Tokyo Game Show 2010 Retrospective

I'm attending Tokyo Game Show 2011 next Thursday and Friday. Be sure to check back throughout next week for news, updates and hands-on impressions.

With Tokyo Game Show 2011 just around the corner, now is the ideal time to look back at last year's event and revisit and re-evaluate some of the biggest announcements and no-shows. Despite being noticeably scaled-down in comparison to previous years, many in the industry viewed TGS 2010 as a return to form after an uneventful showing in 2009, though I found myself a little disappointed by what was, and wasn’t, on offer.

2010 was a solid, if unspectacular showing, with no one defining game or moment. Still, there was plenty to keep me busy as I covered both press days for critical gamer and my own blogs. I fought through sore legs, the stench of a thousand men wilting in the humidity of Japanese September, and the stupor of a few too many beers the night(s) before, to check-out dozens of games and attend several appointments. 

Here is what I most recall of TGS '10, and a look at how things have changed over the course of an eventful year.

1. Notable by Their Absence

I get the feeling that this year is destined to become the third straight that we don't get a hands-on with The Last Guardian. Perhaps I was a bit too optimistic in expecting a demo in 2009, only a month or two removed from its maiden trailer, but it seemed reasonable to expect some time alone with Team ICO's latest at TGS 2010. I was to be disappointed, as we had to make do with only a trailer that showed very little new. The passing of time has not been kind to The Last Guardian, as it has since been pushed back to 2012, though the ICO HD Collection will make the wait a little easier when it arrives later this month.

Metal Gear Solid: Rising was another notable, relative no-show. We were treated to a short trailer of watermelons, but it revealed little of what’s to be expected from the latest MGS - aside from fruit and swords. It remains a huge mystery, with little being seen or heard of it since, with the exception of persistent rumours that Platinum Games have taken the reigns, despite their claims to the contrary. Konami's TGS '11 press release does not list Rising as being on show, suggesting a lengthy wait is still ahead.

2. Check out my Tech

Despite their poor performance in Japan, Microsoft were out in force at TGS '10. They had one of the biggest, loudest and brightest set-ups, which was dominated by all things Kinect. Some brave souls dared the very public embarrassment of trying out the latest motion technology, broadcast on a huge screen for all to see, but a hangover and an hour long queue prevented me from joining in with the Dance Central humiliation. Kudo Tsunoda was on hand, offering pointers and answering questions, and a full range of early titles were on show for the yet to be released hardware. Sony were likewise eager to ensure that no one could forget that they too had some motion-controls to show off, as many of their demo booths were equipped with move controllers and even the odd 3D TV.

Little has changed since, as both Microsoft and Sony continue to aggressively push their motion controls. There was no escaping Kinect at E3, as Microsft rammed it down our throats and kept assuring us that it is an integral part of the Xbox experience. Like it or not, you can expect plenty more Move and Kinect next week.

3. Fans May Cry

One of the more controversial reveals at TGS ’10 was the Devil May Cry reboot. In the hands of Ninja Theory (Heavenly Sword, Enslaved), DmC Devil May Cry marks a departure from the well-established style of the first four games. Along with the surprise announcement came a short trailer, showing a very different looking Dante kicking some demon arse.

The reaction to the redesign was predictably negative. Despite stressing that this is an origins story, and therefore does not depict Dante as we have come to know him, it has continued to draw criticism from fans. It probably goes without saying that these fans have yet to play anything of the reboot, nor seen more than a few minutes of footage. Recent screen shots show that the character design has changed slightly since the original teaser, but I for one hope that Ninja Theory stick to their guns on this one. Expect more on DmC next week.

4. Portables Ruled Supreme

While they continue to struggle in the west, the portable remains king in Japan. The DS is the cultural phenomenon that it is elsewhere, but the PSP is a much bigger deal in its home territory than outside. This popularity was reflected in the plethora of portable games on show last year, stealing the thunder of many home console titles.

TGS 2010 was the year of the portable, as most developer and publisher booths appeared to have more PSP and DS units running than they did home consoles. Square Enix were pushing Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together and Parasite Eve: Third Birthday – two of my favourite games on show – and SEGA had no shortage of titles to share, including Valkyria Chronicles 3 and Phantasy Star Portable 2: Infinity. Capcom were hawking the English version of Okamiden and their elaborate booth for Monster Hunter Portable was perhaps the most popular of the entire show.

