RPGamer’s E3 2019 Highlights
With E3 being in the books for nearly a week now, we decided that has been long enough for our staff to collect their thoughts and pick through some of their personal favourites of the event. To that end, our staff members were invited to select up to three things from the show (a task achieved more easily by some than others!) that they wanted to highlight for our readers. Our selections can be read below:
Pascal Tekaia (Away Team)
I suppose the most important thing E3 did for me personally this year is confirm that, despite my general dislike for the action-oriented combat systems of the franchise’s past several games, Final Fantasy VII Remake isn’t completely off the table for me yet. I would dearly like to see the game receive the sort of treatment that it deserves, and of course I don’t want to miss out on the chance to experience it all over again, particularly with the promise of expanded story elements, and playing the demo confirmed for me that this is still a possibility.
Another game took me quite by surprise on the show floor, in a booth I was actually visiting for a completely different game. It’s funny how that works. Lost Words: Beyond the Page is a narrative adventure game where the player navigates both the actual pages of the diary of a little girl named Izzy, and the fantasy world she creates in her head. The game’s music and Izzy’s voice actress, who was part of the development team when she was asked to put down some temporary voice work, are some of the best I’ve heard in a long, long time. It’s not many games that can say they’ve had me genuinely choked up, and even fewer that managed to do it during a fifteen-minute show floor demo.
Finally, I’ll finish my list not with a game, but rather an event, one that’s so “breathtaking” it deserves its own spot in this line-up. Welcome to E3, Keanu.
Charalampos Papadimitriou (Away Team)
I partly feel like a lemming saying this, and partly like I’m on the way to get duped into buying another bad Final Fantasy game — this is how low my expectation of the series has fallen in recent years — but I really enjoyed the Final Fantasy VII Remake. It’s not just the remake itself that had me excited though, but the fact that Square Enix may have finally come up with a formula that can please both modern audiences and those craving a traditional JRPG experience, and this formula can, if it works, be reused in games going forward. In a world where you often hear “You can’t please everyone”, this demo may be Square Enix’s way of answering that.
I was also excited by the opportunity to talk with Anastasia Staten from the ESA Foundation. Gaming, to me, is something I want to share with others. I want more people to understand it as a medium, as an art form, and as everything else it has to offer. To do that, gaming has to mature to where it serves and appeals to a wide array of audiences. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that every game should be made for the mainstream. Instead, many different types of people should be making many different types of games, serving all niches in ways targeted for them. This is where the ESA Foundation comes in, working to diversify the gaming industry workforce. In my view this will lead to many different types of creators bringing their unique perspectives to create a larger array of unique experiences. This is the next step to raise the maturity of gaming as both entertainment and an art form. From that perspective, it was a pleasure to talk with Anastasia about her efforts, and her passion for her work was nothing short of infectious.
Lastly, I really enjoyed my time with Asgard’s Wrath. I’m a sucker when it comes to VR. I really get a lot out of even just sitting inside a VR space and moving around, so the prospect of a fully featured RPG experience has my mouth watering. It seems like the game will offer a multitude of systems tailored for VR, including action combat, minions to control, moody dungeons to explore, a variety of classes you’ll get to switch between, and best of all, a full-length game. I’m excited to see VR as a medium continue to mature, and games like Asgard’s Wrath are a necessity in continuing to move it forward.
This year’s E3 was especially impressive with all sorts of neat surprises and great games shown. While I look forward to many of the games coming out later in the year, particularly Pokémon Sword/Shield and Fire Emblem: Three Houses, there were other aspects of E3 that stood out to me. The biggest reveal for me was the dual-punch of the same-day release of Collection of Mana digitally and the announcement of Trials of Mana, an HD remake of Seiken Densetsu 3. While Seiken Densetsu 3 was never quite as clamored for by fans as Mother 3, it was still a most-wanted game. It’s an incredible surprise to get this long-wished-for localization, both as a port of its original form, and a fancy remake.
Another major surprise was Phantasy Star Online 2 finally getting a western release. This game was announced years ago for localization, but it seemed to have been abandoned by Sega. At last, we’ll be able to play this game officially in English. Phantasy Star Online: Episodes I & II was the game that made me want to seek out and play more RPGs. While I don’t really have the time for an MMO, I want to at least check this game out. I want to experience a modern version of the game that was so formative for me. I just hope my computer will be able to handle it.
