ME3

13 07 2016

E3 Logo

“On my business card, I’m a Corporate President. In my mind, I’m a Game Developer. But in my heart, I am a Gamer”

Satoru Iwata.

It’s one of the biggest events of the year on the video gaming calendar. Many people travel many hundreds if not thousands of miles to be a part of it, and witness the colossal event that is simply known as E3. Every year the Los Angeles Convention Center becomes a hot bed for video game companies, developers, websites, magazines, fans and corporate personal all traveling in from all corners of the earth to discover and show off what they see and believe to be the next step and future of Video Gaming. Since the first Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in 1995, E3 has grown to become the major event that it is today, and is synonymous with all the above. Say the name E3 to any video game fan, and they will instantly know what you are talking about. It has become the location and event where some of the biggest moments and announcements in the history of Video Games have come to pass, from the reveals of new consoles, to the launch sites of new games and content. If you want to know what the next big thing in gaming is, there is a good shot that the ideal time and place of where to at least find a hint, is none other than E3.

E3 Expo

Over 10 years ago, I got my first taster and understanding of E3 from the magazines I read at the time. The main magazine I had access to was CUBE Magazine. CUBE, was entirely dedicated to Nintendo Games, and every year like all other major video game magazines, they would include a spread on what happened at E3. As the years went by and as magazines such as CUBE disappeared, my knowledge and desire to keep up to date with the events of E3 continued, and eventually I would look into topics and details on my own. Being a kid with little pocket money it was never really going to be the case that I would get to go to E3 but the dream was there, that must count for something. I was a dedicated follower of E3, and loved to watch the Press Conferences, in fact, that became a staple viewing of mine every May-July (whenever it was on). But slowly over time, I just sort of stopped looking into E3. I had no more magazines to look at, and as my interest in most current video gaming sort of side-lined, I just completely forgot about E3. Recently of course E3 returned, and all the news pouring in brought it all running back to me. I did not watch any of the press conferences, but I did feel a run of nostalgia, and thought I would write a post on me and E3 (or rather corny: ME3).

GameCube

Back at the dawn of the Millennium, I did not really have much in the way as a gamer other than a Game Boy Pocket (which was actually a replacement as the much bigger Yellow Game Boy was stolen). A few months later though that changed with my first real home games console (rather than a hand-held), that in the form of a Nintendo 64. I had a lot of fun playing on that machine, playing on games like Goldeneye 007, F-Zero X and Pokémon Stadium. A few years later I received a Nintendo GameCube for Christmas, and I still have it. It still works brilliantly and I still have many of the games I used to play on it originally such as Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, James Bond 007: Nightfire, and my all time (GC) favourite; F-Zero GX. It was at this time I started getting CUBE magazine and first heard about E3. Originally I thought nothing of it; that was until about 2005. CUBE used to supply little GC sized discs with their magazines. These had two format’s, one they could be used for game cheat codes for the Game Cube, while the other disc was a DVD’s showing off trailers for upcoming games as well as sales ads for Action Replay. Anyway, in 2005 on of the DVD’s I got included video footage of Nintendo’s E3 conference for that year. It was not the best quality I have to admit, but it certainly was entertaining. It was my first real taste of E3, and would develop into me wanting more. I can remember it quite fondly, it had appearances from future regular Reggie Fils-Aime, it talked about games such as Nintendogs and Electroplankton, it revealed details of the Game Boy Micro and even featured appearances from both Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata. Mr Iwata’s appearance though gave me one of the most memorable moments of E3 to date. Mr. Iwata stood up on stage and took out of his pocket a small black box; a small black box that would become a main feature of a great many homes worldwide in just a few years.

