Tokyo Game Show 2009

Danny gets the Yakuza treatmentPhotos: Joanna Tocher

Five in the morning. That’s the time my special lady friend and I got up to make sure we wouldn’t have to queue on the first Press Day of Tokyo Game Show 2009. Admittedly, we arrived at seven in the morning and there wasn’t much of a queue in sight. By eight we were the first to queue up as “Overse Media” and, to our delight, gain press passes.

Nearly 200,000 people attend TGS each year, and the majority of them visit on the public days. These public days are something else. I experienced them last year, but had forgotten just how packed TGS can get.


The best example of this was when we were keen on getting Assassin’s Creed II t-shirts from the Ubisoft area. Despite arriving before the doors opened, being near the front of the press queue and running across the hall like our lives depended on it, upon our arrival to the Ubisoft area we were greeted by a two-hour long queue. I couldn’t quite work it out. Not just because of our timing, but also due to the preconception that Japanese gamers weren’t very interested in Western franchises. Maybe it was the idealised Venetian setting appreciated by countless J-RPG fans that was catching eyes. Maybe it was the classy trailer that looped every five minutes. Or maybe it was the free t-shirts.


The time allotted to play demos at TGS fluctuated greatly from booth to booth. Some games were strictly timed (Final Fantasy XIII), whilst others seemed to have variable playtimes according to how many people were waiting (Assassin’s Creed II). Neither resolved the problem of the huge queues though. Taking photos in most areas was a big no-no. Although some companies allowed photos to be taken as long as the screen was not visible, others would get very stroppy if you tried to use a camera at all.


Ah yes… in case you thought I’d forgotten the whole purpose of TGS… the games!

For me, the highlight of the show was playing 4-player co-op on Left 4 Dead 2. I played the Dark Carnival level with three other L4D newbies, and took quite a delight in defending and healing them as well as blasting through the opposition. Wielding Valve’s melee weapon of choice, the crowbar, whilst in berserker mode from taking adrenaline pills was another high point. The Valve assistants couldn’t have been more perfectly balanced in terms of their friendliness and willingness to help out by giving directions without being intrusive. I must admit, I had never played L4D before this point, but as soon as I returned from TGS I fired up my dusty, shelved copy that I’d been saving for a rainy day. We also got a L4D2 t-shirt, although I’m not sure if it was for winning or just playing!


The Okamiden booth was set up like a traditional Japanese Shinto shrine. After each demo play, cherry blossoms dropped down from above! Okamiden looks set to be the best DS Legend of Zelda alternative, although it is surely far cuter than its competition. The demo was a tutorial, allowing me to get to grips with controlling our adorable protagonists, Chibiterasu and Kuninushi. They can team up and separate (in a Link / Epona fashion) on the fly, allowing you to perform different tasks accordingly. I only had time to unlock the first upgrade (bestowed upon me by a huddle of penguins), but from what I played, it looked and played magnificently. The DS seems to be an obvious platform choice for the Okami sequel. The prize for playing was a beautiful Okamiden fan, which is definitely going up on my wall!

Konami had clearly put a lot of effort into the sprawling Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker booth, and it showed. Military trucks, camouflage netting and army fatigues were the order of the day. Over the course of TGS I managed to play three different demos – single player, two player co-op and four player co-op. The co-op demos were the most fun, even though trying to take down a tank and dozens of respawning enemies can be troublesome if you aren’t sure which of the two control schemes you’re using and can’t figure out how to turn inversion on in the Japanese menus. The prize for playing was a raffle ticket, which gave you a chance to win an awesome MGS:PW tee or a set of MGS:PW-themed rubber PSP button covers. I won seven sets of PSP button covers. Hmm.


