When each new generation of game hardware begins, gamers are presented with choices: Which console will they buy? Will they be satisfied with one company’s machine or will they need to buy rival hardware too?
Nintendo’s Wii U console has been out for a while, but next year Sony’s PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One will hit Japan. Last weekend’s Tokyo Game Show gave gamers here their first chance to test drive each of the upcoming machines.
Not all consoles are the same: There are different interfaces, different online services and even different controllers. But probably the biggest thing that separates the various companies’ hardware is the games you can play on each console. Some games are multiplatform and are available on a variety of home consoles, while other titles are exclusives.
This means that if you want to play, for example, Sony’s new game “Knack,” you must buy the PS4. It will never be released on the Xbox One, because Sony developed the game for its console. Gamers on a budget will need to seriously consider which machine has the exclusives they want to play.
Part of deciding which console you like best is demoing the machine, checking its features and looking at the upcoming games. This year’s TGS provided a peek at all that, but that certainly doesn’t mean every TGS attendee got to play each machine.
“TGS is great this year because of the PS4,” said attendee Yusuke Yamakoshi, who was taking a break on the first public day. “I wasn’t able to play it today, but the graphics look amazing, and I already preordered one.”
Long lines and large crowds meant that many gamers couldn’t get hands-on with the new machines. At the Sony booth, the queue got so long for upcoming titles, such as PS4-exclusive dungeon crawler “Deep Down,” that Sony had to shut down the lines and redirected crowds to other titles in the Sony area.
“My husband is probably lining up for the PS4,” said Manami Mishima, another TGS attendee. “I’m not really interested in games, but he sure is. He wants to get a PS4.”
In Japan, the PlayStation brand is strong and gamers are loyal. Nintendo, which doesn’t traditionally attend TGS, is pigeonholed as the family-friendly game-maker, while Sony’s image is high-tech and slick. So, for the next generation of game consoles, the PS4 looks to be the default purchase for many gamers here. Its appeal is that strong. So far, its games look solid too.
While the PS4 will be out this November in North America and Europe, and in December in parts of Asia, it won’t be out in Japan until next February. This came as a shock for many Japanese gamers, who thought the console would be released by the end of December, at latest, just in time for the New Year’s holidays. Sony, however, said it needed more time to ensure there was enough Japan-specific content for launch and was thus holding the machine.
When the February release date was first announced, hardcore Sony fans took to the official PlayStation blog to express their frustration. Many at TGS, however, seemed more resigned to the February release date.
The PS4 wasn’t the only draw at Sony’s booth: There was a strong lineup of PlayStation 3 and PS Vita games. PS3 exclusive titles such as “Gran Turismo 6″ and “Rain” as well as PS Vita titles like “God Eater 2″ and “Soul Sacrifice Delta” had queues of an hour or more. Like with the PS4, Sony had to close the lines periodically throughout the day to prevent them from getting too long.
That doesn’t mean the Microsoft booth was tumbleweeds — far from it. Last year, with the Xbox 360 showing its age in Japan, Microsoft sat TGS out. But this year, the Redmond, Washington-based tech giant returned with its upcoming home console, the Xbox One. There were hour-plus waits for big exclusive Xbox One games such as “Ryse: Son of Rome” and “Forza Motorsport 5,” but the biggest draw at the Microsoft booth was the hands-on demo for mecha-filled first-person shooter “Titanfall.” At its peak, the line was over three hours long for the game.
“Titanfall” is the first game developed by Respawn Entertainment, a new studio which was created by the developers behind “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.” The game is filled with Japanese manga- and anime-inspired mecha, and the TGS demo had lovely cherry blossoms, which added a splash of color to a virtual battlefield.
According to Respawn, the reaction in Japan has been surprisingly positive to “Titanfall.” Online, too, gamers have been gushing about the title, calling it “cool” and “fun.” “Titanfall” has not been announced for the PS4, which might tempt those in Japan who dig the game to shell out for the Xbox One.
“I’m going to get the Xbox One and the PS4,” said gamer Yuma Fujiwara on the train ride from Chiba’s Makuhari Messe. “For this generation, I’ve only had an Xbox 360, so there are PS3 exclusive titles I haven’t been able to play.”
Any gamers who want to play all the best games in the next-gen have only one expensive choice: Buy all the consoles.
Five of the biggest games at Tokyo Game Show
Crimson Dragon (Xbox One)
From the team behind dragon-riding game “Panzer Dragoon,” “Crimson Dragon” was originally slated to be an Xbox 360 title. Now, it’s been moved to the Xbox One, and will be available when the system launches in the West. In it, you get to once again ride large flying dragons and shoot huge enemies.
Deep Down (PS4)
Capcom’s PS4 exclusive is set in a fantasy world that puts players in dungeons populated with large monsters. At TGS, the game was in early development, but even then, it was one of the standouts.
Developed by Sony’s Japan Studio, “Knack” stars a creature who is able to incorporate things like metal or ice into his body and grow several stories high. It features Pixar-like graphics and was created to showcase the PS4′s power, “Knack” will appeal to fans of old school platformers as well as young gamers.
Titanfall (Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows)
This is one of the most interesting and enjoyable titles coming out. “Titanfall” isn’t your typical first-person shooter: there are giant mecha you can control and blast enemies with. The game is a hoot.
Battlefield 4 (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows)
The TGS demo took players to Shanghai where 32 players faced off at one time. In the multiplayer battle, you can run-and-gun through the city streets and also control a variety of military vehicles — heck, you can even take the elevator to the top of Shanghai skyscrapers and snipe enemies below.