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E3, Day One: Geekosystem Gets Hands-On

If there are two things I learned in my first day of my first E3, they are these: 1) I am out of shape. 2) This is going to be a fantastic year for gaming.

Here is what I did and learned at day one of E3 2010, including a healthy dose of hands-on demos with some of the expo’s most-anticipated games:

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

I may go more hands-on with this later, but for now I was just checking out the new graphics and combat by playing battle mode. It looks like it’s going to be similar to the old games, though combat felt a little faster-paced in the animations, and the visuals were much better now that it’s on the DS. I’m a huge fan of the franchise, so this game doesn’t really need to prove anything to me.

Kirby: Epic Yarn

The moment I saw this in the Nintendo press conference, I was simply intrigued. To be honest, seeing all the yarn shenanigans, I expected the game to not be all that enjoyable. But I was completely blown away by just how fun the new game is. Hardcore Kirby fans may be dismayed by quite how drastic a shift this is from what we’re used to: Mainly, Kirby doesn’t suck. His main tool is a whip-like strand of yarn, nut he can turn into a car, parachute, or weight at will, so there’s some definite fun in the transformation. The game is incredibly simple to grasp, and the multiplayer co-op led to some pretty great fun when my partner and I transformed and melded into a giant yarn tank.

This game will do for Kirby what Paper Mario did for Mario, and it will do it a thousand times better.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

This seems like a good time to stop and mention that Nintendo is all about the two-word subtitles.

Anyway, Skyward Sword is absolutely fantastic-looking. What’s most notable about it is that it takes advantage of every aspect of the Wii’s controls. It feels like it should have been a launch title for the console, because it really does make you feel like you’re Link more than ever before. The sword mechanic is wonderful, as the direction you swipe or point the sword plays a key role in the gameplay: Many enemies are only susceptible to certain directions of swipes. The item interface is simpler, and items like the shield, bombs, and the bow handle more realistically. You can roll bombs with a rolling motion, you draw back the bow, you can thrust out the shield — everything. It’s kind of a shame the slingshot is so simplistic; it’s just point and press A. Slingshot aside, this game looks great visually, the controls make it an incredibly fun experience, and it all manages to make you feel like a true hero yourself. The short demo of this game was by far my favorite thing I’ve seen so far.

Metroid: Other M

What’s that? A two-word subtitle? Anyway, this game was pretty disappointing for me. I expected a bit more polish from it. The visuals are great, but the gameplay consists of 1) overly easy combat against small, senseless baddies and 2) confusing boss battles that highlight the game’s greatest flaw as of now: Switching between the game’s two camera modes doesn’t work well. By switching the controller’s orientation, you’re supposed to switch from third to first person. Sometimes it switches, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes when it does, it forces you to look at the ceiling. Also, even in the demo on the floor, there were unbearably long cut-scenes. People were complaining about them even while it was their turn to demo the game. It doesn’t help that the writing for these flashbacks and memories is stilted and monotonously voiced.

Magic: the Gathering Tactics

Yes, yes, I saw there was a Magic game and I had to go look. This Sony Online title takes the creatures and spells from the Magic card game and reworks them to fit a tactics battle game. There’s no element of card-game mechanics though, but mana, creatures, planeswalkers and spells all appear in adapted forms. This will be great if you like tactics combat, and even better if you like Magic. But if you just like Magic and don’t really care about tactics games, this isn’t for you at all.

LittleBigPlanet 2

This is the game I’m most excited for, and I have been for a while. The demo at E3 didn’t do anything to help or hurt that sentiment: It highlighted the potential for mini-games and had one level to show off the grappler tool. The game still looks adorable, and the controls are pretty much the same. I still have to have it. But with no level-creator demo, there wasn’t anything major I hadn’t seen before.

Kinect

Kinect certainly seemed like it should be cool from the Microsoft press conference and everything that’s been written and aired about it. In a lot of ways, it was fun, but it’s just a little wonky. I got to demo Kinect Adventures and Kinect Joy Ride. In adventures, a temporary friend and I first worked together to steer a raft through a rapids obstacle course, grabbing points along the way. This worked great, was a lot of fun, and had me really enthused. Then, still in Adventures, we competed against each other in a weird race where we had to dodge from side to side, jump, and duck under obstacles. This showed the weaknesses of Kinect. It was very slow to notice my side-stepping, and there was enough of a delay in all my actions that it really interfered in this kind of course. Also, in evaluation of the game, it’s weird how much grabbing points mattered in a race. I won the race, but lost overall because of points. Maybe I’m just bitter.

Then there’s Joy Ride. The turning and flipping here all worked, but the game could not recognize when I did the boost motion: pulling my hands back to me then thrusting them forward. Again and again it just didn’t boost. Worrisome.

Kinect is fun, but frustrating at the same time. I hope to try out PlayStation Move tomorrow or the next day to figure out which of these is stronger in its motion-capturing and, more importantly, fun factor.

Super Scribblenauts

Adjectives! While the demo didn’t really highlight the uses of adjectives beyond one level where I had to make things a certain color, I experimented on my own, often losing the level because of it, but having a blast. This game is great for the unconventional puzzle solver, and it’s cute to boot. But whatever you do, (SPOILER ALERT) don’t offer the soldier in the game’s first level an undead gun. It will zombify him. You will lose. But you’ll have a great time doing so. I can’t wait to see more gameplay get released that highlights levels where adjectives truly become necessary.

In the coming days…

I really want to get a first-hand look at the 3DS in action, and I will. As far as line length is concerned, it appears to be the most popular thing at this year’s E3. Soon I’ll know if that honor is deserved. Also, I hope there will be some Gears 3, Halo: Reach and Assassin’s Creed in my future; and of course, I have to demo PlayStation Move. Other than that, I hope to look at some indie titles and gaze at all the flashing lights some more. Over and out.

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