EDITORIAL: Fan Expo Canada 2017Reported by NCZ on Tuesday, September 5th 2017
Another year, another fun time at Fan Expo. This year was a bit tumultuous with reschedulings and unfortunate cancellations (I only found out Troy Baker cancelled when I arrived at the con – “next year, I’m bringing him for sure” quipped Nolan North at his table when the subject arose), it was nonetheless a fun way to make the long Labour Day weekend fly by. This year I was able to dabble in a bit of everything – attended a couple voice acting panels, met and snapped pics of voice actors at their signing tables, and even got to demo some cool upcoming video games. The event was lightened by a number of passionate cosplayers as well. Some of the most memorable I saw included a Belle and Beast with almost professional-quality makeup, Sailor Moon wearing Majora's Mask (her sign: "In the name of the moon, I will punish you!"), a whole squad of D. Vas (presumably here to see Charlet Chung, who enjoyed a healthy lineup), and daring men dressed like Metal Gear's Quiet or Catherine's Vincent. Actually I think it was mainly the men who went skimpy this year, which was fun to experience.
One of the most interesting voiceover panels I went to was Amanda Miller’s - it was extremely candid and freeform, coming off as even intimate and personal. Some highlights included stories about how she got into VO (long story short – she was planning to be a theatre actress in Broadway, Tony Oliver did a local VO workshop, he saw promise with her, and she ended up moving to LA), she talked about the challenges of ADR, both as a writer and director (writing for the French series Lastman), and commented about which characters are most like herself – Sailor Jupiter, Boruto, and Sully are actually not very far off. She discussed the surreal nature of growing up as someone who idolized and identified with Sailor Jupiter, and now gets to be her, tying in with a Tumblr post she wrote and was asked about. To her, the beauty of Sailor Moon is that everyone, regardless of their age or gender or personality, had someone among the Sailor Scouts they could identify with, and that is what made it such a meaningful series. She also talked about the fun times she gets to have hanging out with the original Toronto dub cast when they meet up at conventions. It was also a huge honour to meet VAs such as Nolan North, Charlet Chung, David Hayter, and Jennifer Hale at their signing booths. Getting the opportunity to have a quick chat with them was a real pleasure, and they were all genuinely happy to be there and delighted to meet fans. Being VAs I've either grown up hearing or recently become familiar with due to more recent breakout roles, even I have to admit it was hard to shake off the nerves. This year had one of Fan Expo's best voice actor lineups to date, with a lot of variety when it comes to the medium or region they all work in, so I'm looking forward to many of them coming back to future events with even more in tow.
With some of the voice actors planning to attend it unfortunately cancelling, the Princess Bride script reading was rescheduled and changed to one of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, with special guest David Hayter as Khan. Though I’ve never really watched Star Trek before, it was an entertaining read – you could just tell the people reading it were passionate fans of the series. While some seemed to be channeling the original actors (Sulu and Chekhov especially), others like Kirk and Spock seemed to take a bit more liberty toward their own spin. And of course, David Hayter’s turn as Khan was something that simply must be seen – essentially Solid Snake with a suave Spanish accent, he chewed through scenery like bubblegum, and even threw in several of his own improvisations to make the whole room – cast included – crack up. Though it had to be cut short due to another event taking place in the same room immediately after, it was nonetheless one of the highlights of the weekend.
Finally on Thursday, the quietest day of the con, I got to try a number of upcoming games for Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch, and have posted my impressions below:
Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch, 10/27/2017)
- Nintendo had an entire block all to themselves packed with Switch consoles, with the nonstop multiplayer action of ARMS, Splatoon 2, and Pokken Tournament DX running full-throttle throughout the event. Yet the centrepiece of their little zone was none other than the plumber himself, in his latest 3D globe-trotting adventure. There’s not a lot to be said about Odyssey that’s still unknown after its jawdropping showing at this June’s E3, but nonetheless I couldn’t help but give it a go myself. The demo allowed you to choose between two kingdoms, Metro Kingdom (i.e. New Donk City) and Sand Kingdom. I opted to go with New Donk City, and though the demo was timed, I more-or-less had free reign to explore at my own pace however I saw fit. Though some compared it to Sonic Adventure’s Station Square, I was amazed that New Donk City completely maintains the feel of your average level from Super Mario 64 or Sunshine. It’s a wide-open sandbox with plenty of little objectives to go for on a whim. Whether it’s skipping rope, getting a big band together for Mayor Pauline (yup, she’s back!), or getting a free moon from Captain Toad, the game is one that reminds me even of Nintendo’s other AAA open-world Switch game, Zelda: Breath of the Wild – it truly is a game that rewards and actively encourages creativity and personal freedom. To my delight, you can even jump on the humans’ heads and bounce off, just like how I loved annoying the Piantas in Sunshine. I didn’t get to try the Sand Kingdom demo, though from what I saw of other players, it looked to be more action-based, showing off the E3 demo’s famous hat-possession gimmick. I think I’d like to save my first time trying that for when the full game drops in a couple months.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (Playstation 4, 1/19/2018)
- The first Ni no Kuni is a very unique game, warts and all. A modern throwback to the classical era of RPGs, it was most renowned for the involvement of the legendary Studio Ghibli, who not only informed the game’s artistic sensibilities, but also provided its animated cutscenes and even its score. Though there was room for improvement, I’m extremely happy to say that based on the demo I played, Ni no Kuni II has taken the groundwork its predecessor laid as an opportunity to reach even greater heights. Although the game will not feature Studio Ghibli’s 2D cutscenes, it arguably doesn’t need them – with its lush, cel-shaded graphics, careful animation, and the stirring soundtrack of Joe Hisaishi, it takes the first game’s promise of a fully interactive Ghibli film above and beyond. You control Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, a grimalkin-human hybrid who serves as the king-in-training of Ding Dong Dell – the demo I played was a boss battle presented as part of his training, fighting a gorilla-like monster called Thogg. The game abandons the first’s real-time/command-based hybrid battle system in favour of a purely action-based system, reminiscent of the Tales, Kingdom Hearts, or Nier series. The Pokemon-esque familiars are also gone, allowing for much greater focus on the core party members themselves. Buffs and debuffs were provided by “higgledies”, fairylike creatures who would occasionally gather in formation to help me in battle. The most pleasant surprise I saw is that the game runs at a crisp 60 frames per second, making it extremely fluid and responsive in motion. The game was recently delayed from a November launch until the middle of January, and as a matter of fact, I welcome that with open arms. To the development team at Level-5, all I can say is take all the time you need, because you have a real winner on your hands.
