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Animefringe Coverage:
E3 2002: Part 2 - An Alternate Angle
By J.P. Arevalo

Going to E3?! Woo!

When the Nintendo representative called and mentioned something about a "Going to E3" contest, I was pretty excited. I had never been to E3 before, but of course, I've always wanted to. We had to sell more GameCube hardware, software, and accessories in the current quarter, than we did last quarter, and we had to have the biggest increase in all the Toys R Us stores in Canada to do it. To make a long story short, we did it. I was going to E3, all expenses paid. Life is good.

So there I was in Los Angeles, arriving at E3, my first time there. It was all that I had hoped it would be, and more. When I got on the floor, I went straight to the first thing that caught my eye, Suikoden III. I tried that out for a little while, then looked up and saw the huge screen over the Konami booth playing video of Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance and Silent Hill 3, and the excitement ensued.

For me, the good stuff started happening on Day 3, when a friend convinced me to wait in line with him at the Nintendo area for the ever-popular wheel game that they had going on there. Contestants sat around a wheel and in front of them was a slot with a t-shirt and a little glow chain. The organizers would put four Wavebird chips in random slots, and sometimes a Platinum GBA, and then spin the wheel. If the Platinum GBA landed in front of you then you won it automatically, but if you got one of the four Wavebird chips then you were sent to compete against 3 others in a game of Mario Party 4. Well, as luck would have it, my friend and I won the chance to compete for the Wavebird. It was best of 5, and three of us had won two games a piece, my friend was the only one who didn't win yet. On that last game, my friend and I tied, making me the winner! And so, I was given my brand new Wavebird inside a little purple pouch, and it felt great. Oh and by the way, the Wavebird rocks! If you have four of them hooked up at the same time, they will work flawlessly. So if you have a GameCube, pick one up this month!

Needless to say, I was having a great time, trying out all the games I wanted to try, trying some new ones, taking pictures, and all that fun stuff you do at E3. I could go on and tell you about the experience, but the important things are the games, right? I'm going to run down my top 10 picks at E3:

#10 - Title: .hack
Genre: RPG
Platform: Playstation 2
Publisher: Bandai
Anyone's who's watched .hack TV anime knows what to expect from this game. The premise revolves around a popular MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game) called, "The World". Even though the game is about a MMORPG, there are no online elements to the game. The game will also be packed in with a 40 minute .hack OVA anime episode. People who like their games in its original form will be happy to discover that you can choose from either English or Japanese language tracks for the game!

#9 - Title: Robotech: Battlecry
Genre: Cel-shaded mech/flying combat
Platform: GameCube, X-Box, Playstation 2
Publisher: TDK
Finally, a Robotech games makes its way to North America! After Robotech for Nintendo 64 failed to come to fruition, many hardcore Robotech fans were left disappointed. Rejoice! Robotech is here and it's looking great. Even though cel-shading is being overdone these days, it fits Robotech well and the result is a great, smooth-looking game. From the Veritechs to the awesome missile trails, the game is quite a marvel, and since it is available on all the major platforms, there's no reason you shouldn't give it a shot!

#8 - Title: Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II
Genre: Online Action RPG
Platform: GameCube
Publisher: SEGA
Although Nintendo has been cautious about their online strategy, they will be releasing their 56k and broadband adapters in the fall and the first game to make use of them will be Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II. The GCN version of the Dreamcast hit will sport 3 new character classes (HUcaseal, FOmar, RAmarl), as well as new monsters, weapons and stages to keep PSO fans interested.

#7 - Title: The Legend of Zelda (working title)
Genre: Action RPG
Platform: GameCube
Publisher: Nintendo
All the skeptics who thought that the new cartoony, cel-shaded Zelda game would not be very interesting at all, need only try the game to realize how wrong they were. The new Zelda is full of vibrant colors and classic Zelda action. Miyamoto has succeeding at breathing life into another wonderful title that not only looks brilliant, but plays just as brilliant too. Any N64 Zelda fans who are afraid to pick up and play this title should be notified that the control feels the same as the two N64 classics, so give it a shot!

