E3 2005: SNK and Capcom, Games Galore
by Vinh Trieu
The first thing that comes to mind when asked what E3 represents, the normal response would be nothing other than "games"...lots of them. According to E3 stats, there were 70,000 attendees this year, a record high. This show was hot, with crowds so large, almost every booth was packed, whether big or small, well-known or not, we were strolling through all the aisles elbow to elbow. There was no such thing as a 'quiet' booth, with flashier, more creative and exotic booths, along with more prizes thrown out everywhere, with, of course one of the biggest attractions of all, booth babes.
If the games displayed didn't cut it, the babes were there to save them and so they did with hoards of tech geeks to the common male who came in droves mesmerized. So while some booths offered the female as their main form of entertainment, our main focus was on SNK and Capcom, in which both companies offered the gaming approach to capture their audience as they usually do.
The mood of the SNK Playmore USA booth was upbeat, lively and bright. Utilizing about the same floor space as the previous year, displays were much more conservative with the gaming set ups more simplistic. This worked well, as it provided more walking and playing space given the increased number of games they displayed.
Up to this point, fans would recognize SNK as a 2-D developer and so this still remains the case for the most part. The focus for SNK at the show was to push their fighters to the Xbox Live format, which by all means is appropriate, given the majority of their titles to be released are fighting games. Just as a spectator alone one would see that SNK Playmore USA is leaning towards releasing their titles on the Xbox rather than the PS2 simply for the better on-line infrastructure that Microsoft has provided thus far.
As a special bonus, SNK Playmore USA had a visit from it's top artist, Falcoon who was there to sign Fatal Fury caps and two posters as shown below:
Let's discuss some of the plans SNK Playmore USA has for the remaining 2005.
Titles to be released by SNK Playmore USA for 2005:
For video footage go to: http://www.snk-capcom.com/htm/videos.htm
For more screenshots go to: http://www.snk-capcom.com/snkgallery/album08
Metal Slug (The Original for Game Boy Advance)
One of the more anticipated title for us would be Metal Slug (the original) for the Game Boy Advanced. The footage at the show was taken off of the MVS format so we didn't get to see what the progress was thus far. According to SNKPU, Metal Slug is expected to be released in the 4th quarter of 2005. We would guess this means Nov./Dec. of 2005. Furthermore, we were hoping that a 2-player simultaneous link function would finally be added, however our sources has confirmed that it will be 1-player game only. Hopefully this will change, but given the current Slug on the GBA is single player, in addition to the more graphically demanding Metal Slug 1 code, we would expect no changes unless the programmers pull some tricks out of their hats to pull this off.
Screenshots below are from the Neo Geo arcade version. Even if it's a 1-p game, we're hoping everything else stays intact. We deserve at least that.
Metal Slug 4/5 (for Xbox Live)
If we know any game well, it would have to be the Slug series. We've played Slug from the first day we saw Slug 1 in the arcades, which was quite some time ago. Being a huge fan of the hand drawn detailed graphics, the Slug series brings much more to the table than just graphical beauty. The main draw in all the Slugs has been the non-stop, fast paced action.
The Live feature in both Slugs may be similar to the Slug 3 Live which is mainly the high score board and a few other features. It would be a nice surprise if they would program 2-player simultaneous LIVE with another cooperative player via internet. That would be too cool, but given the inconsistent high 'speed' internet, this may not happen for quite some time. Here's hoping.
SLUG 4 Pics:
Our comparison review for both Slug 4 and 5 derive from the MVS (Arcade) versus the Xbox version. Quite surprisingly, there seemed to be quite a bit more action in the Xbox version in both Slug 4 and 5 compared to it's arcade counterpart. For most of the levels, the MVS versions (of both 4/5) never really posed a challenge for the gamer like it's predecessors did such as in Metal Slug 3 and X. So the good news is Slug 4/5 for the Xbox is a improvement for the home version in terms of action and challenge, something that rarely happens, but it does here. For only $39.99 you get two great shooters which is a bargain. These days most games despite their graphical superiority are around this price for just one game, but doesn't play as well, nor does it bring the heart pounding enjoyment or excitement such as the Slugs do. This bundle is definitely worth picking up as it still remains the best shooter series in our book.
SLUG 5 Pics:
Metal Slug Evolution (Tentative Title, System(s) not yet determined)
Metal Slug Evolution
This title has been rumored for quite some time with some screenshots surfacing from time to time and may not be related to MS 3-D. SNKPU showed some CG video footage of MS Evolution with no true gameplay footage. SNKPU tells us that the footage shown was for a future system, yet to be determined. Currently, SNKPU has released games for both the Xbox and PS2 with nothing for the Game Cube, so unless SNKPU opens up negotiations with Nintendo for it's Revolution, we'd expect it to be released on either the 360 or the PS3.
