E3 2016: My Thoughts On the Conferences, Gameplay and Gender in Zelda, and Nintendo’s Show

I do have a pretty-much-finished 6-game update to the PC Game Opinion Summaries list done, but as last week was E3, I’ll be posting this now instead, and that later and with some additions. So, E3 2016 was last week, lasting from Sunday to Thursday including the pre-show press conferences. I’ve never been, of course, but watched a lot of it online. This years’ E3 was smaller than previous years, as some major publishers either didn’t show up or scaled back their appearances, Nintendo and EA included. However, there still was an E3, and as always there were exciting things shown. So, I’ll talk about them! For those not at the show to play games in person probably the most exciting part of every E3 are the pre-show press conferences, so that will get most of my attention.

For this first section, I have not seen the PC Gaming Show, but I did watch all of the other press conferences. So, I will cover Bethesda, EA, Sony, Ubisoft, and Microsoft. I watched those first four live, and MS a bit later. All five have lots of first or third person shooting games, the kinds of games I rarely care about much or play often. Some things were of interest, though. I will then discuss Nintendo, which did not have a traditional press conference or E3 Nintendo Direct web-show, but did stream lots of stuff over the first two days of the show proper. This section is broken up into two parts, for Nintendo’s refusals to have a playable female character in Zelda, and for my thoughts on their showing. This could be three separate articles, but I decided to post it as one big update instead. Consider it three parts though.

Table of Contents

Part 1: The Press Conferences

One of the more interesting things about this E3 was how few major surprise announcements there were. There were a few, such as Ubisoft’s Steep, but there were not many. Part of that is that many conferences had serious leaks of the more interesting parts, but that’s not all;’ nobody seems to want to announce many actual new surprise games, unlike last year which was full of surprises. It’s unfortunate. There were some new announcements, but not on the level of last year.

EA – EA and Bethesda had their conferences on Sunday. EA’s not at the show, but they have an event nearby. Their conference was Sunday afternoon, the first of the show. This conference was about an hour long, though it was followed by an hour-plus Battlefield 1 stream showing off that title. Mass Effect Andromeda could be good, but this teaser showed almost nothing beyond that the default/cover character will be a female this time, instead of male (on the box and ads) Shepard of ME1-3. They also showed a potentially interesting indie 3d adventure/platformer thing from Europe called Fe, I do want to see more of that one. They also had a segment on their Star Wars games, including a mobile game, new content for the MMO and Battlefront, and a very short teaser of something for Amy Hennig (Legacy of Kain)’s upcoming original, not movie-based Star Wars game. I haven’t played her games so I’m not excited for this specifically, but I do want to see more Star Wars games, so it’s good they’re doing something. They also showed FIFA and Madden of course, and Titanfall 2, which now will have a single player campaign and will be on PS4 as well as Xbox One and PC. I doubt I’ll play it though.

As for Battlefield 1, it looks like a standard Battlefield game wit ha World War 1 skin on it. Considering how seriously a lot of people in Europe still take WW1, and how different trench warfare is from what you find in a modern online shooter, I was interested to see if this game would be different from past Battlefields, but… nope, it’s just more Battlefield. I remember finding the original BF1942 demo kind of fun, but haven’t played anything else in the franchise since. Also, apparently the list of playable nations is out… and it’s the US, UK, and Italy v. Germany, Austra-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. What the heck? The core of that war was the Germany-France rivalry. The biggest front was that between France and Germany, and the best-known part of the war took part in France, fought by French soldiers first. The US and UK troops were there too, but France bore the brunt of it… and they’re not in the game. I presume there’ll be DLC, but still, that’s a really bad decision.

Overall though, it’s a very EA conference: it was okay, but not great. Disappointingly they didn’t have any racing games to show. No Need for Speed this year? Too bad, those games are fun. And yeah, no big new surprise announcements.

Bethesda – Bethesda is, of course, one of my least favorite of the major publishers. Their owner ZeniMax are horrible, and Bethesda itself’s Elder Scrolls games have never interested me. However, Arkane and id do make games that interest me, and both of those showed stuff here. The main headliner at this show is Dishonored 2. The first Dishonored is a good Thief-style game, apart from its “if you killed many people you get an awful ending but there are few rewards for not killing people” design. We’ll see how the new game handles that element, but everything they showed looked pretty good. The choice to let you play as a male or female character’s a nice addition too. I’m definitely interested. Beyond that, Bethesda also announced Quake Champions, a new Quake arena shooter which has some kind heroes & skills element, though it’s supposedly a traditional shooter. It’s got a mediocre co-developer working on it, and they showed no gameplay, so we’ll see. They also showed some Elder Scrolls stuff, including a graphically enhanced PS4/X1 remake of Skyrim, new content for the MMO (with an overly enthusiastic person in the audience during this segment) and a card game, surely inspired by Heartstone’s success. There was also a bit with some new DLC and stuff coming to Fallout 4. And of course they talked a bit about stuff coming to DOOM, and some VR things that probably aren’t actually full games. As for anything new… Quake Champions is it, and we know very little about the game. So yeah, there was some good stuff here, but sorry, I dislike Bethesda regardless.

