"Less is more" seemed to be the theme of this year's Tokyo Game Show, from the number of console games showcased to the amount of clothing worn by the cosplayers.
The event drew a record 223,753 visitors over four days, according to the organizer, but it didn't feel as crowded as usual. One reason: many of the big-name console game developers featured a significantly smaller footprint than past shows. Microsoft, whose massive Xbox 360 booths were always among the three largest exhibitions, was absent altogether. Instead, the 2012 show saw a surge in mobile and social gaming booths.
Last year's mobile breakout company, Gree, featured a floor area that rivaled console game titan Sony, signaling a shift in the video game industry in Japan.
"I'm disappointed there's no Xbox booth," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Kaplan, stationed at Naval Air Facility Atsugi. "I don't like phone games. I'm a console guy."
Tokyo gamer Shinya Shibayama was also disappointed Microsoft pulled out of the show. He grew up playing console games, which he said are what "real game lovers" play.
Spc. Joshua Dendauw, who's based on Okinawa, said he prefers console and PC games because he's into role-playing and first-person shooter MMOGs. "The focus on mobile games kind of depresses me," he said.
But other gamers liked the convenience of mobile gaming.
"It's about being able to socialize and interact with people," said Spc. Drew Bennett, a soldier stationed on Okinawa. "Video games used to be something you did at home by yourself."
"I play games on my phone all the time," said Petty Officer 1st Class Matt Drope, who's based at Atsugi. "It's more than minesweeper and backgammon these days. Someday you won't even have to buy a console."
Even the big-name console companies realize they need to throw their hats into the mobile gaming market.
"Now is the era of the multi-screen, and everybody's gaming experience or mobile experience is diversified," said Katsumi Oikawa, senior vice president of marketing and online services for Sony Computer Entertainment Japan.
He said Sony has added PlayStation mobile as a gateway to introduce the PlayStation experience to a new generation of users.
But Oikawa doesn't think console gaming will die out.
Not everyone will be into social gaming, he said, so the company aims to offer a good mix of products that suit various users' lifestyles.
"I don't believe social games will dominate 100 percent of the people's eye," he said.
Stars and Stripes reporters Hana Kusumoto and Trevor Andersen contributed to this story.
Coming soon: Games to watch for
Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition Publisher: Namco Bandai Platform: Nintendo Wii U Genre: Fighting Release date: November 2012
No, your eyes aren't deceiving you; those are the characters from Namco Bandai's popular Tekken game series making their first appearance on Nintendo's new Wii U. While the Tekken franchise has long been exclusive to PlayStation, Tekken followers will be happy to know the characters look and play just as great on the U.
The demo I played featured a one-on-one match in the Mario-themed Mushroom Battle mode. Some of the characters even get a chance to dress up as Mario characters.
This will be a fun game to play in groups, and having a great fighting series as big as Tekken is going to be a treat for Nintendo fans. -- Grant Okubo
Medal of Honor Warfighter Publisher: Electronic Arts Platform: PS3, XBox 360, PC Genre: First-person shooter Release date: October 2012
Armed with a rifle, some grenades and a sidearm, you and a squad of guys traverse battle-torn rooms and buildings. Perhaps it was the television or the setup, but everything looked a little smudged, too dark and rather blurry on my screen. Let's hope the final release looks better. -- Grant Okubo
Tank! Tank! Tank! Publisher: Namco Bandai Platform: Nintendo Wii U Genre: Action Release date: Late 2012
The name pretty much sums it up. This lighthearted party game puts you behind the wheel of a tank that looks like it came from a set of toy soldiers, against three other players. This was a little less graphically impressive than I expected from the Wii U, but it made good use of the second screen on the controller. -- Grant Okubo
Injustice: Gods Among Us Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Platform: PS3, XBox 360, Wii U Genre: Fighting Release date: April 2013
A one-on-one fight where the mortal Nightwing beats Superman just seems ridiculous to me, but that is all too possible here. The gameplay and appearance are similar to the "Mortal Kombat" reboot, but the game features an array of popular DC Comics characters.
I seemed to be playing on an easy mode as I breezed through the matches in this demo. The game does a good job of adapting each character's abilities to use in a fight, but it gets kind of boring after a while. -- Grant Okubo
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Publisher: Konami Platform: PS3, XBox 360, PC Genre: Action Release date: February 2013
Of all the games I tried at the Tokyo Game Show this year, this one was the most fun. You play as Raiden, the blade-wielding cyborg who faces an army of cyborgs on various missions.
