E3 2004 – Day 1

May 13, 2004

After an explosive preshow I was kind of surprised that I didn’t see more news stories about what people were seeing at E3. The show is now in full swing and I am sure everyone out in LA is trying to capture that last bit of shut eye before they have to endure the madness of day 2 on the floor.

I spent a lot of time in my preshow article talking about new hardware that was coming out, but I failed to mention anything about the Phantom. The Phantom has had yet another facelift and is being referred to as the 3rd generation Phantom. It looks very different from its 2 previous counterparts. It now looks like a very slim box with a single plug on the front for the mouse and keyboard combo controller. The fact that Infinium Labs is willing to bring one of these units out and put it on display is actually a big step for them. Previously you had to be personally invited to get your hands on the Phantom, but now they seem to be a little more open about it. Here is the main problem I have with IL right now. It is no surprise that they can bring demo units of the Phantom out for people to play. After all, it is just a computer running a custom version of Windows XP. I don’t think anyone doubts that the actual box is real anymore. We all know it is real and it is just like the machine that I am typing this on right now. What everyone wants to see is the VPGN or the Virtual Private Gaming Network which is supposed to be the whole idea behind IL’s business model. When they start showing us that aspect of their business, then I will start paying attention. Until then, stop changing the look of your “console” expecting some sort of floored reaction out of the gaming community.

The first report I saw about the Phantom was from a preshow press event called eFocus and apparently IL claimed they couldn’t get a broadband connection to show off the delivery system. Sounds fishy to me, especially considering there are plenty of people on broadband at E3 this year. Nonetheless, I told Sniperseye to make sure he stops by the IL booth to get a little firsthand info from the crazy folks at IL. I will let you know what info he gets from them.

The images you will see of the Phantom are from GamingHorizon.com. They now have a Hands on Preview of the Phantom and they actually mention that they were impressed by the unit.

Sony announced that the PSP has a ton of 3rd party support and after mulling over the list of developers, I would have to agree. Gamespot has a full listing of all the developers on board for the new handheld and I would post this list if it wasn’t 99 names long (even though a few are technically repeated more than once). They also list 45 games that are expected to come to the Japanese market, I assume at launch or shortly after. The list includes titles such as Viewtiful Joe, Devil May Cry, Hot Shots Golf, and Bomberman. THUG 2 (Tony Hawk’s Underground 2) has also been announced by Activision as a launch title for the PSP.

Since I neglected to mention a lot of information on many of the games that were being shown off at E3, I will take a moment and try to cover the top games as best I can.

Sega announced a new action RPG entitled Phantasy Star Universe. Not many details are out about this new game set in the Phantasy Star world, but they did show a trailer that contained pre-rendered CG. Sega also showed off a multiplayer demo of the new MMO, Matrix Online.

There was much speculation about the new Zelda game that was being shown off by Nintendo this week and several of the major questions have finally been answered. Back at the GDC in March Eiji Aonuma made mention of a “Wind Waker 2” and many wondered if this was in fact the new WW game or if we were seeing an additional Zelda game. It was clarified yesterday that this is in fact the game Aonuma made mention of at the GDC. It was also confirmed that this game is not going to be called Wind Waker 2 and will not actually be a sequel to The Wind Waker. The game will run on a modified version of the Wind Waker engine sans the cell shaded graphics obviously. The horse you see in the trailer is allegedly set to play a pretty major role in the game. No word yet on a specific date, but the game is scheduled for a 2005 release.

The first footage was released yesterday of the sequel to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. KotOR was a hugely popular RPG developed by Bioware. The sequel titled KotOR: The Sith Lords will actually not be developed by Bioware, but by Obsidian. Not much else is known about the game, but it will be in stores in February of 2005.

Capcom also announced a new 2d fighting game to be released later this year with a working title of “Capcom Fighting Jam”. The game is set to combine fighters from Street Fighter 2, 3, and Alpha with characters from Darkstalkers and Red Earth. The game will feature a new 2 on 2 fighting system where you select your fighter at the beginning of each round instead of the standard tag-battle setup. At this point, there have been 2 characters selected from each of the games to make up the roster, but who knows if this is the final list of fighters.

In other fighting game news, Namco released plenty of screens and footage of the new Tekken 5 game that was just announced last week. Not much is known at this time about the new game other than the fact that it has revamped graphics and sports tweaked fighting mechanics.

One title that I am personally looking forward to is the sequel to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The Prince is said to be more mature and of a darker nature in the upcoming sequel, I assume like Jak was in the 2nd game of that series. The Prince also makes use of 2 swords this time around instead of just 1. The Prince will be fighting a new enemy named Dahaka who is almost invincible. To defeat this new enemy, the Prince has a new set of abilities and acrobatic moves to help along his journey. He can now leap behind armed enemies and disarm sword wielding enemies and decapitate them with their own sword. He also has a new lunging slash attack that is performed while running along the walls. If the game is anywhere as good as the first one, I think we are all in for a very good time. The game is set to be out later this year.

Konami is also back with a sequel to the TMNT game that I wanted to like so much. This time… We have 4 play co-op. From the screens it looks as though we still have the unrefined graphics engine of the first one, but I hope that gets cleaned up in time for release. There are a few major changes in TMNT 2 and some of them may not be such a great idea. For starters, all 4 players share a single large life bar. Got a new person playing? You better protect them or they will end up getting the rest of the team into a tight situation. The game is also slated to have many platforming aspects added into it. The turtles also had personality tweaks that make them more like the characters they are based on instead of the same turtle with a different weapon as we saw in the first game. The original TMNT Arcade game is also an unlockable feature in this sequel so maybe that will make this game a worthy purchase.

I am not sure what else this Expo has in store for us, but you can rest assured that we will pass it along to you. Stay tuned for more information coming to you from the E3 Expo in LA.