Want to know what toys Japanese kinds are going to be playing with this year? Then the World Hobby Fair is your place to go. Put on by toy and game businesses, the show gives kids the chance to play with all the newest stuff and gives the companies lots of feedback about what’s hot or not.
This year was dominated by Pokemon, Gundam, and Inazuma Eleven, with all three licenses being spread over a wide variety of merchandise and crossovers. Nintendo and Sony both had a substantial presence, setting up large booths and lots of demos and tournaments. Battling toys were getting a lot of attention, it seems kids want anything that lets them pit one toy against another in a brawl. Professional Yo-yo…ers?..ists? were drawing crowds teaching tricks and hosting shows. Girl-focused games like Pretty Rhythm, Tamagotchi, and Cooking Mama were bringing in lots of players too.
Our picks for the best of the show? The Taiko no Tatsujin game being demoed inside a giant snow globe, the very unusual pairing of feudal Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga with Pokemon, and the Sony shrine featuring Playstation characters and selling good-luck charms.
Here are the pictures, scroll over for a description.
Let’s take a look at some of the add-ons available for the Nintendo 3DS.
First up is the Rakuoki, a simple stand to allow for easy writing. It’s not too expensive at ¥940.
Next, we have the Handle, a steering wheel for racers. It might not be the best with the 3D on though, since moving the console tends to distort the 3D effect. At ¥1150, it too is also rather inexpensive.
Finally, the one that’s making big news, the Slidepad. This add-on was released in conjunction with Monster Hunter Tri-G and adds a second analog slider pad, 2 shoulder buttons, and ergonomic grips. It’s also an official Nintendo product, hinting that a possible 3DS redesign and upgrade is coming. It’s the most expensive of the add-ons available at ¥1500, but still not too much considering it may soon become a necessity. Here are some more pictures of the device:
The PS3’s most anticipated role-playing game, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, was released in Japan on November 17th. We’ve been playing it since day 1, and offer some thoughts on whether importing the Japanese version is a good investment.
First of all, there are no English options. It’s all Japanese, so even the most basic actions require Japanese reading ability. However, people familiar with Dragon Quest IX may be able to wing their way through it, as the two games are virtually identical in terms of gameplay. Some basic Japanese ability, as in being able to read katakana and hiragana, is enough to get through the menus and not get stuck too often. There is also an automatic help system in the game, a star marks your next destination on the minimap, so stumbling blindly is an option. But to enjoy the story, you’ll need to read and understand quite a lot of Japanese.
Why import then? Playing the game now is a big draw, as there’s no English release date yet. Level 5 tends to take its time localizing, just look how long the West had to wait to get the Layton games in English. And then there’s the book. The game comes with an absolutely gorgeous book called Magic Master. Hard cover, illustrated, about 350 pages – the guide book contains tons of story, enemy, and item information. Take a look at this video guide:
Is the game itself actually good? Definitely. It’s very much an old-school Japanese RPG with a deep story, large world, and a huge variety of characters. The graphics are spectacular, thanks in no small part to the brilliant art from Studio Ghibli. The music also gets help from the animation studio in the form of an orchestral score.
Unfortunately, there is one major design flaw: the boss battles. The game’s combat system allows one character to be directly controlled at a time, in real time. It’s possible to swap between allies and issue general orders, but for the most part, you’re relying on the AI to manage your two supporting partners. This becomes a devastating handicap in boss battles, where managing mana, switching between defense and offense, and positioning are required. The AI simply cannot survive a boss fight, and so the battles end up taking extraordinarily long as you’re forced to run circles around the enemy, slowly draining its health. Power leveling is pretty much required as well, which can become quite tedious.
In the end, it’s definitely not a good idea to import Ni No Kuni without some knowledge of Japanese. The Magic Master book is a big draw if you’re a collector, but probably not worth the shipping plus the game’s already steep price. Bandai/Namco has been signed on for English localization, so it should happen sometime in 2012. There’s no word on whether the guide book will come with it though. Hopefully everything will make it through translation and there will be some minor tweaks to the combat system, but even a direct port without the Magic Master book is still a great purchase for any RPG fan.
Fighting back hard against less-than-stellar 3DS sales, Nintendo is getting ready to release the next installment in the hugely popular Mario Kart series. Set to go on sale December first in Japan and December fourth in North America, Mario Kart 7 is sticking to what made the series such a success.
The Japanese website has recently been updated with preview videos for 18 race courses, and the game should have at least 38 courses when it arrives in stores. About half the tracks are updates and remakes from previous games, going all the way back to the Super Nintendo original. Featuring at least 16 characters, with the ability to add your own Mii avatar to the line-up, the roster has all the bases covered. The karts are fully customizable this time around, with the ability to purchase upgrades, like hang-glider wings and monster-truck tires, by collecting coins on the race course. All the classic items are available, and a nod goes to Super Mario 3D Land with the inclusion of the tanooki tail. And, of course, local and online multiplayer are ready for the true test of Mario Kart skill.
If past entries in the series are anything to go by, expect Mario Kart 7 to be a strong purchase for any 3DS owner.
We don’t cook much here at Japan Gaming Guide. We rely mostly on pizza and ramen for sustenance. Cooking games however are a whole different kettle of fish. We’re big fans of Cooking Mama and are looking forward to the 4th game in the series, which comes out December 1st. This time around we’ll get to cook steak, slice fish and prepare the only dish we can manage in real life – toast.
Capcom has released the first picture from the upcoming movie based on the Ace Attorney series of games. The Japanese title is Gyakuten Saiban, and it is scheduled to be released in February of 2012. Hiroki Narumiya will be playing the part of Ryuichi Naruhodo (Phoenix Wright), and he’s definitely got the character’s look down. There’s no news on whether or not the story will involve a case from the games, but expect the series’s main characters to be included. Takashi Miike is directing, so the film will definitely carry the game’s strong visuals. Miike is probably most famous in the west for his movie adaptation of the manga, Ichi the Killer. Pornograffitti has also been attached to create an original theme song.
For more information, the movie’s website can be viewed here (Japanese).
Scribblenauts is finally getting a Japanese translation. Hirameki Puzzle is the Japanese version of the game and comes out Januray 27th.
Scribblenauts has very original gameplay allowing players to solve puzzles by writing the names of objects on the screen. The objects then pop into the gameworld. What’s impressive about it is the huge number of objects that it recognizes and the many ways to use and combine them.
This and it’s sequel, Super Scribblenauts got a lot of people talking over the last couple of years and it’s easy to see why. It’s one of those rare games that feels completely different to anything that’s gone before it.
The blue hedgehog and plumber extraordinaire will team up once again for a new Olympic game. Mario & Sonic at the Vancouver Olympics will be launched to co-incide with the 2010 event. Excitingly, Nintendo are promising balance board compatibility which could be very interesting indeed.