Review – The World Ends with You

Set in present-day Shibuya, a Tokyo ward is famous for its fashion, The World Ends with You (TWEWY) is an RPG that follows the story of Neku Sakuraba as he wakes up in a busy intersection with no memories. A text message informs him that for the next week he will be a participant in the Reaper’s Game; failure to participate risks erasure. Players follow Neku’s journey of self-discovery (turning from emo-punk to… less of an emo-punk) as he meets other players of the Reaper’s Game and tries to discover the stakes of the game, why he’s playing, and how to win.

Now, I may be a bit biased since I can sing along to an unfortunate amount of Utada Hikaru and Rachel Yamagata tunes, but the aesthetic of TWEWY is delicious and expertly executed. →  Europa Universalis IV: Articles of War

Review – Yakuza

As a fan of the Shenmue series I was induced to try Sega’s Yakuza (non-neutered Japanese name: Ryu go Gotaku, or Like a Dragon). Hardly a review was written that avoided comparing some aspect of the game or the game itself to Sega’s acclaimed series. If you have not already played them, I am here to tell you that these are drastically different games. While there are some cosmetic similarities, the crowd that adores Shenmue (at least those who do so for the same reasons I do) will not find a spiritual successor here. While both games are basically brawlers in an open world, with plenty of side quests and dark corners to explore, the heart of Ryo is absent from the muscular Kazuma.

Shenmue has many strengths (and several weakness), but chief among them is Ryo’s hesitance to resort to violence unnecessarily and his ineptness in many adult situations. →  Mrs. Article, you’re trying to seduce me.

All you ever need to know about Japan

After spending 10 nights in Japan I am now qualified to make sweeping statements about the Japanese culture. The following are immutable truths (told in a convenient pros and cons style) about this wonderful and bizarre country:

Pro
Suntory Boss is the boss of them all since 1992.

There’s no use denying it.

Con
Japanese people seem as pro-Japan as Americans are pro-America. I was asked by one of my gracious host’s fathers why we came to Japan. He was an awesome guy but really pushed hard for an answer he found satisfactory. I think the question was probably just mistranslated and he actually asked, “How awesome is Japan?” The same day, a man on the street approached us and told us in English that “Japan is number 1.” With proof like that who was I to argue. →  Sounds mildly entertaining, I guess.

Gaming Meccas of Japan Pt. 2 — Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan

Every hobby and every religion has their sacred place. Baseball fans have Cooperstown. Gamblers go to Las Vegas. Catholics go to the Vatican. Maple syrup lovers go to Canada. For us, the nerds, the geeks, the otaku, we have Akihabara. It is here that we can fulfill our wildest, dorkiest dreams. If we feel like buying the newest video game, Akihabara. If we have a craving for that awesomely drawn manga, Akihabara. And, if we just must be called “Master” by a cute little maid while we have our morning coffee, you got it, Akihabara. There are very few places in the world where a video game lover can come anytime of the year and feel at home. And just like home, Akihabara also has plenty of porn.

The downside to the place also called Akiba is that it is in an inconvenient location for most of the world’s electronically inclined. →  You had me at read more.

TGS 2007 — Fear and Loathing in Tokyo

Living in Japan allows me a certain freedom when it comes to my nerd-hood. Video game playing is all but encouraged, anime is the norm, and if you were to tell someone your life goal was to build and paint model robots, they would smile understandingly at you. Japan is indeed a land in which technology and entertainment hold hands and lovingly caress one another. As I type this, I am coasting at a leisurely 175mph on a bullet train as I watch scenery adorned with lush greenery and neon zoom by. One of the many nerdy perks to living in Japan is the knowledge that once a year, all of the big names in gaming (minus one) will converge in Tokyo and allow the public a glimpse of their brand new wares. →  Guitar Hero III: Legends of Read

Requiem for a Dreamcast

I used to think I was pretty clever when I told folks that “Nintendo made me a gamer. Ocarina of Time made me hardcore”. I kept thinking this for quite some time, but eventually realized that pre-OOT, I wasn’t really a “gamer”, just a kid whose game experience consisted of little more than a string of Nintendo consoles, a few hours on the Genesis, and a dusty old 486 PC. This was a time when fresh games came to my house twice a year if I was lucky.

After Zelda I truly became a “gamer”, though now I think it had less to with that game in particular and more to do with the fact that around that time I was introduced to a modern day computer, Next Generation Magazine, and a Sony Playstation. →  Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatarticle

Gaming Meccas of Japan Pt. 1 — Den Den Town, Osaka, Japan

Being a geek and living in Japan is kind of like mixing Ecstasy with LSD – it’s one hell of a trip. There are four places in Japan that should be on the must-see list for anyone who calls himself a nerd. The big one is Akihabara in Tokyo and I will be covering that in September along with The Tokyo Game Show. The third spot goes to Nintendo’s world headquarters in Kyoto but there isn’t much to see there because no one is allowed into the facility and tours are never provided. The fourth spot and topic of today’s installment is Den Den Town in Osaka.

Den Den Town can best be described as the poor man’s Akihabara. It is smaller in size, about four or five square blocks instead of an entire section of Tokyo. →  READ3R

Sony at E3 – slightly less terrible than the competition?

Max has been kind enough to fill in for Jay on covering the Sony press conference. When not reading videolamer, he runs the excellent website GameLemon.

I’ve already bitched elsewhere on this fine site about Sony’s presentation skills, but that little rant was small and only mildly satisfying, so I am going to say it again: Sony, please, for chrissakes, hire some presenters that are at least remotely cool and entertaining, and forbid your executives from ever appearing in public. I am sure they are all fine people and very important to the business, but they couldn’t excite a crowd worth a crap even if their bonus depended it.

Next, fire the idiots who wrote the script for the presentation. Those dudes need to get out waaay more if they think this is the kind of stuff that excites the gaming demographic. →  It might come in handy if you, the master of reading, take it with you.

Laying this generation to rest: Dreamcast

To celebrate the new generation of consoles, we will be honoring the last generation by listing our favorite games on each system. These aren’t Best of lists, or games you will die without, rather they are simply the titles we think made these systems special.

The first console of the past generation was the Sega Dreamcast. This proved to be Sega’s final console so while we remember it fondly, keep in mind that emotion partially clouds our view. Teary eyes aside, there is no denying the console had a number of excellent exclusives, most of which were made by Sega themselves. Anyone new to gaming and confused about why Sega exists at all only needs to look to the games they developed for the Dreamcast (and Saturn, and Genesis).

To quote Planet Dreamcast’s comically inaccurate, unbridled optimism:
At the end of the day it isn’t up to us to tell you whether or not you should buy a Dreamcast. →  Reading more, assemble!