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Twitterpation Nintendation Expotation

I had four days off to watch streams of E3 2017, and boy, is my brain tired. Not that I am here to give you great coverage on that, as there's probably a thousand and one reputable Internet gaming outlets doing that already.  My perspective is more reactionary, that of a computer gamer, albeit one who has been at it for over thirty years...
This was probably computer game #100 for me.
...honestly, what passes for gaming these days is not quite as interesting as those early halcyon days when we there thrilled just to see pixels move.  Clearly, the bar has been raised.

For the most part, I ended up fixating on Nintendo's efforts.  What I saw from Microsoft and Sony was a whole lot of staying the course with bigger and better hardware.  Compared to that, what Nintendo does is fun.  (Granted, they are all out for our money, like any company with AAA budgets to recoup.)

On the low end of Nintendo's innovation was Mario Odyssey.  It was just sad.  Super Mario Galaxy was perhaps the perfect 3D Mario game, and I guess trying to follow that act was overwhelmingly demoralizing.

"How can we possibly make Mario any better?!" they thought, "I give up.  Lets just make it into Zelda instead."  And so Mario Odyssey ditched the excellent stage-based pacing of the previous games and turned into a massive open-world sandbox.
"A new Mario game needs new gameplay mechanics, but what could we possibly make Mario do that we had not come up with in the last fifty games?" they thought, "I know, we'll just stick another character on top of Mario!  It will literally be a hat!  And maybe a second player can control it in co-op play!  No, that's stupid, what was I thinking?!  I know, you can use the hat to possess all the other characters in the game, so their move set is now your move set!  I always wanted to be a Bullet Bill!"  At about this point, they were wheeled away to the funny farm as the raving madman they had become, but nobody could come up with a better idea.

I hate to say it, but Mario Odyssey game is looking like a flop.  The two things it adds, an open world and a possession mechanic, are the two things Mario games need the least.  Everybody knew they needed a big Mario system to support the new platform release, but nobody had any idea what to do with him.

Fortunately, Ubisoft figured out a way to spin Mario's identity crisis in a more positive direction.  Try to imagine Mario acting in the most out-of-character way possible, and you may end up giving him a gun and making him take partial cover behind blocks in a turn-based strategy game.  Not out-of-character enough?  How about if we make him hang out with a bunch of rabbids with cosplay fetishes?
Out-of-character or not, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle looks great, among some of the most entertaining-looking game concepts to come out of this year's E3.  Sure, it is obviously inspired by Firaxis's XCOM series (a solid concept) but with significantly more goofing off this time around.

That said, I am a little worried by the fact that there does not seem to be any "reaction fire" mechanics, as that element has been an essential part of this kind of game since the original Laser Squad.  Has Ubisoft come up with another way, or are reaction fire mechanics unlocked some point after what we saw demoed?

A new Metroid Prime game was teased, fourth in the series.  All they did was drop the title, and this is thought to have stolen the show.  Fandoms disgust me sometimes.

In a less ambiguous mention, "Game Freak has begun developing a core RPG Pokemon title on Nintendo Switch."  I thought the phrasing was a little odd, the general assumption is that this is going to be a traditional Pokemon game (which I suppose a "core" game would be) but I wonder if they might be going for something with a more coherent narrative.

On the other hand, we got to see plenty of gameplay for Metroid: Samus Returns for the Nintendo 3DS, and that looks like a highly effective re-imagining of the original game.  In the end, it was boring watching such a well-made game be played, as it simply did what a good game should.

