By Hailinel 17 Comments
I came. I saw. I had a blast!
(Warning: Incoming wall of text!)
Despite being a Seattle resident, this year was the first time I've been able to actually attend PAX. After spending the past three days running around playing games on the exhibition floor, going to panels, and in general mingling with more like-minded people than I've probably ever been around in my life, I can say with certainty that it was one of the single best experiences of my life as a gamer. It's just an incredible experience, and I'd encourage anyone with the means to go to a future PAX to do so without hesitation.
Highlights of my three days at PAX:
- The first thing I did on Friday morning when exhibition hall opened was just dart in a random direction. With so much to see and do, I couldn't really formulate a plan, so I just went in a straight line until I saw something I wanted to try. That something I saw was Tatsunoko vs. Capcom at the Capcom booth. It was my first time with the game in any form, having never played the Japanese import, and it was a lot of fun. Crazy Capcom vs. action with colorful graphics, insane special moves, and an interesting roster of characters on both the Capcom and Tatsunoko sides. The game was on display at both the Capcom and Nintendo exhibits, and the stations at both were equipped with Hori arcade sticks for the Wii, which helped make walking up and just playing feel great.
- Speaking of Capcom, I ended up spending way too much money at their store on the show floor. By the time the three days were over, I had bought, at one point or another, Okami and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles for the Wii, statues of Poison and Cammy, and a Darkstalkers character art book. Given that, I should have learned a lesson (don't go near the Capcom booth, it will drain my wallet), but then I wouldn't have been able to...
- ...Check out the demo for Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles. The demo for this game was actually tough to get into. They were showing it in a pair of enclosed booths, and I had to actually sign up for a time in order to get in and try it. What I saw and played was really interesting. It's an on-rails shooter, of course, but the camera is always moving in a fashion that sort of resembles a handheld camera, so I had to learn to not only point the Wii Remote at the right spot to get a shot off on a zombie, but to also keep it steady in accordance with the camera's movement. It added to the frantic, "ZOMG ZOMBIES!!!!1" action of the game, and the demo left me fairly impressed.
- Another game I had the chance to try was Dante's Inferno, and honestly, I'd say that of the high-profile games I tried at the show, Dante's Inferno was the worst. The game really is nothing more than an attempt to ape games like God of War, but it's just not fun. There's no originality to the gameplay and it doesn't help that the game resembles the source material in no discernable way other than you play as a guy named Dante, and when you die, a quote from The Divine Comedy is displayed on the screen. It was severely underwhelming, and I don't believe I saw anyone when I was there that really appeared to feel differently. Unless something changes, it looks like Dante's Inferno is going to be a pretty horrific misfire on all fronts; gameplay, story, and marketing.
- On the other hand, I watched some people play the demo for the 360 version of Bayonetta at the Sega booth, and that's a game with some promise. Beyond the fact that the game is very, very unapologetic about its depiction of sexuality, right down to the point that the lock-on cursor is a lipstick mark, the game looks fun to play, and it shows the same pedigree of ridiculous action that defined Devil May Cry without being just a clone. I just hope that the final game is more Devil May Cry 1 or 3 and less Devil May Cry 2. Also, the lady that Sega recruited to cosplay Bayonetta at their booth was an incredible likeness, even if she obviously lacked the whole "living hair" thing.
- I didn't spend much time with RPGs at the show, but I did have a chance to get my hands on Sands of Destruction. The game was designed by some of the same crew that was responsible for both Xenogears and Xenosaga, and that lineage carries through in its battle system. If you've played Xenogears, you should feel pretty much at home here. I have a friend that's been following this game very closely since it was first announced in Japan under the title World Destruction, and from what little I played, I think she has reason to look forward to it.
- Over at Namco, I was able to find time for both Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny on the PSP and the PS3 version of Tekken 6. Broken Destiny looked surprisingly good, given that it was scaled down from much more powerful hardware for its PSP appearance. There aren't any Star Wars characters in sight, but unfortunately I couldn't get a chance to see Kratos in action because he was locked, at least on the PSP I was playing. As for Tekken 6, I really wasn't that big of a fan of the series until Tekken 5, and it looks like the game is retaining enough of the Tekken 5 feel that I'm more interested in it now. The number of playable characters in the roster is completely ridiculous and I have no idea how good the balance is actually going to be, but if they can maintain a good balance, I think Tekken 6 will definitely remain on my radar.
