For me, September means Tokyo Game Show. I’ve covered Japan’s biggest video game expo as a reporter almost every year since I moved to Japan in 2006, but this year’s show was really something special.
Until the pandemic hit, TGS grew steadily over the decades, to the point that in 2019 the show invited some 262,076 attendees to experience games from 655 exhibitors. I saw the event go beyond the confines of the eight halls of Makuhari Messe’s main building. It expanded to three additional halls in an annex building and the arena-like Makuhari Messe Event Hall, becoming as famous for its cosplay zone and overwhelming crowds as it was for its games.
And then 2020 came along, and in-person events everywhere were dead.
An event for players
This month’s TGS was the first edition to be held with a public audience since 2019.
In order to avoid becoming a super-spreader event, several anti-covid measures have been taken. The show had a reduced visitor capacity, with 138,192 attendees over four days, almost half of its pre-pandemic figures.
Entry was limited to middle schoolers and older students, which meant that young families could not attend. And, by extension, the usually adorable children’s play area was gone.
And while cosplay wasn’t banned per se, an outright ban on photographing cosplayers coupled with no changing rooms meant no one cared.
Likewise, many major game publishers have decided not to hold an event, which has allowed them to avoid unnecessarily bloated crowds and devote their socially distanced booth space to showing more games.
And although this is not related to a deliberate change in the rules by TGS, for various reasons, including strict border controls in Japan and even stricter ones in China, there were fewer foreign exhibitors than usual.
As a result of all of the above, the TGS audience that was increasingly causal in previous years has been replaced by a host of more dedicated hardcore gamers.
Focus on console and PC games
The crowd of hardcore gamers has, in turn, led to a massive reduction in the number of mobile games on display. Over the years, mobile games had grown to gobble up much of the showroom, so their absence this year was noticeable.
All of this resulted in a more focused and focused edition of TGS.
The focus was overwhelming on console and PC gaming in 2022, for the reasons above.
Also, after the slightly odd edition of 2021 which was restricted to guest media and influencers only, with an infinitesimal exhibit hall that mostly fit into one room, at TGS 2022 there was a distinct vibe” go big or go home”.
All the major Japanese publishers present brought their A game.
The Giants of Sega
Sega stood out, with a large booth housing games from two of its biggest franchises: Sonic the Hedgehog and Yakuza.
The Sonic Frontiers demo was playable in Japan for the first time, following strong public reception at Gamescom in Germany a few weeks earlier.
Sonic is HUGE in the West, but not so much in Japan, where Sega’s consoles of the 1990s and early 2000s could never quite compete with Nintendo and Sony – but Sonic Frontiers seems to be different. Perhaps it’s because the Sonic movie series has reached a new audience (the smash-hit sequel just released in Japan in August).
Or maybe it’s the bold new direction of the game’s “open area” and clear inspiration from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But IGN Japan’s audiences reacted strongly to this new Sonic release, and the long lines in front of the giant inflatable Sonic statue at Sega’s TGS booth proved that beyond doubt.
Yakuza, meanwhile, has always been big in Japan, and more recently in the West as well. Prior to TGS, Sega announced that it was renaming the English version of the series to Like a Dragon, which more closely matches the Japanese title Ryu ga Gotoku.
At its booth, Sega invited fans to play Like a Dragon: Ishin!, a beautiful remake of the 2014 spin-off title set in feudal Japan. The game was originally only released in Japan, so this remake will mark its first overseas release in January 2023. We posted some gameplay videos on IGN Japan’s YouTube channel and they have become the most popular videos. watched n°1 and n°2 of TGS 2022 for us.
Capcom’s battle game
Capcom also brought some serious artillery to TGS. Street Fighter 6 is the highly anticipated latest game in its beloved fighting franchise. And the game’s mesmerizing visual style, welcoming a new control scheme and dynamic feedback in esports-style gameplay, made a deep impression on those who joined the long queue to play.
Capcom also showed off a VR version of its 2021 hit Resident Evil Village. What really drew the crowds was the fact that this was the world’s first hands-on experience with PlayStation VR2, Sony’s new system slated for release in 2023.
I was able to play it, and the massive spec upgrade from PS VR2 combined with the incredible attention to detail in the world of Resident Evil Village made for a truly immersive experience. If you thought the towering 9’6″ Lady Dimitrescu and her gruesome daughters were fearsome on your TV screen, wait until you come face to face with them in VR.
Square Enix at TGS
Square Enix has chosen TGS as the world’s first event for gamers to try Forspoken, the next RPG adventure from its studio Luminous Productions, whose previous game Final Fantasy XV breathed new life into this franchise.
Forspoken is set in a similar fantasy world, with hideous creatures roaming its dangerous open world. But the protagonist is a transplant from modern New York, who suddenly finds himself wielding magic in this strange new land.
The game had received mixed attention before TGS. The show’s hands-on demo, however, and a glut of coverage from publications around the world just before TGS, showed that Forspoken might be much better than skeptics feared.
Personally, I enjoyed it a lot, from the fish-out-of-water intruder setting to the deep and interesting combat system that lets you combine offensive and defensive magic spells in real time.
New offers from Koei Tecmo
Koei Tecmo also had a formidable presence. In a Nintendo Direct presentation days before TGS, it announced Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key, the third and final entry in its popular Ryza series.
With spin-offs like Atelier Sophie, Ryza games have a passionate fanbase in Japan, delivering clever RPG game systems based on the secrets of alchemy. Having the game playable on the show when it had only been revealed a few days before was a nice surprise.
Also on Koei Tecmo’s booth was a bastard demo of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, the latest Souls-like action game from developer Nioh Team Ninja. It’s been a long time since game fans could be repeatedly beaten by a rock-hard boss in front of their peers at a game expo, so it was worth it.
Meanwhile, Konami announced a remastered package of its wildly popular RPG classics Suikoden I & II, quickly entering the trending chart on Twitter and setting the internet ablaze.
While the set is officially titled Suikoden I & II HD Remaster, the games are closer to a remake, with a subtly enhanced HD-2D art style that looks stunning.
Four hard days of fun
For us at IGN Japan, as an official media partner of TGS, we broadcast nearly 35 hours of live video programming over four days from our private studio on a balcony overlooking the living room.
We’ve had dozens of game developers bring their games to us to play together live, including many of the games mentioned above, as well as hands-on impressions of our team’s standout titles in the series.
One of the highlights was when Phil Spencer and Sarah Bond, Xbox’s two top dogs, came to our studio for a live interview in front of a room full of Japanese Xbox fans – a rare opportunity to welcome members from the public in our studio to meet two bona fide gaming VIPs. You can watch the full interview here.
Organizing all of this was a colossal task, of course – I won’t bore you with the details, since I already did that in my August BitSummit column. But I love the festival atmosphere of TGS, and this year I felt like there was a lot to celebrate, from the return of audience attendees to the wealth of incredible games on display.
Our readers and viewers at IGN Japan were also clearly excited, as we had our biggest readership and viewership numbers of any TGS to date.
With the rush of summer events finally over, I took a few days off before returning to the fray.
As game expo season winds down, TV broadcast season is in full swing, and since we also cover this stuff on IGN Japan, I’m now deep in Andor, House of the Dragon, She- Hulk, The Rings of Power, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners and more. It’s hard work, but someone has to do it!
Author: Danile Robson
Daniel Robson is editor of the video game news site IGN Japan. Read his series player’s world on JAPAN Forward, and find him on Twitter here.