My Tokyo Game Show 2010 Coverage - TGS 2009 Retrospective
I will be attending Tokyo Game Show 2010 this Thursday and Friday and covering the event here, my blog at 1UP.com and over at www.criticalgamer.co.uk.
I'm temporarily back in Japan, braving the unusually hot and humid weather (even by Japan standards) and clutching my press pass for TGS 2010. Between catching up with family and friends, epic Karaoke sessions, eating four meals a day just to ensure that I can fit in all my favourite dishes, beer gardens and Akihabara, I have found time to cobble together a prelude to the show. Be sure to check back from Thursday onwards as I will be posting impressions and pictures from the show floor.
So, with Tokyo Game Show only days away, now seems like the perfect time to re-evaluate some of the biggest announcements and games from TGS 2009. Year in and year out we are seduced by the next big thing, teased by developers and publishers anxious to show off their wares. Despite a scaled-down show and widespread concerns about the health of the Japanese game industry, TGS 2009 was no different. So here's a look at some of last years biggest titles and stories, and how they turned out.
1. The End of Days for TGS & Japanese Games
Tokyo Game Show 2009 was viewed by some in the industry as a disappointment and proof of the slow death of the Japanese games industry. Capcom's Keiji Inafune, of Mega-Man and Dead Rising fame, famously put the boot-in:
"Personally when I looked around [at] all the different games at the TGS floor, I said "Man, Japan is over. We're done. Our game industry is finished." (Quote taken from kotaku.com)
Strong words indeed. A year later, have things really changed? Not according to Keiji:
"I said that comment hoping that the Japanese creators were going to wake up. However, there has been no change whatsoever to the situation since last year, so I'm still very pessimistic." (Quote from VideoGamer.com)
Admittedly, last year's TGS was lacking some of the glitz, glamour and high profile reveals of previous years. This was partly due to Germanys GamesCon stealing some of its thunder, playing host to the unveiling of the PS3 Slim and numerous other software announcements only a month before TGS. Add the fact that there were very few games that hadn't been on show, or at least announced elsewhere and you had a slightly underwhelming TGS. There were plenty of great games, just nothing particularly fresh.
This years show will be vital in gauging where exactly the Japanese games industry is headed, so lets hold judgement for now, at least until the end of this week.
2. PSP GO
Even before playing a PSP Go tethered to a helpful lady from Sony, I had my concerns about the viability of a smaller, more expensive and limited version of the PSP. My hands-on with the smart looking device did little to alleviate said concerns. I struggled to envision it sustaining any sort of continued success, particularly if Sony were unable, or unwilling to shift their position on a goodwill UMD exchange programme. Sony never did, and they alienated an established PSP user base in the process.
PSP Go sales have been disappointing, and with whispers of a next generation PSP already doing the rounds, the opportunity for success may already have passed the Go by. Even a rather generous 10 game bundle offered in Europe failed to inspire significant numbers of existing PSP owners to "upgrade" nor attract a new generation of PlayStation on-the-go owners.
3. Final Fantasy XIII
Perhaps my favourite moment of TGS 2009 involved Square-Enix's latest opus. Queuing patiently to get my grubby mitts on a 15 minute playable demo, I noticed eight employees from the Xbox360 stand, decked out in their 360 t-shirts, sat in a line playing FFXIII at the PS3 booth!
As for the game, ask 10 different people and you are likely to get ten very different responses. The TGS demo highlighted the traditional FF elements of the game, and within the confines of a very controlled demo, the linear nature of the finished product was not immediately apparent.
FFXIII was never going to please everyone, but it certainly seems to have enjoyed the kind of success that Square-Enix are accustomed to.
4. Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker
Now here is a game that lived up to its considerable hype. Receiving by far the most floor space at the Konami booth, the take-away demo went down a storm. Feeling completely at home on the PSP (though I must admit I would rather have played a direct MGS3 sequel on my PS3), it wowed the press and tapped into the portable co-op market dominated in Japan by Monster Hunter. With Peace Walker, Konami have proved that the PSP is still a legitimate platform for AAA titles
Here's hoping that Konami can impress again this year with yet another MGS title, Rising.
5. Lost Planet 2
The two multiplayer demos on offer last year were my personal favourites of TGS 2009, providing everything you would want from a co-op experience. On the basis of these and other similar demos centred on the multiplayer elements, Lost Planet 2 gathered a great deal of momentum going into its 2010 release.
However, it would receive average reviews, as a disappointing single player experience along with some strange and ill planned design choices undid much of the good done by the demos. Initially, I too was dissatisfied with the finished product, but after putting many an hour into it I found it to be a rewarding experience, just not on par with what the demo had convinced me it would become.