Game Start 2018: A comprehensive review by NUSCAS

GameStart Asia 2018 was back for its 5th edition in Singapore from 13th to 14th October, spanning across three whole Suntec Convention Halls. It played host to a number of different gaming-related niches – from game tourneys to tabletops to equipment and merchandise sales! Interesting experiences were waiting to be discovered around almost every corner. This year, NUSCAS sent down three writers to cover this exciting event.

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Meet our Reviewers

For Dawn, being a first-timer and having no idea what to expect, she was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of activities to partake in. Compared to anime-related conventions, not that much of the space was dedicated to merchandise sales. A good amount of it at GameStart was slated for tournaments, demo booths, and other free “quest” activities that would net you some (very nice) freebies and a chance to enter and win prizes from lucky draws. For those who wanted to hear from people in the game industry, there were also panels ongoing at numerous times of the day involving game developers or artists. She was most excited to meet Monster Hunter World directors Kaname Fujioka and Yuuya Tokuda from Capcom, but it turned out they were only onstage on the second day of the event when she wouldn’t be in attendance. So she resolved to make the most of her available day! Being an absolute sucker for free things (who isn’t, really?), she made it a point to turn up earlier to net as many physical keepsakes as possible.

Mindy, who was a first-timer at GameStart too, was similarly excited and curious about the event! Unlike Dawn, she was mostly interested in the Doujin Market with its wide array of varied self-made merchandise that fully showcased the creativity and passion the doujin circle possessed for their crafts.

Taylor, who had been to GameStart in the previous year, was more familiar with what to expect. As an avid viewer of the pro-League scene, she was highly excited to watch the SEA Major live again, which was an amalgamation of various pro fighting game tournaments. The intensity and passion exuded by the competitors as well as gripping, competitive matches were what she was looking forward to.

Mobile Area


First off was the booth for Cygames, an extremely popular Japanese video game development studio, well-known for gacha games such as Granblue Fantasy, and has recently collaborated with Nintendo to release Dragalia Lost. Its booth was favourably situated near the entrance of GameStart, with event-goers surely finding themselves immediately greeted by a towering arch that read Shadowverse.

The Cygames booth had split their area into the CyStore, where merchandise of their various mobile games were being sold, as well as a promotional area for their newest expansion for Shadowverse.

[A quick peek at the hole-in-the-wall early in the day before officially opening!]

As expected from official Japanese merchandise, the art on the items sold in the CyStore were breathtakingly intricate and beautiful, and Taylor, who did not play the games the merchandise were based on, still found it extremely difficult not to open her wallet and start splurging on the goods. She did find it a pity that there was no merchandise for Dragalia Lost (the only Cygames mobile game she played and was truly familiar with) but at the end of the day, she acknowledged that it was probably a blessing in disguise. Otherwise, her wallet would be in a far worse state than simply being burnt.

As part of their promotional event, both prospective new players and current veterans of Shadowverse were also encouraged to play one-on-one matches using the new demo decks. As a reward, each person would be given a physical, blind-packed card at the end of the match.

It was easy for Dawn to fall into the spirit of gacha and come back repeatedly just to get a full set of those promo cards! Everytime she glanced over and found the queue to be acceptably short, she unwittingly found herself stepping in line! Thankfully, she did eventually manage to collect the set with the help of some friends and by trading with strangers. The occasional cosplayer onstage nearby also helped to ease the monotony of waiting in line. She found it a pity that she didn’t make it for any photo-taking/meet and greet sessions with them though! She was genuinely impressed by the quality of their showcase.

[Challengers hang around to compete in 4-man mini tourneys to win blind promo card packs!]

[Just Dawn getting ready for a match using one of their demo decks~]

[Friendly employees ready to help out in explaining the game to new players]

[The 10 promo cards to be won]

[The cosplayer for Dark Angel Olivia, one of Cygame’s most beloved flagship characters! Those wings were meticulously crafted and just absolutely magnificent :)]

[A friendly trio of Spideys joined in on the cosplay fun as well!]

miHoYo [Honkai Impact 3]

Next up was the other big mobile game industry player on the floor – miHoYo, bringing Honkai Impact to fans in Singapore at last. Seeing that they brought a lot of cute merchandise over at very reasonable prices, it was unsurprising to note a fairly long queue and a number of sold outs by the early afternoon of the first day. There were also a number of physical and virtual free gifts to be won at the booth, the most notable being an expensive 200 dollar figure for the player with the best clear time in one of their demo setups. Though Dawn wasn’t a current player of the game, she followed their facebook page for a free Sakura promo card anyway! The art for the game is truly phenomenal.

[Honkai Impact 3, with a bunch of people crowding around the merchandise queue]

[The characters and goods are just super cute! This is Sakura, who takes quite some limelight this time with an adorable figure and featuring in free promo cards given out to anyone who likes the Honkai Impact facebook page. Needless to say, Dawn was quick to nab one despite not playing the game!]

[More interesting goods; that huge mousepad is only $20!]

[The highlight! A roughly $200 figure of Mei Raiden by Good Smile Company for sale and the prize to contenders with the fastest clear times at the booth demo!]

[Challengers at work for the prize figure. Ganbare!]


Other interesting booths in the general mobile area included Ponos with Battle Cats, fully decked out in kitty promotional material, as well as Disney with Epic Quest and more cute Tsum Tsum fun.

[Familiar faces are bound to be found everywhere in Disney’s latest Epic Quest!]

