Day Two Roundtable Recording (MP3, 15.4 MB)
Thursday was the busiest day yet at E3 2005 for RPGamer's staff correspondants. At the end of the day, five of our weary crew gathered once again to highlight the major goings-on of the day. Thursday night's panelists consisted of Elliot Guisinger, Cortney Stone, Philip Bloom, Mikel Tidwell, and Ed Walker.
The night's big topic of conversation came right at the start with each panelist commenting on his or her playing experiences with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. With lines at the Nintendo booth to play the game lasting up to several hours, and time permitted to play short, what brief parts the panelists played they seemed to enjoy emmensely. Cortney's experience began with a boss battle with her as Link mounted on Epona fighting against a Moblin riding a pig. She noted that several other players had difficulty executing the dodge moves that were needed to avoid the boss's attacks, but she was able to pull them off without too much trouble. Another feature mentioned by the roundtable members included a new finishing move Link can use on knocked-down enemies. Several of them also stated that it was possible for Link to get knocked off Epona during combat and have to chase after her. The panel's intentional understatement summed up their collective impression of the game: they "enjoyed it quite a bit."
Kingdom Hearts II was next on the roundtable's agenda, with several of the panelists giving their impressions of the Mulan scenario. While the story of Mulan as presented in the game was altered too much from the original Disney story for Phil's tastes, Cortney had no such complaints. The panel felt that the battle system was much improved and noted that Sora's jump attacks were more fluid and less awkward than in the first game.
Cortney then detailed the scenario she played which involved the initial meeting with Final Fantasy X's Auron and a rematch again Hercules' two-headed dog monster, Cerberus, described as "bigger and badder and a whole lot meaner" in his second Kingdom Hearts appearance. Unlike in the first title, Cortney could not hop on Cerberus' back to attack him from there. Instead, Sora was presented with a series of special moves during the course of the battle, including the ability to pry open the boss's mouths with his keyblade and the option to execute a "Dog Paddle" attack consisting of Sora mercilessly beating the creature. While Eliott expressed his concern over the many "recycled" characters appearing from the first Kingdom Hearts, Phil challenged that notion and added that, in the worse case, Kingdom Hearts II would contain the better subset of the first game's experiences. The discussion of the game concluded with speculation that Square Enix would be making Kingdom Hearts into its next Flagship series alongside Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.
While on the subject of Square Enix, some of the roundtable shared their experiences with the line-up of Square Enix mobile games which will likely never see the light of day in North America. Phil described Final Fantasy VII: Before Crisis as beautiful for a mobile phone game. The portion he played pitted him as members of the Turks fighting AVALANCHE as it attempts to bomb a Mako reactor. Unfortunately, he noted that 80% of the play time was spent "staring at [Japanese] text" he couldn't understand. Also shown from the Final Fantasy mobile series were a direct port of the Dawn of Souls version of Final Fantasy II along with Final Fantasy VII Snowboarding, the latter of which will be coming to America through Verizon. Cortney noted, however, that playing the snowboarding game was difficult because of the cramped button placement of the mobile phone.
Dragon Quest VIII came up again tonight as more of the panelists had the opportunity to try out it on Thursday. Headphones at one of Square Enix's booths allowed one panelist to hear the game's voice acting in the noisy exhibition hall; that panelist described the voices as possessing a good quality of acting and a certain quirky charm. Phil noted that Yuji Hori's classic Dragon Quest wit returns in VIII, but he also mentioned that the Dragon Quest series appears to be trying to revive the feel of older Final Fantasy games. New for the North American translation of the game is a redone menu interface which Square Enix representatives suggested were added because "Americans need more flashy [gameplay]". Cortney had another try at the Hori slime controller today which, with the advise of correspondant Adrienne Beck, she held like a bowl and found it was "actually really comfortable to play with."
The panelists briefly mentioned Agetec's line-up, including the next Wild Arms title due out in North American later this year, RPG Maker 3 for PlayStation 2, and the upcoming Popolocrois games. Even with these titles showcased at its booth, Agetec made the biggest impression with the roundtable with its "Anti-Booth Babe" campaign which distributed free granny panties to attendees in an effort to de-emphasize the importance of using beautiful women to "decorate" games showcased at gaming exhibition events.
"[The Elder Scrolls IV:] Oblivion is looking to be a game not to miss" according to Phil. In addition to its already discussed superior graphics, Oblivion developers at Bethesda Softworks showed gameplay videos of deep, thought-provoking puzzles suggesting far more than just hack-and-slash gameplay for this game. The panel couldn't resist mentioning Patrick Stewart, former Star Trek captain, who provides the voice of the Emperor, suggesting that Oblivion may have an all-star voice cast.
The PC game discussion continued with Tactica Online from Imaginary Numbers. Described by the panel as an "online real-time strategy" game, and vehemently insisted to not be an MMO, it will feature turn-based gameplay where a player controls a single squad. Set in an alternate history of Renaissance Italy, the story will place players in the middle of feuding nobles and magical forces. All players will participate on a single server, the developers noted.
Mythic Entertainment attended E3 with its upcoming Dark Age of Camelot expansion which will add the popularly-demanded rideable horses, though players need not purchase the expansion to take advantage of this and certain other upgrades coming to the game. One other feature will allow players who reach the maximum experience level to continue improving their player's statistics.
The roundtable also shared their non-RPG experiences, including a discussion of the Nintendo DS's wireless capabilities which were demonstrated in new ways in the exhibition hall. On showcase were the DS Mario Kart which possessed Wi-Fi capabilities that linked several players in the E3 convention center in Los Angeles to another player in Seattle with no noticable lag time. The same feature allowed E3-goers to play the DS Animal Crossing against a Nintendo representative in New York. A panelist noted that connection limitations hampered efforts to easily access downloadable content from the Nintendo booth because many people throughout the hall were likely swamping the booth with their wireless connections.
The night's panel drew to a close with random tidbits and answers to reader questions. Here's a quick rundown of some of these items:
- One panelist noted that the upcoming Fire Emblem title for the Game Boy Advance suffers from long and frequent death animations that seriously affect the speed of gameplay.
- When asked which of the next-generation consoles had the best showing at E3, the panel unanimously agreed that none of them did because there just wasn't much shown for any of them. Instead, the panel suggested that the award for best showing go to the PlayStation 2.
- Coming off the recent release of World of Warcraft, Blizzard had nothing new at E3.
- No new details have been revealed by World of Mana, and its actual nature remains shrouded in mystery.
- Namco no-shows at E3: Namco X Capcom and Xenosaga Episode III, though the panelists noted that the Xenosaga games typically aren't showcased at E3.
E3 draws to a close Friday, so tune in Friday evening from 8pm to 10pm PST for the final Roundtable live from E3 for a wrap-up of the week's events. Join the fun via IRC or e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.