Chris Walden suggests:
For fans and newbies alike:
Pokémon Black/White (Nintendo DS)
MSRP: $34.99 $31.96!
I'll admit, I'm a huge Pokémon fanatic. I absolutely adore the games, so I barely managed to live through the period of time when Japan has their hands on the fifth generation of games, while the rest of the world had to sit and watch. I was fully prepared to be dealt a harsh dose of reality when these finally arrived, as my hype levels were so high I could only assume I'd feel disappointed in one way or another. I most certainly wasn't.
I suppose the biggest qualm people have about this game is that the pre-existing pokémon do not show up until after completing the main story. To me, it was a breath of fresh air. If you can remember all the way back to when you first played a Pokémon game, where all the monsters you were encountering were new and unexpected, you'll get an idea of what it was like diving into these games. It also means that they can serve as a solid introduction to the series, without players having to worry about what has happened in the other games, and when Magikarp is going to show up.
This game, at the very least, has my choice for soundtrack of the year. That, added to welcome additions like animations, pseudo-3D landscapes and an actual story, it receives a very big recommendation from me.
For the friend that gets into fists fights and has slicked back hair:
Yakuza 4 (PS3)
MSRP: $59.95 $19.98!
I'd seen a few videos of this game earlier this year, thinking it looked pretty cool but never getting around to picking it up. After my trip to Japan in August this year, I came down with some hefty withdrawal symptoms and couldn't stop rolling about the floor singing the first Squid Girl opening. I turned to this game for medical advice, and it was certainly the correct thing to do.
If you like a bit of street brawling, enjoy spontaneously making weapons out of street objects and love watching yourself land a critical blow on an opponents face in slow motion, this is the game for you! It's visually stunning and very reminiscent of the Shinjuku area of Japan. Hell, you can even play UFO machines and pachinko should you want to! The story is also gripping, though this comes from a guy who hasn't played any of the previous three games. It has, however, made me a fan of the series. I'll certainly be making my way through the other games in the near future!
For friends stuck in a bullet hell:
Dodonpachi Resurrection Deluxe (Xbox 360)
MSRP: £19.92 (about $30 plus shipping)
It's not often that games like bullet hell shooters make it across the pond as an official release, but damn am I glad they do! The release of Dodonpachi Resurrection Deluxe may have been relative to the sales of Deathsmiles, which was also released last year. If you're a fan of the genre, then do your bit and support further localisations!
Unfortunately, it seems that besides the original Japanese release, this game has only landed in Europe. While an American release doesn't seem to be off the cards, rest assured that if you are desperate for the game, you can import the European version. While most 360 games are region coded, it is confirmed that this one isn't! Unfortunately for us, we aren't in a position to pinch the American release of Deathsmiles 2. Boo!
Elliot Gay suggests:
For the friend who misses the golden age of the JRPG:
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky (PSP)
MSRP: $19.99 $14.99!
Let's be honest. Lovers of the Japanese RPG have been having a hard time lately when it comes to good, quality games making it over the pond. Trails in the Sky is a criminally overlooked PSP gem that our own Hiroko had a blast with it earlier this year. Little known fact, but the Trails series is actually comprised of my favorite role playing games ever made. The series is now five games in, with this first title the perfect launch point into a brand new addiction.
XSEED's localization of this beast of a game (believe me, it's huge) is handled expertly, allowing the characters to truly shine. If you have any friends who yearn for a return to the PSX/PS2 days, gift them a copy of TitS (intentional). I guarantee you won't regret it. And hey, if the sales are good enough we might actually see the next four games in the series! Your call guys. Your call.
For the friend who loves to scream BUSTAH WOLF:
King of Fighters XIII (PS3/Xbox 360)
Why don't we all just pretend King of Fighters XII never happened? I think we're all a whole lot better off if we just moved on with our lives and picked up XIII instead. SNK has finally stepped up their game, delivering a solid, beautiful fighter to their fans and newcomers alike. If the crazily beautiful visuals aren't enough for you, stay for the strategic, deep and challenging gameplay.
Sure, the netcode isn't fantastic, but there's a pretty decent chance that'll get patched. What matters here is that you can finally play as Mai, swinging boobs and all. Priced $10.00 cheaper than the average PS3 or 360 game, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck. Pick yourself and your buddy up a copy and have fun beating the living crap out of each other while pretending to be Terry Bogard. What could be better?
For the friend who wished that Megaman Legends 3 was still a thing:
Solatorobo: Red the Hunter (Nintendo DS)
MSRP: $34.99 $19.99!
Ok, maybe the caption is a little bit cruel, but as a huge Megaman Legends fan I really do think that Solatorobo is worth looking into. I'm actually playing an English copy of the game now for review, but I own and have completed the Japanese game as well. Needless to say, I really dug it. As one of the many fans who waited ten years for a Legends 3, I found that Solatorobo scratched the right itch for me and made the pain go away a lot more than I expected.
The visuals are charming, the characters fun and the music memorable. Sure, the game is a little bit on the easy side, but there is a lot of content here to enjoy. Plus all copies of the game come with a free soundtrack CD! Don't let the animal characters fool you; this is a game filled with a ton of hard work and heart. If you have a friend out there who loved the Legends series or just enjoys a good adventure, gift them this baby.
