Tokyo Game Show 2014

The Tokyo Game Show may look like E3, but it sure doesn’t feel like it anymore. Before the rise of other conventions like PAX and Gamescom, TGS and E3 were two sides of the same coin analogous video game events tailored to their specifi c regions. Today, despite the elaborate booths, bustling crowds, and hands-on demos, the tone in Tokyo is vastly different from what we experience in Los An geles  every summer.

A cloud of expectations surrounds E3 every year. We look forward to new announcements and major reveals to map out the direction gaming will take for the coming year. For TGS, the sense of anticipation and importance just cannot compare; with other conventions stealing the spotlight, it no longer has the same reach. Nintendo usually skips the show entirely, and this year saw Sony and Mi crosoft remain quiet on any major news regarding their games or hardware.

Some people might say publishers' restraint during this show is confirmation of the decline of the Japanese gaming market, but you only need to see the thousands of people lined up outside of the Makuhari Messe to realize TGS is still important. As a consumer-facing event, the show floor is open to the public for half of its four day run. With less PR and posturing, the crowd’s excitement and unbridled enthusiasm takes precedence over the desire to appeal to the press. It puts games from genres that are considered niche on a global scale  like romance and JRPG front and center. People wait in line for hours. Security guards constantly remind attendees not to run in the hall. A special courtyard is set aside for cosplayers. The 3DS Street Passes max out in minutes.

That is the audience for TGS. The hands on gameplay on the show floor isn’t always brand new, and the surprises are few, but developers seem to enjoy the opportunity to share their games with a grateful and eager public.

Big Events
Despite a lack of jaw dropping announcements, TGS 2014 was far from a barren wasteland when it comes to gaming news. Using press releases, trailers, and stage demos, we saw and learned more about some of the most anticipated games on  the  horizon. At this point, most fans just assume major gaming events will come and go with no official mention of Final Fantasy XV, but Square Enix surprised us with two interesting pieces of news. First, the title has undergone a change in leadership, and is now being directed by Hajime Tabata (Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy Type-0) instead of Tetsuya Nomura. Square Enix says the move allows Nomura to focus on Kingdom Hearts III, but the change appears more aimed at finishing Final Fantasy XV a game in development over eight years under Nomura’s  supervision.

Tabata seems to be making progress already; the second piece of news regarding the title is Square Enix will release a demo of Final Fantasy XV in 2015 called Episode Dus cae. A free voucher for the demo will be included with Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, though Episode Duscae’s release date and price (for those who don’t buy Type-0) were not specified.

Konami used TGS as a chance to show off more of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, with a new trailer and a stage demo highlighting the new buddy system in action . Bandai Namco offered some hands on time with Tales of Zestiria , and NIS released the first substantial details about the upcoming Disgaea 5. The show also brought with it the surprise release of D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die, the episodic Xbox One exclusive title.

Some titles were only present as trailers, but that didn’t make them any less exciting. We got new looks at Sony’s Bloodborne, Capcom’s Deep Down, and Bethesda’s The Evil Within. Even though we didn’t get to play new content for these titles, the videos succeeded in drumming up plenty of enthusiasm.

Language Barrier
For North American gamers, one of the pitfalls of TGS is getting your hopes too high. Amid the big-name franchises bound for worldwide releases are smaller and more specialized games that may never reach our shores. These aren’t always one off games in unknown series; sometimes titles with popular pedigrees don’t get localized outside of Japan.

Square Enix has yet to announce any Eng lish language plans for Final Fantasy Explorers and Bravely Second, despite the cachet those names currently carry in North America. The Great Ace Attorney from Capcom is also in limbo, especially considering the last game in the series skipped retail shelves in favor of a download only release. Sega’s cooperative action/RPG Phantasy Star Nova (from veteran developer Tri-Ace) also had a good showing, but the Phantasy Star name doesn’t mean what it once did.

Learning more about these titles is one of the unique benefits of TGS. It can also be bittersweet seeing something you want, but may never get. Ultimately, all you can do is wait, show your support and enthusiasm, and hope that publishers get the message.

The Tokyo Game Show is a strange confl uence of well-known games, niche titles on the fringes, and zany things that would never have a shot at success anywhere but Japan. TGS may not be the spectacle it once was, but with so many cool games on display in one form or another, it continues to be an entertaining showcase for industry professionals and fans alike.

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