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Tokyo Game Show 2004 Wrap-Up: Pretty Car Replay Edition

As I write this, the 2004 Tokyo Game Show is coming to a close. It's almost 5PM on Sunday, September 26th in this here hotel room. Looking out the window, I can see what appears to be about a billion people streaming from the convention center, most of them headed in the direction of the train station. The show's over. There's nothing left to see here.

But over the last three days, I think we've seen some pretty exciting stuff. I've been covering the Tokyo trade show circuit for several years now, and while I won't call this year's show the best TGS I've ever seen, it's certainly an improvement over the last couple of years. The largest contributor to that improvement is Sony. Getting our hands on some PSP games--even if most of them are running off of devkits instead of actual hardware--is something we've been waiting for since May.

The PSP is an interesting device and I came away from it with some mixed feelings. On one hand, the games are probably the best-looking portable games ever. Considering it's way more powerful than just about anything else on the market (one developer described it as being roughly Dreamcast-equivalent), that's not really much of a shock. On the other hand, the system is slightly smaller than I remember it being. It's not quite as bulky as the photos make it out to be, that's for sure. You shouldn't have trouble fitting it in your pocket, though with the large, clear screen on that thing, you're going to want a carrying case. Don't just cram it in the same pocket as your car keys and your switchblade. Also, that control disc just below the D pad? It's not a true analog device! That was downright shocking to me. I heard it first from a developer, but thought maybe he was just crazy. But after playing the whole lineup--particularly the driving games that would benefit from analog control the most--it's got to be true. It feels like it might be more than just an eight-way controller, though. Maybe it's a 49-way stick, like Sinistar or NFL Blitz used in the arcade. Regardless of those issues, it definitely seems like it'll be worth $249. Or, uh, $299. Whatever.

The other shock of the show was also Sony-related. There's no online in Gran Turismo 4. Hey, great! Yeah, hey, it's only just about completely standard for PS2 racing games to have online play. No one will miss that, I'm sure. EA was showing Burnout 3 here, but it didn't draw the crowds quite like GT4 did. Probably because it was set up with those GT steering wheels on it. I can't imagine that game is nearly as much fun with the wheel as it is with a regular controller, but hey, I bet it's still more fun than selecting a number between one and five watching some sort of car strategy game unfold. Why don't they just cut out the middle man and come out with GT4: Pretty Car Replay Edition instead?

Cosplay frightens me. There, I said it. Since TGS is open to the public on the second and third days of the show, it gets filled up with a bunch of crazies who dress up as various anime chicks. Occasionally you get something clever, though. This year there were a few decent Solid Snakes, apparently, but the one I saw that did my heart good was a girl dressed up as the Prince from Katamari Damacy. Classic. Absolutely classic.

A lot of crazy junk gets handed out at trade shows. At TGS, most of that crazy junk is merely flyers for games and large bags to hold said flyers. At the Blinx 2 display they were handing out Blinx coasters. Which is great because (wait for it) now I can stop using the Blinx 1 game disc for all my drink coasting needs. Ooh, snap! But I kid the Blinx, honestly. Please tip your waitstaff, I'll be here all week.

The other thing that sticks out in my head is the new Metal Slug coming to PlayStation 2. The video SNK showed was certainly early, but so far, it seems like the exact direction that Metal Slug needs to go in... if the objective is to alienate anyone who ever liked a Metal Slug game. The third-person behind-the-back perspective and the drab graphics make that game look more like an Army Men game than a Metal Slug game. But hey, it's early. So perhaps it could be cool when it's finally released, right? Right?

Looking ahead, I see jet lag in my future. There's really nothing that can be done about it, I guess, but the trip from Japan to San Francisco is far more crippling than the trip from SFO to Japan. That's probably because we don't really do much sleeping when we're over here to begin with. There's too much to do and barely enough time to do it. But, honestly, that's the way I like it. On some level, it almost becomes an endurance challenge. How long can you write about games until you fall asleep at your keyboard? Will the humidity actually kill you? Will you snap and run amok through the aisles of the show? You just never know, but those things are minor when you consider how cool it is to be able to cover this show. I think we've done a pretty good job here this year, but ultimately, that's not up to me to decide. Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed our coverage of the 2004 Tokyo Game Show. It's been an honor and a privilege to help bring it to you, and, in fact, we're not quite finished yet, so keep your eyes on the TGS page for some more text and video. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to scheming about which NeoGeo games I'm going to pick up when we finally get a chance to do some shopping.

