Has it really been a year since the Tokyo Game Show 2008? Yes obviously the clue is in the title. Back then I tried to justify my plane fare by writing about some of the stupider stuff on the show floor, in a roundup titled Super Happy Fun Time. Who knew that Hula Wii, National Geographic Panda and Mysterious Smoking-themed Game wouldn't turn out to be blockbuster hits after all?
This year there was a whole new raft of wacky old nonsense to enjoy. Read on to find out why the future of gaming involves ninjas, pigeons and boxing gloves on sticks. Plus, say hello to the most blatant rip-off of the Wii remote we've seen since E3 2009.
Don't Lose the Secret
Nintendo has a lot to answer for. Remember when games were all about having a nice sit down and pressing a few buttons? Kids today won't even pick up a controller unless it's got an accelerometer or a magic ping pong ball on the end. Next thing you know someone will invent a crazy new camera so you don't have to pick up a controller at all, just wander round your lounge holding invisible steering wheels while talking to 12 year-old boys.
Students at Nihon Kogaku College are hoping to cash in on the trend. I was not drawn to their stand at the Tokyo Game Show by the shrieking woman dressed as a maid, which is as common a sight in Japan as people buying Lidl carrier bags filled with crack are in Catford. No, it was the man holding a boxing glove on the end of a big stick.
Turned out he was standing in front of a large plasma screen which showed a cutaway of a house. An animated figure stood on the ground floor, banging away at the ceiling with a broomstick. Every so often a strange blue or green lumpy thing would slither across the floor of the room above. In response the animated figure, and the real-life man, would thrust their sticks up and down enthusiastically.
Needless to say I had to have a go. A nice English-speaking gentleman explained how to play, which was largely unnecessary as I had gathered it involved thrusting the stick up and down. However he did reveal that the green and blue lumpy things were in fact ninjas, and that the object of the game was to bash them out of your house. He also said the stick had a bluetooth device in it which meant your movements were replicated on screen.
I asked the nice man what the game was called. There was a lot of discussion in Japanese with the game's creator. "It's called Don't Lose the Secret," he said eventually. "You must protect the secret from the ninjas."
What is the secret? "I don't know," said the man. "It's not important. The important thing is to kill ninjas."
I picked up the stick and set about battering them to death, with considerable success. The shrieking maid got so excited I wondered if she was also implanted with a bluetooth device. It was all quite tiring so after a few minutes I handed the stick back, made my excuses and left, wondering how Project Natal expects to compete with THAT.
I tried to walk straight past the Athrow stand, but was distracted long enough by the posters ("Do Enjoy Real Sports! Do Enjoy Real Fun!") for a man to press three plastic darts into my hand. He insisted I throw them at the electronic dartboard. I explained I am terrible at darts but he wouldn't take no for an answer, probably because I don't know what the Japanese for "no" is.
The first dart hit the board, but not any of the coloured sections. The man looked disappointed. The second dart, by some bizarre fluke, hit the bullseye. The man became excited and started jumping up and down, like a hyperactive Japanese Jim Bowen. The third dart bounced off the top of the board, flew backwards through the air and almost hit the man in the face. He looked as if he was about to cry.
The man soon cheered up though, perhaps on realising he hadn't just lost his sight, and pressed an envelope into my hands. This turned out to contain a germ-protecting facemask - presumably Japan's equivalent of Dusty Bin. He also gave me a flyer printed on high quality glossy cardboard. The money would have been better invested in the copy translation.
"We will do best to be a new leader on the field of SPORTAINMENT based on new products and best services with digital soft dart ATHROW that come out," reads the flyer. "We would like to thank you for your endless concern." You're welcome.