E3 2006 Wrap-Up

I'm back. And most importantly, I've got fresh notes from having spent a day at one of the most interesting Electronic Entertainment Expos in recent memory.

By now, you've undoubtedly read all the breaking news and watched all the crazy new videos, so there probably won't be any huge megaton explosions up in here. Regardless, I'd love to walk you through my day, show you the stuff we saw, and give you a tiny slice of E3.

So, after a delicious breakfast at the Farmer's Market washed down with some tasty, wholesome, thirst-quenching Mountain Dew (thanks for the Xbox 360!), we were off.

Note: many pictures and some movies inside. Click ahoy!

Nintendo Wii

After the doors burst open on day one, we, and apparently all of humanity, headed directly to the Nintendo booth, to finally try out the seemingly-revolutionary Wii. Get this: a video game system that uses an advanced motion sensing controller instead of two joysticks and fifteen thousand buttons? One that'll be less powerful, but significantly cheaper that the competition? That theoretically anyone can pick up and play? The idea seems so totally foreign and futuristic that you half expect the Nintendo Food-A-Rac-A-Cycle to be announced next.

First, a booth note: while waiting in line, we discovered that Nintendo had set up freakish plasma screens with cameras and microphones, allowing you to interact with a random assortment of people (employees?) while you wait. The idea was strangely both awesome and awful: you're literally talking to a plasma screen and somehow it feels completely natural, then you realize you're talking to a plasma screen. Charles Martinet, Voice Of Mario, was one of the guests, along with some Nintendo Ladies, which led to very uncomfortable conversations with your classic convention goers.

Anyway, plasma screens survived, we headed into the main area.

The system looked unbelievably nice — after the DS Lite, and now the Wii, I'd genuinely like to know who Nintendo hired to flip the "awesome" switch on their Autodesk?

The sensor bar, seen above, is a required plug-in accessory that's used to figure out where the controller is, exactly, in your living room. It was much more mellow in size than I expected, a welcome surprise.

The first game we tried out was, er, a tech demo. And, well, it was pretty awful . You had to move some dude through a maze, using the tilt of the controller to rotate the dude, and moving the controller to move the dude. The controls were super sensitive, and maybe it was just a learning curve, but my dude kept hitting stuff and flailing and being angry and the octopus and oh god there go all the coins. I left the booth concerned: is this how it's going to be?

Thankfully, enter Wario Ware: Smooth Moves. Why didn't I expect this? The classic many-micro-games format is totally perfect for the Wii. Before each game, you're shown how to hold the controller. Then, you do something crazy for about 3 seconds. Repeat. It was amazingly fun: from doing the hula to totally cold-pushin' some girl on a mushroom planet, I became instantly sold on the system, and the game was successful at communicating a simple point: this controller can do anything. And it really can. We played this a lot and laughed a lot. Sold.

I watched a few more games, generally avoiding the long lines: Super Mario Galaxy, which has surprisingly awesome graphics and, undoubtedly, will be great. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is also probably not even worth mentioning since it's a guaranteed first-day purchase. But, I worry about the addition of Wii-specific control to these games: does a Zelda game designed for a traditional controller now need motion sensitive additions? At best, they seem kind-of tacked on, only adding a constantly spazzing cursor to your game screen. I hope Nintendo will know when to say Wii, and design games from the ground up with the remote in mind.

Finally, I stopped to check out the Virtual Console option, something I've very excited about: Nintendo's first foray into legal emulation. I can't express how weird it is to play Bonk's Adventure on a Nintendo system. But it is awesome as well. Many games were demonstrated:

Notice that the Super Mario 64 screenshot features an nicely upgraded polygon resolution (better!), which in turn leads to very obvious low-resolution textures (worse?). Still, it works. Nintendo also showed a conveniently retro-ready controller, that tackled all of the buttons necessary to play all of our favorite systems. Really, it's all down to the price — in a world awash with ROMs, how much is the right-thing retro game worth? — but it's exciting to see Nintendo even slightly go down this road.

