Friday, July 30, 2010

Japanese games not covered elsewhere

With the loathsome banality that is EGM, GameFAN behind schedule, EDGE too god-damned crap, GamesTM not posted to me freely, and the WAHP podcast overdue and seemingly cancelled, there's a whole bunch of Japanese games which I nearly missed out on. Here's a rundown of Japanese games which are on my mind. Several of these are my posts from forums, but it's worth seeing the screen art and making a mental not of the game.

I should warn you, there are probably at least 36 other Japanese games I've not even had time to mention here. But this will have to do.


Available now on UMD or Japanese PSN if you’re impatient, this is apparently a follow-up to KOF Sky Stage. I’ve had no prior experience with KOF:SS, but Neo-Geo Heroes Ultimate Shooting is ace.

The shooting system I thought was really cool. You’ve got main attack (which is different for each character, either spread out, concentrated, or homing), and secondary attack which uses up a constantly recharging triple-bar. You’ve also got 3 bombs, which for some characters seems to have limited range, and a taunt button.

The taunt adds a very interesting dynamic to the game, since activating it cancels out all enemy projectiles. Which is great in a tight spot. But subsequent enemy attacks appear to be more powerful, so you need to gear yourself up for some quick dodging afterwards. Also, activating taunt causes all enemy score drops (tiny NeoGeo logos) to increase in rank. So if an enemy normally drops a small NeoGeo score item, using taunt will increase it to a medium or big score item. After a while the taunt wears off. I’ve found it most useful to save for tight spots or just before big enemies (like the gunships on stage 1), since they’ll then haemorrhage major points. If I get in trouble during taunt, it’s time to rely on bombs or pray you’ve got some energy saved.

There’s an energy bar for each character, which might annoy some, but there’s no lives. Die and it’s Game Over, or Continue time. I’ve been playing it 1CC fashion, and the diversity of characters and stages is keeping it interesting. It’s taken the Darius route for stages, with branching paths at the end of each one.

Speaking of Darius, I thought Darius Burst on PSP was probably the worst in the series. For me it was devoid of charm and reward, and after clocking it once I wasn’t given much incentive to play again. Apparently you can unlock other modes, but I couldn’t be bothered to try again. I will concede that Darius had the better soundtrack though!

In NGHUS, there’s loads of modes available right from the get go, and the 10 characters encourage experimentation. Once a stage has been reached it can be replayed at leisure, but be warned, starting from any stage other than 1 makes the game not count any of your NeoGeo score picks-ups at the end of the stage. Which is good. Because if you’re playing for score it encourages you to start from the beginning. But if you just want to play to the end, you can pick up where you left off really easily. It’s worth noting that after each stage your health and bombs do not recharge, meaning a 1CC of the entire game is going to take some work!

It also appears there’s a unique set of dialogue depending on which character faces which boss, and it’s kinda cool to have someone like Marco Rossi act as the boss of stage 1, and call on his tank, Metal Slug, or those POWs, to aid him in battle. The fact that everyone is flying around is kinda weird, but I love it.

There’s also plenty of artwork and so on to unlock, if that’s your bag.

I’ve spent most of my time just experimenting with all the characters, but this feels like a much deeper game, with more variety, more rewards, more modes and just more of everything than Darius Burst. Admittedly it’s vertical rather than hori like Darius, but if you really want a hori shmup just change the screen settings and control it as such (I tested this briefly, and it kinda works, apart from the odd background angle).

STORY MODE – 15 stages, 10 characters
Syd III – spaceship, fast, decent main attack, secondary is shield which is great, really fun to use
Kyo Kusanagi – fast, good main, poor secondary shield which is too slow
Terry Bogard – worst character. Slow. Lousy main. Ridiculously crap secondary which leaves him wide open.
Iori Yagami -
Akari Ichijo – seemingly non-existent secondary?
Marco Rossi – difficult to use. Main attack has 100 HEAVY MACHINEGUN bullets which when depleted leaves him with only a handgun, but the machinegun will recharge. Powerful secondary. Interesting from a conceptual point of view - not seen anything quite like it in other shmups.
Athena –
Kula Diamond -
Mai Shiranui – excellent character. Great main which is semi-homing (well, the fans cover a wide area at least), strong secondary. Weak bomb.
Iroha – biggest breasts in the game, and the most powerful character. Powerful main, with homing, epic secondary that is both shield and rebound attack which absolutely drains a boss’ energy bar (so fucking cool), plus her bomb targets the boss area and is super powerful.

Subject – specific tasks earn medals. Tricky, since objectives are in Japanese. This could offer tremendous replay value. I only played the first stage, and achieved 4 of the 13 tasks, but I’ve no idea what the others are. Reckon I’ll try this once I’ve clocked main mode a few times.

Survival - basically boss rush mode.

Multiplayer – not tested.

Sky Stage – port of the arcade game? Regardless, it sucks. Why play this when you have other modes? Still, awful nice of them to include it as a bonus.

Museum – unlock artwork and music.

Change the screen to be vertical or horizontal. Buttons are fully customisable (default setting sucks). I couldn’t get on with tate mode, but holding the PSP horizontal doesn’t prove too problematic.


I thought Darius Burst sucked. As in it was really pretty damn awful, like 4/10. And that's coming from a hardcore shmup fan. It's probably the worst in the Darius series. I spent a few hours with it, and found the whole thing repetitive and over-recycled. They re-used bosses for goodness sake!

Also, there's not much replay. I clocked it, got another ship, and thought bugger this. I never went back. It felt half-finished, whereas Neo Geo Heroes feels like a game and a half it's so substantial. Honestly I don't know what the **** Taito was thinking when it made Darius Burst. Ran out of budget? Bleurgh!

I didn't unlock any modes. Just the one ship, after a fair amount of effort and practice. I much prefer NGHUS because it provides a whole lot more to play with, and the reward/practice ratio is much more indulgent. It's instantly gratifying for a newcomer, and continues to gratify as your skills improve. Stage 1 now offers no challenge, and I'm working my way through the others. In Darius, I felt no need to improve my skill, it just wasn't in any way rewarding.

Maybe I'm lazy, maybe it's because I seldom put more than 10-20 hours on any game these days. But after a couple of hours it felt like I'd seen everything Darius had to offer. Maybe Darius Burst had some good stuff after unlocking, but that's a poor way to design a game. It's like a book that's absolutely crap until half way through. If I'm not hooked by the end of chapter 1 I put it down and read another.


Jikkyou Powerful Pro Yakyuu 2010 - PS3
There's a demo of this up on the Japanese PSN, for the PS3, so you better grab it quick before they take it down!

I just grabbed it as part of my "grab everything that goes up" mentality, but having played it today, I think it's rather fun.
I haven't played a baseball game since some on the Super Famicom, though I've always liked the kind with Super Deformed characters.

The demo is extremely short, with a preset team for you and the computer, and one chance to bat and one chance to pitch. Three strikes and you're out, three outs and it's change over time. What I like about this is how casual it looks - it's really meant to be fun rather than serious baseball. I watched some videos of Konami's other more serious baseball game on PS3, and it looks pretty grim, with sweaty players all sitting in the horrific uncanny valley.

Here though, the little dudes without arms or legs look really cool.

After a few goes I really got the hang of pitching, and managed three straight outs rather quickly. Batting will probably need some practice. You need to move a virtual icon of your bat and the timing to swing it pretty difficult.
There's a whole bunch of greyed out options in the demo, implying some depth in the final game. Online sources say you can create your own player, and manage a team to stardom, so all the usual baseball stuff.

To be honest, I'd absolutely love to own the full retail copy of this, but at $70 on import, it's a bit steep. The cheapest I've seen it on eBay is £40.


A.C.E.: Another Century's Episode R - PS3

Why have I not been hearing about this? Why has this gone under my radar despite being released on August 19th? This appears to be another Japan-exclusive action game, by the master FROM SOFTWARE, and no one is talking about it. This is what Wikipedia says:
A new dynamic shooting mode called Chase Mode has been added to the game. This mode is similar to arcade shooters wherein the player's machine moves on rails and leaves the targeting weapons for the player to control. Each chase mode section precedes a boss battle; the examples released so far include the battle against the Behemoth from Full Metal Panic! and the battle against Nora Polyansky from Macross Zero. It is currently unknown if the player can change the unit which participates in chase mode.

Man, that sounds ****ing awesome. Are you psyched? Because you should be. I'm gonna need $80 for importing... Quick, to the ebaymobile!

More to the point, why is no magazine talking about this? Why aren't there huge previews? Why aren't the import boys salivating over this? Why do I even need to talk about this, when it should be generating its own publicity?


Super Dimensional Game Neptune - PS3

Silicon Era preview.

The game takes place in the world of Geimugyokai, which means "Game Industry" in Japanese, the world is split into four different regions namely Platetume, Rinbox, Lasidition and Ruwii which are in turn protected by four goddesses. Players take the role of Neptune, a goddess who must defend the world against the attack of the evil goddess Majikonne. In order to do so Neptune must seek out Histoire, the book that contains the secrets to the world.

More here.

So basically it's a metagame ala Segagaga set in a world based on the world of videogames, with consoles based on the current big three? Where you need to fight the 360, PS3 and Wii? How is that not an awesome concept? The only downside is it's by Idea **** as the Japanese like to call them, who have a reputation for making some fairly awful, obfuscated RPGs. Still, I like the idea enough to be interest in a localisation. Will we ever see it? Not if no one talks about it!


Now, would everyone please email and pester EGM's editors for more Japanese coverage? I've got 5 subs issues which are looking less appealing with each blog post I make.

As the above wall of text proves to me: Japan is still rockin' it hot with a whole bunch of crazy awesome exciting games and concepts, but the west just doesn't want to know. Japan might as well give up on us and focus on herself, because no matter what gets announced, what she's working on, we in the west seem content with the mediocrity peddled bby triple-A studios like Activision.

In the west there appears to be a stoic defiant resistance to anything Japanese these days, and I find it frustrating. To hell with the idiots who bandy around derogatory terms for those who still like Japanese games. I will stand on this hill single handed if I have to, manning the ramparts like the last remaining knight against the barbarian Western hordes. Neo Tokyo shall not burn as long as I draw breath! Keep your Call of Duties, the only shooting I will do is in the skies. And as for RPGs, no Mass Effect, since I'm going to be taking on the virtual avatar of the 360 in a fictionalised gaming world which perhaps only exists in my mind.

Japan Ho!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

GameFAN #2 vs EGM #2

I now have both the second issue of GameFAN and the second issue of EGM. And personally, I prefer GameFAN. By a long way I’m afraid. Which is rather annoying since I’d subscribed to EGM. Blast! (Thanks to ‘The Glider’ on ntsc-uk for the GameFAN photo) Most photos here are of GameFAN, click for a bigger image - though I've obscured the text.

When EGM arrived a few days ago I was rather disappointed. The features were good, but absolutely none of the game coverage interested me at all. Which isn't to say there aren't interesting games out there, just that EGM has chosen to focus on what's nauseatingly mainstream and, to me, boring as hell.

Out of roughly 86 editorial pages (ignoring covers, adverts and junk like the contents - but including art pages for each DPS), at least 40 of them I have no interest in, don't want to have an interest in, and won't be reading. I haven’t liked Mortal Kombat since 1995, but at least the feature is interesting and well written enough to warrant reading, as are the other features and columns.

But really, I couldn't care less about the game coverage: CoD, Rockband, Killzone, Assassin's Creed, LBP, Madden, Rage, CV: LoS, Bulletstorm, Final Fantasy 14, FEAR, Crackdowm, WoW, SM Galaxy, Prince of Persia, Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake (OK, maybe I'm interested in this, only to compare it to Deadly Premonition, but DP isn't even mentioned in the copy), Skate 3, Modnation Racers, Trauma Centre, Split Second and Back Breaker. These are loathsomely boring to me.

This reminds me of the time I subscribed to EDGE without knowing what EDGE was (everyone said it was the best magazine available, when really it sanctimonious garbage). As a result I spent a year thinking that I no longer liked videogames and that there was nothing which appealed to me. I almost took up snooker as a hobby instead.

As it stands I'm only reading EGM for the features, for example on whether gaming needs to start forming labour unions, variable price structuring, faster internet protocol standards, integration of 3D technology in modern consumer products, plus psychology of human addiction and other such features. Unfortunately as you can tell, this list reads like something out of the Financial Times. It’s academia heavy. There is no real indie coverage (and by this I mean covering the plethora of games released every minute of every day - more than I could ever play), there’s no import coverage at all, there’s nothing niche or obscure.

I don’t want to say it isn’t fun, because I don’t always want fun, but it certainly isn’t pleasurable. If this continues I won’t be re-subscribing in 6 months.

Which brings me on to GameFAN.

GameFAN is like a consensual hallucinogenic illusion between yourself, Dave Halverson, and everyone else who reads the magazine. I love it as much as I can love any inanimate form of media or object. I love it for the same reason I loved PLAY before it.

They both portray the gaming world as I would want it to be, even if that’s not how it actually is. When Nick des Barres described Folklore as one of the most important games released that year, or Dave spoke about Purgatory Kabuki as if it were the perfect manga/game crossover, I wanted to believe this though I knew it wasn’t true. I loved Folklore but it was ignored by the masses and critics alike, while Purgatory Kabuki was awful. But the illusion created by the magazine was pleasurable enough to outweigh the discrepancies of reality.

Let’s examine the current issue: it features Sin and Punishment 2 on its cover. Over the years how many Treasure games have featured on magazine covers in the west? (discounting the EDGE 200 cover special, because when you fire a shotgun you’re bound to hit something good). Very few - in fact I can only think of GameFAN’s covers showing love to Treasure. Maybe other mags did too. Along with S&P2 cover is a review by Halverson which verges on poetry, followed by a 3-page love-in with Treasure themselves. The questions being as delightful as the answers they garnered - if you threw baby oil into the mix the interview would have looked like Turkish wrestling, it was so intimate. They have a reasonable amount of indie coverage compared to EGM’s none. They’ve also got a cool-as-hell Aksys poster which, on the reverse, features Kunio and other games being published by Aksys. And they've got import coverage.

