An Afternoon at Tokyo Game Show 2018

An exhibit by Bandai Namco for their upcoming action RPG God Eater 3.

If there’s one thing you should know about Tokyo Game Show (TGS), it’s the crowds.

They’re here to see big names like Capcom, Square Enix, and Namco Bandai exhibit upcoming games alongside indie developers, game schools, merchandisers, cosplayers, and others. TGS is one of Asia’s biggest video game conventions, attracting roughly 250,000 visitors every September.

Nearly 300,000 people attended this year. Which meant long queues and the occasional whiff of body odor!

Picked up free hand-fans on my way in.

I’d say the game show is a worthwhile cultural experience for serious gamers, especially fans of Japanese games. Though, it may not be for you if you dislike being in crowds or have no particular interest in the games exhibited. If you’re planning to visit Japan and attend TGS, also take note that Tokyo Game Show isn’t held in Tokyo (despite the name) but in Chiba, the neighboring prefecture.

Survival tips for the Tokyo Game Show

Before attending my first TGS, I looked up survival tips on how to make the best of my short visit. Bring water, they said. Be prepared to queue for 1 to 2 hours under the sun. Have a plan of attack, decide which booths you want to visit first.

Tokyo Game Show focuses on Japanese games, but international games have a presence too, like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Fallout 76.

I attended on a Public Day, when TGS opens to the public and tickets are only 1,000 yen or USD$10. (If you buy the premium 3,000 yen ticket, however, you’ll receive TGS souvenirs at the door, such as a cool TGS shirt.) Journalists, meanwhile, have the privilege of attending on a Business Day; at a steeper price of 5,000 yen, they get to avoid the crowds.

Since I only had a few hours to spare, I decided to minimize queuing by arriving at 1:00pm (some people arrive at 8:00am to queue for the 10:00am opening) and by entering TGS via the secondary building (Hall 9-11) instead of the main building (Hall 1-8, where the major companies are). As a result, there was virtually no queue!

Indie developers show playable demos of their upcoming games.
A visitor tries No Straight Roads, an action game by Malaysian indie developer Metronomik.

Malaysian game developer Metronomik

My first mission was to locate an indie game company from Malaysia called Metronomik and try their demo of an upcoming game, No Straight Roads. I had been following their news for a while and wanted to chat with the company founders. It took 15 minutes to locate their booth amidst the large number of exhibitors.

No Straight Roads, a music-themed action game, is Metronomik’s first IP. It’s scheduled to release on PS4 and PC in 2019, and a Switch port may be considered too. NSR features two protagonists, a female guitarist and a male drummer, who fight music with music. I enjoyed the demo, which took 10 minutes (this meant queuing for 20 minutes, since there were two people in front of me). As a reward for trying the demo, I got to take home postcard-size pieces of concept art.

I walked home with pieces of concept art, a freebie for trying the demo.

After congratulating Metronomik on receiving nominations from two Japanese gaming sites, I rendezvoused with friends. They were trying another indie demo, which involved holding a cardboard box — equipped with motion sensor — and “hiding” in the box.

The big industry players

Finally, it was time to the visit the main hall. I wanted to see what Square Enix and Capcom had on display. I walked the wrong way out — past dozens of cosplayers dressed in maid costumes, fighting costumes, or scarcely any costume. Most cosplayed as Japanese anime or game characters, but I did also spot one European character (a Caucasian lady dressed as Witcher 3‘s Triss Merigold).

Square Enix’s main exhibition wasn’t hard to spot.
Square Enix fans watching a trailer for World of Final Fantasy Maxima.

When I finally found my way into the main hall, I saw a giant moogle looming overhead. Square Enix’s pavilion was massive compared to anything in the secondary hall. A giant screen showed a trailer of World of Final Fantasy Maxima, next to a queue to play demos for Kingdom Hearts III and Dragon Quest Builders 2.

I decided not to queue for demos here since wait times were probably 30 minutes at least. Instead, I contented myself with walking around the hall. Later, I found out that I’d missed a Capcom panel, which announced that the Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright trilogy will come to Switch and other platforms in 2019!

Nintendo, as a company, does not usually attend TGS. But they showed up for meetings on the press-only Business Days. Meanwhile, various developers advertised games for the Switch.
Overlooking the exhibit by Coatsink, a UK-based developer for consoles, PC, and VR.
International indie games were present at TGS too. I was pleasantly surprised to come across a familiar title, Gang Beasts, an amusing multiplayer fighting game by British developer Boneloaf.
Games were not the only products on display at TGS. Ergonomic gaming chairs, for instance, were on show by US-based DXRacer.
Overlooking Flyhigh Works, a Japanese developer/publisher for 3DS and Switch.

One final queue to experience

I soon ran out of water and was feeling dehydrated, but it was time for dinner with my friends anyway. (Which brings me to another thing you should know about TGS: It’s more fun to attend with a friend!) We got dinner at Plena Mall, located between TGS and the nearest train station.

Life-size (1:1) mecha model from Border Break, a Sega arcade game coming to PS4.

There was one final queue to experience: the TGS crowd on their way home, bottle-necked at the entrance of Kaihim-Makuhari train station. There, I also witnessed the amazing skills of commuter veterans who unabashedly squeezed into already-packed trains. I mean, those trains were jam-packed with human mass spilling past the doors. But when the doors shut, nobody’s nose got cut off.

Thanks to excellent traffic control by station attendants, we all survived and no stampede. We did get on the wrong platform, though, and missed our first train. But that’s just another thing to expect if you’re visiting Japan, whether for TGS or any other interesting cultural experience. So, always plan for extra time!

Summary: If you’re attending Tokyo Game Show, bring water, a friend, and patience.

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