Nintendo not only did spectacularly well at E3 this year (especially compared to last year); they blew the competition out of the water. With tons of upcoming titles for both the 3DS and the Wii U, Nintendo isn’t done yet, and they aren’t afraid to let everyone know it.
If the company was as nervous as some of their fans are about the company’s financial troubles, they certainly didn’t show it at E3. Nintendo opted out of a press conference again this year, instead doing a “Digital Event”, which was a little different than anyone expected it to be. It satirized the traditional E3 press conference, making it a funny stop motion skit similar to Robot Chicken. Nintendo also got a little mean, with a stop-motion Reggie throwing a fireball at a stereotypical whining fan as he begged to be given Mother 3.
I had mixed feelings when I saw the stop-motion stuff, because I was afraid Nintendo would go overboard with it, as they often do. But the presentation was personal, and had that air of Nintendo fun, like my favorite part where Reggie and Iwata actually duke it out Smash Bros. style. But style and fun aside, Nintendo really did deliver on the content.
Most of the announcements were for the Wii U, which was understandable. The Wii U is really still learning to walk, while the 3DS can do its own taxes at this point. But what they did talk about for their handheld caught my eye. They announced the definitive release date for Super Smash Bros. 3DS (October 3rd), and for Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire (November 21st). And on top of a whole heaping pile of new eShop titles I couldn’t even begin to cover here, two new games really interested me.
The first is called Code Name S.T.E.A.M. set to come out some time next year. This game is made by Intelligent Systems, best known for the incredible Fire Emblem series. This is another of the strategy RPG genre they’re so known for, but it’s very different from what they’ve made before, in more ways than one. The game is about a special forces squad formed in the Age of Steam by president Lincoln to fight off alien invaders.
It’s very steam punk, and very stylized after the silver age of American comics, namely the work of Jack Kirby. The thing that really makes this game different is that the traditional top-down view used in strategy RPGs is abandoned. You play through the levels without knowing where your enemies are or even the lay of the land, which I was very uncomfortable with at first while watching gameplay, being so used to IS’s more popular strategy series. But the more they explained and demonstrated how the game worked, the more I liked it.
Each character starts a turn with so many units of steam, which they use to move across the grid, or to attack. You can move around as much as you want per turn, to the limit of your steam tank. Moving back to your starting position will replenish any steam you use. This allows you to run out, scope the land ahead of you, then run closer to where you started to regain some action points, and plan how to use them accordingly.
The enemies on the map are in the same situation as you are: they don’t know where you’re hiding. So if you happen to accidently wander into an enemy’s field of view while walking around, they’ll see you, and make sure to try and come after you on their turn. This makes the game very exploration based. It also makes it more realistic, as you are no longer some all-powerful strategy god that can see everything that is happening. It’s something that will make strategies a lot more interesting and make this game truly unique. Strategy RPGs tend to just suck up way to much of my life, so maybe this won’t be one I’ll be getting right off the bat, but it’s definitely one I’m keeping an eye out for.
The other game I really liked was Fantasy Life. This game is made by Level-5 Studios (creators of the Professor Layton series), and is set to be released this October. This game was described as an adorable mashup of Animal Crossing and Final Fantasy, and that sounded like that might be a little strange. But I found out that the game is actually supposed to be ridiculously deep.
Fantasy Life is based around lifestyles – such as woodcutter, blacksmith, alchemist, etc. – that you can switch between whenever you want by talking to the right person. By training as a specific class you build up that class’ skills. This unlocks abilities you can keep no matter what class you switch to.
There are tons of things to collect and craft and utilize all over the land. You could spend days just searching and foraging for resources to create the perfect weapon or potion. And the crafting portions of the game are actually mini-games where your success is determined by the quality of your items. I think this is a really cool concept, because no matter how high-leveled you get in blacksmithing for instance, the quality of your sword will always be at least partially based on your skill in the real world. Though doing the mini-games might get a little annoying after the 100th try, I’m willing to give it a go.
Each of the 12 life styles has a life master who is the epitome of your trade, and will give you special missions to fulfill in your class to help you on the road to mastery. And you can focus on some skills, and ignore others, and live your life in the way you choose to, making your character very personalized after you’ve been playing for a while.
And fun side quests aren’t all of what this game has to offer. The main story is supposed to be pretty time consuming as well, with people saying the RPG as a whole is composed of over 21,000 pages of text. That’s pretty heavy. Seeing as it’s from the makers of the Professor Layton games, I’m sure they will be keeping you interested, but the story isn’t mandatory.
This is where the Animal Crossing aspect comes in. If you want to just spend your time mastering your favorite classes, or just killing monsters and collecting money, and never touch the main story, there’s enough in the game to keep you occupied doing that for a long time. If you decide you want to dive in to the story, there’s just as much – if not more – there for you to play. And if you want to do both and complete everything, you better not be too attached to your social life.
Speaking of social life, the multiplayer is cool in this game as well. When hooking up with a friend, they seamlessly join you in your world, and you are free to do what you want, such as beat a boss that you aren’t strong enough to tackle alone.
I’m really liking the style and huge size this game seems to be showing off, and every day I’m closer and closer to convincing myself I need it. I think this will be a great game both for people who just want to take it easy and progress through life, and for those who want to have tough battles and go through an interesting story.
[Images: ©Level-5, ©Nintendo]
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