E3 2008: Media Briefing Podcast At Kombo
Fifteen Minutes Of Fame

E3 2008: Quickie Impressions of New Banjo, Castlevania, And More

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and BoltsNot every game that I wanted to try at E3 was on my assignment list, so whenever I had a little free time I went to the Showcase Pavilion to check out some of my personal interests.  Not everything on my list of games to see was on display, but I did get around to playing almost everything I wanted.  Some of the major titles such as Sonic Unleashed, Bionic Commando, and Street Fighter IV were locked away, but I did get to sample Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts and Castlevania Judgement among others.

Let's start with Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts for the Microsoft Xbox 360.  This new game is a departure from the original Nintendo 64 adventures, as it emphasizes vehicular gameplay over wandering around on foot.  The demo dropped Banjo and Kazooie into Banjoland, a massive museum of their previous adventures.  All kinds of props and environments from earlier games appear in bits and pieces here, such as the spooky portraits from Mad Monster Mansion and the Christmas lights of Freezeezy Peak.  The objective here was to race a vehicle through hoops and then perform aerial acrobatic stunts.  I had trouble maneuvering the vehicle, as it felt too light and floaty when airborne.  After zooming off a ramp the vehicle would ultimately turn in midair, meaning that instead of landing gracefully, the car would crash on its side.  I wound up just setting the controller down and walking away after ten minutes of crashing, although I'd put that down to my own frustration and fatigue at this point in the week rather than a major issue with the game.

Castlevania Judgement Castlevania Judgement for the Nintendo Wii needs some work.  It's a 3D fighter that puts opponents into a single room where they are expected to pound on each other.  The game looks a lot like a mid-generation Sony PlayStation 2 title, and if I didn't know any better I would think that Konami is reusing some assets from the two PS2 Castlevania games.  In the demo I played as Simon Belmont against a Konami representative's Alucard. Attacks are handed out by shaking the Wii remote, while the nunchuk is used to move the character, jump, and guard.  The B button uses a special weapon, such as the standard Castlevania dagger or cross boomerang.  Special attacks can only be used when players have a sufficient amount of hearts, another holdover from the series.  The gameplay was a bit of a mess.  Attacks that fail to connect leave the attacker open for a counterattack, while attacks that connect turn into combos are inescapable.  I'm also critical of the character models.  If I hadn't been told that I was playing as Simon Belmont, I would never had recognized him.  I just don't think this game is going to work out based on what I saw here.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia I did play a few other non-assignment games at the show, but there's really not much to say about them.  I completely suck at the Sony PlayStation 3's Motorstorm: Pacific Rift, as it turns out.  Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia for the Nintendo DS is more of the same from the world of Castlevania, but after playing Judgement I find that I'm very happy about Ecclesia sticking to the familiar formula.  I was surprised to find that there was not a line to try Chrono Trigger DS, but then once I started playing it I realized why: the demo puts players at the very beginning of the game, meaning that there's about twenty minutes of dialog ahead until the first combat sequence begins. Thirty minutes of reading text in a demo?  Yeah, no thanks.

It seems to me that this year's E3 was all about showing us what the publishers wanted us to see rather than what we wanted to see from the publishers.  That's certainly understandable, but it does leave me with the feeling of being really hungry for a huge slice of cake with that delicious white frosting while the publishers insist we eat their vegetables instead.  Vegetables may be profitable, but they're really not all that tasty.