Tuesday, February 19, 2008

AOU, Iron Maiden, and G3 Finals

Friday night I arrived in Akihabara as usual for casuals. Nothing too out of the ordinary happened. Played alright... won some... lost some. I stayed fairly late and then headed to Current in Shinjuku for drinking. I wasn't expecting the place to be very busy tonight but it turned out to be packed as hell. It turns out that tonight was the Helloween and Gamma Ray concert in Tokyo. I knew it was coming up soon but im not exactly a gigantic fan of either of those bands. I enjoy extremely cheesey power metal on occasion but I already decided I would go to Iron Maiden and it was too much money to throw down so soon for concerts. I said hi to a few people I know and then sat at the bar. Someone had informed me that some of the guys from Helloween and Gamma Ray would actually be coming to Current tonight after the show. Current has a history of a lot of big names coming there after concerts in Tokyo so this didn't surprise me much. Most recently, Jimmy Page and Dave Mustaine had visited Current. So after a while a few of the members of Helloween and Gamma Ray showed up. Kai Hansen was there. He used to be the guitarist and singer of Helloween but he later left the band and joined Gamma ray. The guy who replaced Kai Hansen in Helloween was named Michael Kiske (hence the origin of the name Ky (Kai) Kiske of Guilty Gear). Markus Großkopf, the bassist of Helloween was also there. I honestly didnt give that much of a shit that they showed up since I didnt even go to their show, so I didnt go out of my way to talk to any of them or anything. However, when I was sitting at the bar, Markus Großkopf talked to me briefly and we had a little toast and stuff. He was a pretty down to earth dude. There was this drunken Japanese fanboy that was like being all over excited and shit and just blabbering on about how much they rock and are gods and shit to Markus Großkopf. I could tell by the look on this face that he thought this guy was a moron but he was doing his best to just kinda deal with the dude without telling him to fuck off or something like that. So after a long night of drinking I headed out. I got a quick picture with Markus Großkopf just for the hell of it and headed out.

The next day I woke up and headed out to Makahari Messe in Chiba for the AOU convention and the Iron Maiden show (which luckely were right in the same building. When I arrived at AOU the show had already been going on for several hours so there was no line to get in or anything. I went to the desk designated for press and overseas visitors which ended up being the wrong one. They told me I needed a business card to get a badge from there. So the pointed me in the direction to go to where I need to buy a badge. I didnt see where to go at first and then some guy asked me if I needed help finding it and pointed me in the right direction. But then as I was heading over there he stopped me and just gave me a free badge. I have absoloutly no idea why but I was happy to save the 1000 yen it costs to get in and ended up getting free access to the convention. This was the same venue where the Tokyo Game Show was and basically AOU felt like a smaller TGS. It only used about half the space that TGS used. However, there were still booths for all the big name game developers. It didn't take me very long at all to find the Capcom section whos main attraction was SFIV. There was a long line to play, it took maybe about 45 minutes. They had several cabinets, I would say maybe around 12 or so. There were signs on all the cabinets that said no pictures allowed so I refrained from taking any since I didnt want to risk losing my place in line and not being able to play. However, later on before I left AOU I decided I would just get some footage since I was about to leave and didnt give a shit if they kicked me out at that point, so I ended up with a few pictures and some videos (some are far away and low quality while others are decent. I had to wait in line again to get close to the cabinets to get the decent ones.)

