News from the virtual world:
— WHERE'S MARIO? The Tokyo Game Show is the biggest spectacle on the video-game industry's calendar.
This year, organizers expected more than 180,000 people to file into the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba, Japan, to check out the newest software, buy soundtracks and plush toys, and get an eyeful of the "cosplayers" dressed up as their favorite game characters.
But the 2007 show was also regarded as a bit of a letdown, thanks to the absence of favorite son Nintendo.
Nintendo's low profile — the company didn't even put up a booth this year — was particularly bewildering given that the Wii really started gathering momentum after its introduction at the 2005 TGS.
Other publishers picked up some of the slack on the Wii: Capcom showed off "Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles," Namco Bandai delivered "Soul Calibur Legends" and Sega gave fans their first look at the long-awaited "Nights: Journey of Dreams."
The most promising new Wii title was Ubisoft's "No More Heroes." It's the latest adventure from developer Goichi Suda (also known as Suda51), creator of the deranged GameCube mystery "Killer 7."
It combines wrestling and sword fighting with the black comedy that has become a Suda trademark, pitting a California kid named Travis Touchdown against a series of bizarre assassins.
"No More Heroes" has the potential to become the same kind of love-it-or-hate-it cult classic that "Killer 7" was; it's due in the U.S. next year.
— FAR FROM HOME: Sony has a lot of ground to make up in the current console race, with its PlayStation 3 lagging far behind the Wii in worldwide sales.
So Sony made its presence felt at the Tokyo Game Show, mounting the biggest booth and sending out new chief executive Kazuo Hirai to deliver the event's keynote address.
Hirai's at-times apologetic tone was in marked contrast to the bravado that Sony execs once displayed in the face of the PS3's sluggish launch.
He promised to reposition the PS3 as a game machine (rather than a Blu-ray high-definition DVD player), saying, "We must get back to the basics."
And he vowed to pay more attention to comments from players and developers.
"The results we have produced so far have been unfortunate," Hirai said.
One step toward pleasing Sony loyalists came in the announcement of the DualShock 3, a new controller that vibrates in response to on-screen activity.
Such force feedback had been a standard feature of previous PlayStation controllers, and it was sorely missed on the current generation.
But Hirai had some bad news too: "Home," Sony's attempt to create a virtual world a la "Second Life," has been delayed until next spring. (It was expected this year.)
"We wanted to wait until we could offer what would be totally satisfying for consumers," Hirai said.
The good news: "LittleBigPlanet," Sony's charming create-your-own-level adventure, looks to be coming along nicely.
— HEAVY METAL: The biggest draw at the Tokyo Game Show may have been Konami's long-gestating "Metal Gear Solid 4: Sons of the Patriots."
Attendees got their first chance to play a demo, and there were reports of up-to-four-hour waits to spend a few minutes with superspy Solid Snake.
Konami also let gamers go head to head with demos of the multiplayer "Metal Gear Online."
Square Enix and Disney announced three new portable installments — one each for the Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable and mobile phones — of their best-selling "Kingdom Hearts" franchise.
Sega promoted the third chapter of its "Yakuza" crime saga, and announced that part two would finally be coming to North America next year. And Ubisoft served up some hands-on time with its intriguing "Assassin's Creed."
And then there are those uniquely Japanese games that never make their way stateside.
Most discomfiting, perhaps, to the largely male TGS crowd was Namco's dating sim "Duel Love," whose demo consisted of wiping the sweat off a guy's naked chest.
— NEW IN STORES: If you own an Xbox 360, you're probably already playing Microsoft's "Halo 3." ... PlayStation 3 owners have a few options: Midway's "Stranglehold," Ubisoft's "Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of WWII" and Electronic Arts' "Skate." ... Sony begins the pro basketball season with "NBA 08" (for the PS3, PS2 and PlayStation Portable).