Culture | Backstage Pass

Diversity of Japan's video game industry on show in Tokyo

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

If you use the camera to zoom in on Norman Reedus’ groin too many times in Death Stranding, he will punch you in the face.

This was demonstrated by the game’s famed designer, Hideo Kojima, during an onstage presentation of his highly anticipated title during last week’s Tokyo Game Show (TGS).

“Here is where he would give the middle finger, but we won’t show that since we’re at Tokyo Game Show,” says Kojima from the stage as the camera zooms in again on Reedus, who is portraying the game’s main character, Sam Bridges — and is also wearing pants. Another zoom-in draws the punch.

Death Stranding was just one of many titles on display as the gaming industry again descended upon Japan. This year’s event drew more than 260,000 people — including one Keanu Reeves — to the sprawling halls of the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba.

There was a little bit of something for everyone. In one corner was a playable demo of Team Ninja’s Nioh 2, the followup to the dark and challenging 2017 action RPG. Another area held Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, which allows players to re-create moments from the “Dragon Ball Z” anime series. Elsewhere was a game dedicated to raising a hamster.

While Death Stranding wasn’t playable, it was still one of the most talked-about titles at the event. Kojima took to the Sony stage on three different days, once to show off a whopping 48-minute gameplay demo, to reveal more about the game’s vast open world, combat and more. It’s due out Nov. 8 on PlayStation 4.

Final Fantasy VII Remake was another wildly popular title at TGS, with fans eagerly awaiting the PS4 reimagining of the 1997 PlayStation classic. The first installment will be released March 3, 2020. Producer Yoshinori Kitase tossed out a few juicy morsels during the event, taking the stage to show off new gameplay that featured a boss battle, a summon and a minigame.

A previously released demo of the game was playable at TGS, after a long wait in line, of course.

Sega had a very large presence at this year’s event, setting aside a swath of space for JRPG Project Sakura Wars (working title) and Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

The biggest game in the Sega booth, however, was Ryu Ga Gotoku 7 (Sega’s long-running series known as Yakuza in the West). The game’s new turn-based combat, a first for the series, takes some getting used to initially, but adds a fresh new element to the franchise.

Resident Evil is also getting a new coat of paint in the form of Project Resistance, a co-op multiplayer spinoff of the survival horror series. The game, which pits four survivors against a “mastermind,” was also playable and looked good.

Reeves was on the show floor before TGS opened to check out the massive space set aside for Cyberpunk 2077, in which he has a role. That title is due April 16, 2020, on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

There was also a sizable mobile game presence and independent games were given their own area again.

Organizers said there were 655 exhibitors and 2,417 booths at TGS this year. The event returns next year from Sept. 24 to 27.