Los Angeles – On May 11th, 2004, Konami unveiled their E3 2004 lineup in a pre-show, held at the Los Angeles Public Library and Auditorium for a select audience of industry journalists.
These preshows have a certain pattern to them. A company rents a location, hires caterers, and fills a bunch of writers up with plentiful food and liquor until our judgement is almost certainly impaired. Then, and only then, do they show us the games. It is a clever plan, only occasionally derailed by the near-superhuman drinking capacity of many video game journalists
In Konami’s case, they really shouldn’t’ve bothered. As their president, Tommy Yotsuba (sp?) said, this is one of the, if not the, strongest lineups in the company’s history, featuring a mixed cast of strong newcomers with equally strong new entries in long-running series.
After a very brief warm-up act by award-winning comedian Sue Murphy, who bombed (it’s not her fault; she’s very funny; she just decided to do a bit about how it’s cool to be a dork in front of an audience of game journalists from across the world, and furthermore, she was standing between us and the Metal Gear Solid 3 Q&A), Konami got the ball rolling with a few minor announcements.
Konami’s intent is to continue to expand their involvement and collaboration with various entertainment properties, and, in the words of Jeff Morita, to continue to blur the line between movies and games. Other quick news delivered at this stage of the show included the announcement of a new Frogger game for the Nintendo DS, the PlayStation Portable, the GameCube, and the PlayStation 2; and that Dance Dance Revolution Extreme will support the EyeToy.
This was followed by a near-literal barrage of trailers, featuring all of Konami’s upcoming titles: King Arthur, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, Gradius V, Phantom Crash 2050 (which will include online play), Todd McFarlane’s Evil Prophecy (which will be, like, the third game to support the PS2 multitap), Nanobreaker, Ys: Ark of Napishtim, Suikoden IV, DDR Extreme Ultramix 2 (which will also support online play), and Karaoke Revolution vol. 2.
A neat segueway followed into the introduction of Konami’s big announcement: Enthusia Professional Racing, a first-person racing sim that they’ve been working on in secret. In Enthusia, currently slated for release at some point in 2005, you’ll be able to pick one of hundreds of real cars, from more than forty licensed manufacturers, and take it onto the racetrack using one of the single most advanced physics engines in videogame history.
We were shown a demonstration of Enthusia’s engine, side by side with a real car on a real racetrack driving through the same set of traffic cones, and the rendered car performed identically to the real one. In point of fact, were it not for the “jaggies” on the edges of the car’s polygons (an early quirk of the engine, no doubt), it was hard to tell which car was which.
Onscreen meters, during a race, will monitor your car’s tire grip, gas, and brake, while water actually beads realistically on the windshield. Up to six cars can compete against each other in any given race, in a series of different environments such as city streets, although at this point, online play is a low priority.
Next up was a festival of new Yu-Gi-Oh! titles. Capture Monster Coliseum, on PS2, will deliver what Konami believes to be “the most strategic board dueling game to date,” while Destiny Board Traveler fuses the fun of a board game with the strategies of the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game for dueling action on the GBA. Destiny Board Traveler is compatible with the GBA Link Cable, for four-player portable dueling action. The former game is on track for a June release, while Destiny Board Traveler will come out in October.
Also, on GBA, there’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction, a June release and a sequel to the hit The Sacred Cards. Fight through a hundred duelists and more to take on Reshef, the “Dark Being,” who would like to destroy the world. Reshef of Destruction, just to sweeten the deal, will ship packed with three exclusive, limited-edition cards: Dark Magician Knight, Knight’s Title, and Sage’s Stone.
PC gamers have the unfortunately titled Power of Chaos: Joey the Passion to look forward to. An all-new interface will allow you to wield a few hundred new cards, as well as cards you can import from the previous two games in the trilogy: Yugi the Destiny and Kaiba the Revenge. Joey the Passion -- a name which will not stop being funny anytime soon – will feature multiplayer options via LAN, and is currently planned to ship in June.
This’ll be a big summer for the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise, incidentally. In addition to about fifty games, Yugi and pals will be the stars of a Yu-Gi-Oh! feature film, which’ll be showing August on more than three thousand screens; the new fourth season of their popular children’s television series; and a newly announced game for the Nintendo DS, Nightmare Troubadour, which stores your deck on the bottom screen while you conduct the action via the top touchscreen. When asked about any plans for the forthcoming PSP, Yu-Gi-Oh! ’s producer, Satoshi Shimamura’s response was a quick “No comment.”
