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Finishing Touches

Theo Litowski

I believe it was Blizzard that said: Nothing gold can stay.
Robert Frost? That's what I meant.

Today was definitely the denouement of the Expo's festivities. I had notes on almost every game I needed notes on, so today was about enjoying myself. Not that I didn't have fun the last few days, but there was zero pressure on me to accomplish a whole lot today. I wound up accomplishing quite a bit, which probably says something about my psyche.

I decided to really expand my horizons today. I played games that I normally don't have a lot of interest in or the faculty for. I spent some time in the PC section, playing a bunch of FPSs. I got pwnt six ways to Sunday most of the time, but the games were great. There's a small piece of my big gaming heart set aside for FPSs, and the vast majority of that small piece is devoted to player-versus-player. It was nice to sit down and frag some guys without taking notes. I wandered over to the Xbox 360 section and played some more FPSs over there (the systems were not networked, so I played the plot missions). I forget what the game is called, but there were a bunch of booth babes dressed as the main characters wandering around. I also caved and played a zombie smashing game for the Xbox 360. Almost any item can be used by you (or the zombies) in combat. This includes plush animals, broomsticks, hammers, toy swords, buckets, and severed hands. It was a little gory for my taste, but a great spin on a classic genre.

I gave a little more of my time to Atlus, too. They had so many RPGs that I just had to try them all. Devil Summoner was pretty neat, but still in Japanese. Fortunately, there was a Japanese-speaking Atlus rep there that led me through some of the process. Unfortunately, he was not there when I tried Yggdra Union, which was so text-heavy that I was forced to give up.

Korean RPGs were also on my list of things to see. While many of the Asian games did not have North American publishers, I found two games that had managed to hit the big time. They were very much trying to promote these new games: booth babes, giveaways, a big stage, cardboard cutouts of busty women, and a sophisticated setup. I like to see Asian developers getting a piece of North American action.

It took me a while to work up the courage to play Final Fantasy XII. I have such high hopes for Square-Enix and the FFXII project and have been getting increasingly worried that it will not be as awesome as it could be. After seeing and playing so many other RPGs in the last few days, I began to unwind. I had too may eggs in one basket. Even if FFXII winds up being terrible, I will still have a ton of great games to play. With a renewed perspective on RPGaming in general, I walked over to Sony's booth and played it. The plot, voice acting, and graphics were amazing. The movements were incredibly natural and strikingly fluid. It was a delight to watch, even standing way too close to a flatscreen that was way too big.

The jury is still out on the battle system, though. We had moderate control over the gambits; a far cry from the Dragon Quest VIII demo disk. I honestly hope that the gambit system was more than what I saw there. I will do some research later to look into it, but I have a bad feeling about this. Unless I can practically program the AI myself, there will be trouble. Toggling various individual behaviors on and off is not the level of customization a game like this needs. Don't get me wrong, the combat was OK, but not what it could be. I had characters die on me constantly, and I had a game over against some random enemies because I couldn't heal fast enough. Status ailments really got to me, too

By the way, Square-Enix had booth babes too. Some Mithra (catgirls to non-FFXI players) were flogging the new expansion pack. I didn't bring a camera, but S-E has a photo of me with the catgirls on their website for me to claim later. How did I manage that? I'll tell you:

S-E had this major contest going on at the FFXI booth. You could answer Final Fantasy trivia for draw tickets. The prizes? Huge speaker systems, an awesome PC, oodles of FFXI swag, and some gaming gear. I ran into Chris by accident on the conference floor, and we found ourselves participating in the contest, also by accident. We both answered one question right and got one draw ticket each. When the time for the draw came around, I realized that some guys had 20+ draw tickets from hanging around the booth all week. Oddly enough, my single ticket won me a PC cordless/rumble controller. I also got a picture with the Mithra.
[Aside: the winner of the PC got his picture taken with the Mithra girls and the producer of FFXI, Takahashi. That would be an amazing picture.]

Anyhow, that wrapped up the day, and I took the shuttle back to my hotel for the last time.

L.A. is a beautiful city. Palm trees, beautiful buildings, and a temperate climate. A little much air pollution for my tastes, though.

I bid you all good night, and I hope you enjoyed our coverage of E3 2006. Even though the event is over, we will be posting impressions and news updates gleamed from the event for the next few days, so keep checking in.

A pleasure doing business with you all,
Theo Litowski

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