On the other side of the Konami area, both the Wii and PSP iterations of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories were playable in a closed, shadowy booth. Wanting to be as immersed as possible in the Silent Hill experience, I opted for the Wii version. I love the Silent Hill series. But boy, do I ever suck at playing it. I started the demo in a frozen labyrinth made up of small shacks, armed only with a flashlight and no discernible objective. I made my way through several shack doors to find myself confronted by a faceless, humanoid creature who seemed to have it in for me. The monster jumped on me, and the on-screen guide (as well as the assistant, slightly bemused by my lack of skill) instructed me to push the monster away using the Wiimote and Nunchuk. This left the creature momentarily stunned, while I proceded to run around madly like a headless chicken, throwing open doors. At one point I dropped down into an empty swimming pool containing a flare. I picked it up, only to realise that every other monster in the entire level had decided to join me. Lighting the flare stunned them and made them writhe around making oh-so-unpleasant noises. In theory, this should have given me time to figure out how to get out of the pool, the ladder of which was frozen over. I, of course, had no idea what I was supposed to do, which left me in the middle of a pool with half-a-dozen convulsing monsters. After dying twice, the assistant had little hope that I would ever complete the demo. He informed me that my time was indeed up. For my efforts I won a shiny postcard!


GhostTrick4   Tekken6model   Samurai

Both the Final Fantasy XIII demos were what you would expect from the series – great visuals and mechanics with intermittent jaw-droppingly impressive cut-scenes. Playing the demo in the Square-Enix booth entitled you to watch a Square-Enix showreel of almost all their upcoming Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts games (FFXIV was missing, strangely enough). Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep looks and plays just as well as the PS2 iterations. Assassin’s Creed 2 played much like the first except in a richer environment with more ways to interact with your surroundings. Phantasy Star Portable 2 is more of the same, with new stages and (judging from a video I saw in the Sega area showcasing the dragon boss from Phantasy Star Online) old ones too. Hard to say much about Disgaea Infinite as the 15 minutes I played were all cut-scenes, even though I was hammering the circle button as fast as possible. Ghost Trick is a stylised puzzler looking something like a very colourful version of Exit. The Ghost Trick booth was another favourite, tricked out with fittings from the game itself. I got pummelled by my lady partner at Tekken 6, which had quite the character roster, but I’m more of a Virtua Fighter / Dead or Alive man, myself. Bomberman Live: Battlefest is essentially Bomberman XBLA with avatars, but just as fun to play as ever, even if the Microsoft booth babe I played with kept blowing herself up on purpose. Avatar: The Game was great at showcasing 3D technology, unfortunately the developer’s choice not to put inverted controls in the demo left me looking like a complete lemon in front of the developers and other members of the press. Joy!


boothbabeVC2   boothbabeMGSPW   boothbabeLunar

boothhunkDQ   boothbabesUbisoft   boothhunk

boothbabeCodies   boothabeNamco   boothbabeDQ

“Booth babes” seem to be one of the most popular attractions on the public days. Swathes of sweaty photographers with larger lenses than your average wildlife documentary team swarm around flyer-toting young ladies. They put on a cheery smile, strike a pose (or six), then rinse and repeat until their break. I have no idea how they managed to hand out any flyers at all considering the endless parade of photographers. At the end of each day, the booth babes from each area would all line up together and pose for yet more photos, only this time, en-masse.

A bevy of SEGA booth babes

Between the halls of the Makuhari Messe, there was a space where all the cosplayers congregated. Despite warnings and pleadings for photographers to line up and ask permission to take photos many of the photographers (most noticeably Westerners) were going around the area being snap-happy. These rules were most likely set as the cosplayers were posing for fun. They were not getting paid, whereas booth babes were. Indeed, booth babes seemed outright shocked when we would ask if it was alright for us to take photos of them. If I felt sorry for anyone at TGS, it was the male cosplayers. While many of them had made a valiant effort, they rarely garnered as much attention from onlookers or photographers as girls cosplaying as the same characters.