Ubisoft – Ubisoft’s conference was Monday afternoon. This two-hour conference was the longest one of the show, I believe, so it’s Ubi’s longest yet, while Sony’s conference, usually the longest, was much shorter than usual. EA moving to Sunday allowed Ubisoft to extend theirs, and they did. Ubisoft’s conferences are usually among the most entertaining of the show, and that was true again this year. Aisha Tyler hosted for the fifth year in a row, and she said some interesting stuff as usual… watch the show. The show started with a dance number advertising the next Just Dance game, too. Beyond that, though, a lot of the show was taken up with open-world modern-military shooters, including Tom Clancy stuff and such. They did show other things too, though, thankfully. There’s a new ’90s cartoon show-themed Trials game and that trailer was fantastic, it’s perfect for any of us who remember ’90s advertising. The Trials games are fun stuff, too. Ubisoft also had a VR segment, covering a cartoon-ish flying game Eagle’s Flight for Oculus which looks decently good and a Star Trek VR game. The Star Trek game had LeVar Burton there to say how much he liked it, and he’s quite good at that and made it sound good, whether or not it actually is. Will it be? Who knows, we’ll see… but Star Trek’s gaming history is oddly mediocre, so I’m not expecting something incredible. Still I’m sure it’d be neat.

As for those shooters, Ubi showed several, including the “go kill brown drug dealers” open-world shooter Ghost Recon: Wildlands, the open-world hacking/carnage game Watch Dogs 2, and some upcoming content for their last open-world shooting game, The Division.  Yes, Ubisoft loves their violent open-world shooters.  I don’t, though, so I have no interest in any of these.  There are far too many sometimes disturbingly violent games about modern-day soldiers and criminals out there… ah well.  Hopefully some people are keeping their violence only within the world of games, and not also in real life.

On a more positive note, Ubi also showed the medieval action game For Honor again, with its intense bearded producer. The game looks good, with some Dynasty Warriors influences but with much more challenging combat. You have left, right, or overhead attacks, and need to attack and block to defeat tougher enemies. The game is a war between Vikings, Knights, and Samurai, in a ruined world where they are fighting for what remains. Now, normal enemies are easy to kill, as usual in this kind of game… and that’s fun, but is quite unrealistic. Still, the game does look interesting. It releases early next year. They also announced a sequel to last years’ popular little 3d platformer Grow Home, titled Grow Up. It sounds like more of that, with a much bigger world. Maybe there’ll be more to do also? It looks good, and it was great to see at least one cartoony game in this lineup even if Rayman is still sadly absent. There was also a gameplay-free trailer for some upcoming The Division content… whatever. And last, they announced an actual new game… an open-world extreme sports game called Steep set in the mountains in France, with winggliding, skiing, snowboarding, and some more. I’m no open world game fan, of course, but it was exciting to see Ubisoft announce something like this — just before they announced it I was thinking ‘it’s too bad Ubi hasn’t shown any racing games, they make some good ones… but this’ll probably be another shooter’… and then it was this! So yeah, that was pretty cool. And the game does look quite good. I’m sure I’d like it, and it made for a great final reveal. Overall Ubisoft’s show was long but mostly good.

Sony – Sony’s shows in the past are usually overly long and kind of boring, but they made their show shorter and more gameplay-focused, with very few parts with someone on stage talking. That’s alright, but a little bit of explanation for some of these might have been good. They also showed no indie stuff at all. They started with the big reveal, though it’d leaked: the new God of War. This time it’s Viking-themed. The new protagonist looks like Kratos with a beard and somewhat Viking clothing, so he’s not as different as you might expect, but the tone and gameplay look different — the pacing, combat, and exploration don’t look like old God of War, there seem to be Dark Souls elements, and more. It could be good, though I hope the story isn’t as terrible as the old ones. The trailer leads you to believe that it might be open-world, but apparently it isn’t. I’m quite fine with that of course. After that they show a new post-apocalyptic-with-zombies shooter, Days Gone, that looked decent in the first story-only trailer but totally uninteresting once they actually showed the gameplay; more of the good-looking action-adventure game Horizon: Zero Dawn. Sony also revealed the new Crash Bandicoot project: a remaster collection of the original three PS1 games, and he’ll be in Skylanders this year. Yes, there isn’t a new Crash game, it’s only a remake collection. Blah. No gameeplay is shown either, only the announcement.

