Last week I flew to Los Angeles for E3, an annual event in which all sorts of video game people gather to complain on Twitter about how busy they are.
At this event, I discovered many Japanese role-playing games. I tried to play — or at least watch — as many as I could. But JRPGs are impossible to demo. Spending 20 minutes with the latest Tales game can't tell you what the story will be like, or whether the characters will resonate with you, or whether the world will keep you captivated for the 20-30 hours it takes to finish one of these beasts. You need to sit down and play it all.
I do want to tell you about what I saw. But all we get at E3 are bite-sized chunks. So I wrote down some bite-sized impressions.
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam
The most exciting news about this game isn't just that it's a cross between Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario — two of my favourite things ever — but that it's developed by Alphadream, the company behind all four Mario & Luigi games, as opposed to Paper Mario devs Intelligent Systems, who have a shakier track record after disappointing games like Sticker Star.
I played a few minutes of Paper Jam, and it is delightful, as you might expect from a Mario & Luigi game. Check out this footage from Nintendo's Treehouse Live, especially the part that starts around 23:35:
The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes
There are some people who would argue that Zelda is not a JRPG. Those people are probably right. But this is my list, so if I want to include the newest Zelda game because it's super slick, you're damn right I'll include the newest Zelda game because it's super slick. It's a three-player co-op game in which you and two buddies have to cooperate to solve puzzles and traverse dungeons, which wasn't a very good selling point for me until I actually tried it. It feels a lot like Link Between Worlds, which makes sense given that it's got the same director.
Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
It's been four years since we last got a Trails game outside of Japan, and incredibly, we're getting two this year: Trails in the Sky Chapter Two (which should be out for PC/PSP by the end of August) and Trails of Cold Steel (out this fall for PS3/Vita). It's impossible to gauge Cold Steel based on the short demo I saw. Feels like a Trails game, that's for sure. Word out of Japan is that it's pretty damn great, and that it ends with an even worse cliffhanger than TitS. (XSEED's Brittany Avery assures me that Cold Steel 2 is already getting localised and will be out next year.)
Legend of Legacy
Lotta legends up in here. Legend of Legacy, not to be confused with League of Legends or Legend of Heroes, is a SaGa-ish turn-based RPG that lets you pick one of seven protagonists — I picked the frog — and has an interesting formation-based battle system that's sort of reminiscent of FFXIII. Excited to play more of this one.
Strategy-RPG. Anime as hell. Maybe Imageepoch's last game ever?
Kinda weird that Bungie decided to replace shooting with turn-based JRPG combat and turn all the Guardians into anime characters, but hey, I'm not complaining.
Tales of Zestiria
I did not actually play this one, but I watched someone play it on one of Namco's demo machines, and I can confirm that it is a Tales game. Dungeons, towns, hack-n-slash combat, anime cut-scenes... you know how it is. I'm not sure what else to say until I get my hands on the real thing and can properly assess the story, combat, and other choices they have made.
Dark Souls 3
I also didn't play this one, but I watched a lengthy demo. It's more Dark Souls, which might not be such a good thing for fans accustomed to the aggressive style of this year's Bloodborne. Kirk's got lengthier impressions coming in the near future.
Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight
I actually already have this on my 3DS. I played a bit on the flight. It's fun! The writing in the new story mode isn't great, but the dungeon-crawling is.
Also, here is a list of JRPGs that were mentioned at E3 but were not on the show floor: Xenoblade Chronicles X, Star Ocean 5, Kingdom Hearts III, Nier 2, Project Setsuna, World of Final Fantasy, Persona 5, Fire Emblem: Fates, SMT x Fire Emblem, FFVII Remake.
So, yes. This was a good E3.