My Trip to GameStop Expo! [And News + Reviews]

Hey all!

I embarked on an epic journey today. Where, you may ask?

The wondrous place called the GameStop Expo! Yes, the place we all wished we could go as a kid, just like Disneyland… or E3!

Haha, not quite so much. As a matter of fact, I just probably heard of it last year? Oh well.

I got buzzed last week after hearing about it, because it looked like a big deal. And it was.

But after hearing Nintendo would be in attendance, and the recent rumors from Kevin Pereira, I began speculating that the  Nintendo NX may be revealed this week, and then shown there consequently. Yes, I know, Nintendo would likely not have the NX playable on the show floor without prior announcement. But it was a possibility, and I live near the expo, so why not? It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I mean how would I feel if I didn’t go, and it was there? I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Here’s an overview video:

 

So I got there, and I was struck by how weird it seemed, compared to conventions I’ve previously been to or near, such as WonderCon and E3.
It’s probably because it wasn’t WonderCon or E3.
Yeah, that sounds about right. 😀

Anyways, when I got there, I saw some middle-aged guys in business suits from Activision walking out of the con (execs, maybe?). They seemed friendly.

Then, first thing I saw was the large Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Zombies Attraction.

Alas, it wasn’t open, though, so I decided to go on ahead.

Then, I get nearer to the convention center building, and I’m confused. I literally see everyone walking away from the convention center. In mobs.

I don’t know what caused this, but then it clicked within me: these are probably all GameStop Managers, and they were leaving a manager’s meeting, or going to the next one. They were all older people, so of course they were, right?

Anyways, so here’s the fun part:

I get inside the convention center.

I am a bit reluctant to enter, as I don’t have a badge, and there are no signs stating the instructions, as there are at bigger conventions. I walk inside, however, and see the check-in line. Completely empty, by the way.

I enter, and I have to scan my own barcode from the email. And then it appears they’ve ran out of badges (or the badges were just for VIP’s), so I just get a wristband to enter.

The funner part:

I finally enter the convention!

There’s an entrance to get to the show floor. I enter it. End of story (not really).

So knowing me, where do I go first?

Everywhere.

I wander the whole convention center and look around everywhere, taking pictures and videos of all the notable booths, like Xbox, Playstation, and all the various publishers.

I was excited to see all the big companies and publishers there. However, it seemed they all were just showing off a handful of games without much else, so that was a bit disappointing. However, what was available looked awesome!

But knowing me, where did I really go first?

The Nintendo booth, of course!

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As I enter the booth, I am a bit disappointed to see that the Nintendo NX isn’t there. Although I wasn’t realistically expecting that, haha. But what was there was very good! They were showcasing Paper Mario: Color Splash for Wii U, and a bunch of 3DS games. The 3DS games included Mario Party: Star Rush, Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past, Yokai Watch 2: Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls (combined demo), and Disney’s Magical World 2. And yes, I played every single one. Even Disney’s Magical World 2. As a Disney princess with a balloon.

Reviews

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So I’ll start with Disney’s Magical World 2. It actually wasn’t that bad! It was not really shovelware, as some call it. There really seems like there’s a lot to do. I asked the attendant, what the point of the game is. Like it seems like there’s so many things to do. She’s like, “well that’s exactly it. There’s so much to do and explore in this game, and that’s what’s so cool about it”. I’m paraphrasing, of course. I don’t remember the exact words people say!

While I felt a bit out of place playing as a young girl with a balloon in Disney’s Magical World in front of everyone at the booth, I wanted to find out what this game was all about, and I did… kinda.

I started in the middle of the castle area. The attendant told me I could do some quests if I went to the castle. I did that, but couldn’t find anything, so I just talked to every NPC I could find. I then went to a shop that sold fruits and other items, and it looked EXACTLY like the merchandise stores do in Disneyland. Same look, warm feeling, everything. In fact, that may be my biggest takeaway from the game.

Did I mention, this game has tons of items? I scrawled my entire inventory, and it was decked out. There were so many different things, it was kind of overwhelming. And it didn’t appear I could use any of it offhand. I looked at the tutorials, and there were like a million. Okay, maybe not that many. But it took me a good deal of time to look through all of them. I thought they were playable, and was surprised, but turns out they were just quick, single-image tutorials. So cool, that made more sense.