As with many publishers, Sony showed a bit of VR stuff too, though it’s not clear which are actually full games and which are just ‘VR experiences’ and the like. Resident Evil 7 was announced, is it all VR? Not sure. Looks more first-person and horror this time. Sony also showed a Spiderman game which may be exclusive? I don’t know. The Last Guardian also has a short appearance, and will apparently release later this year. It does look good, but the long delay… well, we’ll see. And the only other Japanese game shown, if it is a game, is Death Stranding, an engine test … thing … for Hideo Kojima’s next game, which Sony is bankrolling. This is a really weird video I won’t try to explain that only Kojima could have come up with, though I’ve never gotten into his games of course. Also apparently he hasn’t even chosen an engine for the game for sure yet, much less gotten far with the design, so it’s quite a ways off. Sony also showed a Call of Duty trailer. It’s gone sci-fi this time, and you have a spaceship and stuff… but it’s mostly CoD, so I don’t care. Sony didn’t have a reveal at the end, either, the conference just ended. There was no mention of the PS4 Neo, even though the system is supposed to release by mid next year, and not as much PS VR as you might expect. So yeah… meh. Sony showed some good stuff, but some games could have used more shown and this was a AAA-games-only conference, unfortunately. It was okay but not one of Sony’s best conferences.

Microsoft – Microsoft had a great show this year! I particularly like their new PC push, as MS’s first-party titles will now also release on PC with cross-save, some cross-platform multiplayer, and more. It’s a fantastic move that I’d been hoping for for a long time now, and I hope they do it right, and don’t mess things up like they did with Games for Windows Live. MS’s PC support has been poor ever since they moved over to Xbox, so here’s hoping this time they don’t give up on PC again in a year or two! We’ll see, though. In addition to their exciting moves for PC gaming, and that alone is enough to push them to maybe being the best conference this year for me, MS showed a lot of games. Recore looks like it’s actually a third-person action game… huh. Could be okay I guess? I’d need to see more, the trailer is short. They also cover Minecraft, showing cross-platform multiplayer between an iPad and a Surface… and also John Carmack on an Oculus. Yes, Carmack is here, playing Minecraft. Huh. I would not have guessed that. Amusing stuff. The custom Xbox One controller thing sounds pretty cool too, that’d be great. Inside, the new game from the developers of Limbo, could be good as well, if it’s as good as the first one.

They also have an indie roll, which is welcome to see given Sony didn’t bother. Most of the games I’d like most in these conferences are probably in this indie roll — it includes Yooka-Laylee, among others. MS also had on-stage Final Fantasy XV and Tekken 7 demos, for some Japanese games. Akuma is in Tekken 7, though Tekken v. Street Fighter is still dead apparently. I don’t like Tekken, though, so whatever. Dead Rising 4 is shown too. If you are going to do that super overdone zombies thing, at least make it ridiculous like this, instead of the far too serious Days Gone. Scalebound is at the MS conference as well. It’s about a guy and his dragon, third-person fantasy action game. It could be like fun stuff, though the protagonist is annoyingly cocky. The game has great graphics, but the gameplay looks pretty average. Maybe it’ll be better than it looks here, though? It is a Mikami game, but… we’ll see. Forza Horizon 3 was also announced, with a Australian setting this time. I don’t care for those games though, they’re a bit too simmish… sure, Horizon is less simmish than Forza, but it’s still a bit tricky to drive, you spin out somewhat easily.

And from Rare, they show Sea of Thieves, Rare’s first-person pirate-themed online game. The art design is fantastic, really nice cartoony stuff. The game looks great visually A third-person view option would be good, it’d be nice to be able to see your characters. As for the game though, it’s an online game/MMO for sure. The gameplay video has some teams of people, and they sound like real people and not the ridiculous scripted “game speak” of Ubisoft conferences, which is cool. You and your team run a pirate ship, exploring around, fighting other players, and such. I doubt it’s a game I’d play a lot of, but you never know? I do like fantasy pirate settings, they’re of ten great fun stuff. The online MMO team focused element, though, that’s never been a thing I’ve liked. But who knows. MS also showed State of Decay 2, which is a sequel to some kind of post-apocalyptic zombie game I don’t recall ever hearing about before. Seriously, aren’t there enough zombie games? This has some good press apparently, but still. MS showed Titanfall 2 as well, though it’s multiplatform now. Halo Wars 2 interests me much more, though — this is a sequel to that Xbox 360-exclusive RTS Halo Wars, this time developed by The Creative Assembly instead of now-dead Ensemble. It’s nice to see another one of these, but seriously, RTSes are better on PC, not console. This game will be on PC as well thankfully, but will it be hamstrung by having to work on console as well, as some games are?

