During this May 2009 weekend, I attended this convention at the Hynes Center in Boston, MA. Having never been to an anime convention before, I nevertheless knew what to expect. Lots of cosplayers, interesting sights, and the niggling feeling of superiority that are sure to suppress any uncomfortable thoughts about underage women in skimpy outfits... mostly...
I think I went mostly for the video game tournaments and the discussion panels were more of an afterthought. Fortunately, it turns out that even I can't play video games for more than a few hours straight, so I was glad that there were other fun things to do, chief among which was the Video Game Orchestra, who I had previously seen in March 2009 (Check out that review as well!)
Friday, May 22nd, being the first day, I spent a little while familiarizing myself with the Hynes Convention Center. The registration lines were very long, so I will definitely use preregistration for next year. But like all lines, I weathered the storm with my DS and Final Fantasy Tactics. The price was 50 dollars for the weekend, a good value overall, but I was wishing I had bought the ticket online. I really recommend doing this to anyone going to future events. It can end up saving you a bunch of cash, that you can promptly waste at the dealers' room!
Many attendees bemoaned the somewhat inadequate map, and while it wasn't perfect, going to the same places throughout the day made it eventually easier. Naturally, I found the game rooms ASAP, which was about 10 minutes after my arrival at 12:30 pm.
The Republic Ballroom was the first of two game rooms, located on the first floor of the Sheraton Hotel. Most of the games there were pretty standard; some Dance Dance Revolution machines and its various clones, Rock Band, and Halo 3 (natch...) All of these bored me, either because I don't like the game (Halo) or there were no cute girls bouncing around on DDR to "motivate" me to embarrass myself with my absolute lack of skill.
Probably the most interesting item was a slot machine with Golgo 13 on it. I know PAT the NES Punk is a big fan of that title, and as I greatly enjoyed his review on this mature themed NES classic, I thought it was neat to check it out. Check out Pat's reviews on Gametrailers and Youtube if you haven't seen them yet!
The big surprises were a PS1 with Super Puzzle Fighter II, I didn't expect anyone to want to play this game, but its simplicity really works well at attracting new players. Seeing as it only takes a moment to explain how to play, I soon had lots of challengers. The best thing about Puzzle Fighter is the way the Crash Gems (the blocks with 4's and 3's on them) work. Even if you think that there is no possible way you can eliminate them before your screen fills up, surprises can and often do happen. Which means trouble for your opponent (if you find yourself with some combos, either done by accident or set up for just such an occasion.) It is these kind of surprises that make Puzzle Fighter such a kick, and probably my favorite puzzle game ever (yes, it is better than Tetris!!)
Even better than that game was a 2D shump being run on the Dreamcast, one of the many homebrew-like titles that were released on the ill-fated system long after Sega was forced to pull the plug. I thought it was Trizeal at first, but it turned out to be DUX (from the creators of a Last Hope), which is interesting, as according to videogameimports.com, it isn't available until June 2009. Hmm, did they have a burn of a game that was released solely to prove that if not for BURNING, the Dreamcast would have lasted a lot longer? Or did I just blow your mind?
Unfortunately, I could find out if it was as such as the DC was locked in a case (wisely done to prevent theft!) and the people running the room were kind of stupid; the tourney times and dates were screwed up, causing me to show up for a 3rd Strike tourney Friday that was actually on Saturday instead, STUPID! Oh well, I would have lost badly as there were some Urien experts... Argghhh!
Mostly due to the lackluster game choices and apathetic staff, I went off quick to find the game room run by the professional group GPX, located on the 3rd floor of the Hynes. Now this room was more like it, about 30 TV's, several of which had projecters for the biggest games like Street Fighter IV, Tatsunoko VS Capcom, and Rock Band. There were also some unexpected sights, like a Sega Saturn with Street Fighter Alpha 2, an FC Twin (bootleg SNES/NES hybrid for the unaware) with Mario 3, and several rhythm type games, the highlight of which was an Xbox game with 10 different colored buttons on a huge controller. A pretty epic setup that had some VERY skilled players that were a lot of fun to watch.
Let's talk about Street Fighter IV first. Having never played this game or even seen it in action, it was a great experience seeing it played for the first time via a projector. I don't quite understand the system, but SF III: 3rd Strike vets told me it is closer to SF II than III, which makes me in no hurry to play it. When I heard parrying would be left out, I was pretty upset. I was psyched that we would be getting a new SF, but without parrying, it seems to be going for a more casual audience. Couldn't it have been a secret option at least?
Anyway, there was a SF IV tourney going out throughout the weekend. The winners of each of the day contests came together on Sunday for the winner takes all final, the ultimate winner receiving what looked like a deluxe edition of the game. I didn't watch it constantly, but I was seeing a lot of Zangief action. And I love the Gief man, ever since I took the time to learn how to do his very powerful throws. The crowd really lit up and cheered whenever Gief used a SPD or Super Combo to finish the opponent off. The best part was random screaming of FINAL ZANGIEF BUSTAA!!, which was just as awesome and epic as it sounds. Speaking of sounding, it still sounds to me like YAKQUIEF...
Speaking of first encounters, I saw Tatsunoko VS Capcom on a similar setup to the left of the Rock Band stage. It was great to see a Wii 2D import getting so much love and I had to check it out. It was a sweet game, with action reminiscent of the Marvel VS series. While of course I am not familiar with the Tatsunoko characters, that giant robot who looked like Gatchaman (sp?) definitely stood out, mostly because he is so powerful if used by an expert and the fact that he can't have a tag partner. The Capcom side had some surprises, like Viewtiful Joe, Batsu from Rival Schools, and Onimusha 4 guy (haven't played 4 for some reason!)
We haven't seen a 2D fighter on any consoles in quite a while, so seeing the sublime 2D visuals on this game were a bit of a surprise (especially since we FINALLY get a new Morrigan sprite! YAH!) A lot of the game just screams polish, from the nice backgrounds (my fav's the Tokyo city night with lots of lights and flashes!) to the super moves. I figure I should say this now as I might start some disputes over this. Ryu's super fireball is better looking than in SF IV, there I said it! It has a similar animation true, but when you consider how often people talk about the Wii underperforming graphically, the Shinkuu Hadoken is a visual treat! The other super moves are also awesome, but it was this one that stood out the most for me.
The last significant thing was the presence of a Sega Saturn with Street Fighter Alpha 2. Even though GPX said that they would have most every system (though I never did check in out if they had that Jaguar they mentioned) I was still surprised to see what might be the most overlooked but excellent console ever made. The unfortunate thing was that they neglected to bring a 2nd controller, any of the group representatives! This is a really odd thing as most of the games they bought were two players... So for the first day, I settled for playing the games I brought by myself, the funny thing is that the Saturn still attracted a sizeable audience to the chosen games. I brought the Marvel VS games from Capcom, and we hopefully all know how excellently those conversions turned on the Saturn, thanks to Capcom's cart that gave 4 Megs of extra RAM, these versions were pretty much arcade perfect.
It is too bad that I thought to bring extra games yet not extra controllers. I guess it was because GPX had posted on the forums that people were not allowed to bring systems, so I naturally thought that was extended to peripherals. The response to Marvel Super Heroes VS Street Fighter was so high (people loved seeing Norimaro and his crazy finishers, BEST ENGRISH EVER!) that I decided to drive the 40 minutes back home to get extra controllers, that's how much I wanted to play those games with other con goers. I think the two most important reasons were trying to show off the excellence of the underappreciated Saturn and its best games, second was the fact that my Saturn broke about a year ago, so being able to play these games again, with two players no less, was one of the most exciting things about this event.
Here's the links for Part II, III, and IV!