London MCM Expo, and now, London Comic-Con, is a twice a year highlight for fans of quite a broad spectrum of media; with an increasingly strong focus on anime, there still holds a place for gamers and fans of science-fiction/fantasy television and film. It feels as though over the years of personal visits to London MCM Expo my interest has strengthened, yet shifted; there’s simply so many reasons to enjoy the weekend, a point made clear when you arrive. The entire outer area of the ExCeL centre at London Docklands is dominated by every kind of cosplayer, essentially acting as a huge meet up for mutual fans. It almost feels a separate experience from the shopping element of the expo, home to a huge array of booths and stalls. The gaming area is right in the midst of this, so for those primarily interested in demos of upcoming titles, it’s easy to make your way to.
There’s always a guaranteed abundance of Pokemon, Naruto and Tolkien outfits as you make your way around, with gaming characters often taking a backseat to what now seems primarily an anime convention. However, we caught a glimpse of some impressive highlights, one being the popular Sky Hook replica from Bioshock Infinite, wielded by a Booker DeWitt double accompanied by companion Elizabeth.
We spotted a troop of the Borderlands cast by the Dark Souls II booth, with a Psycho uncharacteristically wielding a digital camera rather than his usual Buzz Axe, following the eager example of many people queuing for a preview of the upcoming action RPG.
It’s always striking how much of a variety there is. Whilst the most impressive costumes may be those that visibly took a great deal of time, imagination and effort, it’s always fun to see mutual fans of lesser known games. I was very happy to spot an Arstotzka citizen paying tribute to Papers, Please, a wonderful little indie title that I recently reviewed here.
For many, MCM Expo means picking up some cool treats from some of your favourite anime, gaming and film delights that you don’t necessarily need, but certainly want. A memory I have from last year’s MCM of a £10 Final Fantasy-XIII figure I just missed buying made me vow not to make the same mistake again, especially when its online retail price averages at £40. Whilst arguably by the Sunday some of the best stock is gone, there’s the benefit of last-minute bargains.
Roaming through the crowds on our second walk through, we came across an adorable little booth owned by the Amazing Cake Co. A big fan of baking, I couldn’t help but somewhat fawn over the wonderfully decorated cupcakes displaying some gaming favourites, including Sonic, Master Chief and a great Harley Quinn.
Unfortunately their website isn’t open yet, but well worth checking out if only just to peek at their delicious Companion Cube gingerbread cookies.
Not only was this year my first Sunday at MCM, but also my first time staying to its close. On our way out, we came across a real gem of a booth covered with boxes bursting with an array of games for the N64, Gameboy, Playstation 2 and others.
Unfortunately our lateness meant we only had the chance for a quick browse, but even at 5pm there was a fellow last minute customer buying an N64 for £29.99.
Despite the MCM website being quite unhelpful in providing information of the Games Expo, it made for some pleasant surprises when we arrived. Not having much history with Nintendo aside from their handheld consoles, the Wii U was a new experience for me. Being there with two big The Legend of Zelda fans was helpful, as we decided to try out the new The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD demo on the console, a double whammy of novelty.
The game was a real treat to re-experience for my friends and to try for the first time myself, and the Wii U takes it to a whole new level of graphical splendour. The colours were startlingly vibrant; at one point, Link has to shimmy along a damaged cliff edge, dodging a great indentation of which fire regularly spurts out, either frying you or shooting harmlessly past – either way, looking like a huge step up from the original Wii’s non-HD graphics as well as the GameCube’s original — although the quality of the monitor’s we were using was probably significant in helping this be the case.
What made this preview special was the fact you could safely make this distinction. Helpfully, a GameCube was set up among The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD monitors, allowing for an easy (and noteworthy) comparison. Not only was this a mark of nostalgia for my friends who remember anticipating this game at its original release, but it definitely showed off the Wii U for its positives, if only to reintroduce very popular Nintendo games at yet more enjoyable levels. A praiseworthy feature of the Wii U controller that I knew little about was being able to revert the video to the touch screen, meaning you had the look and feel of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD handheld. The large controller and touch screen size goes from feeling somewhat unessential to being valued, and this cool feature enables you to make changes on the monitor yet continue your game. A member of Nintendo staff explained that whilst this is not available for all Wii U games, the controller has several hours battery life, making it possible for someone to watch television or even a film whilst you play handheld.
So primarily, it was a day of Nintendo fun – and whilst you can’t get much from a five minute demo, for any fans of the original The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the remastered version looks like a real step up. A fun element of the day was the chance to get stamps for each game you tried out; after two stamps we were allowed to take a go at turning a giant spinning wheel for a chance to win some prizes, ranging from key rings to Nintendo e-vouchers. My pot luck wasn’t too full, but we still came away with a Fennekin hat, a Pikmin key ring and sticker. Considering our contentment at having a quick look at some upcoming games, it was quite pleasing to have a little Nintendo memento.
Our day ended with a few races on Mario Kart 8, the upcoming 2014 title. It was good to see it further matched the appeal of Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed, of which the race tracks are dynamic through the fluid transitions of vehicle type depending on where you’re racing, be it through the air, on land or water. Mario Kart has that jovial familiarity and social lure, and the eighth edition is no exception; and with the introduction of anti-gravity, there is a new dimension to the races. Only playing the demo for a short time meant it was quite confusing without time to adjust to the new upside-down and vertical roads, but it does add a new, refreshing layer of challenge to such a long-running series.
One thing we learnt when we stopped for a bite to eat was how great events like these are for Nintendo StreetPass. There were countless people with 3DS’, and having mine in sleep mode for the entirety of the day gave me around 40 new Mii’s for my StreetPass plaza, resulting in a ton of new content; so even in quieter moments it was quite special seeing how many people were anticipating and enjoying the event through their personal messages, and how easy we could all interact with each other.
Thanks: Photos courtesy of Joe Brady.