King of Fighters Neowave (Xbox Live)
KOF: Neowave is the first King of Fighters developed for the arcades that did not utilize their own proprietary hardware. Running off of Sammy's Atomiswave system, this is the first port over from a more powerful arcade system to a next generation system, which would normally mean huge improvements, right? For the most part, yes. With no limitations in processing power (compared to the 16-bit Neo Geo), the programmers had much more leahway to develop a better playing KOF with little or no slowdown. The result? KOF Neowave improves on all departments, from the most obvious, the background enhancements to the gameplay experience.
Neowave has not really been widely accepted by hardcore KOF fans up to this point, mainly because of the limited distribution of Sammy's Atomiswave, especially here in the United States. Because of this, very few gamers were able to experience at how good this game really is. Now that it's being released on the Xbox (wider and larger distribution) with the Live feature, there is no excuse for fans out there not to play this game. We'd have to say that this is one of the best KOF's out there, along with KOF 2002 and 2003.
King of Fighters MI Maniax (Xbox Live)
This is the Xbox version of KOF MI with the added Xbox Live feature. With all of SNKPU's Xbox Live fighting games, a tournament mode will be implemented to allow nationwide tournaments which will allow gamers to win prizes. The details on how this works has not been detailed at this point. SNK Playmore USA should have some details on their site within a few months.
Other Xbox exclusive features for KOF MI Maniax are 4 unlockable characters not found on the PS2 version. Also included are both Japanese and English versions of the soundtrack. Pretty cool additions and a worthy upgrade.
King of Fighters '94 Rebout (Xbox Live)
We'd have to say that this title is one of the surprise hits for SNK. Unlike previous KOF's, Rebout had redrawn or shall we say, cleaned up sprites making this game the best looking KOF of all time. Part of this is due to the fact that it was completely reprogrammed for a next generation system, not ported over from the Neo Geo MVS version.
Graphics aside, SNK Playmore does have to work on the gameplay engine, as certain moves caused a bit of slowdown, hindering the fast paced action we're used to in a KOF. Once this issue is addressed, add in the Xbox Live feature, SNK should be able to move a good number of these.
King of Fighters 2002/2003 Package (Xbox Live)
Over the years, ports of KOF titles didn't seem to play out very well, leaving some gaps in timing with a high loss in frame rates. These elements all translate to poor game play. With the more recent releases, SNK Playmore has paid more attention to this providing a much better translation (keeping the frame rate intact) on top of adding 3-D backgrounds (a la Marvel vs. Capcom 2) to King of Fighters 2003. This attention to details make it a more complete game and keeps their image on par with other fighting games on the market. Fans of KOF won't be so picky and will probably pick this up as it's a nice package, giving you two games for the price of one and the best news is that these two are considered the best KOF's that SNK has ever produced.
Samurai Shodown V (Xbox Live)
After a long hiatus, the Samurai Shodown series saw it's revival in 2003 released on the Neo Geo MVS. With a large new cast of characters, SSV brought back the feel of the classic Samurai Shodown game play. With simpler controls and super moves, SSV was made with the intention for advanced and novice players. If you're a Samurai Shodown fan, it's definitely worthy of it's title. It would've been nice to have the Special version included in this as a double package, but I guess we can't expect that to happen all the time. Doesn't hurt to ask or even mention it though.
Twinkle Star Sprites (System port not determined yet)
Twinkle Star Sprites Marquee
Twinkle Star Screenshot
Neo Geo fans would be quite familiar with this title. A cutesy type of shooter that battles you against either the CPU or another live opponent. With spruced up graphics, new powerups and sound effects, this title will give SNK a little diversity in it's fighting filled library.
Neo Geo Table Top
True Neo Geo fans who visited the SNK booth didn't let the table top version of the Neo Geo pass them by. At first glance, it looked like a mini table top MVS (Arcade) version, but we knew better at how rare it would be to find a Neo Geo 1-slot these days and for full production runs, it wouldn't be cost effective.
When we spoke with a Jazwares Inc. (manufacturers of this product) representative, he explained the system is as sort of a MAME based system (using Windows XP actually, to be changed to a Linux system later on due to the..ahem, incredible number of system crashes), installed with 6 games at a time. The screen is uses LCD technology, so expect little or no burn in of images here with a long lifespan.
