Welcome to another week of good, wholesome, all-ages Go West! fun. This week we have... uh...
Three games. Well then.
In light of this incredibly light load, I'll be talking a little bit about importing and what you can do to be better equipped for playing Japanese games, even if you can't speak Japanese.
Before that however, we have one high profile release from Level 5, creators of the Professor Layton franchise, Ni no Kuni and a wide variety of other games.
Follow me after the break as I jump through time and fight a giant planet devouring space-crab.
Releases for the week of July 8-14:
Time Travelers (Also released for the Nintendo 3DS)
This is a weird release for a company like Level 5 that normally deals in kid friendly games and more light hearted projects. Time Travelers is a Japanese adventure game directed by a man named Jiro Ishi, who's worked on some of the most popular and beloved sound novels in the country. Formerly an employee of Chunsoft, Ishi is well-respected for his ability to craft gripping, mature narratives. This shouldn't be too surprising when you look at Chunsoft as a company; they practically invented the sound/visual novel as it is today.
Time Travelers isn't quite a visual or sound novel. Events are acted out by fully 3D characters in 3D environments. The entire affair is completely voiced (save for narration/internal monologue) and there are whole sequences that play out without you touching a button to push the text forward. At the same time however, there are still plenty of VN-style moments where you're reading text onscreen and progressing the story at your own pace. It's an interesting combination that makes for a unique experience.
Like most Japanese adventure games, you're pushed to make important decisions at frequent points in the story. I've only played for about two hours total, but it would appear as though every set of options gives you a count of ten before assuming that you simply selected nothing. This leads to Time Stops. Time Stops are points in which everything freezes and you either have to make a different decision, or jump to another timeline to see if the answer you seek is there. It's a system remarkably similar to Virtue's Last Reward (from Chunsoft), and it works well here.
On top of that are the quick time events that require you to press certain buttons in order to avoid bullets, stop cars or do a variety of other things. I've yet to actually fail one of these, but I imagine events probably turn out quite a bit differently if you fail at the button presses.
There are five different main characters with their own stories to tell as you try and prevent the end of the world from taking place. I like some members of the cast more than others, but since I'm so early in the game those feelings could change very quickly. The bottom line is that I'm enjoying my time with the game and it's nice to play something so refreshing and different for a change. The narrative thus far has been really strong and I'm looking forward to seeing how it all comes together.
This is actually a good game to consider if you're learning Japanese or are an intermediate student in the language. All the kanji characters have furigana directly above them so that you can easily decipher the readings of certain words. Since the entire story is also voiced, I imagine it'd be good practice to read along.
I doubt this is going west, so I say give it a shot and import away! Remember though; the 3DS version is region locked and the Vita version is not.
Taiko no Tatsujin: Chibi Dragon to Fushigi na Orb
Taiko no Tatsujin is one of those series that I absolutely love because I always know what I can expect from it. I'm not sure how many of you have ever gotten the chance to play one of these games in an arcade, but the experience is hilariously awesome, especially with friends. The game is extremely loud and the sheer act of slamming on a giant plastic drum draws all sorts of attention to the people playing. Imagine two adult men playing an AKB48 song on one of those things in a crowded arcade.
The handheld versions of these titles lose some of that spectator feel but are no less fun for it. There's something to be said for the simple action of tapping on your 3DS screen like a madman to some chill music. I really don't know what's different about Chibi Dragon when compared to previous games, but I'm sure series fans know what they're getting into.
These games are remarkably easy to import and require very little (IE, no) Japanese to get by and enjoy. Be my guest!
I don't play sports games.
It's not that I think they're bad or poorly designed; I'm simply not much of a sports fan so the idea of playing them in a game doesn't really appeal to me very much.
Pocket Soccer League is a little bit weird because at first glance, it looks like a cheap, throwaway downloadable title. Ironically, it's a packaged, full priced release being published by Nintendo of all things. Digging a little bit deeper however reveals a game that appears to be filled with robust customization options that I'm sure would appeal to the soccer (football) fans. Given how little action sports games seem to get on the 3DS, this could be a great pick up for folks with Japanese 3DS consoles.
This is likely never making its way west, so importing will be your only option. Stats and the like are going to be in Kanji, but that's not likely to be an insurmountable roadblock for many of you.
Importing Japanese video games and some simple tips:
The act of importing your first Japanese language video game is no easy feat. There are a number of road blocks that stand before the average consumer before they could even think to try and enjoy a video game in a language they may not even understand. In this day and age, finding consoles that are region free is a wasted effort; companies seem intent on cutting down options that are available to consumers. But that's neither here nor there.
What happens when you finally get your hands on a Japanese game? Without any Japanese ability, isn't this a waste of time and money? Not quite. Provided you understand that these things take time, there are ways in which you can learn to play and import a wide variety of Japanese games without wanting to smash your face into your computer screen. Nobody wants to spend money on those kinds of medical bills after all.
The first and perhaps most important thing you need to do before even considering importing a video game outside of the rhythm genre, is learn hiragana and katakana. While not really the case, one could describe Japanese as being split into three different alphabets. Hiragana, which are the all-purpose characters, katakana, which are used primarily from words that have come from another foreign language, and kanji which comprise of the bulk of written Japanese. Attempting to learn kanji right off the bat is the best way to demoralize yourself and quit as soon as possible, so I can't really recommend that. You're not necessarily trying to learn Japanese (though if you are that's even better).
You see, learning hiragana and katakana allows you to at least read the most basic of words in any given game. By being able to read said words, you'll be able to then look them up. Depending on the genre you're trying to play, this could be more than enough to get you importing games left and right. Take sports games for example. Stats are of course a critical part of the genre, but if you can familiarize yourself with the Japanese letters/characters for certain attributes, you'll slowly get used to simply recognizing them the moment you see them.
And really that's the biggest thing that will help you in the long run; repetition. Depending on the genre of games you're trying to import, certain kanji/hiragana/katana are going to repeat themselves across the board. Even the difficult kanji characters will start showing up in different games, to the point where even if you can't read them, you know what they mean without having to look something up.
The final piece of advice I can give you is relatively simple; don't give up. Trying to play a video game in a language that is not your own is no easy task. Things will undoubtedly be extremely difficult at first and still be a challenge even after you get the hang of it. But if you really want to play those overlooked gems that will never get a chance out west, this is the only way to do it outside of learning Japanese (also recommended). Start with smaller games that don't necessarily have a lot of text in them (action, rhythm) and work your way from there. Some gigantic RPG is likely to bring you frustration if you attempt it right off the bat.
This might sound like a chore, but nobody ever said importing was easy. Just remember that there have been people doing this since the early days of gaming. If they could do it, why can't you? Go make it happen!
If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them below.
[And that's it for this week folks! You know the drill; leave your thoughts, criticisms, questions etc in the comments below and I'll be sure to stare at them attentively instead of doing more work. While I'm busy with that, you should go ahead and check out the Red Sun Gamer Podcast, in which me and three other Japan-side gentlemen discuss exclusively Japanese games, life in Japan and other fun stuff. Also be sure to follow me on Twitter, @RyougaSaotome, for up to date news, magazine scans and all sorts of goodness. See you folks next week!]
From other sites around the web