Five of the Best is a weekly series about the small details we rush past when we’re playing but which shape a game in our memory for years to come. Details like the way a character jumps or the title screen you load into, or the potions you use and maps you refer back to. We’ve talked about so many in our Five of the Best series so far. But there are always more.
Five of the Best works like this. Various Eurogamer writers will share their memories in the article and then you – probably outraged we didn’t include the thing you’re thinking of – can share the thing you’re thinking of in the comments below. Your collective memory has never failed to amaze us – don’t let that stop now!
This week we’d usually have been arguing about – I’m sorry I mean debating – all the big announcements from E3. True, we had Sony’s PlayStation 5 reveal yesterday and it was very exciting, and true, we have a bonanza of PC game events to look forward to this weekend, but it’s not quite the same is it? Covid-19 means the world’s gaming industry couldn’t squash into downtown LA to see Microsoft and Sony reveal their fancy new machines, and the big publishers show their games for them.
Then again, we do get to look forward to another event – Microsoft’s – later this summer, and who knows? Maybe spreading it out will become a better way of doing things. But I will always miss the hubbub, the excitement and the intense drama of live E3. So in honour of an event which may never return in quite the same way, let’s relive some drama from the past! Hooray! Here are some of the best moments from E3 press conferences gone by. Have a lovely weekend.
The emotional The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess reveal
It was 2004. Nintendo fans the world over were just putting down their pitchforks over the cel-shaded redesign of Zelda: Wind Waker, just finishing an enjoyable E3 presentation, when the booming voice of Reggie announced a now much-copied “one more thing…”
As the first shots of Hyrule from Zelda: Twilight Princess appeared on-screen, the crowd fell silent as they drank in the view. And then Link appeared, riding on horseback, sword raised to the sky, and screams filled the room.
I remember watching this reveal as a teenager, bedroom walls plastered with Lord of the Rings posters, getting goosebumps at the thought of a true Ocarina of Time sequel. The sight of Miyamoto on stage, wielding a sword himself. Link has grown up, he acknowledged, and in this new game will look different, act different.
It’s odd to look back on now – Wind Waker has aged into the fan-favourite, while Twilight Princess turned into a moody take the series simply grew up from – but this was Nintendo giving fans exactly what they wanted at the time.
Microsoft getting over excited about Xbox Kinect
Oh, which Kinect E3 moment to pick? Is it the unveiling of Project Natal, pumped full of hot air and celebrity endorsements from the likes of Steven Spielberg? Maybe it’s those faked gameplay videos, or the mad, wooly promise of Project Milo? Or how about when Microsoft donned the entire industry in glow-in-the-dark ponchos and made us endure an outrageously pompous reveal? No, for me Kinect is best summed up in eight short seconds as Kudo Tsunoda tried to show us what the bottom of an Xbox Avatar’s shoe looked like – the resulting contortions gave us a searingly accurate take on one of Xbox’s biggest failures to date.
The one where legends came true
I don’t know if it had anything to do with it being the middle of the night here and delirium setting in but I’ve never seen a reaction like I did to Sony’s E3 2015 conference.
It started with a bang. Suddenly, The Last Guardian was before us, a game that had been missing in action for years, but here it was looking like a full and proper thing, and there was a release date, a year away. And to top it off, Fumito Ueda was in the audience, making any suspicions of squabbles with Sony seem to disappear.
Then, and people might forget this, we got our first look at Horizon: Zero Dawn, followed by a string of notable other big games, No Man’s Sky included. The conference was going really well. But it was about to go up a notch.
Cue a CGI trailer for a brand new game we began to slowly recognise. A dove flying through a familiar-looking cityscape. Tetsuya Nomura’s name. A steamy sewer. A man with a minigun for an arm. Oh my god. A slim man behind him with a huge sword slung over his back. Oh my god. And as the camera panned up the sword became unmistakable. It was Cloud Strife’s. It was Final Fantasy 7. Fade to black. But was this game?
Then the words appeared: Remake. The room and internet erupted.
But Sony wasn’t finished yet. It’s funny looking back through Martin’s live text report now. “At this rate we’ll be getting Shenmue 3,” he joked after the Final Fantasy 7 reveal. Guess what? We did.
Backwards compatibility is finally a standard
Look I know it’s not the glitziest moment we’ve ever had, I know it’s not Keanu Reeves telling people they’re awesome, but it’s a moment with a deeper underlying importance for consoles overall.
It’s a moment from last year, from Microsoft, from when Phil Spencer was on stage talking about Project Scarlett, the machine machine we now know as Xbox Series X.
“Last year,” he said, “the team decided to tackle a feature that’s been consistently at the top of your request lists, and while we weren’t sure it was possible, today I’m pleased to announce Xbox One backwards compatibility.”
It took a moment to settle in. We can play Xbox One games on Xbox Series X. Whoa! Think about that for a moment: which other machine has natively allowed that out of the box? I can’t think of any. Some haven’t offered backwards compatibility at all. It’s long been one of the, um, backwards things about console gaming. But now no longer. The applause was huge.
I wonder if that moment influenced Sony having PlayStation 5 follow suit with backwards compatibility or if it was already part of the plan. Regardless, thank you.
Ubisoft being Ubisoft
As well as making the most exhaustive open-world games around, Ubisoft’s real job is saving E3 from corporate blandness every single year. There have been misfires but with dancing bears and the brilliant presence of Aisha Tyler, this is the publisher that tends to get E3 right – a celebration of games in all their forms.
Favourite moments are too many to mention. I am particularly fond of a lengthy break in proceedings one year to reintroduce laser tag to the world. But then there was that glorious Miyamoto and Rabbids bit, the solidarity-against-Vivendi stuff, and my two favourite moments of E3 ever. The first involved Antti from RedLynx marching towards the stage only to face-plant into the podium to massive applause. The second is when the curtains came up on Miz, back to the audience, white gloves – do I remember white gloves? – conducting a level of Child of Eden. Every year Ubisoft reminds us that games are brilliant. Girl. Wood.