The current plans for the Neo Geo table top will contain only 6 games that will not be interchangeable. We suggested more games or at least the option of the user to be able to swap out some sort of media, but both limitations are due to cost. The more games, the more licensing they have to pay, hence, the more they will have to charge the end user, you. Targeted distribution for this unit will be the Walmart and Costco's according to the representative with other outlets under consideration and negotiations at this time. Tentative cost will be $399.99 with a August/September release.
The price isn't so bad considering most people have no space for a larger cab and depending on which 6 games they plan to install, it's a nice option. The only drawback, well, Neo Geo owners are so used to one thing. That would be having the option to change games when needed. The average Neo Geo MVS gamer has well over 30 games in their library. Limited to only 6 games with no ability to ever change them is like eating the same six meals each week. Not a good sight for hardcore Neo fans if you think about it.
Nevertheless, if you're not as picky and anal as us, this would make a nice piece for your Neo Geo collection. For the mother-in-law you sort of love, give her this and keep the real Neo Geo cab for yourself. =)
For more information on this product, you can check www.jazwares.com for periodic updates.
SNK Playmore's Direction
SNK Playmore is well aware that in order to capture the non-hardcore SNK audience, they will eventually have to bring out not only refreshing games, but fighters that are considered of tournament caliber. SNK Playmore USA claims that they are saving their big guns for TGS 2005. We'll be there and see exactly what this means. Our translation of this statement is that they will bring out NGBC (Neo Geo Battle Coliseum), Samurai Shodown 6 and the new Metal Slug (in development for Atomiswave) for the current or next generation systems. We also expect something for the PSP, maybe a KOF and how about a Metal Slug on the PSP? With the PSP's processing capabilities, we expect nothing less than 2-player simultaneous gameplay via WI-FI. If SNK Playmore pulls this off, expect record number of sales for MS on the PSP. It would be their first 2-P simultaneous Slug. Think about it how huge this would be. A must have game if it turns out this way. We'll call it now and say it'll be a sell-out on the first run.
Years ago, we would think of Capcom as the one trick pony. Riding their financial backbone on the Street Fighter franchise, Capcom has been working hard on changing it's image over the past 10 years to become a more diversified producer of games. We'd say they have succeeded and today, they have developed a much wider gaming base, less fighting, with more 3-D first person with some platform games to boot.
In the early to mid '90's it was possible to release almost any type of game and eventually earn a profit from it. Production costs were much lower then (because of the ease in development/programming), with retail prices of games at that time ($49.99-79.99) even higher than it is today ($19.99-59.99), leaving higher margins (profit). It's a completely different market now, much fiercer for software manufacturers and the once unstoppable Capcom finds itself reidentifying it's image to become a more complete company.
With this year's E3, Capcom has stepped it up and did what they set out to do: make a large number of great games, not just one good game or one Street Fighter to hold it's weight, but a good mix of different types of games to accommodate the majority of gamers out there. To say the least, we were quite blown away by some of the titles and the effort they put into what's coming out, so fans should be excited as well.
Below is Capcom's lineup for 2005/2006:
Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance™ for the PlayStation®2 and the Xbox®
Long gone are the straight up 2-D beat 'em ups where you know exactly where to go and what to do. If you've ever played Final Fight, without ever having any knowledge of the story line, you knew exactly what your objective was, which is to beat the crap out of every enemy in sight at the end of each level facing off with the boss. You would go through the same routine, level after level.
Welcome to the next level of beat 'em ups with more than just 3-D beauty to start you off. Beat Down isn't your average brawler as it's not just learning the moves and combos here, there's technique and strategy that is involved. This game requires team work with other members within 'city' (played by the CPU) in order to complete this game. Flashy combos and trash talk alone won't get you far in this game, as you're forced to learn and adapt to the environment to get yourself through the mean streets.
In short, you control one of 5 fugitives to seek revenge against your foes (from Capcom's Press Release):
o Raven – a rough and tumble rebel with a short fuse and penchant for fighting
o Jason G – an orphan whose second nature is fighting for survival and places high value on his friends
o Gina – a stunningly beautiful assassin who’s been scorned by a secret lover and is out for revenge
o Lola – a professionally trained assassin from South America with a strong military background
o Aaron – the Machiavellian bastard love child of Zanetti, the head of the most powerful cartel in Las
From our game testing at E3, if you're a fan of Final Fight, you'll love this game many times over. We can't wait for this title to come out.
Capcom® Classics Collection for the PlayStation®2
Shall we say more? An old school gamer's dream come true. CCC has over 20 old time classic games all on one disc. Some of the more notable titles include Final Fight, Ghosts 'n Goblins, Forgotten Worlds, Commando, Mercs, 1942/1943, Trojan with many other great classics. Play some of the old school games and see how good you really are. Newer games these days are very forgiving in terms of difficulty. The old stuff will tests your true skills. Are you ready and willing?
