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Friday, Sep. 21, 2012

ENTERTAINMENT SPOTLIGHT

Plotting a route at Tokyo Game Show


Special to The Japan Times

In the runup to Tokyo Game Show (TGS), employees at video-game companies go on lockdown. Loose lips sink ships, but more importantly — they spoil surprises.

News photo
An attendee of the 2012 Tokyo Game Show tries out a new 3D game for PlayStation 3 at the Sony booth. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

Certain things are known, though. There will be 171 companies with booths at the event to show off what's new, including console maker Sony who may show off some new hardware. Main rival Nintendo traditionally sits out TGS, however there will be 3DS, Wii and Wii U games on hand from other companies.

With hundreds of games and hundreds of thousands of fans at the event, it's easy to get lost in the shuffle. Last year's TGS was the biggest ever, with more than 222,600 people in attendance according to organizers. Wait times to play some games lasted hours.

To avoid the hassle (or at least make sure any waiting is worthwhile), here's my list of must-visit booths in the order that I'm going to try and hit them up.

Capcom: The most anticipated titles from the Osaka-based game-developer are action game "Monster Hunter 4" and legal adventure "Ace Attorney 5." Expect ridiculously long lines for both, as this will be the first chance for gamers to get a crack at either. Other titles worth checking out are "Resident Evil 6," the latest in the survival horror game series, and "E.X. Troopers," a spinoff from the colorful sci-fi game series "Lost Planet."

Level-5: After skipping TGS last year, Level-5 is back with a bite. The beloved puzzle- and role-playing game (RPG) maker will show "Professor Layton and the Legacy of Advanced Civilization A," and an interesting collaboration with Capcom, dubbed "Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney." Both games are 3DS titles and both are getting their first public airing. The latest "Professor Layton" game is the sixth title in the series and will be the character's swan song. The Capcom collaboration pits Layton against Ace Attorney lawyer Phoenix Wright, and both characters are popular with fans. Level-5 is also set to announce new titles at the show, so expect this booth to be buzzing.

Namco Bandai: The most anticipated of the new titles appearing at the Namco Bandai booth are an RPG titled "Tales of Xillia 2" and a tactical RPG for the 3DS titled "Project X Zone," which features characters from Namco and Capcom. There are also rumors of new Wii U games floating around. Most notably, however, attendees with children can visit a family area and check out child-friendly games that feature characters such as Naruto.

News photo
A woman dresses up as a game character at Tokyo Game Show.

Konami: With "Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance," Konami's stealth series "Metal Gear" gets a new spin. The game doesn't focus on sneaking, but slashing. In "Metal Gear Rising," players are armed with a blade that can slice and dice almost everything — and everyone. Konami will have 50 "Metal Gear Rising" demonstration kiosks at its booth. That sounds like a lot, but given the popularity of the series, no doubt those kiosks will be packed with fans.

Square Enix: Known for its RPGs, Square Enix is focusing on two titles: the already released "Dragon Quest X" for the Wii and "Bravely Default: Flying Fairy." There will be stage events, showing off the unreleased Wii U version of "Dragon Quest X," which would be a good opportunity for fans to see how Nintendo's upcoming home console looks. "Bravely Default: Flying Fairy" might have the worst title of the year, but the game is getting good buzz among RPG fans. Square Enix also runs a series of game trailers in its large theater space, which might make for a nice repose from all the demonstrations happening. However, since Square Enix's booth is one of the smallest among the major companies, it could be a tight squeeze for attendees.

Tecmo Koei: The Yokohama-based game maker probably has a few aces up its sleeve for TGS, but the biggest title it will likely release this year is "Dead or Alive 5." The game is set for official release on Sept. 27. Another big title in the works is "Shin Hokuto Musou" (or "Ken's Rage 2"), a brawler based on the "Fist of the North Star" manga.

Sega: In years past, Sega was all about "Sonic the Hedgehog." These days, it's "Yakuza," Sega's crime-centered game series. The newest entry, "Yakuza 5," looks like another underworld spectacular, which should delight fans. The "Yakuza" games have terrific voice acting, smart writing and beautifully cinematic cut scenes. Sega is also set to show off its newest online game, "Phantasy Star Online 2," which was released on PC earlier this year and ran on new hardware platforms. Those new to "Phantasy Star Online 2" might want to have a look at "Yakuza" first, though.

Arc System Works: If you like virtual kicks and punches, Arc System Works is for you. One of the country's best developers of fighting games is expected to show the latest "BlazBlue" and "Guilty Gear" iterations. The crowds are typically manageable at the Arc System Works booth, but the booth is also one of the smaller ones at the show. Wait times shouldn't span hours, and Arc System Works is a good place to swing by later on in the day.

D3 Publisher: The "Earth Defense Force" series is Japanese gaming's take on giant-insect sci-fi flicks from the 1950s. The games are cult favorites (who doesn't like shooting huge ants?), and the latest one, "Earth Defense Force 3" for the PS Vita, will be at the D3 booth.

Of course making it to any of the video-game booths inside a convention hall filled with colorful characters distracting you with their products is a challenge in itself. Let's hope for some power ups along the way.

Tokyo Game Show takes place at Makuhari Messe in Chiba. It will be open to businesses and the press on Sep 20 and 21, and open to the public on Sep 22 and 23 (10 a.m. till 5 p.m.; ¥1,000 in advance, ¥1,200 at the door). For more information, visit tgs.cesa.or.jp . Be sure to check out Brian Ashcraft's review of Tokyo Game Show on the Sep 26 Technotimes page.

Better to phone it in

If you like mobile-phone games, the booth to visit this year belongs to Gree, which had one of the largest (and emptiest) spaces last year. The Gree booth is a great place to actually get hands-on with games without the stress of a long line or a cramped space.

The most interesting Gree game is from Konami: the "Metal Gear" stealth series is getting a social-gaming twist with "Metal Gear Solid Social Ops." Traditional game companies, such as Namco Bandai, will also have smart-phone games at their booths and are expected to boast shorter wait times to play.


How companies can win the Tokyo Game Show

While Tokyo Game Show offers insight into what is popular with gamers, it's not the final word on what's happening in the industry. For example, game-site operator Gree has been extremely successful in Japan; however, its TGS booth was a ghost town last year. Some games, such as Capcom's "Monster Hunter 4" or "Ace Attorney 5" will draw huge crowds at TGS and sell truckloads when they are released. Mark MacDonald of Tokyo-based game localizer 8-4 explains the discrepancy: "The prevailing wisdom seems to be that if you want to do well at TGS, give away a limited-edition anything — especially a collectible trading card, or something that can be redeemed online or in-game. If you want to do well outside TGS, either make a mobile version, or just make your game for mobile."



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