Pre-E3 and LE Review

Alrighty, tomorrow’s the start of E3 with Microsoft’s Press Conference followed by Nintendo and Sony’s on Tuesday. This is the week gamers used to look forward to all year and to some extent still is. With the massive downsizing of E3 last year and the increase of individual company shows, not to mention all the companies that have chosen not to attend, I can’t help but feel that E3’s impact is somewhat diminished.

Before, we would gobble up any leaked information leading up to E3 but most publishers would remain pretty quiet about their plans and then open up the floodgates at E3. After so many individual publishers’ shows this year, E3 sort of feels like its picking up the pieces. We have a pretty good idea of what the big games will be and as a result, we’re pretty much just there for more information instead of an unveiling.

That’s not to say that E3 has completely lost its impact. In a wierd form of tradition, companies do still withhold announcements for this conventiong and while its safe to say that we know most pf what the big publishers are bringing to the table, I’m sure there are still surprises to be had. The Big Three’s press conferences are always interesting to watch. The fact that this is where the companies have their moment in the spotlight and in a way the only real time they get to go toe-to-toe against one another means that they each have to have something up their sleeve to try to outdo one another. There are rumors of Microsoft and maybe even Sony unveiling a new motion controller. Nintendo, as always, has remained pretty much mum leading up to E3. Yeah, we have some pretty substantial rumors as to what they’ll be showing, Animal Crossing is all but confirmed, but the rest is still a big mystery.

Nintendo insists that they have something in store for the core gamer and while I’m sure Nintendo will unveil something I’ll be excited to play, I’m not quite sure that they’ll really deliver on the core gamer angle. Animal Crossing sure doesn’t fit that. Kid Icarus, if it is in fact announced, could be made to fit that role. There are also some quiet rumors about a new Punch Out or maybe even Kingdom Hearts to appear on the Wii. I’ve never been a big fan of Kingdom Hearts but I do recognize that it would be a major victory for Nintendo to score a proper sequel to the franchise, especially now that Mega Man 9 is, even after Capcom insisting it was exclusive, multi-platform.

Mad World and The Conduit both look impressive. Mad World’s art style is unique and the game itself seems to be hardcore enough to please the hardcore gamers. So long as they ship a full game, unlike No More Heroes, we could have a solid third party game. The Conduit also seems to be gathering quite a bit of hype, mostly because its graphics engine really show off what the Wii is capable of. The new trailer in particular shows off a game that could almost pass for Perfect Dark Zero in terms of graphics. There’s been a lot of talk about the game looking somewhat generic. I guess I can understand where those comments are coming from. Granted, however, it seems all the big shooters have you pitted against aliens (Halo, Gears, Resistence) but I’m not sure the fact that its set in a modern-looking environment is enough to call it generic. Still, I, like many others, hope that High Voltage Games can deliver a game that plays as well as it looks. They’ve certainly put more effort into it than many other third parties have.

On the Microsoft front, Gears 2 looks good, but I’m not really hyped up about it. I haven’t really been sold on the chainsaw-to-chainsaw melee combat. I keep thinking that the chainsaws should tear each other’s chains in about half a second and become useless, but I don’t think we’re really supposed to think that far into it. Still, for some reason it reminds me of Homer Simpson and John Goodman fighting each other with motorcycles in that one episode. Banjo Kazooie will be there and while I enjoyed the first two games on the N64, my faith in Rare as a developer has faltered quite a bit in recent years. Ever since Microsoft picked them up they haven’t produced a single game that’s met with nearly as much critical acclaim as their worst while they were with Nintendo. Conker Live & Reloaded was fun, but it was a remake of an N64 game with a fun Multiplayer add-on, no one even remembers Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Kameo was a solid adventure game but in no way remarkable, and Perfect Dark was again a decent, but incredibly flawed shooter that really does not mesh well with its predecessors (there was a Perfect Dark game for the Game Boy Color). Then there was Viva Pinata which, while a great game, seems to have completly missed its audience on the 360.

