Five Games I’m Most Excited About From E3 2019

The video gaming spectacle known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 is currently underway in Los Angeles, CA running from June 11-13. During this time game publishers, developers, media and gaming community in general gather to the Los Angeles Convention center to either showcase or experience the latest and greatest(hopefully) the industry has to offer. The event has come a long way since starting in 1995 as an offshoot of the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES as everything around video games had grown exponentially larger – industry, media, and consumers. Every year multitudes of gaming fans keep watch on their online gaming news outlet of choice, or more recently Twitch and YouTube channels dedicated to showing every minute of the array of games and technology on display. Every annual E3 convention is kicked off with several days of press conferences from the major developers and publishers, and with these press conferences come announcement trailers and gameplay footage of upcoming titles. This has become a bit of a spectator sport in itself as game announcements can come as a surprise and create an enormous amount of excitement for anyone who loves video games. After some deliberation, these are the five games that I’m most excited about after seeing from E3 2019.

Final Fantasy VII

Square Enix’s remake of the beloved Final Fantasy VII has been in the works for quite some time now after being initially announced back in 2015. The game development seemed to go for very long periods of time without any word or update from the developers, with some skeptical the game would ever happen at all. Well…Square Enix finally showed off some actual gameplay of FFVII during its presentation on Monday night and this game looks downright gorgeous with the updated, NOT jagged angular character models of Cloud and Barrett’s boss battle with the Scorpion Sentinel from early on in the game. The combat controls have been reworked a bit, with a shift more towards an action RPG that I think is an interesting change particularly when dealing with a game as highly regarded by hardcore RPG fans as FFVII. Another aspect of the game that I feel is a bit strange is the fact it is going to an episodic release, with Square Enix stating the entire first episode will take place in Midgar. Square Enix also stated the game will be large enough to take up two entire blu-ray discs upon release in its completed form; though they admit they are unsure of just how many episodes the game be comprised. Final Fantasy VII is a game that while being the benchmark title for the series, is in need of a face lift as it is one of the first games I mention when the discussion of “games that haven’t aged well” comes up(along with Goldeneye and Ocarina of Time)…nevertheless I am incredibly eager to check this out when it releases in March 2020.

