TGS Saturdays

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One of Japan’s biggest technological advances has been the video gaming industry. What better way to celebrate and highlight all the newest gains made in that department than a huge showcase with thousands of people?

Tokyo Game Show, or TGS as most call it, is a yearly showcase and conference held in Makuhari Messe  in the Chiba prefecture. It’s a little ways out from Tokyo itself but that really doesn’t make a difference to huge chunk of the population that attends. People in not just Tokyo, but a good international crowd as well! I personally discovered people from France, England, the Netherlands and even Russia who had come to Tokyo merely for the purpose of this single convention.

Getting there was a bit of a stretch, as my group all came from different directions but eventually met at Tokyo station to take the Keiyo line way out there past Tokyo Disney. We left early, even though the event didn’t start until 10, but that didn’t make a difference to the length of the line. Arriving at nine the area outside was already packed and we would have wasted over 2 hours of our time had we not bought tickets in advance. Even then it was a good hour to wait till opening along with a half hour trek around the building until finally we were permitted entrance.

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Once inside we were surrounded with nothing but sights, sounds, and plenty of women dressed in cosplay or handing us promotional items and catalogs for all the big shot companies premiering their new titles. With a map in hand I was able to figure the layout for the show which included three distinct areas – the showcase, which were the first three halls, the merchandise/food area, and the Cosplay area. The whole convention spanned seven different halls and the entrance put us out into the largest hall, Hall 3, where the biggest names, such as Square Enix and Sega, had set up their stations.

The first thing we were greeted with was the Square Enix booth, signified by the giant Chocobo (a mascot for their famous ‘Final Fantasy’ series) looming above. Half of their set-up was one large screen that was playing all the preview trailers for their upcoming titles, most of which I had already known about prior since they were revealed in previous conferences. Most of the booths had the trailers running on repeat, which gathered quite a crowd that stopped themselves right in the middle of the pathway with their necks craned back. You could run them down with a tank and they wouldn’t have shifted their gaze for a second. The other half of the booths were a trial area where anyone could wait in line to play one of the games prior to the release to get a taste for it. The more popular companies all had hour-long lines, and I personally didn’t wait in one, but it’s a good strategy to know what you’re getting into before you buy it, or just hype you up even more so it’s guaranteed you’ll buy it. Either way it benefits both producer and customer. There was also a pair of booths showcasing the two new systems, X-Box 1 and the Playstation 4, neither of which has been released yet. Many gamers, including one of my group, waited to give the systems a test run to help determine which company they’ll throw their lot in with, Microsoft or Sony.

Hall 7 was comprised of smaller booth set up for merchandise. This included soundtracks, posters, miscellaneous items like mugs and key-chains, cosplay accessories, t-shirts, and figures. Some of these items were exclusive to TGS or unreleased beforehand, which drew a rather large crowd. Most shops were set up in a way where they gave you a list of the items once you got in line and you would decide before approaching the register what you wanted to buy. Beyond all this was also a food court as the event ran until 5 PM, and most attendees would get hungry at some point or another. It is possible to exit the halls and return. All that would happen was you’d receive a stamp, like you would at an amusement park if you needed to run back to your car, that you could show to prove reentry.

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The rest of hall 7 was a huge stage that was constantly running programs throughout the day. My group only attended the final two; an auction and the ‘Cosplay Collection’ which one needed tickets to enter. The tickets were handed out at random during the day and it was first come first serve, so we were grateful to find some.

The auction was actually a lot of fun. It consisted of rare collectible items, most of them signed by a producer for the game in which it came from. Some notable names had products on the line, including the Sengoku Basara series, Street Fighter, and Ace Attorney (Phoenix Wright). I managed to snap something from the later, a copy of the Ace Attorney 5 game’s cover signed by the producer, Motohide Eshiro. It was pretty entertaining to watch a pair of guys do battle over a couple of signed posters featuring some of the girls from the Touhou series soon afterwards.

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The final event of the night was the Cosplay Collection, which is like Masquerade back in America. By 5 PM everything was closed down and the show didn’t start until 6:30 so those with tickets were shuffled off to the side while everyone else headed home. The show itself was pretty entertaining, with groups from different animes or games taking the stage to preform some sort of skit. My personal highlight was the Shingeki no Kyoujin (Attack on Titan) group having a dance off to both of the show’s openings. That one got the whole crowd singing along. Following the show was the hour long ride home, and by this point we were all exhausted so we stopped in a Family Mart to grab a snack to recharge our batteries.

TGS has been declining in popularity in the recent years due to most companies putting out their innovations before hand and not too many reveals being released during the conference, but it’s still a widely attended and celebrated event. If anything the excitement from attending was enough to make the day worth while and I managed to meet quite a few people who shared similar game interests, as well as play a few matches. While TGS isn’t the end all be all of video games, it’s definitely an experiment I recommend to any real fans of the industry. You’ll be sure to find something exciting.

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