(For this article it was very difficult to find tasteful/ acceptable photographs. Just saying...)
For Otaku like myself, real dating is far too complicated. We need help, and without Hitch on hand, what can you do to improve your ability to interact with women? With the hundreds of dating simulation games that are especially popular in Japan, you can learn everything you will ever need to know about how to date women in the real world by practicing your moves on a virtual girl. They will prepare you perfectly to the point where you can become a Casanova with enough hours of game experience under your belt, right? Right?Buy her presents. Lots of presents.
You find a girl you like, you find out what she likes, you give her a present and she loves you more. Then you repeat this action over and over again. She likes flowers? Well then she will be receiving flowers from you everyday until she falls in love with you. And every time she receives them she will respond with the same joy and enthusiasm as she did the first time. She likes chicken eggs? Feed her so many that her cholesterol level rises to the point where she implodes. Yes thanks to the lessons you have learned from dating simulations you can be wholly confident that the best way to express your love is through material possessions, and the more frequently you give, the sooner you can start making babies. Stalkers are cute
What women find most appealing about men is the fact that they are always there for them. And I mean always. Once you find out where they live and work then there is nothing that will please them more than to see you visit them up at least ten times a day just to “see how they are doing.” They won’t find it creepy, irritating or needy. Instead they find it charming when you devote your life to continuously interrupting theirs. Rather than calling the police, they will blushingly tell you that they are touched by the fact that you have come by to see them. Choose your answer wisely
Each question is a vital point in the relationship. Each answer is a potential reason for her to dump you. Therefore when she asks you if you prefer cats or dogs, you had better damn well remember which one she likes rather than give your honest opinion. Yes as she stands patiently waiting for your response, you rack your brain furiously to try and remember any hints she may have dropped, or any visual clue which could give you an indication as to which is the correct answer. Get it right and you are one step closer to romantic bliss. Get it wrong and you are one step closer to being “just friends”. Take your pick
It’s your choice who you want to go for. No one is out of your league. In fact you will always be able to try to get better acquainted with six different girls (that nearly always seems to be the magic number). And they will always have distinctly different personalities. One will have glasses and be intelligent but shy. One will be feisty and tomboyish. One will be perky with pink hair. One will be very cute and devoid of commonsense. One will be maternal and kind with brown hair. The last one is interchangeable but usually mysterious and socially awkward. It is so simple to decide you type when the options are always the same. Of course you may have to deal with the shock that in real life there may be a girl with glasses that isn’t intelligent or a perky girl having brown hair, but the chances of that being true must be one in a million. Well my mental age is the same as your, so that’s ok
Age is no issue. It’s totally fine that you are talking to junior high school girls so much despite the fact you are in your 20s…. isn’t it? Sure the police have been keeping a close eye on you and your friends refuse to talk to you anymore, but… but its ok…
So there you have it, a guide to what you can learn by playing dating simulations! If you ignore every lesson that they teach you, you may just have a shot at getting a date. And also of being a socially acceptable human being. I personally blame these games for the fact that Otaku are often single. When you have this kind of information as your primary source of knowledge about love, you aren’t going to get very far. But if the real world is just too tough, what better way to spend an evening than pouring yourself a glass of red wine, turning on your Playstation, and going on a date with your girlfriend…
Rilakkuma is a cute but utterly baffling mascot. His name means is a combination of the Japanese words for relax and bear, and that is all that he essentially does. He is a bear and he sleeps all the time. Like most of Japan I do find this character very charming, but he is also the embodiment of just how ridiculous the Japanese mascot phenomenon is. He does absolutely bloody well nothing but laze around all day looking cute. Try to prod him into doing something entertaining and the biggest response you will get would be the flicker of an ear. But Rilakkuma does kind of work in the sometimes stressful and work-centric lifestyle of Japan. People need a role model to help them relax, and Rilakkuma is just about the best relaxer the world has ever seen. I hardly think, though, that he would perform the same noble image as well in another country. After all, if Cookie Monster has been asked to eat cookies in moderation for fear of how he may influence kids, then Rilakkuma is the poster child of the obese and sloth-like. Buy the t-shirt, buy the key rings, buy the stuffed animals by all means, but if anyone asks you what it is or why you like it you only have the words ‘relaxing’ and ‘bear’ as your two descriptors. Oh and as a final note Rilakkuma often wears bear costumes. Weird I know. Whether these bear costumes are made from cloth or real bear skin has never been established.
Go ahead, milk it. You know you want to
Why is it that we would consider doing a dull and repetitive task in a video game when we would never consider doing it in real life? Well Natsume is hoping that you never consider this question. For years Harvest Moon has been a very popular franchise for them, and well in the game you are a farmer. No, not a machine gun toting redneck farmer who is defending his property from hordes of alien invaders, just a farmer. You prepare the soil, clear the fields of debris, plant your crops and then meticulously water them every day. If you have livestock, you will be feeding them, collecting eggs from the chickens and milk from the cows. I can assure you from first hand experience that the game mechanics are utterly devoid of thrills; there are no deft combinations of button pushes required to milk a cow. And yet I and many others find it enthralling. There are scores of reasons as to why this is true (escapism/ passion for the countryside/ strange compulsion to breed chickens) but in the end I guess that if you are going to have to clean out a chicken coop it’s distinctly a less arduous task to do it virtually. And less smelly too.Cool looking protagonist? Check. Sexy girl? Check. Lightsaber? Check. Moving lawns? No, for some reason that didn't go on the boxart.
You too can relive one of the least entertaining aspects of childhood; mowing your neighbor’s lawn. No More Heroes is a game in which you play as a lightsaber wielding, wisecracking assassin who is trying to become the number one assassin in the world. So then why do you spend a disproportionate amount of time mowing lawns? Just to dash any ideas you might have as to how this activity could be more exciting; you don’t cut grass with your lightsaber or even an electric lawn mover. Nope, it’s just an old school non-gas powered push and cut device. Which leans to the left like a shopping cart cliché. Oh there are other jobs that you can get, but I felt that collecting watermelons and picking up trash from the street were significantly more exciting. Maybe it was something I missed in the plot. Perhaps it was some form of court ordered community service your character had to do to atone for his massacring of hundreds of people. Let that be a warning to you everyone. Don’t trust your gardener.If some starts to send you letters like this I suggest you move house.
Despite being constantly connected to our friends and family through the internet, regrettably most of us are pretty lazy about sending messages to our loved ones. We can really cheer somebody up by sending them a heartfelt letter or just a gesture of support for someone going through a tough time, but must of us don’t take the time to do so. Well in Animal Crossing you can dedicate a lot of time to sending letters to the animals that inhabit your village. And it takes a lot of time to write even the most basic of messages thanks to the fact that no Nintendo products are compatible with a keyboard. So having taken the time to compose an interesting/humorous/ sexy letter to one of the animals, you eagerly await their reply the next day (even though you live next to someone you can’t deliver the letter by hand and it takes the post office at least a day to deliver it). No matter what you send, you will get a reply that doesn’t acknowledge the contents of your letter. Yes, you can send a warm greeting, stalkeresque poem of devotion or even a cold blooded death threat and the response you get will be along the lines of “Hey! Crazy letter! Thanks for sending it to me! The weather is great today!” Maybe it is a complex parody of the Hallmark inspired, blandly communicative society that we have become. Or maybe not.See that forklift truck? You can drive it. Yay.
