ThinkBoxly is the personal developer blog of Lucas Chasteen, author, programmer, artist, and always learning. Read more

Friday, June 13, 2014

Show Floor @ E3 2014 – Favorite 3 Games Not on Stage

When most people think of E3, they think of high-budget stage presentations put on by only a select few high-profile videogame and videogame hardware developers. While these are certainly very exciting and exhilarating events, there’s a lot more to E3 than just what happens on stage. In fact, some years the best games at the show also have the least amount of presence. So here’s a few of the best things at E3 2014 you didn’t see in a press conference.

Virtual Reality

Though not a game in itself, virtual reality had an especially strong presence at E3 this year. By now the latest iteration of Oculus is a granted for the show, but the now-Facebook-owned property wasn’t alone in a distant corner this time. Sony also joined the VR race with their PS4-exclusive Project Morpheus.

Though Sony’s budget and style make Morpheus the more compelling device to look at, as the newer of the two major VR options it currently is not quite as impressive as Oculus’s offering. Sony’s VR headset doesn’t offer quite the visual range or fidelity of Oculus, and the E3 demos, though impressive, weren’t very detailed and limited the player from really exploring the best of what virtual reality has to offer. It shows great promise for the future of Playstation, especially considering Microsoft presently has no competitive product on the Xbox One, but as it stands Morpheus isn’t quite as worthy of the home as it is of a news piece (since Oculus is around).

Oculus, on the other hand, actually had some real games and real performance to show off. The upcoming Alien: Isolation looks tense enough on it own, but try actually being there and things reach a whole new level of interesting. Thank goodness for that ‘virtual’ part in virtual reality. Oculus also has the benefit of being a very open platform, meaning there’s no real limit to what games and platforms it can work with. In many cases games preexisting Oculus can even be made to work with it, no official support necessary. That kind of freedom, coupled with Oculus’s power as a VR device, make it a really exciting and compelling piece of hardware. Just get the thing out to market already, Facebook!

Final Fantasy Type 0/Agito

It’s a bit of a stretch to call these show floor items since the most Square Enix brought with them is trailers which can be seen just as well (if not better) on a personal computer than a kiosk, but these two titles are big enough to deserve a mention anyway. Fans have been clamoring for years for a localization of Final Fantasy Type-0, and in fact a full fan translation of the original PSP game was completed mere days ago, but now the real thing is finally headed overseas in next-gen remake form. Not for the PSP, of course—Sony officially laid that to rest. Instead we’ll all get to enjoy it on the PS4 and Xbox One. And I do mean enjoy—Type-0 always was a bigger game than the PSP and well deserves the big screen treatment. The fan hype isn’t hollow, Type-0 truly is one of the best and most mature Final Fantasy games in recent memory.

But Square Enix isn’t stopping there. Last year at E3 we got a look at Final Fantasy Agito, a mobile title set in the world of Type-0 set to release in Japan. Well, Agito’s coming stateside now, too. Though decidedly the less exciting announcement, Agito is one game you shouldn’t dismiss just because it runs on your Android/iPhone. From the looks of things, Square Enix pulled heavily from their work on the Chaos Rings series—the latest game of which I called basically perfect, and still do. If that is truly the case, then you can expect Agito to be plenty good enough to pull you away from your console and onto your phone or tablet. That’s a big “if”, but we’ve seen Square Enix do it before, and I’m willing to believe they can do it again.

Release dates are TBA on both games, so stay tuned for future announcements.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

I included the latest trailer for this one because, well, it’s the latest trailer, newly revealed at E3 2014, but honestly it does a poor job of showing off this title compared to what we got last year, back when Monolith’s ‘X’ was still somewhat a mystery. You can check that trailer out here.

Nintendo is often criticized these days about how many of their games have an appearance that is the gaming equivalent of Sesame Street. Mostly those who complain grew up with Nintendo and wish Nintendo had done the same for them. Well, the WiiU is officially off to a rough start, with sales figures worse than the legendary Sega Dreamcast, but Nintendo isn’t ready to give up on their investment just yet. Over the next couple of years they’ve got a few more mature WiiU exclusives up their sleeves, such as Bayonetta 2 (which was also at E3) and a little game called Xenoblade Chronicles X. While the last game in the long-running Xeno series didn’t hit the Wii until 2012–far too late to reach widespread popularity despite its cult following–Monolith Soft is hitting the ground running with this one, and it may just be the WiiU’s best chance for salvation.

Impressive visuals, a huge, open world to explore, transforming mech vehicles, that distinct Japanese flair–Xenoblade Chronicles X has all the makings of a great JRPG. Xeno may not have the mainstream appeal of Final Fantasy or even the runner-up, Tales, but beggars can’t be choosers, and from the looks of things it’s a pretty good time to be a beggar. Xenoblade Chronicles X isn’t just going to be a good game, it’s going to be a hardware seller. Companies like Ubisoft have already admitted to sitting on nearly-complete WiiU titles that will remain shelved until the audience for the console is there to make releasing the games a worthy financial risk, so in a very real sense future great games on the WiiU depend on the success of Xenoblade Chronicles X. Conversely, if it tanks, the WiiU doesn’t have a lot else going for it. So long as big games are on the horizon it’s not too late for Nintendo’s troubled console, but if the right games go wrong, developers may well give up on it altogether.

But enough about WiiU woes. Regardless of how it sells, Xenoblade Chronicles X itself is practically guaranteed to be awesome. Like so many other titles at the expo we won’t get to see this one in our living rooms until 2015, but chances are it will be well worth the wait.

See you next year!

It’s hard to believe, but E3 2014 is already over. We saw some familiar entries, we saw some surprises, we saw next-gen finally taking form, we saw old failures made good and the successes of the past carried on strong. It was hard to know what to expect of the year following new consoles, but whatever the expectations E3 2014 delivered. And the best is yet to come—more than anything we were given much to look forward to in 2015. E3 2014 came and went fast. Next year will be here before we know it. Yep indeed, it’s a great time to be a gamer! See you in 2015, E3!