The reveal of the next DLC fighters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was also amazing, not the least of which because two fighters were actually announced. The first was the Hero from Dragon Quest, or to be precise, the heroes from Dragon Quest III, IV, VIII, and XI. Sure, it was long hinted and guessed at, but it was still a pleasant surprise. I’m still working my way slowly through the series, but I know of its legacy, and many people I know are thrilled by this news. The second fighter was announced with a very funny trailer of the Donkey Kong Country character getting trolled by the Duck Hunt duo, only to be knocked aside by Banjo and Kazooie. While I never did finish Banjo-Kazooie, I know how happy this makes people. I can’t help but wonder who the last two fighters will be.
Going into this E3 season, I felt like I had little to look forward to. The last two held few joys for me. Watching Bethesda’s show first only confirmed my fears. Half of the presentation was spent talking about mobile games, which interest me little. However, Nintendo’s E3 Direct blew my mind and reminded me why I love this hobby so much. For 30 or 40 minutes, it hit us with a machine-gun assault of great games and announcements. For retro gamers like myself, the announcements about Square Enix reviving one of the most beloved series was like “mana” from heaven! I also enjoyed the update about Link’s Awakening, one of the few games I played to completion in the past. Last, but certainly not least, the Dark Crystal tactical RPG looks very intriguing and was completely unexpected. It was one of the best E3s for RPGamers in some time.
Elmon Dean Todd
This year’s E3 has truly been a blessing for RPG enthusiasts. With news of upcoming titles such as Final Fantasy VII Remake, Phantasy Star Online 2, Shenmue III, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III, and many more, the RPG industry is as robust as ever. I was pleasantly surprised by the impressive showings of Square Enix and Nintendo.
First off, it was a good call on Nintendo to bring back The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I remember playing this game on the Game Boy when it first came out, and I was surprised at the time to find it more enjoyable than The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, especially with the story and music. This was even my favourite Zelda game until Breath of the Wild came out. I’m looking forward to revisiting Koholint Island again with updated graphics and music, plus the new Chamber Dungeons feature.
I am beyond thrilled about Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age. I started my foray into RPGs because of this series, ever since Nintendo Power distributed free copies of Dragon Warrior with a subscription to their magazine. I purposely held off playing the PS4 version of Dragon Quest XI for the Switch version, and I’m glad that I did. The new features such as new mounts, fast combat speed, Japanese voice options, symphonic soundtrack, and the 2D mode make the wait worthwhile.
Despite all the great games, I was most excited about the announcement of Trials of Mana and Collection of Mana. While I enjoyed the Secret of Mana remake, it left a lot to be desired in terms of quality. Trials of Mana looks like the remake that its predecessor should have been, and the character designs look amazing in 3D. I’m happy that Square Enix is revisiting the Mana series once again. Let’s hope the multiplayer co-op option remains intact.
In terms of sequels I never expected to happen, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 matches up there with something like NieR: Automata. And yet within the year it is likely that game will be out in the wild and offering a never-before-seen view of Seattle. The shady underworld in which the dark forces of the World of Darkness operate provides plenty of opportunity for both vampire power fantasy and political maneuvering. The blood is calling and its calling me to Bloodlines 2.
RPGs had a great showing at E3 this year but it’s the imminence of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order that has kept it on my mind since its beefy showing. But more than its immediacy, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is filling a void that is sorely lacking in the modern gaming landscape. The co-op beat-’em-up has all but evaporated. I look forward to gathering up a couple of friends and spending a few hours punching bad guys as some of the best Marvel characters, occasionally finding a new shiny thing to equip to make it all feel a little better. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 may not be the most ambitious or grandiose game of the show, but it may come out one of the most satisfying.
Final Fantasy VII Remake looks good. It feels odd to say that in a world where many feel Square Enix has failed to put a strong foot forward for the continuing existence of the franchise, but here we are. Combat appears to be an engaging mix of Final Fantasy XV and the original game, serving as a more active V.A.T.S. for the modern Final Fantasy that has moved away from turn-based combat. I have reservations regarding how certain characters function or how the game’s story will hold up now that everyone is voiced. It could either be a faithful update in the vein of this year’s Resident Evil 2 remake or it could be brooding, overwrought tripe like Advent Children. But for now, the game looks gorgeous, the combat seems satisfying, and the promise is there. But let’s not forget about Final Fantasy XVI while you’re working through this whole remake thing, Square Enix.