CosplayBayonetta2  CosplayDMC  cosplayAsh

CosplayPeachi  CosplayNintendo  CosplayYoshi

I am glad I could not always understand what the photographers were asking of the cosplayers. Few cosplayers seemed reluctant to turn down any requests for certain poses on their own or, indeed, with other cosplayers. Booth babes were treated in a similar fashion, with some very unpleasant individuals actually taking close-up, high-resolution photos of their cleavage. The crowds around booth babes at TGS were mindboggling and slightly worrying too.


T-shirts were the swag to win at TGS09. The first instance I noticed them was in Microsoft’s Xbox 360 area, where people were walking around with brand new Left 4 Dead 2 tees. I investigated. To my delight I found a little room with playable Left 4 Dead 2 and Assassin’s Creed 2 tucked away in the corner of the Xbox area. One of the reasons for the Ubisoft area’s popularity at the show may have been due to the freebies that they were handing out. They had t-shirts as prizes for playing or seeing almost all of their games – Assassin’s Creed 2, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Red Steel 2 and Avatar: The Game.

Flyers were the most common giveaway. Each and every booth had either a flyer or catalogue that they insisted you should have. While most of these were junk, many of them had interesting artwork or information that made you (or rather, me) want to keep them. The pick of the litter were the catalogues that came with trailer DVDs. Capcom have been giving these away for years now, and they are certainly worth a watch.

Shopping at the Square-Enix store

The shopping area was also a great place to go for goodies, a long as you didn’t mind shelling out thousands of yen. The shop stalls were in the same hall as the food court and Kids’ Corner. Two of them in particular stand out each year – those of Square-Enix and Capcom. The Square-Enix store boasts a treasure trove of jewellery, t-shirts and memorabilia you can buy and a gallery of intricate promotional figures you can’t. The Capcom store is a more standard affair, with franchise goods ranging from clothes to pins and stationary. Last year I didn’t even attempt to tackle the Square-Enix store’s 2+ hour queue. The rings, pendants and necklaces are all very desirable, but their price tags… less so. This year I picked up a lovely, intricate FFXIII Shiva tee… which turned out to be too small for me! The Capcom store was a little disappointing compared to last year, when my favourite purchase was a Godot (Phoenix Wright) coffee mug! The Okamiden staff t-shirt was the most sought-after item this year, managing to sell out in all sizes every day.

TGS swag


Taking in everything on display at TGS is impossible, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t try to. Over the course of TGS I saw Toshihiro Nagoshi sitting on a throne surrounded by Japanese beauties. I met Keita Takahashi in person, gushing embarrassingly about how I loved his games. I saw Hideo Kojima amongst a host of other videogame celebrities from afar, in a conference I had evidently not been informed of. I asked how to change my inversion settings for the third time that day, because onlookers were laughing at how badly I was playing Lost Planet 2. These are just a few of the moments from TGS 2009 that will be ingrained in my mind forever.

Danny & Keita Takahashi

Apparently we appeared in the background on national TV the first night of the show, looking lost and tired out. After four long days, we were even more exhausted and still just as bewildered. I didn’t want to leave, but we had a bullet train to catch. Outside, it was clear that the mass exodus had begun. We collected a few dozen kilos of flyers and goodies from lockers at the station and passed out on the shinkansen home.


Goodbye Tokyo Game Show, you were an overwhelming assortment of different sensations that we won’t forget!






4 responses to “Tokyo Game Show 2009”

  1. Ben avatar

    Love the Okamiden picture, and cherry blossoms? Sounds awesome!

    Looks like you scored yourself some great swag there, the Sega Saturn T-shirt(I think) looks brilliant just in a case of pure retro reminiscing.

    Sounds like a tiring but must have experience!

  2. van-fu avatar

    How did I miss this feature! Danny, you are the new king of cool.

  3. Duncan avatar

    Words cannot express the jealousy…

    Terrific write up Danny! (and pretty decent swag pile to boot)

  4. Danny avatar

    Cheers folks! Still exhausted a month later, but I’d do it all again in an instant!

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