There are times when you feel the need to mention a game, but there isn’t really any other place in which to do it. These are the anomalies, the head-scratchers, or anything else that simply just defies categorization.
The “Oh, Japan.” Award: Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad
Onechanbara wasn’t actually playable at PAX, though the constantly-looping preview video at the D3 booth made me wish it had been. It’s easy to explain why the game deserves this honor:
Samurai cowgirl schoolgirl assassins battling zombies while clad only in bikinis.
There’s apparently a feature to further edit and customize the main characters’ clothing, but really, I don’t think anything more needs to be said. The game’s premise speaks for itself.
The “Miss Teen South Carolina” Award: Aion: The Tower of Eternity
The gameplay of Aion isn’t anything to write home about. It’s a standard, run-of-the-mill MMORPG (with wings!) that feels like a bunch of games that have come before it. I’m almost willing to overlook that flaw, however, because Aion is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The art direction is fantastic, the technical graphics are superb, and the character creation screen features an absurd amount of sliders and customization that I could spend hours tinkering around with.
I’m almost certainly going to buy Aion when it comes out. Will I actually play it? Who cares! With an MMO that looks this good, I might be content to just stand around gawking.
The “Lens Flare” Award: No Visible HUD
It seems that every year, there’s a new development fad visible on the show floors. One year it was lens flare (hence the name of the award), then it was light bloom, and so on and so forth. While not as wide-spread as trends of years before, there were a number of games all featuring optional HUDs (that’s Heads-Up Display, a.k.a. the stuff on your screen like life-bars, ammo, etc.) if not eschewing them entirely. Mirror’s Edge, Rise of the Argonauts, and Stoked Snowboarding are the titles that immediately come to mind, though I’m sure there were some I missed. However, this does not include Wipeout HD for the PS3, which has a HUD … it just doesn’t actually tell you anything.
The “Best Swag” Award: Twin Skies – “Salabounder” Plush
Some booths give away shirts. Others give away hats. Some give away in-game items (like my mini-Tyrael in-game pet for WoW), some give away posters, pins, stickers, or countless other goodies. I left PAX with my share of swag, but my personal favorite is, without a doubt, the little plush “Salabounder” I picked up at the Meteor booth where they were showing off Twin Skies. It’s fuzzy, it’s cute, and this mini version of the in-game creature now has a proud place atop my computer monitor here at the office, keeping me company.
The “Sir-Not-Appearing-At-This-Show” Award: Diablo III
After all the hubbub surrounding the announcement of the third installment in Blizzard’s dangerously addictive dungeon-crawler series, it was shocking to find that Diablo had no presence whatsoever on the PAX show floor. While hoping for a playable version this early after the announcement would have been a pipe dream at best, there was nothing. They handed out StarCraft II and Wrath of the Lich King pins to visitors, they had the SC2 trailer looping over and over on the screen … but there was no Diablo. Yes, I know they’ve got their own little shindig coming up, but it wouldn’t have hurt to have something there, guys!
The “Come Back Later, Please” Award: Fallout 3
From the moment the show floor opened to the moment it closed, the Fallout 3 booth was packed like a particularly overstuffed can of sardines. I was finally able to get a glimpse of the gameplay about ten minutes before the hall closed for good on Sunday. Otherwise? There was absolutely no chance unless you wanted to stand in line for a good 45 minutes.
The “Keep On Truckin'” Award: Asheron’s Call
As a general rule of thumb, the PAX show floor is for games still in development (or that have been recently released), to build hype for the eventual launch. There were some older games on the floor, but few – if any – from before 2004 at the earliest. The one exception was a single kiosk at the Turbine booth demoing their 1999 MMO, Asheron’s Call – which just recently celebrated its 100th monthly update in August. Sure, it’d look painfully dated even without all the shiny new games surrounding it, but it was there to welcome anyone who wanted to give it a chance or take a trip down memory lane.