Shenmue is one of my favorite games of all time, but it would have to be. I can’t think of many other games that would be able to get away with making you drive a forklift truck around for ages with only pocket change as your compensation. Yes for part of the game you are forced to move crates into a warehouse using a forklift truck in order to make some cash. And there is nothing more I can really say. It isn’t particularly fun and your reward for doing your task quickly and skillfully is pretty minimal. On the plus side if you ever thought that driving a forklift truck would be fun, this promptly and brutally crushes that idea. At least it is better than the pachinko mini game in the sequel…All the thrills of gambling, without the thrills of gambling
Which leads us neatly to the last choice; gambling games. I’m not talking about real online betting shops or casinos that contain the genuine thrill and possibility of landing yourself in tremendous debt, but rather the video game representations of gambling. Why bother? Why play roulette when there is no chance of actually winning any money? Why play poker when the stakes are meaningless? Whilst gambling is the only genuinely exciting activity on this list, strip away the, well the gambling element, and the whole process becomes tedious. Rather than playing one of these games, do your self a favor and roll a dice in your room, trying to guess what number will land face up. It’s pretty much the same thing.
Borderline animal cruelty/humiliation is a pretty common thing in Japan, but this was still a pretty jarring experience for me. I’m aware that it is an overreaction but still, it freaks me out a little bit. Let me explain. In a ‘Cat Museum’ there will often be a very small exhibition concerned with the history of cats (I guess to justify the name) but essentially it is a petting zoo for cats. You pay to go in and stroke cats. I love animals, particularly dogs and cats, but this is a soulless experience. The reason that we love pets is because they love us back. These cats are at best indifferent and at worst pissed off. Animals enjoy affection but I guess when hundreds of different people come in every day and pick you up, manhandle you and pass you on to the next person it can be a pretty irritating lifestyle. Whilst a lot of the other people in the ‘Museum’ seemed oblivious to that, I certainly picked up on it. I made eye contact with one of the cats perched on the shelf, and we stared each other down for about a minute. I could see it in his gaze, he was thinking “Just you dare try and pick me up punk. Come on. You’ll see what happens motherf******.” Needless to say I didn’t risk it.
The ‘Dog Farm’ is pretty much the same thing but there is a bit more space for them to run around. Nonetheless it was also a fairly emotionally hollow experience. Most of the dogs don’t react at all when you pet them, or they look up at you quizzically as if to say “why bother?” One particularly sad moment was when a dog jumped up and sat on my lap. Then he just looked up at me with huge black eyes, seemingly imploring me to take him away from the ten minute affections he was subject to everyday. I shook my head and patted him on the back, but by then he had realized I wasn’t the one to save him. Hew jumped down and looked back wistfully, then trotted off to escape the clutches of a snotty nosed four year old kid.
There are far worse things that could happen to these animals; after all they have a home and are fed everyday. But whenever I’m running low on money and seriously considering selling my body to pay the bills, I think back on the look that dog gave me. ‘Selling your affection to by more Playstation games will leave you empty inside,” he seemed to say. Thank you for your wisdom my canine friend.
Winter Jump Festa will be taking place this December 20th and 21st in Makuhari Messe and is well worth going to as a hardcore anime fan, casual anime fan, or even someone who isn’t that interested in anime. For those who know their stuff, Jump Festa will feature many of the manga that are popular worldwide. So if you like Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Dragonball, Eyeshield 21 or any of the Jump comics then it is well worth a trip. It also will have a number of different anime and video games on display at the event which are wholly unrelated to the Jump comics, and for fans of Square-Enix, they usually have a booth at the event. Last Spring Nintendo also had a booth to promote Super Smash Brothers so game fans will find plenty to entertain them. For those who have never been to any kind of similar event, the spectacle alone is well worth seeing. There are vast stalls and booths set up by companies to promote their products and also fun installations to look at and take pictures of. Last year there was a One Piece pirate ship built in the main hall, if that gives you an idea about the kind of crazy stuff there is. Also there will be plenty of free handouts, most of them useless, and some exclusive merchandise that you can only buy at the event. And for those who are into it, or just people who want to see the crazy and cool side of Japanese culture, there are always cosplayers around that show their ingenuity when it comes to creating the costumes of their favorite characters. For those who have tried more ‘hardcore’ events like comiket, and been dissuaded, Jump Festa is very much a family friendly event and the atmosphere is exciting, despite the fact that you will need to wrestle through hoards of kids to get anywhere. See you there!
Heroism has rarely come in green, pink and yellow before
Take one part of Evil Knievel, add a dash of Mission Impossible’s Ethan Hunt, sprinkle in some Tony Hawk and what do you get? You get one hell of a badass daredevil. And you also get Gachapin. Yes this incredibly popular Fuji TV mascot is just about omnipresent in Japan at the moment, and despite the obvious drawback of looking terminally depressed, has won a place in my heart too. Or perhaps it is because despite the fact that he permanently looks like he is having a terrible day, he is a death defying stuntman. I’m not interested in his back story, or whatever kids TV shows he appeared on, all I know is that I have seen that green dinosaur (yep, that is what he is meant to be) defy gravity and sanity time after time to entertain his fans. He has done just about everything from skydiving, snowboarding and rock climbing to karate and even gymnastics, and all this despite the fact that he doesn’t have to most athletic of bodies. And I have seen him fall. I have seen him take brutal blows in karate, make massive wipeouts on the slopes, and crack his head hilariously on a pommel horse whilst attempting some incredible moves. There are still true heroes in the world, people, and this is one of them.
Of course, as he does such a variety of activities, it’s only natural to assume that the man inside the suit changes too. Which lead me to a darker thought, how many have perished? Yes as Gachapin does some badass stunts, and sometimes fails, just how many fatalities have occurred within that iconic green suit? Is it tainted with the blood of the fallen stuntmen who never made it back to their families? Is there a widows of Gachapin support group? Do these guys have the most incredibly expensive life insurance policies? Lord only knows, but I sincerely hope they died doing what they loved, rather than being Fuji TV interns that were forced to don the suit as a rite of passage. Perhaps that explains the somber expression that he wears. Death, adventure, and entertaining the kids of Japan, is a serious business.
Notice his human hands...
Sadly I felt it necessary to give Mukku his own entry, so as not to taint the heroism of Gachapin by lumping the two together. Yes Mukku is Gachapin’s sidekick, but as he is so offensive to me that I had to separate them. For those requiring any background information he is apparently five years old (same as Gachapin) and comes from a cold island. He doesn’t like hot weather so the propeller on his head cools him down… and he is a yeti… and… and… no, no I can’t carry on. Just look at him. Look at that damn visual eyesore that defiles anything that it comes into contact with. Only if you see the beast in motion can you appreciate just how irritating he is with his disconnected jaw that flops around alarmingly and his googly eyes that whip around like they are trying to pull free from the sockets. The way his arms hang limply by his sides as he barrels forwards. The spinning propeller… I feel affronted when I see him because I am sure that he is a parody of some group which it is offensive to poke fun of, but I can never put my finger on exactly who this abomination is mocking.
He is also the cowardly character, which is always annoying, and his main role seems to be a cheerleader for Gachapin who often covers his eyes with fear when Gachapin is committing a dangerous stunt. So whilst you are watching Gachapin tearing down on a rocket sled or something, the camera will cut to Mukku, staring impassively on, jaw wobbling around his stomach, eyes crawling like maggots. He is truly the mascot I love to hate.