So heres about all the information I gathered about SFIV from watching and playing that I can think of off the top of my head. The character select screen features the original 8 world warriors on the top in 2 rows of 4 just as they were in the original SF2. Then theres a dividing line and Abel and Viper are in the center below it. There were no new characters revealed at the show. The way the select screen looks, it seems like there will only be 16 playable charaters total. However... theres no reason why they couldnt simply fit more in so I am not sure of this, but the way it was designed simply suggested that we may only get 16 characters. You can see the character select screen in one of the vids I took. Most of the old characters dont seem very different at all. There didnt really seem to be any new special moves or anything like that that I noticed. A few characters seemed to have gotten new normals. I remember seeing Dhalsim do a sorta floppy arm downward swat sorta punch move that I dont recognize that looks like a new normal perhaps. I noticed that the damage for this game wasnt very high in general. Throws arnt rediculous or too abusable. In fact, even Zangiefs SPD only does about 1/5 life. Abel seems like hes going to be a better grappler than gief from the little I saw of the game. His throws seem to do as much damage and hes a bit faster. However, I have nothing else to base this on and is simply a prediction from seeing a bunch of scrubs play the game for a brief period of time. I noticed that every character only has 2 colors. I dont know if this is only because its a demo but hopefully they will add more since they will get boring fast. So eventually when it was my chance to play, I ultimately decided to just play Ken since hes a character I am familiar with and it would be easier to compare the game to other SF games that way. I played against an Abel player. Characters have more than one super. Ken has both is original super from ST I also saw someone perform his verticle shoryuken super. Everyone also has an ultimate super but I was unable to find myself in a situation to try it out. The input command for Kens supers were for one of them to do qcf qcf p, and the other was qcf qcf pp (as in 2 punches at the same time). Meter doesnt seem to build very fast in this game and I found myself little opportunity to do very many supers (though I was using some EXes). One thing that stood out a lot to me was how laggy the dashes seemed to feel. When you tap back back or forward forward, it takes a little time for the dash to come out, the character doesnt start moving as soon as you hit the 2nd forward or back on the stick. I had difficulty canceling EXes into dashes and probably just dont know the timing for it. In general, some of the moves seemed to be hard to execute... sometimes I found myself missing simple things from time to time like basic hadoukens (which is by no means difficult). The counter attack move that is executed by pressing both hp and hk at the same time comes out a bit slow. It seems usefull but not abusable. I wasnt really sure what to do afterwards so ussually it just knocked the opponent down and did little damage. I tried to do an airthrow with Ken but nothing came out for some reason. Either I executed it wrong or they removed it from the game. Visually the game looks much nicer in person than in any of the vids. I would have still prefered hi res 2d sprites but for what it is it looks nice with the way they did the 3d graphics, and I dont feel the gameplay suffers as a result so much. In fact, it was probably a smart move since there will be less lag with online play due to the 3d graphics. The game still feels very 2d and feels nothing at all like SFEX. I guess it feels more like ST or CVS2 than anything else. As of now they game just feels very basic. I didnt know what the hell I was doing so im sure once I actually have time to sit down with the game rather than playing a couple of rounds and having to get off the machine, I can write better impressions since these are pretty uninformed and I didnt have time to try much out. My opponent didnt seem to know what he was doing at all either but he was playing Abel and just seemed to be trying out random stuff. When the game comes out for real in arcades I will sit down with it more.

As for BlazBlue, there was a long line for this game as well. Visually I think this game looks great. The 3d backgrounds look amazing and before the match starts it zooms from the background into the forefront and the transition looks great. The animation and characters look fantastic. Many people who were standing in line had magazines with stuff about the game and already seemed to know how to execute a lot of combos and do some good pressure strings and setups. I had absoloutly no idea what the hell I was doing. I got to see a move list for the 4 characters that were playable about 2 minutes before I got to play the game. When I got on the machine I tried out a few random moves to see what they did and then my opponent just started rushing me down all beastly. I played as Jin and he seems like a cross between Ky with a little bit of Johnny as far as the way he plays. One thing I found odd was for Jin and the chick with the guns, they have special move commands that are executed by pressing down up and then an attack button. Im not talking about charge down up like guiles flash kick, I mean you just hit down and then up like if you were to super jump and then the button and the move comes out. Personally I found this very irritating because when I would be crouching and then would want to jump and do a move in the air, i would wind up with the special and it really feels awkward. I took a photo of the command list and will post it in the pictures section. I also took some vids of this game as well, some are very far away while others are sorta decent. All in all the game feels pretty similar to Guilty Gear in all honesty... at least the basic way it plays. Air dashing, air recovery after combos, combo system feels the same. I didnt know anything really about the game specific systems so I wasnt able to test it so much. The main character, Ragna, seems to play very similary to HOS. Tager was semi Potemkin-ish but seemed different enough. I noticed he had a projectile that wall bounced on hit and lead to lots of combo potential. Noel seems pretty unique. Unlike SF4 where after the match both players had to get off the machine, for BlazBlue they let the winner play for a little while. The guy I played against picked the main character and while I almost took a round, he knew way more about what to do in the game so I lost 2 rounds and hardly even got to test anything out. The game will feature a total of 10 characters. You can see silhouettes of the other 6 on the big sign for the game above the display, I took a picture of this as well. The game seems like it can have potential and might be great. I really dont know enough about it, but that weird special move command is really stupid and I hope they change it.