I wanted to go fight some ghosts, but didn’t find that. So I walked around a courtyard and found a cool portal! It took me to a beach. It appeared it was Lilo and Stitch’s beach (there was some reference there). I was the only one playing the game so far, but then a dad and his young son started playing (phew, I’m not alone in this). So I walked around the beach some more. I found a surfboard, and it said I could ride it! So I did, and rode in the ocean. I kept going to the right into the sea, but it looked like it never ended, and nothing else was happening on screen, so I got a bit worried and went back. Also, that father told his son it was time to leave. So it was my perfect chance for escape!

To Paper Mario:

I actually loved the game. Though it was hard to hear with all of the other noise of the expo, I genuinely had a lot of fun playing it. It was a special demo just for us. The demo pits you at the beginning of a level. You have to find 5 Green Toads, part of the Toad 7 Squad. The two were at the end of the map, and asked me to find their friends. Simple, right? Nope, not so much. I learned how to use my color hammer. The controls were pretty simple. So I had to backtrack, trying to hit every single thing sapped of color. Every time I did so, it exerted a ton of coins and a battle card or two, so it was exciting.

At this point, enemies came out of the woodwork as well (mostly shy guys and some friends). So I engaged in my first battles. It took me a minute to get used to the new battle system, but it was intuitive. The GamePad screen became just like a smartphone screen. You have to use your finger to scroll through your available battle cards, and then drag the ones you want to a top section of the screen. Once you choose two, you confirm them, and then proceed to a screen where you can use your hammer’s colors to power them up. My hammer was getting plenty of paint, so I powered them all up with no issues. The enemies were all wiped out pretty quickly. There were some spiny enemies too, so I had to use the hammer to get those guys.

Anyways, back to the Toads. So I had to backtrack to find them all, and they would be hiding in funny places. The first was closest to the end. I had to whack a nearby tree with my hammer, and the poor fella… fella down. Then there was this Toad House. I went inside and found one there. There was also a wardrobe, which sucked me into it, and had me play a minigame. The goal of that was to find the most amount of color-sapped palm trees on the beach and restore them. There were 60 seconds and only appeared to be four of them. I thought I did something wrong, since I finished so early, but apparently not. I got rewarded 30 or 40 coins at the end!

Then, I had to find the remaining three Toads. There was another in a green pipe. And another hiding behind the house (you had to go behind the house in a different camera view/area). I don’t remember where the other one was (sorry, long day!)

Once all the toads were back, you could talk to them all, and they would give you witty responses (for example, the one I rescued from a pipe said something like, “If this adventuring thing doesn’t work out, you’d sure make a darn good plumber!”

It was all the witty humor like this that made me laugh a lot. This time around, even in this short demo, the Toads said a lot of things you’d never expect them to say in a Paper Mario game (really clever, edgy stuff), and it was at the same time surprising, and hilarious to me.

At the end, you talk to the Toad squad’s leader, and the toads bundle up to form a bridge for you (aw, how thoughtful of them!) I smashed my hammer down on the “bridge” several times, and saw them say a resounding “Ouch!” each time. Ooops.

I cross the bridge and the star! But not so fast. A boss koopaling comes out to get me, and I battle him. Just like before, I have to use my battle cards against him. I’m primed on it from before, and I have a lot of cards at this point, so I just select the strongest cards to my deck. They wipe him out pretty quickly. For a finishing blow, I used the cat card (the one from the Treehouse Live E3 Demo). It was as glorious in person as it was in the stream.

After you defeat the baddie, you can grab the star. Once you do that, you go into this end-level scene where you’re on a platform and there are shining lights around you, and coins rain down. You have the star still shining above you, and you run around and get the coins. Fun! Then the demo ends. “Thanks for playing!”

Overall, I think I’ll really enjoy the game. The graphics have never looked better than in HD, and I really appreciate how everything looks like it’s made out of paper now (even the coins!) Additionally, the music in the demo seemed to be performed live, so we can look forward to great music in this title.

While it’s not the same as the previous Paper Mario’s, like Super Paper Mario and Sticker Star, this game has its own personality. While the Toad’s colors aren’t as expressive as in TTYD, each Toad’s dialogue is surprisingly expressive, and they all have their own fun and unique personality. In addition, their colors actually make sense. In this demo, for example, the Toads were all green, because they were all part of the special Toad squad. So of course it made sense. I can expect many different colored squads in the game, and I’m sure there will be some surprising characters in the end. Whatever you think the series may have “lost” in this game, it has definitely not lost its sense of humor. In fact, from what I’ve seen, this may be the most humorous Paper Mario yet!

