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Go West! Week Thirteen: A look at Japanese game stores

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Welcome once again ladies and gentlemen, to your one stop for info on the Japanese game releases for the week, Go West!. 

This week sees the release of a few high profile Nintendo titles that are bound to get some you excited. One of them belongs to a long running SRPG franchise while the other boasts members of Guardian Heroes' development team. Fortunately I imagined to get my hands on both games and have put considerable time into each, so I'll be providing some brief first impressions after the break.

And in a first for Go West!, we'll be taking a look at Japanese game retailers on Kyushu. Maybe they're not so different from their western counterparts...? Hah!

Follow me after the break as I run around like a half naked princess!

Releases for the week of April 15-21:

Fire Emblem: Awakening (Nintendo 3DS)
Publisher: Nintendo
Online Price: 4,600 yen ($55.90)

The first completely new Fire Emblem in a few years, Awakening is also the popular franchise's debut on the Nintendo 3DS. Having put approximately five hours into the main campaign so far, I can say with full confidence that this one's a doozy. I've never actually played a Fire Emblem game before this week, so maybe I'm not entirely qualified to talk about the strengths of the game, but as an outsider I'm extremely impressed.

The production values are rock solid (that battle animation!), the music is great and the actual battles fun and fast. You have the option of choosing between causal and classic mode when you start the game. Casual mode brings back dead characters after battles are finished, whereas classic mode sees that dead warriors stay dead. 

Awakening is actually the first Nintendo published game to feature paid DLC content. These extra downloadables take the form of classic Fire Emblem characters who join your ranks after you complete the mission included. If the Marth DLC is any indication, expect a lot of FE fanservice.

If you're thinking of importing, I'd recommend waiting until E3. If Fire Emblem: Awakening is getting a localized release, that's where you're going to find out.

Code of Princess (Nintendo 3DS)
Publisher: Agatsuma
Online Price: 5,750 yen ($69.90)

This is going to be a game that surprises people. Despite the ridiculously dressed main character, there's little in the way of blatant fanservice in Code of Princess. As a matter of fact, characters often make fun of how ridiculous she looks within the story mode itself. The gameplay? If you've ever touched Guardian Heroes, you'll know exactly what you're getting in to. The fact that the game makes a command list available to you on the bottom screen should say everything it needs to about the robust combo system within. Using a combination of air and ground attacks, you'll be stringing together crazy combos in the game before long.

Even better is the fact that you unlock dozens upon dozens of playable characters as you progress through the story. Where exactly can you use said characters? In the online vs mode of course! Code of Princess has both online coop and vs play, making for one helluva complete package. The visuals are sometimes a little bit choppy, but they work just fine when you're cutting down man and beast alike. The music, handled by the same folks who graced us with Xenoblade's epic soundtrack, complements the action excellently. 

Code of Princess is a great game and I'd be disappointed and surprised if a western publisher didn't snatch up the rights. A lot of people have been waiting for a deep, fun beat-em-up for a while now. Let's not keep them waiting any longer eh?

If you plan on importing, make sure you're ready to memorize certain menus so you can adjust equipment and stats accordingly.

Miyako Awayuki no Utage  (Playstation Portable)
Publisher: Idea Factory
Online Price: 6,000 yen ($72.90)

This wouldn't be Go West! if we didn't have some Idea Factory representation up in here! This week sees a new otome game that... well... I'm not really sure what this is about or how it differentiates itself from the hundreds of other titles on the market. It really puts a game like Hakuoki into perspective. Hakuoki is a massive franchise here in Japan, instantly recognizable for its art style and story. Comparably, I have a hard time distinguishing between Miyako Awayuki and the dozens of other generic games. Funny how that works.

Admittedly, this is also an issue with galge. You have the really interesting, popular franchises that are beloved for a reason. On the flip side are the generic haremfests you see released every week. 

If you're planning on importing, have a solid command of Japanese.

Seinaru Kana: Orihalcum no Na no Moto ni  (Playstation Portable)
Publisher: Cyber Front
Online Price: 5,750 yen ($69.90)

In all seriousness, I think Idea Factory and Cyber Front have become a necessary component of Go West!. Without them it just wouldn't feel real. This week though it looks like CF wins out with the slightly less generic looking Seinaru Kana, a port of a PC Eroge RPG. What does that mean? Between woo'ing the ladies, you'll be leveling up your characters and engaging in battles to save the world or something to that effect.

Oftentimes these eroge/RPG hybrids are well loved by fans. has anyone out there ever played the PC version of Seinaru Kana? is it actually any good?

Import only if you have good Japanese.

Taking a look at Japanese game retailers:

I talk a lot of crap about Japanese video game prices and rightfully so; they're super over-inflated and make absolutely no sense. Just one look at the new release shelf of any game store here is likely to send a chill running up your spine and send your wallet into a spiral of madness and fear. Yet despite all of that, I love Japanese game retailers. I enjoy clothing shopping and hunting for new albums, but going to the video game store is still my favorite shopping activity. Why exactly is that? 

The first thing you're greeted with when you walk into any sensible game store here in Japan is shouting. People will scream "Welcome!" at you in rapid fire succession. Immediately afterward, you'll most likely be overwhelmed by the crazy video game sounds that seem to come from everywhere and nowhere. These stores are loud. You'd be hard pressed to get a conversation going with another person when you have Super Mario jingles going on in the background and countless game trailers playing on dozens of TV screens. If you think this sounds like it might drive a person crazy, you're not totally far off. 

Yet it's not just that flurry of noise that makes the Japanese video game store an entirely unique experience; these places are colorful and flashy. Turn a corner and you'll find a screen playing a video of some gameplay. Unlike the average Gamestop in America, stores here oftentimes try to be as appealing in their aesthetic as they are in their prices. Take the below Persona 2 setup for example. It would have been enough to simply have a screen with the game's trailer on loop. Instead, they printed out color images, cut them out and pasted them along the side of the TV. It might not seem like much, but it makes the whole thing pop and drawing customer's attention to it. 

It's not just the crazy party-like atmosphere that makes video game stores in Japan so much fun to peruse. As someone who loves retro video games, these places are like a classic heaven. There is not a single dedicated game store you can visit in Japan that won't have a section just for older games ranging from the Famicom era to the Playstation or Sega Saturn. Better yet? Often times you'll have no problem getting your hands on fully packaged, mint condition copies of games for next to nothing. Hell, just take a look at the image below.

But for all the respect that Japanese game stores seem to pay to older games, there's one console that can't seem to catch a break. The Xbox 360 has been doing very poorly in Japan since it first launched. Any game store here will reflect that fact in one very simple way; the size of the game shelf. For example, take a look at the image below. That's all there is at my local Famicom House. One tiny, isolated shelf standing in the middle of nowhere. I know. It makes me a little bit sad too.

Games aren't the only things you're going to find at these shops. While this isn't true 100% of the time, very frequently game stores will also stock art books, guides and sometimes even figures. Provided they're at least somewhat related to video games, there's a solid chance you'll be able to find what you're looking for when you enter any given store. It's nice to have a single place you can hit up when you're looking for a variety of things. 

But the big thing for me is that even if I don't plan on making a purchase, I find window shopping to be a lot of fun. Depending on the store you go to, you might find a super rare game or book. It might be expensive as all hell, but I find it fascinating to be able to take a peak at gaming history. 

Now if only they'd fix their ridiculous prices.

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Elliot Gay
Elliot GayContributor   gamer profile

Elliot is an associate editor for Japanator and can be found contributing to Destructoid on occasion. He lives in Japan and can be found on Twitter @RyougaSaotome. more + disclosures


 


 



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