Pokken Tournament DX (Nintendo Switch, 9/22/2017)
- The original Pokken Tournament was one of the few Wii U games I actually skipped on, in part because the Switch was looming over the horizon and I had a gut feeling the game was ripe for a sequel or expansion down the road. On one hand, it feels good to be right. On the other hand, this means I was completely smoked by the Nintendo rep I played against. Anyway, Pokken DX may not be as much of a leap forward from its predecessor as Splatoon 2, but it is nonetheless the definitive version of the game. In addition to featuring the four post-launch arcade characters who never made it to Wii U (Scizor, Empoleon, Croagunk, and Darkrai), Pokken DX also boasts Decidueye from Pokemon Sun and Moon as an all-new fighter, with Litten and Popplio joining as assists. The gameplay is pretty much the same, being a free-roaming 3D fighter that’s something of a mix of Power Stone and Tekken, but the Switch’s native hardware features like its portability and the ability for two players to each use one joycon go a long way into making DX a smoother experience.
Everybody’s Golf (Playstation 4, 8/29/2017)
- This game was actually released a couple days before the show began, but it was so recent that evidently Sony saw fit to include a demo here. Though I had certainly been aware of it, I’d never really played many of the Everybody’s Golf games before (formerly known as “Hot Shots Golf” in North America, the latest installment is using its European/Japanese name globally). In this demo, I controlled an avatar resembling (and named after) Playstation boss Shuhei Yoshida (to my amusement). As for the game, well, it’s golf, but a bit closer to the Mario Golf vein than the uber-realistic Tiger Woods PGA Tour. You line up a shot, hit the button, and then time two further button presses according to a metre at the bottom of the screen, when it respectively fills up and goes back down to its basepoint. If done correctly, you’ll hit the maximum possible distance. Even though I’m not much of a golfer, the game is simple enough that it’s actually quite fun. The lush environments and cartoony character models create a pretty cozy atmosphere too, one you can easily see yourself unwinding with after a long, stressful day. The full game apparently also features golf cart races and multiplayer interactions with others on the field. You can even go fishing! I’m definitely sold on the game. As soon as I get the chance, I’m easily giving it a buy.
Detroit: Become Human (Playstation 4, TBA 2018)
- The furthest-out game on the list here. All of the over-the-top acting and enthusiastic melodrama you’d expect from a David Cage game is here, though the extremely detailed graphics and vivid sound design do give it a pretty hard punch. In this demo, I controlled Connor, one of the three playable characters in the final game. The game takes place in a world where lifelike androids live alongside humans, addressing the existential and sociological issues that would arise from this. A rogue android was holding a young girl hostage on top of a roof and threatening to shoot her, while I performed a detective-like investigation of his house to find evidence – the goal of the demo being to see if you could gather enough information about him to convince him not to pull the trigger. All in all, it was extremely similar to a certain pivotal scene in Life is Strange, down to the conversation options you have to choose on the fly when you finally confront him. Thankfully, I succeeded and the girl was unharmed, although the android was apprehended by police. It was an interesting demo, and I’m sure the game will be pretty successful among the crowd who loves cinematic, point-and-click, and decision-based games.
All in all, I had a great time. I didn’t even get to check out the Artist’s Alley (one of my favourite staples) because of just how much action there was to keep up with. The dealer’s room being bigger and better than ever, along with more star panels and exclusive events, in the five years I’ve been attending the convention it’s clear that Fan Expo has found a way to grow itself while still remaining true to its roots. Next year’s Fan Expo is currently scheduled for August 30th – September 2. Unless something extremely dire happens, we’ll be there once again.
Our photo album, containing pictures of the event, is viewable here on our Facebook page. Videos of David Hayter's turn as Khan can be seen at the following three links: