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RPG Codex Report: Tokyo Game Show 2014, Barkley 2, and JRPGs
Editorial - posted by Crooked Bee on Tue 21 October 2014, 15:48:15Tags: Barkley 2: Revenge of Cuchulainn; Falcom; Square Enix; Tales of Game's; Tokyo Game Show
An odd message arrived in the RPG Codex inbox in June. Codex user/lurker Math Fool was telling us he was going to the Tokyo Game Show, which was to take place September 18th to 21st, and that he could cover the show for the Codex if we wanted him to. Later, it turned out Tales Of Game's' and our very own eric_s' Barkley 2 was going to be showcased at TGS. And as you may know, we have been following that game fairly closely.
So we thought: okay, at least he'll take a look at Barkley 2 for us, and secured a press pass for Math Fool. Barkley 2 alone wasn't enough to make an entire article though, so we padded it out with general JRPG- and otaku-related stuff. You know, like we usually do here on the Codex. Enjoy!
[Written by Math Fool]
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Tokyo Game Show while on a Japanese baseball vacation where an American tour group attended 6 baseball games in 9 days. The tour happened to coincide with TGS, so I decided to spend a day checking out the exhibits, playing some games, buying some merchandise, and of course viewing the booth babes (more on this below). Thanks to Crooked Bee and DarkUnderlord having arranged the credentials in advance of the show, I had no problem entering it as an RPG Codex freelance journalist, using a letter of assignment provided by the Codex and business cards created on my color laser printer.
The TGS was held at the Makuhari Messe convention center. The trip took nearly an hour on the JR Railways Tokyo line from my hotel in Central Tokyo. Luckily, every airport and train station in Japan has signs both in English and Japanese (both in hiragana and kanji on the actual trains).
The JR Keiyo line goes past the Maihama stop for Tokyo Disneyland, which I also had the opportunity to attend on the trip. Tokyo Disneyland is nearly identical to the Magic Kingdom at the US Disneyland in Anaheim, so if you want the same experience you can have it. If you’re looking for something different, check out Disney Sea which is the second Disney park on the grounds.
Anyway, back to video games.
TGS was held for 4 days, Thursday September 18 – Sunday September 21, 2014.
The first 2 days were business days and the last 2 days were open to the public. There was a tremendous difference in attendance between the public and business days. I was actually able to talk to people and comfortably take pictures on the business days, whereas the public days were wall-to-wall people.
My official assignment for the show was to cover a particular indie game, so off I went to the indie games area. The area was relatively quiet on the business day without much activity. It was easy to play most of the titles. My initial impression was the quality of graphics for most games was inferior to the large corporate booths at the rest of the show. One needed to look past the graphics and really engage the game and test the gameplay to get a feel for what the title had to offer.
Tales of Game's TGS booth (photo courtesy of TOG's Twitter account)
First up was playing Barkley 2 and talking to 2 members of the development team: Liam Raum and Kyle Riley.
Barkley 2 is a direct sequel to the indie RPG Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden. Set 4000 years after the original game in the year 666X, the story focuses on a character who has lost his memories and adopts an identity to explore the world of Necron 7. The character creation process is very involved and can last as long as 30 minutes. One gamer at TGS actually died during this process, which then has a lasting impact on your character for the remainder of the game.
Your choices impact the story in Barkley 2, and no game is quite like another. There are over 20 possible endings in this 15-hour quest, and every action is tracked in the game. Not only how often you die but the types of death your character experiences will contribute to his overall fate. You can earn experience points by playing video games, or choose to keep games in their original mint packaging instead.
Combat occurs in real-time using a dual thumb stick interface. I played using an Xbox One controller, and the action is fast and furious. In addition to standard combat, there is also a turn-based tactical basketball strategy game that was reminiscent of Blitzball from Final Fantasy X. Finally, there is a detailed item breeding and creation process in which guns can evolve over time and pass down their characteristics to future generations.
To be honest, I had never heard of Barkley 2 before coming to TGS. The story of both games are very unique, wacky and original. It’s the kind of game that normally falls under my radar screen, but it was good to play something that was not another big budget franchise sequel for a change.
Barkley 2 is coming initially to PC, Mac and Linux, with future ports to PS4 and XB1, and potentially the PS3 and Xbox 360. The game will be available “when it’s ready.”
After looking at the indie games, I spent quite a bit of time at the Square-Enix booth at TGS. As a 700-pound gorilla of RPG gaming, their floor space was crowded the entire time and contained numerous booth babes and cosplayers in all sorts of outfits.
The theme of the show was Final Fantasy, as Final Fantasy XV and numerous spin-offs, remakes, and ports were featured. This includes:
· Final Fantasy XV (PS4/XB1)
· Final Fantasy Type-0 HD (PS4/XB1)
· Final Fantasy Explorers (3DS)
· Final Fantasy Agito (Vita)
· Final Fantasy VII G-Bike (iOS / Android)
· Final Fantasy World+Wide Words (iOS / Android)
· Final Fantasy XIII (PC)
There was a large booth for Final Fantasy XIV, where players were forming raids to defeat Ramuh and win a special TGS exclusive t-shirt. Unfortunately my FFXIV character was only level 20 at the time, so I couldn’t participate. Hundreds gathered to watch the raids take place over large screens.
I played Final Fantasy Type-0 HD for about 10 minutes and was defeated several times. The game has been described as being difficult, and a promised easy mode for the HD remake of the original PSP title was not available at the show. It played more like an action title and like most recent entries in the series, it would not have been recognizable to me without a Final Fantasy logo and the classic opening theme attached to the game.