Since we’re on the topic of Mario, let’s next jump to Mario Party: Star Rush.

I had forgotten about this game, so it was exciting to see it here. I played a demo. Though there were 3 or 4 people playing alongside me, the game was against CPU’s. I chose difficulty levels for them. Out of normal, hard, and even harder, I chose hard for two, and hardest for the other. My time was rougher than expected. I chose the quickest course (15-20 minutes), which was the cake map.

Right off the bat, this is a different game, because the map design is totally different from every Mario Party before it. All players can now move at the same time. I found there are just delays when everyone has to roll their dice. This game is more time-pressuring than previous ones, because now the other players can move all the time, even if you do not. So others can get ahead. Additionally, you can move to whatever spaces you want to now, with the spaces being nearly every  square foot of the board, with the only restriction being how many spaces you rolled on your dice. Once a minigame starts, the player who reached it first can start right away, while the ones who were physically further away from the game’s location on the board will have to mash “A” to catch up to the start of the game.

I wasn’t very good at the mini games, as I was figuring everything out. We played a few, and the game repeated. There are “?” spaces throughout, so I got on plenty of those, to try out their special abilities. This went on until the final boss. In this game, the player has to actually travel towards the final boss on the map in order to trigger it. I managed to reach it first on the map, and actually trigger the game! It was the fun King Bob-omb boss game, where you have to throw bob-ombs into the cannons, and they get shot at the big bob-omb. I did pretty well in this one, and I think I may have won! However, something last minute caused the hardest CPU to win.

So we had the final results ceremony, and of course, I won nothing. I wasn’t very good at it, and when the CPU level said “hard”, it actually meant hard. Oh well. This game’s mechanics were so new to me, I was just more interested in learning how they worked, rather than winning. It was fun regardless.

Overall, I really enjoyed the new Mario Party. While the change in gameplay is a bit odd, I think it will be very fun to play with friends over multiplayer, and I think it is a bold move from Nintendo to freshen up the franchise after so many iterations. The graphics are nice, and the level and minigame design are really good, as well. Overall, I think this game will be better with friends, but it seems like it’ll be a fun way to pass time, regardless. I’ll probably be getting it.

On Dragon Quest VII:

I won’t be reviewing this one too thoroughly. I started in the middle of the game from a save file. I think the graphics are great. The 3D effect is very strong, which I like. I think many other games don’t employ the 3D effect as much as they should, but this game stands out for implementing awesome 3D visuals. One of the few 3DS games where 3D really makes a huge difference. And it looks fine without 3D. But 3D enhances the image so much, it just looks so… flat after you turn it off. You adjust, but man is that 3D good.

Past the 3D, the game seems really solid. There were many enemies, and they were all easy to kill. I went up to this mountain, and then inside a cave, and found this tablet. I wanted to get back down, but kept going up instead, and eventually all four of my members died. I returned back from whence I came: the initial save point.

Overall, the game looked like a very solid RPG game. Great graphics, probably good sound (couldn’t hear it well), and the story seemed solid too, from what I read. However, it looked very long, so best be prepared for that if you jump in. I hadn’t tested out the battle mode too thoroughly, but the gameplay seems well put together too. This isn’t really my kind of game, but for RPG fans, it looks like a very solid game with a great story and visuals.

Finally, my last game!

Yokai Watch 2:

So I’ll admit, this time my whole focus was not on the game. The game was really cute, and I had a conversation with the attendee about it. I asked her the difference between the two versions of the game, and she said it’s a combined demo. I clarified that I meant only the final versions. She didn’t say much on the subject. However, I enjoyed the demo. I was guided through it, needing to find Grandma, which led to a couple small scenes. Then I was free to wander the town. I tried to catch a couple bugs, and it was pretty fun. I was struck by how pretty and clean the visuals were. It has a great art style. And the soundtrack is very modern to accommodate it. The game gives you a great feeling! I wandered around for a while, trying to catch the Yo-Kai, which I was unsuccessful at. Eventually, the demo came to a close.

