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Impressions From E3 2006
// article by Jeff

Well, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) of 2006 has come to an end, but many of its exhibitors have stirred up some interesting buzz about the products they decided to show off. I'd like to talk about what I thought were the highlights from this year's E3, and perhaps even give my opinion on a few things.

1. Nintendo Wii
This was clearly the console that created the most fanfare around it. And with good reason, too; the Wii takes everything that we know about gaming and then twists it around into something completely new and innovative. Yes, innovation is the key word here. While Microsoft and Sony continued to drive their consoles with standard control systems, Nintendo has looked to the future, with unique (and rather accurate) motion-sensing technology that will allow games to be played in a much different fashion than previous gaming generations have become accustomed to. The Wii remote control has built-in rumble action and even a built-in speaker (this has been dubbed one of Nintendo's "big secrets", although really, that's not the most flamboyant of secrets to hide) that can serve for varied functionality (as indicated in one of the demonstrations during Nintendo's E3 press conference).

Super Mario GalaxyThe games that Nintendo showed off for the Wii were rather impressive. Games such as Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Red Steel, and later on, the surprise announcement of Smash Bros. Brawl, were very popular at Nintendo's E3 booth. In fact, there were upwards of four-hour waits in line forpeople to get their hands on a Wii controller at one of the kiosks (proving that Nintendo was the big stud at E3). Unfortunately, there was only a mere three seconds of footage from the upcoming Dragon Quest Swords game, which will launch with Wii. I'm disappointed; I would expect there to be more to see. But Square Enix is like that -- the video footage for their upcoming Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles sequel was also just CG animation instead of real-time play. However, on the upside, it looks like Sonic in the third dimension just might be good this time around...

What I (and many many others) did not like was Nintendo's withholding of the information that consumers want to know: a more precise release date (Q4 2006 isn't good enough for me) and perhaps more importantly, how much this Wii will cost! All they said was that we will get greater value for our dollar, but that could still mean that Wii will be expensive. We'll just have to wait and see... as we've been doing for many months now... *sigh* Also, Nintendo surprisingly didn't talk too much about their Virtual Console system, which should have been a highlight of the show and their press conference. It seems that they have not finalized the structure of the Virtual Console just yet. But...they should really get on that soon.

As a whole though, I still think Nintendo dished out an excellent package with their Wii demonstrations. Especially amusing was the on-stage Wii Tennis doubles match between Reggie Fils-Aime and Satoru Iwata against Shigeru Miyamoto and sweepstakes winner Scott Dyer. Normally, I shy away from sports games, but after seeing the Wii Tennis match, I wanted to play it! Way to go, Wii!

2. Sony PlayStation 3
Sony revealed its highly-anticipated third entry in the console market, the PS3, as well as its controller. Even before E3 began, I could somewhat accurately predict what the PS3 was going to be like and how it was going to be marketed. Yes, it's going to be a high-definition graphics monger with an amazing CPU powerhouse dwelling within. And we knew it was going to be expensive...but not $499USD expensive, of course (or $599USD for an enhanced version). But that's the price you have to pay if you want all the nifty stuff inside. The PS3 also has a wireless remote with tilt-sensing technology inside. It's been compared to the Wii remote by some, although to be fair, this type of technology isn't completely original even now. So to those who say that Sony "stole" the idea from Nintendo, it's unlikely, considering the grand differences in the two controller types, and also for the reason that it's not exactly next-generation technology.

The software offering was a nice bundle, and many games on the showfloor were interesting (although I must admit that this obsession with gorgeous graphics is a bit extreme). Games like Final Fantasy XIII and Metal Gear Solid 4, franchises known and loved by the masses, as well as funky new entries such as Heavenly Sword, were embraced by casual and hardcore browsing gamers alike. I'm not big on the MGS series, and I personally think that Final Fantasy is going to the dogs with its latest installments (including FFXII, set to be released this year). I was kind of swayed by Unreal Tournament 2007, though. That looks nice, and the use of fully-armed vehicles just adds a delicious topping to an already delicious virtual cake.

Sony also talked about the introduction of a next-generation EyeToy, and an accompanying game, The Eye of Judgment. To be perfectly honest, I have no interest in this. I didn't care about the original EyeToy, mainly because it wasn't backed up by any games that were worth my well-earned cash, so I see no reason for my opinion to sway for this new iteration. What we don't know is what additional features the "new" EyeToy will bring to the table. I think the PS2 EyeToy served its purpose well enough.

Overall though, I feel a bit let down. PS3, as a whole, is just the next step up in technology from the PS2. The games will pretty much be the same, except with prettier graphics. The increased focus on social connectivity in the PS3 is certainly a nice feature, but not exactly the most necessary of functions. It appears that PS3 is not as much a gaming console as it is a multimedia supercentre...

