Special: Just like VH1, I love the 80s (and the 90s)
E3 is a little under a month away. Forget Christmas, for gamers this is the most wonderful time of the year. Well actually Christmas is pretty good too because all the great games that are announced at E3 are usually released at Christmastime.
Last year was a banner year for reviving some classic franchises on the PlayStation 2. From Maximo to Contra to Shinobi the days of old have been brought into the 21st century while still recognizing their heritage. The platformer also made a huge splash last year with Ratchet and Clank and Sly Cooper making the genre popular again.
2003 should be no different. The rumors have begun swirling about what may and may not show up at E3 and I'm here to let you know what you'll see, what I want to see, and what you probably won't see. So here we go.
Status: Will definitely make an E3 appearance
In February Konami announced that the development team behind arguably two of the best Castlevania games ever, Symphony of the Night and Harmony of Dissonance, will next put their muscle behind a Playstation 2 version of Castlevania. No details have been released yet, and the question of whether the game will be 2D or 3D has definitely gone unanswered. But Castlevania is said to "Maximize the processing power of the console, the ominous drama of the franchise will be realized through exhilarating action, a rich story, breathtaking environments, dazzling next-generation graphics and a sweeping musical soundtrack." If you're going to be at E3 Konami has said they will have booth number 900 in the South Hall and there you'll get your first look at Castlevania.
Status: Will almost definitely make an E3 appearance
Konami has also been very hard at work on the fifth game in the Gradius series. The Vic Viper will not go quietly into that dark space and best of all the series is being brought back just like Contra was, a fully 3D side scrolling shooter. If that news weren't good enough Konami has said the game is currently scheduled for a fall 2003 release so it's almost a guarantee that Gradius V will be humming along right next to Castlevania at the Konami booth. Until then, take a look at the first two screens:
Status: Will probably make an E3 appearance
Another classic space shooter of the side scrolling days is the R-Type series and Irem has plans to bring a new version of that series into stores in 2003 as well. If you can read Japanese (or don't mind a strange Babelfish translation), Irem has put up the official R-Type Final site. It has a few screens and lots of concept art detailing the evolution of this 2D space shooter. IGN has also gotten a hold of a promo video of R-Type Final and as the only game on this list you can see in motion, I suggest you check it out. R-Type Final has not received a North American release date yet but it is on schedule to ship in Japan in July 2003. Irem has also released a demo of the game in Japan, so if it is coming to America I'm sure it'll show up at E3. We just have to keep our fingers crossed.
Status: Will probably make an E3 appearance
A few weeks back the development team at Overworks announced that they have begun work on a sequel. Absolutely zero is known about this title right now except for a cryptic remark by Noriyoshi Ohba, a co-designer on the original Shinobi. He talked about making a completely different games system and said "I'd like to show a well-evolved one with more thought put into the play balance. There are a lot of issues left to tackle, I think." But Shinobi 2 is likely to show up at E3 so we'll all be able to learn what that means.
Ghouls 'n Ghosts Online
Status: Doesn't technically exist yet, but will likely appear at E3
For a game that doesn't technically exist yet, Ghouls 'n Ghosts Online has a lot of information on it. At this year's Game Developer's Conference Zona Inc., an MMORPG company, unveiled they're latest project, Ghouls 'n Ghosts Online. Capcom has made no announcement concerning the game, but Zona had all the dirt: screenshots, concept art, a promotional poster. They even had a rough build of the game running at the GDC. And in a move that is sure to win Zona many fans, Ghouls 'n Ghosts Online will release for all three next generation systems and the PC and regardless of what system they have players will be able to play against anyone else. This is the way the online revolution should happen. It doesn't matter whether you have a PS2, an Xbox, a GameCube, or a PC, everyone can come together and play a game.
The game follows the path of Arthur's son and eleven other playable characters that have to fight the ghouls and ghosts of the title. Early shots make it look like a more realistic version of Maximo but I have to stress it is still very early. But you can tell for yourself.
Like I said, Capcom has made no announcement about Ghouls 'n Ghosts Online yet but with all this information out there I think it's very likely it'll be at E3. And if not, I'm sure Zona will come through with some good stuff. Maximo 2
Status: Announced, but no details have been released on the game in a year
Maximo 2 was announced in the pages of EGM last May but Capcom has been totally tight lipped about the game since then. Then, David Siller of Capcom said Maximo 2 will feature "more user-friendly camera angles, a more prominent role for the Grim Reaper, and a wider variety of gameplay elements to break up the hop, skip and jump gameplay." He also went on to say that the game would likely include a hidden complete side scrolling game set in the Ghouls 'n Ghosts universe. It was never specified whether the game would be all new or if it would just be a port of an older adventure, which is more likely.
If the game still exists (and I don't see why it shouldn't) it will probably make an E3 appearance. But at this point we just don't know.
Rumors abound that Midway liked the idea behind Activision Anthology so much that they are going ahead with their own Anthology disc. The disc would include Midway classics like SpyHunter, Defender, Joust, Robotron, Gauntlet, Blaster, Super Sprint, Rampage, Sinistar, Smash TV, 720, Marble Madness, Paperboy, Bubbles, Rampart, Moon Patrol, Stargate, Splat, Satan's Hollow, Klax, Toobin, Roadblasters, Vindicators, and Joust 2. If the presentation is halfway as good as Activision's Anthology then a Midway Anthology would be a surefire hit. This is still just a rumor, but as we all know, what better place to announce a new game than at E3?
Unknown Konami Game
Status: Searching for developers, but this is all speculation on my part and nothing about this game will appear at E3
Recently Konami put up a job listing on it's Konami TYO website (the development house behind Castlevania, Contra: Shattered Soldier and Gradius V) that they are searching for nine employees to work on an upcoming 3D action game. They are looking for programmers with experience in 3D action games, 3D animators, 3D background artists, 3D character modelers, and 2D/3D effects artists. The interesting part of this listing though is that it is accompanied by three screenshots of Contra: Shattered Soldier. The title these programmers would be working on was not revealed in the job listing but wouldn't it be great if it had something to do with Contra? If this unknown game appears at E3 at all it will only be in the form of a press release as Konami is still looking for programmers. For those that wish to see it, the job listing is here, be warned, it's in Japanese.
The Final Word
With E3 right around the corner there will be plenty of announcements, rumors, and just plain lies flying around the game industry. But at the very least it's good to know that fans of old school games will have plenty to look forward to in 2003 and beyond. The E3 Expo will be May 13 - 16 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.