Tokyo Game Show 2006: The Kikizo Report
Sony had to deliver, and Microsoft had to push harder. As TGS 2006 comes to a close, Kikizo brings you this report to see who prevailed, with photos and babes aplenty.
Celebrating its tenth year running, the Tokyo Game Show finished yesterday on a high note, one of genuine positivity and excitement about the stuff gamers will be buying over the next six months, and a clarion call that the ongoing battle between Sony and Microsoft is, in fact, far from decided. Ever-improving game experiences seem likely, therefore, as the pastime enters its most competitive - and expensive - era to date.
A cooler-than-usual climate in Tokyo and slightly more acceptable level of chaos at the Makuhari Messe was a fitting backdrop to a show where protagonists Sony and Microsoft, perhaps surprisingly, both seemed quietly confident and in control of their game, despite PS3's very turbulent journey to the event and Xbox 360's unrelentingly poor performance in the Japanese market.
The numerable blunders and setbacks to PlayStation 3 in the past year are well documented, but Sony is not making any apologies for anything, instead betting all its chips on the TGS table to win back confidence. Did it work? The short answer is yes.
For the first time, PlayStation 3 was playable in its tangible final casing around the show floor, as well as at a special event at SCEI's offices on Friday evening. Warm to the touch and softly pulsating with the whir of software spinning inside, these debug consoles look and feel exactly like the final product that will be in Japanese stores on November 11 (but not for long).
PS3 consoles at the show itself weren't quite as easy to touch, guarded in their display enclosures, but nonetheless it was the first time such an onslaught of playable PS3 software was available to consumers and the media. If industry-watchers were looking for evidence that PS3 is actually seeing manufacture and going to make its launch dates in Japan and America, this was it. Granted, some titles were supposedly running from dev kits, but there's no doubt that the pornographically slick, attractive black box was in fact powering a number of playable experiences all by itself. So, it's real and it seems to work properly - that's the first box checked (and it was a necessary box to start at).
Sony also won back some points for its announcement that the 20GB version of the machine would now feature a HDMI port alongside its higher-end 60GB instalment, so that a flawless, full high-def image can be enjoyed by all PS3 owners with the right kit. One has to ask however, why any consumer who can afford a top-end 1080p-compatible set would be fussed at the relatively tiny difference in cost between the two PS3 SKUs in the first place. Of course, it didn't do any harm at all to reveal that Japan will also enjoy a twenty per cent cheaper price tag for PS3 than previously announced, with the 20GB console now set to ship for ¥49,980, around $430. However, while western markets will also benefit from the 20GB HDMI news, the price will remain unaffected.
Onto the software. Arguably the best new content for PS3 came not from Sony, but from thirdparties, with titles like Virtua Fighter 5 from Sega, and Devil May Cry 4 from Capcom fully playable, looking stunning and attracting big lines, and games like Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Metal Gear Solid 4 and Final Fantasy XIII all enjoying off-the-scale anticipation with various trailers, demos or stage events to promote the best that PS3 has on the near horizon (more about all these later).
Sony's own line up was reassuringly solid, if familiar, and a noticeable improvement in quality compared to previous E3 builds for many titles was further good news for PS3. MotorStorm, one of the titles most closely associated with the cheating and lies of a certain 2005 conference Sony would perhaps rather forget, actually looks very impressive nowadays when it all comes together, while Genji: Days of the Blade avoided any further massive damage, looking a lot more impressive that its underwhelming debut back at E3.
The two biggest dedicated game booths within the PS3 area however were WarHawk and Resistance: Fall of Man. WarHawk has always looked pretty solid and to be honest we didn't notice much new since the E3 demo, but it's Insomniac's Fall of Man that is a surprise coup for Sony at the TGS booth; with both singleplayer and multiplayer up for testing on a rather impressive, stable build of the game, the title enjoyed a respectable level of Japanese interest for a first-person shooter.
Elsewhere, LAIR was also playable, as was Everybody's Golf 5, Formula One and Heavenly Sword, the latter of which seemed to be just the E3 demo again (no bad thing in the scheme of things, but something new to see would have been nice). By far the biggest overall push was afforded to Gran Turismo HD, which enjoyed its own stage conference by series creator Kazunori Yamauchi on Friday. The epic combination of past Gran Turismo titles will be presented in a standard version of the game and is fully online-enabled, while a premium edition also offers enhancements that Yamauchi said would offer a taste of what to expect for Gran Turismo 5.
Throw in the consumers on day two of the show, who of course reacted positively to PS3, and you have a position that looks and feels very different to the one Sony found itself having to deal with coming out of E3 this year. If Sony can, as SCEA President Kaz Hirai assured Kikizo would be strived for, "get units into the hands of the consumers as soon as possible for launch, and heading into the holiday season" then a bit of catch-up play might not be so hard for Sony. In the absence of any firstparty presence for Nintendo, Sony was easily the biggest talking point of the show overall.