TGS 2007: Sony Computer Entertainment booth tour

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There’s nothing quite like a Kaz Hirai keynote (communicated via Japanese to English translation through a Borg-esque wired ear piece) to get you hyped up for Tokyo Game Show. More specifically, hyped up for the vast number of Sony first-party, and third-party PlayStation 3 and PSP titles. With Nintendo sitting this one out (they had to “wash their hair”), there’s no doubt that Makuhari Messe (the venue for this year’s show) is Sony country.

That in mind, once the doors to the TGS show floor were flung open, I stomped directly to Sony’s booth, nestled not-so-quietly in the corner of the show’s main hall. Once the show had truly begun, I was told, lines would be long, and a**es would surely “accidentally” be groped in the soon-to-be packed area. Having had enough of that on my flight over, I wanted to get this one out of the way first. Of course, there were also a few games I’d been itching to play.

With a heavy focus on PlayStation 3 titles (which actually only make up only 3.2% of the show’s some 700 plus games), the booth is representative of what you’d expect from this show – large, loud, and over-the-top.

I spotted the Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots playable demo first, and despite not being a fan of the previous titles, decided to wait in what I thought would a short line. With only a few people ahead of me (including one person who told me he wasn’t a huge fan of the PSP or PS3, and then introduced himself as a developer who worked on a high profile, first-party PS2 title), I couldn’t have anticipated having to wait for close to 30-minutes before I touched a controller. No problem, though – Metal Gear Solid 4 is one of those high-profile, make-or-break PS3 titles that I’d have to experience for myself.

After small Japanese girl wearing black and red diligently wiped down the flat-screen 1080p monitor and Dual Shock, it was get my hands dirty on Kojima’s new baby. I donned the provided headphones, and mentally prepared myself for what would be an in-depth hands-on of one of the most anticipated PS3 titles to date.

“Our readers are going to love reading these detailed impressions of this demo,” I thought to myself, already taking mental notes, and stringing together entertaining opening sentences in my head.

Less than two minutes into the demo (after unsuccessfully being able to use camouflage and touch a statue’s crotch), I had killed Old Solid Snake. Having little previous Metal Gear experience, and the language barrier preventing me from understanding the both the booth girl and the provided control scheme detail card, I stood little chance against the other guys with guns. Crap.Many of Sony’s big budget, first-party titles have their own mini-booths: Ratchet and Clank Future; Lair (called Rise to Lair in Japan); Heavenly Sword; White Knight Story; Gran Turismo 5 Prologue (including fancy steering wheels booths with upholstered seats); Warhawk; Eye of Judgment; and LittleBigPlanet were all prominently displayed, with matching decoration and highly excitable booth girls.

Lined up along the back of the booth is a long line of playable games, including a number of third-party titles like Devil May Cry 4, Turok, and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Surprising was Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, a title I wouldn’t expect to be marketed successfully in Japan. Since I love Guitar Hero, and the line was short, I decided to go head-to-head with a confused Japanese journalist. After much confusion over which song we’d play (all of the menus were in English), I made an executive decision to rock some Beastie Boys, and I chose “Sabotage.”

The Japanese journalist had clearly never played the game before, and he chose to compete on the game’s easiest level, while I decided to brave Expert territory. At the end, I emerged victorious (despite an apparently lag between the Bluetooth wireless guitar and the screen), and the other journalist bowed and walked away looking particularly unimpressed. But I had a blast, and I have no doubt Guitar Hero III is going to break some kind of record this holiday season. I wish I could be more confident about the game’s Japanese sales.
The PlayStation Portable area is much brighter than the darker (and more serious, apparently) PS3 portion of the booth. Stark white and various colors of PSPs (purple, pink, baby blue, etc) accent each of the round tables that play host to a number of software demos — Everybody’s Golf 2; Sony’s style-coordination title, My Stylist; Patapon; and TalkMan Travel were all playable on the floor. A peripheral that allows you to watch television programming on your PSP using broadband was also being hocked at every turn. If I had a 100 yen for every smiling Japanese girl in a short skirt who tried to get me to notice it, I would have eaten something healthier than a Big Mac for lunch today.

Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming hands-on impressions of two of the more interesting titles from the booth: the PS3 version of the perspective-bending Echochrome, and the curious rhythm-based action title, Patapon for the PSP.

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Nick Chester
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