When one of my friends said they were going back to EGX and asked if I wanted to come, it was a no brainer. I’d only been to Play Expo 2015 previously (which I really enjoyed) and had been a little jealous of my friends’ previous trips to EGX. So, I bought a ticket and downloaded the app…
The reason I wanted to get the app was so I could plan ahead. I always find I have more fun on days out if I have a list of what I want to see/do as well as have some ideas for food. I found the app pretty easy to use – the map was excellent and the list of games was very clear. I made a list of new games I wanted to play and was made up to see that EGX had a retro section too. My thinking was, even if the queues were too long for the newer games, I could easily slink off and play some retro classics.
I ended up setting myself three goals for the day. Firstly, I wanted to play on a Nintendo Switch. I’d never seen a Switch in action before and I wanted to try one for myself. Secondly, I wanted to go to the Sega’s stand as I’m kind of obsessed with Sega. Finally, I wanted to see the new No More Heroes game. I’m a huge fan of the original game and talk of a third game in the series had really got me excited.
Firstly though, I had to get to EGX. I’d braced myself for a frustrating morning before I could play any games, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The drive down to Birmingham was surprisingly easy and there was no issue at all getting into the convention itself. Even the cos-players bringing huge swords to EGX seemed to get in fairly easily, so full marks to the staff at the NEC. Naturally after getting into the convention quickly, our group wasted time by wandering around idly for at least half an hour. We were exploring the convention by wandering through it as quickly as possible, a classic male tactic for when you are in a new place and don’t really know what to do.
I’m glad we did wander to the end of the convention as this is how we located the Retro section of EGX. Right at the back of the convention was the Retro Library and various retro machines set up for gaming. My face lit up when I saw Super Hang On but it was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 that made me break from the group and grab a pad. However, I realised after thirty seconds that I had completely forgot how to play it…cue Tony landing on his face a lot.
From there, we re-discovered Super Mario Strikers on the Gamecube, an absolute classic. A couple of intense games broke out, during which I got accused of cheating as I wouldn’t disclose the controls. My counter argument was 1) I did disclose the controls I knew and 2) It’s Mario Strikers! Picking up any controls for a Mario game is easy! After three big victories (my friends won’t read this, so I can type what I like!) we moved on, with my status as some type of Mario Strikers guru confirmed.
After a look around the stalls and some very minty sweets (there really wasn’t enough sugary things at EGX, my only complaint) we headed back towards the front of the convention to see what was happening. I noted the location of the Nintendo and Sega sections, making a mental note to return later and we grabbed some lunch. I enjoyed my Subway, but their technical problems violated one of my many fast food rules, namely that all Subway subs should be toasted. Why? Well, it’s part of the experience – I can make a sandwich at home, but I can’t put it in a huge toaster oven and lash loads of cheese on it! Also, while I’m on the subject, MacDonald’s McFlurries should always have sauce on them, otherwise you’re just eating soft Whippy ice cream…
Anyway, you’re reading this because you want to know about EGX, not my weird fast food rules. After lunch, we strolled back to the Retro section and discovered the greatness of the Retro Library. Situated near the Retro consoles section, this was a divided off section of last gen machines. At first, we weren’t too impressed until we realised that the (super helpful and friendly) staff had a shelf full of games for these systems and we were able to grab whichever games we wanted! Cue a few huge sessions on some retro classics…Mario Double Dash!, Burnout 3, Call of Duty 2…The consoles were well maintained and the atmosphere was great. In fact, all of EGX had a good atmosphere, everyone was pretty laid-back. There was that nice balance, where there are lots of people, enough to create a good atmosphere but not too many people so that the stands and shops get too crowded.
Unfortunately, my eyes were struggling after Burnout 3 – those grainy PS4 graphics are not kind to aging eyes! It was decided that we take a break and after a quick wander and some refreshments (Cornish pasties and sweets) we headed back into the convention. At this point, we were hitting the middle of the afternoon and I realized that I had completely forgotten about the goals I had set myself earlier in the day. With time running out, it was time to act. So I wandered over to the Sega section first to see what Sega (and their excellent t-shirts!) could present.
Their main game was Team Sonic Racing, the follow up to the Sonic and All Star Racing games. I’d never played the Sonic and All Star Racing games before so I really wanted to give Team Sonic Racing a try. I waited patiently for a go, then eagerly jumped on the first available console. I wanted to like Team Sonic Racing….but I felt a bit underwhelmed afterwards. It wasn’t a bad game, but compared to Mario Kart, it felt pretty average. It might be a preference thing in terms of controls and feel…the main feeling I came away with was the drifting around corners lacked the satisfaction of Mario Kart, that the cars in Team Sonic Racing turned into a drift too quickly. The problem is, Mario Kart is synonymous with kart racing games so anything similar is going to be judged by the same high standards.
