Bungie Weekly Update: From Japan with Love.
It's been a crazy week here in Bungieland! For most of us, this week has consisted of the massive move to our new swank headquarters and the ultimate showing of physical prowess in our annual Summer Pentathlon. (We'll have an inside peek
at our new office as well as a recap of the Pentathlon next week). While we were here moving and fighting, Frankie was sipping martinis in a plush first class seat bound for Japan for the Tokyo Game Show. We took care of moving his
desk for him and in return he agreed to act as our field reporter and provide us with news straight from the show floor (remember, Frankie has plenty of game journalist experience). So, this week's update will be just that - Frankie's first hand account of this year's Tokyo Game Show. We have two reports thus far from Frankie and both are
being rolled into one jam packed story. Warning: If you're one of those people who gets angry and upset when there isn't a "real" update full of Halo-related info, you may want to skip this one. So without further ado...
Frankie's Tokyo Game Show Diary : Day One
Caveat: I am only really going to write about a) Stuff I like and b) Microsoft-related stuff. They do after all pay my check. Gates already has me marked for beatings. I'm not going to rattle his cage.
I had a long, long flight. United has split its planes into several different zones. Actually planes are one of the few places in the world where you're absolutely expected to separate people by class. I made Toilet Class and had the twin joys of pressurized lavatory smells and elderly ladies doing calisthenics right in front of me as if I wasn't there. I was there you crazy old bats, and your exercises are weird. I sincerely doubt their efficacy.
First up was the press conference.
I sat in the middle of the Microsoft Press conference, trying desperately not to be noticed. If any US press recognized me there, they were probably waiting for an interesting Bungie-related development. The truth was that I was there for fun, not profit and had nothing to offer in terms of news except that I found a rare Yu-Gi-Oh card with an even rarer Pokemon on it – called Merchandowser.
I watched the announcements with the interest of a gamer – who just happens to get paid by the company hosting the event. I was pretty excited about some of the stuff there. I waited with bated breath for Ridge Racer 6 footage, but it was being held, teasingly, just out of my grasp. Instead, I was treated to some pretty sweet footage of Ninety Nine Nights – a kind of action RPG from Phantagram. Microsoft is publishing it.
If you've played Otogi and Dynasty Warriors then just mash those games up in your head and you'll have a good idea of what to expect in terms of the pace and scale of action. Think wide open fields, filled up with very Lord of The Ringsian varmints. As a matter of fact, the battle sequences looked a lot like Pelinor. With lots more magic.
Now the game looked slick. There was a really nice depth of field (which I saw folks refer to as fog – it was not fog at all) and only the characters you're fighting in front of you are called into crisp focus. Normally that effect bothers me, but in this game it really worked. Your allies battle side by side and amazingly, given that there are often hundreds of characters on screen simultaneously, you can still tell friend from foe.
The huge battle ended after much carnage (one kill was a 500 kill combo!) and the battle rounded a mountain where a huge Troll was smashing folks to bits with a hammer. The demo ended and I was already having massive Otogi flashbacks. I'm a-looking forward to this one. Especially after we watched the CGI trailer for it, which was one of the most epic game intros I've ever seen.
Lots of antics filled the press conference. Most of the questions were good, pertinent ones, but a couple of journalists (or analysts maybe) asked hostile questions that everyone there knew the answers to. The best part though, was when one European journalist asked in THE MOST BIZARRE JAPANESE EVER (it was really well pronounced, but utterly crazy and rambling) what they were doing about the weight of the original Xbox which he said was too heavy for Japanese homes. There were lots of giggles.
We saw another demo of the slick Gears of War. It was the same gameplay sequence we'd seen before, but the animation was vastly improved. I have a really good feeling about that.
A slickly produced game trailer caused a few hearts to skip a beat – lots of people thought they were looking at flashes of Ridge Racer 6 – but the real cars on display should have given it away. We did see some cool new footage of Ghost Recon 4 and it has the sickest animation. Remember the allegedly fake Killzone 2 trailer? That kind of animation. The next gen is going to be a doozy.
To be honest, there wasn't much to talk about at the press conference. It was mostly designed to give out release and pricing information for the Japanese market – the November 22 nd release in the US of the 360 was the biggest news there, but I hear there will be more today (it's 6am here) and I is-a lookin' forward to bringing you lots more detailed impressions tomorrow night. Or is that today? Whatever. Keep an eye out. There's lots more coming.
Oh. And I know what the Revolution controller is. You will too soon enough. I am not going to enrage our friends at Nintendo by revealing that here. But it is gonna be a big talking point.
In unrelated news, I love the movie Enter the Dragon. See you again in a few hours.
Frankie's Tokyo Game Show Diary: Day Two
So the Tokyo Game Show opened today. It's called the " Tokyo" game show in the same way the Patriots are called "New England." In fact, Makuhari Messe, the sprawling convention-town it is set in, is actually closer to Chiba. Which is a cooler town than Tokyo if you like your Japan with a bit of grit.
Anyway, the good thing about TGS is that you have to leave Tokyo during rush hour to get there, complete with white gloved gentlemen cramming you in from the platforms. A short forty minutes later, just past Tokyo Disneyland (also not really close to Tokyo) and you're at a town that looks like a seventies vision of the future – a-la Logan's Run or Battlestar Galactica.
