Today started with one mindset: cramming as much gaming as we could into the day.

The Gaming

10:00 As the show opened we rushed over to the Xbox 360 area. The layout of the show floor here is great for jumping from game to game. While the rotating Kinect demos looked very fun, we decided to hit up Marvel vs. Capcom 3 instead. My team? Deadpool, Morrigan and Dante, of course. I… did lose though. But some rather nice MvC3 folders cheered me right up.
10:10 Otomedius Excellent was  next on my list. Being a fan of the original, Otomedius Gorgeous, which sadly only ever saw the light of day in Japan. It’s a horizontal 2D shmup featuring larger-than-spaceship anime ladies taking down anything and everything flying towards them. To be honest, the demo level didn’t seem to have as many mad shenanigans going on which is what made Gorgeous stick out in the first place.  This version has a confirmed North American release, but nothing confirmed for Europe as of yet.
10:20 Dream Club Zero is another Japanese gaming oddity I am somewhat familiar with. Sequel to Dream C? Club on the 360, this game has you deciding how to manage your time and money. The twist? The only end your money has is to fuel a hostess club or buy your favourite hostess drinks, food and gifts. You can also get blind drunk in it – hurrah!
10:30 Fable III was playable in the cordoned off “Z” (18+)  room. It’s looking a lot less cartoony and the shovels are bigger, but it’s still the game we know and love. The pause menu has been replaced by a chamber with several doors leading to, essentially, sub-menu options. It’s pretty but a whole lot less functional.
10:50 Fallout: New Vegas still looks and feels like Fallout 3, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? As I was playing the Japanese version I had little to no idea what I was meant to do, so I modified my stats to max strength, endurance, agility and luck and reverted to thieving anything moving blind. This backfired when the lady I was meant to be working with started shooting me in the behind so I fled to the hills. After eventually escaping, a bed of giant scorpions ascended on me in the desert leaving me to spend the rest of the demo time jumping backwards across the map.
11:25 Mafia II. I know it’s out. I just wanted the faux leather keyring for playing the demo.
11:40 Hit the XBLA section and had a wee go on Bonk: Brink of Extinction. Once I acclimatised to the controls I was good to go. Just took me ten or so minutes… ahem.
11:50 Switched over to the XBLA version of Cave shmup classic Guwange. I’m great at these games because they have infinite continue options. Hooray!
12:00 After playing each game I was branded with some UV stamps that gave me multiple chances to win an Xbox tee and a little “Project Natal Animals” tiger plush. I struck lucky and won both (well, the odds were in my favour with five goes and only four unlucky balls).
12:10 Spent 15 minutes pestering a friend to help me answer a Japanese PlayStation questionnaire so I could have a PSN biro. Sorry, Carlo!
12:25 A short wait and a spiffy tote bag freebie at a LEVEL-5 queue drew us in. The game was “The Little Battlers” on the PSP. A make-yer-own-mech game with a battling system somewhere between the Dragon Ball Z fighting games and  Virtual-On (the former of which I have seen but not played, I hasten to add).
14:00 After some aimless wondering and lunch, we were a little gamed out so we finally hit the stores. Okamiden plushes were the plan, but we later realised they were only available on Capcom’s Japanese website. For shame, Capcom. FOR SHAME. I still picked up a few Okamiden charms, a Mai (King of Fighters) tee, a Moogle plush and three plastic tumblers (Cactuar, Chocobo, Moogle) from the Square-Enix store, Otomedius and Gradius straps from the Konami store and a few Castle Crashers metal keychains and phone straps to boot.
15:00 It’s pretty much a rule to stop by the Square-Enix booth to watch their latest showreel of game trailers, even if most of them are overly emo Kingdom Hearts spin-offs. This year they were showing *deep breath* Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded (DS), Kingdom Hearts Mobile (Japanese phones) Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep – Final Mix (PSP),  The 3rd Birthday (PSP), Dissidia Duodecim (PSP), Final Fantasy Agito XIII (PSP) and Final Fantasy Versus XIII (PS3). We then had a good fifteen minutes playing The 3rd Birthday, which is simply breathtaking in terms of sheer PSP visual flair.

The Interview: Takashi Iizuka

Today I met up with Takashi Iizuka, head of Sonic Team, to ask him some questions many Sonic fans have been wondering about…

Danny: With the successes of Capcom’s recent Mega Man 9 and 10 as well as Nintendo’s New Super Mario Bros., has Sonic Team considered making new Sonic games in the style of the old Mega Drive series (using the original graphics, sounds and core gameplay mechanics)?

Iizuka-san: Sonic 4: Episode 1 is probably going to fit into that mould. While the graphics are obviously greatly improved upon the original Mega Drive version they try to implement the original controls and much of the original feel.

Danny: You mentioned the iPhone version of Sonic 4: Episode 1… are there any plans to release the game on other handheld platforms like the Nintendo DS or PSP?

Iizuka-san: Currently there are no plans for that.

