In praise of the video game demo

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In Japan right now, the Makuhari Messe is buzzing, its halls filled with the hushed excitement of a Tokyo Game Show nearing its peak after three years of inactivity. It’s a strange feeling watching it all unfold from afar: one of the great privileges of my job in the years leading up to the pandemic was attending the Eurogamer trade show, and being in Japan as it celebrates its gaming industry was truly wonderful. How do you imagine.

I have enough anecdotes over the years to fill a pretty sordid book, though to preserve the dignity of those involved, and my own, very few of them will ever see the light of day (and I’m pretty sure Wes and Tom still have did not forgive me for the stress I put them through when they tried to drag me out of a Shinjuku bar in the early hours of the morning to catch our flight home).

Getting there this year was always going to be tricky thanks to the overzealous bureaucracy surrounding border control at the moment, but at least it’s been possible to keep up with things from afar, either through this week’s Nintendo Direct or State of Play, both of which, skewed expectations aside thanks to some weird leaks, there were some fun surprises, or the publishers’ efforts to bring the show home. At Woolwich, Square Enix has just put on quite a show highlighting their downright absurd slate for the rest of 2022: Diofield Chronicles! Harvest it! Core of the crisis! Tactics Ogre, while Koei Tecmo has just released a demo of the curious Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, a fascinating hybrid of its musou heritage with the soulslike action of Nioh.

Harvestella’s meaty demo, did I spell that right? Does it really matter when it comes to Square Enix’s increasingly absurd titles? – allows you to carry over your progress to the final game.

The demo is substantial and has swallowed up a couple of nights this week. I would even go so far as to say that it is something truly generous, its walled area: a colossal space full of dizzying possibilities enabled by the fantastic Chinese environment, and something that sets Wo Long apart from its predecessors, providing a satisfying standalone experience. experience. It’s a promotional beat I’d love to see more of, and a welcome twist to this new situation we find ourselves in is that demos once built for show floors are now getting a wider audience. For Team Ninja, it’s an opportunity to collect serious feedback as it gets this little slice — the first area the team developed as a proof of concept, I’m told, and where you can see Wo’s brand of martial arts-infused Soulslike action. length in its rawest form, in front of millions.

And I’m grateful to try out what’s on the show floor at the Tokyo Game Show from the comfort of my shed. Elsewhere this week, Square Enix’s Harvestella just released a healthy demo on the eShop, something that also took up a couple of hours of my time; in fact, all I’ve really been playing this week are public demos that have accompanied TGS, which reminds me of my formative years of gaming when demos were pretty much all I had. When money is tight, why spend forty quid on something new when four would get you a nice magazine with a cover disc that will allow you to play dozens of new games to explore?

I had saved up for a PlayStation but never had enough money for games, so almost all of my experience with that console was through demos. I’ve never played beyond the warehouse of the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, but every inch of that level is indelibly etched in my mind (along with the single Primus track that accompanied that demo). It’s one of my fondest gaming memories, and I cherish it as much as those special trips to the Japanese headquarters of Sega or Treasure when I was lucky enough to be at TGS.

So it kind of breaks my heart that I didn’t go to Tokyo for this year’s show, especially since it’s been one that has provided so much, from Radiant Silvergun to news, some seven years after Miyamoto first told Tom about it. Once, from Pikmin 4. At least I’ve had a bit of the show here with me thanks to those demos, and don’t worry because next week there’s a show on my doorstep that I’m sure to attend. It’s EGX in Excel starting next Thursday, of course. I hope to see some of you there – you’ll find me at the Street Fighter 6 booth, obsessing over yet another demo pulled from the TGS floor.

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