Boy, E3 2021 sure was a hot mess!
I'm not sure how much of it had to do with COVID destroying production schedules, the seeming disorganization of the event itself, or just folks’ overblown expectations, but we can all agree that the hype was just not there this year. Whether it was big announcements failing to land, expected showcases not materializing, companies with big presentations showing next to nothing new, or just the seemingly endless stream of filler between things folks actually wanted to see, E3 found new and exciting ways to disappoint almost everybody.
Of course, E3's badness shouldn't reflect badly on the people working hard to make these games. This lousy 2021 show was the result of an endless push by corporate higher-ups to keep hype rolling at all costs – which unfortunately burdens the developers with expectations and pressure.
Anyhow, it's time to look at the E3 highlights. I'm not covering every E3 reveal here, instead focusing mostly on things relevant to our demographic: Japanese and Japan-inspired games. I am DEFINITELY not talking about friggin’ Avatar here. (Does anyone even still care about Avatar that much, or is Ubisoft obligated to satisfy a contract with James Cameron in order to not lose a giant chunk of money?)
So, who had the best E3 showing? I mean… it wasn't much of a contest. All Nintendo had to do was say “Metroid Dread exists” and they had it in the bag. But they brought a fair few extra mics to drop. Along with several of their own characters, who they proceeded to throw off a cliff.
NINTENDO: DIDN'T EVEN HAVE TO TRY, REALLY
Starting off your presentation with a limp, defeated Ganondorf? Well, that seems like foreshadowing! But then we pan out to see some a familiar-looking cliff and ha ha HAAAA oh man this reveal is amazing
Tekken’s Kazuya in Smash? A lot of folks were surprised, but I'm personally more surprised it took this long for Tekken rep, given that Bandai-Namco co-developed the game! (I've long suspected a few members of the Tekken and Pokken development teams probably moonlighted on Smash, but this shouldn't be taken as confirmation of that.) If you would have asked me in 2014, I would've pegged Kazuya to get in before Pac-Man. But hey, he's here, he's bad, he's tossing all your favorites off the cliff in another excellent reveal trailer. Sadly, it did not end with the Tekken 1 meme face, but trying and failing to dump Kirby in a volcano works too. You are not allowed to hurt the pink boy.
From there, the hits keep on coming. A Super Monkey Ball remastered collection, you say? Why yes!
Though, honestly, I am pretty bad at Super Monkey Ball. I think I enjoy watching people break the games through speedruns more than playing it, personally, but I'm glad it exists. (If you want some good entertainment, load up a random Games Done Quick Super Monkey Ball run.)
Mario Party Superstars collects a bunch of favorite boards and mini-games from across the series into one big package… but I feel like the bigger selling point here is online play for every game mode. With streaming as big as it is – and Mario Party being notorious for temporarily ruining friendships and generating truckloads of salt – this feels tailor-made for having a group of streaming buddies playing together, all trying to screw each other over in entertaining ways. I mean, if Nintendo lets you stream it…
And now, the moment so many have been waiting for! No, it's not Metroid Prime 4 – that's still stuck in development hell for the moment – but it's arguably even better than that.
Metroid Dread! Holy shit! This game has been rumored to be in development since the mid-2000s, and it actually exists! Mercury Steam, the Spanish developer who handled Samus Returns on 3DS, is once again doing development duty. While Samus Returns has some rough spots, I'm pretty optimistic that they learned a fair bit from that game and that this will be an even better game overall. We won't have to wait too long to find out, either, as it's releasing in October alongside some new amiibos and a special collectors’ edition.
It's also been a long time since an all-new WarioWare game's hit the market. The last non-repackaging was the utterly forgettable Game and Wario back on the Wii U, so the announcement of WarioWare: Get it Together is a very pleasant surprise. The gameplay looks to be built around simple platforming and action-game challenges you have to parse and finish within a matter of a few seconds – nothing too new there, but what's more interesting is the emphasis on cooperative (and competitive?) multiplayer.
Ah, it's always a nice day when we get more Shin Megami Tensei V content. The trailer for Japan differs pretty substantially from the one in North America – the latter focuses mostly on mechanics, while the former is all about that ~aesthetic~ baby!
A big Danganronpa series collection is coming to Switch, along with an all-new board game spinoff featuring the cast of all 3 titles called Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp. The games will be bundled together in a physical edition called Danganronpa Decadence, but you can buy them all individually on the eShop. I'll likely just get S since I've got Vita versions of everything else.
Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is finally, finally, finally getting a North American release. Better late than never, right?
Speaking of which, Advance Wars is finally back as Advance Wars Re-boot Camp! Took long enough. Granted, this isn't an entirely new game – it's a remake of the Gameboy Advance originals – but it's still enough to get the long-suffering Advance Wars fanbase hyped again.
You have to end the Nintendo Direct with a heavy hitter, and what hits heavier than Zelda? Eiji Aonuma announced some Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity DLC plans and showed a smidgeon of the Skyward Sword remaster before digging out a nice little surprise: A new Zelda Game & Watch unit similar in style to the Super Mario Bros. 35th anniversary unit revealed last year. It includes Zelda 1 (good), Zelda 2 (better), and the Gameboy Link's Awakening (best) alongside an easter-egg laden timekeeping function and a Link-tastic reskin of the Game and Watch game Vermin. Very cool, though now I'm sad the Mario Game and Watch didn't have SMB2US or SMB3 on it.
Finally, more footage of the game Nintendo is still calling The Sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. There are already about four thousand YouTube theory videos out there based on this footage, so I don't think I really need to say much else and expose my Zelda lore ignorance. Just watch and enjoy!
Well, it wasn't everything Nintendo fans could have wanted, but Nintendo's E3 direct still had plenty of heavy hitters. But wait, there's more!
NINTENDO DIRECT JAPAN: MORE BULLETS, MORE ROBOTS
Those who have been reading this column for a while know I'm a big fan of arcade shooters, particularly games developed by Cave. Cave more or less established the “bullet hell” genre as we know it, though they've been focusing more on mobile shooters lately than the arcade games that originally put them on the map. Outside companies like M2 and City Connection have been working to port classic Cave titles like Deathsmiles, Ketsui, and ESPrade from arcade to modern consoles, and now they're joined by Live Wire, who announced three classic Cave game releases on the Japanese Nintendo Direct broadcast!
Even better – all three of these are confirmed to release in English as well. In fact, you can go buy the excellent Mushihimesama on Switch right now! Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu and ESPgaluda II will be out before year's end, as well. Might as well pick up a Flip Grip, too!
But maybe you prefer your laser-fights a bit less screen-filling and a bit more strategic. And maybe you like them to have big robots from all of your favorite old and new anime series mashed up into official fanfiction. Well, good news, because Super Robot Wars 30 is confirmed for Switch, PS4, and Steam, and it's getting an English release! (In Southeast Asia, but c'mon, you all know how to do the import thing by now, right?)
This is the official 30th anniversary SRW game, so while not many mechs have been revealed yet, I wouldn't be surprised if this one really goes all-out with bringing in both the wildly popular and the wildly weird. I'd love to see more mechs brought in from videogame-only universes, personally. Can you imagine mechs from games like Zone of the Enders, Xenogears, and Armored Core in SRW? That would be amazing. We've seen Virtual-On in SRW before, so it's not totally out of the question.
I think that's most everything interesting that went on with Nintendo. What else was there… hmmm, CAPCOM was a giant nothingburger, Ubisoft had that Mario + Rabbids sequel… oh right, Square Enix sure happened, didn't it?
SQUARE ENIX: WHAT IS EVEN GOING ON HERE
Y'know that saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression?” Square Enix presents at E3 2021 was the perfect example of that sentiment. The one-word summary of this showcase: OOF.
I mean, Guardians of the Galaxy is a strong IP, and Square Enix Montreal is a very strong developer, but so much was spent on this single game that looks… pretty good, I guess? But when folks know there's Final Fantasy XVI and the next Final Fantasy VII Remake installment coming, and you opt for Guardians over showing more of that – and taking into consideration the lukewarm reception of the Avengers game – of course there's going to be backlash.
That's not to say there wasn't any Final Fantasy. It just wasn't the Final Fantasy people wanted.
Well, okay, that's not completely accurate. New remakes of Final Fantasy I-VI are indeed in the works, sticking to the tried-and-true 2D sprite style without looking like a weird asset mess like the previous bunch of remakes did. There's barely anything shown in the trailer, but folks are already debating the merits of the new character sprites (which, it should be mentioned, are the work of original FF sprite artist Kazuko Shibuya). Also, only Steam and mobile? Really?
Then there's the other Final Fantasy, which… um.
Oh boy, Twitter blew the hell up when Stranger of Paradise dropped. To be fair, the action gameplay looks pretty solid. It's just… everything else around it. A gritty, bloody Final Fantasy I reboot starring the most generic-looking dudebro out there who seems SO MAD and CAN'T SHUT UP ABOUT CHAOS? I really don't think this is what most longtime Final Fantasy fans longed for in an action spinoff, Squeenix.
What made the reveal even more messy was that Stranger of Paradise's demo that was supposed to launch on PS5 alongside the reveal didn't work. Seriously! Anyone who tried to play it got an error, making this game's already bad first impression look like even more of a trainwreck. It's fixed now, but everyone's moved on to getting hype about Nintendo so I've heard nary a peep about how it plays. That's not a great sign for things going forward.
The thing I was personally looking forward to most out of Squeenix was seeing more of Babylon's Fall. Well… it certainly doesn't look bad, but it definitely feels a lot more generic-fantasy than I'd expect out of a PlatinumGames title. Then the words “live service” were uttered and whoosh so much hype deflated so quickly. I still want to play it, but I really don't know if I'm up to committing myself to a big live service game right now.
