Thursday, 9 June 2011

Games Previews at London MCM Expo

This article has also been hosted at The Yorker. And is a little old, I should have uploaded this earlier.

While they're a big part of nerd culture, I'm really not a fan of conventions. For the most part they're less about die-hard media fans sharing an interest, and more about overpriced tat, grown men dressing up as under-age anime girls, and an overpowering stench of nerd-sweat that I have to bleach my clothes to get rid of. However, despite the numerous shortcomings, conventions like the MCM Expo are prime advertisement material for games publishers; and they often have pre-release versions of soon-to-be-released games to drum up interest.
The 'Summer Drought' - the period of time around the yearly Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in July - is something of a dead-zone for new games releases, so the games on offer at MCM were slightly lean, but there are still a big few names to tide us over.

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS) - June 17th is fast approaching, and that means the Ocarina of Time remake for 3DS will be upon us; and Nintendo is trying their damnedest to make sure it'll still be a considered purchase for people who've played the original already. While there are full copies floating around already, the version available at the Expo was a demo showing off the starting area, Kokiri Forest, and the first dungeon inside the Great Deku Tree. Anyone familiar with the original game will be entirely at home in terms of layout, but the graphical overhaul makes things much easier on the eyes.

Despite this, I couldn't help but notice that distant objects popped in when they got close enough, the animations erred on the side of clunky, and there was an instance of noticeable - but not detrimental - slowdown. However, the revised controls and touch-screen functionality make playing the game a much more intuitive experience. A revised 'Master Quest' mode is also available, with mirrored maps and different enemies and puzzles. We'll see how different it is from the Gamecube's release of LoZ:OoT Master Quest when the game is released.

Child of Eden (360) - Mentioned in May 15th's news, the Kinect controls were straightforward, but took a lot of getting used to. Your hands are both used to fire at targets on-screen; the left hand is a purple rapid-fire shot that'll fire as long as you're pointing on screen. The right hand is a lock-on gun that will highlight targets as you gesture over them, and then fire if you flick your wrist. You can lock-on to 8 targets at a time, and you score bonus points for firing all 8 shots every volley, and for firing shots in time to the beat. However, sometimes my gesture to fire would go ignored, ruining my timing.

Community Manager Pete Closs gave us information about the developmental process - over 1000 different concept art designs went into creating the wide variety of art directions that make up the stages. The music to the game was done by the in-studio band Genki Rockets, who have previously released an album; some of the songs featuring in previous Q? Entertainment titles. The songs appearing in Child of Eden are either remixes or all new tracks, but a commercially available soundtrack has not presently been planned.

Gears of War 3 (360) - You know where you are with Gears of War. Even with Gears of War 2, the experience - while nothing particularly unexpected - was very well-refined cover-based shooter. Unsurprisingly, Gears of War 3 is more of the same. The booth for the game was set up in multiplayer mode, so I wasn't able to try out the story mode. The arena for the match was very pretty in the way that post-apocalyptic cityscapes tend to be; but a mixture of my inability to play Shooters with any kind of competence and the slow, lumbering character I was playing as meant I didn't get much time to explore. Sigh.

Xenoblade (WII) - After a noticeable lack in RPGs for the Wii, there are suddenly a surprising number that promise to make the jump from Japan to the UK. One of the first being Xenoblade, a game developed by Monolith Soft, and published by Nintendo (with Arc Rise Fantasia and The Last Story hopefully following soon). Screenshots for this game have been around since last year, the style of which (Youths in impossible armour fighting giant wild beasts) made me think of Monster Hunter, but in playing it I found the reality was much different. Attacks are not at-will, you have a handful of skills that slowly recharge once used. This made battles feel slow and tactical, as you made sure every hit counted. In a very poor decision, they seem to have given all the characters unlikely British accents, for reasons I'm not sure of. Verily, this is a game of an acquired taste, what!

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