Erik van Asselt
This past week I have had the feeling that someone has been in my house for the last few years and wrote down everything I have been asking for, because E3 2019 started with a bang for me. First, Baldur’s Gate III got announced, albeit a bit before the show itself. A sequel to a game series from my childhood, it will follow the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition ruleset. I am ready to roll the dice again.
And that is not all. We are getting Phantasy Star Online 2 in the west. We only waited for about seven years. Yes, I did play the Japanese version through some internet magic, but I always wanted to experience the fully translated version. Looks like my HUcast dream is coming true. If only Sega would confirm a release in Europe for me.
Last but not least, Square Enix showed off the remake of Seiken Densetsu 3, now named Trials of Mana. That was quite the surprise. The Mana game we never got. The one that got away. But here it is. Coming to the Nintendo Switch. So whoever orchestrated this personalized E3 experience for me, thank you! Now get out of my house.
Lucas Tahiruzzaman Syed
Overall, I was most excited by the surprising and unexpected announcements of Switch ports of games that I have long given up hope of having a convenient way to purchase and play. Seiken Densetsu 3 is an obvious standout, but I’m also really glad for The Last Remnant, a title that has had me curious for years but one to which I would not likely commit home console time. I will happily load it up onto my Switch and play it on commutes and during my work overnights! Moreover, it has symbolic importance (especially in tandem with the Mana collection and even The Witcher 3‘s announcement) with regards to archiving and library consolidation. The initial remaster of the game was unexpected as it was, but the Switch announcement makes me hopeful for even my most outlandish desires for ports of obscure, niche, or cult classic RPGs. Dare I hope for an Infinite Undiscovery port, or a Shadow Hearts HD trilogy?
Lastly, I have to acknowledge the Final Fantasy VII Remake. Over the years the Final Fantasy series has been searching for the perfect intersection of player agency and cinematic sensation; while I’ve found the reliance on AI and auto-battle systems in recent mainline entries to be a dreary solution, the gameplay videos and impressions of the Final Fantasy VII Remake from E3 got me really excited and, with trepidation, hopeful. Perhaps building new mechanics within an established narrative framework, and its various set pieces, will allow Square Enix to achieve another new height in cinematic RPG action…
It went a bit under the radar with everything else, but what I saw of Fire Emblem: Three Houses at the show definitely sold me on the game. Though I would have been quite happy if the game had stayed with its instructor format throughout, the concept of the time skip puts the three houses choice into a context that makes the idea of multiple routes more appealing. The gameplay shown in the Nintendo Direct looked great, and it seems Nintendo and Intelligent Systems have learned from the kids misstep in Fire Emblem Fates. I am more than ready for a July and August filled with Judgment, Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
One thing that it’s impossible to make any actual judgment on, but is nonetheless a highlight, is Tales of Arise. The teaser showed that the game is ready to take a big step and I’m excited to see what direction it heads. It’ll be a while until we see exactly what direction that is, but I’m ready to leap back into Tales after being underwhelmed by the most recent entries I played.
After getting around to playing NieR: Automata earlier this year, I am fully on board for PlatinumGames’ Astral Chain. While many are mostly on board for the developer’s well-earned reputation with action combat, I’m also a sucker for games that like to weave in investigation elements and it looks like Astral Chain will have plenty of those to satisfy me. With the game hitting at the end of August, it’s going to further extend an already fine-looking summer.
It was quite an experience being able to finally keep on top of most of the E3 presentations as they happened this year, as opposed to having divided attention. I usually lean more towards an industry analysis angle when it comes to press conferences or industry events, so most of my time was spent nodding and going “okay, that makes sense” or “that’s interesting.” I enjoyed seeing Final Fantasy VII Remake, Ghostwire, Tales of Arise, Spiritfarer, RPG Time: The Legend of Wright, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. But there were certainly a few times, namely in the Microsoft, Square Enix, and Nintendo presentations that I legitimately jumped out of my chair and even screamed.