I’m afraid I have to disagree with Sir Elton John. Sorry is not the hardest word to say. At least in Japan, that dubious honor goes to “No”. Yes it seems to be inherent to Japanese culture that an outright refusal is deemed to be offensive and thus therefore something to be avoided at all cost. Whilst there is a direct translation for the word, the more polite way of saying no roughly translates as it’s different or it’s not that way. Instead the subtext is conveyed through body language and facial expressions. But as a foreigner whose Japanese is less than excellent it can prove to be frustrating to get a straight answer. I can demonstrate this best through two examples.
The first was when I was attempting to draw some money from my bank account using my bank card from England. As I was unable to do so, I went customer inquiries section with a Japanese friend to determine if it was possible to do so. My friend explained the situation to the staff member and they talked for about a minute then my friend turned to me and said, “No, you can’t take money out using this card. But we will be here for at least another twenty minutes.” Amazingly my friend was right. Despite knowing almost immediately that such a transaction was impossible, there was an unnecessary and protracted period in which the staff member tried every possible solution, talked to their boss, and gave a lengthy explanation to my friend as to why each action they were taking was not working. And despite my friend knowing the situation was futile, they still claimed that we should go through the motions with the staff member. Whilst I do appreciate the fact that the staff member was so polite and thorough, I cannot see how it could take twenty minutes to say no.
The other situation that sticks out in my mind was when I was traveling in Yamaguchi prefecture, which is a pretty countryside place. I wanted to get a train to Yanai, and I thought I was waiting at the right platform, but I wanted to be sure. So, in Japanese, I asked the station staff member if the train went to Yanai. I have no idea what her response was because at the time my Japanese was very basic, but I do know that the response was surprisingly lengthy. Looking back she might have been trying to tell me about the difference between local, semi-express and express trains. Confused I explained that my Japanese was poor and simplified my question to “Does this train go to Yanai, Yes or no?” Amazingly I once more I got a deluge of information that I couldn’t understand. Eventually I resorted to thumbs up and thumbs down gestures followed by exaggerated shrugs that would make a mime artist blush. By now the poor women had a look of desperation on her face, and grinning weakly she gave the thumbs up gesture. I ran to the train and got on just as the train doors closed. Then, just three short stops later I got off at Yanai station.
The polite nature of the Japanese people is one of the aspects of Japan that I appreciate the most, yet as in these situations, it can sometimes be somewhat trying. My best advice if your Japanese isn’t great and you need a yes or no answer is just to speak simple English. It seems easy for Japanese people to say no in another language.
Perhaps one of the strangest, and best, peripheral ever available on a games console was the Samba De Amigo maracas. Yes, the two entirely disparate worlds of the energetic Brazilian dance, and a target audience that spends most of its time in darkened rooms alone, are finally combined into one glorious experience. Combine that with the crazy art aesthetic of Sonic Team and you end up with a Sombrero wearing monkey that starts freaking out into drug inspired backdrops whenever the player performs well. Yes if you want to see a monkey really trip balls and not be arrested for animal abuse, then this is the game you have always wanted. In simple terms the game gives you onscreen prompts as to where and when you should be shaking your maracas (and indeed your booty if you feel that is appropriate). And the maracas really make the experience. Playing with the joypad rather than the maracas is akin to playing soccer with a grape. It’s just about feasible, but why would you bother? It is quite a liberating experience for the more reserved gamer to really let loose on a game that requires them to make emphatic stances and gestures, and unlike other rhythm games, you really perform better if you dance at the same time. However due to the shameful nature of making an ass of yourself whilst shaking plastic instruments it is highly recommended that you serve your Samba De Amigo sessions with a large side order of tequila. Bon appetite!
I have accumulated a lot of fairly pointless or ridiculous stuff during my time in Japan, much of it game related, so this section is a little spotlight into the kind of unusual stuff you can pick up, but really shouldn’t bother doing so.
So what is worthy of being the first item on this incredibly important list? That honor goes to the Densha De Go!! controller. Yes if you have always harbored the secret desire to be a Japanese train driver (haven’t we all) then this gem will allow you to have the experience from the comfort of your living room without endangering hundred of lives. Enter the hectic and exciting world of the train driver as they thunder along the Yamanote line! Brake quickly to throw all the passengers to the floor! Fail to stop with pinpoint accuracy on the platform and get fired as a result! Yes in the thrill-a-minute world of driving trains, you can experience this and so much more. Well actually not much more. But you get to use this awesome controller, complete with beverage holder. Yeah… Great. It can be surprisingly fun when played with a group of friends with vast quantities of alcohol to be consumed, but if you find yourself playing alone in a darkened room, well, that is more of a cause for concern. Shockingly popular in Japan, it has been released on every major console since the Sega Saturn. For those without easy access to this piece of history, you may be lucky enough to find the arcade cabinet version and give it a go. My one real note of praise for this game is that it is infinitely superior to the bus driver game that is also available.
Gaming has evolved relatively quickly as a medium as I have mentioned before and a lot of previous taboos have already been broken. Of course graphic violence has been depicted as well as both straight and homosexual themes have been contained within games. But one potentially thorny issue that so far has been side-stepped by Western developers concerns the depiction of war in games, and in particular World War II first person shooters. Whilst there are many, many games that are based on this conflict, to my mind there have been no high profile ones that have had a protagonist that wasn’t an Allied solider. Put simply, we have never been a German solider faced with the prospect of killing British and American soldiers. There may have been a game that has depicted this scenario, but if there has been it must have slipped me by. So in a genre that has been desperate to evolve and present itself in a fresh or unique way, why has this subject not been broached? Is it that we cannot sympathize with the enemy? That we feel by performing well in the game we are somehow betraying our own patriotism? Or is it that the game developers are nervous as to how such an approach would affect the sales of their game. Certainly it was curious that Medal of Honor: Rising Sun was released in Japan as the game focuses on the Americans defeating the Japanese in the Pacific conflict. And I’m am pretty sure that the new Call of Duty, set in the same conflict will also get a release in Japan, but again it seems a strange and perhaps uncomfortable notion. Whilst there are many games that feature anti-heroes, or strategy games based on fictitious conflicts in which you can take on America, the World War II first person genre is a different beast. We are required to empathize with the plight of the main character, to fight for his cause and ultimately is that something that we can do when we are killing our own countrymen? Or even more controversially, will there ever be a game in which the main character is an Iraqi freedom fighter trying to oust American forces? This later scenario is highly unlikely, especially due to the fact that the conflict is even now being waged, but do we have enough time and perspective on World War II to boldly approach it in a new way? I would like to think that if the right developer made a thought provoking, intelligent game then it would be a great idea. But as we all learned in school, History is written by the winners. So it is simply a matter of waiting for a team of brave and talented people to make a game that provides a new angle for the World War II first person shooter genre.
This element of Otaku certainly provided one of my wtf moments in Japan, or even a “dear god I wish that I could go back in time and erase what I had seen from my memory”. I went to comiket, which is the largest cosplay and doujinshi event in Japan. Doujinshi is basically a form of fan fiction in which aspiring manga artists make comics based on existing characters from anime, manga and video games. So when I went I was pleased to see interesting comics based on my favorite anime and games such as Naruto, One Piece and Final Fantasy. Then I picked one up to flick through it. And I almost passed out. You see many, but not all, of these comics are erotic. In fact very explicitly so. Whilst there may be some elements of subtlety in the writing that I was unable to pick up on, what I did see was pretty direct and pretty traumatizing. Not only are many of the comics erotic but they are also gay. Don’t get me wrong I’m pretty offended by both gay and straight explicit manga drawing, but there is something about seeing two of your favorite characters doing terrible things to each other that is particularly soul crushing. One particular example I saw was a Naruto doujinshi. In this story Naruto (at the time that the story was set) was about thirteen years old, and his teacher Kakashi was an adult. And they were having a relationship. It’s so bad on so many levels.