The last year has not been kind to portables. The 3DS’ struggles have been well documented, leaving the industry wondering if the days of dedicated portables are numbered. The PSP Go has been dragged-out and shot and all eyes are now on the Vita. There is a lot riding on the next 12 months, and while I’m sure portables will once again dominate TGS, it will be interesting to see if this confidence in the future of the handheld is misplaced. 

5. Off to the Knackers 

Two of my least favourite games of TGS ’10 have since found their way onto the scrap heap. Mega Man Universe was an overly fiddly, unresponsive experience that not even the promise of user created levels could save. I know that Mega Man has a reputation for being hard, but the couple of levels I played were infuriating and the early build had few, if any, redeeming features. The subsequent canning of Mega Man Legends 3 was far more surprising, and casts doubt over the future of the long-running series.

Square Enix were trying something a bit different with third-person shooter Gun Loco. This was rather commendable, but unfortunately it was a crock of shit and had “soon to be cancelled” written all over it. The confused and pained faces of those of us who played it would've told the developers everything they needed to know.

6. “King of Anglia!”

The undead took-over TGS last year. The Dead Rising 2 booth was part demo, part theatrical show, featuring a troupe of zombies who stormed the enclosed booth once your hands-on time was over; slightly different to the customary tap on the shoulder. Yakuza of the End had a constant supply of zombies posing with hostess models, who happened to be carrying automatic weapons, and served as one of the best photo-ops of the four days.

You couldn’t move for undead critters and, despite near saturation, zombie hordes are still packing-in the crowds. Dead Rising 2 did brisk business and we will get the Off The Record spin-off before the end of the year. Although Of the End is yet to arrive in the West, it hasn’t stopped rotting flesh from popping up everywhere in 2011, from Tropical islands to Nazi Germany. It’s still good to be undead, apparently.

7. Sitting Pretty

El Shaddai and Ni no Kuni were two of the most unique and visually striking titles at TGS ’10. With its distinctive style and varied gameplay, El Shaddai was a breath of fresh air and one of the few games that got everyone talking. However, I was concerned as to whether the simplistic gameplay would keep pace with its aesthetics and memorable sequences. If the reviews are anything to go by, it appears that it has made good on its significant promise.

Ni no Kuni drew large crowds, eager to sample the fruits of a collaboration between Level 5 and Studio Ghibli - two of the best loved studios in their respective fields. This charming RPG looked great on the DS, but has yet to see the light of day outside of Japan, where it was a critical and financial success. The PS3 version, which was also available to play, has all but disappeared, though I expect it to be revisited at this year’s show, hopefully alongside a Western release date for either version.


  1. You know, as I've alluded to before, I'm really happy with this whole Kinect/Move thing. It's allowed these consoles compete with a gaming pc that now outdistances by them by almost 2 full hardware generations. My only concern is that Kinect and Move are dragging the two consoles towards the Wii, as opposed to having the ps3 and 360 drag motion controls towards real gaming. I need 300% less Fruit Ninja from this project.

    This whole Death of Handhelds thing seems a little overblown to me. I don't think the PSP line is going anywhere. It's a myth that Vita will compete with cell phones. The Vita will compete with gaming laptops, just like the PSP before it. There is NO demographic, anywhere, that is trying to choose between Angry Birds on an iPhone and Uncharted 2.5 on Vita while they make their purchasing decisions.

    And I think the 3DS price drop had more to do with Nintendo being forced to live without their Wii money magnet for six months, not so much that the 3DS was failing. The only thing it failed to compete with was previous DS units. Of course it's going to take another 3-4 years to bring all those people over to the new system, they're DS gamers. They don't wake up in the morning thirsty for the razor's edge of next year's laser guided pixel shading. They just wanna play Pony Princess Chronicles III: The Ponying for ten minutes while their mom drives the minivan to soccer practice.

  2. I agree with what you say about portables. I think the PSP will always have an audience, though it is limited in size, at least outside of Japan. My only concern is that Sony may be over-reaching slightly, as they are clearly going all out and throwing a lot of resources behind it.

    As for the 3DS, once Nintendo start pushing it as the replacement for the DS, and not just a gimmicky 3D experience, and the core Nintendo titles start coming through, it will take off.

    The Ponying sounds great. Wonder if it will be at TGS?



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