Watch Dogs: Legion

The announcement for Watch Dogs: Legion was leaked prior to E3 and like the other games in the Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs series, it looks to be a very ambitious game that I sincerely hope they are able to pull off as this game really piqued my interest after watching the demonstration during the Ubisoft E3 presentation. Watch Dogs: Legion is set in London of the not too distant future, where an authoritarian militia-government has control, with soldiers on patrol as well as drones surveying your every move…you know sci-fi dystopian stuff. The premise of the game is similar to that of the first two games, with a group of individuals with the ability to hack seemingly any device have decided to fight back. I admit I have missed out on the Watch Dogs games up to this point so this may be an excellent introduction to the series for me. One of the unique features of this game is the fact there isn’t any “main character” as you can recruit and then control ANYONE you see out on the street. The gameplay demo showed the character currently being controlled as they were able to scan and identify different people around the area, with their different abilities and skill sets being highlighted. You could recruit a retired police officer, an amateur MMA fighter, an expert hacker, or someone with an extensive knowledge of drones. The developers at Ubisoft stated you can recruit an army of resistance members with skills as varied as you choose. If a character is taken down while fighting, you are given the choice of either surrender and be escorted to jail with you being unable to use them for a set amount of time or you can choose to keep fighting. If you opt to keep fighting and the character is killed you lose that character indefinitely…perma-deaths will be a thing in this game. Ubisoft also stated that if one of your characters is taken to jail, you will be able to be released back into available use if any of your recruited members who have backgrounds as a lawyer. The highlight of the Watch Dogs: Legion was the portion of the demo where the control was switched over to Helen – an elderly woman who is also a retired espionage agent. Watching Helen shuffle around a London park, feeding the birds one moment and then the next moment she stealthily takes out an armed guard with a taser to the neck…I was pretty much sold by this point 🙂 . Watch Dogs: Legion was announced for a March 6 2020 release.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Ever since Jedi: Fallen Order was officially announced I was eager to see more, especially knowing the Respawn Entertainment would be developing the game. I have stated in the past how much I loved the Titanfall games as well as Apex Legends after it was stealth dropped back in February, so that combine that with the fact it’s another Star Wars game it seemed a no-brainer. I really want to see EA get a Star Wars game RIGHT, especially after the debacle around Battlefront 2 and…really any AAA title they have released the past few years. This past Saturday, EA and Respawn demonstrated a gameplay video after much speculation within the gaming community as to what the game even was going to be. In Jedi: Fallen Order you control Cal Kestis – a young Jedi who survived Order 66 has joined a band of rebels led by Saw Gerrera – the guerrilla leader played by Forest Whitaker in Rogue One; whose likeness is also used in the game. The gameplay video showed Kestis traversing the wookie planet of Kashyyyk and fighting Stormtroopers as well as hostile life forms. The gameplay we were able to see didn’t seem to be revolutionary in any way, with the traversal and general movements appear to be similar to that of any of the Uncharted games; the combat however, looks pretty enjoyable with really smooth looking lightsaber combat. The video shows Kestis will force-push a broken wall and then jump through and use the Force to freeze a Stormtrooper (a la Kylo Ren) in mid-movement before striking him down with his lightsaber. There is also the ability to freeze blaster fire mid-air and deflecting it back at enemies, along with the lightsaber throws we are used to seeing from the Force Unleashed games a console generation ago. What I did see of the game reminded me a bit of the Force Unleashed, with some of the jumping, and swinging across chasms we have seen from Nathan Drake in Uncharted games. I can’t help but still be just the smallest bit concerned given the track record EA has with their usage of the Star Wars universe, but the gameplay video did put my mind at ease quite a bit. Another interesting note about the game is the developers at Respawn have stated that among their inspirations for Jedi: Fallen Order were Super Metroid and Dark Souls and wanted to have the same nature of exploration and at the same time have the strategic combat of the aforementioned games. Jedi: Fallen Order is releasing on November 15 2019 and I certainly plan on checking this game out.

Cyberpunk 2077 – Special Mention*

I haven’t gotten to see any actual gameplay of developer CD Projekt Red’s follow up to the enormously popular Witcher 3: Wild Hunt so I wasn’t going to include it in a list of games that I was able to see actual gameplay from, but I after reading several accounts of the 50 minute gameplay demo being offered to those lucky enough to be at E3, along with watching the Cyberpunk 2077 cinematic trailer that was shown as part of Microsoft’s press conference on Sunday…and all I can say is that the hype for this game has been amplified tenfold; it looks to be the closest thing to a Blade Runner video game. Cyberpunk 2077 is set to be released on April 16 2020 and has the potential to be incredible, just watch this trailer…

Doom: Eternal

I really don’t need to spend much time discussing what the newest title in the Doom series from iD and Bethesda looks like other than saying “It looks like Doom 2016…just bigger and more of it!” The gameplay video shown at the Bethesda conference Sunday night showed plenty of the over-the-top demon slaying we have come to know and love about the series. This time around you will be fighting not only on Mars and in Hell, but also in other dimensions and planets which I have absolutely no doubt will still provide the same experience as the previous game. Doom: Eternal releases on November 22 2019 and I CANNOT wait!