Good ol' Capcom Classic Gaming
Devil Kings for the PlayStation®2
This game is completely nuts. If you ever wanted to put yourself in the shoes of Achilles and take on a whole army, here's your chance. You choose one of various warriors and go on an annihilation spree, wiping out or getting wiped out by your enemies. The weapons provided are nothing short of awesome and cool. Add in the legendary controls and special moves Capcom is known for and you have yourself one heck of a stress relieving game. We loved this game and when it was time to go our hands kept naturally swinging at our friends. Maybe we got into this game just a little too much. Worth looking at if you're psychologist suggests some type of medium to relieve some built up stress. Much more than just your typical hack 'n slash even though most footage shows it as just that. If you're unsure, we'd suggest renting it first, but you really have to put some time into this game to get a deeper feel for it. We're no doctor, so don't take our warped comments too seriously. Buy at your own mindless risk. =)
Final Fight: Streetwise™ for the PlayStation®2 and the Xbox®
We just can't get enough of this series and were quite excited when we heard Capcom was going to show this at E3. Fans of the original Final Fight series shouldn't expect any similarities within the series whether it'd be gameplay or story wise. Our impression of this game at first glance was a little disappointing in terms of graphics and gameplay. More importantly, it just didn't have the Final Fight feel, which we would only assume was intentional.
One of the key elements that made the Final Fight franchise was the two player cooperative mode. In FF: Streetwise, you play as Cody's brother, Kyle Travers who tries to solve Cody's disappearance. Yes, this means you're on your own bashing and getting bashed by thugs all over Metro City. Eh, maybe there's a code to play two players? We're hoping, but it's unlikely. Bummer. Guess we'll have to put in more time with Beat Down.
Flipnic™: Ultimate Pinball for the PlayStation®2
Not much to say here, but with the short time we put into this game, it was quite entertaining. With some wicked and creative stages, pinball fans should definitely pick this one up if you don't already own the real thing. Hook it up to your Plasma TV and you have yourself a more cherry set up than that William's pinball classic. Well....maybe not, but it does look cool to have a flat pinball machine on the wall.
Killer 7 for the PlayStation®2 and Nintendo GameCube™
The action in the game justifies the title of the game...literally. Using cel-shaded technology, K7 takes the gaming psyche to the next level. Once we laid our hands on this game, it was hard to resist putting the controller back down. From the unique game style to the deep storyline (you play as Harman Smith who has 7 Killer personalities, alter egos, using each personality to complete a mission) you'll be sucked in. This game has been in development for quite some time, so expect nothing but a kick ass game when Capcom puts on the finishing touches. Capcom has our money on this one.
Legend of Kay™ for the PlayStation®2
You play as a kung-fu tiger cat of some sort and karate your way through Mario type enemies. Actually, the enemies are cooler and more entertaining. You won't find mushrooms here to jump on. The graphics from this game are stunning and the pace is a little too much for our blood. Surprisingly, even though this type of game isn't our favorite, it was very entertaining. Okay, we'll admit, we ended up playing this game for longer than we wanted to, but hey, someone had to test it.
Yeah, so back to the game. Like we said before, you play as a Kung-fu cat and display your chopping techniques to all the other karate/martial arts animals out there. A little bit of mindless fun and adventure included, Mario style.
Ōkami for the PlayStation®2
This is a most unusual game. It took us a while to understand the objective of this game. Since we didn't have enough play time an ideas to elaborate what's going on, here is the description from Capcom's Press Release:
"In Ôkami, the legendary monster Orochi has come back to life and turned the world into a veritable wasteland. Players must assume the role of a wolf, an embodiment of the sun god Amaterasu, which is capable of wielding unimaginable power. The state of the world lies in gamer’s hands as they must fight ominous beings and reclaim the earth from a curse that plagues it. It is crucial to help Amaterasu make the world a place where all living creatures can dwell once again."
Graphically, Ōkami was nothing short of stunning. It was like playing a painted picture throughout.
Onimusha®: Dawn of Dreams (PS2)
Onimusha looked spectacular, which keeps looking better and better. Add in a more extensive story line and you have yourself another great sequel.
