Tokyo Game Show 2009

Not too crowded, but the waits are still pretty killer.

Please, my dear readers, accept my apology for a recent lack of updates. While things have been happening on the Survival Horror front, my attention has been diverted to more pressing matters, namely working my ass off and visiting other countries to see my (recently enlarged–congrats Adam and Sarah) family.

Yesterday I attended the Tokyo Game Show 2009. I don’t know why they call it the “Tokyo” Game Show–it’s actually in Chiba, which is a long-ass way from everything. It took me two hours to get there and two hours to get back. I gave a talk about my work (which sadly isn’t horror related, though I was able to work in a shout-out to Mystique: Chapter 2), visited with some friends, and had a tiny amount of time left over to check out the actual show floor. I have never been to a TGS before, but my impression was generally favorable. It’s a smaller show than E3 (and this year it is particularly small, I gather), which means you have a chance of actually seeing everything without wearing holes in the soles of your shoes. The problem with it is that even when there are not many people around (as was the case on the first day, which is open only to developers and press), you have to wait for a long-ass time to actually play, or even get a good look at, games. I waited a total of 1.5 hours in line to play just two games (described below). When the show opens for general admission on Saturday, I am sure the wait times will be counted in hours. Ugh.

I don’t know if this is just me getting old or what, but I have to admit that I was totally uninterested in 99% of the titles on display. This year seems to be YEAR OF THE DEVIL MAY CRY KNOCK-OFF, which is actually YEAR OF THE GOD OF WAR KNOCK-OFF, except that God of War itself is based on Devil May Cry. I mean, sure, there’s a new God of War that was playable, and a new Ninja Gaiden, but there are also a bunch of other similar games like Darksiders that I have absolutely no interest in. I already played a bunch of Devil May Cry and God of War games; just changing the character and the name of the game isn’t enough to interest me in a new one. The only exception seemed to be Bayonetta, which looks slick, fast, stylish, and fantastic, despite being clearly aimed at 16 year old males exclusively. There were also a number of Samurai Warriors/Devil Kings/Too Human knockoffs, but they also looked exceedingly dull. There was a pervasive sameness about many of the games on display; at one point while I was standing in line waiting to play, I realized after 30 minutes that the game to my left and the game to my right were not, in fact, the same game.

I played two horror games: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and Heavy Rain. Alan Wake wasn’t playable (and I couldn’t find a video reel for it, though apparently one was hiding somewhere), there was no demo for Calling (though I did speak to the president of Hudson for a bit about that game–can’t wait) or many of the other titles I was interested in. Left 4 Dead 2 was being shown but I couldn’t be bothered to wait 40 minutes for it; same deal for the new Metal Gear Solid except replace “40 minutes” with “3 hours.” Basically, there were not a lot of horror games on display this year.

The Silent Hill Shattered Memories build I played was the Wii version. It was clearly an early build; some of the UI was placeholder debug menus, and there were a few glitches with streaming upcoming rooms. But basically the game was playable. I found the setup very cool (it seems like pretty much a new game with a few common plot points with the original Silent Hill) but the camera and control scheme were hard for me to wield. The camera system is a close-in Resident Evil 4-style follow cam, with the Wii remote controlling the character’s flashlight hand and the nunchuck driving him around. As with other games that use this method, I sometimes found myself looking straight up at the ceiling and unable to recenter my view. The demo level had some generic flesh monsters jump out and grab you, and since you can’t fight at this point in the game the only thing to do is run away. If they grab you the remote and nunchuck can be shaken in a specific direction to get them off. Sometimes the game would show you what motion to perform, but other times not; I died several times in the first few minutes because some flesh thing grabbed me and I couldn’t figure out the right movement to shake him off. Combine that with the camera issues and a sort of same-looking blue palette and the result was, I’m sorry to report, a fairly frustrating experience. However, we must remember that a) this is an early build, b) in a real play environment, you would not start on this level with no previous tutorial or training, and c) some cues (like sound) were totally shot due to the loudness of the show floor. So I’m holding out hope that this game will be pretty good. I think that the version I played would have been much better with a few minor fixes, which it’s reasonable to expect the developers to actually perform before the game is released.

Heavy Rain was exactly what I hoped it would be. If you played Indigo Prophesy (or Shenmue 2, for that matter), you have a good idea what to expect. The basic form of those games (which, if you haven’t played, is third-person-adventure-as-a-film) has been improved and polished to a shine. The controls, as usual, are non-standard but correct for the system. It lives somewhere between the full analog control that most 3rd person games provide and the highly-scripted quick timer event approach. It works really well. I played a segment in which a police detective visits a store looking for clues, and happens upon an in-progress robbery. There’s got to be a ton of ways to get through this part, but I mostly screwed them all up. I snuck up on the guy and planned on hitting him with a bottle, but I went for the bottle too quickly and ended up dropping it. Then I had to talk him down, which I also did poorly, and while the situation ended without anybody getting killed, I felt like I wanted to try it again. The characters, acting, and script were all fantastic; I can’t wait to play this game. In fact, other than Metal Gear Solid 4, this is the only PS3 exclusive game that I’ve felt any real excitement for.

And that is pretty much all I got to see in my short time at the show.

16 thoughts on “Tokyo Game Show 2009

  1. I hope that build of Silent Hill isn’t too bare. It is supposed to be released in the States on November 3, after all.