At the time it was called the Nintendo Revolution; but in just a year’s time at the next E3, it would become known as the Nintendo Wii. The reaction from the audience, plus the way it was revealed remains for me one of the truly great moments in E3’s history. It would not be until E3 2006 that things would really take off. For the most part, E3 and I was all Nintendo. I had a Nintendo console and read the appropriate magazines. For me and gaming at the time, it was either Nintendo or PC. So for the first few years, me and E3 was all about Nintendo. As I was not able to physically attend, most of the news and E3 experience I got came down to watching the press conferences, but I didn’t mind, the Press conferences for me then and since have always been the highlight, and even when I would look at other companies Press conferences, for me Nintendo’s was always the highlight. My E3 experience took off a little more in 2006 at, well; Guess Who’s Press conference. I received a sort of cut and trimmed DVD presentation copy off Official Nintendo Magazine (no more CUBE, they just stopped producing, no farewell, no nothing). The show was no more than about 10 minutes long but still opened with Reggie, and featured appearances from Miyamoto and Iwata as well as a few others. It would not be until the personal discovery of YouTube and still a few years before I would get a good watch of it. For me, the 2006 conference remains (possibly) my favourite. It’s been a while since I watched it fully, but the things I do remember I do fondly. The stage, the opening doors, choices of music, the reveals of games and hardware as well as the important discussion notes regarding the main star: The Wii. For me though, the major thing I remember most is the opening. Miyamoto dressed like a conductor, brandishing a Wii controller and directing a digital orchestra. This was followed by some more music and on stage demos by a couple of guys (probably display models from The Price is Right), presenting live play footage of two of the consoles early and premium titles: Red Steel and Excite Truck; such an awesome sight.

As you can probably tell, by now I was a committed fan of E3 for several years, especially for Nintendo. The following year in 2007, I was able to watch the conference properly on a laptop, not a live stream of Nintendo’s conference, but a pre-recorded one. It was still a big one, with the main topic being the Wii’s success and the show talked in detail about new exciting games such as Mario Kart Wii and Wii Fit. From 2007 onwards, I became a fan of a TV show on the now deceased UK channel Bravo called Gamer.TV. Gamer.TV, or simply Gamer TV to me, gave me a route into the rest of E3.

Reggie Fils-Aimé

In 2008, what should have been yet another great year for Nintendo at E3 was sort of ruined. It was not a good presentation, it was very low-key and was blotted by a new presenter, that of Cammie Dunaway. Reggie had always been the main presenter for Nintendo at E3, but in 2008 for some reason he was sort of replaced by Dunaway. Now no offence intended to somebody who is supposedly a corporate whizz, but in Gaming terms, and especially E3 terms, Dunaway was not a good presenter. She presented herself as something of a Mum like character, spent a lot of time bending over backwards and her suit was just flying all over the place. She was very distracting. There are many people on a corporate level who have presented at E3 in the past, many of whom could be considered not just good but naturally gifted presenters. Some on a corporate professional level such as Reggie, Iwata, Jack Tretton, Peter Moore, Phil Harrison and Kazuo Hirai are able to present in a very methodical, understandable yet also very entertaining way. After that you also have characters like Kevin Butler and Tim Schafer, maybe not a corporate presenter, but generally as good as the above if not better. In comparison Dunaway was just annoying. If it was not in a video game context I bet she is pretty good as a presenter, but in this instance, she was just really bad. It put a sour note on the year. Thanks to Gamer TV though, I got my first proper taste of the Competitions presentations. Don’t remember much about Microsoft at E3 in 2008, but, Sony put on an incredible show and revealed exciting new games presenting them in trailers. Games of memorable note include both God of War 3 and of course, MAG.

From 2009 onwards it was a big change for E3 and me. From this point forward, I decided to watch the other press conferences too not just Nintendo. Well, what I actually mean is that I also watched Sony ad Microsoft as well as Nintendo, as for anyone else I just gave those a miss. 2009 saw some improvements from Nintendo, yes Dunaway was till presenting, but her presentation style was updated and improved. The stage was very small and surrounded by Televisions, but it was still a major improvement. The first one I watched though was Microsoft. Big announcements and some games but overall (and setting the mood quite well for themselves for the next several years) it was like some kind of ‘coffee klatch’ presentation with a 5 minute break in between each section. It did however present a memorable moment when a producer from Harmonix danced away on Dance Central. I think Sony’s was generally alright, I just don’t remember all that much about it.

Then the years went on from there really. Nintendo improved gradually from their 2008 shambles; revealing details about new big games, and of course details and presentations of the Nintendo 3DS, Microsoft did not improve at all, except to allow Tim Schafer to have a spot for one of his games; and continue to prove my theory that the X-Box is nothing more than a glorified set-top box, While Sony began to show off how much of a powerhouse they truly were. Sony really began to shine for me, and their presentation style really began to glow, especially in 2010, with a much longer press conference than the other 2 and the introduction and constant inclusion of Kevin Butler, as well as an awesome trailer for Twisted Metal. And from there, E3 for me just kept on keeping on. I did take an occasional look at other press conferences, Ubisoft once stood out for me with their reveal of Far Cry 3.

