Another Tokyo Game Show has come and gone. The event was teeming with energy, but as has been the trend of the last few years, it’s still a show in decline. Fewer and fewer developers seem to be making the trek to it, and you can see that in the wide open spaces left on the edges of the halls. That doesn’t stop thousands from rushing to the Makuhari Messe, Japan’s largest convention center, to play games and cosplay, though. In fact, this year it hit a high of 271,224 visitors over its four day run. Love for video games is in the air, even if not as many games are present. Here’s a look at the biggest games and trends of the show.
The Games That Dominated
The biggest titles on display were, obviously, the Japanese games with big budgets that continue to have hype surrounding them. Final Fantasy had a lot of momentum with its release date nearing, although its demo was the same one at PAX West (you can read our thoughts here). The line to play it was constantly packed, and fans reveled in getting paper masks of each character to wear around the show. Yes, even I grabbed all the different characters.
Persona may have just released in Japan this week (So jealous! And yes, I grabbed an import copy), but that didn’t stop fans from passionately waiting in line to play it and surrounding the Atlus/Sega booth. It’s clear the popularity for Persona is intense, and this was a big release for Japanese gamers, which is no surprise considering it’s the first new cast we’ve encountered since Persona 4’s debut about eight years ago. It’s time to see what the classmates of Syujin High School can offer us.
Koei Tecmo’s Nioh was on full display with presentations and hands-on kiosks. The demo for TGS was brand new and I really enjoyed what I played. It’s hard not to be skeptical of a game that’s been in development for so long and is aping a lot from the Souls franchise, but it’s super fun and the premise and setting of being a samurai in the Edo era Japan (1600s) is awesome. But then throw in yokai, amazing spiritual foes, and you have a lot of memorable battles. You can read more about it in my massive preview here.
Capcom always has plenty to show off at TGS. This year was no different with Monster Hunter: Stories and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard as its big draws. The Capcom booth looked very different with this spookier incarnation of Resident Evil on the horizon. Hopefully, Monster Hunter: Stories sees a North American release.
Lastly, it’s was hard not to notice Yakuza 6’s presence at the show. The series may have never taken off in North America the way Sega hoped it would, but it’s a popular franchise in Japan with a new release just months away for them (December 8). Big banners and merchandise were all around for Yakuza 6, and the show buzz seemed mostly positive. Let’s hope Sega finds reason to give North American gamers a chance to play it eventually. At the very least, we’re getting the prequel Yakuza 0 early next year.
The Inescapable Trends: VR, Mobile Flourish, While Console Gaming Declines
Japan appears to be very enthusiastic about VR. I went to the Sony booth and demoed both the Love Live! and Hatsune Miku games. These both allow you to watch a show of these popular idols, and wave your hands around with a glowstick and tap to the beat. You can use the move controller to see the show from various positions. With Japan’s obsession with its pop idols – anime and real – it didn’t shock me that these are the VR experiences that seemed most popular for the Japanese audience. Romance simulation games are also very popular in Japan, so it’s no surprise that they are making their way to VR, and bringing a new meaning to virtual dating. A lot of these games are visual novels, so it makes sense to make the experience more immersive using VR. A PlayStation VR game named Happy Manager by D3 was also creating quite the buzz at the show. In it, you are an apartment manager and can form relationships with three female tenants. They’ll ask you for advice, to grab drinks with them, do them favors, and we’ll leave it at that…
Mobile is still dominating over console gaming, and there was no shortage of smartphone booths at the show. As I walked around the show, I noticed more and more visual novels making their way to phones. Of course, mobile’s popularity isn’t unforseen; if you walk on any train in Japan, you will notice people glued to their phones, usually playing a mobile game. I only see people playing on handhelds (usually the 3DS), when there’s a big release here like a new Monster Hunter game. Anything portable just makes senses for the Japanese lifestyle, where they’re constantly on the go and rely on train rides for their commute.
That being said, I still saw long lines at game stores the day Persona 5 came out, so not all have abandoned consoles. But I’ve been going to the show for the last four years, and each year, I see less and less there for console gamers. Even more so, I notice Japanese developers trying to tap into a market beyond Japan, such as Square Enix with Final Fantasy XV and Koei Tecmo with Nioh.
With that being said, I did notice one positive trend: Many games at the show this year were already announced for North America. Usually I make a localization wish list, but this was the first year I didn’t feel the need to. We may not be missing out on much that’s in the pipeline, but that could be because there’s less coming at the moment.
Tokyo Game Show is Japan’s time to celebrate and experience some upcoming games. I love it for what it is and I hope it can sustain itself far into the future. I love the enthusiasm of TGS, walking around the show floor, and finding some cool under-the-radar games. Psst. Blue Reflection by Gust looks super cool. It focuses on the interactions between girls, and you play as a female high school student trying to build friendships and her social circle. Of course, you also have magical powers which will bring you to the battlefield, but I’m most interested in the game because it’s exploring complex friendships between girls.
I also want to give a shoutout to this cool, point-and-click game I played in the indie area called Tokyo Dark, where you play as a female detective investigating what’s happened to your missing partner. Things get twisted and dark fast, and that’s what made it so interesting to me. The game will have 11 different endings, and keeps track of every decision you make, lending you certain dialogue options based on your choices.
To me, this is what these shows are all about: Finding new games to fall in love with, and just getting more excited for what’s on the horizon. I always feel a rush when I’m at the show, despite it not being the powerhouse event it once was.
For more from the show check out our massive photo gallery.