TGS 09: A noob’s first TGS report

Alright, so I’ve been to a lot of trade shows, but let’s face it: Tokyo Game Show is one of the biggest in the world (only just barely beaten in attendance by this year’s Gamescom). I figured that the tricks of the trade I was used to could work here, but on another level I wondered if I would be a tiny fish thrown into an overwhelming sea, not to mention none of the other fish speak my language.
It got me to thinking that maybe a lot of you might like hearing about my first experience with TGS from a noob perspective, as some of you hope to go yourselves one day or fondly remember your first TGS and want to get nostalgic. Either way, I thought I’d share some notes along my path, and I sincerely hope you enjoy them.

Here’s what I had heard about TGS most often from the other Dtoid editors that had attended: it’s huge, the public days suck, and it takes a thousand years to get there by train. Oh, and don’t wear the wrong shoes or you’re in for days of agony. All of these things are true, some more than others, but I’ll get down to the details of that later. Beginning the journey to the show, my biggest concern was that the language barrier would prove truly difficult when trying to enjoy a game — luckily I was wrong about that one. 

Of course, how you get to TGS depends on where you’re coming from. We ventured there from Shinagawa, so it takes two trains and a total of about an hour to get there. Kaihin Makuhari (in Chiba) is where the event takes place, in the titanic Makuhari Messe center. Walking up to the building, you see the number of game-related ads start to quickly add up, and before you know it you’re walking into the doors and facing eight separate halls. All of them are packed with games. And incredibly pretty booth babes always wearing a smile and happy to see you. Yeah, it’s heaven, basically.

On the other hand, the experience can also be overwhelming. Going on the press days rocks because, well, it’s only press. You can actually walk, it’s cold in the convention center, and your max wait time in a line to play a game is about five minutes. As you may have observed from Nick’s post about it, public day lines can have you waiting as long as three hours to get ten minutes with the game of your choice. If you have your own blog and are thinking of applying to the event as press, by all means, make use of those two precious days before the event opens to the public — you’ll need them!

Anyway: the games. Most of them you really only get a taste of (demos are designed short in order to minimize wait time), but you make up for it in the sheer volume of things there are to play. TGS is an RPG gamer’s paradise, usually boasting dozens of such titles for gamers to check out. My personal favorites in that category this year were Final Fantasy XIII, Persona 3 PSP, Tales of Graces, Nier Gestalt and End of Eternity, but if I had had more time to play them all, I’ll bet I could have fallen in love with many more.

Of course, there’s more than just RPGs too. From huge titles like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Alan Wake to niche stuff like Okamiden, Kimi no Todoke and Puyo Puyo 7, there’s really something for everyone to dig into. I saw a definite shortage of super odd games at my first TGS, but Tecmo’s Fret Nice, a colorful sidescroller where you use a guitar controller to progress, definitely stuck out as a winner.

If you don’t speak Japanese, the language barrier is nowhere as much of an issue as I thought it might possibly be. For RPGs, you definitely miss out on a bit of story, but since the demos are short anyway they tend to focus more on action than character development. It might be handy to reference a Japanese/English dictionary or carry a small one with you in case you need to ask questions (if I had been prepared in this case, I could have asked to play the new female protagonist in Persona 3!).

You may also have noticed that there is a merchandise room at TGS, and while I did expect it to be much larger based on descriptions of it from previous years, there’s a lot of stuff on sale there that’s tough to get in the states. Square Enix alone has tons of Japanese only merch for grabs, not to mention Square Enix music, Hori, Cospa, Capcom and much more. Go armed with plenty of yen — you’ll surely want to take home something.

One thing I learned real fast is that no matter how excited you are to be there, all that walking really is going to wipe you out in a major way. Don’t worry about looking fashionable, just throw on your gym shoes and you’ll be in slightly less pain then if you head in there in your high heels or dress shoes. I saw tons of people in incredibly uncomfortable looking shoes and figured they were either willing to suffer for style, or I’m just a wimp. Probably a little of both.

On the days that are open to the public (Saturday and Sunday), be prepared for a completely different type of experience if you’ve attended the previous days. It’s much hotter, there’s tons more people, and going anywhere near the Square Enix booth means moving into a crammed human mass of shoulder-to-shoulder pushing and shoving. NOT recommended for the claustrophobic. Now you can see why I might recommend going on the press days if you can swing it!

TGS is a pretty memorable experience, but I’d say whether or not its for you depends on the type of gamer you are. If you’re more focused on American releases, the show may not hold much for you, but if you’re all about the JRPG, well, you’ve certainly come to the right place. It’s also only 1200 yen (about $13 – $14 US) to buy a ticket to the event, so it’s very affordable to attend. If you come out early and spend the whole day there, you can likely see everything you want to check out in one shot. Attending all four days in a row is probably only for the hardcore, but hey, you might be all about rocking it that way.

So, would I do it all again? The exhausted, still jet lagged part of me moans at the thought, but the experience was such a memorable one I feel I have to say yes. I met new friends, played games that won’t be out for many months in the states, went to nutty parties and marveled at the spectacle of the event in general. You just can’t pass up chances in life like that (or if you do, you’re totally missing out).

So that’s my story. I’m laying in my hotel room glad it’s all over so my destroyed feet can recover, but also happy I managed to survive and bring back a few tips for those of you still saving up to go to your first TGS. Oh, and don’t forget to ask the booth babes if its ok to take their pictures before you start snapping away — they’re more than happy to give you a pose worth fapping to in the privacy of your own home. Hot!

Colette Bennett