Last weekend (12-13 October) at the Suntec City Convention Centre, GameStart 2019 opened its doors to the public, by which I mean its usual geeky demographic: esports fans, otakus, cosplayers, tabletop gamers - you get the drift. That being said, it was a lot less crowded than I thought it'd be.
On that note, it's also worth mentioning that "usual" is a pretty apt description for this year's lineup: gaming tournaments, tabletop workshops, indie developers, independent artists and creatives - not much out of the ordinary.
The layout was pretty much the same as any convention, with esports occupying one half and the tabletop games and artists' gallery taking the other. The flashiest area? Probably the fighting games section, which had this whole Japanese temple-esque decoration, a tournament stage, and was bustling with passionate gamers going at it in Tekken 7, Street Fighter V and Soulcalibur VI, among other titles.
The other half of the esports section was pretty quiet by comparison, packing the usual fare of indie developers, gameplay demos and event merchandise. The impression for this half (or quarter, rather) was somewhat middling, but I opted to keep an open mind. On that note, my first stop was the Marvel booth, where I had a go at the gameplay demo for Marvel's Avengers.
To be honest, it was actually pretty fun - gameplay is fluid, graphics are on point, and dodge timings are infinitely more forgiving than those of other games. *cough* Dark Souls *cough*
But that's beside the point. My only real gripe with it was a lack of dialogue, which I later found out was censored on purpose. Yes, it was a bummer - but I understand. So, fair enough?
After tidying up the baddies in the gameplay demo, I quickly gravitated away from the dark, shadowy aisles of the gaming section towards the brightly lit doujin art section - there really wasn't much else in the former that piqued my interest. Sure, there were the Cyberpunk 2077 and FF7 Remake booths, which I admit were still pretty decent, but I found myself just kind of skimming past most of the others.
Even in the doujin section, I found the variety of exhibitors this year somewhat lacking, which was a pity - I'd been hoping to pick up tons of art and memorabilia for my collection. Well, I did manage to snag some nice pieces from the Fate: Grand Order series in the end, so I guess the trouble of finding an ATM earlier that morning wasn't a completely wasted effort.
With all that said, I will admit they did catch me off guard just the once. On Day 1, I was pleasantly surprised to see a live performance from Taiwanese Internet music composer Vanros Kloud, also known as V.K on the MyRepublic stage. For those who can't quite remember the moniker, he's composed magnificent pieces for many popular rhythm games, such as Deemo and Cytus.
The performance was a really pleasant surprise - I had walked into the hall hearing "Wings of Piano" (one of my favourite piano pieces) thinking it was just some background music, up till the moment I saw the crowd, and realised V.K was actually playing the tune on stage!
On hindsight, maybe I just didn't read the itinerary hard enough.
Apart from that, the rest of the event was quite simply, "ok". Mediocre even. It's not surprising - GameStart has had, and will continue to see fierce competition from other, newer conventions here and in the region, not to mention Gamescom Asia one year down the road. Personally, I'd hate to see it end up in the bin, so the organisers are going to have to step up and diversify their game if GameStart is to make a pliable comeback (I know it's unlikely, but hey, never say never).