#6 - Title: Gungrave
Genre: Action
Platform: Playstation 2
Publisher: SEGA
Red, makers of the mega popular Sakura Taisen (Sakura Wars) series, bring us Gungrave, an action shoot-em-up complete with a super stylized main character. The main character uses twin guns, and a coffin (?!) strapped to his back as weapons. When enemies get too close, the coffin can be swung around knocking out all characters within its range. The coffin acts as a bazooka for special attacks. The sheer fun of walking into a bar and shooting dozens of enemies on screen is just incredible. The style of the game is very anime-ish, from its presentation to the cel-shaded visuals.

#5 - Title: Mario Sunshine
Genre: 3D Action/Adventure
Platform: GameCube
Publisher: Nintendo
Miyamoto's masterpiece has returned and is making its debut on the GCN. If you've played Super Mario 64, and you probably have, you'll be familiar with the style of play. The added gimmick is Mario's waterpack that can be used to shoot enemies and clear paths, as well as a water jet pack, helping Mario get to those places a normal jump couldn't. While their might be more functions for Mario's waterpack, these two are the only ones I tried out at the show. In terms of play, the game isn't the huge leap that Super Mario 64 was, but there's something about the Mario world that always keeps you coming back, and Mario Sunshine is no exception.

#4 - Title: Shinobi
Genre: 3D Action
Platform: Playstation 2
Publisher: SEGA
The Shinobi series, for me, is one of the best 2D platform series of all time. To see this transition into 3D is bittersweet. Whenever your favorite 2D game hits 3D, you are usually skeptical about how that 2D goodness can translate into a 3D world. Well I'm delighted to say that I really enjoyed this new Shinobi. The overall presentation stays the same and the game succeeds at keeping that aura of classic Shinobi about it. You can run along walls, dash, and slice enemies in two...all the good things ninja's can do. Bottom line is, it's fun and it's Shinobi, can't go wrong there.

#3 - Title: Panzer Dragoon Orta
Genre: 3D Aerial Shooting
Platform: X-Box
Publisher: SEGA
Wow! My first X-Box game on the list and what an awesome one it is. I'll never forget when I first saw Panzer Dragoon for the SEGA Saturn and how I thought it was the most amazing video game I had ever lay my eyes upon. Since that day I've been craving a next-gen Panzer Dragoon, and finally it has arrived. If you've played any of the Panzer Dragoon games, you will be familiar with Panzer Dragoon Orta's style of play. At its heart, Panzer Dragoon Orta is a shooter. Enemies will come from the front, back, side, and your job is to shoot them down. Boss battles occur at the end of stages and the level of detail throughout the game is astounding. Finally shooter fans and Panzer Dragoon fans alike have something to cheer about on the X-Box!

#2 - Title: Animal Crossing
Genre: Simulation
Platform: GameCube
Publisher: Nintendo
Known as Animal Forest Plus in Japan, Animal Crossing is a simulation type game that works in tandem with the Game Boy Advance and the up-coming e-Card Reader peripheral. Animal Crossing lets players live in a world of their own design. It utilizes the GameCube's internal clock meaning that, the game exists in real-time. You can buy your own house, furniture, clothes; even find classic NES games to play! Using the e-Card Reader, you can add different items and features to your world. Have a card with a new logo for your shirt? Swipe it in and watch it appear in your game! You can even transfer your own character to a friend's Animal Crossing game, and try living in their own custom-made world! Any GameCube owner owes it to themselves to give this unique simulation/communication title a try!

#1 - Title: Final Fantasy XI: Online
Platform: Playstation 2
Publisher: Squaresoft
This might have something to do with the fact that I'm a huge FF fan, but even on its own merits, FFXI earned my number 1 spot on the games of E3 list. The demo at the show was in Japanese, but even with my limited understanding of the language, navigating the menus was a no-brainer. I played this game twice for a good half-hour each and all I was doing was joining up with the other players at the show to kill some monsters on the field. I can only imagine how much more I will enjoy the game when all the other factors come into play, such as jobs, clans, guilds and the sort. Visually, the game looked great. When equipping different armor and weapons, your character changes appearance to fit. All these features might not seem like much to those who play MMORPGs frequently, but the fact that it is all possible in the Final Fantasy universe, one of the most recognized names in gaming, is truly incredible. I will be waiting for this one with bated breath.

So there it is the results of my first trip to E3. I didn't get to try out ALL the games, a daunting task to say the least. I came away with some cool loot and the experience of trying out all the games I'll probably end up buying in the coming year. Here's to hoping I can be here giving a report on E3 in 2003!

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