PAX South 2017

Back again for my third PAX South

PAX South is a convention I love going to because it’s close to home, it’s a great excuse to hang out with my buddies, and sometimes we get to see some really cool stuff coming out over the next year. The convention center had been undergoing some massive renovations and expansions since the last time I was here in 2016, and the expo hall was far larger and far better this year for it.

A week or two before this convention kicked off, I had found my old Nintendo 64 and brought it out of storage. One of my goals while I was here was to begin rebuilding my game library – it was almost too easy across all the retro game shops I found here. My haul included Donkey Kong 64, Jet Force Gemini, Pokemon Snap, and Conker’s Bad Fur Day.

 

Nintendo has a brand new toy

Retro games weren’t all I was interested in, though. Another definite goal of mine was to fight my way to the Nintendo booth and get my hands on a Switch. This convention was still a few months before the Switch would see it’s commercial release and I was super anxious to see how it felt in the hands. As it turns out, I was absolutely not the only person with that idea. The Nintendo booth lines would reach capacity within┬áminutes of the expo hall opening each day.

It was the first opportunity a lot of people would have to try playing Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, Arms, and many other games planned for the Switch. I never was able to snag a spot in the Nintendo lines, but fortunately there was a Plan B.

 

Switch in hand

Fortunately, there were a few stations next to the stage at the rear of the Nintendo booth that were demoing Mario Kart 8: Deluxe the entire convention, and anyone who made it to the front of the crowd could hop on for a race. It’s the same Mario Kart 8 we already love from the Wii U of course, but this was when I got to hold the hardware for the very first time.

Ever since the announcement, I was concerned that the size of the Joy-Cons and the combined tablet unit would be too small or uncomfortable. But when I sat down and took up the Switch, gone was the toy-ish feeling of the Wii U tablet. Instead it was an incredibly comfortable device to hold, and it just felt sleek in every regard – precisely the size it needed to be.

Incidentally, I’m also really confident that this photo moment is exactly what got me sick for two weeks after the convention. Learn from my mistakes, go wash your hands right after handling the communal hardware!

 

A surprise game discovery

Both of my main goals for the convention satisfied, I spent a lot more time just wandering the convention and taking it all in. Found some interesting panels to sit in on, participated in a scavenger hunt, and hung out in the jamspace. But then one of my friends let me know about a game he had demoed that really got him hyped up, and then he said the magic words: “It’s basically Monster Hunter for PC.”

Enter Dauntless, a game I had never heard of prior to that day. For anyone who has played a Monster Hunter game you’ll know exactly what to expect, but for anyone else this game is all about pitting you versus incredible creatures in their own habitats. There are no boss health bars or glowy weak-points here, instead you’ll rely on your prey’s behavior and your experience as a hunter to gauge your progress and pace yourself through the challenge of bringing down a behemoth.

We hit the line for the booth, and a short time later paired up with two others to put our teamwork to the test. It took around twenty minutes, but we managed to get a feel for each other and the creature’s attacks and put it all together to take out our target. It’s definitely a love letter to the Monster Hunter series, so I’m awaiting their planned transition to beta around the end of this year with great excitement.

 

Parting thoughts

I mentioned hitting the jamspace earlier – I stopped in at just the right time to catch a few of the planned sets! What I didn’t expect though was how much it made me miss my trip to MAGFest just a few short weeks prior. That I could come here and get just a small taste of my previous trip was a really nice touch.

But besides all that, PAX South this definitely felt more like it’s really getting in to the swing of things this year. There was a lot of downtime, but I appreciate that more than feeling like I need to run all over the convention to see everything I want to. Either way, the convention was bigger than ever this year and I’m sure the continued growth and experience will lead to bigger and better panels, events, and vendors in the coming years so I’m looking forward to 2018!