LIMITED RUN GAMES: YOU DIDN'T KNOW YOU WANTED THIS UNTIL NOW
I was expecting boutique publisher Limited Run Games’ stream to show off some neat new indie games. I wasn't expecting sequels, revivals, and the first semi-authorized Western TurboGrafx-CD game release in 25 years. But I sure got them!
LRG seems to be in pretty good with Konami, if their upcoming release slate is any indication. They're releasing a physical version of Castlevania Requiem on PS4, Contra Anniversary Collection on Switch and PS4, and an all-new, fully English-localized version of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood for the TurboGrafx-CD. That's right, Richter's finally coming home!
Limited Run Games coming through with probably the only TurboGrafx-CD game announcement in the 25+ year history of E3. https://t.co/qKanmpxJnL— Justin Davis (@ErrorJustin) June 14, 2021
While Konami has authorized the release, it's technically not an official TG-16 game, since they'd also need NEC's blessing… but I doubt NEC even cares at this point. Enjoy your classic Castlevania in a nice package on an actual, pressed CD guilt-free!
And hey, if you were wondering what WayForward's been up to lately, you'll be glad to hear that a River City Girls 2 is on the way to every single modern platform!
We are thrilled to officially announce River City Girls 2 - coming to PC and consoles next year! Return to the mean streets of River City with Misako, Kyoko, Kunio, & Riki - plus a few new playable characters! - for a fresh round of beat-'em-up action. Featuring 2p online co-op! pic.twitter.com/GX1t9IScRr— WayForward (@WayForward) June 14, 2021
Not only that, but LRG will also be releasing the Super NES game Kunio-tachi no Banka as River City Girls Zero on Switch. There are a few folks out there who are annoyed at the “River City Girls” naming since this game focuses more on the male characters, but the English naming of Kunio games is already a giant mess anyway so it's hard for me to really care that much.
Oh yes, and there's a BIG Shantae set coming for PS5, too!
But let's not forget the true crown jewel of the Limited Run announcements…
Finally, the most requested and anticipated game of ALL TIME. We're bringing Plumbers Don't Wear Ties to PS4, PS5, PC, and Switch physically and digitally! Follow us for more info. #LRG3 pic.twitter.com/zNNcvfLf5i— Limited Run Games (@LimitedRunGames) June 14, 2021
Oh yes, this is going to make certain people who love weird garbage multimedia games extremely happy. Or possibly Angry. But yes, LRG, thank you for your dedication to releasing weird stuff.
OTHER THINGS OF NOTE
Geoff Keighley's Summer Games Fest isn't technically part of E3, but its first broadcast of 2021 may as well have been E3 Day Zero. Plenty of announcements happened, including a Death Stranding Director's Cut (as if Kojima didn't get free reign the first time around), Borderlands spinoff Tiny Tina's Wonderlands, and From Software and George R.R. Martin's much-hyped ELDEN RING!
But if you asked me personally what I thought the most interesting reveal of the Summer Games Fest presentation was, I'd point to Metal Slug Tactics, an isometric 2D strategy-RPG featuring the cast and machines of SNK's beloved Metal Slug run-and-gun action games. Here's the trailer, featuring some excellent original animation:
During the Xbox/Bethesda presentation we also got a glimpse of Kickstarted Suikoden spiritual successor Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes’ progress. It was also announced that an action-RPG called Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is also in the works to launch before the traditional turn-based Hundred Heroes. Rising is due out next year, while Hundred Heroes will launch in 2023.
In news totally unrelated to E3, CyberConnect2 has finally set a release date for its long-delayed furry RPG Fuga: Memories of Steel. The newest installment in their ongoing Little Tail Bronx universe will be coming to all major platforms on July 29th. Interestingly, the game's spoken dialogue will be in Japanese and French, with subtitles in more languages (including English). Why French? Beats me. Could just be a choice for atmosphere.
Finally, an interesting new crowdfunding effort has popped up overseas. Old-school anime and gaming fans might remember the Valis series as some of the first games they played that were very clearly anime-influenced (despite some awful Western cover art). The Valis series is now 35 years old, and current IP holder Edia wants to re-release Valis I, II, and III (specifically, the PC-Engine versions) on the Switch in a nice little collection to commemorate the anniversary. They're turning to crowdfunding on the website Makuake to do it, and will offer some nice pieces of Valis collectibilia for those who pledge to higher tiers. The campaign isn't live yet, but more information will be available on the official website when it launches. I don't know for sure if Makuake takes funds from overseas, but if they do, I'm sure a few other retro-heads will be giving the campaign money.
OKAY! Phew, even a really bad E3 still gives me a lot to talk about. I'm sorry if I didn't cover your favorite thing this time around. Next week we'll have a hopeful return to normalcy. So, what were your favorite (and least favorite) E3 announcements? Bring those piping hot takes down to the forums (convenient link below) and we'll have a nice summer picnic together. Thanks as always for reading!