[Humanoid cats anyone? Badges, gacha and other prizes to be won!]


We proceeded to the left of the Cygames booth for their next stop, and in an almost striking contrast to the well-lit, relatively calm Cygames booth, it was the booth organised by Monster Energy, featuring racing games free for all to try in a dark environment. It was heart-gripping at times to watch the players pull off very close swerves.

However, the tenseness of the racers could not outmatch those of the competitors in the adjacent SEA Major section.

Competitive Gaming

SEA Major

With many gaming equipment set up for concurrent matches, along with a stage, a broad viewing screen and casters to complete it all, this was SEA Major 2018, one of Asia’s largest annual pro-gaming events for fighting games. It hosted the Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour, ArcRevo World Tour, Capcom Pro Tour (Asia Finals and Last Chance Qualifiers) and the Tekken World Tour. A noticeable crowd of people were gathered to watch some of the region’s best gather to fight it out for the prize pools and the chance to enter into the upcoming World Championship Tournament (DBZ), the Capcom Cup (Street Fighter), or ArcRevo America (Guilty Gear and Blazblue). As competitors on stage duked it out in, spectators below watched on with bated breath, occasionally letting out groans when a competitor used his special move.

Shadowverse Contender’s Cup

Right next door to the SEA major was its mobile cousin, hosting the Shadowverse Contender’s Cup, where the top four players of the Southeast Asia and Oceania (SEAO) region fought for the right to represent the region at the World Grand Prix in Japan. Interestingly enough, there were actual seats laid out for the public here, unlike over at the fighting games side. Perhaps watching an exciting real-time fighting game sitting down would have been too much of a mood killer? (Either that, or they simply ran out of space).


GameStart was also the site of the PUBG SG Community Tournament and the FIFA 19 Championship.

Unfortunately, we were not able to drop in at the right time for the action at these two tourneys. Nevertheless, Dawn decided to satisfy a bit of her gaming craze with some other retro and modern fun instead. The fact that beating up monsters at the Monster Hunter World booth earned you an extra large poster was just icing on the cake for her!

[Your monster hunting companion is always at the ready!]


Complimenting the gaming scene, a number of exhibitors at GameStart such as HyperX, Republic of Gamers and Armageddon were focused on showcasing the latest gaming equipment such as headphones, keyboards, mouses (mice?), and even chairs! From discounts to lotteries to the Secretlab Grand Prix, where participants engage in a short race backpedaling in gaming chairs, there were good opportunities all around to snag some spiffy new gaming equipment.

[What’s an event without event goods? That tankard is looking mighty interesting…]

However, while we marvelled at the newest state-of-the-art gaming, we definitely did not forget about the retro!


We found ourselves drawn to the RetroDNA booth displaying tons of retro consoles and games, which, compared to all the modern technology, was a breath of fresh air…or in this context, a breath of vintage air. Looking at the various retro consoles and games brought Mindy a sense of nostalgia as a childhood memory of her playing on one of these old game was evoked. It feels sad to know that most of the consoles and games are no longer available and difficult to find. Just opposite these booth was an area where visitors can indulge in retro games and reminisce about the good old days.

We then moved on to the next highlight of GameStart — the tabletop section!

GameStart Tabletop

It was sectioned off from the other parts of the hall with glass cabinets showcasing a dazzling array of tabletop and card games.  

Behind these cabinets, demos of new releases and in-development tabletop games were being held throughout the day, so all the curious visitor had to do was to grab an empty seat and partake in the fun.

As usual, Warhammer enthusiasts took the limelight with their astonishingly detailed and meticulously painted models.

[Painters hard at work getting those intricate details onto their play pieces.]

Dawn spotted a lot of other relatively less known games scattered throughout, and managed to nab a spot playing an indie board game still in development. Though she can no longer recall the name of that game (disastrously), and it did feel a little incomplete, she had fun learning it and giving feedback to the creators. It made the experience all the more engaging, knowing she could easily influence the outcome of the developer’s final product!

[Dawn trying out her hand at one game. Unfortunately, she could not remember its name…]

Funnily enough, Dawn also came across SGAG’s booth where they were quite enthusiastically promoting their Monopoly Deal-esque card game. They definitely took the pains to incorporate very relatable Singaporean tropes into the game and she had a good laugh examining each snarky card on the table. She would say that they’ve successfully managed to recreate a truly Singaporean experience!

Doujin Market

Last but not least, we checked out Doujima, where rows of fan merchandise were being sold. It was a rather small section but full of life nonetheless, and both Dawn and Taylor did pick up some merchandise from the very talented pool of artists gathered there. In fact, Taylor might have exceeded her spending limit and burnt a little hole in her wallet.

Overall, there were a smaller number of booths, which meant that there was sufficient space and the crowd was not suffocating. For Dawn, it was a much more positive experience on that front compared to the annual Doujima main event!

Concluding Note

In conclusion, we would like to end the review by thanking the organisers, both for the media passes and for a very well-done event. There were lots to see and do without it being overwhelming and the accommodating space really helped to keep the crowd manageable. The fact that food and drinks ares just a stone’s throw away, even if you decided not to purchase from The Santuary, also provided ample opportunity for stamina replenishment to keep spirits high throughout the day. Overall, it was a deeply enjoyable and fulfilling experience!

[The Sanctuary, where it was a little crowded, nevertheless a nice addition for the tired and hungry!]

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