Long time no see, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to another edition of Go West!, your weekly column about Japanese games and the poor fool who writes about them.
This month has been super light on releases, so this week in addition to talking about new games, I'll be doing something a little different. I took a trip to Osaka this past week and met up with fellow Japanator Editor, Eric Koziol. In the same way that Tokyo has Akihabara, Osaka has Den Den Town, an anime/game mecca located in the heart of the city.
Follow me after the break as I talk about the meager selection of releases this week and take you on a tour of games that will probably never go west.
Releases for the week of August 19-25:
Rinne no Lagrange: Kamogawa Days Game & OVA Hybrid Disc
I don't think I ever expected to find myself writing about Lagrange after having dropped the show for Annotated Anime. Yet here I am anyway! Fate is truly a cruel mistress.
All jokes aside, Bandai Namco released a few big ones this week, the first one being this Rinne no Lagrange hybrid disc featuring an anime OVA and the Kamogawa Days game. The latter portion would appear to be your standard 3rd person mech action game with a Lagrange skin. If the Macross hybrid discs are any indication, Kamogawa Days isn't exactly going to have the depth you'd expect to find in a normal game release. You're essentially paying $90.00 for the anime OVA and getting a little game as a bonus feature. If you go in with those expectations I'd imagine you'll be able to avoid the crushing disappointment.
I know that there's quite a few Lagrange fans out there, so if you're really in love with the series I say go for it. This hybrid pack doesn't stand a chance of heading west anyhow.
The first of NIS' anniversary games, Tokusho Houdoubu is a visual novel following a group of television reporters who focus on chasing stories about the supernatural. I was originally really excited for this one up until I saw the character artwork. I'm still mildly interested, but the price is far too high for me to bite, especially with Soul Hackers and Project Diva f releasing next Thursday. Reviews have been kind of iffy as well, leaving me to wander 2ch in hopes of finding accurate impressions.
As for the chances of Tokushu Houdoubu getting a release out west? I think it's totally up in the air. NIS has a tendency to release most of their Japanese titles in English language territories regardless of how strange the subject matter might be. This could be a good chance to make some more ground on the Vita considering how few and far between game releases have been over there.
I'd say hold off on importing for now.
Well look at that, another anime game from Bandai Namco. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that these games take up 90% of their output on a yearly basis.
... oh wait.
Anyhow, Bakemonogatari at least looks to shake up the formula a bit, abandoning the typical visual novel style in favor of something stranger.You can select a character from the cast and then go on to have duels with other characters that basically amount to arguments with decision making and the like. I honestly have no idea how it works, but I respect Bandai Namco's attempts to come up with something interesting. Unfortunately, according to Famitsu reviews and what have you, the game is a piece of crap. I'd be more disappointed if I actually cared. I love the Monogatari series but it doesn't strike me as a good pairing with video games.
Import only if you're a huge fan and want to own everything. Much like the novels and anime, I'd imagine the language barrier is stupidly high.
Suzukaze no Melt -Days in the Sanctuary-
Years ago, a place called Mishiro existed deep within a forest where spirits were said to live. The people who lived there would have their wishes granted by fellow spirits and people were generally happy. As time passed, the small place became a large city with tall buildings and tons of residents. At some point, people stopped believing in the spirits and their powers. Segawa Akihito, a young man attending high school there, begins to work at the local shrine as his bloodline has all this time. It is here that he encounters a series of miracles that change his life forever.
And then he has sex with lots of cute anime girls.
The end. Import only if you're not tired of playing the same game over and over again and have a solid grasp of Japanese.
Den Den Town and the story of one man in Osaka:
For those of you unaware, Den Den Town is Osaka's answer to Tokyo's Akihabara. While significantly smaller in size, Den Den Town is a lot more centralized; walking from store to store rarely takes any time at all. Better yet, it's very close to Shinsaibashi, Osaka's fashion district. Regardless of what type of shopping you're looking to do, you really can't go wrong by heading in the direction of Den Den Town. It won't take long before you realize you're close either considering giant posters of anime and game characters start to become more and more prevalent the closer you get. It's hard to look anywhere without seeing a familiar character decorating a wall.
Interestingly enough, even stores that don't sell anime or game goods will use character art to advertise their wares. It's not at all rare to see images of Hatsune Miku adorning posters for Apple products as in the image above. This makes for a rather colorful shopping experience that you're not likely to find in too many other places. I strolled into several computer stores only to see the walls decorated with characters from K-On! and other Kyoto Animation productions. The cool part is that these tend to be images that are either drawn by folks at the store or heavily modified.
If you're a fan of figures and models, Den Den Town's also got you covered. Kotobukiya has a store located in the area, with plenty of figures in display cases for those of you not looking to spend money. This is actually a common thread throughout most stores here; there'll be showcase displays in pretty much every other store. Even Sofmap, one of the largest game/anime/hobby chains in the country will have figures on display. You could theoretically plan a trip to Den Den Town without purchasing anything in stores and still have a great time. The retro game shop chain, Super Potato, is the best example of this.
I can't even begin to count the number of times I've gone to a Super Potato just to browse the retro games. It helps of course that the stores seem to understand that this is the case, as they set up display cases to display some of the rarer items. Something I've come to find out by living here is that game and hobby shops do a really fantastic job of respecting classic games and hardware. Yes, there are shops like these out west, but not nearly as many or as centralized. There's just something magical about being able to walk into most game shops and take a walk down video game history lane.
But Den Den Town isn't all games. You can of course find the weird shit as well, such as the boobie mouse pads in the header. Strangely enough, I saw these at a computer store that otherwise wasn't selling any anime related goods at all. Along the main street you can't go more than 20 feet or so before walking by a brightly decorated porn shop. If you're in need of a quick bite to eat, convenience stores line the streets. Feel the need to eat a Hachune Miku chicken sandwich? Don't worry, they've got your back.
I could probably go on forever about all the cool places in Den Den Town but I'll spare you for now. When I lived in Osaka four years ago, I made trips to this place with my friends nearly every other day. Even when you're not looking to spend money, you can have a great time browsing and seeing interesting things. In some ways I actually prefer it to Akihabara because it feels more personal I guess. If you find yourself taking a trip in Japan and end up in Osaka, I strongly encourage you to come out to Den Den Town.
Just prepare yourself to see some weird stuff.
[That's it for Go West! this week folks. I'm glad to be back and I apologize for the long absence. It's been a busy few weeks, getting prepared for Tokyo Game Show coverage and finishing up other projects. The lack of big game releases certainly hasn't helped. Look forward to a first impressions of Dragon Quest X in the near future and thanks for reading as always! See you all next week~]
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