PAX Prime 2013 Preview Roundup

IMG_1670After having a blast at PAX EAST back in March, I knew I had to experience PAX Prime as well. I almost didn’t think I get badges in time, but I was able to snag a weekend pass before they all sold out a few months ago. The convention was a great experience for me and I played a lot of upcoming cool releases. Here are my impressions from the show.

NINTENDO 3DS AND PLAYSTATION VITA

Pokemon X and Y
The new 3D graphics are wonderful and make Pokemon feel new again. Still, I’m a bit fatigued with the formula, and I’m really hoping GameFreak changes the gym badges routine to something different to freshen things up.

Sonic Lost World
Sonic felt solid and seemed like Sega’s version of Super Mario Galaxy. It was a relief that the camera wasn’t a disaster and although the speed did feel a bit slower than past Sonic games this one looks like a winner.

Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate
A faithful companion piece to Rocksteady’s console games down to the combat, and gadgets. Only the viewpoint sporting a 2D look felt different. The demo involved chasing Catwoman across buildings and taking out thugs. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s awesome to have a Batman game you can take anywhere.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Two Worlds
My most anticipated game of this year besides Grand Theft Auto V didn’t disappoint. It evoked fond memories of A Link to the Past and the wall painting merging technique seemed like a cool new gameplay feature. I used the ability outside of the dungeon to navigating moving platforms and reach hidden areas to great effect. Seeing classic Zelda enemies like Stalfos brought a smile to my face and I thought the 3D complimented the gameplay very well similar to Super Mario 3D Land. When Link catapult up high midway through the dungeon, it looked like he was trying to leap out of the screen.

Terraway
The best use of the PlayStation Vita’s touch controls I’ve seen so far along with the adorable charm of LittleBigPlanet. What I played seemed promising, and I hope more developers can use the Vita hardware in innovative ways like Media Molecule.

NEW CONSOLE HARDWARE and GAME IMPRESSIONS

Xbox One Controller
It felt great, but. I didn’t notice much of a difference. Not a problem since the 360 controller is my favorite from the current generation of hardware.

PS4 Controller
I thought the new controller was a big improvement over the Dual Shock 3. It felt sturdier in my hands, with noticeably improved analog controls and triggers that help make it one of the most comfortable controllers I’ve ever used.

2DS
It looked like a piece of toast, but the device was comfortable. I think it loses portability without the hinge though, and the form resembles a tablet more than a portable video game console. For gamers who don’t care about 3D and want a cheap system this hits the mark this is a good option, but the 3DS XL is still my favorite.

Ryse: Son of Rome
I almost passed on this one because the line was so long, but I’m glad I stood it out because Ryse: Son of Rome surprised me with its quality. The character models, flames, and the smoke definitely looked next gen. The combat was also very satisfying with a good mixture of defensive moves and brutal finishing attacks. Not a system seller, but you could do worse for a launch title if you plan on picking up a Xbox One.

Titanfall
Not being much of multiplayer shooter guy I didn’t think Titanfall justified the three-hour wait, but I’m so glad I played it. The 24 player multiplayer mode was a lot of fun, and I liked how Respawn balanced the gameplay by making you wait for your titan. It was also really cool to see players eject themselves from the pilot seat and watch a Titan get taken down single handily by one soldier. I am officially excited about Titanfall.

Killzone: Shadowfall
After playing Titanfall this felt a lot slower, but the graphics were great, and I liked the more tactical teamwork play of protecting bases. As is Killzone tradition, guns models looked great and looks like it’s be another worthwhile exclusive for Sony.

Knack
Like Ryse: Son of Rome I initially wasn’t thrilled to play Knack, but since the line wasn’t outrageously long, I decided to give it a shot. Knack reminded me a lot of a Crash Bandicoot and Kameo. Nothing outstanding, but using super power style moves and jumping felt smooth and seeing all the cool techniques Knack uses as he gets bigger kept things interesting. I was also surprised how challenging the game was, and I must have died about three times within the first two minutes of play. Knack feels like a sleeper hit so I encourage you to keep your eye on this one.

Contrast
One of the highlights of the show for me. I love the art style that looks like an animated Tim Burton film, and the musical score evokes the 1950’s movie era. Not only is this game great to look at, but it’s very innovative too. Merging into walls and using the shadows as platforms is a really cool concept. I did get a little lost in the demo so some hint reminders might be helpful. All in all, I’m looking forward to downloading this little gem when I get my launch PS4.

CURRENT GENERATION GAMES

Super Mario 3D World
I only got to try the boss level (one of four playable sections) with three other players, but the game played just as well as the last Super Mario 3D Land. The boss battle against a dragon required jumping on higher platforms emerging to hit the boss’s head. It was harder than I anticipated and playing as Luigh meant my jumps were slippery. While it’s not the genre-defying Super Mario Galaxy sequel I was hoping for, it’s a blast to play with other players, and the catsuit appears to be a worthy addition.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
I played with the remote and nunchuck for this game, and it felt a lot like the original Wii one. The game definitely benefits from the Wii U’s upgraded HD graphics with lush jungle design and realistic character models. However, this game feels very safe like Super Mario 3D World, and I didn’t come away wowed. I’m still looking forward to playing this game though, and I’m sure Retro has some surprises up its sleeve.

Lighting Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
The dungeon section I tried focused on combat and ended with a boss battle. And it felt very similar to the previous entries. You switched character class with up to four moves to use. Each used energy, and you had to wait for them to recharge. While a little difficult at first I got the hang of it, and the blocking mechanic was very fun. The boss battle required you to stagger him and us the right move combination to do the most damage. The only thing I didn’t like is Lighting is overtly sexualized like Aya Brea from The Third Birthday and doesn’t seem consistent with her character.

HIGHLIGHT OF PAX

Oculus Rift
My highlight of the show was the Oculus Rift. I missed it at GDC and was so glad I made time to try it out this time. I did a racing demo that felt like I was in the cockpit of the car. When I turned my head, I left and right to turn so did the game. I had to use my hands to steer like Kinect, but it felt really immersive and I can’t wait when the full retail version is available.

PAX Prime came and went, but it really helped to have four days instead of three to experience it. There’s no way I would have been able to play all these games without the extra day. I hope you enjoyed reading my preview roundup and if you were also at PAX Prime and played something cool that I didn’t feel free to leave your impressions in the comments.

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