I was going to do a seperate blog, but there was about 10 minutes left before the Sony conference was to begin by the time GameSpot had revitalized the blogs, so I fused the two conference impressions into one. Also, where are my friggin' emblems for the Microsoft and Nintendo conferences guys???
I had big expectations for Nintendo this year. Last year's stage show was more a "Ha ha! We outsold everyone!" celebration, with little in the way of games and features. In fact, the only thing of interest they showed us was Wii Fit, which was decidedly unremarkable anyway. I figured Nintendo couldn't do worse that last year, but I underestimated Nintendo's inability to pull their head out of their you-know-what and give us something worth getting excited over.
Throughout the show we were constantly reminded of Nintendo's appeal to a broad audience, and how close they are to having the Wii as the bestselling console ever, but we weren't shown any games that demonstrated why they appeal to so many people. What's more frustrating is when they announced the first title that got me excited (Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars), it was a brief mention, and no details whatsoever were provided.
About 15 minutes in, Nintendo finally decided it was time to tell us about a game they believe is groundbreaking, the latest in the Animal Crossing series for the Wii. What I saw was a child-oriented pseudo-MMO. Nintendo obviously hasn't kept up to date with what has happened in the online gaming world for the past 10 years, as they believe their new title is fresh and revolutionary. Perhaps for a Nintendo console, it's a step forward, but everything this title seems to do has been done before on every other platform, and presumably better. With the game, you get a new microphone peripheral that you place on your TV. Then everyone in the same room as you can communicate online. It's a good idea, but it has too many flaws, the most noticable one of which is the fact that it picks up everyone in the room, and you may not always want that to happen.
Instead of complaining about Nintendo's inability to shut up and let the games do the talking for the rest of this blog, I'll just jump to the rest of the games.
Nintendo unveiled several new titles for the DS, almost all of which were also underwhelming. A sequel to Guitar Hero: On Tour will be arriving eventually (success is doubted). A new Pokemon Ranger game is on it's way. A stripped down version of the PC's Spore will hit the DS. It just wasn't exciting, until they announced the new GTA title, then ran away from as quickly as possible, as if they were afraid people would no longer think of them as family friendly fun and stop buying their platforms.
While the DS was decidedly lacking, the Wii did have a couple new interesting ideas unveiled amongst it's ocean of crap. The most intriguing of which is an add-on to the wiimote that makes the motion sensory a lot more sensitive, to the point where it notices subtle wrist motion and knows where your hand is in front of your body. Leave it to Nintendo to not put such a technical marvel to good use and instead giving us WiiSports Resort, a collection of beach minigames that include tossing a frisbee to a virtual Mii dog or stripped-down jet skiing. A sword-fighting minigame included in the collection did look quite entertaining though.
Nintendo also unveiled a new game called WiiMusic. This was the most exciting thing for me at their conference. It's a surprisingly realistic take on playing music in a game, with no button matching or guiding. You just place the wiimote and nunchuck where they need to be, and play the instrument. It features all sorts of instruments, ranging from trumpets to violins to guitars to various percussion. I found the use of the balance board as pedals for the virtual drumset quite interesting as well.
That was about all that Nintendo had to offer, sadly. Showings like this just don't cut it for me. I want to see more from you guys, Nintendo! Give me a reason to buy a Wii.
Sony, on the other hand, brought a remarkable showcase to E308. They did go over some sales statistics, but they at least made it feel more relevant than the other two. Their business agenda was even more interesting, thanks to the use of a LittleBigPlanet level.
Most importantly, Sony delivered in bringing us news of tons of new features and games coming to the PS2, PSP, and PS3. The opening demo of Resistance 2 was outstanding and exciting, though it looked graphically incomplete (Insomniac has time to fix that issue). Sony also proclaimed their continued support for the PS2, announcing that over 130 new games would come to the platform this year.
The PSP is also receiving a few bonuses, such as a new entertainment pack, more connectivity with the PS3 (more on that later), and of course, plenty of new games, the most notable of which is a Resistance spinoff, presumably taking place between the first and second PS3 titles. The graphics were impressive, and hopefully it uses a control scheme that works for a PSP shooter.
Each platform had it's own montage of upcoming releases, but the PS3 had plenty of in-depth looks at upcoming titles. Notable title's include Sucker Punch's Infamous, in which a man who survives a massive explosion gains supernatural powers. It takes place in an open environment as well, so that should be interesting. There was a look at an upcoming MMO entitled DC Universe Online, in which you fight alongside heroes like Batman and Superman with your own hero, or create a villain and fight against them. I want to be excited for this one, but I can't help but think of it as a City of Heroes/Villains ripoff with licensed characters.
Of course, one of the things I was looking for is how Sony would respond to the loss of Final Fantasy XIII as an exclusive, and it came in multiple forms. More in response to the 360's impending price cut/60GB model, Sony has cut the price of the 80GB model to $400, cutting down Microsoft's argument. A new feature for the PlayStation Network (available tonight, too) was introduced that provides a movie rental and download store. What makes it more interesting is it's functionality with the PSP, in which you can upload the movies onto the PSP, and use the TV-out feature to play them on a TV, or just watch them on the go.
Sony's biggest response was the announcements of God of War III, which was followed by a brief trailer, and Zipper's new IP MAG (Massive Action Game). MAG is especially interesting due to its unprecedented 256-player online multiplayer. Even the PC hasn't seen battles that size outside of the MMOFPS genre (i.e. PlanetSide). Massive Action Game indeed.
In short, Sony's presentation was intriguing and exciting, and offered us a lot of new info to chew on. Sony says 2008 will be the year of the Playstation 3. If it is, let's hope they don't get full of themselves like Nintendo and stop giving us showcases like this. A solid showing from Sony, and a nice response to Microsoft.