Video games: Extra excitement for E3

From ‘Animal Crossing’ to ‘Cyberpunk 2077,’ this year’s expo packed with big announcements

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For gamers, E3 week is the most exciting time of the year. Game announcements flow like the Colorado River, carving canyons in our collective consciousness.

Some feared E3 2019 might be less than spectacular, however, because Sony decided, for the first time in its history, to skip the show. No booth, no media briefing, no online announcements — nothing from the company behind the world’s best-selling console.

Well, it seems like Sony may have made a mistake. Before the doors even opened, Microsoft, EA, Square Enix, Ubisoft, Bethesda and Nintendo had announced so many new games at their respective briefings, many of us were clearing our calendars through 2020.

“Cyberpunk 2077,” featuring Keanu Reeves, will hit shelves April 16.

Here are some highlights:

Electronic Arts kicked things off with “Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order,” a new action/adventure game set between Episodes III and IV. You play a Jedi with a small droid companion, in what looks like the aftermath of Order 66.

Developer Respawn (“Titanfall”) has gone to great lengths to make the combat deep and exciting, without being too complex. In addition to wielding your lightsaber, you’ll sport the usual assortment of force abilities allowing you to manipulate the environment around you. Nothing like pulling a storm trooper in for a brutal finish.

It looks spectacular and it will be available Nov. 15.

Not to be outdone, Microsoft highlighted a number of big games and gave the audience a first early peak at its next console, codenamed “Project Scarlet.”

“Gears 5,” due out Sept. 10, somehow connects content from the “Terminator” universe.

Both of its biggest first-party franchises were represented with “Gears (of War) 5,” due out Sept. 10, and “Halo Infinite,” launching with Project Scarlet around the 2020 holidays.

“Gears 5” continues humanity’s fight against the Locust, curiously somehow connecting content from the “Terminator” universe (at least for those who pre-order).

Details on “Halo Infinite” remain sparse, but we do know that Master Chief is back, rescued from deep space by a spacefaring pilot in a broken-down ship. As the destroyed Halo world floats in the background, we are left to wonder where the saga will take us next.

DLC for “Forza Horizon 4” includes Lego cars, a Lego world and even Lego minifigure racers.

Those enjoying “Forza Horizon 4” will be pleased to find the new “LEGO Speed Champions” DLC available Thursday. The content includes Lego cars, a Lego world and even Lego minifigure racers. It looks like a bricking good time.

The most exciting announcement coming from the Microsoft briefing had to be a fresh look, and release date, for CD Projekt Red’s highly anticipated “Cyberpunk 2077,” now with 100% more Keanu Reeves!

Reeves strolled out on stage to let us know how excited he was to be part of the game, and the crowd went completely insane. It went from a game everyone already wanted to the game we all need, hitting on April 16.While there’s no shortage of great games coming this year, spring 2020 is already looking packed.

Nintendo fans — who were treated to a Nintendo Direct so packed it will require additional viewings to really catch everything — learned this year’s “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” has been bumped to March 20, 2020.

“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” has been bumped to March 20, 2020.

From the looks at the trailer — which showed things like a deserted island, multiple villagers, animal neighbors and, of course, Tom Nook, making bells by selling you stuff — “Animal Crossing” fans are in for a huge treat.

Other big Nintendo announcements included “Luigi’s Mansion 3,” still due out in 2019 and looking spooky as ever; “The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening,” a previously announced Game Boy remake hitting Sept. 20; and a couple of new “Smash Bros. Ultimate” fighters — characters from “Dragon’s Quest XI” and “Banjo/Kazooi,” returning to a Nintendo console for the first time since Microsoft purchased developer Rare.

“Link’s Awakening” is a Game Boy remake hitting Sept. 20.

And just to show that they were not resting at all, Nintendo finished with an announcement that the company is working on a direct sequel to “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.” Don’t look for that until late 2020 or early 2021, though.

Meanwhile, Ubisoft wowed audiences with updates for its “Tom Clancy” universe games, including new releases in the “Ghost Recon” and “Rainbow Six” series.

It was the latest “Watchdogs” game that really got the audience talking. “Watchdogs: Legion” features a massive open-world London setting and the ability to recruit any civilian you come across. Hundreds of characters, each full voiced and with his or her own backstory, are ready to join your resistance. No more NPCs — you can literally play as everyone!

“Watchdogs: Legion” will feature a massive open-world London setting.

Finally, the Square Enix conference featured a number of nice surprises for JRPG fans, starting with a release date for “Final Fantasy VII” remake. Launching on March 3, 2020, the game is more than a simple polish job. The whole game has been rebuilt from the ground up, with expanded content and a completely revisualized, real-time combat system.

The adventure focuses on Midkemia, which means it will cover only about the first half of the original game. While Square Enix has said from the start that the release would be “episodic” in form, it looks like it may end up more like multiple full games thanks to the expansion.

The company also announced a number of excellent reissues and remakes, including the “Collection of Mana,” featuring three original “Mana” games, including “Trials of Mana” in it’s first ever English release. “Collection of Mana” was announced and released on the Nintendo eShop on Tuesday.

Square is also preparing a full, 3D remake of “Trials of Mana,” which will release on Switch, PS4 and PC in early 2020. Although they are not ready to discuss any content updates, it sounds like it will indeed feature at least some additional content.

“Final Fantasy VII” has been rebuilt from the ground up and will release March 3.

Finally, the much-requested “Final Fantasy VIII,” will finally re-release in fall 2019. Many feared the source code was either lost or corrupted, since even simple re-releases haven’t been done, while parts “VII” and “IX” have appeared repeatedly. Fortunately, Square Enix is treating players to this often-overlooked masterpiece on both Switch and PS4.

This really only scratches the surface of what’s coming. Look for updates and expanded coverage in future installments of Rocky Mountain Gamer.

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