Introductory Rant

Being in Japan, and with not much else better to do on a Saturday morning, I thought it was my duty as both geek and gamer to head down to Nintendo’s flagship event – SpaceWorld.

17 playable gamecube titles, 55 playable gameboy advance titles – and apparently 10 new gameboy color titles – but I didn’t bother myself with wandering down into that dingy corner of the hall. Unfortunately Nintendo had made a judgment call to not show the development video of the Zelda or Star Wars titles, a bit of a disappointment.

As for the gamecube hype: gamecube is not revolutionary, but it's the anticipated, expected and required stepping-stone for graphics and gameplay. Gamecube is a great system that does what consoles should be doing these days (interconnectivity with handhelds, impressive graphics, and of course – has games with what promises to be some great playability).

[b][i]First Impressions and Atmosphere

Getting to SpaceWorld should be easy. Its in Tokyo’s largest conference center (spread over about 21 hectares of land) – located a comfortable half distance between the main airport and central city. Of course, all this means is that the conference center is in the middle of nowhere, costs a small fortune to journey out to and means I had 90 minutes on the train to try and run down the batteries of my GBA.

Once you get in the doors (after passing roughly eleven staff with signs saying "Nintendo SpaceWorld 2001: This way" in Japanese) it’s fairly obvious why everyone is here. A few people stall to have photos taken under the entrance way, or to watch the first round of gamecube videos, but the vast majority walk swiftly to any one of the lines to have a go at the games. Playable demos, finished versions, development versions, all with a 1.5-hour wait time. Plenty of time to read the nice glossy 80-page booklet that was passed out to everyone entering the building (pity it was in Japanese, however I did enjoy looking at the pictures).

The Japanese did seem to take to the whole event a little differently than you’d expect from those of us back in New Zealand. Nobody seemed to be talking to their friends about surprises/disappointments or opinions on the games, nobody seemed really hyped, but it was somehow obvious that nobody was disappointed in the offerings. The attendees seemed to be mainly Japanese male youths (around 12 to 21 in age), and I was certainly in some sort of minority group (I only spotted one other white female, and she was there with her boyfriend). There were also a lot of mothers being dragged around by young sons (again, not so many daughters), and focus was definitely on gamecube (rather than handhelds) for all ages.

Every playable console had a dedicated staff member in attendance, these staff not only timed your gameplay down to the second, but also answered an amount of questions, and guided gameplay if it was required (ie: if, like me, you couldn’t find the damn attack button!). Each console was about 1.5 meters away from the next, however game volume was still good enough for you to be able to easily hear everything going on in your game, and not really be disturbed by anyone else’s. Every playable console (bar two) in the place was Nintendo violet, hooked up to silver Panasonic flatscreen TVs (25/29"). The handhelds were also Nintendo violet, but these were hooked up to small (14") silver Sharp flat-panel TVs. There were a few big screens scattered around the place, mainly for competitions (up to a 3 hour wait to get into one of those) on Super Smash Bros. Melee/Premium Fight DX. Of course there was the usual attendance of Mario, Sonic, Link and friends (I saw no Pikachu though... this is possibly lucky for the yellow Pokemon, but still very noticeable by his absence).

Once you got past the total of 82 games on what seemed like an infinite number of consoles and screens you had lost & found children, the Nintendo (read: Pokemon) merchandise corner, $4 cokes, the largest Pokemon trading card gathering I’ll ever see in my life, and several family picnics going on outside the venue. Fun for the whole family folks.

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