I got to watch the keynote by our very own Robbie Bach, which to be honest was kind of a rehash of the previous day's press conference, but it served a purpose and served up a lovely demo of the Xbox 360 media features in action – including a streaming HDTV version of Star Wars: Episode 2. Who says you need Blu-Ray for HDTV? Yup, I am now getting me a Media Center. Here's hoping Microsoft makes streaming video available for non Media Center PCs.
All the other media stuff – connecting to an iPod, streaming pictures, playing music – went off without a hitch. This is exactly the kind of demo that Microsoft has bad luck with historically. Dear old Bill has had a couple of blue screens in the past with the connectivity horrors. Testament to the 360's speed and stability though, the demo was not only flawless, it was really, really quick.
In fact, the 360 connected to, indexed and played tunes off an iPod faster than my PC even detects it properly. Add to that a lovely visualizer courtesy of legendary hippie, Jeff Minter, and you have yourself the best new place to play bangin' choonz in your house. And Weezer.
Which reminds me. This morning, I witnessed a silver Hummer, sporting 24 inch dubs, and bling up the wazoo. All this with the legend "Miyamoto" emblazoned on the windshield. I took a photo to prove it, D'ya think Shigeru rolls on 24 inch rims? I believe it. He's big pimpin'.
The Nintendo controller was the talk of the show by about lunchtime. So was Kojima's Metal Gear Solid 4. Half of the talk was positive. I will leave you to cipher which.
I strolled around the Xbox 360 booth, which really did sport long, orderly lines to play everything, from Phantagram's brilliant action RPG Ninety Nine Nights to Namco's Ridge Rac….. WHAAAAA!?
Ridge Racer 6, right there, playable, and as far as I could tell, complete. It was glassy sharp and silky smooth. I cannot for the life of me figure out why it wasn't at the Keynote or the Press Conference. Possibly because it's Ridge Racer, and therefore very stylized and not photo realistic. I really cannot say. What I can say is that I played it and it rules.
Now, PSP owners will understand what I am talking about, and everyone else will just have to take my word for it. Ridge Racer 6 on the 360 plays like the PSP game. That is to say, perfectly. Only on 360, it's in 720p and running at some unholy frame rate. As I have mentioned before, it is very stylized, and the cartoon-bright colors meld really well with the razor sharp details, like blades of grass on the track verges. It's a lovely thing to behold.
And between Ridge Racer 6 and Test Drive, I believe I spotted a force-feedback steering wheel from Hori. Joy!
Folks were playing and playing. I had to line up three times to play RR6, Ninety Nine Nights and even Call of Duty. The Japanese famously don't really care about first person shooters, but you wouldn't know it to see the lines.
Need For Speed was playable, and in much better shape than before. It has this really cool, moody look, quite unlike any of the previous versions. They do some great things with light and shadow, and more importantly, they've brought back a lot of the pursuit stuff that made the original Need For Speed games so much fun.
No cosplay freaks yet. They all hit on Saturday. I'm thinking of going as Cortana, by wearing blue tights and saran wrap. What? That'll be hot. I know, I know, I'll look like the last chicken at Safeway in the trouser area, but it's all for art!
I strolled over to Tecmo, where reefer madness was in full effect. A huge crowd had gathered round to see ( I think) Itagaki, a famous movie star, DOA 4 and possibly Melody Pfeiffer, their hot blond PR chick. We had to wait. I watched horse racing, a sort of Pikmin/Mario thing, monster farming, Ninja Gaiden Black and Tecmo's emulation collection for an hour before I got the goods. A slightly updated DOA4 trailer. It was worth the wait. MORE stair monkeys, including a little white one. I am getting to play it tonight. JOY!
It is only a coincidence that the Tecmo booth was full of hot chicks.
The bags they give you to carry flyers and press kits are getting bigger and bigger. This is going to sound mean, but it's a true story. There was a Japanese little person sitting in a hallway near the Keynote meeting room. It was a quiet spot and he started nodding off to sleep on a small circular chair. He fell over and right into, and I mean completely inside, an i-mode bag. He looked mortified. I pretended not to notice as he clambered out.
I did stroll over and watch the MGS4 trailer and it was super nice. It also looked far more achievable than the Killzone 2 stuff from E3, which it's already being compared with. As a matter of fact, it looked eerily like the newest Ghost Recon footage, but with a crazy dancing robot. Graphically, it's going to be more about art than technology this generation. I honestly think the 360 and the PS3 will end up looking about the same. Only the Revolution is a mystery.
It was nice to be there as a gamer this time, without worrying about Halo 2 demos, or interviews with the press. I got to stroll around, play stuff, and really get to grips with the 360. Obviously it would be nice for me if the 360 does well in Japan, and watching the players' reaction, I think it's going to be very different this time around.
A few folks asked me if I was there to unveil Halo 3. I smiled and told them the usual Bungie line. We haven't announced our new project yet, blah, blah, blah. We may not have announced it, but its coming along nicely.
Frankie's Tokyo Game Show Photo Gallery
A glimpse at the TGS show floor.
The Tecmo booth and babes at TGS.
Miyamoto's pimpin ride.
Entering the Xbox 360 booth.