The final day of E3 was a considerably more laidback affair compared to the prior two days, and surprisingly so as it was actually quite comfortable to walk around the show floor, which hasn’t been my experience in the past 7 years of attending the show. By this time it was quite clear that the show wasn’t as well attended as in previous years, and the exclusion of some of the larger exhibitors was evident. Regardless, there were still a lot of upcoming titles to check out on the floor.
With VR being one of the most exciting developments in gaming as of late, I couldn’t help once again heading over to test out Sony’s PlayStation VR demo area this time to try out the VR experience of Final Fantasy XV. The experience has two parts to it, the first being a battle scene with the boss from the first publicly available demo. Using a first-person perspective, you use one Move controller to aim at the creature and attack, and the other controller allows you to point to a specific spot in the area and teleport to it automatically. Unfortunately this specific mechanic isn’t the most exciting, as it pulls you away from the immersion of VR, and a lot of the times you would wind up in awkward positions on the battlefield. Not to mention the ability to look around the environment wasn’t that impressive at all, as the action mostly took place right in front of you. Which is why I assume the demo features a second portion once you complete the battle, that being a car ride with Cindy out on the open road. Being a more relaxing affair, you are in a convertible car driving down a highway during golden hour, with a calm landscape surrounding you. It was truly relaxing, being able to turn around and look at the horizon behind the headrests, look out through the passenger’s side view, or look over to your left at Cindy as she cruises down the road. With not many details as to how extensive the VR in the final game will be, even if it’s interspersed throughout with these little segments it will definitely make things interesting and differentiate the PlayStation 4 version from the other platforms.
Having seen the Yakuza 0 stage demo on day one of the show, I had to try out the game itself and finally got an opportunity on the third day as Sega only had one station with the title. One of the welcome changes in the game is a modified fighting system, which will allow you to choose one of four different fighting styles during battle. This brings an interesting element to the fighting, which could get repetitive in previous installments as these games do run quite long. The demo featured two different areas to explore, the well-known Kamurocho district, where you play as Kazuma, as well as Soutenbori, where for the first time you control Majima. The demo featured mostly humorous side-missions, which are on par for the series, as the main plotline is quite serious and heavy with drama. Some of those included an interaction with a dominatrix and an overly nice customer, and a plot where Kazuma has to pretend to be a stranger’s boyfriend to please her father. As with all the cross-platform Yakuza games, the graphics look fantastic, with the environments being full of life and really making you feel like you’re exploring Tokyo streets. Cutscenes look even better, and add to the feeling of watching a drama film unfold in front of you. Yakuza 0 seems like a terrific addition to the series with some new enhancements and mini-games thrown in, and is set to be release in early 2017.
Next up I checked out the Natsume booth where I found an odd curiosity in the form of Wild Guns: Reloaded. Yes, the Wild Guns that was so beloved on the SNES in the 90’s. It seems Natsume picked up the license for the game and is remastering the 2D shooter, with new enhancements on top of that. While not many details were available, a rep did reveal that it will feature new characters, stages, and even weapons. The game features co-op gameplay for up to four players, but it was not revealed whether or not this will be available online as well.
To finish off the show I tried out Gravity Rush 2, the PlayStation 4 sequel to the original title which was release for the Vita and eventually remastered for console release as well. Just as in the original you take on the role of Kat, who has the power to float around freely in the world. The demo was mostly a tutorial for the game, but gave enough opportunity to fly around and explore the surroundings. Floating about feels awesome, you feel fully in control and the feeling of going wherever you may want is rewarding. Combine that with action sequences whenever enemies do pop-up, Gravity Rush 2 is on its way to being a stellar action title combined with a slick cel-shaded art style. Hopefully the game is a success as it’s always interesting to see unique game mechanics come into play. Gravity Rush 2 is set for release sometime this year.
Overall, despite the lower attendance numbers and major exhibitors opting to take a time out, there was still a larger number of excellent titles found on the show floor, which is a good sign for where E3 and the industry stands. Compared to the likes of Tokyo Game Show, where mobile games have a huge presence, E3 hasn’t caved into that market quite yet and that’s reassuring. While VR was a huge presence at the show, it’s clear that it’s still in its early developing stages and doesn’t quite have the wow factor in terms of games that a lot of people had expected. While Oculus and Vive seem to be focusing more on experiences, I’m glad to see that Sony is focusing on providing VR experiences based on well-known franchises that fans of their consoles are familiar with.