This was the first E3 I’ve attended IRL, and I spent most of it interviewing producers of games like Splatoon 2, Jump Force and SoulCalibur 6. Between learning tidbits about whether Splatoon 2’s squid kids eat squid and why SoulCalibur 6’s women still look like pin-ups, I managed to play a few upcoming games that I’m really, really excited about.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
The only way I can describe Super Smash Bros. Ultimate after playing it is “everything I’ve ever wanted.” “Ultimate” isn’t an understatement, either. The game’s bringing back every fighter who’s ever appeared in a Smash game. That means over 65 characters, plus the much-anticipated Ridley from Metroid, Mario’s Daisy and the Inklings from Splatoon 2. That also means three versions of Link. It’s a majorly crowd-pleasing iteration of Smash, with tons of great quality-of-life fixes. The game is also faster than Smash 4, so it’s looking ripe for professional players, many of whom I interviewed after the Smash Ultimate Invitational tournament at E3.
I hadn’t actually heard of Ninjala before stumbling upon its huge, well-designed booth at E3. I had some time to kill, so I gave it a go. It’s a Nintendo-looking multiplayer ninja action game in which players use bubble gum to forge weapons and fight. Players can blow bubbles at their opponents or craft weapons from bubbles, which make stronger, slower weapons the bigger they get. I had a lot of fun with the demo mode, essentially a battle royale. I’d be curious to play other modes, too, since the battle royale seemed like it could get pretty old pretty fast. It’s coming to the Switch early next year.
When I asked Wattam creator Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy) whether he could tell me what Wattam is about, he just looked at me and said “No.” After playing the game, I believe him. From what I saw, Wattam makes absolutely no sense. There’s a mayor who’s a green cube. Under his bowler hat are infinite confetti bombs. He can hold hands with his friends, which range from fruit to toilets. There’s a nose that can sniff stuff. I honestly had no idea how to play Wattam, and I’ve played a lot of psychedelic, arty games. Am I supposed to poop out my friends? Should I hold hands with the poop? Should I throw myself off this cliff? Halfway through the demo, Takahashi asked me if I’d ever played a video game, which I thought was pretty rude. Wattam will be released, eventually.
Out October 19, SoulCalibur 6 looks like a great entry in the Soul fighting game series. It’s gorgeous. It’s got lots of deep, fun mechanics. Geralt from The Witcher is in it. And its story will take place in the 16th century. There almost wasn’t a SoulCalibur 6, I learned in my interview with SoulCalibur 6 producer Motohiro Okubo. “SoulCalibur actually was in a little bit of a crisis as a brand. The company climate wasn’t really encouraging another installment for the franchise,” said Okubo. Although the game looks and feels great, a lot of its female fighters are still over-the-top sexed-up, which isn’t my cup of tea. When I asked Okubo about that, he told me that “We weren’t necessarily going out to try and intentionally make something sexy for the purpose of being sexy.” Huh?
At first glance, Ashen is your typical dark and moody action RPG. “You are a lone wander in a sunless land,” it drones. “The first dawn turns to dusk and finally recedes into familiar blackness.” Yawn. Then, I played a little more. It’s actually great. Fighting feels smooth, challenging and a little Dark Souls-y. Environments are absorbing, especially the deep burgundy, far-East-style palace I saw at E3. Also, it’s got a cool gimmick: Journey-style passive multiplayer. Strangers will glom onto your adventure, but you can’t communicate with them. You just have to hope you share the same goals. It will be released sometime this year.
Killer Queen Black
Killer Queen is basically a perfect game. Teams of five bees compete to win on one of three conditions: killing each other’s queen bee three times, filling their hive with berries or, charmingly, riding a slow, giant snail into their team’s basket. Players can be worker, warrior or queen bees. Until now, it’s been played on a ten-person arcade cabinet. It’s just the most fun. This winter, a fleshed-out version of it called Killer Queen Black is coming to the Switch. Playing it at E3 was 20 minutes of yelling, cursing and cheering—basically the most you can ask for with any local multiplayer game.
Jump Force is a fighting game made of living, breathing action figures plucked from the manga pages of Shonen Jump. Thankfully, it’s a fighting game for beginners, so anybody can get into it and earn some level of competence. It’s crisp and realistic-looking. Players face off in teams of three. Fights take place in real-life locations, which are very cool to watch manga heroes like Goku and Naruto destroy. It’s definitely a fan service game celebrating Shonen Jump’s 50th anniversary, but it’s also a promising new fighter for gamers who couldn’t quite get the hang of Dragon Ball FighterZ.
I was sold on this from the premise: a desert cyberpunk racing game-slash-RPG. It’s got a very space-western vibe with dusty saloons, bounty hunters, hoverbikes and, of course, ramen. The racing part was hard. And between those races, in which players hunt for bounties and deliver drugs, players can customize their bikes and buy items. I wish I had more than a few minutes with the game, but from those minutes, I could tell it’s got a good thing going on.