I then moved to the Nintendo section, a sea of red Switch T-shirts and full of people queuing. I felt like I was sneaking into a restricted area given the amount of roped off areas and attendants. However, I located a Switch with no one playing it on the Mario Kart 8 table and jumped into a race. Straight away I could see the appeal of the Switch – the controls are fantastic, sleek and small yet completely functional. I’d always questioned the idea of carrying the Switch around, but now it made perfect sense. This wasn’t a handheld console masquerading as a full console or a console with a tablet inspired controller, like the poor, misunderstood Wii U. This was a perfect example of a powerful home console that could go anywhere. Before EGX, I hadn’t really seen the appeal of the Switch….now i really want one. Not for the £300 they retail for in the UK, I’m going to wait a while…but hopefully one day. I think there needs to be more games available for it before I splash out it. Mario Kart 8 and Breath Of The Wild are great, but I already have both for the Wii U and bar Mario Odyssey, I can’t think of any other game I’d want to own on the Switch at the moment.
Well, I can think of one game I would want on the Switch….No More Heroes: Travis Strikes Again! Unfortunately, I couldn’t get near it – the new Switch games row where the playable demo of Travis Strikes Back resided had a queue and was being guarded by attendents. I don’t think the attendant on duty was too impressed by my request to “just have a quick look.” It was frustrating, but to me, queuing is a waste of gaming time. I’d rather play something, old or new, than wait for something that could potentially disappoint. I made the decision that I’d have to look out for Travis Strikes Back another day and moved on to the new Switch games that didn’t have queues.
I got to play Wargroove, a turn based strategy game from the publishers of Stardew Valley. Imagine Advance Wars with a fantasy/medieval setting and you’ve got it. The helpful Nintendo attendant at the Wargroove store talked me through the demo in depth and I quite enjoyed it..it took me back to the days of trying to play Advance Wars on my DS while riding the bus home from work, probably some of the most fun headaches I’ve ever inflicted on myself.
After letting someone have a go of Wargroove (I don’t like queues or starting queues) I moved to Windjammers, a port of the Neo Geo arcade game. I’d only heard about Windjammers from UpUpDownDown (the Youtube channel set up by WWE wrestler Xavier Woods) and I wanted to give it a try. Rather than let me play Windjammers by myself, the friendly Windjammers attendant took the other pad and we began a best of three series to see who was the best….windjammer, I guess? I lost 2-1 in the end, but my excuse was a lack of experience – the Windjammers attendant had probably been playing that game all day! I shook his hand at the end, not just for sporting reasons (he deserved to win) but because I appreciated him taking the time out to play Windjammers with me, teach me how to play the game and help me enjoy the full multiplayer experience of Windjammers. A cool touch to the convention from Nintendo – for the lonely wandering gamer like me, it was nice to have a friendly face explain the game and keep me company for a bit!
After a mixed experience on another new Switch game called Paladins (a decent fantasy FPS but setting up a multiplayer game took ages and I picked the worst character in existence), I found myself drifting back to the Retro Library. Reunited with the group, we decided to see out the day with a another blast of retro gaming. At this point, I was just trying any PS2 game I felt like. I had my first ever go of Timesplitters (a fine game and one I wished I had played back in the day), Soul Calibur 2 and Gran Turismo 4. Gran Turimso 4 was the end for me – I threw in the flag when I decided to turn left on a clear right turn. PS2 graphics are pretty harsh on the eyes and at this point, my eyes were done. It was time to head home, via Pizza Hut and the best desert in the world, the cookie dough with ice cream (another weird fast food rule…you have to have the cookie dough with two scoops of ice cream for perfection) in an ideal finish to a great day.
So yeah, I’m glad I made the effort to go to EGX and I would love to go next year. My initial worry is that there would just be tons of queues and lots of games I wasn’t interested in *coughTheDivisioncough* but I couldn’t have been more wrong. There was lots to play, both retro and new regardless of queuing. Attending EGX has made me interested in attending more game conventions – I’m already planning a trip to Play Expo next August! Hopefully, I’ll be able to return to EGX next year…providing I can work back the flexi time I took to go to this year’s event first!