So how about the Otaku themselves who make these… these… umm… materials? Well for one thing they are very talented. Say what you like about the content, the actual artistic ability is incredible. It makes me somewhat despondent that such talented artists are still not deemed good enough to be professional manga artist, but it is understandable given the already overcrowded market. Secondly they are very passionate fans of the series that they draw on for inspiration. It is out of their affection for the characters that they want to further explore the relationships that exist in a different context. Which I guess accounts for the intimate detail in which these relationships are explored. Incidentally this particular element of Otaku is not a male dominated society. Indeed it seems to be at least a fifty-fifty split, or if anything there are slightly more female artists that male ones. Also the more successful ones have a very dedicated fan base. When I was at the event I saw very long lines to wait for a particular artist’s work. And as I said before, not all of the dojinshi are erotic, but for those without a good knowledge of Japanese it can be tricky to know which ones you should be wary about until it is too late. So it is with some trepidation that I salute this group of Otaku. They are very passionate about their work and the works that inspired them, and the professional quality of the comics they produce is excellent. They are also a very talented and creative group and so can match their fervor with ability. But still, it is a somewhat queasy salute that I can muster. Unless you really want to see what would happen between Sanji and Zorro from One Piece if they gave in to their hidden desires and let loose, then this is one area of Otaku that you should probably steer clear of. Respect them and their incredible talent. From a distance.
Recommended research: Comiket (Tokyo Big Site, three days in August and three days in December)
When people tell me that Japan is a homogeneous culture I vehemently disagree. I point to the unique fashion, the eclectic food, the fascinating individuals that walk the streets, and the unique experiences that occur everyday in Tokyo. But having been to music festivals in Japan, a part of me is sadly inclined to agree. There is a bizarrely robotic reaction by the audience to what is, by its very nature, a liberating and energetic atmosphere. The people just want some kind of way to uniform their response to what is happening onstage. When the band gestures to the crowd to clap their hands, they will all do so, and in exact tempo with each other. When one person makes a pointing gesture to the stage, a sea of hands will join them in a harmony of rhythm and unity that would make the opening ceremony of the Chinese Olympic Games look amateur by comparison. It is quite a sight and you can see that the crowd is really enjoying the music, yet it seems hard for them to express it in their own unique way. Of course this is a generalization, but if you go to a live concert I’m sure you would come to the same conclusions as I have drawn. The truly eerie thing is the silence in between songs. After a band has finished a particular song, there is a short outburst of applause and then the audience waited quietly and patiently for the next song to begin. It is a curious sensation to be surrounded by people in such an electric atmosphere, and yet you can hear the sound of a bottle being dropped from twenty meters away. You will never know how quiet ten thousand people can sound until you go to Summer Sonic. And the encore calls are equally perplexing. Some pockets of people will start to chant encore (or rather en-co-ru) which will be taken up by other people around them, and then it dies as quickly as it began. And the crowd once more waits quietly and patiently for the band to come on stage. And occasionally the chants will come up again, and then fade gently into the night. When I saw the Beastie Boys perform, I think we had to wait about twenty minutes for them to come back on stage. I have no idea why, but I can’t help but feel that they were waiting for a fever pitch of screaming before they reemerged on stage. But it never came, and instead they eventually walked back on stage looking somewhat confused. It still seems that music festivals contain the restrained nature of Japanese culture. At least I think it will be a while before they start throwing bottles of urine onstage like they did to 50cent when performed at an English rock concert. Well, maybe the Japanese way is better.
I am aware of my own limitations when it comes to creating technical interesting levels in Little Big Planet and with this in mind I created my most recent level. Entitled “Love Hurts” (I know, I really need to hire someone to name my creations) it is a kind of mood piece/ dating simulation. I am interested in created concept levels and this one I felt was pretty interesting. Basically within the level you have the choice between dating a cheerleader or a girl next door type and then determining the end result of that relationship. Whilst I feel the idea is something different, I am hampered by my own abilities. Nonetheless I feel it is my best work yet due to its atmospheric nature, but the online community has given it a very mixed response. Some people enjoyed it and wanted to try and see all four outcomes to the scenario, and some just thought it was weird. And both are opinions I can understand. But I think that Little Big Planet does give the opportunity to create game experiences which are not really game experiences whilst there are platforming elements in my stage, essentially they are unimportant. It is about discovering what you can express through a medium that is usually constrained by having to contain tight and well focused gameplay. I may have not succeed as much as I would have liked to but I hope that someone somewhere has created a better level than I have but with the same idea of creating concept over content. The fact that Little Big Planet provides an opportunity to explore these different ways of utilizing the medium is something exciting. But for now it is just baby steps that are being taken.
You were born and raised on Street Fighter II, right? Does that mean you are any good at fighting? Dear God no. Often fighting game counterparts are as similar to the real thing as a blow up doll to a real woman. If, having invested hours of your time into a fighting game and you feel that you can nail some guy in a bar for staring at your girlfriend, then you are likely to wake up in a hospital with fewer functioning organs than you had previously. You see, besides the obvious fact that you can’t become stronger by playing fighting games, they make you worse at the real thing. They teach you rules and regulations which, if you adhere to them, are going to leave you vulnerable. With the imminent release of Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD remix, let’s look at five Street Fighter conventions that you should ignore when it comes to the real thing.In Japanese ShoRyuKen roughly translates as "I'm-totally-jumping-and-punching-you-in-the-face-and-you-may-catch-on-fire".Don’t telegraph your next move
Image the scene; two combatants are engaged in a battle of wits, each looking at the position of the others’ body in the hope of predicting the first attack. The wind gently caresses the trees causing the leaves to rustle. The moon gases solemnly down on the scene that appears to be frozen in time. Then it starts, one man shifts his stance ready to launch his assault. The other is impassive yet stares intently in the hopes of getting even a small advantage by guessing their opponents’ attack. “I’m going to kick you in the face with an axe kick!” the man screams as loud as he can before doing just that. At least he’s honest.