As it was getting late, after I had walked around a bit to check everything else out I decided I would take some quick vids before I had to leave to go to the concert. I wanted to play again but I didnt have enough time. When I left AOU there were several long lines of people lined up outside in the hall way for the Iron Maiden show a few doors down. I could have probably stayed at AOU a little longer because it took a while to let everyone in but I was planning based on the time on the ticket which was wrong which sucks. Eventually I got in the concert. They already had the opening act playing before everyone got inside. I dont know who they were but they were alright I guess. Just some generic sounding band with a female vocalist. I got a beer and made my way into the crowd. The place was all standing and it was pretty packed. All the coin lockers were full so I had to take my backpack in with me which kinda sucked. I must say, the security there was pretty crappy. They asked to check my bag on the way in, and they just opened it, took my pillow out, and let me through, even though there was a ton of other stuff in there and I could have brought anything in with me. They might as well have not even checked. But I guess since Japan is a much safer country in general they just dont put so much concen into that sorta thing. Eventually Maiden came on. They played a lot of great songs and they had multiple backgrounds for the stage that they constantly changed featuring pictures from he albums which was a nice touch. Bruce Dickenson also dressed up in a few costumes during a few songs like in the Trooper and Powerslave for example. I took pictures of this as well. They also had a giant cyborg Eddie (Iron Maidens mascot, the name sake for Guilty Gear's Eddie) come out during the last song before the encore which was amusing. The setlist was as follows

Aces High
2 Minutes to Midnight
Revelations
The Trooper
Wasted Years
The Number of the Beast
Run to the Hills
Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Powerslave
Heaven Can Wait
Can I Play With Madness?
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden
Moonchild
The Clairvoyant
Hallowed Be Thy Name

I know the order was different but I cant remember it exactly but they closed with Hallowed Be Thy Name... probably my favorite Maiden song so I was happy with that. Im not really a hardcore Maiden fan but I did enjoy the show and it was good times. After the concert on my way out I ran into Masami (one of the bar tenders from Current). He was there with 2 guys he knows from Norway who were staying in Japan for about 20 days to visit him. I guess they were going to be playing a gig somewhere. These guys said they hated the show. I guess Masami bought the tickets for them without talking about it first so they were dragged along. These guys only seem to like black and death metal and arnt big on anything that remotley resembles power metal. I personally enjoy both but whatever. So it turns out that one of the guys claimes to be one of the best Tekken players in Norway. I told him he should go to Evo. He says every year they hold a tournament to decide who goes. He said he also plays other fighters a little bit, even a little Guilty Gear. We were thinking about stopping at Vegas to play a bit before heading to Current since he was surprised to hear that Tekken 6 was already out and wanted to try it out. We all stood and talked for a bit as we were waiting for another friend of Masami's. Her name was Kana and shes actually a friend of Mayuko (the girl who would often hang out with Chip). Mayuko was still in Hokaido visiting her parents so she didnt go to the concert. We all headed to the train station together and got on a train to head back to Tokyo. The train was packed and we could harldy move. Eventually people started to empty out and we could sit down. It was taking a while so I checked my map and it turns out that we got on the train going the wrong fuckin way. I simply followed them assuming Japanese people who live in Tokyo would know their way around the train system but apearently they dont go to Chiba very often or were just being carless. So we got off the train and then headed back the other way on another train and after a long while we eventually made it to Shinjuku. By this point we were all starving so we stopped to get some food at one of those revolving sushi resturaunts. This place also had draft beers for like 175 yen which is a fuckin deal. We had a lot of food and then headed to Current. We decided not to go to the arcade tonight since it was getting late already. The Norway guys will be staying in Tokyo for a while so maybe I will play againt them next week. So at Current it was pretty busy again and a lot of people from the Maiden show were there. Lots of Japanese as well as a lot of gaijin. There were a few girls there who were also doing the JET program that lived in Chiba. There was also this one girl there covered in tatoos who was an english teacher in Tokyo. She said how she was getting sick of doing it though and might just quit and become a stripper or a dominatrix. She said she has no problem tieing up some loser and whipping him as long as he doesnt touch her. I found that amusing. So basically I stayed till closing and got nice and drunk and headed to the manga kisa for sleep.