It should come as no surprise to you that I am very excited by the Nintendo Wii. Surprisingly, so seem to be a lot of other people, a new twist for the beleaguered Nintendo fan. My dumb stock even went up! (Full disclosure: I own about six shares of stock in exactly three companies: Apple, Nintendo, and Chipotle Mexican Grill. Never, ever ask me for investment advice.)

Nintendo DS

Yoshi's Island 2. Slather me in honey mustard and call me a smoked ham sandwich: Yoshi's Island 2! I can't express how excited I was to hear this news, and I was even more excited to play it . (Let the gaming-history record show, I finished Yoshi's Island GBA after months of effort, 100% complete, including the megabitch levels, in the doctor's waiting room right before getting a final "all-healed" for to my then-broken kneecap. That was a good day.)

Developed by Artoon (unfortunately and awkwardly famous for the Blinx series but also the nice Pinobee games), it looks like more of the same — which means more of spending time in heaven with all the heavenly trimmings like the awesome harps.

Anyway, the unstoppable train of Nintendo DS titles isn't slowing down anytime soon. The amazing Ouendan music game from Japan — tap circles in rhythm, enjoy the hilarious story and great music! — has been renamed Elite Beat Agents, and features a totally redesigned game, from songs to levels to characters, that is very nicely tailored to the American market. This USA release is a minor gaming miracle, right up there with Katamari.

Also, the team that created Trace Memory (the only game Nicole has ever played from start to finish) announced Hotel Dusk: Room 215, an amazing looking adventure game with an interesting 3D/black-and-white art style. There's also a new Chibi Robo, a sequel to the GameCube game that totally took me by surprise this year and sucked in about 20 hours of my gaming time (while reminding me of the core vibe and happiness of playing a LucasArts graphic adventure). It looks good. And you can even make Chibi dance . Also: Star Fox DS? When does the retro joy stop?

Honestly, this is a powerhouse system, with a seemingly never-ending supply of good games. I hope it keeps going!

Hey, did I ever mention the DS Lite was awesome?

Sony Playstation 3

Finally, it was off to check out the PS3. After a much shorter wait, we headed upstairs to check out the next generation of gaming in the flesh. First, let me say it: six hundred sony dollars. That was the topic of a lot of discussion on the trip: will people buy a $600 gaming system? Do most people even care about Blu-Ray? Will the Xbox 360 seem like a bargain by comparison and sell tons? Is Metal Gear enough to sell a system? (It is for me!) It's going to be a very, very interesting thing to watch — a bold, if potentially-hubris-packed move on Sony's part.

Besides the hot-glued controller on the display, the PS3 is undoubtedly huge — bigger than any gaming system in recent memory, although, to its credit, the power supply is built-in — no more Microsoft Portable Stoves® tucked behind your TV.

Much has been said about the PS3 controller already. For those of you who don't know, it's exactly like the old PS2 controller, except with a new button, wireless, and some WiiLite tilt functionality. I know Sony feels it's a "standard" controller now, but is it really? Does anyone love the Dual Shock, like, want-to-marry style? I was going to say that I hope they do better and push themselves for a more original design this time, I guess that's what got us the dongarang last year...

I spent a fair bit of time looking at Heavy Rain: The Casting, a tech demo from Quantic Dream, creators of Indigo Prophecy. It was clever: set up like a video-game casting session, complete with camcorder status overlay, it was a good demonstration of the kind of raw detail this new machine could pump out. And for the most part, it was indeed impressive, although it suffered from the uncanny valley frequently, a concern for gaming as polygons get fat. Still, it was fascinating to watch, and brought me back to a time when I was still literally amazed by CG in movies, god bless those halcyon days.

Gran Turismo HD looked quite detailed if not revolutionary. Heavenly Sword genuinely felt "next-gen", and of course the trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4, which I tried to only half-watch through my hand because I still haven't finished MGS3.

(As a side note, it was exciting to see SingStar, arguably the best karaoke music game in the world, would be finally coming over here.)

