Definitely one of the most unique experiences in my life to date!
I was surrounded by enthusiastic gamers all showing their feelings towards games in different ways. Whether it was stockpiling a collection of retro merchandise from Bubble Bobble t-shirts, dressing up as Doom guy, facing off in tournaments or even attempting to break world records; this was a true event for gamers.
Upon arriving at EventCity, Manchester: I was nearly sucked into a gaming cyclone as swarms of people were near the entrance at the “Free Swag” wheel. A big wheel reminiscent filled with different free prizes but, just like everything good in life, it wasn’t free.
Fortunately though it only required the playing of any Nintendo game that was on offer nearby, not the worst requirement ever, and I duly obliged. I merrily made my way over to some Nintendo 3DS’ and relived my childhood by playing a 10 minute demo of Pokemon X. To me, Pokemon was the original 151 all those many years ago. Now I believe there are over 600 of the little buggers with even more ridiculous names than ever.
The last one I played was the simply excellent Pokemon Leaf Green. It was a perfectly realised and redone version of the first games. The new generation of Pokemon games seem to have maintained the same, successful, scintillatingly addictive gameplay. The graphics are larger than life and the gameplay is fun. Animations are very good; don’t get me wrong, I’ve not been ignorant towards recent Pokemon games; as I’ve watched videos of them and seen screenshots but just not played them.
I had definitely missed the feeling of battles and the demo tried to reach the centre of my pleasure responses by giving me a Level 100 Mewtwo; it was working. It effortlessly eradicated the opposition and I felt like a powerful trainer only for the demo to end.
But nevertheless, onwards with the tale! By playing Pokemon I was rewarded with a Nintendo stamp to take a spin on the wheel. I was like a kid standing in the queue bobbing up and down like a buoy in the sea. A Pokemon hat, Zelda stickers, Pikmin key ring maybe; it was exciting! And I’m not even a fan of Zelda but I wanted those stickers! I spun, it span, it stopped…Pikmin key ring…YES!…Next…..
I really wanted to soak in the atmosphere of the place as it was electric and so much was happening around me. In one area you had the UK World Record holder for Pac-Man free-handing his way effortlessly around that little maze along with the World Record holder for Missile Command. Another area you had more pinball machines and retro arcade machines than the mind can comprehend. They were both trying to achieve perfect games and whether they did is a mystery. Unsolved. Untouched. Unmistakably retro.
But one area in particular made me bear witness to an hour long queue, which I joined; to play Assassin’s Creed IV on PS4’s that had been brought for the Expo. After one hour of watching groups of people ahead of me (all itching to get a hold of that sacred new PS4 controller) get to play; it was my turn. I sat down and held it in my hand, it felt good and very comfortable with the new in-dented analogue sticks allowing more grip.
Even though I’m not the biggest Assassin’s Creed fan, it blew me away. The graphics are just flfldfionsv. I’m aware that flfldfionsv isn’t recognised as being an official adjective but it gets straight to the point. The water, the detail of people and landscapes are something to truly behold. The 20 minute demo was a snippet of the brilliance to expect with your new grog-infatuated assassin. Fire, violence, killing etc, it was everything you’d expect in a film trailer to wet your appetite for the real thing.
I walked away from the AC4 section rather satisfied and quite happy as my own PS4 can now not come soon enough. I was balancing my thoughts for AC whilst simultaneously enjoying the sights and sounds around me.
Catching my line of sight where a couple of awesome stalls that were selling different gaming t-shirts with a Bubble Bobble t-shirt putting a smile on my face whilst a Doom t-shirt made me want to fire a BFG. Somewhere near to that shop was another shop that perhaps even went to an advanced tier of awesomeness. It had Terminator 2 exo-skeleton replicas, notebooks from the popular Japanese manga, Death Note, gaming necklaces, pendants etc etc etc.
Whilst all that was impressive, the CosPlay on display was just so cool to be in the presence of. In case you’re not familiar with it, CosPlay or Costume Play is the act of dressing up and mimicking video game, film characters etc. I saw a Ron Pearlman inspired Hellboy, a girl dressed in an adorable Spyro the Dragon outfit, people in Fallout Vault outfits, a gang of 4 guys dressed head-to-toe with full gear as Ghostbusters. Oh and a guy dressed (with full body paint) as Blanca from Street Fighter with presumably his daughter as Chun-Li. If I become a parent then I will be following in his footsteps.
For now though, I still had a bit more to enjoy at the PlayExpo. I ventured round and found some more stalls and shop setups. One was brimming to the top with all consoles imaginable: Playstation’s, Commodore 64’s, N64’s, Sega Mega Drive’s and much older consoles that cavemen would probably have played on. Don’t forget the games! It was like a who’s who of retro gaming on offer to purchase with real money!!
Speaking of games, with time restricted due to inconvenient travel arrangements, I sadly didn’t have the opportunity to sample Dark Souls 2 or the Oculus Rift. I’m very curious as to how successful the Oculus Rift will work as my vision for years has been the possible emergence of virtual gaming and if it would become a reality. Watch this space, the Oculus Rift could be the gateway to a new world of gaming.
On the other hand, I was able to get up close to Dark Souls 2 and I could almost feel the pain and anguish myself without playing it. I played the original game, Demon’s Souls, and it seems that the games are worryingly increasing in difficulty. It will get to the point where you’ll turn the game on and die instantly. But the game was an amazing thing to look at and the gameplay looks as satisfying as its predecessors. The demo mainly featured you against a massive shining knight with a shield that would squash Arthur effortlessly. One strike from that knight seemingly proved to be fatal! Ouch.
Play Expo 2013 was something that I’d been waiting to be a part of my whole life. I can now say that I have been at a gaming convention and I can safely say that it was the first and that it damn sure won’t be the last!