Then there’s their rumored motion controller. I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking this is Microsoft’s feeble attempt to move in on Nintendo’s territory. Granted they’ve been trying to do so for a while now. Heck, there’s even an ad on X-Box live for Family Game of the Month. I really doubt that a simple controller could help make Microsoft the new Nintendo, they tried it already with Scene It. However, there are those that are anxious for a motion-controller fo the 360; hoping for a Wii-experience with HD-generation graphics. The big problem is of course that this is coming out as a peripheral so Microsoft will have to convince its third parties to strongly support it or it becomes another trinket to gather dust.

I’m honestly not too interested in anything on the Sony front. Resistence 2 is one of Sony’s big titles but the demo didn’t quite sell me on the first game. I really don’t know where all the excitement for Killzone 2 has come from. The first game didn’t really make a huge impact when it came out. I’m wondering if the hype has been mostly for the graphics, which I admit are impressive, but not enough to get me drooling over the game.

So yeah, those are basically my thoughts on E3 at the moment. Like I said, I’m expecting a few surprises at the convention. Just enough of Nintendo’s lineup is a rumor for them to really bring something out of left field and blow our socks off. Unfortunately, Nintendo never does seem to do the so obviously awsome thing, so I’m not expecting to be blown away. Surprised, yes, but not wowed out of my seat.

And to make up for not posting this on Friday, here’s my LE Review for last week.

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence Limited Edition (JP)

Lament of Innocence

 

Inside the box we have:

• Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
• Castlevania Special Music CD
• Leon Belmont art print
• Castlevania 2004 Calendar

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence: The game, of course. Japanese version, but that’s expected as this edition is a Japan-only release.

Castlevania Special Music CD: This cd is a compilation of songs from several Castlevania games: Lament of Innocence (of course), a few arrangements from Aria of Sorrow, some Symphony of the Night tracks, and several tracks inspired by songs from Lament of Innocence. Overall, its a pretty solid CD, especially if you’re a fan of Michiru Yamane’s work on the Castlevania series.

Leon Belmont art print: This is an amazing addition. Most of the time when you get a lithograph with a game its usually just a fancy word for poster, but this one goes beyond that. This print of Ayami Kojima’s beautiful artwork is enhanced with textruring to replicate the physical presence of paint on the page and creates a beautiful effect. The image is already matted and ready for framing.

Castlevania 2004 Calendar: This is a set of several cards sized to fit inside the music CD’s jewel case. Each one is printed on the front and back with character artwork and a calendar for a particular month. I’m not quite sure why they thought the limited edition needed a calender, but its a nice collection of artwork nonetheless.

I am pretty much impressed with this Limited Edition. The CD has a nice collection of songs, the art print is amazing, and the box it all comes in is a nice touch.

I really do have to wonder about the calender though. My thought would be that it would’ve been just as easy to include a small booklet-sized artbook for the jewel case instead of postcard-sized calendar sheets. Maybe people in Japan really like calendars? Who knows.

The CD’s tracklist includes songs like Dracula’s Castle and the Tragic Prince from Symphony of the Night, two of my favorite songs from that soundtrack. Unfortunately, I myself couldn’t be bothered with recognizing tracks from Aria of Sorrow or Lament of Innocence, they just weren’t terribly memorable for me. I do recall enjoying one track in Lament of Innocence while I was playing through the game, but I’d be damned if I could recognize it again. Still, Yamane’s Castlevanina soundtracks have been a huge hit with the fans so anybody else should completely love the songs on display here.

Again, I must express my fondness for the art print. While I have criticized Kojima’s work because of her effeminate characters and the fact that everyone looks alike, I do give her credit for making absolutely beautiful paintings, effeminate octuplets aside. This print is more than just a high quality printing of the art. Extra care has been taken to really make it a worthwhile keepsake. If I ever get the chance to get Kojima’s autograph on something, it might possibly be this. Then I can start the debate with myself over keeping the limited edition together or seperating the print and framing it.

I believe I got this set on eBay for about $50. Current eBay sellers have Buy-it-Now items ranging from $70 Shipping to $125 Shipping. I’m not quite sure I’d pay that much for it, but fans of the series, and of this game especially might find it worth the expense (at least on the lower side).

 

My LE Review for Comic-Con week will also be delayed, probably until Monday, but I’ll aim for Friday. As usual, LE Review requests can be posted in the coments. Oh, I’ve also set up individual tabs for the LE Reviews and my Game Collection.