The next public area to explore on the Gamescom 2017 venue, Hall 9, was all about the big names in the gaming industry, but it had a few indie surprises as well.
I still remember writing about the public areas in 2013, which was quite an endeavor with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 taking up much time, in addition to all the press appointments. So this is a different approach, going through the halls in the order I visited, and it will hopefully give you some good impressions of everything that could be seen and played.
First up was Nintendo, and unlike previous years it wasn’t possible to simply try out games without waiting at least an hour or two, which was a shame, as Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was a highly anticipated turn-based strategy title with a very fun presentation. Just looking at all the Rabbids in Nintendo clothes was enough to raise a smile or two.
This definitely wouldn’t be the last time that I took a picture with the raving Rabbids, and there was an even bigger figurine waiting, but in Ubisoft territory.
Nintendo’s focus was on reiterating on its franchises, with improved Switch versions of Wii U titles like Pokemon Tekken DX or Splatoon 2 being no surprises. However, Super Mario Odyssey seemed to do things differently, placing Mario in the real world. Personally I was more excited about the 3DS game Metroid: Samus Returns, although waiting queues prevented me from trying it out myself.
Next stop was Deep Silver, with one very special person just getting ready for giving autographs: the great Yu Suzuki. He wasn’t only responsible for classic arcade games like Hang-On, Space Harrier, Out Run, and After Burner, but also for one of SEGA Dreamcast’s biggest hitters, Shenmue. Shenmue III will still take some time to materialize, but being able to see Suzuki in person, even if from afar, was awesome enough.
Deep Silver had many games on offer, and despite not being able to see or play any of them, there was something for everyone. Sonic Forces, Total War: Warhammer II, Yakuza 0 were established brands, while Agents of Mayhem, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and Ark: Survival Evolved offered something different for fans of the Saints Row series, historians and dino lovers.
Square Enix proudly looked back at a long history of JRPGs in the form of Final Fantasy titles, as a whole wall of fame illustrated the series’ development. This meant that Final Fantasy IX: Remastered and Final Fantasy X: Remastered fit the portfolio quite well. I played both for a bit, as I remembered finishing them back in the PS1 and PS2 days and having a lot of fun with the classic and newer gameplay. While the HD graphics weren’t real eye-openers and couldn’t hide the fact that animations couldn’t be much improved and that the English voice acting was still less from perfect, the atmosphere with a great score made it worth-while and should make them essential purchases for those who haven’t experienced the games. Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age and Dissidia Final Fantasy NT also looked great, if rather familiar for obvious reasons.
Final Fantasy IV: Online was still a big deal and had a lovely Eorza Grill location where one could sit down and relax for a bit.
Final Fantasy XV was an even bigger franchise event, as it offered VR and mobile versions to please every platform owner.
Fortunately if one wasn’t a fan of Final Fantasy, there was enough to get excited about, e.g. Life is Strange: Before the Storm, the prequel to a much-praised storytelling experiences I still have to review (after my second playthrough), Battalion 1944, and Lost Sphear, the latter of which had a fantastic soundtrack and a pretty European-style setting to walk through. The in-game text summarized my current status, though: “My back and my knees are killing me”.
An even more exciting proposition, especially for indie fans, was what the Square Enix Collective had on offer, e.g. Oh My Godheads or Deadbeat Heroes, two titles I would have loved to play, if it weren’t for the queues.
So it came as a surprise that when I turned a corner, a free slot for Tokyo Dark opened up. It looked dark and creepy, and despite my reservations about the anime style, my positive experiences with visual novels so far convinced me to give it a try. This was when I met Maho Williams from Cherrymochi who was involved in the game’s development. Funnily enough, it turned into a conversation or interview without me actually playing the game. If I’d known I’d have recorded it, but it was too loud, anyway, and the relaxed nature of the open-minded talk was a lot of fun. I already wrote about the game in this release news, so if you want to learn more, check it out. Let’s hope I’ll get a chance of reviewing it. It doesn’t happen often that one has the chance to talk to developers or the PR at a big booth like Square, and I personally think it’s much better this way, with bigger publishers supporting independent developers who can present their talent and discuss their games in person, just like in the Indie Booth, but more about this later…
There was also Forgotten Anne that had a certain Studio Ghibli vibe. So many games and so little time…
Sometimes it’s easy to miss booths with so many people around, which happened with Chris Roberts’ sci-fi space sim Star Citizen that I saw on my way to the next big publisher. I’m expecting great things from the guy who made PC owners upgrade their systems on a regular basis, and this looked highly impressive, although a release date is still far far away.
Amazon also had their foray into games with Breakaway, an e-sports MOBA title, but I passed it by to see the next and final booth in Hall 9…
… although having a short glimpse of what the Twitch community was up to was also interesting. Not really being that interested in the content creator world, it was still cool to see some developers speaking about their games, this time being Final Fantasy.
Warner Bros. was, as expected, all about the big names, like Lord of the Rings with Shadow of War which was already present in Hall 8, but which had a cool life-like figurine to look at.
Then there was Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 that also had a big tower to gape at.
If this wasn’t enough, then Lego Worlds showcased the most impressive display with the Cologne Cathedral in LEGO building blocks. And with this image it was time to say goodbye to Hall 9 and move on to the next…
To be continued…
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