Cam: So Naz, another TGS is done and dusted. How did you think it compared to the other big shows of 2009, and to the last TGS you went to? Personally, I found it pretty disappointing. You can really see how much less of a console gaming epicentre Japan is these days. In its glory days it wouldn't have mattered if TGS came on the heels of E3 and a big European show: it still would have been vital and full of crazy Japanese developers doing crazy Japanese stuff that will either never make it outside Japan or will eventually blow the West away. Now it feels diminished and diluted to some extent – partly because of Japan's extended recession and partly because the show has a much more global focus now.
"Welcome to Tokyo, lads."
Naz: I wish I could balance your disappointment with a big burst of optimism but it was an undeniably weak offering this year. The vast majority of the most impressive titles were Western-developed, with Final Fantasy XIII and Gran Turismo 5 being the only really stunning Japanese games at the show. Admittedly being Westerners ourselves, we're more likely to prefer Western titles but just how far Japanese development has slid from its glory days in the '80s and '90s really hit home for me at TGS 2009. It was particularly disappointing to see the Japanese juggernaut Capcom have all its homegrown titles completely overshadowed by Dead Rising 2, which is actually being developed in Canada. That's enough about our gripes though, which game were you most pleasantly surprised by Cam?
Cam: Hmm... well, the Japanese-developed games I'm most excited about are The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy XIII, Okamiden, Castlevania: Lord of Shadow and Bayonetta, but I knew they were going to look good, so they obviously weren't a surprise. Yakuza 4 was pleasantly surprising, but given the third one hasn't come out here yet, I'm not holding my breath. Outside Japan, playing Crackdown 2 multiplayer and being taken through the single player game was great - it looks like a whole lot of fun. While I honestly didn't see much evidence that the missions would be more compelling – which was my biggest complaint from the first one - the guys told us they're addressing that issue, so we'll give them the benefit of the doubt for the moment. Other than that question mark, the game looks very cool – I like the concept of the gameworld fundamentally changing between day and night (when the freaks come out), and I like how the team is going out of its way to make this sandbox even more brimming with possibilities: tethering things together to create makeshift slingshots and bridges? Awesome. The multiplayer has the potential to be fun too... although I couldn't help but think that with this much Man Cannon (aka jump pads) action, a keyboard and mouse would work better than a controller. The lock-on system definitely helps address this, but keeps things relatively balanced by only allowing you to lock-on to someone once they're in your sights, but still...
Check out some Crackdown 2 impressions in video form.
The other highlight for me was probably Alan Wake – the new demo from Remedy had really great atmosphere, and turned one of the main mechanics in the game on its head, making light your enemy rather than your friend as Alan's pursued by cops through a forest at night. The sweeping torches between the trees gave it a really X-Files vibe, while the urgency of the level really ramps up as Alan realises there's a far more menacing presence in the forest than the police. What were the heavy hitters for you Naz?
Naz: Dead Rising 2 was the big one for me. Being a huge fan of both Capcom's Resident Evil and Dead Rising zombie franchises, I was itching to get my first hands-on. The single-player was a lot of fun but a relatively predictable upgrade on the first game. The multiplayer zombie gameshow mode completely blind-sided me with its insanity. Riding motorcycles with chainsaws poking off them, while you carve your way through a velodrome packed with zombies is a hoot and a half. I wish I could say I was even a fraction as impressed by Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles. Sloppy shooting controls and visuals that still fall below the almost five-year-old RE4 makes a poor excuse for a sequel. Other than my zombie fetish, Darksiders really impressed me more than I thought it would with its air-tight dodging, shooting and swordplay mechanics, not to mention hulking great big bosses.
Motorbike + twin chainsaws = good times. Do the math.
I totally agree on Alan Wake, Castlevania and Crackdown all looking great but I've got to say The Last Guardian's TGS showing was limp, especially after such an amazing debut trailer. I remember you were busting to see Assassin's Creed II. Is it shaping up to be the sequel you wanted?