As a first visit to any kind of games show, it was going to be very interesting to see what all the fuss was about. I remember reading about the Tokyo Game Show among other shows in magazines years back and having a sense of delight and amazement. Did you ever dream of going to a game show in Japan? I'm sure it's something most avid gamers can associate with.
On Sunday the 28th of September, my wife and I headed towards Makuhari messe from western Tokyo, a journey of 2 hours. When we finally arrived at the convention centre, we were directed by people with loud speakers. Hoards of people gathered at the ticket boxes. Surprisingly all sorts of people came, from families to game costume players, otaku game freaks and a big number of female gamers.
On with the Show....
Walking into the building for the first time, we were greeted with a huge noise of bass, lights and smoke, almost immediately after entering, employees at small unknown stands were handing out leaflets of their products and free goodies - great! Just across from the entrance was the SNK Playmore booth showing off their big game SNK Vs Capcom. Standing on the big stage with TV cameras in front of them were challengers from the big crowd waiting or watching the few lucky people who could go up and have a go. After wandering around for a little we came across the DragonQuest booth. This game just plugs into your TV and requires you to swing a sword to chop the baddies up. After having a go of this and using a lot of energy trying to beat the baddies, I can see the kids loving it. Who said video games are unhealthy!
Hopping along to the SEGA booth we were caught by the loud theme music to Sonic Heroes. Before joining the queue one of the SEGA employees said to play we would have to wait about 30 minutes. I'm a big Sonic fan so I thought no problem, however 1 hour later we were still waiting and after listening to the theme music blasting down my ears I regret wasting the precious short time there was. On the game side, Sonic Heroes was being shown on all the main machines, but was fairly substandard. The PS2 version was the poorest of the lot, with slowdown and typical jagged lines. Kunoichi stood out as a fast paced good looking game. Still about mid way in development it's looking promising. Another long wait but fun to play.
The most impressive booth for me was Capcom's: big, colourful and lots to see and do. Straight away I was drawn to the PS2's new Street Fighter 2 Hyper game celebrating the game's 15th anniversary, which could be played using the new Sammy arcade sticks and they DO play as good as they look! In the middle of the booth were two huge pillars with Onimusha 3 all around them. I loved the look and feel of the game - a little tricky to get to grips with, but nothing practice won't fix. To the right of Onimusha was the strong showing of Biohazard Outbreak.
I really am looking forward to seeing this in the future, as I love the series, and of course it drew in the crowd to play it even with a 1 hour waiting time for the most part. It looks like Biohazard with new features, and interacting with real players in the game is intriguing. Monster Hunter was a game that stole my eyes for a while. At only half way through development, I found it looked great, and it was one of the more original games at the show. You could feel how tense it was trying to trap the monster without getting yourself killed - great stuff.
One of the most disturbing games I saw was SIREN, which was being demonstrated in a dark, smoke filled room. The game by SCEI looked similar to Silent Hill, maybe due to the dark, foggy look, and I really got the creeps watching it. All those childhood nightmares were brought back to life in an adult atmosphere. Expect an 18 rating for it's disturbing theme.
The main Sony booth was also huge and colourful. Main showings included Gran Turismo 4 and Eye Toy. Eye toy was a crowd puller, with the dancing on the stage and big screen display. Vibrant and energetic would be one way to describe it.
Another game on my wish list was the new Ridge Racer title, R:Racing Evolution. First impressions of it were that it looked less like Gran Turismo than I have been led to believe. More say, like a polished up Ridge Racer on the PS2. It really does look great. However, from the first moment you play it, you realise it's not like the preceeding Ridge Racer games, due to the heavy handling of this version. I'm betting on it being more like a deeper version of Rage Racer, albeit with a simulation tilt.
There was an area of the show where you could buy gaming memorabilia: Biohazard guns, jackets, Street fighter t-shirts, caps and game music CDs for a not so cheap price. Some of the items were really authentic from whichever game they came from, particularly the weapons from Biohazard and the SWAT team clothing. In another area, you could take your picture with a pretty showgirl and get it printed out on the spot, which was amusing.
At the end of the day, there was so much to see and do, with so little time to do it in. Time was often spent either waiting in line or watching the over obsessed cameramen take pictures of the showgirls in their slender looking clothing, which I can't blame them for. I ended up getting my hands on a couple of DVDs, phone attachments, notepads, posters and some rather large Eye Toy bags, junk memorabilia indeed! Playing new games before their release gives you that rather lucky and savour-the-moment feeling, and I felt privileged. Having seen all the fuss, now I can begin to understand why some people go out of their way to go. As a first timer I can say next year's convention will be on my schedule and I see the Tokyo Game Show as one part of the Mecca of games.
Text and photos by Dan Webb / Supergoal