What we played at E3 2017 (Spoiler: We all played Mario Odyssey)
by on June 28, 2017

Whether you’re at home or you get to attend, E3 2017 is a Christmas-in-June event for gamers. With so many announcements, trailers, and demos, there’s bound to be something for every walk of gamer out there.

We sent a team of staffers to the three-day trade expo, and we all went in different directions to taste our own personal sampling of the show. We thought it’d be helpful for you to hear our impressions about what we played: the good, the bad, and the amazing.

Joshua Lindquist, Content Director

When I arrived on the showfloor this year, I was not sure what to expect. The biggest surprise of the show was certainly the announcement of Metroid: Samus Returns, but unfortunately the game was not playable.

Looking back at the games I had a chance to play, I realized that about half of them were fighting games. The fighting genre had a very strong showing this year. I am a casual fighting game fan (and not particularly good at playing most of them), but I am really excited about the new fighting games on the horizon.

The fighting games of the most interest to Nintendo fans are certainly Arms and Pokken Tournament DX. I had the opportunity to play both, and they are both solid games that are worth giving a shot. However, I am much more excited about the third-party fighting games that are coming soon.

There were at least three non-Nintendo fighting games on the show floor: Dissidia: Final Fantasy NT, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite, and Dragon Ball FighterZ. Unfortunately, I was only able to play Dissidia: Final Fantasy NT; I lost horribly, but I’m still really excited about the game.

The Marvel vs. Capcom series hasalways been fun, and I am certain Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite will continue that tradition, but the game was upstaged by the surprise announcement of Dragon Ball FighterZ. Dragon Ball FighterZ is a perfect example of a game I did not know I wanted until it was announced, and now I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

I also had the surprise opportunity to watch a live Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment presentation where they showed gameplay of Sub-Zero (an upcoming downloadable character) in Injustice 2. I had no idea they were going to announce anything when I stopped to watch their presentation for a few minutes, but I left the presentation wishing I owned a copy of Injustice 2.

It has been a long time since I was this excited about fighting games. I also had the chance to play Super Mario Odyssey, but it didn’t stick with me the same way as the fighting games — or any of the other games I played. It’s a very cool concept, but in the end it just wasn’t as interesting as the other games on display.

Eduardo Hernández, News Editor

Being a first-timer at E3 this year, I went in not exactly knowing what to expect. You hear so much about this event ,but it is definitely different being there in person. When I walked in amongst the sea of people, i was a bit overwhelmed by everything. After aimlessly walking for about a good five minutes, I got in line to play the demo for FIFA 18, a game series that will be making its return to a Nintendo console after five years of absence, the last game being FIFA 13 on the Wii U. After being in line for about 20 minutes, FIFA producer Andrei Lazarescu would appear before me and would eventually be beside me, watching as I played the demo. One of the funny things that happened during the demo as that one of my defenders suddenly disappeared — just vanished from the game. The Nintendo rep that was beside me asked, “Did your player just disappear?” with which I responded with a confused yes. Still, the game was a ton of fun, looked great, and it is definitely a day one purchase for me.

After talking with Lazarescu for a bit about soccer, I moved on to join the three-hour long line for Super Mario Odyssey, which was worthwhile. I got the chance to play the game on portable mode, and I don’t know if i was just having too much fun that i lost track of time, but i felt like my ten minutes went by quicker than they went by for the people in front of me. Still, this game is deserving of the hype it is getting, and I can see it topping Super Mario Galaxy as the best 3D Mario game,

On the second day of E3, I focused on more on Sony’s demos. I played a apparent Metroid clone, which once on my hands, played more like a Mega Man clone. The controls for this game were eccentric as they focused on the triggers rather than the normal face buttons, making it a tad uncomfortable and confusing to play. I felt so uncomfortable with the controls that I couldn’t even finish the demo, which was two levels long, before getting tired of losing at the same spot and simply giving up on it. After that, I headed to Microsoft’s booth, where fellow ZU member Joshua and I accidentally stumbled upon the world premiere trailer for Sub-Zero on Injustice 2 (which I hope gets a Switch port someday) and a live interview with Mortal Kombat creator and Injustice producer Ed Boon.

On our third and last day at E3, I got to play more games than the first two combined, given how the influx of people was significantly smaller. We started off by playing some Pokken Tournament DX, which was a lot of fun, despite playing on portable mode. The controls felt nice, and it really is the type of game to fire you up with competitiveness. After that I went to play FIFA 18 once again, where I drowned Joshua with goals. We then headed to the Sony booth again, where I played Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, the eighth installment of this action role-playing game. Lacrimosa of Dana was good, the battle system was smooth, and it was overall a fun game.

It was definitely a good E3 this year, although on the organizational aspect, it was a bit lackluster. However, I am excited to be able to attend E3 again next year if given the chance!

Amanda Van Hiel, News Editor

Out of all the booths at E3, Nintendo’s was by far the most immersive, designed like you were in New Donk City from the upcoming Super Mario Odyssey, and the incredibly catchy “Jump Up, Super Star” playing. At first I was unsure about the game, the idea of Mario in the “real world” seemed odd, but it’s quirky enough that it works. I tried out the Sand Kingdom level, and the gameplay reminded me so much of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine that I almost cried it made me so happy. It has that true Nintendo magic that is all about fun. Instead of Stars, Mario collects Moons, and I had no problems collecting one without it feeling like I was having my hand held through the entire thing. Mechanics-wise, the controls were smooth and I didn’t have any issues with the camera, which is what can often break an otherwise great game. A key element to Mario has always been the power-ups, and a new and creative take on this concept is possessing both inanimate objects and living beings. I really enjoyed taking over Bullet Bill; something about flying around and blowing up bricks is a lot of fun. Super Mario Odyssey is definitely a title I’ll be getting on launch day.