3. Microsoft's Xbox 360
Halo 3The console's already out, so the focus here is on software. And one of the games has been dubbed "Best In Show" by all of the major online gaming reporters, and it's BioShock. All I can say is that this puzzling shocker is beautiful, it's spooky, and it will certainly be very intriguing once the finished product is released (albeit next year). And of course, there were many other games that piqued the interest of Xbox players, including Halo 3 and a sequel to its "fabled" RPG, Fable. And of course, more Dead Or Alive titles were scattered about, as was expected.

What can I really say about an extensive slew of 360 software? I suppose I'd have to own an Xbox 360 to truly appreciate Microsoft's good software offering at this year's exposition. However, I will say one thing: the Xbox 360 will be the console that ruins the classic Bomberman franchise when Bomberman: Act Zero hits the shelves. They've turned the nifty little animated joyous character into a confused overdramatic cyborg with a shady past! Hudson Soft should be ashamed... but let's not blame Microsoft for this. Hudson Soft!!!

4. The Handheld Battles
Again, it's Sony's PSP vs. the Nintendo DS. It's the same old song and dance though; while the PSP totes amazing polygonal 3D graphics and gameplay similar to its PS2 console counterpart, the DS takes a different route with trying to incorporate new styles of mechanics with the dual-screen and touch-screen aspects.

First, I'll talk about some of the new software that has been cooked up for the PSP. Many of the PS2 franchise are being reheated for the PSP, including SOCOM, Grand Theft Auto, Ratchet & Clank, and Syphon Filter; this was expected. Yet there are some nice new surprises also in store, like the return of Lemmings and Earthworm Jim, the Metal Slug Anthology (which is sure to turn some heads, as this series hails great acclaim), and oddly enough, Charlie Brown's All-Stars. One can only guess who brought that up in a brainstorming session -- good grief! PSP looks like it will have some solid titles coming out from all the major third-party developers, as well as in-house development houses. Thinking about Family Guy on PSP makes me a little edgy though.

Yoshi's Island 2Yet after seeing all the new DS games coming out, I really wish I had one of those (perhaps I can get a DS Lite when it is released). I simply cannot deny that there are many upcoming DS titles that I would like to play. They're finally making a sequel to Yoshi's Island (although they're using those constipated Yoshi noises from Yoshi's Story); the upcoming Zelda game looks like it will be a hit with gamers; and Final Fantasy III, the last of the Japan-only FF games, is coming to DS (in 3D, no less). We will also see Diddy Kong Racing and Star Fox DS (the former I'd prefer to play over the latter, however) coming soon. And after seeing footage of Mega Man ZX and Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin in action, it looks like the DS will be the place to be for the casual gaming crowd.

In the end, as you may have guessed from the clashing tones of the previous two paragraphs, I favor the DS line-up over the PSP line-up. That's not to say by any means that the future of the PSP library is bleak. The PSP line-up of E3 is still excellent, although it appears to be designed for the more serious gamer, with only a small scattering of truly "frolicsome" games. In the case of the DS, they're going for a slightly younger audience; Nintendo is trying to attract the more casual and relaxed gamer, and that is exactly what the DS will do.

And would you believe it... there were N-Gage games on display at E3 2006? That's interesting.

5. What's Old Is New Again
Even though the newer consoles were being showered with praise and glory, there were still some strong titles being announced for the "current-gen" consoles (PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, GBA) that deserve honourable mention. For the PS2, I was surprised to see a new title in the Secret of Mana series, entitled Dawn of Mana, which will be the first 3D game of the series, and although I've only seen screenshots, it looks rather colourful and impressive enough for now. Sequels were all the rage as well: Valkyrie Profile 2, Guitar Hero II and God of War II rocked the E3 showfloor. Xbox users have not been forgotten either, as more Tom Clancy games and even a sequel to Destroy All Humans! have been announced.

Yet perhaps one of the more joyous of surprises came for GameCube users. Even though the number of GC titles at E3 was not quite as high as other current-gen console wares, there was still some fun to be had. In particular, the announcement of a new Mario game, Super Paper Mario, came as a great surprise to many. It will play as a mainly action-adventure title with other genres sprinkled in, likely making for another success for Nintendo.

And unfortunately, support for Game Boy Advance is slowly coming to its final destination, but not before some high-profile titles are released for it, including Final Fantasy V and VI, and the grand finale in the Megaman Battle Network series.

But I can't forget all the PC players though; there were a blinding number of new titles revealed at E3 for the PC, so many that they all overshadow each other! Yet the announcement of more Command & Conquer games, more World of Warcraft expansions, and a futuristic Battlefield game should be pleasure enough for all the PC gamers out there.


Overall, this past week has been a very exciting one for all the video game players out there. There seemed to be a game for every type of player imaginable. However, I have to say that the finest company on the floor was clearly Nintendo. Nobody could have predicted the overwhelmingly positive response that the Wii received both at the press conference and at the Nintendo booth on the showfloor. Even its DS line-up was spectacular. But all three of the major console developers showed what they were made of and delivered some high-quality entertainment!

To close, all I can really say is that E3 2006 was a great convention with so many surprises; I simply can't wait until E3 2007 arrives!

(Images from Nintendo and Microsoft)


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