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E3 2006: Konami

Metal Gear Solid 4, Castlevania, Coded Arms, and more…

I have watched Hideo Kojima take a wee. Now, I expect there are two possibilities going through your head, here, one; that I'm making some kind of juvenile joke about Hideo Kojima picking up a Wii controller, which he didn't do, so that one's out, or two; that Hideo Kojima has some kind of a weird urine fetish and let his basest desires take hold during the Konami Pre-show press conference. No, no that one either. The actual fact is that I just happened to be waiting behind him in the line for the sole urinal in the toilet of the LA public library that held this year's event. I wasn't really paying attention, I swear, I was just a bit shocked when he turned around and was... Hideo Kojima.

It's lucky that I was planning on emptying my bladder anyway.

But enough of this urological chatter, even though I'm desperate to point out that the assembled journalists all metaphorically wet themselves upon seeing the full Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer, which did make a bit of a mockery of the piddling (sorry) wee (oh dear) teaser that Sony showed at their press conference a day earlier. But the same way that they made us wait through their entire press conference before finally getting to that, I'm going to make you read through everything else they announced too before you get to read about it. Um, you do have the option of skipping forward, I guess, but how would you get to learn about such amazing things such as

Konami's mobile games line-up!!

Actually, I'll be fair, they didn't spent any time on that at all, really, but it is kinda nice I guess to hear that they're porting some historic, and lovely titles such as Track and Field and Time Pilot to handsets, where they'll probably be unplayable due to the buttons on your mobile phone or something. But it's a nice idea and the kind of thing they've been doing in Japan for ages so it's about time they started doing it elsewhere. Not that they've specifically discussed if it will reach the UK, natch.

The short trailer reel in which they revealed this earth shattering revelation (listen, seriously, we were all gagging for some MGS4 news) also featured blink and you'll miss them appearances of several new titles. They included:

  • YuGiOh GX for PSP,
  • Xiaolin Showdown for PS2, Xbox, PSP and Nintendo DS,
  • Online Chess Kingdoms for PSP,
  • GoPets for Nintendo DS,
  • Winx Club: The Quest for the Codex for PSP, Nintendo DS and Gameboy Advance,
  • And My Frogger Toy Trials for Nintendo DS.

While the majority of these were given deservedly quick glimpses (a Nintendo DS title about some kind of fairy club, almost certainly based on a soporific pre-teen girl's TV series? A chess game with nice graphics?) It did serve to remind us just how varied Konami's output is, from continuing to milk it's earliest franchises (with Frogger's 25th anniversary on the horizon, for example) while trying to exploit the hell out of it's newer ones (YuGiOh, of course.)

Coded Arms: Assault

Wow! I am clearly a bad games journalist! Because I actually, uh, had never heard of this franchise until the moment they mentioned it during the press conference. But then again, it's not like we ever reviewed, or posted any news about the PSP original (go figure), and as Eurogamer is the only website you read (right?) you shouldn't have either.

Coded Arms: Assault, however, has had definitely the most impressive footage I've seen made using the game engine yet. Set in a very Matrixy cyberspace, you play a hacker trying to overthrow an evil corporation by shooting an absurd amount of cyberbullets into cyberbaddies and cyberbuildings. How exactly that translates to results in real world I'm not quite sure, but it sure looks fun. The unique aspect of the series is the way in which it reminds you are playing in an intentionally virtual world - the world materializes around the player out of a rain of glowing code, bad guys dissolve into explosions of bits and bytes and so on. Powered by the Unreal Engine 3 for PS3 the title is amazingly exciting looking, and the presentation promised destructible environments, online co-operative play for up to 4 players and competitive multiplayer for 16 players.

Coded Arms: Assault is due on PS3 in, like, 2007.

Coded Arms: Contagion

This, the direct sequel to the PSP original which we've never mentioned before and you've never heard of (or at least we like to believe so) is, naturally, a vast step down when it comes to eye candy, and after the riotous digital explosions of the PS3 version it genuinely looked like the most boring, generic FPS that you could ever imagine. Of course, that's being unnecessarily unfair upon the title, but, um, it is pretty much just a FPS. Wait, does that mean that the PS3 game is, you know, just an FPS too? Have we had the wool pulled over our eyes by the cruel mistress pretty graphics? Perhaps. But, well, Coded Arms: Contagion does offer online multiplayer for up to eight players, so there is that.

Coded Arms: Contagion is due on PSP in 2007, as Konami doesn't really like being specific, or something.

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin

Keeping track of which Castlevania titles are considered canon and the increasingly complex timeline which they fit within sometimes seems like a full time job, and as it's not my full time job, I was kind of surprised when self proclaimed series godfather Koji Igarashi (and his gigantic afro) mentioned Castlevania: Bloodlines (known as Castlevania: The New Generation in the UK), the unloved Mega Drive edition of the franchise, ignored and 'retconned' out by fans, as the prequel to the newest iteration of the series, which enters it's 20th year next year, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin.