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Remake

I could have spent this entire time just talking about all the announcements from the Nintendo Direct Presentation of Tuesday morning. I could hardly contain my fanboy excitement as Nintendo announced a new Contra game – Contra: Rogue Corps, No More Heroes 3, a remake of Panzer Dragoon, Banjo and Kazooie FINALLY being added as characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and in the final moments played a very brief trailer announcing that a sequel for Breath of the Wild was currently in development…OH.MY.GOD :). Allow me to regain my composure for a minute and re-direct back to the game that I am probably most excited for after seeing more of it from E3 – the Link’s Awakening remake. I was intrigued when I watched the announcement that Nintendo was going to remake Link’s Awakening; a game first released on the original Game Boy back in 1993. I was also cautiously optimistic about the choice of animations used for the remake and being worried they may not do justice to a Legend of Zelda game however, after seeing extended gameplay segments shown by Nintendo over the last couple days I think the creative decision will work out perfectly. The graphics still remind me a bit of Peanuts movie, but it seems to make sense for this particular game. Link’s Awakening takes place all within a dream and has a bit of a goofy, oddball quality to it that I have begun to really like after watching the adorable cartoonish Link make his way around Koholint Island. They are including the Color Dungeon from the Game Boy Color DX version and what appears to be a Dungeon Creator in the remake that also looks fun. There is also a Link Amiibo that is being released at the same time as the full game on September 20 2019. I had embarrassingly never played through the entire game at the time of the remake announcement and quickly rectified that issue. (Side Note: I made a post about my thoughts about my playthrough of Link’s Awakening for the Game Boy a couple months ago if you care to read)

This fall is looking to be good for gamers as I am already game planning just the handful of games off the top of my head – Link’s Awakening, Pokemon Sword/Shield, Luigi’s Mansion 3, Doom: Eternal, Jedi: Fallen Order, and Death Stranding just to name a few. What games are you anxious to play later this year or that you’re really hyped up about after seeing from E3?

Keep on playing…

Back In 1995 – Remember the 90’s?

Several days ago I decided it would be fun to download another random indie game and share my thoughts about it as I did a few weeks ago with Coffee Crisis. The game I decided on after looking on the Nintendo eShop is titled Back In 1995 – a “retro indie game” which isn’t much of a novelty, but this sounded intriguing and might be worth a try.

Back In 1995 was developed by Throw The Warped Code Out and was published by Ratalaika Games, originally being released back in 2016(no pun intended) it found its way to the Nintendo eShop this May. The game was created as a very deliberate throwback to the survival horror genre games that were popular in the 90’s such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill, or Alone In The Dark. It was created to be as authentic to these types of games as possible, as if this game truly was developed…back in 1995. The game includes many of the characteristics of survival horror games from that time such as blurry character models and environments, fixed camera angles, lackluster voice acting, and tank controls…yes, they included tank controls to aid in game’s retro authenticity. Tank controls, for those who are young( and fortunate) enough to never have had to use them simply mean that regardless of where you are on screen pressing UP will always move your character FORWARD. Anyone old enough to grow up playing the original Resident Evil games with its cumbersome tank controls surely remembers the frustration of your character drunkenly stumbling down hallways and around obstacles as it is very difficult to move in a straight line.

Cloudy with a chance of…winged meatballs?

The storyline of the game(or lack thereof) begins with the game’s protagonist, Kent regaining consciousness and is convinced he needs to reach the top of a tower in order to find his daughter Alissa, or figure out what’s going on….or something? The story really isn’t fleshed out much more than that, with only a few notes and newspaper clipping that are scattered around the 3 (yes, ONLY 3) levels of the game. The main character has suffered some sort of trauma or has amnesia and tries to discover what is going on, typical of survival horror games of the PS1/Saturn/3DO era.

Back In 1995 does manage to recreate most of the atmosphere of the games it is trying to emulate, however that is about it. The fixed camera angles and fuzzy visuals you got from using an old cathode-ray tube (CRT) tv were limitations of the time that were utilized with the game to create a feeling of suspense, there was no sense of terror or even a single jump scare or anything like it during the game. I understand what the developers were going for with the aesthetic of the game and it does succeed in feeling like games of a previous era. Back In 1995 has most of the characteristics of Resident Evil or Silent Hill, but unfortunately none of the story or anything else that makes it very memorable. There are reasons why we STILL talk about making our way through a creepy mansion filled with zombies in Resident Evil or trying to piece together what happened to the foggy, eerie town of Silent Hill. Kent wanders around a hospital office, the rooftop of the hospital, and finally ending at somewhere I would describe as a rooftop luxury condo or some kind. The game is not challenging in the way of combat or puzzles, there is more than enough health and ammo and the couple puzzles are nothing more than a few switches or 3-digit combination locks. There is never really a sense of danger or urgency in the game, despite what is set up(or not). The enemies in the game are also forgettable as they never play much of a part in the story other than weird lumpy objects to maneuver around, remember the tank controls? The environments that take place in the game are all kind of same-y; a drab shade of beige or gray making it difficult at times to tell where an item may be lying around, causing you to wander aimlessly around the empty levels.