And unlike Sony, MS did at least show a LITTLE bit of what they’re thinking about for their next console. The next system, codenamed “Scorpio”, is actually mentioned! They mention the 6 teraflop power, they show some circuit boards, talk about how it’ll have 4k gaming support — this is what all that power is for, 4K and VR first. It’s a good video talking about the more powerful system they’ll be releasing, and why they’re releasing a new system so soon. Todd Howard says that Fallout 4 VR will be on the system with “the framerate and resolution we expect”. Huh. They also say that games will also work on the original Xbox One, though, so will games be able to make full use of its significantly greater additional power? I have to imagine they eventually will, but at the conference they say things will be dual-compatible. They don’t show the box, but there is an outlined shadow of a probably-large box, the opposite of the small (and $299) new Xbox One S. [After the conference, we learned that the S will be $299 only for the 500GB model, while 1TB will be $349 and 2TB will be limited-release and $399. And those custom-color-and-word controllers will be $80 to $90. So yeah, they didn’t mention negatives like these at the show.]

Overall, for the press conferences, Microsoft had the best one this year, followed by Ubisoft, with the others trailing. Microsoft’s conference was good, probably their best so far that I’ve seen. And after seeing MS actually talk about “Scorpio”, Sony still said absolutely nothing about the PS Neo, disappointingly. Nintendo of course has promised to also say nothing about their system releasing next year. And on that note, it is interesting to see how short this generation has turned out to be, before everyone releases more powerful hardware… sure, for now they’re saying games will be backwards compatible and that is good, you’re heading towards a more PC-like future for consoles here, and this will make things confusing in the future, once you have to say “games work on the third model but not the fourth” or what have you, but isn’t that harder with the new “we don’t put full new numbers on each system” world? I know it works for Apple, but Apple doesn’t actually care about games.

But anyway, its an interesting year, as we head towards an early start to the next generation, if indeed you consider 2017’s consoles next-gen and not just upgrades. If they end up having exclusives as I fully expect them to I’d probably call them full new platforms, though I imagine there will be debate on this point, as there is for the Game Boy and Game Boy Color for example.MS showing some details of the Scorpio pushes them on the top so far, but I really miss Nintendo having a lot to show; their choice to not show much here at E3, so far as we know, is disappointing. And on that note, on to Nintendo!

Part 2: Nintendo

So, Nintendo, Nintendo… well, there are two things to discuss here, their show, and the extremely unfortunate, sexism-based decision to not have a female playable character in the new Zelda game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Beyond their awful sexism in Zelda, I have more to say about Breath of the Wild as a game, and their E3 showing this year.  This section will have three sub-sections, one for each of those three issues.

2-1: On Zelda and Gender

I will start with that second issue, of sexism in the Zelda series. It’s pretty simple here: I’ve wanted a playable female character in a Zelda game for at least a decade now, but Nintendo and Zelda head Aonuma refuse to allow it despite all the demand. Here is Aonuma’s exact quote: “…if we have princess Zelda as the main character who fights, then what is Link going to do? Taking into account that, and also the idea of the balance of the Triforce, we thought it best to come back to this [original] makeup.” This is a terrible and ludicrously sexist excuse. I’ve to to say it: there is no female playable character in the new Zelda game because Aunuma is sexist. What he said is a modern version of the bad old sexist stereotype that ‘girls’ have no place in adventure stories [because they should stay home, etc.]. Sure, men are stronger than women, but women ar4e not so weak that htye can’t go on an adventure! And Zelda has magical abilities too, so it’s a pretty bad excuse. It’s sad given how much I love the Zelda series, and it always has been one of the best in gaming, but that is the only way to explain his incredibly flawed “logic” in the quotes in the OP, sexism, from an older man in one of the most sexist countries in the developed world.