Nearly two entire days of Nintendo E3 coverage were taken by their push to get the Switch into the competitive circuit.  There were no less than three games presented as competitions:
  • Splatoon 2, sequel to Nintendo's wildly successful third person arena deathsplatmatch games, was the first competition.  From the looks of things, the focus of the sequel was buffing out the rough edges of the balance so it would make for a better eSport.
  • Pokkén Tournament DX, remastered and expanded edition of Pokkén Tournament, is basically a 3D fighter re-skinned with Pokemon everything.  It's an overwhelmingly gorgeous game, and not at all badly done if you like fighting games.  Not my bag, really, and this kind of game is really not what put Pokemon on the map, so color me boggled they did such a good job on it.
  • Arms is also a 3D fighter game, but custom built for the Nintendo Switch console, and differs from most such games with a behind-the-shoulder third person perspective and a long range punching mechanic that can harness the motion controls.  Largely experimental, which I like, but I think somewhere deep in the DNA of this game is an attempt to bring Punch Out!!! back.
It is telling how much show floor time Nintendo spent pushing (shoving, really) to make the Switch look like a predominant eSports platform.  They want it to happen so much that the ongoing absence of video streaming apps is still in effect.  That is a bit of a head scratcher: would people using the Switch to watch videos on really diminish its capacity to be observed as a gaming platform?  It a shame, it seems like that would be something it could be really good at.
When it comes to my personal gaming preferences, I am a bit of a nut for a game that tries to infuse a virtual world sandbox with purpose, ideally with solid enough gameplay that the necessary time investment does not become torturous.  Zelda: Breath Of The Wild was pretty great along those lines, but I like a bit more RPG mechanic, ideally with some depth.  Along these lines, Xenosaga Chronicles 2 might be far closer to what I am looking for.

I played Xenoblade Chronicles X for the Wii U earlier this year, and learned that this series has basically become a quasi-MMORPG.  That means plenty of open world to explore and a poor-but-functioning facsimile of purpose in terms of MMORPG grinding.  On top of that, the RPG combat mechanics have some real depth to them!  (I probably would have enjoyed that depth more if the Wii U controller was not so awkward to use.)  If Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for the Switch is the same kind of game, then that is something I have some very good reasons to look forward to.

A game I am not looking forward to is Fire Emblem Warriors.  Like Pokkén Tournament, Fire Emblem Warriors is obviously a spin-off fan game intended to entice fans of the original series, despite having nothing in common with the gameplay that interested those fans to begin with...
... however, Pokkén Tournament looked like it had high production values and highly refined gameplay despite obviously being a spin-off.  Fire Emblem Warriors looks like it is utterly phoning it in as a competently done but overwhelmingly lackluster Warriors clone.  There is something soulless about it: these characters simply do not belong in this kind of gameplay.

Amiibos were flaunted for nearly every game Nintendo announced, even Fire Emblem Warriors has some.  I thought we had moved past craven idol worship.  Clearly somebody has not moved past worshiping money.

All this Nintendo Switch coverage was apparently too much for my poor consumer brain.  I ran right out and bought one.  The one and only Switch game I actually own now is the port of Minecraft for it, top of the heap for emergent virtual world potential, but weakest in purpose.  Despite having so little software to run on it, the Switch is clearly good hardware.   I re-upped my GameFly subscription and intend to run it ragged.

My greatest regret from this year's E3 is that no new Animal Crossing game was announced.  It has been almost 5 years since Animal Crossing: New Leaf was released.  Although we got a nice little booster shot with the release of Animal Crossing: Welcome Amiibo last year, it sold absolutely awful because everybody who was interested in it already owned New Leaf and received Welcome Amiibo as a free update.  I hope that this has not soured Nintendo on making another.  I understand a new game for mobile platforms has been getting worked on for quite some time, but its release date keeps getting pushed back.
Instead, I get to look forward to Miitopia, which is basically a reinvention of Tomodachi Life as a JRPG.  It is a goofy mix between a role playing game and social media, the whole thing is overwhelmingly tongue-in-cheek.  You can giggle at adding people you know in real life from it or, if you're weird like me, you can plug in data for the most influential people in history and watch the random number generator debase them.  The demo should be out, and I look forward to giving it a spin.

Thanks partly to E3, I allowed myself to get thoroughly derailed this bizarro weekend.  It was a costly failure, both in time and money.  I really need to try to get back to work on making games, and not just playing them because, if watching this year's E3 has proven one thing to me, is that the gaming world always needs more innovation.


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