PS: Lumines!

Silly Video Alert

Me and my man Rage cold ripped up the mic this morning. Eidos brought by Get On Da Mic, which seems like Karaoke Revolution only with rhythm detection instead of pitch detection. The list of songs seems pretty comprehensive, almost scarily so. It seemed like it could be a lot of fun. We'll have to wait and see how it turns out.

The great video game hip-hop cash-in just keeps on trucking. If we aren't getting on "da" mic or "da" floor, then we'll be fighting for NY, or we'll be getting up... does VU's Scarface count as a hip-hop themed game yet? It really might as well at this point. Quick, someone get the license to King of New York, while there's still time!

Anyway, this page contains the realest mid-morning microphone technique you'll ever see. We bust more rhymes before noon than most rhymebusters bust all day, buster.

Things That Are Not Dumb: Moving

OK, moving is a little dumb. But moving into a new place can also be pretty cool. I've got a place to move into, but I won't really have time to move in until the Tokyo Game Show is over. But I've already found the time to move the important stuff...

Note the sweet fake bricks on the wall behind me. Yeah, I guess I'll eventually have to do a little redecorating.

This Just In: Star Wars...

This Just In: Star Wars Still Sucks

You know, it must be nice to have the luxury of going back and fixing what you perceive to be problems in films you made, like, 30 years ago. I'd bet that, in a lot of cases, directors look back on their old work and wish they had changed one minor thing, or perhaps technology has advanced to a point where a totally janky shot that's been slowing eating away at you for decades could now look much more realistic.

Most people would probably vote against tampering with a classic, even if the end product would--when you remove all nostalgic feelings from it--be better than the original. Not Big Mack George Lucas. Check out this madness...

Changes to the 2004 Star Wars DVDs. Yeah. I'm no Star Wars fan... actually, I guess I like the original movies. And a handful of the games (like that Atari 2600 one with the big walker things) are pretty good. I'm just not a fan of Star Wars fans. But even I have to sort of wonder what the heck is going on when the big idea for these new DVD releases coming out later this month is "let's try to tie them in a bit better with those prequel movies we made. You know, the ones that people saw the hell out of, but didn't really like?" Fantastic idea. Brilliance!

As you might imagine, this turn of events is slowly coming to a boil as more and more folks find out about it. As you might expect, the end result is a bunch of snide fanboy remarks that are all variants on "pre-order cancelled thankyouverymuch!"

Me? I guess I'm having a good laugh about the whole thing because it's insane from every angle. The people demanding that these DVDs be released were happy with the movies the way they were. So that's one fanbase alienated. And the kids that didn't see the original movies probably still don't care. The end result? Indifference and/or unhappiness, depending on which camp you fall into.

It reminds me of the reaction people had when the main character in MGS2 wasn't Solid Snake. I got the impression from that whole game that Kojima was just messing with his fanbase. Personally, I loved the idea. Sometimes people need to be messed with. Sometimes I wonder if George Lucas shares that same trait. Is he somewhere right now, saying "sooo... you wanted DVDs, now you've got DVDs. On my terms! Now this one dude doesn't have any eyebrows! MOAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA?"

Just wait until those final three episodes come out! Then they'll have six movies to slightly retool for re-release on... Blu-Ray or Robocop-style giant spike vision or whatever the standard is then. They can go in and make Mark Hammil look more washed up! Or they could just replace him with Justin Timberlake, who will beatbox his way through every lightsaber fight! The possibilities are endless!

Things That Are Not Dumb: hiptop2

I don't need it. I don't. But I'm going to get it. Why? Because it's new. That's just the sort of dork I am, I guess. Also, it's smaller than the original hiptop, which is nice. More and more rap videos (and, in fact, Def Jam: Fight for NY) are showing the old hiptop off like some sort of status item. I had mine first! Ahead of the curve, baby. Just like that white camo jacket I've got. I bought that before that Master P video came out... you know, the one where one of the No Limit soldiers are wearing a white camo jacket? Also, I... I invented the four-fingered ring! It's true!

I wonder how long it will take for the rap world to start sporting hiptop2s...

A Bedroom Full of Cops or 'How I Spent My Saturday Evening.'

So an interesting thing happened to me today.

It was about 6PM, and I had somehow managed to squander the entire day playing Burnout 3. A friend of mine--we'll call him "Brendan" for the sake of our story because, well, that's his name--was sitting at my computer doing something stupid, and I was wrapped up in an online race. My roommate, Chris, was somewhere else in the house, supposedly breaking up with his girlfriend over the phone. Between the intensity of the racing and the volume of my home theater system, my bedroom was a very distracting place to be.