From Capcom's Press Release:
"Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams begins approximately 15 years following the annihilation of the infamous Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga at Honno Temple. Another dark shadow now looms over Japan as Nobunaga’s successor, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, has decided to align himself with the evil Genma forces. Assume the role of Soki, a young warrior who possesses incredible power, along with several other cohorts to try and thwart Hideyoshi’s pursuit for power. With unbelievably detailed graphics and expansive environments that exceeds its predecessor, Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams includes major enhancements to the franchise such as new character interactions and evolved cooperative gameplay elements. With a brand new game system, players can choose a fellow warrior to assist Soki in battle at any given time. Watch as the pair combines their power to perform ultimate attack moves to eliminate enemies. Furthermore, gamers can order his or her ally to wait, attack or act on the defensive. Players can also rapidly change between the two onscreen characters, allowing them to control the partner he or she had escorted into battle and relegating the main hero to ally status. This new system takes advantage of each character’s skill and adds a new dimension to the gameplay."
PHOENIX WRIGHT™: ACE ATTORNEY FOR NINTENDO DS™
We didn't spend any time with this game, however, here's a brief description of it (quite an interesting and involving game from the looks of it):
"Players star as a defense attorney, who must prove his seemingly guilty client’s innocence no matter how dire the circumstances may seem. The game presents twisting storylines and intriguing gameplay in a comical anime style. Players must collect evidence, weed through inconsistent testimonies, and overcome corrupt agendas to ensure that justice prevails."
Resident Evil® 4 for the PlayStation®2
If you haven't heard or played Resident Evil 4 on the Game Cube, you're truly missing out. The good news is that if you haven't had a Game Cube before, Capcom is now going to release it on the PS2. All the gore and fear remains intact in this version. The only noticeable difference we see is the Game Cube version looks alot cleaner, simply because of it's built in anti-aliasing, smoothing out those jagged edges.
RE4 puts the fear into video games. Unlike certain games where the Zombie AI (artificial intelligence) only starts thinking when you're nearby, the AI here attacks you from all angles, whether you're in sight or not, nearby or far away. A little frightening not to know if a zombie is coming from behind you or right around the corner from you, isn't it? Yeah, turn off the lights and play this game, see if it doesn't frighten you just a little bit.
PS2 fans are lucky to have this game if they haven't played it already. No need for Game Cube fans to pick this up as the GC version has a slight edge overall in the graphics department, but the PS2 version is no slouch by any means. Gameplay is identical, graphically very close between the two versions, except for the slight difference mentioned above.
Viewtiful Joe™ VFX Battle (working title) (Nintendo GC/PSP Handheld)
The cel-shaded hero is back, this time you pit yourself against another fighter in versus mode. One of the most original games in terms of game design (cel-shaded technology) to come out in some time. The objective is for "Joe and his friends battling it out with their VFX powers to determine who will star in Captain Blue’s latest production." Watch out, these guys are scary, just check out that gut:
U wanna fite me?
Without Warning™ for the PlayStation®2
Last, but not least, from the creators of the Tomb Raider series, brings us Without Warning. We didn't get a chance to play this game, but the buzz from people around the booth seemed positive. Here's a description of what this game is all about:
"In Without Warning, a radical terrorist group has targeted and seized the Peterson-Daniels Chemical Facility, a vulnerable location that jeopardizes millions of people from the devastating ecological hazard it imposes if destroyed. Pleas are useless and any direct military assault would be too great a risk. As terrified hostages fear for their lives, their only hope lies with a covert operations team, whose goal is to infiltrate the plant and eliminate the merciless enemy."
There's no doubt in our minds that Capcom set out to do one thing this year, that was to make themselves known for developing great games across the board, no matter the genre or age group. Most importantly, many of their games were high in quality, not just settling for mediocrity to fill a void in their line-up but truly pushing the envelope of what they do best, make great games that play well. Add in a great storyline for their marquee titles and you have yourself a library that just can't miss.
For the first time we've really been satisfied with what Capcom had to offer without worrying or whining about when their next great fighting game is going to finally be released. The Capcom of the '90's is long gone and for their financial well being, this is the road they will and have to take so we don't expect them to revert back to creating only fighting games. When they do decide to bring out that next hit fighter, the fans will be waiting, but until then, there's plenty of games to look forward to with their current line-up for 2005-2006.
E3 in General
E3 is growing rapidly year after year, with numbers closing in on the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Vegas. This year's show was exceptional in almost every way, from the games released, systems debuted, extravagant displays, crowd attendance and the eye candy all over the show floor.
If you've never attended, you're really missing out. Once you've been to one you'll understand what the buzz is all about. It's a great place to meet people that you may have talked to over the internet on gaming forums and meet after the show for some great gaming with all your friends. For those seeking work in the gaming industry, there is simply no better show to make those connections. Forget about submitting your resume, it just lands on a stack of other resumes that is lost and forgotten. It's all about who you know that will really help you get where you want to be...directly connected.
And a final message from our friends at SNK....
It was great to meet everyone at the show and hopefully we'll meet more great people next year.
- by trieu