Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Confessions of an Excited Gamer

Maybe I should have named this "Confessions of a Procrastinator," because I've been doing that, too. But can you blame me? E3 is upon us at last. It feels like I've been counting down the days to E3 since February or so.

You see, E3, or the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is basically Christmas in June for gamers. For three glorious days, we are gifted with an enormous amount of news, trailers, and gameplay of upcoming games.

It used to be that I'd just check out trailers on YouTube long after E3 was over. But I've been getting more and more infatuated with E3 as the years pass. It's almost becoming an annual tradition: my siblings and I (and sometimes our dad) will park ourselves in front of the kitchen computer for hours on end, one of us cooking lunch or dinner on the range as we absorb as much information as we can.

It sounds boring (or extremely unhealthy), but trust me, for a gamer, it's my soaps. Or my Game of Thrones. I guess that's more popular these days. (Can you tell I don't watch shows much?)

My work flow had started trickling anyway. I've been hitting a brick wall with this most recent chapter of The Victor's Blade. But getting really into E3 has simply destroyed my productivity. I don't know if it's because I've been getting more and more invested in E3 recently or if it's because they're featuring four of my most anticipated up-and-coming games. And they're anticipated for very good reason. All four of these have been in development for a very long time, all four are installments in my favorite game series, and almost all four of them have been oozing with drama about their development and release.

Kingdom Hearts 2.8

I'll start with the newest Kingdom Hearts title, Kingdom Hearts 2.8. The Kingdom Hearts series follows a small-town boy named Sora as he fights back the dark forces that threaten to destroy the universe. This universe is comprised of many individual worlds that Sora visits, each populated by a colorful cast of characters including well-known Disney and Square Enix characters.

Now, Kingdom Hearts has always been mocked for its odd titles, but Kingdom Hearts 2.8 has a very good reason for the decimal: it contains events that take place between KH2 and the still-in-production KH3 (which I'm also anticipating with bated breath). Why 2.8 instead of 2.5? Well, the short version is because 2.5 was already taken by the remastered Kingdom Hearts 2--but that's another story for another time.

Now, why would I care about a game that just leads up to KH3? So glad you asked.

Kingdom Hearts is an incredibly complicated and deep storyline. Without playing (or at least watching) all the games, you'll probably be confused if not downright lost. Since Kingdom Hearts 3 is probably going to be wrapping up fifteen years' worth of story (the original Kingdom Hearts came out in 2002), it stands to reason there's a lot you'll need to know when going into this game. And Kingdom Hearts 2.8 is going to help do exactly that--prepare the players for KH3 by revealing some key information. That's why I and many other Kingdom Hearts fans are very excited for 2.8. So while it may seem silly to be so eager for a remaster and in-between game, trust me when I say that getting any little tidbit of story is well-rewarding when it comes to this series.

Besides, we haven't seen a main series title (KH2) since 2006 here in the US. And even the most recent full-length console game, Dream Drop Distance, released way back in 2012. We've had only one other Kingdom Hearts game to sate our appetites for KH3 since DDD, and that was the free-to-play mobile game that came out earlier this year--but let's face it, a mobile game with virtually no story is not really a good gauge for how long we've waited for more juicy Kingdom Hearts content.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda is one of those odd game series that had little story connection between games (up until recently, when they released an "official timeline" that connected the games). However, the games always follow the adventures of Link trying to save the world from danger. There's usually puzzles to solve, enemies to kill, and odd tools and weapons to pick up and utilize.

The newest title in The Legend of Zelda series was known until today as "Zelda U," since it was the first main-series title releasing for the Wii U console. Fans have been waiting for this game since seeing its teaser trailer at E3 2014, but we heard very little about what kind of a game it would be after that initial tease.

With a game series like The Legend of Zelda, that's big news to be left in the dark about. That's because the Zelda games have featured completely different styles of gameplay throughout the years, varying from the pixelated top-down action-based combat of the original game to side-scrolling Mario-style platforming to the puzzling, platforming, dungeon-crawling of the more modern games. Once we were told Zelda U was going to be an open-world game based on exploration and freedom, I and many other fans nearly lost our minds with anticipation. The game was initially set to release in 2015... and then it was set to release in 2016... and is now slated for a 2017 release.

Needless to say, after waiting for so long to see more than just a teaser trailer, seeing Breath of the Wild in action at E3 this morning was just phenomenal. In fact, as of the time of this post, Nintendo's Treehouse Live, which features gameplay from the game, is actually still running. Try checking for it on Nintendo's channel at Twitch.com.

Final Fantasy XV

The Final Fantasy series is another series that is difficult to define. Each game has a few core elements in common with its predecessors--the same healing items, usually in the JRPG (Japanese Roleplaying Game) genre--but each game is often self-contained and disconnected from the other games.