I tried to set my alarm somewhat earlier than I normally would because today I would be going back to Chiba again to Game Chariot for the G3 finals tournament. I wanted to try to play in the last chance qualifier. I headed right to the station and took the trip there but it took a little longer than I had anticipated and when I arrived they had already started. MIU was running the tournament and I asked him if I could still enter but he said it was too late. They were 5 person teams so I really dont know if I would been able to find a team anyway. In any case it really didnt matter since I was playing pretty crappy all day and would have most likely been simply a liability to my team mates. I was extremely tired and the competition was just rediculous. Pretty much all the best players in all of Japan were there, including the best of Kansai. They had 8 cabinets set up for casuals and 4 to run the tournament. The girl who often dresses up as the red Millia at Game Chariot was also there as well. The girl who often dresses up as the red Millia at Game Chariot was also there as well. It took forever to get a turn in since even with 8 cabs there were just so many players that you had to wait a long time. I hardly won any matches the entire time I was there and was just in a generally frusterated and irritable mood. I guess it was a combination of feeling a tad hungover mixed with the fact that I was very tired and showed up late and missed the tournament, in addition to all the players just being rediculously good. I beat Nemo and Abegen and a few other random matches but I was losing a lot. A lot of the games were fairly close but I just couldnt put in that extra couple hits which was very frusterating. While waiting for a match I talked a bit with Yoshio (aka spikey haired potemkin) and he told me that his SBO would be himself, Nanashi, and Maruken which is going to be another beastly team to watch out for. Eventually after playing for a very long time the finals started. I missed the first few matches as I was busy playing a match. However, as soon as RF started playing my attention was immedietly glued to the monitor. The final 2 teams were an East Japan team vs a West Japan team. The East Japan team was N (slayer), Haken (Po), 012 (Sol), FAB (Po), and Isa (Eddie). The West team was RF (Faust), Shonen (Testament), N-Otoko (Venom), a Millia player, and the last person im not sure. At the point in which I started watching the finals, Haken had just defeated N-O if I am not mistaken. After that it was RF vs Haken. RF defeated Haken and then he proceeded to defeat 012. Then RF lost to FAB. FAB then lost to Shonen. Isa then defeated Shonen. Final match was Isa vs the Kansai Millia player and Isa once again represented the sheer power and brokeness of Eddie all too well, taking the tournament for an East Japan victory. It was very hype and noisy during the finals and there was just a lot of energy in the room. I got pretty excited as well. After the finals I pretty much had to leave right away since the train I needed to catch in order to get home was coming in a matter of minutes. I said goodbye to MIU and headed out.

On the way home I pretty much slept the entire 4 hours it took to get from Game Chariot to my train station... I was just exhausted. Next week there will be some tournament action going on somewhere in Tokyo. I forgot exactly where but Ill check my arcadia soon and make sure to go. This time I wont have game shows and concerts to attend so I can focus much more on Guilty Gear and should be able to play much better.

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