  2. Well, the build that I played is probably at least six months old. I mean, if the game is scheduled for November 3rd that means it’s probably done right now (or within the next week or two) and the team is probably crunching on the final release candidate. They don’t have time to put together a TGS demo or something, so they probably reused something from an earlier conference, like E3 or something. That’s my guess.

  3. Aw, waiting for Heavy Rain a lot. A real pity it’s PS3 exclusive.

    “he demo level had some generic flesh monsters jump out and grab you, and since you can’t fight at this point in the game the only thing to do is run away.”
    did i hear correctly? so there IS a point in the game after which you can actually ran the monsters? From what i read earlier, Shattered Memories was intended to be a Clock Tower-like hide-and-seek type of experience.

  4. so there IS a point in the game after which you can actually ran the monsters?

    ‘scuse me, “fight the monsters”, i mean. 🙂

    So does Heavy Rain count as horror?
    I’ll play it as soon as it comes out, but everything I read sounds like they’re on the way to repeating the story of Indigo Prophecy. Indigo Prophecy had a fantastic demo, where replay paid off, while the complete game degenerated during gameplay to something repetitive and into a story that did not make any sense.

  6. > Shibbo

    I suspect that there will be combat. Didn’t see it in this demo though.

    > Clara

    The director, David Cage, says it’s horror. From what I’ve seen it could easily go that way, though it’s not clear if it will end up being supernatural or not. Indigo Prophesy was, I thought, built fantastically well around a story that totally fell apart in the end. They intended it to be episodic, I gather, and ran out of time when that plan didn’t pan out. But I loved the way that it was made, with the attention to pacing and characters and investigation, and Heavy Rain seems to be exactly that cranked up to 11. It was easily the most interesting game at the show (to me, anyway).

  7. From the sounds of it the DMC genre is about to implode. Let’s see between Nier(two version), Darksiders, Dante’s Inferno, the re-release of GoW, GoW 3, and NGS2, the market isn’t flooded.

    How does Heavy Rain actually play? Some peeps on the Net are calling it Dragonslayer 2010.

  8. How does Heavy Rain actually play? Some peeps on the Net are calling it Dragonslayer 2010.

    1) Dragonslayer is an awesome game. We would be lucky to get games of that quality nowadays.

    2) The implication of that assessment, I think, is that the game is all quick timer events and that a single failure results in game over. That’s not the case at all.

    First, control is not on rails but it’s not perfectly analog either. You use the R2 trigger to move forward, much like the Type C control scheme I always go on about from the GameCube Resident Evil Remake, but the left and right controls seem to guide you into a “normal” path. In the segment I played, it was very easy to walk up and down the isles even though movement isn’t fully analog. The goal, I am sure, is to make the motion look natural. Running into the side of some wall, for example, is basically impossible, so you’re never going to have one of those minor immersion-breaking moments in this game.

    The action sequences are a mix of buttons, SIXAXIS movements, and analog stick movements. Some of it is very analog. For example, I snuck up on the robber and a context sensitive icon popped up as I passed the wine section. I meant to grab a bottle and smack him over the head with it, but I moved the analog stick to quickly and the character fumbled the grab and dropped the bottle, blowing my cover.

    Then it went to a dialog sequence, which is similar to how it worked in Indigo Prophesy: there are a number of potential things to say and a time limit to select one of them. Only this time, since my character had a gun pointed at him, he was under stress and the options were fuzzy and hard to read. You have to really focus to read and then select one, I think, which is basically forcing you to assume the character’s stress yourself.

    I messed up the dialog sequence and failed to convince the guy that he was doing the wrong thing, but at a key moment I saw a context-sensitive icon and was able to attack. There was a fist-fight, which was a mix of context sensitive actions and quick timer buttons, and at the end of the sequence another dialog scene.

    The whole thing was extremely smooth and natural, but I can see how this scene might play out in six or seven different ways. The controls are less analog than your average third person game to allow for this kind of variation while maintaining believable visuals.

  9. So it’s just not QTEs, thats what I wanted to know. How are the SIXAXIS movements? I’m playing Tools of Destruction right now and I’m not really impressed by them.

  10. Chris,
    By some slim chance did you happen to catch a glimpse at any 3rd Birthday news/demos or the like? I heard tell Square-Enix was finally going to give us more than that aging teaser trailer this weekend, but so far I haven’t heard or seen anything to prove that it is being presented at TGS this year.

  11. > Keales,

    No, I didn’t even think to look for it! But I did speak with some guys from Hexadrive (the developer) a while back and it sounds like it’s in production right now.

  12. Sorry guys, it’s been said multiple times by the developers that there’s no combat in SH:SM. It’s not that you weren’t far enough into the game. They just want you to focus on running and hiding, i.e. Clock Tower or Haunting Ground. I, for one, am excited!

  13. Well no combat could go either way.
    The first Clock Tower had the good sense to be beatable in 45 minutes if you knew what you were doing.

    I don’t know how well hiding only will go if the game bleeds on for a few hours. Even Haunting Ground had some combat in it.

  14. Agreed, it really could. I’m hoping they keep it interesting with surprises they haven’t revealed yet. I like that they’re hardly releasing any information on the game; this way I can actually discover what happens in the game on my own. Unlike Homecoming, where I knew just about every little thing that was going to happen from the trailers alone :/

  15. ^That’s why I stopped reading any info about a game I anticipated. I’m still mad at IGN for spoiling a scare in their review of Silent Hill 4.

  16. Grrr…I remember that. I try to limit my exposure but sometimes it’s so hard to wait! Patience isn’t me strongest trait.

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