It was a rainy Sunday in Chiba as I lined up for my first Tokyo Game Show, and the signage wasn’t very good. I lost at least an hour queuing up to get in. Online-purchased ticket holders were required to take a special detour to have their printouts replaced with legitimate passes taken by staff upon entering the hall. It was a pain, to say the least, and I hope the whole process becomes smoother next year. Attending Gamescom was painless in comparison. But enough ranting. Let’s start off with some tips in case you’re planning to visit the show next year yourself.
As for some general advice, I’d suggest keeping expectations grounded and choosing two to three games that you’re interested in playing. The floor had only just opened when I arrived to play Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and waiting queues topped 240 minutes! Please keep in mind that the floor was only open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and generally all queues for game demos closed at 4 p.m., leaving only about six hours to go hands-on with your desired games. The Makuhari Messe, where the expo is hosted, is very crowded, so moving swiftly on your feet to get to your desired booth is advised.
Buying a Supporter’s Ticket online is also recommended. It costs roughly three times the price of a regular ticket at about 3,000 yen (approx. $38.50), but it grants the holder priority access one hour before the doors are officially opened, as well as some nice swag. It was my first time attending, so I was not very well organized, but should I decide to revisit the Tokyo Game Show next year, it will only happen with a Supporter’s Ticket in hand.
Before talking about the games, I should stress that I unfortunately could not get hands-on with many of the games themselves. I wanted to take a closer look at as many interesting titles as possible, however my impressions are all based on other visitors’ demo sessions, unless noted otherwise. Fortunately, it was fairly painless to get a glimpse of other players’ sessions, as opposed to queuing up for over two hours to play a 10-minute demo.
Fantay Life, a new RPG from Level-5 and Brownie Brown for 3DS, was the one of the only two games I could get my hands on personally.
The game is very vibrant and charmingly designed. The 3D effect was nice, but it did not add anything to the game so I ended up playing through the demo in 2D mode. (Editor’s Note: serious question, readers. Does anyone play their 3DS with the 3D on?) While the game has a cutesy art-style, it was a bit too colorful for my tastes. After the recent darker and more mature Level-5 adventure Time Travelers, I might have become jaded, but Fantasy Life seemed too much aimed at younger audiences for me. Gameplay reinforced that impression.
The Brownie Brown RPG features a two-button, real-time battle system, and the camera is controlled with the “L” and “R” shoulder buttons. Once in battle, only the “X” and “Y” buttons are used to attack, and the health bar and weapon icons appear to indicate that the player is actually in battle. There was no lock-on function, but my Hunter’s cross bow bolts always hit their target. It felt a bit too easy, in all honesty, as the simple battle system did not feature any complexity or challenges.
Based on what I’ve played, Fantasy Life feels squarely aimed at younger gamers. Ultimately, I was mildly entertained by the game’s floor demo, but it’s not one I could see myself playing upon release.
Monster Hunter 4
Getting hands-on time with Monster Hunter 4 was not an option, as the queues were over two hours long. But I headed over to the Capcom booth regardless for some watch time. When I arrived, I saw the stage was meticulously well-designed and prominent, as expected by one of Japan’s biggest brands.
The game seemed to be a crowd-pleaser and is sure to become the next big hit for Capcom in Japan. As I was unable to give it a test run (I’ve actually never played any Monster Hunter game), I can not judge the improvements / differences Capcom introduced in this new, numbered release. But I guess in-depth analyses will emerge / have already emerged online within the week by various Japanese and western gaming outlets. So I apologize, but I cannot contribute to the Monster Hunter 4 discussion.
God Eater 2
Yet another game I was unable to play, this time not due to waiting queues, but to the fact that it was not playable at the show, was Namco Bandai’s God Eater 2. However, I did see the trailer at the publisher’s booth, which shifted my thoughts from, “What the heck is God Eater?” to, “Looks like I’m going to download God Eater: Burst from PSN today, and purchase God Eater 2 day one on PS Vita.”
The trailer, which highlighted the PS Vita version, was certainly impressive. It seems Japanese studios are finally starting to lead development on PS Vita, downscaling games to PSP after, rather than the up-ressing approach we’ve seen in earlier PS Vita and PSP cross-platform games. It looked gorgeous and immediately raised my interest in the game. It’s definitely promising.
