Raroos at Comic-Con Logo[For the third year running, GameSetWatch has sent our columnist Mister Raroo and his family to San Diego Comic-Con to provide a report on their experiences there. We’ll be running daily updates from the Raroos, starting with this look at Preview Night.]

A Perfect Preview

Life has been crazy in the Raroo household during the past few months. In February, we welcomed our daughter, Yoshie (Note: She’s named after her great-grandmother, not the Nintendo character… though it is a bit of a nice bonus!). During March and April I was dealing with some medical drama thanks to a problem with my gallbladder that ultimately ended in it being removed.

I’m in the final stretch of my Master’s Degree program and am trying to make it to the finish line before running out of gas. And both Missus Raroo and I have felt like we’ve been busier than ever at our respective jobs. In short, we haven’t had much time for fun.

With that in mind, the promise of taking time off from work to attend San Diego Comic-Con has been something we’ve been looking forward to for months. Now that it’s finally here, I’m happy to say that based on Preview Night alone, the break from our hectic schedules is just what we were hoping it would be. Serious fun has already been had, and the forecast calls for much more on the horizon!

In the last couple of years, Comic-Con’s Preview Night has been something of a nightmare. Everything from the registration process to the wall-to-wall waves of attendees was nothing but a headache for me, and I feared the worst would happen again this year.

Much to my surprise, the opposite was true. We arrived for registration about 3:00 pm, and within fifteen minutes we had our passes and were walking to go grab a bite to eat. When we returned to the Convention Center to hit the main floor, the line management was smooth and we were able to get in right at the official opening time. Good job, Comic-Con staff!

The San Diego Convention Center is a massive facility, and Comic-Con takes up not only every square inch, but also spills over into some off-site locations as well. Impressively, this year’s layout seems to be one of the best yet in terms of traffic-flow, so hats off to the party responsible for planning the booth locations.

We happened to enter through the area of the Convention Center where the bulk of the exhibitors are actual comic retailers, as opposed to giant movie studios or video game companies. Hilariously, a couple walking behind us was whining that they were stuck in the “boring part” of building and quickly began plotting how best to get to the more “exciting” areas.

Dragon Quest Nerds!We met up with our friend Ian and walked around with him for a little while. Ian and I had each brought our Nintendo DS systems so we could canvass for other Dragon Quest IX adventurers in hopes of scoring awesome treasure maps.

We both figured Comic-Con would probably be one of the few times either of us would have the opportunity to actually come into range of other Dragon Quest IX players who had their systems with them, and we were excited to see how quickly our tag mode encounters came rolling in. I kept checking my DS throughout the evening and I managed to exchange data with twenty different people in but a couple hours’ time.

Speaking of Dragon Quest IX, Nintendo definitely gets my vote for best giveaway of the convention thus far. Both Missus Raroo and I walked away from Nintendo’s booth with adorable (and free!) Dragon Quest IX t-shirts featuring a picture of perhaps the most famous monster of the series, the slime. I would’ve paid money for those shirts, but Nintendo was giving them away for free with reckless abandon. Don’t mind if we do, Nintendo!

Nintendo had a set-up to show off Metroid: Other M complete with a big screen television and a comfy couch, and when offered the opportunity to give the game a whirl, both my son Kaz and I quickly plopped down and took a load off our tired feet. I was pretty curious to see how having Team Ninja at the development helm would alter the usual Metroid formula, and it was no big surprise that the game feels more than a little like Ninja Gaiden in Metroid clothing. I think that’s a good thing, in case you were wondering.

As I was playing quite a few onlookers gathered around, including some guy taking a video of me playing who turned out to be one of the original GameSetWatch editors, Frank Cifaldi! I took a few minutes to chat with Frank and found him to be a genuinely nice guy. He also gave me a confidence boost by mentioning how when he was working at GameTap a copy of an article I wrote for The Gamer's Quarter had been taped up on the wall for everyone to enjoy. Hooray for people actually reading Game Time With Mister Raroo!

But Frank wasn’t the only GameSetWatch personality that I ran into at Comic-Con. Near a giant statue of Bart Simpson I just so happened to bump into none other than Simon Carless. Seeing that I’ve been writing for GameSetWatch since 2008, it’s no shock that I’ve been in regular contact with Simon over the past few years, but I’d never had the opportunity to meet him in person until tonight. What stood out to me more than anything is that not only is Simon as nice in person as he is via e-mail, but he’s really tall!

Kaz Calls the Shots

It was hard to spend too much time at any one booth because Kaz was continually on the go, so it was difficult to get a lot of in-depth time with many of the video games on display. I didn’t mind too much, though, because our family will be attending over the entirety of Comic-Con, and on a couple of the days Kaz will be at preschool, giving us more time to focus on what the numerous game companies have to offer. Still, a couple of game booths did draw Kaz’s attention.

Capcom’s booth, for instance, had a photo opportunity set up to promote Dead Rising 2. Attendees could hop onto a motorcycle, put on a facsimile of protagonist Chuck Greene’s jacket, and wield a variety of weapons while posing for the camera.

Kaz insisted we get in line to take a photo, but in typical three-year-old fashion, he decided it was too scary to actually go through with it when we finally got to the front of the line. However, he still wanted Missus Raroo, Yoshie, and I to get our photo taken—and I ended up having to wear a giant moose head. Missus Raroo elected not to wear the jacket, though, as it was already becoming rather disgusting by being worn by so many sweaty attendees.

Kaz also seemed to enjoy watching me play Deca Sports 3 at the Hudson booth, though I was a little sad that Hudson had so few games on display. Besides Deca Sports 3, the only other two games were Bonk: Brink of Extinction and Oops! Prank Party. As I’ve written about in a previous article, I have an affinity for Hudson Soft, but I was slightly disappointed they didn’t have anything else to offer. I would’ve loved to see Lost in Shadow, for example, but it was nowhere to be found.

Hudson’s three game offerings all seemed like solid and entertaining budget titles, and I’m sure Deca Sports 3 will go on to sell millions of copies just like its predecessors, but nevertheless it was kind of a bummer to see so little on display from a developer I have a bit of a soft spot for. All the same, the fact that Kaz seemed to like all three games was at least an indication they’ll probably be great games for me to play together with him.

A 'RealThis year marks Kaz’s third trip to Comic-Con, but it seems like the first time he’s really starting to have a genuine interest in it. At the same time, he still views the world through the magical lens of childhood, and it was so endearing to see him coyly interact with a costumed man in line whom Kaz assumed was a real-life superhero. Yoshie, on the other hand, is too young at five months of age to really make any sense of Comic-Con, so she spent the majority of the evening sleeping. Every now and then, however, she’d awaken and look around with a bit of a confused expression before heading back to slumberland.

All things considered, this year’s Preview Night was one of the most pleasant Comic-Con experiences Missus Raroo and I have had in years. Everything ran smoothly, we were able to meet up with some wonderful people, and most importantly, we had a lot of fun. We’re more than a little tired from walking around so much today, but we’re anxiously looking forward to seeing what kinds of adventures the upcoming days of Comic-Con will bring.

[Mister Raroo is a happy husband, proud father, full-time public library employee, and active gamer. He currently lives in El Cajon, CA with his family and pets. You may reach Mister Raroo at mister.raroo@gmail.com.]