Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
The first thing that greeted me upon entering the main hall of the Tokyo Game Show was this guy:
Yes, that's the large head of a Gundam. In fact, it's been severed from it's body; this is the head of the gigantic Gundam that Bandai had standing in Odaiba all summer. In Tokyo Game Show, the Gundam head served as one of the centerpieces of the Bandai Namco booth, where the company was holding demos of the forthcoming Gundam VS. Gundam Next Plus for the PSP. The game allows you to select almost any Gundam/character combo from every Gundam series in existence, making for a pretty full cast. You select the Gundam you want before heading to the battlefield of your choice to take on enemy forces. The gameplay is similar in nature to the Gundam arcade machines here, only it's on the PSP and not a huge wrap-around screen.
Continuing with the robot theme, Bandai Namco also had two other mecha titles on display: Super Robot Taisen Neo (which I believe is the 2,564th game in that particular series) for the Wii, and Macross Ultimate Frontier, a PSP game which features characters from every part of the Macross universe in a formula that bears quite a few similarities to the Gundam game I played. The big differences with Ultimate Frontier is that there is a bit more character dialogue that pops up in the midst of battle, and the fight takes place in two areas: in a dogfight in space, and a battle on the ground. Macross fans should be pretty happy with the game, and the Macross franchise is certainly more deserving of becoming a game than, say, this:
Yes folks, the most tasteless anime of 2009 may soon become an equally tasteless game for the PSP. Whee.
Bandai Namco's other big attraction at their booth was for Tekken 6 for the PS3 and XBox 360. With a full roster of 40 playable characters, expect this one to make a big splash when it comes out. The gameplay for Tekken 6 was what you would expect: easy to get used to, fun, and visually dazzling. On the other side of the booth, a preview for the next RPG from the Tales of... series, Tales of Graces, was also on display. The game is scheduled for release this winter and will be the next Tales of game for the Wii.
In terms of games with anime roots, Bandai Namco didn't disappoint. The Dragon Ball fighting game Dragon Ball Raging Blast (XBox 360, PS3) was on hand, and the final version promises to include 70 - yes, 70 - playable characters. Finally on tap from Bandai Namco was the next installment in the Naruto game series, Naruto Shippūden: Narutimate Accel 3, for the PSP. The demo reel for the game showed off what could be its biggest feature: the first four player function in the history of the series.
Sharing space with the Bandai Namco booth was the booth for D3 Publishing, which had a handful of games for display including the female-oriented dating game Last Escort and one of the more bizarre finds of the show: a DS game based on the popular Korean TV Drama Winter Sonata. I'm not against video game adaptations of TV Dramas. Still, I was hoping that if they were going to develop a video game based on some element of Korean pop culture that they would make a video game based on one of those weird music videos where someone's girlfriend blows their boyfriend up with a bomb or something like that.
The next booth I hit was Microsoft's Xbox 360 booth, which offered demos from a number of different game producers and seemed most focused on reminding the Japanese audience that yes, their system still exists.
Sony had less trouble drawing a crowd with their huge display, which was surrounded with lights and included two sets of bleachers where players could sit down and take any game they liked for a test run. The booth was all-too-appropriately situated across from the Square Enix booth, and it was little humorous to watch the two booths take turns showing trailers for new Square titles and pulling the crowd in two directions. And whenever the Final Fantasy XIII trailer played, you got this:
Most of this group stuck around for a Final Fantasy trailer of a different sort: the trailer for the forthcoming PC and PS3 title Final Fantasy XIV Online, which apparently won't replace Final Fantasy XI Online, but rather offer the MMORPG crowd yet another chance to embrace the FF franchise in the online realm. I can't say much about XIV, but I will say this: it was pretty.
The excitement for Final Fantasy XIII was by far the biggest story of the show, with demos of the game drawing hour-long lines - even on the days that TGS wasn't open to the public. To go with the game's hype, a special edition slim PS3 with art from the game will go on sale when the game does, and Japanese beverage maker SUNTORY will again market "elixir" soft drinks with images of the characters to correlate with the game's release date. With no real desire to fight the crowds to try the game, I headed around the corner to try out the next entry in another popular Square franchise...
...Kingdom Hearts. The PSP game for the series, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, is a mostly faithful adaptation of the popular action RPG series that lets you select a character and play through their backstory, smashing legions of baddies along the way. The gameplay had a few issues - hit detection was a little rough in places - but otherwise, there's reason to be optimistic that the final release of the game will be pretty good.
The other attraction at the Square booth was Full Metal Alchemist: Daughter of the Dusk for the Wii. In the game I played, the main task was to guide the cast of the anime through an amateur drama production organized by Winry. To do this, I had to answer a few quiz questions and swing my controller a few times. It might not be the action-oriented title people were hoping for, but it features lots of new original animation.
My next stop was the Sega booth, where the game publisher was putting a lot of muscle behind their forthcoming RPG End of Eternity (XBox 360, PS3). Although the game has what could possibly be the most stereotypical name for an RPG game ever, Sega is developing the game with RPG makers Tri Ace, so hopes for the title are high.
Another big crowd pleaser at the Sega booth was Bayonetta, an action shoot-em-up featuring a heroine armed with two guns and a suit (or is it her hair?) that can come off her body, transform into a creature of some kind, and devour prey. It goes without saying that this one will earn a "Mature" rating when it makes it to the states, and it's also certain that the people who play it won't care - they'll be far too busy enjoying the thrill that comes with filling evil orc creatures with bullets. Interesting point: much like another famous Sega icon, the protagonist of Bayonetta collects rings. I sense a theme here...
Around the back of the Sega booth, a smaller area showcasing other titles from the company and its partners were on display. Among the games here: a Lunar game for the PSP, a Super Monkey Ball game that utilizes the balance board that you get with Wii Fit, and the puzzle game Puyo Puyo 7.
My last stop for the Tokyo Game Show was the CAPCOM booth, which had demos of more than a few interesting titles on the horizon. Beyond a new Resident Evil title for the Wii, CAPCOM had a huge display for two Nintendo DS games: Okamiden, a smaller, cuter sequel to Okami, and Ghost Trick, a clever title from the creators of the Phoenix Wright games where you control a spirit as it inhabits objects on the screen, which in turn helps you accomplish special tasks.
On the way out, I was stopped by the sight of a large collection of samurai-esque battle wear. At first I thought this was some kind of cross promotion with the Koei Tecmo booth, which was showing off its latest title in the historical action series Dynasty Warriors. As it turns out, the booth was actually set up by a historical society from Nagano Prefecture, which brought the samurai garb to give game fans a chance to check out the outfits that have inspired the look and feel of numerous historical games. The booth looked a little out of place compared to the lights and glitz of the other booths, but that wasn't a bad thing: I was having sensory overload after hitting the other booths, and having something like this to balance things out was nice.
Once you're done checking out the photos below, click over here to hear my rants and raves over some of the games at the show.
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history