This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
If you met this British morning with puffy eyes and a wonky brain, I can relate. I've already poured cold water into my tea after turning on the kettle without seeing to the switch at the wall first. What I can't do is possibly know what you've been up to to make you feel so wobbly. But if you were up late for the same reason as I was: wow, right? You could only make it up, 24 hours earlier.
Sony's E3 2015 press conference (all of which is here) kicked off at 2 AM UK time—6 PM in Los Angeles, where it was actually happening. As I watched the clock count down towards its commencement, wasting time on Twitter and catching up on what I'd missed at the EA and Ubisoft presentations—not a great deal, it turned out, although Mirror's Edge: Catalyst has the potential to be amazing, and a follow-up to South Park: The Stick of Truth, The Fractured but Whole, will hopefully be as rib-tickling as its predecessor—I wondered how long I'd last. Twenty minutes, maybe? Thirty at best. I'm an old, tired sack of loose flesh and brittle bones these days, not made for late nights, even when sitting inert before a laptop screen. And yet, two hours later, I couldn't sleep.
'The Last Guardian,' E3 2015 gameplay trailer.
What had flashed before my then-not-so-knackered eyes, steered by Sony but far from being exclusive to them (most of the time, anyway), was nothing short of incredible. The company didn't mess about, its first reveal of the year being one of the most eagerly awaited PlayStation-only releases of all time, a game that'd come so close to creeping into the realm of industry myth. The Last Guardian exists, and it's coming out in 2016.
Shawn Layden, the CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, wasted little time. Striding onto the stage after a brief sizzle reel of upcoming attractions we already knew about, he cut to the chase with almost shocking efficiency. Three minutes in: "Our first game tonight has been long-anticipated… It is conceived as a poetic story of adventure and friendship… I'm personally proud to introduce this game…" And then, an "Only on PlayStation" later, the reveal of a game that's taken six years to come into focus, missing an entire console cycle in the process, skipping the PS3 to land on its current-gen successor. The Last Guardian, the follow-up to Team Ico's Shadow of the Colossus, one of the most celebrated video game experiences of the past few console generations, an enveloping and moving adventure rich in subtle storytelling, is no longer just a non-playable trailer. It looks very, very real. I might have got a bit emotional.
Immediately after The Last Guardian footage came something completely different and entirely new—a fresh IP for the PlayStation audience, introduced by Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida. Horizon: Zero Dawn (possibly without the colon, but who knows or cares at this stage) pits future humans, eking out a living amid the ruins of society as we know it today, against, as Carolyn Petit put out on Twitter, "Grimlock and the Dinobots." Kotaku got in there with a "Robot Dinosaur Game" headline, too. The big mechanical bads reminded me more of Zoids than Transformers, but regardless of what 1980s toy franchise you're turning to, Horizonlooks like a strong PlayStation exclusive for 2016. What's not to love about murdering gigantic mechs with bows and arrows?
More Street Fighter V footage followed, likewise a brief showcase of No Man's Sky by Hello Games' Sean Murray and a very short CGI trailer for the next Hitman. Dreams, the new project from LittleBigPlanet creators Media Molecule, looks incredible but could be too outré to court the massive audience that Sackboy and company managed. Elsewhere across the show's 90-minute running time, we were treated to some tremendously detailed Uncharted 4: A Thief's End gameplay (albeit after a false start and demo reboot)—it plays how you know, but its visuals are truly "next" gen—the announcement that Sony has exclusive access to a host of Call of Duty: Black Ops III goodies, and there was something about Disney Infinity and Star Wars and introducing your kids to Jedi mind tricks, but I might have refreshed my brew at that point. It didn't matter, as I'd already seen what I never thought I would.
Straight after a video for World of Final Fantasy—you've already forgotten about it—came "a very special treat for everyone." Remember six months ago, when Sony made a big deal out of bringing the PC port of Final Fantasy VII to the PS4? The dislikes totted up quicker than fan approval (28,000 against 3,200 likes, at the time of writing). This was not the remake of the Square classic that fans the world over had been clamoring for since consoles went HD. But this was:
People lost their shit. Twitter went into meltdown. Check out these posts from on-the-scene Eurogamer journo (and sometime VICE Gaming contributor) Aoife Wilson:
I held back a tear and swallowed the lump that swelled in my throat. The Final Fantasy VII remake isn't a PlayStation exclusive, but it will be coming to the PS4 before it does the Xbox One, which as good as guarantees Sony's sales lead for the immediate future. And then, after just one more package for Devolver's upcoming indie releases (pixels, violence, everything looking excellent), came the bomb to blow all others away. Again, it's not a game that you'll only be able to play on PlayStation, but it's through Sony that the world became aware that Shenmue 3 is happening.
Adam Boyes, VP of publisher and developer relations at PlayStation, brought Shenmue series director Yu Suzuki onto the stage, and together they launched a Kickstarter campaign for Shenmue 3. Needless to say, it's doing okay. When I checked half an hour after its activation, some $500,000 of the $2 million target had already been raised, and an hour later it'd broken a million dollars (the fastest of any video game campaign on the crowdfunding site). This morning, it's as good as there, just shy of its goal. The chances of the stars ever aligning in such a way just seem maddening—here's an iconic Sega franchise, being brought back by the fans, using Sony as a shop window to announce its intentions. That just could not have been, even two or three years ago. Video gaming in 2015, folks: anything can and might happen.
'Shenmue 3' E3 2015 announcement trailer.
Dreams, then, can come true, if you believe long and hard enough. If you cross everything, never walk on the cracks in the pavement, and salute every magpie. If you put aside criticism of the games industry as a money making machine above anything else and accept its occasional flashes of magic into your heart, throwing skepticism to the wind. Because, just sometimes, the unbelievable comes together to completely scatter preconceptions, expectations and cynicism. It did last night.
Sony's E3 2015 isn't a "winner," or anything like that. This year isn't about manufacturer rivalries, or who has the best exclusives—and both have some neat titles lined up, anyway. Rather, 2015 will be remembered for reminding us that what was precious before can be again, harnessing modern power to become more than it ever was. And when I finally see the Midgar of the FFVII Remake for myself, I'll let that tear fall. It's been hanging on long enough.
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