OCC E3 2012 AwardsClayMeow -
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Best Role-Playing Game
Winner: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)
Many of you probably haven't heard of Ni no Kuni before. Originally released on Nintendo DS in 2010 and then remade from the ground up for the PS3 in 2011, the title seemed to be one of many that wasn't going to see the light of day outside Japan. Thankfully, developer Level-5 is bringing the PS3 version to the US and Europe for an early 2013 release. Now, don't let the history of the game detach you; one look at the game and you'll see why I'm excited for it. Co-developed by Level-5 and Studio Ghibli, the game instantly feels like classic Dragon Quest VIII – one of Level-5's highly acclaimed JRPG games. What goes above and beyond for this game, however, is Studio Ghibli's legendary experience with art direction and story. Although this is the first game by the studio, it holds a long history of award-winning animated movies such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. With a music score composed by Joe Hisaishi – a man who has found great success working with Studio Ghibli – it's no surprise that the game has already earned massive critical-acclaim in its home of Japan. At its core, Ni no Kuni follows the journey of a young boy in search of his mother, who died rescuing him from drowning years ago. In traditional Studio Ghibli fantasy storytelling, the boy is soon joined by a fairy companion, who teaches him of a world parallel to his own where his mother could still exist; Ni No Kuni. Cliché as it may seem, neither Studio Ghibli nor Level-5 are strangers to introducing dazzling worlds of fantasy and highly stylized characters; something that we've already seen in the English version (this was the version shown at E3 after all). When this releases in North America next year, I'll be waiting in line to enter the colorful and fantasy world of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.
Runner-Up: South Park: The Stick of Truth (PC, PS3, 360)
I had a difficult time choosing the best RPG at this year's E3. While I am a big fan of Level-5 and Studio Ghibli's work, a show that I've followed since its beginning is South Park. So when it was announced that Obsidian Entertainment was developing a South Park RPG, I was thrilled. Although very few details have been released so far, the game seems to directly mimic the art style and comedy of the show, which is a big plus. With word of Obsidian working directly with South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, I won't be surprised if the game plays out like an extra-long episode of South Park, filled with pop-culture humor and hilariously-enacted plot scenarios. What I am worried about, is the actual gameplay. From the brief glimpses shown by released trailers, the game seems to play like a beat-em-up; fairly rare in the world of RPGs. At this point, though, there is still much information to be released, so maybe it's nothing to worry about. Given the seemingly fantasy-like plot of the game so far, maybe there will be magic to play around with – I can only hope.
Winner: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dawnguard (PC, PS3, 360)
As if there was any question what my best RPG was going to be from E3 this year. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dawnguard is an expansion to the 2011 Game of the Year, but that does not put it any lower in my book. Dawnguard will allow you to join a vampire faction that seeks to cover the world in darkness or the Dawnguard who wish to extinguish the vampires from Skyrim and perhaps all of Tamriel. Joining the vampires will allow you to become a Vampire Lord able to transform at will, hover above the ground, and feed on any unsuspecting villager. The Dawnguard have access to a variety of armor and weapons, including the new crossbow, so it looks like the DLC will require at least two playthroughs to see everything. Bethesda is also adding vampire and werewolf perk trees, the ability to become a Vampire Lord if a werewolf, new creatures and enemies, and a host of other content. The only downside to all of this is when Dawnguard arrives at the end of June, it will do so on the Xbox 360 first. The PC and PS3 will receive it about a month later, so hopefully you can hold out if you do not own the 360 version.
Runner-Up: Cyberpunk (PC)
Cyberpunk is a pen and paper RPG created in 1988 by Mike Pondsmith. There are thousands of pages that describe the world and its technology, and it is up to CD Projekt RED to transform some of that into a video game. CD Projekt is best known for The Witcher series, but Cyberpunk eschews fantasy, swords, and elves for science fiction, guns, and implants. These two worlds could not be more different, but I have high faith CD Projekt can adapt another story into a terrific video game. Not a whole lot is known about Cyberpunk currently, not even what systems it will appear on, but I eagerly await more information on the game.
Winner: South Park: The Stick of Truth (PC, PS3, 360)
South-Park: The Stick of Truth is probably not a game for everyone. Despite its cartoon graphics, it's certainly not a game for young children. If you've never heard of South Park, where have you been over the past one and a half decades? South Park is an animated sitcom for mature audiences, featuring crude language, satire, and dark humor. South Park: The Stick of Truth is an upcoming role-playing game based on the series and is the first video game to truly allow players to enter and interact with the town of South Park and its many quirky characters. You play as a "new kid" that shows up to town and in true South Park fashion, when asked to enter your name, no matter what you choose, Cartman will simply call you "Douchebag". That one instance shows the cleverness of co-creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker – they avoid the problems of addressing a player in a fully voiced game, while insulting you at the same time. Those sly bastards!
Runner-Up: Cyberpunk (PC)
Announced just prior to E3, Cyberpunk is a role-playing game being developed by CD Projekt RED, based off the pen&paper role-playing game of the same name. Cyberpunk takes place in a rich, futuristic world with ultra-modern technology and a decadent and degenerated human society. CD Projekt RED made six "promises" to gamers, from offering up a "gripping non-linear story" to "setting a new standard in the futuristic RPG genre". Lofty goals, but if any studio can accomplish it, it's CD Projekt RED, masterful developer of The Witcher series. I've never heard of Cyberpunk before, but it apparently dates back to 1988 and features 4700+ pages describing the game world in 44 handbooks. That is a whole wealth of information for CD Projekt RED to expand upon.