So what happened, how did an annual event that was just as important to me as it was for others suddenly not have a place in me anymore? I don’t actually know is the short answer, but I bet I got a pretty good clue. The year was 2012, and after waiting a considerable length of time, the 2 games I bought in 2012 that were actually brand new were finally released, Twisted Metal and Far Cry 3. In 2013, I bought another game I had been looking forward too, a bit too long for actually; Beyond: Two Souls, which was released at the very end of the year. I don’t think I actually watched anything of the 2013 press conferences, I think the last time I took any attention to E3 was with the announcement of the Wii U. What happened? I just lost a little interest in games, as the times were moving on, and some of the stuff at the time did not apply to me. In 2012 I got back into books and started playing Board Games more frequently. I guess it was just the case that as my long time love of Video Games waned and began to be replaced by other things more strongly, I just forgot about E3. To be honest, since 2012, I don’t think I have really thought about E3 other than when announcements are made on the trending part of Facebook. It’s kind of sad when I think about it really; I used to have so much excitement, and used to experience so much fun just watching a few press conferences, now for it to be almost nothing but a memory for me. Will I ever get back into it, I don’t know. I could try to watch this year’s conferences on YouTube sometime if I get round to it, or I could try double hard for next year, but I really don’t know. Sorry if it seems so anti-climactic but I don’t really have an answer of why or even why not?

Wii U

The thing is though, that even if I do get back into it, there is something vitally important missing from the conferences now. About this time last year, the industry lost one of its truly great and unique people; a man who was certainly still in his prime and still had many more years to give to the industry. He was a corporate president, and the CEO of the world’s largest video game company. He passed away just as the company was beginning to take its next step into a bright new future. For me, this man has been the main highlight for not just E3 but many other conferences I have been fortunate enough to see him present at. At E3 he made the press conferences fun and enjoyable no matter how terrible or mediocre the outcome. Someone whose presentation style was a wonder to behold and who spoke with a personal passion on the things he adored; whether it be games, technology or even chopping onions; he gave me some of the most interesting, intriguing and informative moments of my Video Game life and made E3 a magical moment. Sadly he is gone now, but his name; like E3 will remain synonymous with not just gamers, but with the entire video game industry, and the memories he has produced over the years will remain with us forever. I never met him, never saw him live, but I wish I had. He was a great inspiration to me, he was someone whose presentation style but also career was something to aspire too when I wanted to be a video games designer many years ago. He influenced me greatly when I was studying in that field, and even when I stopped viewing E3 regularly, every now and then I would go online and look up one of his press conferences, just for my own entertainment. More than anyone else, for me; E3 was a moment not just to hear about games and consoles, but a moment to hear from the great man that was: Satoru Iwata (miss you).

Satoru Iwata

GENEPOOL

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Shadow The Hedgehog: The Final Word

17 06 2015

Shadow The Hedgehog (SEGA - 2005)

Several years ago, I used to collect Official Nintendo Magazine, I still have them actually. It was back when I was a big gamer and played on mostly Nintendo consoles. Eventually though, maybe two years ago, I just stopped collecting them, I don’t think I actually had a proper good read of one for a year before that. Anyway, the magazine continuously changed every few issues to keep it fresh and one of the magazine sections that stuck around for a while was a readers section. This was where anyone who wrote letters in, or (more commonly) from the online forums would get a say. When it came to the online forums, ONM used to show a pie chart of percentages of what people talked about most that month, and one of the most commonly featured topics in the pie chart was a lot of people showing their support for a spinoff game of the Sonic the Hedgehog series; Shadow The Hedgehog.