As I was racing, I heard a voice call out from the bedroom door. But I didn't really pay any attention to it. It then said "police," at which point I knew not to bother paying attention to it, because it had to be Chris, coming in to see the driving action on a real TV. Even Brendan knew better than to give the time of day to someone wandering in my room and shouting nonsense.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

So after the guy yelled a few more times, Brendan and I turned over towards the door to take a look. It was, of course, two cops, guns drawn, pointing them directly at us. I turned back towards the game, and despite the fact that I was poised to take home a first place finish, I paused the game. They remarked about the volume of the game, then asked if we had any more weapons in the house. Apparently they came in through the back and noticed a pellet gun on the couch. After some more small talk, they started leading us out of the bedroom and grilling us about a guy named Chris. Where was he? Did he drive a white car? Did he have bleached hair? The "white car" fit the description of the dude I live with, and the name matched up. They still hadn't found Chris, but they had found a locked bedroom door. They asked if I had the key. Since he and I bought keyed doorknobs at the same time, we share bedroom keys. So I produced the key to the room.

At this point, they had stopped pointing the guns at us, but they all still had guns drawn... especially since they were about to get their man. Chris, being on the phone and breaking up with his girlfriend, didn't really want anyone bothering him. So he had a similar reaction. As the door was being opened, the guy again shouted "police!" Chris responded with an angry-sounding "go away!" He then turned, had the same realization that I had about five minutes prior, and his conversation went from "I'm really sorry it isn't working out" to "cops, gotta go... bye." I can only imagine what she must think now. I know I wouldn't believe something like that.

After they got a look at Chris, they realized they had the wrong guy. They were informed that there was another Chris living on the property--there's a small house and a barn behind the house I'm in, but it all still counts as the same street address--and they slowly went on their way. The two cops inside the house multiplied to four at some point, but the impressive part is that when they opened my front door, there were like six more cops outside. None of them would go into any detail about why they wanted this guy, but it was obvious that they only had a loose description of him and his vehicle.

The Chris they wanted wasn't home, but he arrived while they were still there and got hauled off. We snapped this photo, then I went back to playing Burnout 3.

And I thought the confusion that occurs when we try to get pizza delivered here was bad... There were at least three more cop cars that just didn't make it into the shot.

It's been a long time since I've had a loaded firearm pointed at me, and it's the first time that the weapon's been held by law enforcement. It's not really a pleasant experience. Here are some helpful tips, should you find yourself in a similar situation...

- Keep your house locked at all times. If the backdoor wasn't unlocked, they probably would have had to break down a door. That would have been pretty cool.

- When a cop points a gun at you, try not to make any sudden moves.

- If you hesitate when responding to a cop's questions, he'll probably think you're lying.

- Try not to laugh about the situation until after the cops leave.

- Don't live near anyone that has the same name as you, especially if that person appears to be shady.

- If you end a break-up conversation with "gotta go, cops," just don't call back. She'll never believe you.

- If you have cops from two cities, the county sheriff's department, and the state police coming after you, you've probably done something real bad... or you know someone who's done something real bad, and they're trying to blame you for it.

- If you're talking with cops in front of your house and one of them says "haven't been out here in awhile... you guys haven't had any parties recently" then maybe it's time to cut back your guest list when it comes time to throw another one.

Happy Anniversary, Dreamcast

September 9th, the day of the Dreamcast. I had the good fortune to be on Good Morning America that morning, telling Diane Sawyer about Sega's new system. I'm pretty sure that was my first experience with live, network television. It was sort of rough. I had to hop on a plane out of San Francisco on the evening of the 8th, fly all night to New York City, and hop in a car. The car got me to the studio about 30 minutes before I was due on the air. They quickly put me into makeup and I walked downstairs to the set. I watched a segment or two, sat down and did my segment, then I was out of makeup, back in the car, back to the airport, and back on a plane. I landed and drove straight to the store where I pre-ordered my Dreamcast. Picked it up, then it was back to work to publish a slew of DC reviews.

I wore a pair of shorts and a Fubu jersey on Good Morning America. So when people ask you "when did Fubu unfashionable?" Now you know. 9/9/1999.

Oh, and Diane Sawyer touched my knee after the cameras were turned off.

What were you doing on the day the Dreamcast was released?

