Japan is crazy about games. Almost everyone is a gamer here. The business districts are surrounded by cheap eateries and gaming bars. Five storey arcades that show off the latest motion-detecting dance games and 3D fighters, also contain original Street Fighter machines. Nearly every commuter on the subway is holding a 3DS, a PSP, a PS Vita, or, most commonly, a cell phone playing games.
This is part of the reason why the Tokyo Game Show wants to be the biggest game show in Asia. But this year it was empty.
I say "empty" but of course this is relative. The official numbers show more game titles, more exhibitors, and more attendees, but the huge event centre at Makuhari Messe feels emptier than it did two years ago.
here's no Microsoft here. There's no Nintendo either, despite the launch of the new Wii U. This is no surprise. Nintendo rarely attends the TGS, even when the 3DS launched they didn't attend. This year the only place you could try Wii U was by playing Tekken Tag at the Namco booth.
Where the big boys would normally be there were mobile app developers. Granted they were big mobile developers, but when your product is designed to be played on a (relatively) small screen, your stand tends to look big and empty. The same holds true when your keynote talk features financial projections, not screenshots.
Even the developers have modest stands. EA is sharing with SEGA, Namco is way off at the far end by itself. Even Capcom's massive stand (possibly the biggest) seems to be riding mainly on a recycled Monster Hunter area and the new Resident Evil (called Biohazard in Japan).
On the 40 minute train ride from Tokyo station to Makuhari Messe, the carriage slowly fills with commuters and what can only be game reporters. You can easily spot them. Other than not being Japanese, they tend to be a little bit skittish, carefully protecting their space. You see it more when you get inside and the hardcore reporters are guarding their place in line, ready to run for the biggest games as soon as the doors open.
But there are even fewer of these guys this year. More of the journalists seem to be relaxed and just hanging out chatting to other journos. There are no probing questions at the press conferences.
Even the surprise announcements are fairly lacklustre. Soul Sacrifice is delayed; there's a slightly smaller version of the PS3, profit margins are blah blah blah.
This is not to say the show was bad or boring. But it just felt, lacking.
here were quite a few new titles to play at TGS, mostly at the Sony stand with dismissed flashy set-pieces and just loaded up dozens of consoles and Vitas with roughly 80 titles. To my disappointment neither of Sony's new "Ellen Page" games were at TGS, The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls (OK, she's only in Two Souls, but you know what I mean).
Before getting into the games I played, I should mention something quickly about games at the Tokyo Game Show in Japan that may surprise you: they are all in Japanese. All the instructions, all of the voice acting - pretty much everything. This is fine when you're playing a sequel like God of War (if you can remember the controls), but playing a new game can be a little annoying.
Speaking of God of War: Ascension, I was able to play through the demo they showed off at E3. Goatmen were dismembered and thrown around. It was, as GoW often is, a bit of button-mashing bloody fun (after I remembered which buttons were which). The new time stopping / reversing / forwarding feature is neat but slighting confusing at first.
It wasn't clear that I wasn't supposed to completely rebuild a destroyed piece of scaffolding, but instead partially rebuild it, climb over the broken bits, then finish it off to continue. This is something I'm sure that will be covered by in-game tutorials.
The demo looked very sweet and ended with Kratos diving into the mouth of the Kraken after a quick battle reminiscent of his battle with Poseidon. The elephant man (no relation) was a bit of a let-down, but this is not the final game and he didn't play like a final boss creature, more like a centaur from GoW III.
As I walked straight in and played GoW there wasn't much of a wait. The longest wait of the day was for Assassin's Creed III. I was looking forward to tomahawking some dirty Templars, but instead the demo was a naval battle.
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