Rundown (6/14-6/15) E3 2021: Overstuffed with Empty Calories

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Wherein I discuss the E3 branded Nintendo Direct and whatever stragglers remain.

If I had to give a final impression for this year’s E3, it would probably be how I miss the regimented structure the event had… about 5 years ago. Where almost all news was concentrated around Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Ubisoft, and Bethesda conferences, before gameplay previews and interviews would filter in throughout the following days. But this year especially things felt like there was a lot more going on, yet paradoxically less to talk about. 

Wholesome Games, Gearbox, Future Games, Intellivision, Take-Two, Mythical Games, Freedom Games, Capcom, Bandai Namco, and more all had their own sort of showing at E3, but… none of them really needed to have an E3 event, nor did they have anything major to show off at their event. While I understand that companies like this, and more, would just have their presence on the showfloor in prior years, something about lumping these types of events with the Xbox, Ubisoft, Square Enix, and Nintendo showings just seems… Odd to me. 

The presence of these smaller showings only makes the concept of E3 seem all the more dated and ineffective, because by being so close to such big events, nobody really cared about these smaller events. To the point where I think these small fries would be better off if they did not bother with being part of E3 and just did their own announcements on their own time.

News and discourse during this final day of E3 was centered around, as it often is, by the expected Nintendo Direct. Where, like years prior, things were kicked off with the announcement of a new fighter coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The penultimate fighter before this celebration of gaming history is brought to a close. There was a 100% chance that the reveal would upset people, and by goodness did it achieve that, because the next newcomer is none other than Kazuya Mishima from Tekken… 

Yes, the posterboy protagonist from Tekken, not even his cooler dad Heihachi Mishima. While I am not super stoked on this announcement, it really does make all the sense in the world. Tekken is the premiere fighting series of Bandai Namco, Bandai Namco is developing this game, so the lack of Tekken representation is questionable. However, I am a bit bummed that of all the wild and dope characters in the series, they just had to go with the most basic and familiar of them all. I mean, imagine if they chose Kuma, Mokujin. or something like that. Instead, we get an evil anime protagonist who can become satan and has an alt where he wears a business suit… Okay, maybe it’s not that bad. 

Kazuya Mishima is poised to rough it with the all-stars on June 28th.

In happier news, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania was floating around ahead of E3, along with some accompanying box art, but nobody was really sure what the game was until it popped up in this Nintendo Direct, where it was revealed that the game is… exactly what fans wanted. A big, wet, sloppy remaster of Super Monkey Ball, Super Monkey Ball 2, and Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, featuring over 300 remade levels, 12 minigames, and a low price point of $40, or $30 on PC. Wow. They sure picked a good title for this game. Because that’s both bananas and manic!.

Now, with remasters like this you always need to express some caution, but the simple fact that these games are coming back is cause enough for celebration, and fans won’t need to wait very long to get their grubby little mitts on the game. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania is rolling onto PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on October 5, 2021. And as somebody who never really got into this series beyond a rental of SMB2 and a few rounds with the original in a doctor’s office, I’m more than a little eager to sink my teeth into it

Series like Mario Party are what I would consider to be primed for a remix treatment. Not necessarily remakes or complete recreations, but rather taking bits and pieces from existing titles in order to build the ‘ultimate version’ of a game based on past iterations. I thought they were going to do that with Mario Party: The Top 100, but that was just a minigame collection, and was so close that it begged the question as to why Nintendo did not just slap in a couple of boards from older titles to make the game a full package. …Probably because they just hate making boards for their board game video game series.

Mario Party Superstars is, in theory, the ultimate Mario Party game, bringing in 100 mini-games from the Nintendo 64 and GameCube era, all with fresh and crisp modern visuals that were almost definitely recycled from Super Mario Party. Except instead of bringing back a vast array of fan favorite or unique boards, they’re bringing back… 5. 5 boards, and only boards from the Nintendo 64 games. 

In all fairness, most Mario Party games of this era only had 6 or 7 boards… but this is a compilation title, so why couldn’t they have gone with… two boards from the 7 games they are supposedly paying tribute to? Or make maybe 8 boards in total? I don’t even like party games and this just pisses me off on principle, but it will assuredly sell well when it launches on October 29, 2021, because it’s Mario Party.

While I have learned to accept it when series are put out to pasture, I am always filled with a sense of childish glee whenever I learn about a sequel to one of my favorite games of all time, or a new entry in a series that I utterly adored as a teenager, and still adore to this day. I went bonkers when I saw The World Ends With You: NEO get announced, and there are very few games that can elicit a similar reaction. One of those games is Metroid 5. A white whale of a game that has been hinted at for nearly 20 years— and it’s finally here!

Metroid 5. Or to give its proper title, Metroid Dread. That’s right! Not only are they following up on a 19-year-long sequel hook, but they are naming it after the infamously canceled DS Metroid project! Because it is based on the original premise for that canceled DS game! Meaning that not only was Metroid Dread supposed to be Metroid 5, but that project is finally being made, after being so infamously teased 14 years ago in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption! And how does this game look? …Like a sequel to 2017’s Metroid: Samus Returns. Which is exactly what I wanted!

After watching the reveal trailer twice and skimming through the Nintendo Treehouse gameplay, it is clear that developer MercurySteam is continuing to take Metroid in more of an action-oriented direction, but this time without the limitations of the 3DS. The camera is zoomed out a lot more, allowing the player to move faster and with a greater sense of control. The counter and free aim modes no longer lock Samus into the ground and keep her mobile. Samus now has a slick slide to go under small gaps or enemies. And the game aims to expand upon the SA-X encounters from Fusion and the stealth section from Zero Mission by introducing a new threat that Samus must avoid, the E.M.M.I. A robotic creature who… reminds me more of an enemy that you would find in a Half Life game where you explored a derelict Aperture Science lab than something from Metroid

This brings me into the visuals of the game and… I’m actually a bit disappointed, because MercurySteam are capable of creating some positively phenomenal environments when they have the horsepower to do so. 2014’s Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is one of the best looking games from the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation, to the extent that it could pass as a PS4 title. 

But Metroid Dread’s visual design is alarmingly… simple by comparison. Backgrounds often have a flat or metallic look to them, and the entire game’s aesthetic seems to be less geared to naturalistic environments and more towards semi-abstract dark rocks or steel space scrap. I guess you could say they don’t strike me as memorable as Metroid Fusion or Metroid Prime’s environments, which I think is a shame, as I know MercurySteam loves designing alien worlds. Oh well, at least Samus’s new design is DOPE!

Metroid Dread will launch for Switch on October 8, 2021, and even though I just complained about its graphics… I am so damn happy this game exists, and that it is coming out so soon. …Especially because it will, according to Metroid grandaddy Yoshio Sakamoto, this will mark the end of a major story arc which is just… what? That could just be marketing, but now I HAVE to know! I NEED to know!

Absolutely nothing can top that, but Nintendo offered some juicy bangers, such as the first new traditional WarioWare title in about a decade, WarioWare: Get It Together! The title is yet another microgame mashup, but with the core premise that you can play as different members of the wackadoo WarioWare crew in said minigames, where each character has their own way of completing the minigame, whether it be by jumping, flying, or firing projectiles. Although, if the name did not make it clear, the real hook of this title is how it is the first co-op WarioWare game in the series, allowing two players to go through this rapidfire array of quirky challenges together. 

Based on the trailer, it is not clear to me if this is strictly cooperative or competitive, but either way, it seems like yet another excellent two-player game for the Switch. I just hope that it has online support because even though people are clamouring for good old face to face fun, the pandemic is still raging on pretty bad, and all games of this sort should have an online option. Regardless, WarioWare: Get It Together! is set for a September 10th release on Switch.

Shin Megami Tensei V got another showing, and this time it came with a more detailed overview trailer, describing the story, premise, and series staple gameplay while showing a title that… the fine folks at Atlus have clearly been wanting to make for over two decades at this point. The original inception for Shin Megami Tensei III was to have the game be a more open world title set in a vast post-apocalyptic desert-flavored Tokyo, but that could not be done on the PS2 for obvious reasons. However, now that technology has developed and progressed, it seems like Atlus can finally bring this vision to life and… it looks freaking great.

The demon designs, models, and animations are excellent. While the world looks like just a desert in many respects, there is a certain flair in the lighting, coloring, and overall design of these environments that aims away from strict realism. Instead, I’d say that it’s… endearingly uncanny. And while the UI is nowhere near as flashy as Persona 5, the game looks clean and focused with its visual direction, while clearly being the end result of repeated iteration.

It looks like a major leap forward for the SMT series and likely Atlus as a company, which makes me all the more upset that I probably will not get around to this title when it launches as a Switch exclusive on November 12, 2021. 

Next up, we have Danganronpa Decadence, a compilation of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, and Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, all wrapped together on a single game card along with a… brand new Danganronpa spin-off. Yes, of all the things I thought I would see from this showing, a new Danganronpa game was not one of them, and it takes the form of Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp. This is not a strictly new title as much as it is an expanded version of the Ultimate Talent Development Plan subgame from Danganronpa V3. And as somebody who only scratched the surface of said mode, I’m actually quite interested in seeing what a more developed and regimented version of this excellent idea would be like.

As a massive fan of the Danganronpa series, or at least DR1, DR2, and DRV3, I seriously cannot recommend this collection enough to newcomers when it launches in 2021. However, it should be noted that Danganronpa Decadence is merely a physical release, and the games will need to be purchased individually digitally, which is probably the best move. Also, even though this series is mostly affiliated with PlayStation and PC, Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp will debut as a Switch exclusive, though it will probably make its way to other platforms, eventually.

It would not be a fully stacked modern Nintendo Direct without a Wii U port, but after so many ports these past 4 years, it’s hard to even remember what titles haven’t been brought over. There’s the Zelda HD titles, some bad exclusives that people did not like, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and that’s it, right? Nope! Because there was also Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water

This game was the sort of thing that Nintendo of America would have historically never published in the west and let rot in Europe or Japan, but this was the Wii U era, so they were desperate for whatever they could get. However, rather than bring this title over as a Switch game, publishing duties are instead being handled by Koei Tecmo, who is bringing the game to PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, Switch, and PC sometime in 2021. Which, as always, is great to hear and means this well-liked horror game will be made available to basically everybody who gives a hoot about the games industry.

That being said, this does raise some questions about the ownership of the Fatal Frame series. Nintendo has been co-funding and co-developing the series since 2008’s Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse. As such, Nintendo should have some ownership over the series, so either Nintendo did something firmly un-Nintendo, or this is a sort of one-time deal for the two parties. This is a Japanese games industry secret that we’ll probably never know. Or if we do, it will only be because some deplorable gaijin used their foreign cunning to steal this knowledge from a former Koei Tecmo executive.

Speaking of dead series getting brought back, Advance Wars has been shuffling in the ground since 2008’s Advance Wars: Days of Ruin made the series all dark and gritty, much to the chagrin of its fans. Since then, developer Intelligence Systems has been too busy with fostering Fire Emblem to make a new title, and the fans have pretty much given up all hope on a return to form. Which made the announcement of Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp all the more surprising, and delightful.

Developed by none other than WayForward, Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is the two GameBoy Advance titles, Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising, remade in 3D with new and more western looking character art with floppy animations that remind me of gacha games that incorporate Live 2D or some similar technology. 

First off, as somebody who dabbled in the series via ROMs back in the day, I am glad to see these titles be given a full remake treatment, and it is exciting to see WayForward take on a Nintendo IP like this. However, the redone visuals are a bit… They are not bad in and of themselves, but they do not look great compared to the original. When I think of WayForward, I think of 2D illustrated platformers and excellent sprite art. So I’m not stoked to see them use a basic wavy approach for character artwork instead of more distinct sprites, and seeing them use fairly basic 3D models instead of making the sprite art of the original even better.

