The Road to Tokyo Game Show 2012

Can the Japanese show surprise us next week?

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As far as its relevance on the international gaming calendar goes, Tokyo Game Show has been struggling to remain relevant over the last few years. Once a hotbed of exciting software and announcements - it's nowadays a testament to the decline of the Japanese gaming industry, with a heavy emphasis on predictable sequels and lower cost handheld projects.

Is it reasonable to expect a wave of fresh announcements relevant to Western gamers from Tokyo Game Show? Probably not. Sony needs to keep the positive vibes going with PS Vita, and announce something major on the back of Tearaway and Killzone: Mercenary at Gamescom. And what about The Last Guardian? I don't think we'll see The Last Guardian at TGS - there is nothing to indicate that at this point at any rate. An announcement of Gran Turismo coming to PS Vita would be predictable and welcome, even if it's doubtful how much it would aid the platform.

Obviously the best thing Sony could do is twist Capcom's arm and make them come out with a Monster Hunter for the Vita. Sony are probably putting a lot of faith in Soul Sacrifice from former Capcom man Keiji Inafune as well, and it remains important for the new handheld to show off some fresh, new IP's to shake off any sense that this is just a portable little brother of PS3.

We are expecting Sony to reveal a new version of Playstation 3 (rumours of the 12GB flash edition are mounting), and also a couple of other games coming out of their Japanese studios. As Sony holds a pre-TGS press conference the day prior to the show we should expect a few major announcements coming out of it.

TGS 2011 Gallery:

The Road to Tokyo Game Show 2012
The Road to Tokyo Game Show 2012The Road to Tokyo Game Show 2012The Road to Tokyo Game Show 2012
The Road to Tokyo Game Show 2012The Road to Tokyo Game Show 2012
The Road to Tokyo Game Show 2012

Square Enix announced Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII at the recent 25th anniversary event in Japan and that game is likely to be a big player next to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn on the showfloor. Don't expect Kingdom Hearts III, but Square Enix has been a bit slow in embracing PS Vita, and perhaps this would be a good time to announce an upcoming RPG for the platform. Sony managed to get some great support from Square Enix on PSP, so it wouldn't be a massive surprise if something came out of that partnership at TGS.

Konami announced Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes at a similar 25th year anniversary event as the Final Fantasy one, but don't expect the game to feature heavily at the show where Konami needs to drum up some enthusiasm for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. The Konami booth is one of the booths that is typically most different from their Western ones - when Konami are at E3 or Gamescom they usually show up with a handful of big titles, whereas the TGS booth usually contains a myriad of smaller more Japan-centric titles. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 and Mirror of Fate are missing from the official line up, but you may be surprised at how muted their presence would have been as the Castlevania brand is rather niche even in Japan.

Sega has pretty much transformed their business, focusing on a few select brands and digital releases. And while the Yakuza series still does well in Japan, don't expect them to come out with any ambitious and expensive projects such as Binary Domain at this point. Phantasy Star Online 2 is off to a great start on PC in Japan, and will be shown off on PS Vita in Makuhari Messe. As far as that blue Hedgehog goes, he's got Sonic All-Stars Racing: Transformed coming out, and don't expect to hear about what Sonic Team are up to until early next year. There is also that mysterious Project Omega that Sega has launched a teaser site for. And where are the Wii U Monkey Balls?

Another veteran player Capcom has come upon some harder times lately and are pretty much banking on Resident Evil 6 to pull them out of their problems. Relying more on Western developers (DMC Devil May Cry, Lost Planet 3, Remember Me) for their current line up, Capcom are likely looking towards the Ace Attorney series, and whatever new Monster Hunter title they have coming up to aid Resident Evil 6 in pulling in the crowds at TGS. It may be a little too soon for Street Fighter 5 as Capcom are still invested in Street Fighter X Tekken for PS Vita, but then again Ono-san and his team has to move on to something new one would imagine. Perhaps, TGS is the right time to announce it?

The true star of the Japanese gaming industry Nintendo are, true to form, staying well clear of Makuhari Messe. They traditionally don't exhibit at the event, something that was established back in the 90's when Nintendo organised their own annual Space World showcase. Nevertheless, there will be some third party Nintendo presence on the showfloor even if it remains to be seen if any Wii U units are playable on the floor. Now that the Wii U launch details are out, it's likely we'll see some kind of third party presence for the console.

TGS 2012 Highlights Gallery:

The Road to Tokyo Game Show 2012
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
The Road to Tokyo Game Show 2012The Road to Tokyo Game Show 2012
Soul Sacrifice (left) and Puppeteer (right)
The Road to Tokyo Game Show 2012
Resident Evil 6
The Road to Tokyo Game Show 2012
Metal Gear RIsing: Revengeance
The Road to Tokyo Game Show 2012The Road to Tokyo Game Show 2012
Zwei (left) and Project Omega (right).

Tecmo Koei, and Level-5, will likely focus a lot on their Japan-centric titles. Dead or Alive 5 is just about to be released, and there is Ninja Gaiden 3 for Wii U, but expect horse racing games and Dynasty Warriors to feature heavily at Tecmo Koei as usual. Level-5 could be set to unveil something exciting with it having been almost a year since Ni No Kuni launched in Japan. They could of course be working on a new Dragon Quest, but that feels like an announcement deserving of its event in Japan rather than just being made official during TGS. Namco Bandai meanwhile have their usual mix of anime/manga games, and some of the Namco staples. Don't expect any major announcements as Namco Bandai's traditional pre-show event has been scaled down this year.

Japan has seen a lot of creative individuals break out on their own lately, and Keiji Inafune (formerly of Capcom) is one such individual and it is believed he will reveal more about his upcoming zombie/ninja/robot game Yaiba at the show. Suda51 and his Grasshopper Manufacture could also be unveiling Killer is Dead, and we're all dying to find out more about Shinji Mikami's return to survival horror with Zwei. It's far from certain we'll see all of these games at TGS, but one or two would make a huge difference.

GREE, the Japanese mobile/social giant, will have a huge presence at TGS and as they co-operate with Konami on Metal Gear Solid: Social Ops and Ubisoft on Assassin's Creed Utopia, they are starting to become more interesting to core gamers as well.

Tokyo Game Show has been slipping out of relevance during the last few years and needs a strong showing to reassert its position and the position of the wider Japanese gaming industry. It looks questionable whether that will be the case this year, but hopefully we're in for a surprise. Western publishers have moved away from the show completely over the last few years - with Microsoft, EA and Ubisoft opting out. And even if the show itself still proves popular with the public, the show has had less and less to offer visitors. It is somewhat puzzling that the Japanese industry aren't more keen on rallying the troops and making sure that Tokyo Game Show is an unmissable spectacle every year - but as it stands we're likely in for another weak edition, hopefully helped up by a couple of major announcements.

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