A big standout to me was Life is Strange 2: Before the Storm. Being a big fan of the original Life is Strange game, I had to check out the live demo of the upcoming prequel from Square Enix. This game revolves around Chloe and takes place before Rachel Amber goes missing, so we learn more about her character and the relationship between the two. Unlike the original Life is Strange, the prequel does not include time manipulation, so your choices and consequences are more permanent. I feel like I will be more nervous about making the right choice this go round because I can’t just go back in time and change it if I don’t like the outcome.

Overall though, the biggest highlight of E3 for me was being with my Zelda Universe family. I often say that one of the coolest things about being part of ZU is having friends from all over the world. The drawback is not getting to see those friends very often, but E3 is a time for us to all get together. It’s like a family reunion — without a bunch of annoying relatives commenting on how tall you’ve gotten.

David Johnson, Features Editor

Right out of the gates, the first thing I had to play was Super Mario Odyssey. Before the Treehouse Live this year, I had described Odyssey as what would happen if Mario overdosed on drugs. However, now I feel like it all makes sense, and I’m really excited for the game. They had two levels available to play, and I got to experience both. The Metropolitan level was very open-world and invited exploration. There weren’t any enemies to speak of, but the challenge was figuring out where the levels Moons were. The Desert level was much more linear and invited successive challenges and you plunged deeper into the level. Odyssey is structurally very similar to its predecessors Super Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy; the major difference now is that Odyssey doesn’t kick you out of the level every time you pick up an objective, and that’s super nice. The game’s major feature is flinging Cappy, Mario’s new hat, onto things to “possess” them; I found this very interesting and intuitive, and it definitely adds a lot of playability to the game, so color me impressed. This will no doubt be a day-one purchase for me.

In Nintendo’s area for the media, I got to play several of the demos they’d collected there. On Nintendo 3DS and 2DS, I played both Miitopia and Ever Oasis. Miitopia seemed rather interesting as something akin to a turn-based RPG; however, you only get direct control of one of the characters. Nintendo’s demo was cute as it featured the Miis of Reggie, Miyamoto, and Aonuma, but the demo didn’t particularly convince me that this was going to be a solid purchase. Sure, it’s cute, and the demo kicked my butt pretty handily, but I struggled to see the longevity and the depth in the game.

Ever Oasis, on the other hand, does seem to have a fair bit of potential however. It’s the curious mix of a simulation game and an action game; you’re the mayor(?) of an oasis in the middle of the desert, and your mission is to perform requests for your visitors so that they’ll stay and enrich your oasis empire. The simulation side didn’t get very deep in the few moments I played it, but the exploration aspects held a lot of promise in the real-time fighting system. Though I’d heard of the game before, it really wasn’t on my radar before. However, now I might be interested in it.

I also got to play Pokken Tournament DX for the Switch. To be fair, I’ve no real experience with the original Pokken Tournament or the Tekken franchise that this is based off of, so my thoughts here won’t be super critical or insightful. I do know Pokémon to some degree, however, and I’ll just say that this is the sort of game that I dreamed that Pokémon Stadium would be way back on the Nintendo 64.

Outside of Nintendo’s booth, I got the experience to play Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. I’ll get the necessary disclaimer out of the way first: I do not like the Rabbids; they remind me of Despicable Me’s Minions. (I think the movie is fantastic, but the Minions aren’t my favorite.) I haven’t particularly enjoyed the Rabbid games, and I had thought they’d died after the Wii generation was gone. That said, I do think Mario + Rabbids is fascinating, and I’m begrudgingly optimistic about it. Kingdom Battle is a tactics-style RPG. Mario and his compatriots have HP and ranged weapons that have various strengths. However, the tactics play is rather interesting and deep as movement actions can be successively chained together to create wicked combos. Each player has a set range that they can move; however, so long as that character can perform a significant action within that range (whether it be slide tackling into an enemy, entering a warp pipe, or getting a boost off of a friendly ally), movements can be chained ad infinitum until you can’t perform another action. It’s accessible and surprisingly deep, and the Ubisoft representative promised that there’d be a lot more in the retail version of the game.

The last game I got to try — and in fairness I didn’t play it myself but rather watched someone else play—was Ni No Kuni II. Again, I haven’t played the original game as my penchant for JRPGs has lessened over the years. However, I do respect both the original and this game as I have a lot of respect for Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. And Ni No Kuni II looks like it’s straight out of a Studio Ghibli movie. From what I could tell, it plays similar to an action-based RPG in that you have direct control over a single player in a 3D battlefield. One of the playable demos threw players directly into a boss battle, and it looked extremely fun. However, I was struggling to understand the mechanics, partially because I wasn’t the one behind the controller, but it appears that there are little creatures that allow you to cast spells, and you have to divide your time between being on the offensive and restoring your magical capacity by collecting these and recruiting their assistance. I don’t know if I’ll get this, but the game looked fascinating, and I’ll keep my eyes on it!

David Johnson
David Johnson, a.k.a. "The Missing Link," was once the webmaster of both Zelda: The Grand Adventures and ZeldaBlog. He works as a software engineer in the games industry. David also pontificates about Zelda, writes features and guides for ZU, and obsesses about CD-i.