Welcome to the world of Street Fighter where they are so confident in their fighting ability that they are very comfortable with telling you exactly what they are doing as they are doing it. Most of the characters seem to suffer from this mental illness that leads to them to narrate their own actions; in particular Ken, Ryu and Dhalsim take the prize. The smartest characters are the ones that merely let out nonsensical girly shrieks (I’m looking at you Vega), or are too busy trying to eat your face to talk (take a bow Blanka). I implore you, if you do end up in the real situation, do not believe that shouting “Sonic Boom!” is going to have any impact beyond being a funny story that is told at your funeral.If he stomps on his junk there won't be a round 2 or 3Don’t wait for them to get up
They are lying prone on the floor in front of you, but they start to stir, preparing to stand and fight again. Rather than do the honorable thing and allow them to do so, a la Street Fighter II, go over there and kick them as hard as you can, preferably in a place which will render them unable to produce offspring. No it isn’t laudable, but if they get up they are going to rip you in half. Do the right thing. Neuter them. This was the least pornographic picture I could find of R.MikaDon’t wear a costume
Yes wrestlers do it. But that isn’t real. Yes the characters in Street Fighter wear some interesting clothes. But ditto. You are just going to look foolish. Fortunately for Street Fighter, the series has always had fairly restrained designs for their characters, which is incredibly laudable when compared to the anatomically impossible prostitutes that you can choose in DOA or Rumble Roses. None the less there are a few that could have done with a little more consultation with their personal shopper. M. Bison has clearly hit up the military dictators’ version of GAP. The jackboots and tight fitting red military costume, topped off by the perky little cap would also make him very popular in particular districts of cities. Before I saw Cammy I had no idea that one-piece swimsuits were British Special Forces standard combat issue. But, of course the wrestling characters throughout the series have to win this round. Whilst Zangief may look pretty silly he pales in comparison next to this female wrestler, R. Mika. ...then Ken's mates came along and stabbed herDon’t pose
If after kicking someone’s ass, you then fold your arms and bellow with laughter/ comb your hair/ start dancing, then chances are his mates will have smashed you over the head with a bottle by then. Whilst you are free to enjoy your victory in a heavily regulated environment, in a real street fight retribution can be swift. Therefore you should keep your wits about you rather than giving the thumbs up motion to the onlookers. If, however it is just the two of you, go nuts. Sing, dance, shave if you want. And also...… don’t forget to take advantage of the situation
For some reason in the Street Fighter series there has never been the option to steal the wallet of the person you have just knocked unconscious. Thankfully real life has no such restrictions.
It’s over. I throw in the towel, I concede, I give up. I can no longer defend the Wii. The last of my strength has faded from me and I am faced with the unfortunate reality that it is no longer a games console. I believed. I was so excited when I first picked up my Wii, when I first played Wii Sports, when I first realized that this simple machine could really attract the more mainstream audience, and allow games to be more fascinating to people who had previously been dismissive. Unfortunately I was right. And as the popularity of the machine ahs increased, so has the sheer volume of poisonous filth that has been shoveled onto it. And I can’t swallow anymore. I can no longer sing the praises of the machine whilst my throat is being clogged by the waste matter of third-party Wii games.
Grow up. Just don’t buy the games that are bad. You don’t need to play them.
To think that would be entirely missing the point. My anger is focused on the developers who have so little respect for the consumer that they make no effort to give them a worthwhile product. In fact, rather than negligence it seems more like contempt. And for every poor game that an uninformed customer purchases and has a bad experience with, it jades them more to a medium which I am passionate about. I want more people to play games. I want them to love games. I feel upset when these people are exploited and their naivety is taken advantage of. Some of the blame also rests with Nintendo. They have to approve of third-party titles before they are published on their platform. They can control what is released. But they don’t. The Nintendo Seal of Approval no longer has a meaning. It simply acknowledges that if you put this disc into out machine, something will happen. It may not be entertaining and it may not be stimulating but it probably won’t explode. Nintendo have publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with the quality of third-party games, but have done little to change this trend. Yet you can hardly blame them. After the lack of third party games support for their previous console, the Gamecube, the companies that previously ignored them are scrambling over each other to get a fistful of the money that Nintendo is making. And Nintendo is welcoming them with open arms.
I have had some great memories with my Wii, and some of my favorite games of all time are played on that platform (Super Mario Galaxy, No More Heroes and Smash Bros). But looking at the Wii’s software lineup for 2009 is a somewhat painful task. Next year, finding a quality game will be like trying to find a needle in a pile of garbage. For those that do the research and are informed it will be a quiet time but not a terrible one. For the new audience that the Wii has welcomed to the world of video games, they should prepare to go swimming in the sea of excrement that is Wii shovelware. Judging by the sales numbers for Wii hardware, that's a lot of people.
Check out this link to a youtube video. It is very very cute and funny. I particularly like the dancing to 'Hips don't lie' by Shakira. So CUTE!Sackboy dance
We’ve come a long way baby. Since its entrance into mainstream entertainment videogames have always been treated by politicians and authority figures as a destructive and unwelcome aspect of modern culture. And whilst they still rail against the evils of the influence of violent videogames (the industry is an easy target), privately there is growing understanding of the political and economic value of the video gamer. Most video game players are in the magic age demographic of between 18 and 40 that both advertisers and politicians covet. Whilst many may assume that people who play games are kids or teenagers, this was much truer back in the 1980s. Now those NES kids have grown up and have become a target for the very groups that used to look down on them. Whilst it is a relatively young form of entertainment, it does seem that those who played games when they were kids continue to do so even after they gain employment. That is why games can still be sold at a high price and the industry is still thriving despite the economic slump. The people that grew up playing Nintendo now have disposable income and are willing to use much of it on their hobby.
From its humble beginnings we have now arrived at the stage where billboard advertisements for Obama appeared in the game Burnout Paradise. As a gamer my response to this is somewhat conflicted but nonetheless it is indicative of the fact that the medium, and the people who enjoy it, are being taken more seriously.
There really is a lot of unutilized potential when it comes to gamers. They are an outspoken community (even if that is through the anonymity of the message boards) and their passion for their hobby is almost unparallel. Like many other communities there are some intolerant or crude people, but by and large it is liberal group that feels strongly about the right to protect the first amendment. We have seen a lot of censorship issues in video games, likely more than in other forms of media, and it is something that always elicits a strong response from gamers. They are also incredibly well informed. Whilst you may never know about censorship cuts that films are forced to make, or the differences between the different region releases, you can bet that video game fans somewhere are discussing the issue. For example, in Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, I know that the US release has a censored version of the Joker’s fatality, but that the European release has been unaffected. Likewise I know that in the Japanese version of No More Heroes the blood is black. Ok, maybe I know more than is healthy, but there are many others that are similarly well informed and I feel that this same level of devotion is lacking in other entertainment mediums. Type in game petitions on Google and you are also likely to get a glimpse into the fervor of the game fan.
So then why have video games been demonized by the media, made into a scapegoat, and come in for greater scrutiny and criticism from politicians than other media? Well many of the general public still don’t really understand video games so it is somewhat to do with preying on the fear of the unknown. The video game community is also so divided into factions which dislike each other intensely that it is difficult for them to get sustained unity for any cause. And because so far there has been nothing to truly threaten the industry. Whilst politicians like to speak out against violent video games, they know that really there is nothing that they can truly object to. Whilst there are violent games, they all have age restrictions on them and therefore if a child is playing such a game it is because their parent has bought it for them. It is up to the parents rather than the government to decide which games are acceptable. And as for images or opinions that many seem strange or at odds with your own beliefs then check the First Amendment. There are far more disturbing images that any child could see by wandering into an art gallery.
It boils down to this; don’t alienate game players. Judging by the penetration of video game consoles into households a lot of people play games. That which was deemed niche is now mainstream. The Obama billboard may not have garnered significantly more votes for him, but it was symbolic of the medium coming of age. We’ve come a long way baby. They have to start listening to us sooner or later.
