Amidst Ubisoft, Devolver, the VR showcase and a string of indie titles was a small little showcase called the Future of Play Direct. It was short, at just under 17 minutes, but pound for pound it was easily one of the better E3 2021 shows.
After a short introduction from a supposed AI character — much like a VTuber — proceedings began with a Switch trailer for the Maori-inspired, cyberpunk photography game Umurangi Generation. This one launched on the eShop very recently, although there’s a very cool thing you can only do on Switch: you can physically rotate the entire console to take portrait shots, something that’s a right pain in the arse with normal controls.
After a re-release for Hyperdot on PS4, PS5 and the Switch (sometime this spring), a trailer for Sephonie played. It’s an exploration style game from the makers of the Anodyne series, although Sephonie doesn’t lean into the PS1/PS2 vibe quite as hard.
The game’s due out sometime this year, and a demo is available now on Steam.
Skullgirls 2nd Encore and its DLC, Annie of the Stars, followed afterwards, although that’s been on the cards for a while. (The DLC was originally supposed to be out in May, but that’s been bumped to potentially this month or next.)
The next title was a super high contrast turn-based RPG called Bravery Network Online. It’s been out in early access for a few months now. The whole hook is that you play against others with a team of five fighters, giving commands in secret. People of the world within Tower 6 fight for resources, and you take the role of the team’s coach, giving orders along the way.
The next game was Love Shore, a story-driven dystopian sci-fi point-and-click adventure where you play as one of two characters (Farah or Sam). It’s “coming soon”.
A trailer for Hellbent then played. It’s a co-op side-scrolling pixel art brawler, but you spend most of the time beating the crap out of rats in a sewer. It’s absolutely got a vibe, that’s for sure.
The last part of the show was then a quickfire montage of upcoming indies, including some other titles like Never Yield, Dome-King Cabbage, the chill cooking simulator Soup Pot, Chinatown Detective Agency, She Dreams Elsewhere, the rhythm adventure Unbeatable, Spirit Swap, The Wild at Heart, and a surprise Australian entry in Way to the Woods. Bomb Rush Cyberfunk — the spiritual Jet Set Radio successor — appeared too, but the footage was the same as the official trailer from earlier this year.
It was a short but sweet show, and it did what all good conferences should do: leave you wanting more. I’m not sure the virtual presence/VTuber host will be to everyone’s liking. But as far as E3 conferences go, more footage of fewer, cooler titles is definitely the way forward.
Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly quoted Dome-King Cabbage as Dome-King Garbage; my sincerest apologies to the developers.