A luxury condo with a wonderful view…

Any challenge within the game is completely from your limitations of movement and patience. The game unfortunately gets to be a bit of a chore. You are unable move faster than a slow walk; no running or the ability to quick turn. I found myself holding down the B button as I was laboriously moving around, forgetting that you are simply unable to run. There is also not much in the way of sound effect or music to the game, just about all of the game is simply you listening to the sound of your loud footsteps clomping down the hallway which detracted from my patience while playing the game.

The ending of the game was also a little bit underwhelming as I found myself saying “oh….ok…that’s it?” as it tried to wrap everything up at the last second with a not so surprising realization that Kent was involved in a bad accident and it had left his mind so damaged that it rendered him incoherent and sometimes even violent with his family who had left him to be watched over by the staff of a psych ward of a hospital. I mentioned how inconsequential the monsters in the game were and how they were simply mentioned at the end of the game as “being in his mind”.

“Gotcha suckas!” – name the movie

Back In 1995 was created with the best intentions in mind of a genre of games they obviously were fans of, but were unable to capture the essence of what made the games of the era great. I would compare this game to a “cover version” of a popular song: it can sound(or look) like it, but more often that not it just doesn’t have the spirit of the original. Do I recommend Back In 1995? I can’t say the game is great, but if you played survival horror games on the PS1 back in 1995( last time, sorry!) it may be worth checking out.

Does anyone out there remember the old survival horror games of the 90’s tank controls and all? What are some indie games that you feel were negatively effected due to insisting on “retro authenticity”?

Keep on playing…

Catching Up On Games – Guacamelee!

One of the problems that come along with having a wide interest in different game genres is – You simply don’t have time to play them all. Some games for one reason or another end up being put in the back log and you have to come back to them at a later time(sometimes much later…). I just recently had the chance to play through Guacamelee! the incredibly fun to play metroidvania style action platformer made by Drinkbox Studios. Guacamelee! was first released on the Playstation 3 and the Playstation Vita in April of 2013 and is currently available on just about every gaming platform. I’m embarrassed it took me this long getting around to it.

Players control Juan, an agave farmer living in rural Mexico. Juan is called to the local town after receiving word that his former flame and daughter of El Presidente – Lupita has been abducted by the evil Carlos Calaca. Juan dons the mask of the mystical Luchador and sets out to save Lupita, learning new abilities along the way. The backdrop is set with traditional Mexican culture and folklore as the events of the game are set during Dia de los Muertos(Day of the Dead). The visuals are colorful and make this game as satisfying to look at as to play. One of the favorite touches is right before you fight one of the game’s bosses such as the Trio of Death (a three headed skeleton armed with mariachi instruments) or the aptly named Flame Face (armed with a pistol and tequila bottle) there is a colorful billboard showing “Juan Vs. Flame Face!” that flashes before the screen adding to the Mexican wrestling vibe.

Guacamelee! is a metroidvania style side scrolling action game that isn’t completely non-linear, but leaves ample room to backtrack and explore the different levels. You come across “Choozo Statues” which from the name right down to the appearance are a nod to the Metroid influence of this game. You learn different move and abilities such as a double-jump, a destructive headbutt, or my favorite – Pollo Power! which allows you to switch back and forth to a chicken inside an egg( an allusion to your Morph Ball upgrade in the Metroid games). There is also the really interesting game mechanic where you gain the ability to switch between the plane of the living or the dead, which adds complexity to the puzzles and combat with the game. The combat of the game is much deeper than I would have guessed with move lists much more extensive than the majority of indie games like this.

