Specials: There's actually more than 3 wishes, but otherwise this snappy title wouldn't work.
This year's E3 is set to be the best one in the history of the event. With Microsoft unveiling the Xbox 360, Nintendo possibly showing off something about their Revolution, and of course, Sony debuting the PlayStation 3, the focus is on next-generation, even if this
generation is still kicking and will have some amazing software between now and Christmas. There are many reasons to get hyped about the 2005 E3 show, so nailing it down to a handful of most appealing storylines is a challenge, but I've managed to nail down some things I hope we learn more about this year in the world of Sony PlayStation, across all three of their most prominent platforms of the present and future.
Let's finally get a Final Fantasy XII release date!
I can't recall a Final Fantasy game so shrouded in mystery. Announced in fall of 2003 and first shown in playable form at E3 last year, FFXII has been something of an enigma, almost as secretive as a Nintendo game, with Square Enix keeping it under wraps amidst rumors and speculation of internal development troubles and retooling of certain gameplay aspects. Given this is the first FF in years to really break the mold of the standard turn-based RPG gameplay the series is famous for (remember, ATB was used in every FF game since FFIV with the lone exception being FFX), perhaps the troubles and kinda-sorta delays have caused mass chaos inside the SE dev house. Aside from occasional screenshots and trailers thrown about, there's no release date, even for Japan, though Squenix claims it will see release in 2005. But with Kingdom Hearts II and Dragon Quest VIII set for release in the fall, would Square sacrifice their other big franchises for the only one they have that's really been a massive hit in the US? Time will tell, but if it's the case, RPG fans will be busy. Anyway, hopes abound that FFXII will finally have a solid release date ? even if they have to delay it into 2006 (making it 5 years since the last 'traditional' FF game came out and 3 years since the release of Final Fantasy X-2), it would be nice to know and not be left guessing and preparing to be let down again by a phantom release window.
What is Grand Theft Auto PSP?
Earlier this year Rockstar Games made a somewhat quiet announcement of a version of Grand Theft Auto coming for the PSP. Aside from saying that Rockstar Leeds would be the developer under the close eyes of Rockstar North and mentioning the game takes place in Liberty City, they've been mum about the game since. And since the rumor was the game would be ready near the PSP launch, anticipation grew fast. But it's May now and there's still nothing known about this handheld installment of the most popular game franchise in the world. Will it be open-ended like the PS2 version, and risk short battery life due to the need of streaming to make the levels load right? Or will it be scaled back and a bit more linear due to this limitation? Or even more speculative, will it be 3D like the PS2 versions or will it be done in the overhead 2D style of the GTA games pre III? Or, in a farfetched scenario, is GTA PSP a straight port of the seminlal GTA III? We really have no idea, and hopefully E3 will provide some sort of information on this most curious version of GTA. Rockstar is not really big on E3 though, going by their no-show in 2004 and limited presence the 2 years prior. However, on day one last year the very first screens of San Andreas made the rounds, so perhaps we'll have a repeat scenario on a game that could be the first huge system seller for the Sony PSP.
Somebody bring Shadow Hearts 3 to the new world!
Definitely more of a cult franchise, Shadow Hearts has grown in popularity here thanks to the high-quality presentation and amusing, yet gothic storyline. However, even though Shadow Hearts: From the New World was announced in early March and set for release this summer, nobody has gone out and picked up this game for stateside release thus far. Midway, publisher of the first two, may not be able to do the same for the threequel, due to their own troubles and mediocre sales of the original. However, there's more than a few publishers who could swallow their pride and localize this game, and hopefully E3 will present that suitor. It could be Sony who wishes to pick this game up, it could be Ubisoft, it could be Sega, it could be one of many publishers known for picking up projects like this, but seriously, somebody get on the ball and make the small Shadow Hearts fanbase happy and let us play the latest installment of one of the most underrated RPG franchises around. If this game is taking place in America, it better be like Eddie Murphy and coming to America to purchase.
Treat the PSP like a game machine, not a port(able) platform!
It was expected in the PSP's early life that PS2 ports or remakes would occupy a bulk of the launch library. Well, the PSP has been out over a month now, so the time is now for original ideas and games to reach the PlayStation Portable. Unquestionably the novelty of playing your favorite PS2 games on the go is appealing (I would not mind a Final Fantasy X port to PSP), but if Sony is to make the PSP a strong platform it needs original titles. It looks good so far, with games like Infected, The Con, FRANTIX, Gripshift
, etc. But not all hands are played in the days before E3, Venerable franchises that have been announced for PSP like Burnout, Virtua Tennis, Gran Turismo
, and possibly the PSP version of Midnight Club 3
are also certain to appear, making the PSP's library stronger as it carves out its niche in the game market. Now, all I can hope for is a surprise announcement from Namco that not only is Tales of Legendia coming to PS2 in the US, but the PSP remake of Tales of Eternia (or Tales of Destiny 2 in the US) as well ? even if it is a remake. On the other hand, publishers are seeing the PSP as not just a portable platform but a system that's on the same level as the PS2, Xbox and GameCube, which can be both good and bad depending on your perspective.
