<![CDATA[In 2017, the Electronic Entertainment Expo brought some tremendous game announcements- while it seems that this was a bit of a sleeper year due to the lack of crazy groundbreaking announcements (sorry folks, no Vita 2 on the horizon), some of what was revealed will have far reaching effects on the world of gaming. Here are seven of the most important surprises from E3 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPByXI7eOgs
- Three Generations of Games on One Console [caption id="attachment_932" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox, announces original Xbox Backward Compatibility at the Xbox E3 2017 Briefing on Sunday, June 11, 2017 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision for Microsoft/AP Images)[/caption] A couple of years ago, Microsoft unveiled backwards compatibility for the Xbox One with some Xbox 360 games; this year, Microsoft announced that the Xbox One would also be receiving backwards compatibility with the original Xbox. This is a big deal due to the fact that it means the Xbox One has something that Sony has seemingly ditched: three generations of games on a single machine. When the Playstation 3 originally launched, it featured compatibility for both PS1 and PS2 games- however, later versions of the Playstation 3 lacked this back compatibility for PS2 games. The Playstation 4 allows emulation of a few PS2 games, but this feature isn’t particularly robust. The only other player in the industry that comes close to offering something along these lines is Nintendo, with their Virtual Console service (and less than consumer-friendly methods of transferring one’s games between consoles and generations)- while Nintendo offered back compatibility between Wii and Wii U hardware and software, there’s no such compatibility between the Wii U and the Switch. Meanwhile on the Xbox One, players can use their old discs or simply access their digital purchases of games and DLC. Building a library on the original Xbox and the 360 thus meant building a library on the Xbox One. Will gamers take advantage of this? According to an in-depth study of data, it appears that a small percentage of gaming on the Xbox One actually involves back compatibility; while you can probably expect a little spike in the price of old copies of Crimson Skies, there will probably be very few people actually using it. In spite of diminishing returns, this is a move in the right direction for Microsoft: it’s going to instill brand loyalty in those who take advantage of it, and be used as an arguing point when people are trying to decide which console is the right one to purchase.
- That Mario Rabbids Thing I have no love for Ubisoft’s Rabbids. They remind me of the Minions from the Despicable Me film series, if said Minions were hopped up on dangerous and illegal substances. That said, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle looks pretty interesting- the game’s premise is that these idiotic lagomorphs have been pulled into the Mushroom Kingdom, bringing with them their villains- here’s where things get interesting: the game is a turn-based strategy title with destructible terrain. It’s not the first Mario spinoff game featuring characters from another universe, but it’s an interesting departure for everybody’s favorite playable plumber- combining the Mushroom Kingdom with XCOM sounds like a recipe for disaster, but if Ubisoft manages to get the game’s tone right and keep the gameplay challenging but fair (that 5% chance of losing your unit that seems to happen 50% of the time, I’m looking at you)- it could be a huge hit.
- Shadow of the Colossus Sony has the funny tendency to drop surprises at E3 that people have been waiting for- between the reveal of The Last Guardian a couple years ago, some Crash Bandicoot last year and this year, Shadow of the Colossus, it seems as though they’re in the business of giving people exactly what they want. In this case, it’s a new version of Shadow of the Colossus for the Playstation 4- in case you’re unfamiliar with it, Shadow of the Colossus is a fantasy game involving stone giants that put Japan Studio on the map. It’s widely regarded as a classic PS2 game and while it did see a re-release on the PS3, it appears that this PS4 version is a proper remake, with shiny new graphics.While The Last Guardian sold pretty well, it wasn’t pushing the Zelda numbers that Sony may have been hoping for- perhaps this Shadow of the Colossus remake is meant to test the waters for more games of the sort from Japan Studio? Perhaps.
- Age of Empires Definitive Edition The real time strategy genre has, in recent years, taken a bit of a back seat thanks to the surge of MOBAs that hit that market a few years ago; it seemed, for a little while, that the RTS was dead- today, however, it seems a new equilibrium is being reached within the game industry, as new RTS such as Northgard are in development and finding success, and apparently that means the time is right for a remaster of Age of Empires.Age of Empires, in case you’re young enough to have missed it, is a historical RTS set in classical antiquity; it was massively popular and introduced a great many people to strategy games, and quite a number of kids to history. While the game’s sequel, set in medieval times is generally regarded as the better game, for most folks, their nostalgia is rooted in the first. Bear in mind that Age of Empires II did receive an HD remaster a few years ago, so this news isn’t completely unprecedented. Also worth noting is that this remaster will feature 4K support, a “brand-new narrative” and a re-orchestrated soundtrack. Unfortunately, the game’s not coming to Steam- right now, it seems exclusive to the Windows store. If you’d like to try it, you can sign up for the beta here.
- Metroid Isn’t Dead. The Metroid franchise is one that hasn’t gotten much love in recent years; besides the uniquely mediocre Federation Force, there just hasn’t been much Metroid… Anything, lately. During their bizarrely short E3 conference, however, Nintendo teased Metroid Prime 4, the first-person spinoff of the Metroid franchise; additionally, they later unveiled Metroid: Samus Returns which is currently in development for the 3DS and is a remake of the Gameboy platformer Metroid II: Return of Samus.I have a strong suspicion that the sales of Samus Returns will be the yardstick by which interest in new 2D Metroid games will be measured. The Metroid series is largely responsible for defining the design of the “Metroidvania” genre of platformers (the Castlevania series being the other); it’s a series with a lot of fans who’ve been disappointed by the lack of proper 2D Metroid games in recent years.
- A Mainline Pokemon RPG on Switch Right now, we know almost nothing about the Pokemon RPG that’s coming to the Switch, but the announcement almost seems like a reaction to last week’s Pokemon Direct, during which Nintendo revealed Pokken Tournament DX for the Switch- a lot of people were hoping for a mainline Pokemon RPG but wound up massively disappointed when it turned out to be Pokemon meets Tekken brought from Wii U to Switch. rrrrThe reason why this barebones announcement is such a big deal is because Pokemon fans have dreamed, for a long time, of a proper Pokemon RPG on a home console. Anybody who’s played Pokemon has almost definitely imagined the game in a beautifully rendered 3D space- and yet, in the more than twenty years that Nintendo has been producing home consoles capable of rendering 3D graphics, no 3D Pokemon RPG has emerged for any of them. Of course, we don’t know anything about this game, other than the fact that it’s in development- so it might not be the 3D game that everybody has been hoping for- but we can dream.
- No Major Cringe Moments [caption id="attachment_939" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Gamers enter the Xbox E3 2017 Briefing on Sunday, June 11, 2017 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Casey Rodgers/Invision for Microsoft/AP Images)[/caption] Alright, this is a stupid thing to be proud of, but I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of humiliations during E3. Seriously, every year there’s something to be ashamed of that happens on stage, but this year? Nothing huge. Sure, there were awkward bits here and there, but for the most part it seems that the presentations managed to dodge being… Bad.