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Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010

TECHNOLOGY

Fans line up for previews


Special to The Japan Times

With record figures of 81,469 attendees last Saturday and 77,185 on Sunday, the public days at Tokyo Game Show were swamped with more people than the game companies could handle.

Despite many of the bigger booths — Sony, Sega, Capcom and so on — introducing a ticketing system to cut down on the notorious TGS lines, which in the past have stretched for anything up to four hours for a short play of a single game, many fans gave up on the major titles completely, instead turning to independent developers or finding alternative entertainment.

"There are so many people, and if you get here after noon there's no way you can play anything," said a man who goes by the nickname "Tencho" when we spoke at closing time on Saturday. "That sucked. So I spent the whole day in the cosplay (costume play) area and took loads of photos instead."

"I played some games where the screen is built into a visor, so you don't need a TV — a bit like virtual reality," said a young lady named Akiko Machizawa, referring to a game I was unable to track down on the show's 194 booths.

"We didn't want to join a long lineup, so we didn't," laughed Machizawa's friend Miyuki Mori. "We stuck to the indie games. But I had hoped to see 'Final Fantasy XIV' and 'Ni No Kuni.' I love Ghibli."

"Final Fantasy XIV," the latest in the long-running RPG series, was present only in the form of a nonexclusive trailer. "Ni No Kuni," a collaboration between Japanese RPG developer Level-5 and animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli, was playable for the first time on PlayStation 3, and its previously revealed Nintendo DS counterpart was also on show. Both iterations are absolutely gorgeous; I played the PS3 version and witnessed top-grade animation alongside a family-friendly RPG story — not to mention endless lines that doubtless served as a turnoff for fans such as Mori and Machizawa.

A stand demonstrating games for iPad and iPhone provided refuge from the major stands, as did booths representing many of Japan's game colleges.

Gilles Delmotte, a visitor from France, said he enjoyed the "very short games on iPad and iPhone. I love old-school games, point-and-click, that sort of thing."

Another punter, Tomoya Yoshitake, concurred: "The iPad is amazing — you can play games just by moving it around. I'd never tried one before."

Of course, the lines didn't put everyone off, and tens of thousands of gamers waited patiently to try hotly anticipated prerelease games for themselves. Military mechanics Michael Roster, Kyle Ace and Shannon Harris lined up together for hours to play a short bout on multiplatform game "Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood," the latest sequel in a stealth-based series that has enjoyed huge success since its first entry in 2007.

"We waited almost two hours and then we played six minutes," said Roster. "It was really exciting, though. It was worth it!"

For their trouble, the three friends were given complementary T-shirts on the way out of the demo booth.

Perhaps the most popular playable game at TGS this year was "Monster Hunter Portable 3rd," part of a series of top-selling team-based games for PlayStation Portable. The game occupied a huge stand in the center of the show floor, dressed to look like a traditional Japanese village.

"I've played all the games in the 'Monster Hunter' series," said a man named Tomohiro Tsunakawa. "That was definitely the best game of the show for me."

He wasn't alone — reservation tickets to play the game disappeared within one hour of the show's 10 a.m. opening, leaving the booth packed solid for the duration.

Then again, booths such as Xbox's didn't have a ticketing system at all, with old-fashioned lines to play new Kinect motion-controlled games and mech fighter "Cyber Troopers Virtual-On 4 Force" that stretched to two hours each. The dedication of fans was clearly enough to keep most of them waiting; and how the firms at smaller booths rejoiced when some chose not to.


TECHNOLOGY



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