The “Choozo Statues” should look oddly familiar to Metroid fans…

The game has many nods to vintage games, but don’t take this as merely a “cover version” of a Metroid game, Guacamelee! is it’s very own unique game. I played the Super Turbo Championship Edition of the game on my Switch, which this edition of the game would suggest a reference to previous Street Fighter 2 titles( Super, Turbo, and Champion). I am making an effort to get caught up on more of these indie titles that I haven’t gotten to play yet, and the Switch is the perfect place to play them. I sadly admit I still have to finish the last level of Shovel Knight as well as pick back up where I left off in Hollow Knight and Journey. Guacamelee! 2 was also released back in October 2018. I very heartily recommend Guacamelee! to anyone, I assume I’m not the only one who hadn’t played it yet.


My 5 Favorite Current-Gen Games

The current generation of gaming has been an incredible time for players with video games being bigger than they have ever been before. Today, I’ve listed what I have narrowed down to my 5 favorite of the games offered on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, etc. These are not in any particular order, and may change as there are some excellent games released just a few months into 2019. We also have not received much news as to when the next-gen consoles will be released.

Far Cry 5 – I have lost track of approximately how many hours I’ve spent running around Hope County’s gorgeous landscape in the fight against the Eden’s Gate cult. I have completed the game a few times and seem to keep coming back with how much I enjoy the mayhem the inevitably seems to follow me wherever I go. The rush of chaos and explosions is some of the most satisfying I have ever played in a game. Far Cry 5 and the entire Far Cry series for that matter are essentially being tossed into an action movie from the 80’s. Side note – Far Cry: New Dawn was released a month ago and I highly recommend that as well.

Red Dead Redemption 2 – There isn’t much I can say for Red Dead Redemption 2 that hasn’t been said already. Rockstar’s open-world wild west masterpiece will be discussed and played for years to come. The game is a very heavy, slow burn that certainly pays off in the end. The story is very nuanced, with new detail that I notice every time I play it. The in-game environment is easily the most impressive I have ever seen, with a landscape truly seems alive. The game conveys desolation, loneliness and at times hopelessness as well as the beauty and brutal struggle of life in the Old West. This game is a bucket-list worthy experience for anyone.

Super Mario Odyssey – When Super Mario Odyssey was announced, I admit I was mildly skeptical. So…Mario is running around a metropolitan looking world inhabited by humans…and he’s throwing a hat on things to transform into them? I mean…that is pretty accurate, but I absolutely loved this game! The main story itself is a little on the short side, but I invested 90 hours into this game going through and collecting all 999 power moons and different outfits for Mario. This aspect of the game along with the heavy dashes of nostalgia is where the most memorable moments of the game were for me. Going through the different worlds and collecting all the power moons and purple coins was reminiscent of the old “collect-a-thon” games on the N64 that I spent my childhood years playing. Super Mario Odyssey was the most fun I had playing a Mario game since the first Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii.

Horizon: Zero Dawn – Giant. Robot. Dinosaurs. That’s all I really knew going into my first play through of Guerrilla Game’s newest ip Horizon: Zero Dawn. There is so much more to this game than what may be first apparent. The gameplay itself is as good as it gets for an open-world sandbox game. The hours flew by just exploring the post-catastrophe world with terrain from snowy mountains to lush green open areas to vast expanses of rocky arid desert. The story is great and protagonist Aloy is one of my new favorite game characters as she is looking for answers to the world’s history as well as her own. An excellent brand-new series entry in a crowded space of remakes and remasters.

God of War – Another game that doesn’t need much else said about it, the most recent(and best) entry in the God of War series is as good as gaming gets. Kratos’ journey this time taking place with his son Atreus at his side. The game is this time around set in Norse mythology rather than Greek. The journey Kratos and Atreus embark on is as much personal as physical, as the story deals with grief, loss and allowing yourself to move on. Game director Cory Barlog stated he wanted to create a more mature Kratos whose past still weighs heavily on him. Everything about this game is excellent, and showcases what games can do as an artistic medium. The only thing left to say is…”Boy!”