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.