ONM Magazine

I never actually looked into those topics on the forums, my forum footprint overall was pretty low; however it always interested me to see people defend Shadow the Hedgehog. I remember first reading about the game and being a fan of the Sonic series at the time (and also my liking for the character of Shadow), I was excited about it. I remember even getting a copy of it for my GameCube when it was first released, and remembered hearing friends and other people talk about their opinions for the game, where the result was normally positive. One thing I did not understand though, was why (roughly) 25% of the readership of the magazine wrote on the forums every month just to defend a specific game. The other percentages used to talk about new stuff or current games and opinions; so why is another talking about one game in particular? I mean, what was so bad about Shadow the Hedgehog in the first place. When I originally played it, I thought it was quite fun. I played it quite a lot and really got into it. Ok, it wasn’t like it had no flaws at all but I thought it was OK. With the game being nearly 10 years old now, I thought I would reminisce a little by looking back at it and giving a more hindsight view on what I thought of the final product. While the post may say “The Final Word”, this probably, more than likely, won’t be the last time someone talks about this game, but due to the interest in people defending the game, I thought I would give and highlight my thoughts on the game, then hopefully come up with some overall rating for it (I probably won’t do this again in the future as it probably won’t work).

Shadow

1. Setting – Shadow is a hedgehog (like sonic, but black in colour) who has something of a mysterious past that comes back to him in flashbacks he doesn’t relatively understand. For the most part he is a loner and only cares for himself and some mysterious girl called Maria. One day, an Alien Invasion by a race known as the Black Arms suddenly happens. At first he doesn’t care, but is then approached by the races master; Black Doom who says that if Shadow can bring him the Chaos Emeralds, he will reveal Shadows past. The alien invasion setting then sets the game up for the player to take shadow on a story plot that allows the player to take different routes and discover and play different levels while also discovering Shadows Past. The games’ setting is pretty interesting and as its core point of storytelling goes, it’s pretty cool; however it’s all over the place. One moment you are fighting off an alien invasion, the next, you are nowhere near the invasion, to doing something that happened 50 years previously, or fighting a completely different enemy altogether. Because you are not too sure of where you are supposed to be, it feels more like a game without story than a game that sort of promises to tell you a story while discovering it yourself at the same time. While it is interesting to discover new things and experiences other bits, for a story telling adventure, it’s a bit poor. 2/5.

S4

2. Gameplay Part 1: Storytelling – The game offers you choices of routes to take from level to level, meaning the game is not linear. In fact the game uses a story tree which allows players to pick a route to take and follow it to where it goes. To do this, they have 3 choices of mission per level (as far as I know, I didn’t get as far as the end of each story side). One route choice will take the player on the hero path, another on the dark path, and the other on the horizontal normal route. If the player goes down the normal route that just comes to the point of reaching the end of the level for the other 2 though it usually requires completing an in game goal or completing the level in a certain way. So it could be activating or finding things in level, or it could be defeating so many enemies to destroying something. Relatively simple……….in theory. It’s one of the larger issues I have with the game. The problem is, that while it sounds relatively simple; some of those side missions can turn out to be rather complex. Some are easier than others but when it comes down to either finding so many of one thing, or collecting the other, finding them in the first place can be very irritating, especially when there is only one left, and while you may get to the point of certainty knowing where it is, finding it at all again is tricky. Keeping it to those routes to get to new levels can become even more irritating if you accidently end up doing a level you may have already done once before, and when you play levels over and over again, it gets really boring. Then even if you are successful in completing the mission correctly to go onto the next stage, you may end up taking on one of the games various random bosses, which is tedious unto itself. It is a rather inventive and exciting way to play a sonic game as it is not linear and the choice of routes can be quite fun (as well as add replay value to find more levels), but in turn, is annoying. 3/5.

S1

3. Gameplay Part 2: Core Gameplay Mechanics – The games striking main feature is that the lead character gets to wield a gun. Possibly thinking; that without something extra or different, it would look just like a normal Sonic game; the developers gave an already anti-hero character his own choice of weaponry. The game bolsters a huge selection of firearms with some different per level, and while Shadow doesn’t necessarily have to use them, it does add something else to the game. Most times guns are just picked up from fallen enemies, and depending on the enemies and area will vary the choice of available firearms. I find it’s a lot like Half Life in that respect with the amount of different types, but when there is in some cases little variation it can be a bit repetitive, but not necessarily boring. The inclusion of a gun though doesn’t really seem to provide much though, as there are lots of shooting games on the market and the only thing that’s different with this one is that it’s in a Sonic game. Shadow does not necessarily need a gun however, he is powerful enough without. I think it’s more of an image thing than anything else, but I would rather him have a gun he can keep than having lots that do not last very long. After that though there isn’t much except for regular abilities that sonic can use in previous games. The only other one that stands out is in the 2 power bars that can be built up during levels. These are filled up when attacking certain enemies or doing other things of note. One is a hero bar, the other is dark and when one has been filled up it can be used. These are actually quite useful as one allows you to travel huge levels of distance in the game making the levels shorter, while the other works similarly to the Team Blast feature in Sonic Heroes where you can wipe out huge numbers of enemies that are currently on-screen. It’s a very nice feature which is also something a little bit different to other games. 4/5.