In a jarring transition, the next game on Konami’s agenda was Rumble Roses, the all-female wrestling title on PS2 that, in the words of Sue Murphy, is already endorsed by the National Organization of Women. Introduced with a trailer that parodied Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, Rumble Rose features ten thousand polygons per highly animated wrestler. You can even see facial expressions in realtime.
Atari Uchida, the game’s producer, said, paraphrased, that one of the team’s goals was to produce a fast-paced, well-animated “wrestling experience” with a fighting-game feel.
Then he showed off the bikini mud wrestling, complete with mud quasi-realistically sliding down the near-naked bodies of the wrestlers.
I am beginning to detect something of a mixed message.
In any event, we’re talking about a highly robust, visually spectacular, very fanservicey wrestling game, that’s more about Japanese wrestling than American “sports entertainment.” Each character has access to a large and acrobatic moveslist, as well as weapons, and if they’re beaten enough, the wrestler enters Humiliation Mode, where they gain access to new moves. More importantly, a character will adapt herself to your play style, so she’ll get better at the maneuvers you like to use. Rumble Rose is currently slated for a November release.
After a ten-minute intermission, Hideo Kojima was welcomed onstage. “Once again,” he said, “this is the year of Metal Gear Solid.” His new philosophy, he said, is to “live positively,” which he expressed by urging us not to kill too many people in MGS3.
First, though, there’s Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django, the new “solar action RPG,” which is so uniquely Japanese as to be almost ridiculous. By using the solar sensor built into the Game Boy Advance cart, you’ll be able to absorb sunlight and use it to fuel both your weapons, by making use of the new “solar smith,” and a series of magical spells. Django, in the game’s dramatic new story, will return to the city of the sun, San Miguel, and explore many new dungeons. His rival, the Dark Boy Sabato, also returns.
After the trailer, and a lengthy Q&A session, Kojima yielded the floor to Nobuya Nagasako, the producer of Neo Contra. Nagasako claims that 90% of what the team wants to include in the game will be in there, and that despite being in 3D, the game retains its 2D roots.
He also revealed that two well-known “guest creators” have contributed their work to the game. One is Jim Lee (Uncanny X-Men, WildCATs, Batman), the American comics artist whose art can currently be seen on Superman, who provided the main visuals for Neo Contra. The other is Kazuyoshi Katayama, the director of the anime series “The Big O,” whose specialization in over-the-top, superhuman action can be seen in effect in the game.
Set in 4444 AD, the main characters of Neo Contra are series mainstay Bill Rizer, and a samurai named Jaguar. They were shown destroying mutant and mechanical enemies in a variety of environments, using what would appear to be the same three-weapon variable system as Contra: Shattered Soldier. Katayama’s influence was clear in several stages, as Bill and Jaguar rode dinosaurs into battle, as well as fought an alien warship while running atop a revolving helicopter rotor.
Again, your hit rate will determine the number of stages you encounter, although individual stages were said to be longer than in Shattered Soldier, as well as your ending. There are no current plans to take Neo Contra online. It, too, will see daylight in November of 2004.
After those games, Konami ended the event with a live demonstration of Karaoke Revolution vol. 2, with special guest singer Shannon Elizabeth to help try out the game on a brand-new Logitech microphone. She’s not a bad singer, either, especially while belting out “I Will Survive” to a befuddled, planted audience member.
Karaoke Revolution vol. 2 features thirty-five new songs, seven new characters, three new venues, more than thirty new outfits, a new campaign mode entitled Showtime, and Medley Mode, letting players link up to five song clips together in succession. All in all, the motto for the game – “Public humilation has never been this much fun!” – seems painfully accurate.
While they chose to arrange the games in a bizarre order – Shannon Elizabeth could not have been more out of place following the Silent Hill 4 talk – Konami’s really got a dynamite lineup this year, and is doing their share to contribute to what’s going to be another nailbiter of an autumn and winter. Between MGS3, SH4, the Yu-Gi-Oh! series for the kids, and <I>Karaoke Revolution</I> to play while apocalyptically drunk, Konami really did have something for everyone at this year’s show.