The first of these incidents happened during the Microsoft conference, while I was on a call with a partner. Near the end of the conference, which was theretofore rather run-of-the-mill but still fairly good, Phil Spencer came on stage to announce that Phantasy Star Online 2 was finally being released in the west. Cue my first screaming instance, which consisted of “PHANTASY STAR ONLINE? TWO? IN THE WEST? PHANTASY STAR?” then jumping out of my chair, throwing off my headphones and saying, “Nope, I’m done.” I probably also broke my boyfriend’s eardrums in the process. It was probably the most visceral and excited reaction I’ve had for a video game in a pretty long time.
During the Square Enix conference, it was announced that there was going to be a remaster of Final Fantasy VIII. Though I was very excited about it, it was another Square Enix property shown the very next day which equaled, if not rivaled, my reaction to PSO2. Halfway through the Nintendo Direct, there was a shot of an overgrown tree amidst a lake. I knew what this was immediately and started screaming — this was the announcement for the remake of Seiken Densetsu 3, now called Trials of Mana. Then they showed the one thing I had been hoping for since I saw the trademarks filed by Square over the past months: a localization announcement for the Seiken Densetsu Collection as Collection of Mana, with the first official translation for Trials of Mana. Of course, I was on call with another partner, and probably burst her eardrums as well. Definitely a very solid and exciting E3 for me.
As part of the home team, I always love watching the conferences while I’m working. Will there be a new Kirby game this time? What’s coming out? What’s new in the Final Fantasy franchise?
This year’s E3 did not disappoint. No Kirby news, unfortunately, but at least there was a ton of Final Fantasy content coming out. I loved seeing some new stuff for Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers, and even more seeing the Final Fantasy VII Remake trailer. I have only played a small bit of the original FFVII, so I’m excited to jump into the new one. It does look like it has some Final Fantasy XV-style battle mechanics, which I didn’t mind, since at least I’ll have some familiarity with it. I can’t wait to jump into all the new Final Fantasy games and content!
There was another game that caused me to literally scream, “YES!” while watching from home. It’s Looking for Heals. As someone that always plays a healer if possible in whatever game I choose, I’m more than excited that a game is coming out where the healer finally gets to call the shots. The makers of the game seem to understand where I’m coming from, as part of their trailer starts off talking about tanks and DPS (who can’t seem to stay out of AoEs for some reason). This game is out on Steam in early access and I’m really excited to play it. Finally, the healer that is often the back of the pack being told what to do — but also has everyone’s lives in their hands — gets to tell everyone to shut up.
This didn’t hit me until after, and I didn’t even get to see it live, but.. Keanu Reeves. That’s right. Someone on Twitter made a green screen of Keanu Reeves going, “Check this out!” and pointing at it. The responses are hilarious. I needed that in my life.
I was very skeptical towards E3 2019 when I learned that Sony would have no presence. Thankfully, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Square Enix had amazing press conferences. Unfortunately, EA, Bethesda, and Devolver Digital weren’t as engaging, and I had no interest in Ubisoft this year. I felt there was a good balance between new and previously announced titles, with most of the latter finally getting release dates.
Starting with Nintendo, the Nintendo Direct video format may not be as exciting as a live stage show, but there were so many great games packed into this one. The surprise announcement that I consider the main highlight of the entire show is the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. A short clip shows Link and Zelda exploring a creepy catacomb before stumbling upon the mummified corpse of Ganondorf. Then his eyes open! Here’s hoping for a darker new chapter in this legendary series.
While we get plenty of game-related announcements every year, it’s not every year we get a new console announcement (editor’s note — well, tease). Better yet, it should be available for the holiday season in 2020. Microsoft formally revealed Project Scarlet, which they claim will be able to handle 8k resolution at 120 frames per second utilizing a solid state hard drive. While details are still limited, next year will hopefully bring more information on this powerful new console and its launch titles.
Bethesda’s focus on Fallout 76 and mobile games was disappointing, but it ended its conference with plenty of brand new footage and information for Doom Eternal. I have been a huge fan of first-person shooters since I played the original Doom on my family’s first computer. It had DOS, and we had no internet, but my young mind was blown away. I’ve kept up with the series, and this new entry looks to have improved graphics and gameplay over the previous one. Doom Guy has been to Hell and back several times before, but now he’s going to Heaven.
Thanks for checking out our highlights from E3, please let us know your highlights in the comments! Remember you can catch up on all of RPGamer’s E3 content by checking out our dedicated page.