He looks much sweeter when he isn't face down in a pool of what used to be his dinner
Have you ever seen your grandfather drunk? Probably. Have you ever seen him get so drunk that he vomits all over a train station platform then passes out? Probably not. Yet in Japan this is not an uncommon occurrence. I’m sure many of you will have witnessed such a scene many times. Usually it’s a Friday night in Tokyo around ten or eleven, and all the company parties have finished. In Japan many people work beyond the usual retirement age and often well into their twilight years. But they are not exempt from the ritual that is the Friday night after work drinking party. Here they are forced (by social norms) to consume vast quantities of alcohol with their co-workers, some of whom are young enough to be their grandchildren. Then, as they desperately attempt to return home to the comfort of their armchair, Father Time taps on their shoulder and whispers in their ear that they are too old for this shit. And thus we see the tragic sight of a man who should be in front of a fireplace eating mushy pea soup instead produce something that looks remarkably like it. It’s true that you see a lot of the younger salarymen in a similar situation (no doubt proving their manliness and potential as management material), but it’s just not the same. You can only feel pity for the old guys who went that bit too far. It’s true that in other countries people start drinking at a younger age, or drink more, but the Japanese have to do it until they are at Death’s door. Fight on old men, fight on. Your rest from the destructive culture of alcoholism is just around the corner.
Cat-on-a-string. It’s exactly as it sounds. Cat-on-a-string. Head on down to Ueno park and check out the homeless people. Go ahead, they won’t hurt you. Maybe you will find cat-on-a-string ™. Not much more to say I guess. A couple of the homeless people have captured their own feline friends and keep them close by attaching them to a piece of string which is tied to their cardboard box. Bizarre. If they can afford to feed a cat everyday then surely that money could be better spent on one more hot meal for themselves. Or maybe I’m missing the point. Maybe if times are desperate, the cat is the last resort. Honestly though it seems like an attention getting device. You may have also seen some other variations, such as the legendary man-with-a-squirrel-on-a-piece-of-rope. He can be found wandering around Yoyogi Park on a Sunday. Just in case the idea catches on as a new fad I have already patented rabbit-on-a-tightrope and fish-on-a-ruler. Keep an eye out for them in shops this Christmas.Something like this. Only much, much more horrific.
As someone new to the Wipeout franchise I wasn’t really expecting that much. I was aware of the previous incarnations in the series and I had noted that it was critically acclaimed and had a dedicated fan base, but at the same time neither the visual style nor techno soundtrack appealed to me. The fact that Mario Kart is my favorite racing game speaks volumes about my experience in this genre. Despite this I did download Wipeout HD from the Playstation store and I was pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable the experience was.
And that is one of its most appealing factors; the experience it provides. The presentation in excellent, especially considering that it is a downloadable game. The music, the visuals and the feel of the vehicles all merge seamlessly to form a pulsing action racing game. The simple, elegant designs of the ships and the tracks are complimented by some excellently chosen color schemes. Add in the psychedelic lights that emerge in some levels (and particularly the zone levels) and you have a hypnotic game that is very aesthetically pleasing. But don’t think that this a sleep inducing game; thanks to the liberal scattering of boost pads and interesting futuristic weapons, this game bears more similarity to the aggressive multiplayer fun that you would find in Mario Kart. However the computer is less blatant in its need to crush anyone looking to open up a decent lead at the front. This game does rely far more on ability than luck and no single item in the game is going to see you move from last to first. The game is actually very accommodating to novices like myself, as it has a steering aid option. This addition helps to prevent the ship from running into the wall barriers, and whilst veterans may balk at the idea of dumbing down the controls, newcomers will appreciate it as a way to ease them into the unique weight and drift of a hovercar.
Considering it is just $20 (or ¥1800 on the Japanese Playstation store) it has an incredible number of tracks and content. The varieties of races from the time trials, speed laps, zone mode and the tournaments mean that things rarely get stale. And the online mode will ensure that this game has legs. As a word of warning though the competition there is pretty stiff.
It’s quite hard to rate this game given that it is so cheap. That may sound strange but it really has so much more content than you would expect that I recommend any one to give it a try if they have a bit of cash in their account and time on their hands. If you hate any form of racing game feel free to give it a miss.
A crime against decency
There are some crimes in this world that, sadly, go unpunished. There are no superheroes in real life to rid the world of unquestionable evil. Yet I’m sure even Superman would have little idea of what to do when faced with a poodle in a leather jacket. Yes everywhere, and everyday this crime against both animal rights and fashion is being committed willy-nilly. The frightening thing is that this atrocity is committed by perfectly reasonable people. People that you know, people that you trust, people who you like. They appear to be a normal, socially responsible person most of the time but secretly harbor desires to see what their beloved pet would look like in a sailor costume. Within the mean streets of Tokyo, this threat lurks around every corner. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen in other countries (I’m looking at you Hollywood) but Japan really contains some of the finest examples of this madness. I like to feel that I am a tolerant human being, and in some cases perhaps in winter a dog may appreciate some form of clothing (dear Lord has Japan changed me this much already), but even I have my limits. And this glass wall of tolerance was shattered in spectacular fashion one day in Harajuku. This fateful moment still sits uncomfortably in my mind’s eye, as clearly as the time this intensely traumatic event occurred. I remember the crisp, autumn weather. I remember the soft amber color of the leaves. I remember the lively bustle of youthful energy that embodies the spirit of Harajuku. I remember the dog in the cat suit…
Why? That question often comes to mind. I have seen many things in my time, I have overcome many problems. But I feel as though I will never understand why one day I saw a dog in a costume in Harajuku. And yet the world keeps on spinning. Remarkable.
These Otaku are obviously the most enjoyable to observe in their natural environment. For most Otaku the problem is that whilst they have a very specific skill, they have little opportunity to display it. Although they may have an encyclopedic knowledge of the various robots in Gundam or characters that have purple glasses, there are few opportunities to display this accumulation of experience. Rhythm action game Otaku are all about the show. Yes here we have the exhibitionists of the Otaku world, only eclipsed perhaps by cosplayers. You are either bad at rhythm action games, or you are incredible. There seems to be little beyond these two options. Seeing one perform in public is an awe inspiring vision. Often surrounded by crowds of shocked and dazzled spectators, they achieve feats that seem near impossible, with the speed of movement that burns the eyeballs of onlookers. But the truth of the matter is that they don’t have superhuman reactions or incredible foresight; they just remember everything. In fact it is probably more impressive when you realize that they have no more physical ability than you or I, but have committed to memory a sequence of movements and timing that would trouble even the most successful of card counters or intelligently designed robots. I have witnessed people playing Dance Dance revolution on the hardest difficultly section whilst facing backwards and without glancing at the screen once. I could barely tear my eyes away from the sight of a short, slightly plump man jiggling and gesturing to the crowd like Mick Jagger on speed. For that moment in time he was the most impressive being on earth as the onlookers gazed at him with a mixture of admiration and disgust. Go ahead and check out the arcade floor of Don Quixote on the weekend. You won’t regret it. Another good spot is outside the Taito arcade. They have a Taiko no Tatsujin machine there that has bore witness to some historical performances with cheering thronging crowds. Then the music finishes and the crowd will disperse. But none will have forgotten what they witnessed that day. They have seen beyond the limits of human ability. And I salute them.
Check out this video. Crazy.DDR video
Recommended research: Don Quixote or the Taito arcade
The main criticism that has been leveled at Dead Space is that it lacks originality. It’s true that the game does borrow aspects of controls from Resident Evil 4 and the atmosphere generated owes much to games like Bioshock or Silent Hill, but if you are going to borrow, then borrow from the best. All areas of this game are highly polished, and it has enough of its own ideas not to come off as a derivative clone.