Still, to be honest, I was hoping for more uniqueness from Sony: I'll never forget the E3 that first introduced me to Katamari. I realize I'm probably a niche gamer, but while everything was certainly new at Sony's booth, I'm not sure anything was new.

It's all down to the launch titles!

Sony PSP

I've talked about Loco Roco before. So, I'm going to talk about a single PSP game at E3, the only one that really caught my eye:

WTF. The game.

From D3 Publisher Of America (!), WTF (or "Work Time Fun", making it easily the name of the show) is a collection of mini-game (not micro-game) "jobs" so weird they literally exploded my brain. Literally, as in I had to have surgery immediately afterwards, and it wasn't covered by insurance. WTF is like a strange video-game soup of Mad Magazine, WarioWare, and every issue of GamePro (not including the horrible drawings) mixed together, and it was very entertaining.

I'd best just show you some movies.

Here's one of the crazy games in action . (It obviously involves judicious chopping.)

And here is another clip , demonstrating some truly insane character designs, with the bonus inclusion of "Doom Guy" at the bottom.

WTF was a shining beacon of creativity in the depths of brownguntown. (Here's hoping it's actually fun.)

Microsoft Xbox 360

I'll be honest here: I'm pretty burnt out on Brown Guns, and all their permutations. I'm sure I'll come back to the genre at some point in my gaming time, but for now, I'm all shootered out. The Xbox 360 has many shooters, and many of them look very impressive. Gears Of War, for one, looks fantastic. And I love the boys at Free Radical, so I'm excited about Haze, whatever it may be (we missed the presentation. Great reporting).

Crackdown, best described as Grand Theft Superhero, really caught my attention and could turn out to be a fantastic title — the first supernatural sandbox game. It's on my list.

But what of Rare? A deep, long-dormant part of me was secretly hoping Rare would have some kind of magical new treat to display, but I guess after amazingly shipping two games last year, I should set my clock accordingly. And while Viva Pinata looks like it could be fun, and is super beautiful, it also looks to be skewed at an increidbly young age: one early challenge had you navigating a character through what was basically a diagonal line to another character.

Unfortunately, that's about all I had time to see. I apologize for not having more time to check out the Xbox 360 games, particularly as I'm always on the look out for new Xbox 360 games to buy! If you spotted something cool at E3 for the Xbox 360, drop me a comment...


They totally had a booth. It brought a small tear to my eye. And they seem to want to make N-Gage more of a platform, and less of a system. I genuinely hope it works well for them.

Remind me to tell you the story of sometime!

Leftovers: Kentia Hall and More

It basically goes something like this. Enjoy.

One Final Los Angeles Story

So much else happened on the trip — visiting the American Apparel factory, eating so much so much good food, seeing an art show in a building made of shipping containers, visiting my favorite time-warp shop in Little Tokyo, meeting the grumpy crepe man, falling in love with Famima!!, and much more — but for now, one LA story will have to do.

We're sitting at Hollywood + Highland, eating our Beard Papa Cream Puffs, when John Afryl, fellow gamer, suddenly looked very very serious — like he had just been told the approximate date the earth will cease to be. He slapped me on the shoulder and uttered a simple "Cabel!", causing me to look over, realize what he realized, and quickly get up from my seat. Mike, confused, asked what was up, but we couldn't really bear to reply: this was perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime chance, I figured, to not even pretend for a second to be cool, and just make it happen — meet someone who has indirectly had tremendous influence on my life, creatively, inspirationally, and leisurely.

We walked up, I uttered an embarrassed and poor "sumimasen", we sheepishly asked for a photo, and there it was, in the blink of an eye:

Me and Shigeru Miyamoto. Great moment. Yes, I was obviously (freakishly) happy, and yes, I'm a super nerdosaurus. And if you don't know who this guy is, let's just pretend he's an awesome famous action movie star.

(Finally, confidential for Max and Jack: new Super Smash Brothers! New Yoshi's game with just Yoshi! New Madagascar! New Pokemon! I wish you could have been there!)