Indeed, that’s the core of the problem — Japan ranks very low in any study looking at how equal things are between men and women in countries around the world, so they do not believe in equality as much as we do. Things are not great here, as the GamerGate controversy shows, but they are much farther behind there. That women should be rescued and not participate in adventures themselves is a stereotype we’re breaking down here in the West, but Japan sadly still holds out against equality. Even going on 25 years ago Westerners knew that people wanted playable / action-role Zelda, as you see in Zelda’s strong role in that super-cheesy early ’90s Zelda cartoon or her being the only playable character in two of Western publisher Phillips’ two unfortunately-awful CD-i Zelda games, and even Japanese publisher Tecmo-Koei know this as Zelda is among the many playable female characters in Hyrule Warriors, but Nintendo itself stands against progress with terribly sexist excuses. Sadly enough, due to series history and Nintendo’s own bad record of womens’ roles in their games this is exactly the result I expected, but it’s still extremely disappointing even if it is in no way a surprise.

So, Nintendo continues to frustrated with Zelda’s roles in the series. Zelda is no Peach, a character that is mostly useless, but bad old gender stereotypes always hold her back. Ever since the early ’90s, Nintendo has teased with given Zelda a stronger role in Zelda stories… only to pull back every time, never let you play as Zelda, and ALWAYS have her get kidnapped in every game. Zelda helps defeat Ganon at the end of several Zelda stories, after he rescues her, including the 1992 Nintendo Power Zelda comic (where Zelda’s actually the one who kills Ganon, after Link freezes him), Ocarina of Time (not in a combat way here, though), Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess. And OoT has Shiek and WW Tetra, for some additional more active Zelda roles… but in both games, as soon as Zelda becomes a regular princess again, she gets kidnapped because that’s what you do with princesses, have stupid caveman “rescue the girl” plots with them. Bah. Zelda had a pretty active role in Skyward Sword as well, to the point where the game could have had playable Zelda, but eventually inevitably you had to rescue her. This still leaves Zelda with a better role than plenty of other damsel-in-distress characters, in those games at least; many other Zelda games have Zelda in an entirely traditional “rescue-the-girl” role and that’s it, but at least most of the 3d titles go beyond that… if only Nintendo would notice this. But no, it’s “playable Zelda would leave Link with nothing to do” ludicrous backwards sexism.

2-2: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: My Thoughts on the Game As Shown at E3

At the show this year, Nintendo mostly focused on Zelda.  The booth was large and the Zelda display impressive, with a whole Zelda-themed environment to pass through inside the booth.  It looked pretty cool, from videos, and the game was very popular, the lines for the game were long all through the show, and it won some awards as well, such as IGN’s Game of the Show award.  That’s all great.  The game looks beautiful, too.  This somewhat Skyward Sword-esque art style isn’t quite as great as Twilight Princess’s is in my book, but it does look very good.  And a lot about the game looks fun to play, too.  I do have reservations about the game, though, as while there is some of the core of what I love about Zelda here, this is also a Zelda game for people who like things in games very different from my own interests.  I’ll list a few issues I have with this game, and also some things I liked about what I saw of Breath of the Wild.

First, this is an open-world game. I know open-world games are popular, but I have never liked them, and indeed have never managed to stay interested in an open-world action-adventure, action-RPG, or shooter game beyond the opening couple of hours.  I need direction and an actual focused point to stay interested in an action or RPG game, not just “wander around and do whatever, where ‘whatever’ is a very limited number of mostly combat-related actions that you can take”.  The Breath of the Wild’s map looks nice, but the very open design, like an open-world game or the original Zelda, is something I like less than traditional 3d Zelda or GB/GBC Zelda segmented designs. Of course given the huge popularity of open-world games over the past 15 or so years a lot of people disagree with me about them, but I generally find open-world games very boring, and rarely ever stick with one beyond, like, an hour or two. I can’t think of any open world action-adventure or RPG games I’ve actually gotten very far into at all. Now, I do love Guild Wars of course, I played well over a thousand hours of the game, and it does have a huge world, but I wouldn’t call that world open-world in the traditional sense; the game has a lot of gating (so you often need to do the missions to progress), it’s broken up by areas for different level characters, etc.  But traditional open-world design?  After a couple of hours of driving around in Grand Theft Auto III I pretty much lost interest in the concept, and no progress in the genre has changed my mind on that score.