Final Fantasy XV was actually originally titled Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which shows just how long this game has been in development. Yes, there have been TWO main-series Final Fantasy games released since this one. Final Fantasy XV has been in development at least since 2006, when we saw its first teaser trailer.

The Final Fantasy series had been lagging after the lackluster releases of XI and XII, so fans were ready and rabid for a new solid entry to the series. So when the epic-looking 2006 teaser trailer released, fans (including me) nearly lost their minds with excitement. We had to get our hands on this game with the clean-cut protagonist and his magical armory and teleporting abilities.

The long wait began.

Very little news came out about Final Fantasy Versus XIII, even after Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIV released in 2009 and 2010. () We even saw a sequel for Final Fantasy XIII a few years later (and sequels are highly unusual for any Final Fantasy title), but we still received very little news on Versus's progress. Rumors that the project would be canceled buzzed around the project like vultures around carrion.

But then, in 2013, the same year that they released a second sequel for Final Fantasy XIII, Square Enix revealed that Final Fantasy Versus was not only still in production--it had undergone a name change. It was now the next main-line title in the Final Fantasy franchise: Final Fantasy XV.

I was nearly blown away at such an amazing upgrade. Final Fantasy sequels are often not nearly as well-crafted games as the main-series titles, so the fact it had sloughed off the title of (what I considered to be) the sub-par Final Fantasy XIII blew my mind. And although I'm currently terrified it may not live up to my ten-year-long expectations, I'm still eager to get my hands on this game come this autumn.

The Last Guardian

If The Last Guardian had a spirit animal, it'd most definitely be the phoenix--and not just because of the bird-like animal companion featured in the game. Little is known about the story of The Last Guardian, but it seems to follow a small boy and his gigantic chimera-like companion as they traverse through a series of dangerous ruins. However, the key draw of the games produced by Team ICO isn't necessarily the explicit story--it's often the aesthetics and subtle storytelling through gameplay that draw so much attention to their games.

ICO, the team's first project, has and always will be my favorite game of all time. Although it contains a very simple story on the surface--boy is imprisoned, boy finds a girl, boy and girl try to escape girl's murderous, callous mother--it's an experience and a work of art so much more than "just a video game." Because ICO was such an incredible experience for me, I craved more games like it once I'd completed it. But that's the problem with something fresh and unique--there's not much else like it out there. I literally dreamed of them releasing an ICO sequel, but since the game sold relatively poorly, I thought there was no chance of that.

But they did. I played Shadow of the Colossus on my sixteenth birthday, in 2005. It was also amazing, but I still wanted more.

And then 2007 happened, and Team ICO revealed it was working on yet another project--which they affectionately referred to as "Trico," the third "ICO-type" game.

I repeatedly visited the official website of "Trico," as it featured two short trailers and screenshots from the game. I'd pore over the content there, hoping each time that this would finally be the time they'd have uploaded new pictures, or one tiny new video. The site was in Japanese, and I knew exactly zero Japanese, but it didn't matter. The visuals could keep me going, even if I couldn't understand what was being said or what the captions were.

But the website never updated. All I met with was years and years of deafening silence. And after the silence, something worse: bad news.

Rumors spread like wildfire that the director had been fired. Or had quit. I nearly panicked. The game would never possibly be the same without the man who had created my beloved ICO! When news came that he was no longer directing but was still working on the project, it allayed some, but not all, of my fears.

Then the real death-knell: word that The Last Guardian had been canceled.

Despite Sony continually refuting this, articles still kept popping up on relatively reputable sites saying that The Last Guardian had been canceled. Then a friend of mine told me that the trademark had expired. Facts couldn't lie. If the trademark for the game hadn't been renewed, it seemed clear there would be no game.

The Last Guardian looked like it could have been a rival to my all-time favorite game. But it had met with so much silence and struggle during its development, I'd wondered if it could really make it. I'd feared the game releasing as only a shell of what it could have been. I'd feared the game dying long before it could ever take flight. Now it had happened. Now those dreams were crushed. There would be no Last Guardian.

I was watching Sony's panel last year at E3 2015 when a familiar little boy ran across the screen. I just remember shrieking for joy as I saw The Last Guardian rise back to life before my eyes, in all its glowing glory. When the game was slated for a 2016 release date, I nearly became a puddle of grateful tears.

Needless to say, with four $60 games on the horizon that I absolutely have to get my hands on, I've said hello to all this glorious new information... and bid a tearful farewell to my wallet.


Whoa, what do you mean, these games came out already? Did the games live up to my expectations or crush my hopes and dreams? Here's where to find out:
No, Kingdom Hearts 2.8 hasn't made it on the review list just yet. Stay tuned in the future, though!

From Him, To Him

3 comments:

  1. It's been years since I focused on E3. It's cool how you have interest in gaming.

    ReplyDelete