Blogger Peter Hosey 5/17/2006 1:53 AM  
I am forever jealous of your Shigsy contact. Great photo. Legend.
Anonymous HeadFridge 5/17/2006 2:47 AM  
Great article. Jealous x10!
Anonymous matt 5/17/2006 5:03 AM  
I am against the electrocution of elephants promoted by this "Wario Ware."
Anonymous lucie 5/17/2006 5:19 AM  
Wow! Absolutely impressive! I really would want to be there! (Plus Miyamoto! MAAAN!)

Very small detail that got my mind stuck. How does the PSP project its screen to that big screen? I didn't see any cables? Does it do it wirelessly?
Anonymous Berke 5/17/2006 5:24 AM  
Love that picture of you and Shiggy. Sounds like it was you you somehow need to take Max and Jack along!
Blogger Josh 5/17/2006 6:40 AM  
Am I the only person who had, used, and enjoyed the Power Glove? I read about all this Wii action and it reminds me of setting those funny Power Glove sensors on the top the TV, then having a grand old time playing Mike Tyson's Punch Out. It sucked for Mighty Bomb Jack though, FYI.
Anonymous Elliott 5/17/2006 7:26 AM  
I used to have an old NES Power Glove. I remember playing Rad Racer with it on my little 13 inch tv set. The sensors would hang off the edge because my TV was so small. I'm still sad that I didn't hang onto that thing. By the way Cabel excellent Blog, I'm hooked! I found your blog because of the DS lite videos, as I'm sure many others did as well, and have loved it ever since. You have the perfect personality for it.
Anonymous Starbuck 5/17/2006 12:37 PM  
Wow, what a chance to get a picture with Miyamoto. I'd kill for that chance. All in all, very very nice writeup. I still wish I could go to E3 one of these days.
Anonymous insaneidiot 5/17/2006 1:54 PM  
omg this is so cool, cabel and miyamoto, lol that is freaking cool!!! Ill be going to the E3 in 3 more years!!! ;)
you have inspired me to make my blag, thanks Cable!
Blogger L1nk 5/17/2006 2:08 PM  
You and Shigs. Awesome.

By the way, I've been thinking about this and I believe that Max and Jack MUST have their own game.

I implore you - when you walk into the office tomorrow MAKE IT HAPPEN.

(: P)
Anonymous Scott 5/17/2006 2:21 PM  
you rock so hard. also, max and jack are the cutest things ever.
Anonymous Anonymous 5/17/2006 3:59 PM  
great wrap-up. you've got a great blog going here, not just with content, also in design! love the dashboard-like photo popups, the quicktime link icons, and the drop-down menus. very classy, like a panic app.
Anonymous Rye 5/17/2006 7:47 PM  
Congrats on meeting Miyamoto and providing a very nice E3 summary. BUT the reason I am posting is because I just watched the Attack of the Show I recorded from Tuesday, May 16th and they mentioned your website!! "He provides a visual, and humorous, look at the differnces between the old and the new DS..." I'm sure you already knew all this or that someone already posted about it but I felt the need to blurt out the excitement I just felt when I saw it.
Anonymous Anonymous 5/17/2006 11:11 PM  
Tell us the story of!
Anonymous Anonymous 5/17/2006 11:23 PM  
this is the coolest e3 report i've read this year!
Blogger Ylvaes 5/18/2006 3:06 AM  
from the side (bottom?) the PS3 looks like a sandwich toaster...
Anonymous Anonymous 5/18/2006 3:44 AM  
What's happening with the PSP? Only one game to talk about from the whole of the show is frightening me. Is the PSP dead in the water? Where are all the games?