Danny: A Sonic game is listed to come out for the Nintendo 3DS – can you tell us anything more about it? Is it going to be a 2D side-scrolling game, for example?

Iizuka-san: Unfortunately we can’t say too much about the Sonic 3DS game. What we can say for now is that we’re trying to release this game as soon as possible.

Danny: When you decide to add a new play mechanic to a Sonic game, what is the thought process that goes into that?

Iizuka-san: It’s quite dependent on what kind of Sonic product it’s going to be. It depends on the content of each product. What’s common for all these titles is that the team tries to implement something surprising and new every time they come up with a new title. In the case of Sonic Colours, this new experience is obviously coming from Sonic’s new colour powers, so its dependent on the product. The concept and the high-speed nature of Sonic also improve the gameplay but the surprise that you want to give to the users is what drives the team to create new ideas.

Danny: Are there any plans for Sonic Team to work on any new or old franchises?

Iizuka-san: Obviously because the development team have just recently finished the development of Sonic Colours and Sonic 4, they are still in the process of thinking of what they want to move on to, but the team wants to try for some new ideas, gameplay and products. It’s still pretty much up in the air.

Danny: Would you like to?

Iizuka-san: Yeah, we want to create something new – that’s the bottom line!

Danny: Considering the upgraded port of NiGHTS to the PS2 in Japan a couple of years ago, are there any plans to re-release NiGHTS to XBLA or PSN?

Iizuka-san: Unfortunately there are not any plans for that.

Danny: Are there any plans to get Masato Nakamura back to do more music for the Sonic series?

Iizuka-san: It’s probably quite difficult because Mr. Nakamura has become a huge artist in Japan so he’s probably really hard to get hold of.

Danny: How about Richard Jacques?

Iizuka-san: Richard still has a relatively close relationship with Sega’s Music Studios. The team would like to keep their relationship with him and possibly work on future projects as well.

Danny: In the past ten years, most of the 2D Sonic games have been worked on, at least partially, by Dimps. Could you explain what the special relationship is between Sonic Team and Dimps?

Iizuka-san: We have an interesting relationship with Dimps. It obviously started with the Sonic Advance series and we have been working with them specifically on 2D Sonic titles – mostly for handhelds. Sonic Team believes that they are very good at that genre. We really respect their game design experience, their technology and the methods they use. So we would like to maintain a relationship and potentially also work on future titles as well.

Danny: What do you consider your greatest achievement during your time at Sonic Team?

Iizuka-san: It’s very difficult for me to come up with one title that I’m most proud of because I have a long history with Sonic Team starting from Sonic 3. Now I’m in a position where I’m the producer of Sonic titles, the new one being Sonic Colours. I’ve experienced different positions and different difficulties but, you know, looking at the entire Sonic franchise I’m proud of, probably, everything.

Danny: After the recent announcement of ChuChu Rocket! coming to the iPad and iPhone, can you confirm that a version for XBLA or PSN will follow?

Iizuka-san: No, other than the things we have announced we can’t say anything about it.

Danny: Can you elaborate on Sonic Colours’ “Sonic Simulator” stages? There are some elements of classic layouts in existing videos such as Green Hill and Marble Zone. How far will these touches of nostalgia extend to the other Simulator stages?

Iizuka-san: In terms of the “Sonic Simulator”, the multiplayer side of Sonic Colours, there are a few classic Sonic moments spread throughout the stages. We can’t really say which one is which yet or how many there are to find as this is something that the users would want to find out themselves when the game is released. It’s something that they’ll have to keep their eyes out for!

Danny: Thanks very much for your time, we really appreciate it!

Sense of Wonder Night 2010

The day drew to a close with TGS regular, the indie gaming showcase lovingly known as “SOWN”. It’s getting pretty late on this side of the world now, so I’ll leave you with these. I can assure you that they are all worth checking out:

Love press++: Massage for your truelove (Shirai Laboratory, Japan) utilises the Wii Fit board to provide a somewhat realistic “sensual massage” similator with sexy noises.
Infinite Blank (Evan Balster, USA) allows you to draw your own world and travel through MSPaint landscapes with friends.
MusicMineSweeper (Game Developers Community Sapporo, Japan) does what it says on the tin. Funky electrobeats meet Minesweeper.
Everything can Draw! (Mahdi Bahrami, Iran) makes geometry fun!
Spirits (Spaces of Play, Germany) features sweet little ghosts blowing and pushing each other towards exits.
Record Tripping (Bell Brothers, USA) mystifies with its cats headbanging to indie music while you scratch round objects like records using your mousewheel.
Ulitsa Dimitrova (Schönfelder & Delmàs, Germany) life is hard for little chainsmoking Russian street urchins. Help one keep going and robbing off-licenses blind.
Orfeo: a Game in Music (Roberto Dillon, Singapore) play your lyre using mouse power to win Eurydice back from Hades.
ANOSONOKONOMICHAN (GAMECENTER, Japan) turn the ground from red to green in trippy spherical worlds linked together by grindable branches.

That’s it for today I’m afraid! See you all again next time for a review of the show!