I also asked the attendee some dumb questions. I asked if the game is kinda like Pokemon, since I’ve heard that, and she said, “Hmm… Not really. The game is really popular in Japan, though, with kids.” Hmm… Interesting. I then asked if the Yo-Kai were like Pokemon. “Get out!” She said. JK. She just said something like, “well not exactly. They’re really cute though!” I said I agreed! (Secretly, I thought the attendee was cute too, but I didn’t tell her that).

Overall, I enjoyed my play session of the game. It was the only demo that had a time limit. I definitely think many people will enjoy this game. It has the same kind of breezy exploration feeling that Pokemon does, which I really like, and the visuals and music are bright and beautiful too, to keep you engaged. The gameplay mechanics are very different from Pokemon. The attendee told me there were over 100 different kinds of Yo-Kai. The game seems like a fun break from Pokemon, and it’s something I’m more likely to try out now that I’ve played it.

 

News (?)

 

My talk with the attendee spanned a bit more than Yo-Kai Watch.

I told her I was hoping to see the NX there. She told the other attendee, and they laughed.

They said, “Yeah, someone else asked about that earlier! Yeah, some rumors, right? Yeah, no we’re not showing any of the publicly yet. You need to just stay tuned to Nintendo.com for the official announcement.” I wanted to say, “Well the last time Nintendo announced something on it was in March”. But I didn’t.

I then said, “Well I heard something about it being shown like in the past couple of days?”

She says: “Oh, you mean the GameStop Manager’s Meeting?” Me: “Yeah!” Her: “Yeah no that was something different, just for managers. We did show Breath of the Wild there, but that was just for the execs. The rest was classified.” I said, “Oh wow, yeah I was hoping I could play that here too!” She said, “Yeah, sorry! Yeah, that was just for the execs.” She told me, “Maybe you’ll see the NX and Zelda within the next couple of shows. But yeah, we wouldn’t reveal it at a public expo like this.” I said, “Okay, cool!”

I asked her if she got down time to try out the other stuff at the expo, and she said they got 15 minute breaks, but they’ve already seen all the stuff they’re showing at the expo, from previous events. I say, “Oh, okay, I see.”

I then proceed to ask her if she does marketing for Nintendo, and she said she does retail marketing on a contract basis for Nintendo. I say okay, cool. I then say how I’ve always wanted to work for Nintendo, and she says they’re a great company. I tell her I’m majoring in Communications in college, so I don’t know what field I should work in. Maybe PR, or the Treehouse? She said, “Oh yeah, the Treehouse would be a dream!” I’m like, “Yeah it would be! I think they hire a lot of journalism majors too.” She’s like “Mhmm.”

After that, she stops talking to me and lets me finish my game. Maybe she didn’t want to give out any more info. Or maybe I was just talking to her too much. I don’t know. She was looking away if I looked at her, even though I was going to ask her some pressing questions about the game. But she didn’t know that. I could have asked about the NX or something.

Anyways, my play session ended, and it was my last experience from the Nintendo booth. So I thanked her, and she said “Thanks for playing!” Then I left.

The general feeling I got was that, at least among Nintendo retail marketing employees, Nintendo thinks the fans who are baiting on every rumor are funny. Only Nintendo knows when and how they will announce the NX and Zelda, and it will be a surprise.

I’m going to take them at their word at this point. No more rumors. I will wait for Nintendo themselves to announce any new details. And it will be a surprise.

So that’s that.

But Wait, There’s More!

Oh wait, there was one more thing after that!

There was a fun Mario photo op! We got to turn ourselves into a Mario GIF!

So of course I did that. It was fun! And I got a physical printout too!

I think it came out okay. But hey, I’m Mario!

 

Also, I got another cool look at the new NES Classic Edition!

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Nearby the Nintendo booth, was a Pokemon History Booth! It looked really cool from outside, and I just had to check it out.

Here’s how it looked from the inside (taken with 3DS camera):

 

It was really cool to see all the Pokemon memorabilia, and to see the covers for Sun and Moon before their release! Also, they gave me a free Pokemon lanyard at the end!

Here’s me with Pikachu:

After this, I just peruse the rest of the expo. I wander over to the Playstation booth, where they’re giving out free giveaways! I got a shirt for The Last Guardian, and a limited edition Hot Wheels Gran Turismo car. Not too shabby!

