TGS 2009: Wrap-Up

Tokyo Game Show 2009 has wound down now, but before we all head home, here's a collection of closing thoughts from the team.

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Ricardo: There was a lot of talk about how underwhelming the show was this year, and that's partially right. The number of exhibitors was down from last year (show documentation we got at check-in showed 180 exhibitors this year versus last year's 209), which led to fewer games, 879 last year versus 758 this year. There also weren't any brand-new, earth-shattering games announced, just publishers doing follow-up, like Microsoft showing off Japanese Natal stuff behind closed doors and Capcom making an announcement on Sony's motion control. There was still plenty on display at the show, but it didn't have the kick of stuff from last year's show, like the Halo 3: ODST announcement, the Little Big Planet Metal Gear level pack, and Square's Mega-Theater. That said, the show was still crowded, and there were lines aplenty. I'll follow up with more on the show in a bit. Until then, here's a collection of thoughts form the team.

Laura Parker: This was my first TGS, so I hardly knew what to expect. People told me Tokyo was a crazy and exciting place. They told me I had to prepare myself for not only the language barrier but a host of bizarre experiences related to video game culture. Now that it's over, I can hardly believe I was so scared. It was an amazing week, full of cultural wonders, new things to see and do, and, of course, great culinary treats.

The Tokyo Game Show itself was very hectic. I ran from place to place, always in constant awe at the sheer size and spectacle of what I was seeing. I was lucky in that I was able to play some of the titles I was most looking forward to: Okamiden, Halo 3: ODST, Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer, and Left 4 Dead 2. I also had a chance to see Project Natal behind closed doors, which impressed me and turned me into a skeptic at the same time.

I know people are saying that this year's TGS wasn't as big or as flashy as previous shows, but for me, a newcomer to the wonderment that is Tokyo and the gaming culture of Japan, TGS was everything I had hoped for.

Sophia: This is always an exciting time of year because we’re coming up on the holidays (yay games!), and the opportunity to leave the country for a bit to enjoy the food and games in Japan is a fantastic experience. This year’s TGS was not as big and flashy as last year’s, because a lot of the games that were here were demos we'd already seen before. E3, GamesCom, and TGS are so close together that it can be hard for publishers to put out something new each time. Nonetheless, TGS is always a ton of fun, and trying to decipher role-playing games in Japanese--frequently without a translator--is a challenge in itself.

It seems that a lot of great RPGs are heading to the handhelds, like Okamiden: Chisaki Taiyou, Lunar: Silver Star Harmony, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, and Ninokuni. Another Professor Layton game is on its way, so I will have plenty of games to play during my long commute into work. It’s just too bad I won’t get to play these during my flight back to the States. It has been a long week, and we’re all exhausted, but it was worth it. We’ll see you next year, Tokyo!

Randolph: It was crowded, hot, and full of colourful individuals. So it certainly felt like your typical Tokyo Game Show, except for one thing--the weird and wacky game gems which have become a hallmark of TGS. While there were some top titles (Peace Walker, FFXIII, and Dead Rising 2, for example) and some significant announcements (Sony's motion controller details), the show floor just seemed oddly, well, devoid of real character.

In previous years, it usually wasn't too hard to find some truly weird, oddball, and downright strange games, which, while probably never likely to be available in the West, gave the Tokyo Game Show its own unique personality (last year, for example, we found a little gem of a game whose name we can't really even mention--let's just say it involved a lot of feces). This year, the oddest game we came across was a PC game which required you to hold a broom handle with a boxing glove attached to one end, while onscreen you had to punch the air above to hit stealthy ninjas trying to crawl on your roof. Yes, it's as weird as it sounds, but that was about as strange as it got on the show floor.

Perhaps it was the size of the show, which had significantly fewer exhibitors than in previous years, that could be blamed for the lack of quirky titles. When we're back next year, hopefully the strange games will make a return, along with the charm of TGS.

Giancarlo: Needless to say, I was pretty excited that Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was at this year's show. We had the chance to check out the first playable demo of Peace Walker and got a handle on the controls as well as some of the co-op features, and while I wasn't really digging the controls at first, I've become a bit more comfortable with them after messing around with the demo for a few hours.

Project Natal was also a pretty big deal for me at TGS since I didn't get to see much of it at E3. Microsoft's Kudo Tsunoda gave us the basic rundown of the 360's motion-sensing Natal technology, and we got to try out a new Natal-enabled version of Katamari Damacy. All of these things were great examples of how the technology can work, but I'm eagerly waiting to see full-blown games specifically created for the technology.

Shaun: The show may have been a bit smaller than what I experienced last year, but that doesn't mean it was any less exciting. I managed to meet with a number of Japanese and Western developers and talk to them about what they're working on. My favorite of these meets came on day one, when I did with Jun Takeuchi, the producer for Lost Planet 2. Of all the games I saw at the show, I don't think I had any more fun than when I was taking down giant Akrid in Lost Planet 2's new desert level.

One of the most criminally overlooked games of 2007 was Crackdown, an over-the-top sandbox action game that felt like it was designed exactly with me in mind. Now the sequel is in the hands of Ruffian Games, and it's looking like even more fun than the original. I got some face time with James Cope from Ruffian to talk about some of the big changes in Crackdown 2.

Dead Rising 2 wasn't on the show floor this year, but that doesn't mean Capcom wasn't going to give folks a look at it. It held an offsite event that mainly focused on the multiplayer, which Randolph Ramsay did a great job of covering. But it also showed a quick snippet of what we should expect from the single-player game, so naturally I went to town detailing all the horrible ways I maimed, killed, and griefed the game's zombies.

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