I’m packing up to depart from Japan, with a single solitary tear in my eye that the trip was so short (i.e. I didn’t really have time to either hang out, do much for Retronauts, or hunt down developers to interview). This tear is tenuous, though, since the fiancée will be waiting for me at home when I arrive after three months on the road. So that’s pretty rad.
A less easily mitigated tear is due Tokyo Game Show, which was a lonely shell of itself this year. If ever you needed evidence that Japanese development is in a state of flux, you should look no further than TGS. People kept remarking on how attendance appeared to be way down this year, but that’s not so: There have actually been more people at the show than in years past, so far. It’s just that there were so many fewer booths than before that everyone had more room to spread out. The combination punch of a recession and a sort of collective bafflement over here at making good things happen on modern hardware (along with the lack of Nintendo at TGS, which seems more conspicuous every year) made for a ghost town of an event.
Still, I managed to witness a few interesting things. Most of the interesting things, apparently; Alice Liang complained to me that I got to write about all the fun and interesting games. Which is weird, because I’m pretty sure she was the one who made the assignments. Anyway, here’s what I looked at. Per usual, I tramped about the Square Enix booth and scraped it for everything I could glean, although I did skip FFXIII since Ray and Thierry checked out the TGS demo a few weeks back.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker:
I’ve made no real secret of the fact that I was kind of burned out on Metal Gear after Metal Gear Solid 4. It was such a brilliant game in so many ways, yet also so terribly uneven. When I went back to replay it after the game launched, I realized I couldn’t find it in my heart to care about Metal Gear anymore. So when I was assigned the Peace Walker demo event at the show, I was actually sort of annoyed! But within five minutes of the demo kicking off, I felt practically ecstatic; it was clear that Kojima Productions was taking pains to address a lot of the issues I had with the most recent games. Of course, it’s still stupidly chatty and has some pretty dopey character names, but I suppose some things are beyond changing. Talky or not, it plays great and looks visually amazing. So, rock on Peace Walker.
Final Fantasy Gaiden: 4 Warriors of Light:
This game is going to be great. I think the cute art style and the streamlined combat system are throwing people off, but don’t be distracted from the fact that 4 Warriors of Light is the work of the team behind the DS remakes of Final Fantasy III and IV. This time, they get to make their own classic-flavored take on Final Fantasy instead of coloring within someone else’s lines. I can’t wait to see what they come up with. I bet it’s going to be a lot more challenging than most people expect, especially in light of the job system’s seeming flexibility.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers:
This surprised me at E3, and it continues to be surprising. It’s so… fun. Action-y. Solid. Gorgeous. Will it be good from start to finish? Well, it’s a Kawazu game, so there’s no telling. But to me it kind of looks like Dawn of Mana minus the suck, and that sounds downright great.
Meeting the team behind La Mulana was a highlight of the trip. It’s always nice to talk to small developers who view the press as friends rather than adversaries. We write about games because we like them! Sometimes we are critical, yes, but it is because we want games to be the best they can be. OK, so the press isn’t entirely altruistic, but when it comes to independently-made labors of love such as La Mulana, I certainly do my best to be an advocate. Which is why you should be excited about the game! It’s a four-person creation, and the remake is looking really great.
Although I’m not a big fan of zombies, I like where Ruffian is taking Crackdown 2. They get why so many people loved the original and seem to be playing up those aspects. This is, as it should be.
Dragon Quest VI:
I’m sure Dragon Quest VI will be great, but the merits of a given DQ title are entirely contingent on how the story plays out over the course of the game and the shape the supporting cast takes. Kind of tough to judge those factors from a Japanese demo on a crowded show floor.
This week, I learned how you pronounce “Thexder” (it’s “Tegzar”). I also learned that it is a game determined to destroy your self-confidence. I’m definitely looking forward to it, although I suppose I should look into whether or not PSP Mini games play on old-school PSPs or just the Go. ‘Cause I sure ain’t buying a Go.
Parasite Eve: The 3rd Birthday:
I bet this game will be pretty great! But since I only have five seconds of grainy gameplay footage to go by, it’s tough to make a definitive statement just yet.
Lunar: Silver Star Harmony:
This looks nice, but I’ve already played Lunar a few times too many. Mainly I plan to buy it so they’ll port Lunar 2 to PSP, because it’s by far the better game.
Final Fantasy Agito XIII:
I’m pretty excited about this. Monster Hunter is just a little unwieldy for my tastes, so a zippier, more accessible Final Fantasy patina is probably precisely what I need to enjoy the MH style. But I need actual playable material before I can be really enthusiastic.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep:
This looked so good last year! But the new material shown at TGS was pretty bad — a dull dungeon, a tepid boss, some crashy and unambitious multiplayer arena brawling. However, the trailer did show off a whole lot of Lilo & Stitch content, including a fight versus Captain Gantu. So that’s kind of rad.
Final Fantasy Versus XIII:
I think I would rather have seen nothing whatsoever on this game than a bit of shakycam footage demonstrating just how far the team has to go before this begins to resemble an actual game.
Secret of Mana Mobile:
Dear Square Enix, please make this a DSiWare game instead of just a crappy, hard-to-play cellular title. OK thanks.
SaGa 2: Goddess of Destiny:
Hurt me more, Kawazu. Kenji Ito’s music will make it all better.