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TOKYO, Japan – They came. They saw. They conquered.

And many were dressed for the action.

Thousands of gamers — many of them cosplayers, so dubbed for the costumes they wear — flocked to the largest video gaming event in the world on Saturday to check out the latest offerings.

Tokyo Game Show 2009 held at Chiba Prefecture’s Makuhari Messe convention center featured 180 exhibitors from around the world displaying 758 games.

"This is one way to express myself," said a woman from Osaka, who gave only her cosplayer name of Jun.

Dressed as Stella Nox Fleuret from Final Fantasy XIII, Jun said the costume is a way to meet people with an affinity for the same characters in the games. "If I dress up as my favorite character, a person who also likes the character will know it right away," she said.

A woman from Shizuoka going by the cosplayer name of Shisui Kairi was dressed as Keel Zeibel from Tales of Eternia, wearing a white robe and purple wig.

"It’s a way to find out the latest information on games," she said.

The show had fewer exhibitors and large-scale displays than in previous years. Big industry announcements are often made at the shows, but there were no surprises this year.

"There’s not much coming out of this convention," said Marco Reumann, a gamer visiting from Germany. "I thought they would save some of their secrets for this. That said, it’s a lot of fun."

"It’s a lot less packed than last year," said Senior Airman Michael Koble from Yokota Air Base outside Tokyo, making his second trip to the event. "This year there are a lot less games to look forward to."

Showcased were many sequels of the top-selling video games. Among titles that attracted the crowd were Final Fantasy XIII by Square Enix, and Microsoft’s Halo 3: ODST.

Visitors waited, sometimes longer than an hour, to try out the games. The limited tickets to play Final Fantasy XIII and Kingdom Hearts were gone before the doors opened.

Organizers predicted about 180,000 visitors would attend the four-day event that started Thursday with a preview for media and those working in the gaming industry.

Sony Computer Entertainment chief executive Kazuo Hirai gave a keynote speech on Thursday emphasizing the success of PlayStation consoles. He also showed off the PlayStation 3 motion controller to be released in March.

Tech. Sgt. Robert McNeill, also from Yokota Air Base, said he came to finally get a crack at playing Final Fantasy XIII, which he’d been waiting a long time to do.

But it wasn’t only the games that attracted him.

"I really like to see people dress up in costumes," he said.

Stars and Stripes reporters Grant Okubo and Tim Wightman contributed to this report.

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