And Breath of the Wild looks like very much an open-world game in key elements.  I don’t need cinematic narrative, but I do need some kind of system to keep you on track — a quest log, indicators to show where you need to go, a good mapping system which rewards exploration by revealing the map as you go instead of just giving you all of it from the start since revealing the map as you explore is MUCH more rewarding, etc. Without that games are aimless and I’ll lose interest quickly, as always happens with me in open-world action, RPG, or action-adventure games. Endless choices doesn’t make me want to explore all those choices, it makes me often freeze up and probably just move on to some other game before seeing most of them. For an example of how much I dislike open-world design, I would say that StarTropics is a better game than the original Legend of Zelda, because it’s also fatnastic, but is a more focused, fun experience that doesn’t rely on stupid crutches like “go find the random hidden stuff” or “wander around pointlessly for no good reason”. I’ve beaten StarTropics 1, did so in the late ’00s, and loved it. But Zelda 1? I’ve still never gotten past the sixth dungeon. Sure, it’s a classic and a game I remember playing back during the NES’es lifespan various places, while StarTropics isn’t (I’d heard of it in Nintendo Power, but not played it until the ’00s), but while Zelda is fun, it’s also flawed and frustrating. StarTropics is better for sure, and it’s the best action-RPG I have played for the NES.  Or for another example of how focused design is better than open-but-empty design, as much as I love Baldur’s Gate 1, I never even got into the city of Baldur’s Gate, as when we got it in ’99 I kept wandering around in the forests of the first half of the game until I lost interest in playing any more.  In contrast Baldur’s Gate II is more focused than its predecessor, much less full of large, mostly empty forest zones.  It’s the better game.  I REALLY hope that Breath of the Wild has something to help you stay on track, be it a quest log, Navi or Midna analog, or what have you.  It needs something.

And worse, this is not only an open-world game, but it is an open-world game which sounds like it will use level-scaling to some extent, perhaps a significant one.  This is a big problem, in my opinion — for a game like this, making the whole thing roughly equal in difficulty makes for boring gameplay! Yes, it can be done well, as Mega Man games show, but more often it leads to a whole game of no-difficulty-progression tedium, as you see in Elder Scrolls games since they introduced level scaling for example.  I find many more things than that boring about TES games, but the level scaling sure doesn’t help.  If I ever do actually play an Elder Scrolls game, I’d install one of those “we remove the whole-world level scaling” mods. Or for a really bad example, see Knuckles Chaotix for the 32X;  making level select random in that game, and all five worlds even in difficulty, was a terrible idea!   Sure, Zelda games usually do let you explore around, but there is at least some progression of easier to harder as you go.  I really hope that traditonal Zelda world design returns here, and not a true “you can go anywhere from the start” design, but word that you can, if you want, go straight to the end of the game right from the beginning, skipping most of the content in between, is not promising.  So yeah, I am very worried about this in this game; it’s a huge problem with open-world games that use it.

On the good side though, fortunately the game isn’t randomly-generated, as Nintendo seems to be putting a lot of work into making a detailed and interesting world to explore.  I saw some cool stuff in the gameplay demos, and the game looks like fun to play.  Link can climb up cliffsides this time, so you can travel all over with ease.  The Moblins to fight, trees to climb, stuff to chop at, and areas to explore looked interesting, and for an open-world game this one looks far better than most.  I’m sure it’ll be fun to play, but my question is, will I actually stay interested, or will I quit partway through as the unfocused, wandering-around-heavy gameplay drags down the good elements of the game?  I have always said that I often prefer a well-crafted linear experience to something too open-ended, after all.  There are exceptions to this, mostly in the strategy genre where I like a fairly wide-open game like Civilization a lot, but in action or RPG games it very much stands.

Breath of the Wild has a lot more items to get than past Zelda games, with lots of stuff to pick up all over, but this doesn’t mean as much to me as it would to some people.  I care less than most people seem to about loot in games. I almost never play games just to get better stuff, that’s not something that often actually interests me. I like exploration, finding new places, and putting them on a permanent map… so yeah, not a fan of randomly-regenerated-every-time stuff either. :p (Stupid Diablo games, even though I know the map isn’t permanent I can’t help but want to explore out every zone every time I play one… I find that much more fun than whatever loot the game drops.) This applies here because you make it sound like just getting items is a reward on its own in LttP, in lieu of having more areas to explore, but I don’t agree with that. Of course it’s fun to use new items in a Zelda game, but that’s as much in the context of the new places it’ll let you get to than it is with the item itself… apart from things which add to the combat too, such as a bow, fire rod, etc. But I probably wouldn’t keep playing a game just to get some item.

