This year's Tokyo Game Show runs from September 20th to 22nd, and it seems that by reducing the show to a single, annual appearance, the organisers have once again attracted a huge number of key titles. The show now even rivals E3 for sheer volume, and seems no less relevant to Western gamers.
Konami's substantial output
Konami had an alarming number of games to show off at E3, leading us to call them "the next EA" in terms of publishing bulk. Perhaps we were a bit hasty, but their TGS showing is the largest of any single publisher, and includes a number of Western titles republished for the Japanese market from the likes of Activision, Vivendi and Infogrames.
Its domestic output is obviously more interesting though, and headlining will be the first playable demonstration of Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, Hideo Kojima's latest labour of love. Also from the esteemed MGS producer, the second Zone of the Enders game - subtitled Anubis in the Far East. In addition, Konami could finally, if you'll excuse the pun, break silence about its latest survival horror title, Silent Hill 3. Shown only briefly and in trailer form at E3, this one is certain to attract fans and press in droves.
We're also hoping to catch a glimpse of Silent Scope 3 at this year's show, and its little brother, the soon-to-be-released GameBoy Advance version, which looked remarkably similar to its elder sibling when we had a go on it earlier this year. To a lesser extent, Konami's Contra: Shattered Soldier on PS2 and its GBA brethren, Contra Hard Spirits, will also keep punters happy, and die-hards will be itching to catch a glimpse of Ikaruga on GameCube, amongst the Infogrames titles on Konami's stand.
The platform holders are surprisingly quiet this year. Nintendo is nowhere to be seen, while Microsoft and Sony have six titles between them. Microsoft is pushing Quantum Redshift, a game regularly likened to Wipeout. From what we've seen though, it's a similar title but with a heavier emphasis on violence, and the handling is said to be closer to F-Zero than anything else.
Microsoft's other titles include Jockey's Road, presumably a horse-riding sim, and the inimitable Blinx The Time Sweeper, a Japanese developed game which looks cuter and more innovative with each passing day. The idea is that you control a timesweeping cat called Blinx, who gets to mess around, fast-forwarding and rewinding the timeline around him to manipulate the environment and achieve his goals. It looks crazy, and unlike a lot of so-called exclusives, this one is definitely "Only on Xbox".
Sony's output is surprisingly pitiful, given their enormous lead in the console stakes, comprising Formula One 2002, Space Fisherman and Dark Chronicle. Truly awe-inspiring, chaps. Fortunately though, old buddies Square will be keeping the public entertained with demonstrations of Final Fantasy I and II on PlayStation One, Unlimited: Saga on PS2 and of course Final Fantasy XI - ironically though, given the shortages in Japan, this is probably one of the only places punters will get to play it! Other aspects of Square's line-up are infinitely more interesting though. For instance, we'd dearly love to know more about Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, perhaps an equivalent to the Final Fantasy X International Edition that came out in Japan late last year.
Square will also be looking after its GBA interests this year, with the highly anticipated Final Fantasy Tactics Advance on display for the first time, and the recently unveiled Chocobo Advance, an RPG-alike title based entirely around those cute little critters who put up with so much punishment throughout the Final Fantasy series. Bless 'em.
Stations are for train-spotters
Xbox is receiving a surprising amount of attention at this year's TGS, however feeble Microsoft's own showing. Sega leads the charge with a line-up including three Xbox titles; Panzer Dragoon Orta, House of the Dead 3 and Phantasy Star Online - three games which need absolutely no introduction, and From Software will bolster support with demonstrations of Murakumo (an excellent old-school shooter in 3D, arguably responsible for a large percentage of recent Xbox sales in the region), and their forthcoming Thousand Land and Otogi releases. Tecmo will also be on-hand with Ninja Gaiden and DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball, which is bound to receive more attention than it perhaps deserves. Again. Even Koei is getting in on the act, throwing Crimson Sea and Shin Sangoku Musou 2 (Dynasty Warriors 2) into the mix, and Namco's difficult but well-received fighter Dead to Rights will e on display to boot.
Cubism is also on the up this year. Despite Nintendo's absence, a small number of Cube titles will be on display, including Sega's Super Monkey Ball 2 and Sonic Mega Collection, From Software's Rune II (or Lost Kingdoms II as far as the West is concerned), and Capcom will be promoting Biohazard 0, which will be released in Europe this coming spring as Resident Evil 0. Finally, the fruits of Bandai's Cube labours will be starting to appear, although don't expect to see either of Kinnikuman 2nd Generation or From TV Animation One Piece appearing on this side of the globe any time soon.
Whichever way you look at it though, the TGS line-up is packed to bursting with PS2 releases above all else, and they carry significantly more weight than their counterparts on other platforms. Along with Sony, Square and Konami's aforementioned titles, Bandai will have a couple of Gundam games and the second .hack title, Capcom will be showing off Devil May Cry 2, Clock Tower 3 and the latest Breath of Fire game, Dragon Quarter, From Software will have the third title in the Armoured Core series and Sega will be demonstrating Shinobi - which will have fun going head to head with Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden title on Xbox for the unofficial "best ninja game of show" label.
We also hope to learn more about online gaming in Japan at this year's TGS. Although a couple of companies are showing off online titles (most notably Koei with their Nobunaga's Ambition on PS2), there are more online games evident for PC than PS2 or Xbox, despite Microsoft having just recently launched a beta test service in the region and Sony's continued promotion of Final Fantasy XI. One suspects that efforts abroad have stunted growth in Japan, although that seems a bit odd given the incredibly high rate of broadband uptake in the area compared to overseas. It's either that, or perhaps a big announcement is in the offing.
Another big announcement is expected from a curious source: PC developer Blizzard. The last of their games to appear on a console was StarCraft on the N64, and we can't imagine that it's a Japanese PC announcement... We shall have to wait and see, but like the rest of TGS, anything the platform holders have to say should be worth paying attention to.