It was finally here. From the moment when it was announced that the event was going to be streamed online, to the first video stream, I couldn’t be more hyped about it. It was due to horrible circumstances that this had happened but streaming it online meant everyone could still promote their games and we could finally have a limited experience a Tokyo Game Show online. I’ve had dreams of one day flying to Tokyo to see the sights and attending TGS but this would have to do. Despite not being able to afford the flights, accommodation, tickets and money for 1000 trinkets I don’t technically need (When I finally get to Japan I’m buying at least 100 Shirokuma cafe collectable coasters) I could finally watch the entire show and not just recorded highlights of queues and trailers. Was it worth it? Did the early schedule get to me? Did it hold up to the EGX experiences? The answer to all these honestly was, “not really”
One problem with the event being streamed became quickly apparent during the opening hour of TGS. If a lot of people were on the stream some devices simply wouldn’t show the content without it cutting out and reconnecting. At first I had plans of watching using the Xbox1 or PS4 but I ended up mostly watching TGS through YouTube on my mobile as it was the most reliable and highest quality stream I could get to work. Given that the majority of the announcements for the show were mobile games it seemed strangely fitting that that was how I first saw most of them. The more the event went on the clearer it became that all the largest announcements for big AAA titles had already happened at other events. The big Japanese developed reveals had already been shown for the Xbox Series, PS5 and on the previous Nintendo Direct. It didn’t leave much left to show at TGS other than more details on these announced, mobile titles and a little merch.
Typically during a show/expo you would wander around, play some games, see the sights and make sure to watch the panels that interest you the most. Obviously with the event being online the only content was either pre-produced footage or restricted panels. Companies had to send a few major figures to chat about the games they’re working on, having informal chats between them as things went along and discussing the products being promoted. Most of the panels were charming enough with the stand out being Square Enix’s panel (pictured above) for all the Nier content being produced at the moment. As is the case with any show there were some panels that were incredibly dull, the BenQ Japan presentation where a well dressed woman with cardboard slides went over monitor specifications felt like it went on for hours. Then there were the incredibly cringe inducing panels such as the Koei Tecmo panel for Atelier Ryza 2 which really went to show why it’s not ok to just have 3 men awkwardly commenting on a cosplayer selling her gravure book and ogling her when she took her jacket off.
There was a stark reminder throughout TGS of how few female game directors there are in the industry. Typically the only woman on the panel would be there to talk about their voice work or to show the merchandise associated with a product. The merchandise being shown seemed to depend on the product being shown, Nier was shown to be getting lavish big special editions but SEGA was simply showing the same Game Gear minis. It wasn’t much better in the live chat that ran at the same time as the streams. Typically when watching these things I tend to the ignore live chats, when you’re at an event you’re unlikely to hear 20 or so people screaming ELDEN RING during a presentation entirely devoted to Scarlet Nexus but here it was constant. There was rarely a “just one more thing” that western audiences were expecting and it showed.
It was strange watching panel after panel of people presenting the same games that had already been revealed. They would typically start with the trailer already shown at another event, chat about that trailer, show gameplay but from the trailer area and taking time to discuss the details of everything in it. A new bit of Street Fighter 5 Dan footage here, a bit of new Monster Hunter Rise gameplay footage there. More Zelda characters for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity and despite these big names it all felt very slim. I ended up largely playing games I have to review and watching the streams on my mobile propped up beside me. I stopped getting up early to catch the new reveals as it quickly became apparent there wasn’t going to be any big news and I’d have to make do with what was given. Disgaea 6 would have been a huge boost but it had already been announced on a Nintendo Direct. Street Fighter 5 DLC was already confirmed previously but there was no official confirmation 6 was in the works (despite everyone assuming it is) and no Danganronpa news at all.
Was there any good news then? There were little glints of joy to be had. If you enjoy the Dynasty Warriors Empires spin off series Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires was announced but I think DW9 had more issues than just its open world and will be optimistically cautious on this. Sega’s big reveal was a sequel to Puyo Puyo Tetris which now has a story mode and more features. Gal Gun Returns is a thing that exists. Cygames announced a Shadowverse anime game that looked interesting, an old Yu-Gi-Oh looking RPG based on the Shadowverse card game with a mix of card battle and RPG. A new Earth Defence Force is in the works and an interesting Dot Pixel style spin off to. Something is happening with the Boom Street franchise but I’m not entirely sure what. The most interesting game revealed was Megaton Musashi: an action mecha game that seemed to mix customisable old giant robot anime styles with Evangelion looking enemies in a coop action blitz.
Now that the dust has settled and the promotions are all finished the result is simply that Covid has left us with a strangely slow show. It feels like this is more due to companies clutching their IPs like pearls more than not enough demand or teams to produce them. SEGA’s show reel was largely propped up by Persona titles and there wasn’t a single Sonic title or merchandise announced in any form. They have 60 years of titles and the only announcement was Virtua Fighter E-sports. I was just left wondering how many developers would kill to make a title with a SEGA IP? The only companies that seemed to be doing anything with their IPs were smaller or had held off for the big publishers showcases. Re:Zero and Edens Zero are big enough titles to warrant the attention but are they really the biggest IP to be making games from? The indie scene was showing some promise as usual with some great ideas (particularly like Elec Head) but the lack of surprise really was the only surprise to be had.
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