And on a related note, for another negative, the game has crafting in it.  I hate crafting in general, and that’s in Breath of the Wild for sure.  I can deal with crafting if it’s very simple, as it is in Guild Wars where you just talk to the person who makes some kind of armor or gives you an them from materials or somesuch, collect/buy the materials, then return to the trader to buy that item, but when you’ve got to deal with stupid “mix crafting items together to try to make formulas (and we either won’t tell you them or they’re kind of a pain to find)? ‘ No thanks, I hate that stuff! My first experience with crafting was Diablo 2, and I had next to no interest in trying to come up with Horadric Cube recipes; I just used the thing for some extra storage, and that’s it. This is also why I never bought Minecraft, I hate crafting.  And on top of the crafting, the game has weapon durability as well.  This is a questionable mechanic, more often bad than good.  There are a few games with good implementations of weapon durability, such as the Fire Emblem series or Riviera: The Promised Land, but it’s a hard mechanic to get right, particularly for someone like me who wants to keep things, not have to keep tossing them away as they break!  And yet it is absolutely central to Breath of the Wild’s design, as weapons break very fast so you’re constantly grabbing weapons from enemies and fighting them with them.  That looks fun at times, but I’m sure other times it’s quite annoying.  I hope that there are permanent items you can get eventually, perhaps as this games’ equivalents to the items you get from dungeons in a normal Zelda game.

But all that said, Breath of the Wild looks like a very good game, yes.  The combat looks pretty good, durability aside, and being able to climb rock walls is pretty cool. It might even be E3 Game of the Show (as IGN gave it), though I’m not sure; Microsoft is my pick for best publisher this E3, them making all their first-party titles dual-releases on PC is a fantastic move and they showed some great stuff too. Nintendo did have some good games to show, but without a Direct and with so much focus on Zelda you didn’t see much of the others unless you were watching a lot of their day 2 stream… which I watched a bunch of, but still. Anyway, despite the good points, I can see myself liking this game less than any previous 3d Zelda game due to the kind of game it is.

2-3: Nintendo’s E3 Overall and NX Speculation

Nintendo had a solid show overall.  While they were not on the floor proper, a few other games such as Paper Mario: Color Splash for Wii U were playable behind closed doors.   In addition, Nintendo again had a Nintendo Treehouse Live stream that ran during days one and two; I don’t know why they didn’t have one for day three, I wish they did, but it didn’t happen.  Day one focused on Zelda, as it had one hour of the upcoming Pokemon Sun & Moon games for 3DS, then five hours of Zelda.  Day two showed a variety of games, including the upcoming 3DS Monster Hunter game, Dragon Warrior VII for the 3DS, BoxBoy 2 for 3DS,Paper Mario: Color Splash for Wii U, and some more.  I was glad to see the pre-show reports that “all we will show is Zelda” were mistaken, and other games were indeed shown.  It was a decent to good showing from Nintendo overall, and was much better than some early fears indicated.  I am particularly excited that the second BoxBoy game has been announced for US release, as the first one is quite good.  I was really hoping that Picross 3D 2 would also get a US announcement here, as the first game is my favorite game for the DS, but unfortunately Nintendo disappointed there.  Will they really let one of their best games this gen stay Japan-only?  I really, really hope not.  But anyway, solidly good show overall, for what was there.

However, I can’t overlook that this year Nintendo had no press conference either live or pre-recorded, no theater event in either the press-conference or fan-tournament forms of past years, and focused on only one game in their booth, though a few others were streamed and were playable behind closed doors for select journalists.  Nintendo never done any of these things before.  Now, this E3 is, as I said at the top, by all accounts smaller than any previous full-scale E3.  Of the two main halls of E3, one hall was pretty empty, and the other had very wide aisles.  There were fewer people there than in previous years as well — there were jokes about actually being able to get cell-phone reception inside this time, an uncommon thing in the past.  And unlike EA, Nintendo at least still had a booth.  So, Nintendo scaling things back is part of a trend, not just something they are doing on their own. I understand that E3 is expensive to be at, and in these days of the internet, things like store buyers going to conventions like this to see what to purchase for their chain aren’t as prevalent as they used to be. That makes sense.

However, the press conference and announcements side of E3 is not only for that audience, it’s also for gamers. And by showing so little this E3, having no press conference or E3 Direct, and having no stage event at all, it makes E3 feel kind of empty in a way it wasn’t before. I really miss Nintendo having E3 conferences, events like the last two years, and such. Either Nintendo is being too quiet at a time when they probably should be announcing something, or they maybe don’t know what they should be doing. It could just be that like Sony, they want to follow the Apple model and only announce their new product right before it announces, instead of long before as everyone used to do. That’s frustrating, though, particularly for a thing as nebulous as their upcoming console, the NX, which releases next spring.  What is it, exactly? We still don’t know! For something that’s supposed to release that soon, I feel like we should know by now what it is. So yes, I strongly prefer Microsoft’s approach, announcing a system now that won’t release until late 2017, over Sony and Nintendo not saying much about systems supposed to release well before that.

