted to be able to Skype via your video game system and that entire thing we called a “reveal” back on May 21″
…And that’s all they say, period.
“The [Top] Hat” is a monthly article evaluating the reasons why certain games are great or awful and/or the overall accomplishments of our gaming industry. Sometimes we take on the top 20 best games of the 2000s, and other times we analyze the reasons why a game that isn’t on a certain console should be. It is a lengthy editorial piece designed to elicit either nostalgia or an assessment of a product or group of products within this media. It is also a time for Bradly to rant about his opinions on the industry and its efforts. Agree or disagree, love his opinions or hate them, “The [Top] Hat” is the article you will want to look forward to each month.