As much as E3 is hyped as being the biggest video game convention on the planet, it’s really a lousy place to play games. The flashing lights are distracting, the loud noises often make it impossible to hear any sound, and certain people don’t understand that you don’t sit and play a game for twenty minutes while there’s a huge line of people waiting to give the game a shot. Furthermore, certain games just don’t lend themselves to quick impressions. Listed below are ten games at E3 that either didn’t seem to get enough love, for any number of reasons – whether that they were shoved in a tiny corner, or still in Japanese, or just couldn’t show off their wares in such a short period of time.
Legends of Heroes 2: Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch (PSP)
Namco has historically been iffy with translating RPGs. Their booth was mostly dedicated to crappy anime games and mobile ports, and upcoming titles like Xenosaga 3 and Tales of the Abyss were just shown as looped trailers hidden on the backside. One of the only playable games was Legend of Heroes 2: Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch. At first it might not generate much excitement – it looks and plays exactly like Legend of Heroes: Tear of Vermillion that came out last year. Namco Bandai is actually going out of their way to fix the load times that plagued the Japanese release, since this was a PSP launch title over there. But what you don’t see in the demo is a story about two best friends setting off on a coming-of-age journey amidst a world falling apart. Falcom themselves dubbed this game “the most poetic RPG ever made” when it was released for the Japanese home computers back in the early 90s, and it’s great to finally see it in English.
Chibi Robo: Park Patrol (DS)
I’m not sure how well Nintendo’s surprisingly heartfelt Chibi Robo did on the Gamecube, but it was apparently enough to warrant a miniature release. This time, your adorable little robot takes to the outdoors as you explore the local park, drive around in scooters, and turn on some music to throw mini dance parties. It’s hard to get a grasp on Chibi Robo without spending much time with it, which explains why Nintendo seemed to have hid it among the DS tables. The only misgiving so far is the expansive environments are a bit bland – the gigantic household is what made the original so interesting, after all.
The King of Fighters 2006 (PS2)
SNK had the unfortunate fate of occupying a room in the concourse, away from all of the booths, which gave it the impression that only scheduled guests could enter. As a result, it was empty nearly all the time. Now, King of Fighters Maximum Impact had plenty of detractors, but it was one of the only 3D fighters that really felt like a 2D game, which is precisely the reason why I love it. SNK themselves even admitted that the original was a bit stripped down, as the designers simply wanted to get the gameplay down pat. Maximum Impact 2 (or King of Fighters 2006, as it’s cryptically called for the upcoming American release) has tons more characters, more than double the original, with lots more to unlock. It won’t convert haters of the original, but fans will love it, especially considering the American PS2 fighting scene seems to have dried up.
WTF: Work Time Fun (PSP)
Siliconera already covered WTF: Work Time Fun, but it bears mentioning just how psychotically inane this game is. A localization of “Baito Hell” (Part Time Hell), you take on tons of menial jobs, which are actually minigames, to get incredibly meager paychecks. And it’s all crazy. I mean, there’s a mini-game called Traffic Counter, where you count how many people walk buy, with a little portrait of the Doom face right underneath your clicker. It’s completely self-aware of how inane it is, and there’s where the cryptic appeal lies. I’m not saying it’s actually worth your money (unless it’s cheap) but it takes itself far less seriously than most PSP releases. It’s being brought to America by rookie publisher (at least in America) D3, who seemed surprised and confused when I went to their counter and asked for a press kit. Other than the Naruto games, the whole place was practically empty.
Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime (DS)
It looks like the well-made-but-boring Dragon Quest 8 was successful enough to convince Square-Enix to bring Slime Mori Mori 2 to America. Unlike it’s turn based brother, Rocket Slime is kind of an action-RPG starring the grinning slime, featuring some bizarre segments where you need to load various ammo into cannons to bring down some foes. While the English translation was exceedingly well done, it offered little explanation of the reasoning behind the gameplay, which probably accounted for why the game – which had plenty of kiosks at both the Square-Enix and Nintendo booths – didn’t seem to get much play. Read our playtest for more information on Dragon Quest Rocket Slime.
Gradius Collection (PSP)
I realize side-scrolling arcade-style shooters don’t set the world ablaze like they did in the late 80s/early 90s, but it was almost distressing how many people ignored the PSP Gradius Collection. Sure, two of the games (Gradius 3 & 4) are already available on the PS2, and original Gradius is a pretty common NES cart. But this is the first time Americans have seen Gradius 2, although the huge, blazing suns of the first stage lose a bit of their impact on the small screen. Even more important, the import-only Playstation title Gradius Gaiden makes it’s Western debut. Gradius Gaiden is one of the best shooters ever made, filled with gorgeous 2D graphics, amazing boss fighters and some incredibly cool levels. Imagine playing the first level of Gradius but with a black hole chasing you, sucking up the entire landscape. If you even remotely like Gradius – or it’s popular offshoot, Life Force – this will be a must have. Read our playtest for information on Gradius Collection.
Persona 3 (PS2)
While hanging out at the Atlus booth, barely anyone was actually playing Persona 3. It wasn’t for lack of exposure – Atlus had a huge banner showing off the excellent artwork – but it was still in Japanese, which probably put a lot of people off. While I played through the demo, at least a few people walked by. “Is this the game where the kids shoot themselves in the head?” They asked. “Yup”, replied an Atlus employee. “Is that going to left uncensored when it comes to America?” was the next question. “Don’t know”, was the usual response. So at least it has gained some notoriety, but what most people missed out on seemed to be another excellent Megaten game, with a dark but light hearted atmosphere, a Japanese pop soundtrack, and a variation of the Press Turn battle system found in SMT: Nocturne and SMT: Digital Devil Saga.
Excite Truck (Wii)
Most people who made it into the Wii booth seemed to be trying their hand at Super Mario Galaxy, Wario Ware, Metroid Prime 3, Red Steel or Zelda. Yet one of the best uses of the Wii remote, oddly enough, was the goofily titled Excite Truck. At it’s core, it’s a pretty simple racing game – imagine an offroad Burnout with less of an emphasis on crashing into your opponents – except you hold the Wii remote horizontally to mimic a steering wheel. It’s a lot more fun than using the standard analog stick of yore. It’s also amusing to try to teach other people how to play it and seeing them jerk around wildly as they try to adjust to it. This is undoubtedly how the Wii is going to pick up a lot of fans.
Lunar Knights (DS)
Konami didn’t even bother to bring the third Boktai to the DS, which was pretty unfortunate, given that fans are saying it’s the best. But they’re giving it another trying with the latest installment, redubbing it Lunar Knights. The Boktai games were pretty decent action/stealth/RPG titles, but requiring that you play most of the game in the sun shook the fourth wall a bit to harshly, and many gamers just didn’t bother. The solar energy requirement has been given the boot, so gamers can feel free to play whenever they choose.
Lumines Live (Xbox 360)
Lumines, long regarded as one of the best games on the PSP, is finally getting a port to a console, and Microsoft shoves it way in the back corner where no one can see it? The Xbox Live Arcade is a great concept, but new games have been slow to come out. They should’ve been advertising the hell out of this thing. The demo included a Madonna video, although there will probably be others when it’s actually released. At a cheap price, this could easily be the next best thing after Geometry Wars. Still, there doesn’t appear to be a release date other than “later this year”.