One of the things I was lead to believe about Japan was that it was a virtual cornucopia of video games. I was also told that you could get a full body massage for less than $200, but I haven't explored that option yet. As a matter of fact, I haven't explored the world of video games in Japan either, sticking with the games that I brought over with me, like Fight Night 2004 and newer titles like NHL 2K5. Perhaps it's because there was nothing in the Japanese market that interested me, but that definitely changed after I made my way to Makuhari Messe for this year's Tokyo Game Show. Spanning three days (which included two days for the public), I got to try out some of the upcoming titles that will be released this year or early next year, and it has rekindled my interest in video games again. Titles like Devil May Cry 3 and Tekken 5 are just some of the games I was eagerly awaiting for the past couple of months, but now I'm also salivating over Tales of Rebirth and of course, my beloved Naruto games.
On the Wednesday before TGS, there was a lovely party for many of the visitors that were attending the show on the weekend. We had the gathering at a place called Tantra, which is near Shibuya station. In a word, it was great! Lots of people showed up, including people I haven't seen in a while like Ben and Christian from GameSpy and GMR respectively, and I met some new people for the first time like Shane from EGM, and someone from Crystal Dynamics, who's working on the new Tomb Raider game. The funniest thing that happened was Kaido-san (a producer at SCEJ) being introduced to me. He was obviously a little tipsy at the time, and after he asked me where I lived, he asked me if I liked high school girls. Uh. The show itself was a fun sight, but compared to E3 it was a little lower key. The two halls were about the size of the South Hall at the LACC, and the lack of an air conditioner in the place made it a little hard to handle at times. One novel idea was that companies were allowed to setup kiosks in one of the halls so that attendees could purchase merchandise from the likes of Square, Konami and Capcom. That's something I think E3 should do. After it was all done, I realized I played more titles here than I have in the past 4 months. It was pretty scary. Here are some quick impressions of the major titles that I played.
Devil May Cry 3: Insanely fun game, and totally different from Devil May Cry 2. Whereas DMC2 had wide, expansive areas in some parts of the game, the third game seems to be taking place in small, confined areas. This makes the action a lot more tense and frantic. I really enjoyed all the new moves that Dante has been given, especially the Easy Ride move, where he jumps on someone's back and rides them across the room like a skateboard. The best addition that was made to DMC3 was the inclusion of a quick exchange button that actually lets you know on-screen what weapon you're using. It wasn't in past installments, so it's cool to see it here. It makes things a tad easier to keep track of when you're in the middle of a fight. The boss at the end of the demo is a huge Cerebus-type dog covered in ice, that took a hell of a long time to kill, and while his pattern was pretty predictable, it still took me two tries to kill him. Fun game, and I can't wait for it to come out in a couple of months!
Viewtiful Joe 2: The game is a lot like Viewtiful Joe (which isn't a bad thing), but with only one new VFX effect revealed (Replay with Sylvia), it seems kind of lacking. The inclusion of Sylvia into the game makes things a little interesting because she has long range weapons and isn't that good with hand to hand like Joe is, but Capcom will have to show off more than just that to get me interested. Of course, I'll probably buy the game when it comes out, but it needs to do more than just add one or two new VFX techniques to get me hot for Joe.
Dead or Alive Ultimate: I'm a certified DOA fan. I like the series a lot and even though I do complain about how retarded the game can be, but I still enjoy it a lot, and my time spent with DOAU was really fun. The thing that pisses me off about the game is how Tecmo decided to regress with the game, taking out charge attacks and other attacks that were implemented in DOA3. Why would you do that? Just so you can truly say that you had all the DOA games on one system? Stupidity right there. Sidestep attacks are gone, guard breaks are gone, free hits off the wall are gone... 33% damage counterattacks are back. Stupid. The game is still going to be great, but in my opinion it was a boneheaded move to take out improvements from Dead or Alive 3 for the sake of having a 'true' Dead or Alive 2 title on the system.