Actually let me put that another way where are the good, innovative portable games for the psp?
Anonymous Anonymous 5/18/2006 6:09 AM  
Aww, man! You didn't come through my two hour Metroid Prime 3: Corruption line? Heheheh, I can't blame you. If you thought the line was bad, try being the guy who had to politely kick people off it after 5-7 minutes of play.
Anonymous Zach 5/18/2006 9:35 AM  
Playing Bonk on a Nintendo system isn't weird at all. In fact, I did that 15 years ago on a GameBoy :-)
Anonymous LKM 5/18/2006 1:32 PM  
" ... tasty, wholesome, thirst-quenching Mountain Dew (thanks for the Xbox 360!) ... "

That's called payola. Busted!
Anonymous Will (2) 5/18/2006 4:17 PM  
Your Blog is the Coolest!!!

Thank you!
Anonymous Berke 5/18/2006 4:24 PM  
Holy Smoke!

A very detail post about the E3 2006! Thanks dude! :D
Anonymous Ben Tong 5/19/2006 12:06 PM  
Did you get a chance to play Phantom Hourglass?
Anonymous Anonymous 5/20/2006 12:32 AM  
Yeah, massive props on the little quicktime icons, like that other guy said. So simple, yet so genius.

And then someone else wanted the sidetalkin' story. You should totally make a sidetalkin' video! Celebrity sidetalkers, sidetalkin' special moves... look forward to it.

I think comment #114794905663298625 explains the PS3's $600 price tag. (I can only imagine what it will be in NZ$, I think the PS2 was $1200 at launch.) After getting 1st on every single track in Wipeout, a message will say "You have unlocked the following special ability: toasted sandwich maker" and the PS3 lid will slowly rise, to a soundtrack of the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the entire room will be lit by beams of light radiating from a freshly cooked ham and cheese toasted sandwich. It will, of course, be delicious beyond words. Now that's what I look for in a console. Let's see the Wiimote do that!
Anonymous db 5/20/2006 6:39 AM  
Hi cable,

Maybe one thing about the PS3 pricing. I'm sure people will pay that much. When the PS2 was released in Europe it costed about €500 (22.000 Belgian francs in that uncivilised age :P), 100 euro more isn't that much... You have a 60 Gig HD, Wifi option (which the 360 lacks, extra $$ i've you have wireless internet) and blu ray... As an European, 600 euro's seems like a fair price, compaired to wath some payed for their PS2.

And I don't know hoiw much an iPod costs in the US. Here in Belgium an 60 Gig iPod Video is about 400 euro's... Don't hear complaints about that being expensive...

So, although 600 euros or dollars is much, if you compare it, it's a pretty fair price for what you get...
Blogger squall 5/23/2006 8:53 AM  
But Cable, you forgot to mention the the PS3 controller DOES NOT HAVE RUMBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Blogger mutant piggy 5/24/2006 3:44 PM  
Congrats on meeting Mr. Miyamoto. I wish to have been so lucky.
Anonymous czar 5/28/2006 3:59 AM  
Cabel, dude. You've got easily one of the funniest and best written blogs on this here interweb. Totally on my bookmarks.
Anonymous Tyler 5/31/2006 1:17 PM  
This post has been removed by a blog administrator.
Blogger King of the japs 6/01/2006 1:43 AM  
Keep up the great blog dude, do you have a myspace?
Blogger King of the japs 6/01/2006 1:46 AM  
I'm just glad that photo turned out okay. Cabel neglected to mention the infamous photo op with Charles Martinet that turned out a blurry mess. Oh, how my hands were shaking even worse for Miyamoto.
Anonymous J_John 6/01/2006 3:21 AM  
Nice, Cabel. I enjoyed your writing and was able to enjoy your E3 experience vicariously. I am such a Nintendo guy, and couldn't dream of a title great enough to warrant a $600 price tag. I want my Wii!
Blogger Joel Conrad Bechtolt 6/03/2006 6:39 PM  
nice ds reviews and im glad i got a ds lite because hes "the winner(until a better console)"

(p.s. plz make a 4th review)
Anonymous Anonymous 7/27/2006 4:45 AM  

Post a Comment


Name:Cabel Maxfield Sasser
Job:Co-Founder, Panic Inc.
Location:Portland, OR