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Cranking out widgets in search of meaning...

Tokyo Game Show 2002


The Tokyo Game Show, historically a semi-annual event, now only occurs once a year in the hope of attracting more attendees and making it more successful overall. Held from September 20-22 at the Makuhari Messe, there was also an expanded focus this year. Companies representing other related industries, such as cell-phone gaming, were demonstrating their wares as well.

tokyo game show 2002 illustration showing a crowd moving toward a giant game controller held up by two robotsa sparse crowd walks toward a large building

Taking up seven exhibit halls, the show is quite large, although overall there seemed to be fewer exhibitors then the published list indicated, especially in the purchasing area. It was also a bit of a surprise that the representatives at the overseas press counter knew little English, so I didn't waste any time heading to the games.

balloons spell out the tecmo logo above their bootha wide shot of the convention booths with several balloons with logos on them

The first booth I came across was displaying several PSOne re-releases and was therefore being ignored for the most part, so I took a turn on Sonic Wings Special, since it was on my shopping list, and it's a pretty decent shooter. Next up was a Korean software collective consisting of six companies that are co-operating to get Japanese and/or Overseas distribution for their games, I sampled a GBA platformer called "Penning" and looked at a PSOne game called "Tankers" that looked quite good, as it looked like the person playing it wasn't letting go of the controller any time soon.

tvs in front of a poster with a penguin on ita japanese man plays a game near a poster for tankers showing some characters

Next up was the impressive Sega booth, which probably had the best lineup of the show. Shinobi was the highlight here, and even though I'd had reservations about how it would transition to 3-D, it proved them to be mostly false with constant, fast action and only a minor bit of camera issues. More importantly though, it's a great game and I look forward to it even more now. Panzer Dragoon Orta was also looking good, as well as Virtual On: Mars. The only really lacklustre game was Sega Rally for GBA, it was trying to push the hardware a bit too far I think, as there was major popup, but hey it's GBA right?

a giant poster of a ninja and the logo for shinobi with video screensa large poster for panzer dragoon oorta with a screena poster of a robot and a virtual on marz logo with screens

From Software also had quite a big display, and were offering a cockpit version of Armored Core 3 for play, which, being that my turn was only 2 minutes long, I didn't get to delve too deep into it, but it looks great and seems to carry on the standards of the earlier titles in the series. Then it was off to Capcom's display to get my ass handed to me at Devil May Cry 2.

large sit-in cabinets that look like parts of a robot or tanka row of demo units below a large logo for devil may cry 2

One of the games I had only heard about recently was Taito's "Energy Airforce", a flight combat game using Sony's new head-mounted display to enable the player a wider view via the head-tracking function. It seems a bit less busy than the Ace Combat series, but was a limited demo version. The HMD was a bit disappointing though, as it has no shielding around the eyepiece, letting you see under them. That may sound nit-picky, but for the equivalent of CDN$800, I'd want something better. The woman in the photo also wouldn't take my picture wearing the HMD (pout).

a japanese man wears headphones as he plays energy aitforcea sideview of the man playing shows the head mounted display.

Konami's booth was impressive as well, rivalling Sega's for the number of high-profile, quality games. Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee for Gamecube and Silent Hill 3 were among the highlights, Contra was there in both its GBA and PS2 incarnations, and both were solid adaptations of the classic series' gameplay. Ikaruga was there for Gamecube as well, and was actually a bit of a let down for a Treasure game, but 2-D shooter fans can't really be too picky these days it seems.

a tv and title card for a godzilla gamea tv and title card for silent hill 3a tv and title card for a contra game

Because of the expanded focus this year, cellphone games were well represented, with many ports of classics such as Raiden. NTT DoCoMo had an impressive display of games from several developers that run on their phones. It's interesting to note though, that after being used for gaming so much, the demo phones keypads seemed to be wearing out a bit. Perhaps games are a good way to encourage constant phone replacement...

a mobile phone on a counter near an image of a plane with the raiden logoa large booth with the NTT Docomo logo

Another highly anticipated 3-D update is Tecmo's Rygar, which was way better than I had hoped it could be. It's got a bit of a puzzle element as you need to find your way around half-destroyed buildings and there are several dead-ends etc. The weapon action is fluid and there are a good number of enemies on screen at a time to deal with. The demo level didn't have too much platforming, but hopefully that aspect of the original will be well-preserved as well.

a display with greek columns and a japanese logoa tv screen shows rygar gameplay

Tecmo also had a big screen running footage of DOA: Extreme Beach Volleyball, so I guess this is a good time to cover booth babes. There were actually not as many as I thought, and they were er, modestly endowed shall we say, for the most part. Taito's were the best, but I couldn't get a clear shot - Microsoft's were pretty low on the scale, as I hear is quite usual.

a very large sign of a white woman in a bikini under the tecmo logoa booth with the xbox logo above the entrance

I ended off by checking out the children's area tucked away in it's own exhibit hall. There was a pretty sparse lineup overall, with the best thing going a robot called "Pino". There were many custom controllers for kid's games including one for a virtual bowling game that was a wireless "bowling ball" that you pretend to "throw" down the on-screen alley. There was also some poor guy dressed as a bowling pin here, so I had mercy on whatever dignity he had left and didn't take a picture of his face.

small robots on display near the pino logoa person in a red bowling pin costume watches people try a game

I did see a few mascots, such as Tecmo's Suezo from the Monster Farm series and someone dressed as a giant egg, but the whole thing wasn't as outright wacky as I thought it would be. Still, it was a great show and more importantly, there are lots of great games on their way.

an inflated pac-man above a namco signa crowd of people around the Genki booth showing a racing game