Spikeout Battlestreet: Surprisingly good. The visuals have been upgraded quite a bit from the arcade version, and there was absolutely no lag at all with the four player online mode. Of course, we were connected via LAN, but whatever! The AI was retarded in the game though. They just stood there, taking anything you'd dish out. At one point, an enemy got 'stuck' in his standing animation, which was pretty funny. Obviously the game is not finished yet, so stuff like that can slide, but right now it's shaping up to be a great game.
Naruto Narultimate Hero 2: Oh god, I love the Naruto series. This game plays a lot like the first one, except this time there are a ton of new characters to select from (other 30!), there are new supers for each character to stay faithful to the series (or unfaithful, if you're talking about Gai and Rock Lee...), and you can now pick your assist characters before the match. Good stuff! I can't wait till tomorrow when the game comes out!
Naruto Gekitou Ninja Taisen! 3: An extension of the last GC Naruto game. Guard breaks are in, multiple supers for everyone, King of Fighters style 3 on 3 matches, and the merging of characters! Sharingan Kakashi and regular Kakashi are now one, as are the multiple versions of Sasuke and Naruto. The new characters in the demo were Jiraiya, Temari, Shino and Choji. They were okay I guess, but I really enjoyed playing as Kakashi. Going between regular and Sharingan mode was just too fun! Activating Sharingan and then having someone try their super on you is awesome! Especially if it's someone like Naruto or Sakura where you actually copy their super for your own!
Vampire Chronicles: Chaos Tower: Well, at least the PSP will have one good 2D fighting game! It's pretty much the same as the Dreamcast version of Vampire Chronicle for Matching Service, but in portable form. The loading times were about 2 seconds for each fight, and it moved really fast here. The sprites were very clean on the PSP screen, and the six button layout worked well for the game... now if they could do something about the atrocious pad...
Lumines: I don't get this PSP title. I don't understand why everyone is raving about this damn game. It's a puzzle game based around the concept of changing music. It looks like it was made with god damn Flash. Sure, it would be a good game to buy, but it's not a system seller. For some reason people are hyping this game up to the moon, and I don't know why. I'd rather buy a PSP to play something like Ridge Racer or Metal Gear Ac!d, but that's just me. I did play this game two or three times, and while I like it a lot, it's not a Gameboy + Tetris combo. But nothing is, right?
Tekken 5: My personal Game of the Show. A very polished fighting game with a handful of new characters, and most importantly, a dedicated competitive scene. I love playing against other people (which is odd, since I hate online play, but whatever) so playing Virtua Fighter 4 Final Tuned and Tekken 5 is up my alley. So far, nothing too shitty has happened with the game. Everyone complains that people have 50%+ combos, but... everyone in the game has one so far, and it's not like it's super easy like Jin's Laser Scraper follow-up combo from Tekken 4. If things keep going the way they are, this is going to resemble Tekken 3, with lots of high powered characters that will make for some good, fast-paced matches.
Tales of Rebirth: The newest Tales game played a lot like the old Tales game, except it looks a whole lot better now. The game uses 3D backgrounds to mimic 2D settings, so the result is an ultra crisp and clear piece of scenery that you can walk around in. The graphics in the overworld map aren't that hot though, but the battle system is reminiscent of Tales of Symphonia, so it should be pretty good. The AI was still pretty dumb in the demo, so let's hope that they fix that.
Metal Gear Acid: When I first heard about this game, I thought it was completely stupid. A Metal Gear card game? Idiotic! But once I tried it out, I found out cool this game is. It's actually like a Metal Gear game but set in a strategy game. All the same rules from Metal Gear apply to this game too. If you use a weapon without a silencer, a nearby enemy will hear it. Get into the line of sight of a guard and he'll be alerted. You still need to use tactical stealth in the game, despite it being a strategy game. This was my favourite PSP game on the show floor, narrowly beating out Vampire Chronicle.