TOKYO - I've never been to Japan, much less the Tokyo Game Show. So I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from the convention. It's a much smaller show than E3, with a significantly lower number of games on display. Also, the second and third days of the show are open to the public. Anyone with enough money and a desire to play games that aren't out yet can simply stand in line and rush the convention center as soon as the gate opens in the morning. This is, of course, what the masses of people did, mostly because the faster they got to the booths that were handing out playable demos, the greater chance they had of getting there before the supply of discs was completely exhausted. For the record, there were playable demos of three Dreamcast games there: Record of Lodoss War, Eternal Arcadia, and Super Runabout. All you needed to do was stand in line and collect your prize. The supply of Eternal Arcadia discs was snapped up on the first, business-only day of the show - and with good reason, because it looks great. Be sure to check out the movies we put up of Eternal Arcadia.
Note to self: Remember to bring a VCR next time you go to Japan, so you can tape commercials and all the ill television shows, specifically the one where the guy lies on his back and, with his feet, launches women onto a gymnastics mat.
Sega's entire booth was pretty much the place to be throughout the show. While other companies (Sony, Namco) were heavily relying on games that had hit store shelves the day before the show started, Sega was delivering great-looking and great-playing games like Jet Set Radio and Samba De Amigo. Plus, there was a looping video of Phantasy Star Online that totally blew me away. This ambitious massively multiplayer game looks simply awesome. Plus, it will give me an excuse to pick up one of those cool Swatch watches that tell time in both standard and Swatch Internet Time, a new time format invented by Swatch in an attempt to better convey time across time zones and around the world.
Conversely, many of the other booths featured games that are already on store shelves. The only unreleased PS2 game at Sony's booth was TVDJ, formerly known as Be On Air. Read our impressions of this one to find out more about this seemingly lame game. Namco's booth was heavily centered on Tekken Tag Tournament for the PS2, which hit stores the day before the show opened. The same goes for Tecmo, which was one big Dead or Alive 2 PS2 display, save for a few Monster Farmer Card Battle (a PlayStation strategy game, also currently available in Japan) kiosks off to the side.
While Capcom's Marvel vs. Capcom 2 for the Dreamcast was already available when the show started, the company's booth contains lots of other cool-looking games. A looping tape was being broadcast all over the booth, displaying a few upcoming games that Capcom would be publishing: Tomb Raider: Last Revelation (uh, yay), Silpheed (which looks as if it's going to be an amazing 3D shooter), and Gungriffon Blaze (the sequel to a very cool Saturn mech shooter). Anyone who tells you Silpheed and Gungriffon Blaze weren't shown anywhere on the floor must not have spent very much time at the show, because it was pretty hard to miss. Check out the movies we put up for a sneak peek. Capcom also had Power Stone 2 in both arcade and DC incarnations. I played a few rounds against Mielke, and we both decided that the game was pretty cool. Very nice backgrounds.
Most of SNK's booth was devoted to Cool Cool Toon, the company's foray into the music/dancing-game business. The DC game will link with Cool Cool Jam, its Neo Geo Pocket Color counterpart. The SNK booth also contained Metal Slug 3 for the good old Neo Geo cart system. It looked as if it will pack in much of the same shooting and side-scrolling action that made the previous three (Metal Slug, Metal Slug 2, and Metal Slug X) games in the series such big hits.
Note to self: Carefully surround your PlayStation2 in dirty laundry to keep it from getting damaged on the flight home.
Square's booth was pretty depressing. The only playable games were Driving Emotion Type-S, its PlayStation2 baseball game (missing several basic features that won't be added before the game ships, such as the ability to move in the batter's box) and a PlayStation2 wrestling game (yet another dull Japanese wrestling game, complete with horrific control). Perhaps the company should just rename itself Final Fantasy Inc. and stick to the games it knows best.... There was also a small theater inside the company's booth, which had a show every 30 minutes. There were a few different presentations, but most, if not all, of the Final Fantasy footage shown was the same stuff that was shown a few months back at Square Millennium. The Bouncer was shown only briefly in one of the presentations. Word on the street is that several members of the team working on The Bouncer have left Square and that the game is on hold indefinitely. That's a real bummer, because it's pretty much the only Square game I'm looking forward to at this point.
Jaleco's booth was centered mostly on Stepping Selection for the PS2 and Rocking Megastage, another PS2 music game, which uses a foot pedal similar to the weak, pressure-sensitive pad that comes with the PS2 version of DrumMania. The company also displayed its latest music game, which challenges you to sing songs as well as you possibly can. The words to the song scroll across the bottom of the screen (in Japanese, unfortunately), and a bar moves across remainder of the screen, which gives you a clue about the pitch of each word. Pretty crazy stuff. I think Jaleco needs to make a new Stepping Selection that comes with a Britney Spears-style headset microphone, so you can sing and dance at the same time.
Note to self: Write a nasty letter to Pokemon Center Tokyo to tell the company that "No Koffing merchandise = No Jeff!"
Hey, remember when Konami used to release games that weren't music games? Those were the good ol' days. OK, it's not that bad yet, but it's getting there. Aside from Metal Gear Ghost Babel for the Game Boy and a few other fairly unassuming titles, Konami's booth was one big Bemani commercial, displaying the new deluxe DDR pads (extra cushion and universal connectors, all for 9800 yen which is about US$93... sigh...); Dance Dance Revolution 3rd Mix for the PS; Dancemania X, an arcade dancing game that actually used sensors near your hands and feet to determine how well you're dancing; new mixes for Guitar Freaks and DrumMania; and Backspin Mania, the company's upcoming break-dancing game. The pad is a cardboard box with buttons. OK, I'm kidding about that last one. Ever want to conduct an orchestra? Konami's got a PlayStation game that'll let you wave the wand (or, at the very least, a wand controller).
It's disappointing that Sony didn't have more to show. Sega certainly didn't have a problem capitalizing on Sony's lack of software by showing amazing stuff. If I had to pick a game of the show, I'd pick Boong-A Boong-A, a Korean redemption game that no one will ever see again. OK, I'm kidding again. I won't say much about Boong-A Boong-A, but let's just say we have taken to calling it "the ass-pounding game."
The game of the show is Phantasy Star Online. It just looks too amazing to miss. Playable game of the show goes to Jet Set Radio, which definitely appears to be near completion. The largest disappointment is split between Sony and Namco, which I suppose both companies didn't think to actually show something that wasn't already on shelves.
Note to self: Come back to Japan for Spaceworld, and don't buy one of those silly Slamman workout machines - get a Punch Mania arcade cabinet instead.