Things That Are Not Dumb: Burnout 3

Burnout 3 is an amazing piece of work. I can't say enough about how truly fantastic Burnout 3 is. It's the sort of game that transcends the typical genre boundry and crosses over into widespread appeal. You don't have to like driving games to enjoy Burnout 3. In fact, Burnout 3 blows away the competition so fiercely that you might find yourself liking the other games in the genre a little less. The team at Criterion is obviously made up of some highly skilled people. Can't wait to see what this means for the company's upcoming first-person shooter, Black. If Criterion can manage to pack that level of intensity into a first-person shooter... well, it'll be something special, that's for sure.

The upshot of all this is that Burnout 3 has started rolling out all over the world. It's out in the Netherlands as I type this (and hello to the two guys I was racing against an hour or so ago... isn't it a little early in the morning for high-speed racing?) and it'll be widely available in North America tomorrow morning. If you have a choice, you're better off with the Xbox version. And if you're looking to race, add the gamertag GameSpotting to your Xbox Live friends list. I'll try to pop on tomorrow night to take some folks on.

Oh, and because this journal hasn't gotten as emo as a journal should get... HELLA ASCII HEARTS 4 BURNOUT 3 BCUZ IT IS THA BEST <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Things That Are Dumb: MTV2's Video Mods, Polygonal Nudity

Oh, yes. Finally. Just what I've always wanted. My favorite video game characters hopping around and singing my favorite songs!

For those of you who haven't seen the ads for MTV's VIdeo Mods, well, you're lucky. Me, I saw it, and it brought back a huge rush of anger that I got when I initially saw what must have been the pilot episode. Have you ever wanted to see characters from NBA Street hop around and sort of lip-synch to OutKast's "Hey Ya?" Yeah, me neither. But I saw that, then I saw some Need for Speed: Underground characters singing something else. Then everything went red as the stupidity of it all became too much to handle.

The whole first installment was all EA games, leading me to believe that it's a sneaky, hidden infomercial, just like those Making the Game shows they've run in the past. There was also some five minute "new tech gadget" sneaky paid break on MTV2 where Fabulous talked about how much he loved his Burst Mobile phone. Straight chirpin', indeed, Ghetto F-A-B. But that's beside the point.

Anyway, Video Mods is simply embarassing. It's the sort of thing that makes you not want to, like, admit to spending a great deal of your free time playing games. Majesco, however, is happily on-board for the next episode...

...great. Way to totally play your best character out before she even gets a sequel. She's a half-vampire, just like the girl in Evanescence, so I expect Bloodrayne will be performing one of their songs. And as if that wasn't enough...

...AWWW YEAH. BLOODRAYNE IN PLAYBOY, BABY. Wait, what? What's next, Hef? A Street Fighter hentai issue? Girls of Cosplay? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Things That Are Dumb: MMORPG Naming Policies

A Blizzard rep posted this on the World of Warcraft forums yesterday...

"Addendum for Stress-Test Servers Only
We have gone to great lengths to ensure that your experience in the land of Azeroth is as enjoyable and immersive as possible. However, this immersion can be quickly broken when you see the stately Tauren Hunter named "IOwnsU" or the imposing Night Elf Druid "ErnestBorgnine." In an attempt to maintain the suspension of disbelief, we will be disallowing all non fantasy-related names for the World of Warcraft Stress Test. This currently applies only to the Stress Test realms and not to the existing Closed Beta Test realms. You see, Alpha, Beta, and Stress Tests are not only an opportunity for us to test the stability of the software, but also an opportunity to test our support. Depending on the results of this test, we may or may not add this to our retail naming policy. Thank you for your cooperation in this little trial run and enjoy your travels!
Non Fantasy-Related This category includes names which:

Deviate from classic high fantasy names
Are references to pop culture or generally anachronistic
Are statements in and of themselves
If a player is found to have such a name, he/she will:
Be prompted to select a new name
Be given a warning"

It'll be unfortunate if this ends up being the policy for the shipping game. Great, then I'll need to pick a stupid Renaissance Faire name to go with my character. Hey, maybe I'd better go buy some 20-siders while I'm at it. Oh, and some pewter figurines. But how will I find the time? I'm so busy making my own chain mail out in the garage!

The answer is simple. Create a separate server for people who can't handle the fact that not all people who play MMORPGs take them so seriously. Require flowery "high fantasy" names on that server only. In the meantime, me and ErnestBorgnine are going to be kicking it live in the Scarlet Monastery, cutting fools and talking trash about Jan-Michael Vincent.