Dead Space takes place on a mining ship in space that has been overrun by aliens. This setting is a pretty original concept and the ship is both one of the game’s greatest asset, and its most limiting point. The structure of the ship is beautifully realized, it does feel like a plausible physical entity. The areas you traverse feel like true representations of the machinery that would be in such a vessel, as opposed to transparent level designs. No area feels unessential or incongruous to the environment, and the dilapidated nature of the ship provides a lot of the tension and atmosphere of the game as well as its obstacles and puzzles. As opposed to the forced and unlikely puzzles of Resident Evil, these seem very natural. However, this realistic approach is also somewhat of a drawback. If you aren’t interested in the mechanical and gloomy mise-en-scene, then you may find if difficult to endure it for the entire game. That isn’t to say that all areas of the ship look the same, there is an infirmary, a botanical facility and an engine rooms, but certainly there is a consistent artistic vision that pervades the game.
The combat is excellent in the game which is fortunate as you will often be engaging enemies. This game, more than many others, has an excellent sense of merging the abilities of the weapons with the vulnerabilities of certain enemies. Whilst every weapon works against almost any kind of foe, finding a gun that is particularity suited to a specific type of enemy is a very satisfying feeling. And speaking of satisfying I would be remiss in my duty if I failed to mention the decapitating of limbs. Yes, in order to kill the aliens swiftly you must remove their limbs. Your basic gun, the plasma cutter, is the game’s equivalent of a surgical tool with which you can carve up the monsters to your heart’s desire. Combine this ability with the power to freeze the enemies, and the macabre desires that fester deep within you can be fully explored and you take them apart, piece by piece.
The game does have several original aspects besides the environment itself; the integration of the menu systems into the character’s suit and the environment come off very well. The use of the zero gravity rooms is also interesting and serves to slow the pace of the game and allow for slightly more cerebral challenges. But one of the most well implemented features in the game is the sound. The soundtrack itself is very evocative, but it is the environmental sound effects that are the most impressive. They really meld with the environment of the game. The ship is given even more personality through the creaking of the metal and the grinding of the cogs that surround you. The tension is ramped up with the intelligent use of sound and a distant clattering will have you wondering whether you are simply hearing the machinery or the movements of something more sinister. Even in the zero gravity sections where there is a vacuum, the absence of sound provides a different, but no less effective form of tension. Whereas you are used to a cacophony of noise, the quiet void leads to the terrifying sense that enemies can silently sneak up on you.
The narrative of the game unfortunately isn’t as compelling as the atmosphere of the ship and whilst the silent hero is a tradition in adventure games which is usually successful, the lack of reactions from the protagonist is baffling at times. As the game uses a third person perspective, and the character is a miner as opposed to a grizzled marine, you cannot help but marvel at his stoic nature as he casually dispatches creatures that look as though they are inside out. And whilst the game does have some incredibly atmospheric set pieces and interesting puzzles, by the end everything does feel very familiar. The puzzles are a little different as are the environments, but the way in which enemies pounce on you, or waves that you face after a lock down of your room becomes slightly predictable.
Dead Space is a remarkable achievement. For a development team that had little prior experience, they have created one of the stand-out titles of the year. It’ an enveloping, absorbing game in which sound, design and controls merge beautifully into one atmospheric expression of the team’s artistic vision. Original IPs don’t get much better than this.
You could argue that this is too great a generalization of the word Otaku. You could argue that anyone who is passionate about one particular type of food is an Otaku. You could say that no one could possibly love ramen that much. You would be wrong. Ramen is undoubtedly its own subculture and the zealots that reside within it should not be underestimated in the passion or dedication to the never ending search for perfection. I have a few friends that claim they are Ramen Otaku, but in truth it really takes elements from each of them to complete the profile of a ramen Otaku. If you are the kind of person that has a special GPS system on their phone that tells you where the closest ramen shops are on your phone, and then links you to a review of the ramen shops in the area, then you are on your way. If you eat ramen everyday, well in truth you are on your way to a heart attack, but also you are on your way to Otakudom. If you are willing to travel an extra 30minutes because there is a better ramen shop further away, you are on your way. The truly enjoyable thing about ramen Otaku is to see them fight. It’s fun to go with them to their favorite places and see them stare at you whilst you eat, looking to see if you can understand the magnitude of importance of what you are about to consume. And it is amusing to have to wait outside in the freezing cold because apparently ramen shops that you have to queue for are significantly better. But the real joy comes from putting two self professed ramen Otaku in the same room and asking the where you should eat dinner. Then sit back and watch the sparks fly. The level of energy, conviction and passion is something that is lacking from our political system. What is present in both debates, however, is the underlying feeling that they want to kick the shit out of their opponents, and would kill them given half the chance. Each suggestion made by one is battered down by an incredulous exclamation from the other; each heartfelt recommendation is met with scorn and disdain. The sense of futility is almost tangible, neither one will ever convince the other to concede, because neither is really wrong. Ramen is personal and spiritual and therefore no two people can have the same experience. Once you have had your fill of watching the spectacle, settle with the inevitable compromise of McDonald’s.
Recommended research: I wouldn’t dare to suggest a place lest I receive death threats
As this is a pretty contentious top five (aren’t they all) I have to note that I chose these soundtracks based on certain specifications. First they had to be actual music. Whilst I don’t deny that there are many great NES games with very compelling and evocative soundtracks, to many people they would just sound like intermittent beeping. Second they have to be enjoyable to listen to outside the context of the game. Rather than setting a specific atmosphere for a certain game they had to be purely interesting to listen to as a separate entity. Finally they couldn’t be compilations of previously existing pop music that was ported into the game such as the Tony Hawk series. If the music within the game was preexisting then it shouldn’t be in there as the focus of the game such as Rock Band or Taiko no Tatsujin. So without further ado here is a list of the five best soundtracks you could play to someone without them realizing it's videogame music!Jet Set/Grind Radio
A wonderfully eclectic collection of tracks, from the thumping bass of Moody’s Shuffle to the catchy chaos of Let Mom Sleep. The game itself is about rollerblading gangs of the near future battling against an oppressive police force by spraying their graffiti tags around the city. The soundtrack reflects the game in many ways in that it’s funky, vibrant and wholly original. It’s therefore somewhat difficult to categorize but to take a stab at it; it is best described as techno j-pop with a splash of funk. The western version of the game also featured a couple of tracks by artists such as Jurassic 5, but in order to stick to the rules, I’m judging this game on the Japanese release. It is still available to purchase in some game music stores so I recommend you go ahead and do so. You won’t have heard anything like it. The sequel Jet Set Future also had a strong soundtrack but the original just edges it out. Rez
This is a strange one to pick in a sense because it is actually a music game, and the music within the game is altered and created by you in a sense. Oh, and its also trance music which under almost any circumstance I find repellent. Despite that I find myself picking up the game occasionally just to experience the soundtrack again. It always builds from silence, through levels of ambience through to a throbbing, booming explosion of energy and whether you are playing the game or not it is difficult to resist its infectious vibe. Little Big Planet
Ok so if you have read any of my blog you may know that I am in love with this game (despite its worrying power to sway my emotions) so you may be thinking that this is a spur of the moment choice. Listen to it yourself and you will abandon that notion. It’s just cool. I can think of a more eloquent way to describe it I’m afraid. It’s just damn cool. Within the game there are a number of different environments (desert, temples, ninjas that kind of thing) and each brings its own unique flavor to the set. The main theme is particularly endearing and plays into the inspiring and imaginative theme of the game. It is also the most controversial soundtrack on the list; the game was delayed for a week to remove a song which quoted passages from the Quran, a sensitive issue for Muslims. It does contain some preexisting music but I would be very surprised if you recognized more than one song. Play, Imagine, Create is the game’s tagline. The soundtrack will help you to do the first two at least. Metal Gear Solid series
This series has always teetered from the sublime to the ridiculous and the soundtrack is no exception. There are some very evocative pieces of music in each of the games including the disturbing theme of Psycho Mantis and the balls to the wall pure action movie tracks of the fourth game. But for my money there are two tracks which epitomize the best, and the best bad music of the games. The first is the main theme to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. This track was composed by Harry Gregson Williams who you may recognize as the composer of orchestral music for a lot of popular action movies. Remember the scene in the Rock where Nick Cage falls to his knees with the flares held high over his head? This guy made the music. The theme really is a very stirring piece of music, at times somber and reflective before culminating in such a rousing and inspiration climax that after hearing it you are likely to charge off to your nearest mountaintop to shout patriotic slogans. On the other hand you have the theme to Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. The song is also called Snake Eater and is so hilarious that you won’t be able to get through it without bursting into uncontrollable fits of laughter. Or you could do what I did and listen to it in silent disbelieving awe. I really recommend you listen to it, come back here and comment on what percentage you feel the creator of this piece intended to be taken as satire and what percentage was a genuine attempt to make good music. Basically it is a rip off/reference to James Bond theme songs, but based on the character of Snake. One of the lyrics is “one day you’ll feast on a tree frog”. Parody or poetry? You decide.Final Fantasy series
This needs little introduction or explanation. Its just really beautiful music. Do yourself a favor and go out and buy a CD of one of the live performances that is performed live by the Final Fantasy Orchestra. You won’t regret it. Forgive the hyperbole but in my humble opinion it’s some of the most beautiful music ever made.