Toki to Towa
I was disappointed to discover that, like God Eater 2, a playable build of Toki to Towa was unavailable. Which I found odd, considering it’s due out in Japan in less than a month. (October 11!)
A trailer was shown though, which will probably raise the eyebrows of skeptics even further, as it included more fan-service scenes. I still advise gamers on the fence to wait for reviews and impressions when the game launches. Unfortunately, though I have the collector’s edition pre-ordered, I won’t be able to play the game until March, as my PlayStation 3 is back home in Germany. But the trailer’s enthusiastic narrator would’ve sold me on the game had I not already pre-ordered it.
Tales of Xillia 2
I was lucky enough to get a good look at Tales of Xillia 2. Of course, because ‘ridiculously long queue comment here’, I was only able to go eyes-on.
But even so, I feel I can wholeheartedly recommend the sequel. The engine is obviously the same Namco Bandai used in the first Tales of Xillia, so I was unable to spot any drastic improvements in visuals. But they weren’t necessary, I think, as the engine already produces beautiful and vibrant visuals without hiccups. I especially liked the new character designs of the core Xillia cast, as they are now a year older and have new jobs and positions in society.
The game’s biggest change is probably the new quick-time events, where Ludger is forced to make snap decisions, which will certainly be subject to split opinions. I liked them as they add more tension to the story during cutscenes, and keep the player on their toes. It should be interesting to see how far the consequences of your choices tie into the story.
Combat is fast, fluid, and fun, and the characters are well designed and interesting. Be ready for a serious Japanese role-playing game treat once the first Xillia makes its international debut. And hopefully, Tales of Xillia 2 will follow suit.
Atelier Totori Plus: The Adventurer of Arland
I was pleasantly surprised by Atelier Totori Plus, and how gorgeous it looked and performed on PS Vita. It seems like Gust scaled down the complete PlayStation 3 experience and then some, and crammed it onto one PS Vita cartridge.
The game runs smoothly, looks gorgeous, and the textures look identical to the PlayStation 3 version. The demo at on the show floor had Totori donning her new swimsuit, which will be offered as first-run bonus download content in the Japanese version.
I’ll be purchasing the PS Vita version in support of Gust and Mel Kishida, and because the animated cinematics look drop-dead gorgeous on PS Vita’s OLED screen. Almost on par with Tokushu Houdoubu’s OP (Special Report Division), but with added Moe – lots and lots of Moe.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
I’d like to end with a bang – with the title that receive my personal best of show award: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
The initial waiting time for the game was four hours, and it was the only game on my list I felt was worth queuing up for that long. Fortunately, all demo stations were facing the spectators and one random station was being live-broadcast on a huge screen. Alongside the awesome, probably official Metal Gear cosplayers and booth-babes, it was probably the show’s best promotions. I was even able to get my hands some awesome swag by simply waiting until the end of the queue and asking for one nicely.
The demo was PlatinumGames at their best: 60 frames per second, ace visuals, and bonkers, balls-to-the-wall, over-the-top action. The official Tokyo Game Show trailer for the game aptly summarized what to expect early next year, but I do not think that Platinum needs any introduction. The Osaka-based developer somehow managed to one-up their last game with their latest. Slashing, cutting, slow-motion slashing, cutting and taking (zan-datsu), and doing the same while airborne and headfirst (I could not believe it until I saw it live on the demo screen) is proof of Platinum’s owning the action genre. It was fast-paced, over-the-top and fun. I’d also like to point out that the technological achievement by PlatinumGames is remarkable. I’ve never seen a better-looking game running at native 720p and 60 frames.
There shouldn’t be any concerns about the PlayStation 3 version, either (Editor’s Note: after Vanquish, there shouldn’t be worries for any Platinum Game). All demos were running on PlayStation 3, as the game is exclusive to Sony’s console in Japan, and while I’m spoiled for graphics by Sony’s top studios, Platinum really blew me away. They own the action genre and produce games that are fun. As Kojima Productions’ own writer is penning the story, Metal Gear Rising should offer the best of both worlds: the best, most fun, over-the-top action conceivable by masters of the genre, and a solid story by a scripting veteran.
If there’s only one thing I thought this year’s price of admission was worth paying for, it would definitely be Platinum’s latest action extravaganza in the making.
Here are some more photos I took while at the Tokyo Game show.