I’ve been loyal to the mainline Final Fantasy numbered series over the years, and I actually liked XIII and XIII-2 in spite of their flaws. So, it was with eager anticipation that I viewed the new trailer presented at TGS. As mentioned above, this game was also not recognizable as a core FF game. The trailer emphasized a car race, and on that point an entire motorcycle spinoff was also featured, Final Fantasy VII G-Bike. What happened to chocobos and black mages with silly hats? The Final Fantasy brand no longer means “instant buy” to me – I have to check the game out first, and even if it’s good I can’t possibly play all the games Square-Enix is trying to release these days. This is coming from a die-hard fan who has seen the Distant Worlds: Final Fantasy music tour four times.
In contrast, the Dragon Quest series has remained true to its origins over time. I played the Dragon Quest VI DS remake for much of my train and plane rides to/from/within Japan. In the Dragon Quest area, they showed:
· Dragon Quest Heroes (PS4/PS3)
· Dragon Quest Monster Parade (Web)
· Dragon Quest Monsters Super Light (iOS / Android)
· Dragon Quest VIII (iOS / Android)
· Dragon Quest IV (iOS / Android)
· Dragon Quest X (3DS)
Dragon Quest Heroes is a Dynasty Warriors hack and slash style game, similar to the Hyrule Warriors game featuring the Zelda characters that was recently released for the Wii U. I’ve always loved the Dragon Quest graphic style, so seeing the wide array of monsters in beautiful 1080p HD was really nice. The game was not playable and was only shown via a trailer.
I did get to play Dragon Quest VIII on an iPad mini. Typical of most smartphone ports, the touchscreen controls were less than desirable and there was significant sluggishness with load times given this is an upscaled PS2 game. DQ8 is my favorite of the series, but I can’t see myself replaying this 60-hour JRPG on this type of device.
I’m also disappointed that Dragon Quest X is likely not coming to the United States. The 3DS version of the game was shown, making this the fourth system which one can play the game, in addition to the PC, Wii and Wii U, but in Japan only. Given the size of the Dragon Quest fan base in the US and the amount of text needed to be translated into English for an online title, we may never see this game on our shores. I still don’t know why Square-Enix needs to make online titles like FF11, FF14 and DQ10 numbered games.
They also showed Kingdom Hearts II.5 Remix, Bravely Second (a sequel to Bravely Default) and Rise of Mana. None of these games were able to capture my interest, but it was good to see Square-Enix trying to maintain other franchises outside of their twin JRPG giants.
However, I did not see a single original franchise from them at TGS, a trend that was typical of most of the large booths.
[Clearly this is a magic duel between a handsome male cat and a black cat who looks like she's about to give up. -- CB]
Falcom is well known for the Ys series, and their big new game at TGS was the next entry in the Legend of Heroes JRPG series. The most recent US release in this series was Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, which was ported earlier this year to the PC, having originally arrived on the PSP nearly 10 years ago in Japan.
Falcom has its own in house band, Falcom jdk, who performed a live 30-minute concert both Saturday and Sunday morning of the show. For me, this was the most anticipated part of TGS and I was very eagerly looking forward to it. Their concerts feature an exciting mix of electric guitar, violin, bass and a vocalist. I arrived about 30 minutes early on Saturday to get a front row place to stand for the concert.
I looked around in every direction, and it appeared that every other person watching the concert was a Japanese male – no women, no foreigners. I met an American writer for RPGamer the previous day who wanted to attend, maybe he was there but I couldn’t see him. Falcom has invested more into their jdk band over the years, including adding a vocalist and touring in Taiwan. Everyone on stage was wearing t-shirts from the Taiwan tour. Their Facebook site talked about the concert for days leading up to TGS, and both concerts were live streamed on YouTube.
People were rocking out and cheering throughout the show, it was a lot of fun.
Overall, TGS was a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to be in Japan at that time. Western games were few and far between; I did see Dragon Age Inquisition and a few other western RPGs, but I don’t think that detracted from the experience.
A gamer cannot travel to the home of otaku and gaming without buying merchandise! There was another section of TGS available for buying goods, and I also made my way to Akihabara on the trip as well. Most of the items for sale at TGS were overpriced, especially the Square-Enix stall.
I did pickup a Teepo doll for my daughter from the game Tales of Xillia, which she loved from the moment she got it. Hopefully our dog doesn’t eat it, as it will be difficult to replace otherwise.
The Akihabara electronics district was my last stop before going home, as I didn’t want to carry lots of items in my luggage from city to city in my travels around Japan. Navigating the stores was fairly easy as signs gave some kind of indication of the type of merchandise sold on each floor of the store. A tip for potential travelers – in Japan retail is multi-level, so don’t ignore the higher levels of a store.
My best shopping excursion was at the Mandarake store, 6th floor. They had an impressive selection of classic games for all systems, and I was able to pick-up strategy guides for Famicom Final Fantasy games, some Ultima games for Super Famicom, and 2 remakes of the SaGa series on the DS that were originally released in the US as Final Fantasy Legend for the Game Boy.
Needing a bite to eat and looking for some adventure in my dining, I visited the Final Fantasy XIV Eorzea Café at Akihabara. The café is managed by Pasela, who runs several theme based cafes across Tokyo. Simply getting into the café was an adventure that required getting there at 10 AM to wait in line for nearly an hour to get a lottery ticket for entrance. Fortunately my ticket was successful and I had the opportunity to dine for a 2-hour window later that afternoon. English menus were available and featured Final Fantasy characters for each dish. My favorite was the Moogle ice cream toast.
It was a great trip and I was sad to leave. Overall, Japan is a great country and a very accessible place for tourists. Talk of the demise of the Japanese game industry or the Japanese economy is certainly premature, but all of the focus on sequels and spinoffs does concern me as a gamer, as without new ideas and originality the industry will slowly perish. But in 2014, things still look good to me.