Welcome, everyone, to Japan Service—a new column here on EGM where I’ll be taking a look at some of my favorite finds when it comes to news, announcements, or interesting tidbits from the world of Japanese gaming.
Throughout my years of playing video games, I’ve long had a love for the weird and wonderful creations of those talented developers living on the other side of the Pacific ocean from me. While the Japanese industry has changed quite a bit over the years—and not always in a good way—it’s still a source for some of the most interesting, creative, or downright bizarre experiences you can have with our favorite form of digital entertainment.
The rules for what I’ll be covering in Japan Service are simple: it has to be developed in Japan*, it has to be based around or focused on a title or franchise of Japanese origin, and/or it has to be something that wouldn’t be big enough for us to write a dedicated news posting to it.
* I reserve the right to be a liar and break this rule at times in order to talk about other Asian-developed games.
This week, Namco Bandai put up a very interesting new teaser site for a series most of us hadn’t given much thought in a long time: Wonder Momo. Released to Japanese arcades in 1987, Wonder Momo told the story of a young girl who could transform into a futuristic superhero in order to fight off hordes of space aliens.
Well, that’s the idea, anyway. One of Wonder Momo‘s interesting twists it that, in fact, everything that happens in the game plays out as a stage performance, similar to live Ultraman or Power Rangers shows that are a staple of Japanese fandom.
Wonder Momo was given a PC Engine (Japan’s TurboGrafx-16) port in 1989, but other than the release of both that and the arcade game for the Wii Virtual Console a number of years ago, it seemed that the series was one that would end up as a bit of gaming nostalgia and little more.
That’s not to say that Wonder Momo was totally forgotten, however. It was just one of many classic Namco Bandai titles to be revived via the company’s recently ShiftyLook portal, where Momo and her adventures are alive again in comic form.
And now, there’s another new twist in the story. While I don’t know anything more than the quick tease that’s being presented, Namco Bandai has launched a new Wonder Momo site—http://www.wondermomo.jp—proclaiming that “Momo is Back”.
My hope? We get some awesome (but smartly-budgeted) project that feels like a mix of old-school retro Wonder Momo and new-era gameplay polish. There’s a ton of fun ideas you can do with the concepts of the original arcade release, and you could go in the direction of anything from an adventure game to a side-scrolling beat ’em up to a more arcade-y score attack kind of experience.
My fear? This will either be some sort of throw-away smartphone game, or it’ll be a licensed pachinko machine. Because, unfortunately, that’s what I’ve come to expect at this point from Japan anytime an older property is brought back.
Please Namco Bandai—prove me wrong!
Hopefully you’ll be reading this before you click play on the above video. If so, then a warning: what you’ll see in that video is overflowing with fan service to levels you might not normally think possible.
The game being teased is Dekamori Senran Kagura, a new rhythm/cooking game hybrid spin-off of the Senran Kagura series coming from Marvelous AQL. Hitting Japan as a digital download for the PlayStation Vita on March 22, Dekamori will pit familiar faces from the Senran Kagura games against one another in a cooking contest—one that can only be won by showing your skills in its fast-action rhythm-based gameplay. Because, of course, that makes perfect sense.
Also making perfect sense for a Senran Kagura game? The inability of its leading ladies to stay properly dressed, as doing poorly at matching your button presses to the music will result in your character of choices gradually losing her clothes. Think Iron Chef, except the production team is nothing but 13-year-old boys.
The funny thing is, that isn’t the only rhythm game coming to the Vita with some sort of Senran Kagura tie. Also recently announced was IA/VT Colorful, a new project from Senran producer Kenichiro Takaki.
IA/VT Colorful seems far more up my alley. The game is based on IA, one of a number of virtual singers known as Vocaloids. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I’m huge into the Vocaloid scene, but my area of fandom typically revolves around those coming from Crypton Future Media (Hatsune Miku, Megurine Luka, etc.). IA comes from a different group—1st Place Co., Ltd.—so not only will I be getting a stylish-looking new rhythm game, but a whole new Vocaloid singer to discover! How could I not be excited?
IA/VT Colorful will also be coming from Marveous AQL, and is slated for a July 31st release in Japan.
If there’s one thing you can always count of from Japan’s gaming scene, it’s releases with names that confuse, baffle, or amuse us Westerners.
This week, I bring you a new PS3 adventure game from Nippon Ichi: If You Thought It Was a Harem Paradise, It Was Yandere Hell.
So, what’s up with this name? Well, of course, we’ve got the fun “harem” trope that is so beloved in Japanese media. Take one male character, a gaggle of girls who all fall head over heels for him, and you’ve got a recipe for wacky hijinks! (Especially for those lonely male fans who want to put themselves in the place of the protagonist.)
Then we’ve got a Japanese word you may or may not be well familiar with: Yandere. Yandere, basically, is a term used for characters who may initially seem nice and sweet, but whose expression of their romantic interest can turn to extreme levels of possessiveness, obsession, or even violence.
Thus, we are painted the possible picture of a young, strapping male hero who walks into a world of presumed bliss where a number of fertile young lasses seem ripe for the pickings—only to find out that those ladies are ready to compete for his affections far more than he could ever have bargained for.
At least, for now, that’s my best guess.
02.07 – Bravely Default (3DS)
02.11 – Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (360, PS3)
02.11 – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (Vita)
02.11 – Toukiden: The Age of Demons (Vita)
03.04 – Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden 3 (360, PS3)
03.25 – The Witch and the Hundred Knight