With no knowledge of what came before, the game looks pretty good, and has a toyetic charm to it. However, it’s way better than no Advance Wars. And because this is a remake, we know that the gameplay and map design will at least be pretty good. So instead I say wait for the game to hit the Switch on December 3, 2021 before passing judgment, even though the Treehouse gameplay showed off the game in plenty enough detail to form a good opinion on it.

Moving onto the final major showing of this Nintendo Direct, after two long years of speculation, clamoring, and overall waiting, Nintendo ended this show by releasing a trailer for Sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Which… looks like Breath of the Wild, but with more stuff in it. The vast land of Hyrule now expands into the sky with floating land masses. Common enemies have new tactics and tricks at their disposal. New weapon types have been added, namely flamethrowers. And Link’s assorted runs have been expanded and altered to some extent, allowing him to phase through matter, do some time manipulation stuff, and… something involving water?

While this trailer was meant to garner much hype, I honestly thought it was fairly weak. Between the cinematic snippets, there was only 30 seconds of what could be considered gameplay, and considering how BOTW demoed at E3 9 months before its release, I am a bit upset to see so little of this game when it is slated to come out sometime in 2022. Then again, I did not particularly care for BOTW, so I do not have a horse in this race. …Goodness, the horses were worthless in that game.  

In conclusion, this Nintendo Direct made me want to buy things. Seriously, they showed some excellent looking games, and while I have some bugbears about a few… they announced Metroid Dread


They announced a game that I thought I would never hear about ever again, a game I have wanted for the actual majority of my life! I learned about the game when I was 12 in 2007! Now I’m 26 and I’ll get to play it before I’m 27!

I know it is not the ‘same game,’ but I do not care! It is Metroid Dread! And even if it wasn’t, it is a new Metroid game with the potential to be one of the best Metroid games!

That alone makes this a dope E3, but before I end things off, I do have one more story to cover!

2019’s River City Girls was probably the most widely internationally celebrated Kunio-kun, or River City, game since the original River City Ransom in 1990. The game sold well, got positive reviews, and as a co-op brawler, it was well suited for collab streaming. As such, it is not surprising to see the folks at WayForward pushing forward a sequel, River City Girls 2. No screenshots or trailer accompanied this announcement, but WayForward claimed that the title will serve as a direct sequel following Misako and Kyoko, but will add in regular series protagonists Kunio and Riki, among others, as playable characters. So that’s neat. River City Girls 2 is currently scheduled to hit PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Switch, and PC via Steam in 2022.

However, in addition to bringing out a new sequel, WayForward is also re-releasing 1994’s Shin Nekketsu Koha: Kunio-tachi no Banka, which served as the inspiration for River City Girls, and was the cause for some confusion between WayForward and current series rightsholders, Arc System Works. However, this also marks the first time Shin Nekketsu Koha: Kunio-tachi no Banka has left Japan, meaning it will need to be both retitled and given an English name, and they settled on River City Girls Zero… which I think is a bit misleading. 

While the 1994 title was inspiration for River City Girls, it was my understanding that the games were distinct from one another, were clearly from different creative minds, and had more of a tacit connection. If you actually look at a playthrough of Shin Nekketsu Koha: Kunio-tachi no Banka and gameplay of River City Girls, you would be strapped to find many meaningful connections, so calling this game River City Girls Zero is merely a marketing ploy and I do not agree with this approach. It’s historically inaccurate, and I would rather have the game be called… I don’t know, River City: The Eulogy of Kunio. That name would not sell, but it would be more respectful.

Regardless, River City Girls Zero was only confirmed for a Switch release in late 2021, but it will also come to other, unnamed platforms

That’s it for E3! It’s midnight! My genitals are bleeding for some reason! I wrote this entire thing in like 3 hours because I had to go to work during the day! And now I need to go to bed! See ya suckers on Sunday!

Header image from Sankaku Renai: Love Triangle Trouble.

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