Josh Tolentino suggests:
For the honorable friend unwilling to settle with PUTTING HE GUNS ON, and wanting to serve, for once, an actual OYAKATA-SAMA:
Total War: Shogun 2 (PC)
MSRP: $29.99 (Downloadable Add-ons priced separately)
For all of Japan’s influence on the world of videogames, there are surprisingly few videogames that are really about Japan itself, as a nation, with its own history and iconic culture. And though the likes of Samurai Warriors and Sengoku Basara could technically count as being historically inspired, players with a serious interest in Japanese history, particularly the time of the samurai, are usually left with little recourse but, to place their wishes on Ema and hope for the best while they chip away at the impenetrable Nobunaga's Ambition.
Which, of course, is where the British step in. The Creative Assembly’s excellent strategy game takes players on a whirlwind “what if” tour through feudal Japan, stepping into the toe-socks of one the many daimyos that put the “sen” in “Sengoku Jidai”.
The Total War series’ trademark fusion of turn-based strategic play with real-time tactical battling is as deep as it has ever been, with beefed-up battle and campaign AI, a spiffed-up interface, and gorgeous, lovingly-crafted visuals.
It’s a game made by true samurai otaku, and I mean that in the best sense of the term. Anyone with a PC, Steam, and an interest in strategy games should give it a go.
For the thirty-something in the midst of a quarter-life crisis, who also happens to be a crazy sheep-man:
Catherine (PS3, Xbox 360)
For all the (sometimes valid) criticisms of Japanese gaming's creative stagnation, it's heartening to see that one of the bravest, boldest games in years has come out of Glorious Nippon itself.
Catherine is a game apart because it's a top-shelf production that's about things that most other games seem incapable of tackling, either due to slavish devotion to being adolescent power fantasies or simple fear. Catherine tackles mature, complex adult relationships, Big Questions about romance, sex, and the horror of being trapped in a nightmare world, climbing up an endless staircase and trying not to be killed by monsters straight out of the almanac of Male Fears.
Hey, it's still a game, and still Japanese. Something has to give.
For your otaku friend who's packing for his first trip to Nippon:
Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~ (PC)
MSRP: €9.92 ($13.72)
Go! Go! Nippon! is a strange sort of beast, in that at first glance one doesn't know who the game is really for (assuming you haven't read the "for the friend" bit I wrote above the screenshot). Can you really treat it as a first-time visitor's travel guide for a "normal" person? I'm thinking that the sort of person willing to play a visual novel sight unseen would already know a fair bit about Japan, having visited or not.
Which brings me to posit that Go! Go! Nippon! is as much for the first-time tourist as it is for the otaku who would fantasize about what might happen on his first trip to Japan: to meet and hook up with a pair of pretty young girls who are all too willing to show him the sights.
But don't worry. MangaGamer and Overdrive worked together and made sure that this'll be an all-ages adventure.
For the friend who already owns the other three (five if you count expansions and rereleases) Persona games:
Persona 2: Innocent Sin (PSP)
Unless you're an import connoisseur willing to do some shady things with emulators and unofficial patches, this is the release Persona fans have been waiting for: Innocent Sin is The One That Got Away of MegaTen games, rubbed from the American docket out of fear that a game with Hitler in it wouldn't go over so well.
Ah, how naive we were.
Now it's here, remastered with a new interface, new tweaks, new missions, and a sweet new soundtrack (though the original is available for purists).
And for gamers who came later to the Persona party via the latter two games, Persona 2 is much less jarring a change from its descendants, echoing familiar themes while adhering to the more traditional JRPG structure.
For the friend who has yet to find something that will make her say "Now this is a dungeon!"
ClaDun X2 (PSP)
MSRP: $19.99 (PlayStation Network Store)
Fancy a game bearing the oldest of RPG structures, but bringing it with a decidedly modern sense of humor? Look for ClaDun X2 close to the top of the pile.
Make no mistake: ClaDun X2, like ClaDun: This is an RPG! before it, is a tough "roguelike" dungeon crawler. The difference is that this one recognizes its own backwardness, leveraging it to excellence with smart twists on gameplay and a self-aware, satirical tone.
ClaDun says to thee: "Yes, we know you like those old-school games. We do, too! Let's have some fun, yeah?"
For the friend that was at Mikunopolis this year:
Hatsune Miku Project Diva Extend (PSP)
MSRP: $64.99 (Import)
Like Miku? Own a PSP (or later, a Vita)? Hate your (or your friend's) fingers? This is the game for you (or your Mikunopolis-attending friend). It's also a superb rhythm game with a sweet (by my measure) song selection and some pretty great music video bits. If only those button prompts weren't flying all over the screen. But I guess that's what PV mode is for.
In any case, it looks like Extend will be the ultimate incarnation of Sega's landmark Project Diva series, at least until the Vita or a PlayStation 3 port comes through. With more songs, more modules (including a Virtual On one), and more kinetic typography (see above), tapping along with a virtual idol is more fun to me than pretend-jamming on a plastic guitar.
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Josh is Japanator's News Editor, and contributes to Destructoid as well. Despite not owning a hat, he insists on having a little "Press" card to insert into the band. For high school reasons he's... more | staff directory
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