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I consider playing VR, but considering the lines, and my limited time, I don’t. I then find myself at Activision’s booth, where I get a free Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare blow-up stick. Yay!

I check out some accessory maker’s booths, like PDP, Nyko, Hori, KontrolFreek, and Blue Microphones (that one had a raffle going on). They all had cool stuff. But I didn’t purchase anything.

I then check out some of the shops in the collectible area. Some cool retro shirts, including Atari and Pokemon, all with the Japanese characters on it. Nice touch. Nothing appealed to me enough to justify the purchase though (actually, I regret not getting the Pokemon one a bit now).

My final stop was the Sega booth.

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They had a new Atlus game, Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice, and Sonic Mania up on display. Of course I had to try Sonic Mania! I played the first level, the Green Hill Zone and was surprised by how retro Sonic it was. It looked exactly like the originals. Maybe even too much. It kept the retro look, without looking like they updated the graphics to look really crisp in HD. However, I suppose that’s what they were going for: to actually look as close to the original as possible. However, the gameplay and music were great, and just how you remember in the original. Except with some cool new twists. I got stuck halfway through the level and had to die a couple times before completing it. There was a boss at the end, that I had to hit in two ball points. If the ball turned red, when it hit you, it would hurt you. I literally had one ring left, and I had to keep catching that back every time I got hit. LOL. But then I finally made it, and beat the boss!

I also played the second demo level, Studiopolis. This one was harder than the Green Hill Zone. It was really confusing, and you had to keep moving forward, and up and down and back. However, the level design was A+. It was kind of a city, industrial-like area as seen at night. There were many elevators and bouncy balls. Once I got to near the end, there were Eggman elevators. I got stuck in this olevel a lot too, but eventually I went up, up, and up, and made it to the end! There was a wheel I hit at the end that decided if I’d fight Eggman at the end. To my relief (dismay?), I did not!

Overall, I really enjoyed the new Sonic Mania! I was excited it was there, as I didn’t have a chance to play it at its premiere: the Sonic 25th Anniversary Party in San Diego. Though the graphics were different than I expected, it was really fun, and I can’t wait to play more!

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Final Travels

Once I was finished at the Sega booth, the convention was finally closing. I started making my way out. On my way back, I encountered the Razer booth, where they were throwing accessories at rabid fans. I stayed to see what the hubbub was, but left after the commotion had ended. I also stopped by Blue Microphones’ booth, where they were calling out names for their raffle. More excitement there, as well! And alas, I made my way out of the convention. And back to class.

Overall, I had a super fun day! Even though I got there later in the day, and only stayed a few short hours, I enjoyed my time there. Besides having fun, it was a great learning experience for me. First off, from what I expected, I had learned what was actually there, and what wasn’t. Additionally, I learned how companies such as Nintendo, Sega, Capcom, and EA liked to market at events like this. And additionally, I learned how important the accessory and collectible manufacturers considered their presence there (I was lured over quite a few times by booth staff asking me to check out their wares).

I also learned that the NX was not there, and Kevin may have been trolling (but maybe he wasn’t, but who knows?). But more importantly, I learned that I can go to a convention by myself, and still have fun with what was there, no matter what I was expecting.

Second to most important, I learned how to get home without a phone. I took the bus there, and by the time the expo was over, my phone died. So I winged it, asked for a few directions, and voila, made it to my 7PM class 20 minutes late!

Most importantly, though, I learned more about myself in general. I learned I’m still a big videogame fan, but I choose to select good opportunities over playing the latest games (because these games will be available later, but the people and experiences here, will be unique.) I learned I can talk to anyone if I want to, while still being respectful. And I learned that my future is brightly ahead of me.

There are some aspects of my experience I did not share here, of course, but most of the good details are here. I had some good networking as well, for example, which was easier than I thought it would be.

Overall, I enjoyed my experience here. I’m a gamer, I love gaming conventions, and I can’t wait to share in the spirit again.

 

Did you like this blog? Did you read all the way through? Congrats! If so, let me know and I’ll do more like this in the future.

 

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For more on the Nintendo NX, check out our articles:

Everything We Know About the Nintendo NX So Far

Why Nintendo NX Will Support Unreal Engine and ARM Architecture

Animal Crossing and Miitomo Successor Launch Titles for NX + More – Developer Interview

-Noah Sanchez, Gamer Splash

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