Show off the PS3 in grand fashion...
Last night Microsoft fully unveiled the Xbox 360, and it will take center stage as the company phases out the Xbox Classic. As the console is the furthest along, E3 will be full of X360 games, accessories, and hype, which on its own will likely overshadow the current era consoles and games releasing this year and next. Because of that momentum, Sony MUST make sure the PS3 gets a chunk of attention this year to weather the impending Xbox 360 storm ? and that means no half-assed presentation; instead, the system should be given as much time to shine as possible. Some say Sony already has started the hype machine, with yesterday's rumor about Sony releasing the system this year, though most everyone believes it was just a bluff to draw attention away from their closest competitor on the eve of their biggest announcement since the Xbox division started and make the less hardcore think twice when they're picking up an X360 this fall. Though Sony has dominated this generation in many ways, they cannot afford to let Microsoft capture momentum this year; this is not Sega and their various screwups launching first, it's a company that has slowly but surely improved their standing in the business with great games and hardware. And at E3, they must steal the thunder, so to speak, from the Xbox 360.
...But don't forget the PS2 at the same time!
After this show, Sony will have three platforms to worry about. That's a lot for a company to handle, even one as big and dominant as Sony. However, they must focus equally on each platform, though the PS2 still must be the main attention draw. Back about 10 years ago when the PlayStation and Saturn came out, Nintendo ran ads promoting their best games, and taking the time to ask 'why upgrade your console when you can play these awesome games?' Sony needs to take a page from that book and do the same thing as part of their Xbox 360 competition strategy. As of now, it looks like the PS2 will have a huge, strong lineup, many of which are exclusive titles. RPG's are the strongest genre ? Final Fantasy XII
(crossing fingers), Kingdom Hearts II, Dragon Quest/Warrior VIII, Radiata Stories, Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus
(technically an action game but it's part of Final Fantasy), and Grandia III
, for starters, from Square Enix ? unquestionably the biggest line up they've ever had at this show. Namco will be showing titles such as Tales of Legendia, We Love Katamari
, and the PS2-exclusive Soul Calibur III
. Sony will be showing off their mascot games; Jak X, Sly Cooper 3
, and Ratchet: Deadlocked
, along with probable surprises that we don't even know about yet (like Killzone 2, if we really need a Killzone 2). Konami will be showing Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
, in a hopeful return to classic Castlevania form. And of course, EA will present a strong lineup of PS2 games, though many of them will take a backseat to the Xbox 360 versions, along with other 3rd parties still playing the cross-platform game. The PS2's lineup is extremely strong in 2005, and that's based upon what we actually know, as E3 is certain to show off even more surprises. Sony's job? To make the average gamer think twice about that Xbox 360 ? not just because of the looming PS3, but the fact that you could put that $3-400 towards a half-dozen or so great, exclusive PS2 games to keep you occupied until Sony's next generation machine. It's a great time to unveil exclusive games as well ? late in a console's life, risks are easier taken. It's not ironic that franchises like Silent Hill, Syphon Filter, and Tony Hawk got their starts at the end of the PlayStation era, and we need a repeat of that. Let's set the stage for next generation with some awesome original titles and not just the latest retread in addition to the awesome sequels coming. Bring balance to the Force.
This year's E3 presents so many storylines that it may require a scorecard to keep track of everything. Starting Monday, Sony will blitz the show, and they must succeed if they're to withstand the furious attack from Microsoft's new system and the usual curiosity that Nintendo displays. With the PS2, PSP, and PS3 to focus attention on, Sony will be extremely busy this year, and hopefully they won't spread themselves thin or put too much emphasis on one console and thus weaken its standing. In order to be a successful show, they must make the PSP look less like a port(able) machine and more like a game console with its own set of exclusive releases, they must make sure the PS3 puts the heat on the Xbox 360 (which will be extremely difficult seeing how cool the Xbox 360 is even after that embarrassingly bad MTV show), and at the same time, don't let the PS2 wilt despite this huge showing of exclusive games planned for it. Knowing how well they did keeping the PlayStation alive years after the PS2 release, I worry little about this; but back then they didn't have the PSP to worry about. No matter what though, Sony will be quite the interesting company to watch this year at E3, which means nothing but good times for fans of the PlayStation brand.
And PS... Midway (or somebody), bring me Shadow Hearts: From the New World or bad stuff will happen.