For the second year in a row, the pandemic thwarted plans for the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the video game trade show colloquially known as E3, to stage its annual event at the Los Angeles Convention Center. This year’s four-day, online-only gala was low on video game razzmatazz. At least it was until Nintendo brought the charm with its “WarioWare” party game and a preview of its sequel to “The Legend of Zelda” masterpiece, “Breath of the Wild.”
The follow-up to the “Zelda” franchise’s 2017 entry will hit sometime in 2022. A brief clip showed a simmering fire around a floating castle rising into the sky. We didn’t learn much, just that hero, Link, will have some new abilities (the power to ghost his way through solid objects), and the game will largely take place in a kingdom in the air.
Nintendo’s showcase capped six days of online video game events, many of them dedicated for a conference whose prominence had been questioned even before the pandemic. Sony and other large players have pulled out in recent years. Others, such as Electronic Arts, now host their own video game expos.
And E3 didn’t exactly exert its dominance. The event was overshadowed by a similar extravaganza dubbed the Summer Game Fest, an offshoot of December’s the Game Awards.
Sony was again MIA from E3, instead spending the week promoting its hot new game in the “Ratchet & Clank” franchise. Other large studios, such as Warner Bros. Interactive, kept their most buzzed-about games under wraps. Although Square Enix pulled back the curtain on its “Guardians of the Galaxy” game and Ubisoft made a valiant effort to revive the “Avatar” franchise, E3 didn’t have the content to justify four days of online programming.
Thankfully, Nintendo gave us everyone’s favorite Mario nemesis: Wario.
Nintendo clearly would rather focus attention on its latest entry to the “Metroid” brand, but the collection of wacky mini-games “WarioWare: Get It Together!” strikes me as the perfect late-pandemic title to release.
That is, it’s a party game full of ridiculous and brief two-player challenges — clips appear to show players brushing teeth, trimming armpit hair — that are perfect for controller passing and equally enjoyable to watch. The game isn’t due until Sept. 10, but I’m already looking forward to my vaccinated-only “WarioWare” house party.
Seeing Wario fumble his way through odd challenges was the highlight of my week viewing online events. Here’s what else stood out from E3 and the Summer Game Fest.
‘Elden Ring’ and the burden of anticipation
“Elden Ring,” a FromSoftware game that features contributions from “Game of Thrones” author/Meow Wolf funder George R.R. Martin, was unveiled at E3 back in 2019 and has been something of a mystery since.
Expectations are high in the interactive world because “Elden Ring” is also the latest from famed designer Hidetaka Miyazaki, the mastermind behind the “Dark Souls” series. His games are punishingly difficult, and depending on your point of view he’s a “player’s designer” who emphasizes difficulty and rewards those who crave a challenge. Or he’s simply a masochist.
We still don’t know much about “Elden Ring” beyond the announcement of its Jan. 21, 2022, release date, although there are horses and lots of dark, medieval fantasy imagery. In other words, it looks a bit like the “Dark Souls” series but with horses. No matter, as FromSoftware has a style and runs with it. What else? We’re told there will be “grassy plains, suffocating swamps and lush forests,” as well as mountains and castles, but these words can describe hundreds of video games.
In addition, the game is said to emphasize role-playing elements and will accommodate multiple play styles. Don’t expect something easier than “Dark Souls,” but perhaps something that will offer more player choice.