Playing the role of vampire hunter Jonathan Morris and Charlotte Orlean, a girl with magical abilities in a new World War II setting, the player is given the ability to switch freely between the two characters, using them either separately, or in conjunction with each other to explore...

You're guessing I'm going to say castle, right? Not today! For the first time in what seems like forever the Castlevania series is allowing it's characters to stretch their legs outside of a stuffy old castle, with locations such as deserts and small towns apparent from the short demonstration we were given.

There's probably still a castle in there somewhere, though.

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin is due for Nintendo DS in autumn 2006. That's a bit better.

Lunar Knights

The first title revealed from Kojima Productions, this was introduced as an entirely new franchise, despite the fact it's blatantly just Boktai rejigged to not be as insanely unfriendly to people who live in Scotland. Replacing the light sensor is the top screen of the DS, which features either a sun or a moon, which affects the gameplay in different ways for the two main characters - the dark and moody Lucian, who uses blades, and the bright and cheery Aaron, who looks a lot like Django, if we're being honest. Not to say that there aren't obvious differences between this title and the Boktai titles. Well, they're not obvious per se, as the graphics are largely indistinguishable, but the game appears to have a real action bent rather than the tense, slow, very obviously Metal Gear Solid inspired action of the Boktai series, and the game also features 3d shooting stages, as the heroes navigate their 'casket rocket' to shoot down vampires in space.

Oh yeah, didn't we mention that you're still playing vampire hunters? Oh man! Konami sure love those bloodsucking guys.

Lunar Knights is due for Nintendo DS in winter 2006.

Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel

Now this is a bit of an interesting proposition, because despite all evidence to the contrary (well, the fact that they repeatedly referred to it as a game, I guess) this is most definitely not a game. Simply a stunning looking graphic novel-esque retelling of the original Metal Gear Solid's story, entirely drawn by Ashley Wood, the most interactive it seems to get is the reader's ability to zoom into, and explore, each frame of the comic, allowing them to find hotspots and other triggers to unlock more information about the Metal Gear Solid series. So, a bit like the awesome photo analysis machine from Blade Runner, if you're feeling charitable, or all the worst aspects of a pixel hunting adventure game if you're not.

Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel is due in June 2006 for PSP.

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

Why you'd want to bother with a digital graphic novel with this in the pipeline is the real question though. For the first time on a portable system a Metal Gear Solid title that is comparable to the stealth classics we all know, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops fills in the story between Metal Gear Solid 3 and the original Metal Gear, as Big Boss forms Foxhound to hunt down and destroy the treacherous FOX unit, which has started a bloody revolt in South America. Promising to reveal the 'true tragedy of Big Boss', this sounds unbelievably awesome (I love a tale of tragic destiny, me) but the trailer delivered even more than that, revealing glimpses of Big Boss' new recruits, Revolver Ocelot, for one, and what appeared to be Sniper Wolf (?). A major part of the single player campaign appears to be the ability for Big Boss to recruit comrades to his fighting force, with this aspect leaking into the multiplayer component of the game, a refinement of the system in use in Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, allowing players to field their own unique fighting force in combat against opposing players.

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops is due in winter 2006 for PSP.

Metal Gear Solid 4 :Guns of the Patriots

And then there was 'the daddy', the full E3 trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriot. It's kind of amazing to think that this footage that is getting us all so excited isn't actually anything really related to what we'll be able to play in the end, just a mere taster (and knowing Kojima, likely subterfuge) of the plot that will face us in the first next-gen title of the franchise (on PS3, if you haven't been playing attention.) But what footage this is. With a strong Black Hawk Down feel, the title looks to be examining the place of Snake in an actual war zone, with bags of emotion somehow visible in the CG we saw (though perhaps that's due to the incredibly emotive Japanese voice actors. The gruff Akio Otsuka, also known for playing the role of Bato in the Ghost in the Shell film and TV series sounds like he could literally eat David Hayter, but would feel bad enough about it afterwards that he might have a quiet little cry to himself.

But the biggest reveal had to be Raiden. Given only the shortest glimpse in the Sony trailer, here we were treated to a short sequence where Raiden quite honestly cleaved his way through a grotesque number of weird, bio mechanical Metal Gears, revealing himself to be the new 'ninja' of the series, right down to his costume and weapon's choice of a (What must be a) supremely sharp samurai sword.

Kojima, up to his old tricks again, has turned Raiden from the hated character he was in Metal Gear Solid 2 (I mean, come on, who wanted to play that effeminate white haired pansy, eh?) into a unbelievable badass, the kind we'll clamour to play. I wouldn't be surprised if the entire game wasn't spent running a doddery old snake to the bathroom taking breaks to watch long cinematics of Raiden doing literally things so amazing you can't even begin to imagine them. Or something. Who knows? We won't get to find out until 2007. You're making Tom cry.

Metal Gear Solid 4 is due on PS3 in 2007. Didn't you just read that paragraph?