At just 5:45am, the alarm brought me back into the conscious world. Like a zombie, I reached out my arm and slapped the top of it, and was plunged into silence once more. Fitting really, as I knew the day was going to be full of the undead, along with Clouds and Laras. Of course the day wasn’t going to be an ordinary day; it was the day of the MCM Expo in Telford.
With over 5000m² packed full of everything film, games and anime, it was looking to be an exciting day out, and a busy one at that. Pulling up in the car at 9am, the Cubed Gamers team immediately made our way into the already large queue to eagerly await the inevitable mad scramble to get into the stall area first at half past. As more and more people joined us, all in their own extravagant costumes, you couldn’t help but feel the buzz in the atmosphere. Then, as the shutters slowly opened, the first thing to catch everyone’s eye was the huge booth for The Last Story.
Although the International Centre offered a lot to its visitors, this was it for the gaming section. A small 5x6m area, filled with people hoping to catch a glimpse of the latest releases – and the glimpse was about as disappointing as the booth. As soon as you had the chance to admire the games, you were pushed aside by a much bigger guy trying to do the exact same thing. Nevertheless, Resident Evil and Tekken were about as deserted as a care home on pension day, giving you plenty of opportunity to play to your heart’s content; too bad no-one really wanted to.
Okay, so that may have been a slight lie. If you weren’t bothered about new games, there were plenty of other places for you to visit, such as the DDR machine, the old gaming competitions or a couple of stalls in which you could buy gaming related items (including a NES. Yum.). However, the crowds around these made it impossible to take a look, unless you stood around for about 15 minutes, gently pushing on the person in front of you to give them a subtle clue. For the people who went there purely for their fandom in gaming, I’m afraid you were probably let down and your day probably ended much sooner than you expected, just as soon as Hironobu Sakaguchi had left the stage.
Before grabbing your seat for the talk, there were plenty of stalls at which to start impulse buying, as well as an area without any stalls which harboured crowds of cosplayers, much more than you could take in at once. For the people who usually come to the conventions, this was what it was all about, taking in the detail of the costumes and running around like a small child in a candy store. Whether you were into comics or just cute plushies, there was a stall for you, including a Hentai stall for the more… adult people there. After spending all of my money in a matter of minutes (and being treated to things that I couldn’t afford), I spent the rest of my time admiring my purchases and wishing I had enough money to buy everything,as the silliest of things look appetising when you’re stuck in a large room for hours. If you didn’t have any money though, there was enough entertainment to keep you busy, mainly in the form of huge chunks of metal whizzing around an arena beating up other huge chunks of metal. Yes, Robots Live was back for all to see.
At about half 12, we all gathered around to hear the wise words of Warwick Davis (that and we just wanted a seat for a later talk), which provided a few laughs, as long as you focused all your energy onto the stage and managed to block the rumble of noise behind you. Not the ideal situation, but what more could you expect in such as small area? As the clock ticked onward, the crowds grew more dense, not because they were interested in the actor but because they were getting worked up over the next guest. Once the talk was over and people started lifting from their seas, we were pushed into the second mad scramble of the day, this time ending with us getting a nice row of seats towards the back of the stage area.
Then, the host grabbed his microphone and said the most electrifying words of the day; “Mr Sakaguchi-san”. Despite the awful use of Japanese here, everyone’s eyes suddenly flicked up towards the front as the master behind Final Fantasy took his seat, drew our eyes to the screens beside him and The Last Story started playing. As the two screens were showing both gameplay and what appeared to be a trailer or series of cutscenes at once, it was fairly confusing as to where you should be looking first. Perhaps it made more sense if you could hear the commentary over the top, but we couldn’t, as the host appeared to be mumbling and the rows behind us all just sat there in a baffled silence, wondering what wonderful words were being said. Needless to say, we never found out and so each person started making their own commentary for the next half an hour.
It would have been fine if as soon as the guy stopped talking, Mr Sakaguchi hadn’t got up and walked away to a huge round of applause. Hold up. What were we applauding? He hadn’t said a word; he just sat there whispering to the person next to him while we watched some footage we could have easily have seen online in the comfort of our surround sound rooms. Fair enough, he doesn’t speak very good English but he could have at least tried or had someone translate for us? With an air of sadness above the seated fans, we all got up and left to carry on with the rest of our day.
The rest of the day being one more lap of the centre, complete with some Japanese food and half an hour of hanging around on the floor. After that, we all decided that there was nothing more that we could possibly do and got back in the car to get lost on the way home and keep our fingers crossed that the October Expo in London will bring much more enjoyment.
In conclusion, the day out itself was extremely enjoyable and worth the small fee of £9 to get in, but from a gaming perspective, it lacked what other years had shown it was capable of.