The game looked great, and Raiden moves across the screen flawlessly. The blade controls take a little getting used to, but they make for a realistic slicing experience. -- Grant Okubo
Dust 514 Publisher: Sony Platform: PS3, Vita Genre: First-person shooter Release date: TBD
"Dust 514" is a free-to-play first-person shooter associated with the Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game "Eve." You play as a futuristic space marine who use various vehicles and weapons to kill the other player.
The graphics looked pretty good, and the competition was fun. Gameplay is similar to other popular first-person shooters like the "Battlefield" franchise. -- Grant Okubo
PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale Publisher: Sony Platform: PS3, Vita Genre: Fighting Release date: November 2012
A truly all-star cast that unites many of PlayStation's famous characters in a multiplayer format. Ever wonder who would win in a fight between Sackboy, PaRappa the Rapper, Sly Cooper and Kratos? I did. I played as Kratos, the god of war, against three others in a no-holds-barred fight. I won, but it wasn't easy.
The game was average graphically, and the controls were pretty simple as well. However, with its ample, diverse cast, I can see it being popular at home game parties. -- Grant Okubo
Lost Planet 3 Publisher: Capcom Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC Genre: Third-person shooter Release date: Early 2013
"Lost Planet 3" follows Jim, a colonist working for Neo-Venus Construction company, mining an icy planet for minerals to send back to Earth. Since this episode is a prequel, new players can jump right in without any prior knowledge.
The game is story-driven, so while you're shooting monsters and bad guys, you'll also spend time uncovering a conspiracy by the company. I enjoyed the story and the action. -- Trevor Andersen
DmC: Devil May Cry Publisher: Capcom Platform: Windows, PS3, Xbox 360 Genre: Hack and slash Release date: January 2013
"DmC" is not a sequel to the popular series, but it's not quite a reboot. The game is set in a parallel universe starring a different version of Dante, the hero of the "Devil May Cry" series.
The combat was interesting and innovative, making the constant battles fresh and exciting. Throughout the game, a demon name Mundus mocks you as his plot to kill you unfolds. I will personally buy this game when it comes out. -- Trevor Andersen
Soul Sacrifice Publisher: Sony Platform: Vita Genre: Action-adventure, multi-player role playing Release date: Early 2013
A slave to an evil sorcerer finds a book closely resembling the Necronomicon from the "Evil Dead" movies. The book pulls him in and allows him to experience past battles firsthand.
You can gain powers by sacrificing parts of your body or items you've collected. Anything you sacrifice cannot be returned, hence the name "Soul Sacrifice."
The multiplayer battles pit your team of sorcerers against giant demons. -- Trevor Andersen
Assassin's Creed III: Liberation Publisher: Ubisoft Platform: Vita Genre: Action-adventure, open-world, stealth Release date: October 2012
"Assassin's Creed" during the American Revolution. You play as Aveline, an assassin of French and African descent. The game takes full advantage of the Vita's touch screen, rear touch pad and gyroscope. The controls and combat are smooth and engaging. Players can connect the Vita game to the PS3 game for exclusive upgrades and items. -- Trevor Andersen
LittleBigPlanet Karting Publisher: Sony Platform: PS3 Genre: Racing Release date: November 2012
Now you can enjoy the world of LittleBigPlanet in a racing game. You can create your own race tracks, share them and race with people from around the world just as in the original LittleBigPlanet game. Maneuvering the carts is easy, and reminded me of "Mario Kart." Great game for families and friends. -- Hana Kusumoto
FIFA 13 Publisher: Electronic Arts Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita and PlayStation Portable Genre: Sports Release date: September 2012
This popular soccer game sequel captures the unpredictability of real soccer games. It added features such as more advanced attacking intelligence, where the players in the game read two plays ahead and move accordingly. The players cannot keep the ball when receiving an inaccurate pass, which gives the chance for defenders to steal the ball. However, novice players might have trouble making the most of these new features. -- Hana Kusumoto
Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney Publisher: Level 5 /Capcom Platform: Nintendo 3DS Genre: Puzzle solving/court battle Release date: TBD
Characters from two popular mystery series finally meet. Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright will solve the mystery of a villain who can write the future with his pen and fight in a witch hunt trial. The alternating games are divided into two parts: problem-solving fantasy adventure, which features Professor Layton games, and court battle, which focuses on Ace Attorney games. I was unable to reach the stage where the two characters appear in the trial version, and while I could tell the storyline was going to be interesting and exciting, I felt like I was playing two separate games. -- Hana Kusumoto