I decided to hone my level somewhat based on the advice of a friend and I tarted it up a little at the same time. There were a few pacing and jump points that were issues and at times perhaps it was a little unclear where the player should go. It did not take as long as previously and there were no points at which I contemplated ripping my PS3 from the wall and hurling it from my balcony, which was a welcome change. Now, however I have to deal with another difficult issue. It seems hard to get noticed. There are so many people out there creating levels for LBP that many levels get swept away by the mass of content. The most popular levels that have been played the most often rose to the surface initially, and rightly so, due to their innovation and quality. But now every time you search for new levels there are pages and pages of undiscovered gems that not enough people will play. By no means am I comparing my first attempt to some of these incredible levels, there is a clear gulf in class. But to be criticized and assessed is a positive learning process and it seems to validate the effort you put in. o far my tweaked level has been up for a couple of days and it has only been played by eleven people, three of whom have hearted it (the game’s equivalent of a thumbs up). It is flattering, but at the same time I wish there was a way to promote it. I have started to develop a new level which will be far more interesting and inventive (not going to spoil it yet) but I have a nagging feeling that even if it is good, it simply won’t be noticed. A labor of love should always be a pleasure so I will press on with it. I’m sure that many people feel the same way about aspects of their own life. You feel you have the talent, but there are many talented people and there and many do not succeed. Despite that I still believe it is vital to put yourself out there, believe in your own abilities and to persist. I apologize for the emotive writing and shall now revert to my bitter and emotionally crippled style.
And as update my second level just went up. It is a in the style of a fairlytale with six acts. I like it a lot. If you have the game and want to check them out look for my user name, thedogbarks. One is called "The adventure of the Pirate King and his giant robot spider" and the other is called "Fairytale - a play in six acts". Check them out!
Ok I have to admit that when writing this I have one particular person in mind. I have seen several other people doing similar things but the reason I feel compelled to write about this very minor subsection is due entirely to the influence of one man. Every time I went to Akihabara I used to see the same guy there. You may think it is somewhat difficult to remember a specific person in the sea of faces that is Akihabara on the weekend, but he was special. Tall, gangly, and always dressed in a powder blue maid costume this guy was always where the action was at. Whether he has by the train station posing next to the maids handing out flyers, or dancing along to the Taito arcade’s street level Taiko no Tatsujin drum game, he always managed to pull focus. But in a way where no one wanted to look him directly in the eye. Despite his dedication to the same, weather beaten blue maid costume, there was no effort on his part to make himself appear more feminine. No makeup, jewelry, accessories or even women’s’ shoes. He was just a dude in a powder blue maid costume. I felt most sorry for the wannabe idols that performed on the street in the hopes of gaining a small following. It must be difficult to put your soul into your voice when out of the corner of your eye is a poorly dressed transvestite who is dancing in a way which would make an epileptic fit look rhythmical. In case you are wondering why I am continually referring to him in the past tense, I am sad to report that I haven’t seen him recently. It is my fervent hope that I have either gone on a different day, or that he has given up on the whole idea and taken up golf instead. The possible alternatives as to what became of him are too unpleasant to consider. I vow if I see him again to provide photographic evidence of his existence in the world. You can see many men wearing women’s clothes on the streets of Japan. But this man had an air of permanence and omnipresence to the streets of Akihabara. He is sorely missed. For now he remains a strong memory in my heart, that might only be wiped out through intensive therapy.
Of course this particular variety of Otaku is one that will inevitably be one that crosses over into another category, but despite that they are worthy of individual reference. Maid café Otaku are not like restaurant critics who feel the need to sample and enjoy everything there is too offer, but rather are like the customers in the sitcom Cheers. Unlike restaurants, Maid cafes are a home away from home and therefore the atmosphere, the service and the familiarity with the staff are of the utmost importance. Perhaps they will have a few establishments they like to frequent, but essentially the concept is the same; you find somewhere you like and you stick to it like a leech at a nudist beach. For the uninitiated it may come as a surprise that maid cafes are so different. Perhaps you might think it is like the difference between going to Tully’s or Starbucks but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Each maid café has its own distinct personality and whilst that has something to do with the décor, it has a lot more to do with the maids themselves. The best ones all have their own crafted individual personality to appeal to the customers and whilst it may pretty superficial, in a simplistic way it is like deciding which Spice Girl you liked in the 90’s. Their personalities are acting roles but how well they can pull them off relates to their skill as a maid. The best maids are somewhat famous, on the same level as a minor Japanese idol. There are occasionally musical performances so the analogy is not too much of a stretch. They provide the fantasy; it is whether the customer buys into it that is the crux of the issue. So maid café Otaku are a pretty discerning bunch. If you are going to spend a lot of time and money in one place then you had better like it. The customers that inhabit the cafes are as different as the places themselves. There are the groups of Otaku that go in order to exchange ideas, compare purchases and to debate their hobbies. There are groups of younger women who are drawn the cute nature of the cafes, the décor and the staff. There are Men and women who go alone and grow personal connections with the maids, conversing with them in a friendly and casual fashion. There are also those who go there to read newspapers or work, seemingly oblivious to their unusual environment. Everyone who has heard of maid cafes cannot help but be curious about what goes on in them but I guess sometimes you just want to go somewhere where everybody knows you name. For those who frequent Akihabara, after a hard day of shopping what could possibly be better than popping into your favorite café a having a chat with old friends?
Recommended research: @home or Mai:lish