E3 2015: Platinum Games Dominates E3

Every year it’s the same old story- who won E3?  Sony?  Microsoft?  Nintendo?  Dispensing for a moment the fact that E3 isn’t the press conferences that take place before the show floor even opens, and that it’s not a competition, and that the actual winners are the people who are going to be able to play all these amazing games the industry works so incredibly hard on creating using every ounce of skill and passion available, maybe the winner of E3 isn’t a console manufacturer at all.  Platinum Games has three titles on the show floor this year with at least one more in the works being saved for Gamescom, and each one is a major achievement in its own way.

First up, and the one garnering the most controversy, is Star Fox Zero.  While the game looks a little basic in the art department, the ability to transform into different types of craft mid-flight promises to add a lot of variety not just to the mission types but also in finding secrets and hidden areas.  The reliance on the gamepad gyros and screen for targeting while using the sticks to fly, necessitating glancing back and forth between both screens at once, seems like it could be problematic, but reports from the show floor indicate it’s actually an interesting challenge.  Star Fox promises to do what it does very well, but it’s going to take some getting used to.  Once you’ve made the effort, though, the payoff is a proper Star Fox sequel that takes the Arwing through its paces, both familiar and new, in levels designed for heavy replayability.

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The next game on Platinum’s hit list is Transformers: Devastation, and it’s easily the one that got people most excited.  Want to play as Optimus Prime looking exactly like he did in the 80s, drop into a group of Decepticons, and get brawling?  Perform an uppercut on an enemy, jump into the air, change into a semi truck, and air-dash it into a building?  The only reasonable answer to that is “Oh hell yes!”, but that’s just the start of a combat engine that demands full use of both robot and vehicle forms.  Transformers: Devastation is a third-person free-roaming brawler that promises to fuse the depth of combat Platinum is known for with the wonderfully garish look of a Saturday morning cartoon, and the development team is headed up by Metal Gear Rising’s director, Kenji Saito.  It features five different Autobots to play as- Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack, and Grimlock, each with their own special move set, and they even got Peter Cullen and a large number of the original cast to reprise their roles.  Tranformers: Devestation is a love letter to the 80s cartoon, big and bold and beautifully over the top in all the best ways.

The final game from Platinum was a complete curve-ball, utterly unexpected but deeply welcome.  Nier was the game that should have cemented Cavia’s reputation but instead it came out, made a few fans, and quickly fell into the discount rack.  Now the former Cavia development crew has teamed up with Platinum and Square-Enix to make a sequel, and while it was only shown in concept-art form during the a press event it was also one of the more memorable moments of E3 thanks to Yoko Taro’s dislike of being seen in public leading to him wearing a giant creepily-grinning mask during the presentation.  The new Nier (which will be Neir: Subtitle of Some Sort But Not Yet Announced) will feature three playable characters and focus more firmly on third-person action than the original, which tended to freshen up the experience by overhead view sections and bullet-hell boss encounters.  It should make for a more uniform experience but some weirdness is bound to creep in, especially in the story.  Nier was very much a mature-audiences game, not afraid to face the violence and sex of its subject matter head-on, and the sequel will be no different.  Nier: The Sequel is a long way off, but just knowing it’s going to exist is enough to get excited about.

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Not actually anywhere in all of E3 is Scalebound, Platinum’s dragon fighting game for the Xbox One that Microsoft swears isn’t like Monster Hunter.  What this means is that there are four major games in development at the studio right now, putting Platinum comfortably ahead of Capcom and Konami.  The Japanese game development industry is pretty sad right now, and the days of it leading the world are long over.  Not leading isn’t the same thing as dead, though, and Platinum is at the forefront of big-studio AAA Japanese gaming with no competition.  Its developers came to E3 with three fan-favorite franchises and a fourth held in reserve for later, each from a different major publisher.  That’s an amazing feat for any studio, and if it’s possible to “win” E3 then that’s exactly the kind of accomplishment that would do it.

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