(Tristan’s note: Special Correspondent Zaid Tabani spent last week at the San Diego Comic Con International. Technical snafus prevented him from live-blogging, but in its place, we present an in-depth series on his experience at the expo. This is the first part of a multi-part series; be sure to check back often during the week for updates.)
I have this distinct feeling in my gut that I know what’s coming. I’m almost fairly sure of it. After 2005, I had my doubts, but I can almost be certain—gaming has gone to the masses. It’s no longer a guilty pleasure most of us hide behind our doors. In this new age, where media takes a hold of the masses, where art bleeds through the cracks of an industry, and where verbal spars ignite across the world over it’s relevance, gaming has become less of an afternoon hobby, and more a significant piece of culture. And where else to thrive, but the new mecca of pop culture… Comic-Con.
Ever since the convention peeled its eyes into the mainstream 2-3 years back, it’s gathered a name for itself within not only the comics industry, but the film, and software-development industries as well. It’s the next logical step. And it can only get bigger from here. Last year, games started to push upward through the con; this year, they seemed to step into the spotlight.
It’s about damn time.
Through the doors to the gaming bazaar, it was evident the attendees were MORE than just on their game. Sure, anyone could have pulled up a generic booth with a company logo, and a few TV screens (Namco). But not this year. Through glass cases, miniature versions of Sephiroth and Cloud stared out at you, the Ghostbusters walked around greeting there guests, and a large poster of Ryu stared down at his weary competitors over a boxing ring at the Capcom booth. Where was this at E3?
I started out at the logical focal point… Capcom. Last year, Capcom had an amazing booth. Devil May Cry 4 was playable, and while their other showings weren’t as strong, they made their booth a stand out with whatever little they had. Not the case this year.
This year… they had Street Fighter IV.
For the first two days of the Con, the wait for Street Fighter IV was upwards to an hour and a half… and the line NEVER slimmed out. Yoshinoro Ono, the Producer, stalked around the booth, watching his painstaking work be admired, and cheered at—as the fans welcomed home the characters they connected with so well since childhood. After the long wait, you were given a long signature headband, and sent to a machine with another rival. And man, was it worth the wait.
Street Fighter IV was everything anyone hoped it could be. It brought back memories of old coin op arcade sessions, and retained the depth that’s been prevalent throughout every entry within the series. The new focus system took some getting used to, but provided an interesting twist to the gameplay. And the engine was magnificent. The most surprising element here was how well the graphical style worked. The 2D feel of the franchise remained intact, while a new sheen of polish ushered it into the new generation.
In the corner of the booth, sealed away, lay the re-imaginings of the Bionic Commando franchise. Both titles had some interesting ideas at work, but noticeable flaws. The graphics for both titles remained stunning endeavours, however the direction for the new game needed to be a bit more fleshed out. The controls were a bit confusing, and took some time getting used to, and the difficulty was a bit rough. This wasn’t to say any of it was bad—far from it. But it’s an idea that could be pushed farther. And since it’s Capcom were talking about, I have no doubt it will be.
It really wasn’t any surprise that Capcom stole the show five days in a row. Not only did they have the biggest game there, they took care of each attendee. Ono-san seemed all too happy to talk personally with his fans(with the help of an interpreter of course). The staff seemed all too willing to hand out free schwag, and the booth was never short of any excitement. Tournaments for Street Fighter IV were held daily, while Ono san would sign posters whenever he got the chance. They even staged an impromptu costume contest, giving away one out of the 100 exclusive Chun Li statues they had been touting at their store all weekend long.
I left the Capcom booth impressed from day 1, and returned each day afterwards to find a large amount of enthusiasm put into their work, all for the love of their fans. It was no doubt everyone who left the Capcom booth, took with them an experience they would remember… not only because they twisted an arcade stick, but because they were treated with the respect they haven’t seen since the doors of E3 closed on them in 2005. As I walked away from the strongest gaming booth of the show, I was worried about where to place my expectations.
The good news is, I should have placed them high.
This was originally written for TSSZ News by Zaid Tabani.