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Virtual convention: This year, the annual Tokyo Game Show moved its multiday series of events online. | © 2002-2020 CESA/NIKKEI BUSINESS PUBLICATIONS, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Virtual convention: This year, the annual Tokyo Game Show moved its multiday series of events online. | © 2002-2020 CESA/NIKKEI BUSINESS PUBLICATIONS, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Tokyo Game Show goes online

Numerous events and conventions in Japan have gone virtual due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, and this September’s Tokyo Game Show is no exception.

Held since 1996, the Tokyo Game Show was biannual until 2002. Instead of being held at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba Prefecture, this is the first time the show has gone virtual. It’s a shame, but considering 262,076 people attended the show last year, it’s probably not a good idea to have hundreds of thousands of people crammed into convention halls.

Instead, the Tokyo Game Show’s virtual iteration will host streaming events and videos, including roundtables and esports tournaments. Unlike previous years, when tickets were sold to the general public, this year people can enjoy the virtual Tokyo Game Show for free. While there might not be the same in-person excitement, there is bound to be breaking news and cool new game debuts.

Although it will be strange to experience it online, here’s hoping next year will mark a return to lively convention halls.

The Tokyo Game Show 2020 will be open to the public from Sept. 24 through 27.

tgs.nikkeibp.co.jp/tgs/2020/en

Enter bullet hell

Black and white: Ikaruga is known as a challenging shoot ’em up game with compelling mechanics. | © TREASURE
Black and white: Ikaruga is known as a challenging shoot ’em up game with compelling mechanics. | © TREASURE

Ikaruga is one of the greatest shoot ’em up games (or “shmups”) ever created.

Originally released in 2001 in Japanese arcades, what makes the game so compelling is its mechanics. In most shmups, players navigate a spacecraft through a hailstorm of bullets. But in Ikaruga, players must not only dodge bullets, but react depending on the color of the bullets by toggling between their ship’s polarity — when the spacecraft is white, it can absorb white bullets; when it’s black, it is likewise immune to black ones.

There is an undeniable strategy element, with players needing to switch between white and black as they unleash their own fire and special attacks. Trying to dodge a barrage of bullets while toggling between the different colors may not be easy, but it is satisfying, compulsive and utterly brilliant.

Developed by Treasure, the studio behind the excellent shooter Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga was ported to the Sega Dreamcast in 2002 and to the Nintendo GameCube the following year. Digital download versions for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 in 2018 featured an even more difficult “prototype mode,” which, unlike the endless hail of bullets they can shoot in the actual game, limits the player’s ammo.

Priced at ¥4,950, physical versions of Ikaruga are finally coming to PS4 and Switch on Sept. 24.

bit.ly/ikagura-jp (Japanese only)

OK to play: Tokyo Video Gamers got permission from copyright holders to allow customers to play its stock of games, making it the first legal video game bar in Japan.
OK to play: Tokyo Video Gamers got permission from copyright holders to allow customers to play its stock of games, making it the first legal video game bar in Japan.

Out of the gray zone

Video game bars can make for a fantastic night out. However, these establishments have existed in a legal gray zone for years. Until now.

While Japan’s video game bars might own copies of the games they let players enjoy, they do not own the copyright. According to the Association of Copyright for Computer Software, video game bars are in violation for letting customers play games without getting permission from the copyright owners. The association has been sending letters to video game bars since 2011 warning them of this violation; in recent years, there have been crackdowns and even arrests.

Tokyo Video Gamers, which opened on Aug. 21, is the first video game bar in Japan to get official permission from the copyright holders, including an array of iconic arcade game companies such as Sega, Arc System Works and SNK. Moreover, it also got the green light from the companies who now own the copyright for iconic, classic games. The bar itself has a slick, modern interior with arcade cabinets and a well-stocked bar. It’s unclear what this means for video game bars still operating in the gray zone, but, this will no doubt change things.

bit.ly/tokyovideogamers (Japanese only)

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