Fear and Cosplay in San Diego
Over the course of SDCC 2015, I experienced far too much to devote single articles to every booth or demo that I visited, so I’m going to wrap up my trip to Comic-Con with a couple gaming highlights. First off, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the multiple photo ops in and around the convention center promoting Dark Souls III. The game was recently announced at E3, so there weren’t any demos or new footage available, but Bandai Namco ensured a presence at the convention that would get fans talking regardless. First, they’d set up a booth in the exhibit hall where people could get their picture taken as they’re being murdered by a charred and eyeless knight. That’s me, above, being murdered. Once you’ve been murdered, the booth babes make sure you post your death on instagram with the hashtag #embracethedarkness in order to get a free poster. Since people at conventions (and people in general) can’t resist the promise of free stuff, this marketing strategy proved rather effective in getting the Dark Souls III buzz going.
The second photo op, and arguably the more revealing one, was set up off-site by the nearby Petco Park stadium. This diorama, containing a knight with its sword plunged into a zombie-like creature, had a curiously somber feel to it. Slaying a monster in Dark Souls or Bloodborne typically comes with a sense of triumph, but this knight was kneeling over the creature as if repentant, all while a mournful orchestral score played overhead. When posing for the picture, fans were asked to pull on the second sword, which caused a huge geyser of black blood to spray from the dead creature. The whole scene reminded me, strangely enough, of Shadow of the Colossus. Since Miyazaki is returning to the Souls series after helming Bloodborne, perhaps he’s continuing to explore the theme of monsters as people and the player character as an ambiguous force of destruction. Dark Souls III has been described as “pre-apocalyptic” by Miyazaki at a press event, so whatever this tableau may represent, it most likely has something to do with the death of the Dark Souls world as we know it.
On a lighter note, I also got the chance to demo the upcoming Super Mario Maker, and it’s exactly as insane and brilliant as you might expect. This is a game that basically allows players to create their own I Wanna Be The Guy or Syobon Action and share them online in a massive database. The level that I played included such delightful obstacles as a door that led straight to a fatal drop, a stairway made of bullet bills, and a blind jump onto a single bouncy music note block. The most brilliant/devious part of the game is that no shared level is impossible, no matter how arbitrarily difficult it might be. Players can only upload levels that they have beaten themselves, which is sure to generate some intense competition among hardcore Mario players. For the casual crowd, there are difficulty ratings to separate the meat grinders from the cake walks. New gameplay features, like a level that I witnessed with Mario flying around in Bowser’s clown copter, should keep things fresh for players across all skill levels.
Then, there was the huge Capcom booth, where Street Fighter V tournaments were held and merchandise was sold. None of my Street Fighter pictures came out, and I don’t know enough about the previous Street Fighter to comment on how this one stacks up, but I did find something else interesting at the Capcom booth: wearable life-size Mega Man helmets. They aren’t for sale yet, but they are available to pre-order for $150 at Capcom’s online shop, and I must say, the display models looked incredible. They looked surprisingly comfortable, and they even light up. $150 is a pretty hefty price tag, but for the quality of the item, I can wholeheartedly recommend it to any collector or cosplayer. Hell, I don’t normally go for this stuff, but I’m tempted to buy one myself.
Lastly, there was the Warcraft movie display. This was something of a landmark in the exhibit hall, being so massive and so centrally located that it was hard for anyone to miss. Directed by Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie and basically M. Night Shyamalan from a better timeline, this movie has a lot to prove. Can a video game adaptation actually work? Can a director who has exclusively made clever, tightly-focused twisty thrillers pull off a bloated fantasy epic? Can we buy those knight statues when you’re done with them, Legendary? I missed the exclusive footage shown at the convention, but it’s popping up all over the internet, and it’s only a matter of time before Universal gets tired of trying to shut the videos down and releases their own official video. We’ll keep you up to date if and when that happens, so stay tuned and thanks for reading!
Original sources: Express