S3

4. Visuals – Visuals come down to 2 points, cinematics and in game. The cinematics look terrific and add an extra special something to the story telling side of the game. The cut scenes and in game visuals however, which use the same graphics look rather basic and can put a sour note on the games look. For the most part the visuals don’t look that bad, but when considering that the visuals for some cut scenes don’t use the cinematic look, it just looks basic as if it was done half-heartedly. The cut scenes are nicely done in what they are trying to say and set up the levels well, but compared to what is achieved in the more cinematic cut scenes, they could be better. The opening cinematic though is fantastic and really helps to set up the feel of the whole game. 3/5.

5. Bosses and other Characters – The boss levels are not exactly varied. My experience mostly ended up with me takin on mostly Dr. Eggman in boss matches that were quite hard. The only other boss levels I had were against the black bull alien thing and the heavy dog, both of which were still pretty hard. The end boss for all my attempts was the Egg Dealer which was a lot more simple (and enjoyable) but weird. It was the case that once you knew how to defeat it, all you needed to do was just keep hitting it with your homing attack. The other thing about it was its choice of when to enter the game. One of the last levels on a route of the tree was the black comet where you would expect to find some kind of alien monster to fight. No; for some reason it was Eggman. It made more sense when I was in Eggman’s base, but not on the comet. Apart from the Egg dealer, Boss levels were pretty weak, if it was not for the choice of music to go with them, which ups the score for it a little. As for the use of other characters in the game that you randomly meet on the way in some levels, I think it’s rather pointless with the only good new character being the commander of G.U.N. (and some allowance to Black Doom, but only a bit). 2/5.

Omega E-123

6. Levels and Multiplayer – The levels in the game were nice and varied if but a bit dodgy. It’s sort of all over the place with areas depending on the routes you take. However the choice of levels and the things you can do in them are a relative improvement compared to the storytelling side. The levels are designed in strange combinations with some being like classic Sonic levels (platforms and lots of running), while others are like mazes and slow routes with lots of fighting. And then you have the completely weird ones like the circus based world, and a couple inside computers. The colouring of the levels is sometimes bright and sometimes dark but with plenty of variation. While the things you can do in the levels are really up to the story direction, the levels are much better in contrast. Multiplayer I did not get to play much of except on one occasion, however it was weird and fun to experience. 4/5.

S2

7. Soundtrack – For all the game’s up and downs, there is one thing that does not disappoint: the game’s soundtrack. While the levels, characters, missions and bosses are constantly in a state of mismatch, the one thing that does work is the choice of music to the game level. While some levels are similar to one another, great care has been taken to make the soundtrack work and meet the feel and look of each level. Added to this is the soundtrack for the boss levels, cut scenes, characters, cinematics and even the credits; which altogether makes something that works at a consistent rate, and not only that is both enjoyable, and memorable at the same time. I will probably go more into certain pieces of soundtrack in a later post, but particular ones to look out for include the opening cinematic theme (I Am… All of Me), Digital Circuit, Sky Troops and the end credits theme (Waking Up). 5/5.

So, that’s the game in essence, so now to work out its score. So ‘add the numbers together and then divide by the number of categories.’ 2 + 3 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 4 + 5 = 23 ÷ 7 = 3.285714285714286. So to round it to a reasonable number, I would say it gives Shadow the Hedgehog as score of 3 making it something of an average game of highs and lows. It has great gameplay mechanics, interesting levels and a fantastic soundtrack but is somewhat hindered by everything else.  It’s not completely Pants, but it’s not really Great either. You might be able to see something else in it than I didn’t, but altogether; that’s what I think f Shadow the Hedgehog. It will more than likely still be debated for some years to come, but for now, it’s somewhere in the middle (plus I have other things to do).

Vector

GENEPOOL








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