And on the note of the Playstation 4 Neo and the Xbox One “Project Scorpio”, Nintendo announced the NX before either of those. At the time, the idea seems to have been to have a system on par with or maybe a bit more powerful than the PS4. However, now that both competitors are abandoning the old console generation model in favor of shorter cycles between platforms and upgraded systems instead of full new platforms. Sony and MS are currently both promising that games for the new system will also work on their current one, as if all Game Boy Color games were black (dual-mode) carts instead of clear (GBC-only) ones. I expect this to change eventually, as the install bases for the new models get larger and developers want to push them more, but that’s a good thing to say right now.

So the problem is, what does Nintendo do in response to this? They’re almost certainly releasing an all-new platform, instead of a fourth upgrade of the Gamecube hardware, but will they upgrade the NX’s hardware versus the original supposed plans in response to Sony and MS, if we presume that it wasn’t originally planned as being anywhere near Scorpio’s level of power? And there have been rumors about Nintendo thinking about VR, so how much power would be needed to do that?  Now, I do not expect Nintendo to release power-competitive hardware, and all signs are that as with the Wii and Wii U, they will again not do so.  However, this is a dangerous move.  If Nintendo wants to attract even a shred of decent third-party support, they need a somewhat power-competitive system.  Yes, there are tough questions here, of price versus performance, of how much power you need to attract third parties if that is even possible for Nintendo anymore, and if you can come up with some magic Wii-like hook to sell a hundred million systems again (an unlikely but not impossible dream), and such.  But going by some comments of Reggie’s, it sounds like Nintendo is again going to release hardware a generation behind the competitions’, which makes it extremely like that they will once again get almost no third-party support, and also puts all the attention on Nintendo’s first-party software and whatever the system’s gimmick is.  I very much doubt this is a good move, but it’s not surprising given that it’s what they have done for a decade now.  Too bad though, it’d be awesome to see a Nintendo console with competitive hardware again.

Regardless of how the NX ends up, though, the decision to not show it at E3 is a disappointing one.  Nintendo’s silence with their system releasing so soon is frustrating and raises questions.  Are their plans for the NX really finished, or are they still deciding anything about the console?  Why don’t they want to talk about it yet?  Is it because they think that the hardcore won’t like their answer, because they think Sony or MS will get more attention here at E3, or what have you — or, worse, have they not decided yet? Because by being so silent about the NX, again, I can’t help but wonder about if Nintendo really knows what to do in these difficulty, transitional times for the industry.  The incredibly limited amount of NX information they have released leaves all these questions out there, and I’m not the only one asking them. What is Nintendo’s plan? Can they come up with something that will reverse their declining sales and sell well again?  And will we ever again see a powerful Nintendo console?  As successful as the Wii was, I’ve always been a bit disappointed by how far behind the other consoles of its generation it is, and seeing Nintendo stick with that disparity for a third time will be kind of unfortunate.  Thanks to motion controls really taking off that didn’t hurt the Wii, but I do think it hurt the Wii U, and it’d hurt the NX too unless they have some amazing new hook.  So, in a way that the Wii U’s gamepad wasn’t, that better be one good hook.  Will Nintendo learn from their mistakes?  We’ll see.

On that note, after Paper Mario: Sticker Star for the 3DS was very harshly criticized for all regular attacks being limited-use stickers, bad boss fights, way too many Toads, no partners, and no levels, the new Paper Mario game, Paper Mario: Color Splash for the Wii U… does all of those things again, it seems. Nintendo, stubborn to a fault as always, strikes again. Sometimes this is great, when they stick to great gameplay ideas, continue making retail 2d and 2.5d platformers, and more, but other times it’s not great. Which way will it be this time?


To finish up this quite long, multi-part E3 2016 summary, my overall favorite thing coming out of this show is Microsoft moving back to caring about PC gaming again.  I hope this move goes well and MS continues to push PC gaming in the way that they should to make the best gaming platform even better!  Second, despite all my criticism, would be Zelda: Breath of the Wild, because even if it has issues, it’s still a Zelda game so I still really want to play it.  Other things I liked from this E3 include Ubisoft’s good-looking extreme sports game Steep and BoxBoy 2.  I’d really like to play both of those. Outside of the conferences, Firaxis’s Civilization 6 also looks great, and I am looking forward to that game for sure.

As for the other issues raised in this post, though, I hope that people keep pushing Nintendo to be more inclusive, and that Nintendo and Sony announce their future plans already because we need to hear them.  The future of gaming is interesting, and I don’t know where it’ll go in these days of VR and smartphones, but here’s hoping that full-priced, big-budget gaming stays the great industry that it is!

About Brian

Computer and video game lover
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