- First and foremost, the Giant Bomb panel was a blast. I must give props to the guys that participated in the beef bowl challenge. The "beef bowl" in this case was a normal ramen cup, except instead of hot water, the cups were filled with NOS energy drink. That is a vile-sounding concoction, but no one died, and the lucky winner received both a StarCraft II beta key courtesy of Bob Colayco and a free copy of The Beatles: Rock Band courtesy of Alex Navarro. We also had the chance to see some pretty funny videos, including some behind-the-scenes outtakes from the filming of the Giant Bomb iPhone app commercial, some behind-the-scenes goofiness surrounding Alex and the rest of the Harmonix PR team's trip to QVC, and video of Bob doing his best Karnov impression by spewing fire. To top it all off, we were giving a screening of an edited down version of the Time Trotters episode that never made it online, and I have to say that video was both funny and educational. I really did not know how to play Night Trap until the Time Trotters enlightened me.
- I went to both Penny Arcade Q&A panels, as well as their Make a Strip panel, which featured more Q&A while we all watched Mike (a.k.a. Gabe) draw Monday's Penny Arcade. Those guys are honestly funny in person, they enjoy what they do, and more power to them for it. There was almost no question that they weren't willing to answer, and some of the questions led to some hilarious moments that I just couldn't describe here. The written word just can't do them justice.
- My other favorite panel on the process of game localization, hosted by Alexander O. Smith and Joseph Reeder. The two gents previously worked at Square Enix and currently work together as freelancers, but they had a lot of insight into how games are localized, at least from the perspective of localizing Japanese games for English-language audiences. Most of their examples came from their work on Final Fantasy XII, the last really big project that they both worked on, and some of their statistics were simply eye-opening. Just as an example, of all of the text in Final Fantasy XII, roughly 7% of it was vocal dialogue that required not only scripting for actors, but also ADR (i.e.: Recording the dialogue so that the lines as spoken match the lip movement of the characters as closely as possible). In total, it took nine months for that 7% to be localized from start to finish. The other 93%, which required no voice work at all, took seven months. Is it any wonder why most RPGs don't have voice acting for every piece of dialogue in the game?
- My J-Horror Moment: As I made my way into the exhibition hall for the first time on Friday, I passed by a Japanese girl dressed in a school uniform that was handing out these black cards. The only text on it was the URL for a website. I logged onto it after I got home and discovered that it was some sort of odd game, possibly an alternate reality game or other elaborate advertisement, but I'm kinda scared. I feel like if I play it, the ghost of a Japanese girl is going to come out of my computer monitor and kill me in some horrific fashion.
- My "Whoa, the Giant Bomb guys," Moment: There was a section in one corner of the exhibition hall where there was a Japanese import/retro game store set up (Pink Gorilla. Look them up. They're awesome) along the wall facing a large replica of the '80s era Turtle Van from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As I stood between these points, I turned around, and whoa, hey, that looks like Ryan. And there's Jeff and Drew, interviewing some random PAX-goer. (Oddly enough, my first thought was that the guys all look taller on the internet). As a way of saying hi, I actually stopped and asked Jeff if he was still feeling the effects of the gin he had to drink the day before, but he was doing well.
- My Autograph Hound Moment: On Saturday, I stopped by the Pink Gorilla booth again and saw that they had both Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 1 & 2 for sale. I had been hunting them down for a while and decided to pick them up while I was there. After the Giant Bomb panel, both Jeff and Vinny were gracious enough to sign the cases for the games in my kind-of-bizarre way of honoring the Persona 4 Endurance Run. If you're reading this, thanks again, guys. I definitely plan to start up Digital Devil Saga 1 before my holiday weekend is over.
I couldn't cover all of the games I saw or all of the absurdity I witnessed at the show in this post, but I hope that this helped give you guys a good perspective of my time spent at PAX. It was truly an incredible experience, and I fully intend to attend the show again next September.