They’re covering fascinating games, even if they are behind schedule. I won’t play half of these, but I sure as hell want to read about them: Nier, 3D Dot Heroes, Monster Hunter Tri, Agarest, Arc Rise Fantasia, Trinity Universe, Cave Story (with interview), Ninety Nine Nights 2, DEATHSMILES, let me say that again, DEATHSMILES (and Halvey’s review is pretty damn awesome, even if doesn’t quite grasp/explain the games technicalities - and spells shmup wrong), The Red Star, Sam and Max, What did I do to deserve this my Lord 2, Again (cool FMV-style DS detective game), Shin Megami Tensei. Oh, and Deathsmiles. I was especially pleased to see Again on DS, since this slipped by me totally.
Plus the art design is, to me, absolutely perfect. I keep reading forums where people complain about the art design, and this scares me, because right now it’s really is perfect, better than PLAY’s design even, and I really don’t want it to change. Look at all the screenshots for Afro Samurai in the Bandai interview. I have no interest in Backbreaker as a game, but Jesus that’s a beautiful DPS - they even managed to fit in a mini screen-border. I love screenshot borders, they’re like sex for the eyeballs. Mario Galaxy 2 has a montage showing how a series of events and animation play out - I thought these had died with the old GameFAN, and I am SO glad to see them return. Although I’ve little interest in SMG as a game, I can see these screens and think, huh, so that’s how it rolls. At least it saves me checking out Youtube. Cave Story is exquisite and the design respects the sprites and pixel ratios. Deathsmiles is another fantastic DPS, and the screens give me a feeling for the game. Sin and Punishment makes copious use of Suzuki’s beautiful renditions. Agarest War is bright and colourful. Whatever they’re paying their designer, it’s not enough.

If I made a magazine, it would look like this. GameFAN is a work of coffee-table beauty. Excuse the poor lighting in my photos - I’ve intentionally made the text unreadable.

If a magazine is going to show any screenshots at all, it should be to give the readers a feeling of how the game plays - to attempt some kind of arty bullshit with empty space and over large CG shots, which tells the reader nothing about what he’ll see in the game, renders your design irrelevant and pointless. You might as well leave your text on a white background with no imagery, or overlay it onto photographs of dancing pandas. Look at the EGM DPS of Castlevania. What the hell is this crap? I have no idea what it’s trying to show me, it tells me nothing about the game, and so I’ve no interest in reading the text at all. If they didn’t have gameplay shots, they might as well just say: we have no idea what the game is about, here’s a recycled press release along with some speculation on our part. Copious screenshots or die, I say to print magazines. Otherwise I’m going online to read HG101.

The fact that people seem to like useless design, and frown on GameFAN’s use of screenshots worries me. GameFAN’s design at least serves a purpose, of enticing me to read and telling me what I can expect when I play the game. EGM? Like I said, might as well put photos of dancing pandas, because they tell me nothing of the games.

As for the actual writing, I have to admit, EGM is better from a technical point of view. My profession is sub-editor (not that you’d know from my blog posts), and Strunk & White’s Elements of Style is my bible, so I understand the technicalities of the English language. And EGM does a good job of being intelligent. I wrote the GamesTM review for Agarest War, and so I was curious to read GameFAN’s. Unfortunately Valerie Dahmersdottir is a terrible writer, and the review was so vacuous as to be laughable. And yet I still prefer GameFAN, despite its warts and frat-boy writing. And I would still rather pay money for it than EGM.

EGM is like the dowdy headmaster of a private boarding school giving you a stern lecture and threatening you with the cane. Just look at the article on unionisation. It was intelligent and made an important statement about the sorry, fucked up state the industry is in. Much like their Metacritic feature from the month before. These features tell us that the industry is controlled by a few, greedy megacorporations like Activision and EA, and basically the entire show is being run by a bunch of bastardly swine which need the guillotine. As for EGM’s sycophantic Jaffe interview, it made me want to gag. The magazine makes me dislike my hobby, because it paints it in the drab hues of reality (except for Dan Hsu, who seems delusional with how great being a games journalist is - despite it absolutely sucking).

The thing is, I deal with the crappy reality of every day life, oddly enough, every day of my life. And although EGM’s unionisation article has opened my eyes, I’d rather they were closed. I don’t want to know that everything sucks and everyone is being screwed out of money. I don’t play Activision’s games anyway, so to hell with that whole crowd. I would rather choose ignorance and blindness, wrapped up in the passionate 2D rantings of Japan-loving madmen. Video games are my escape from a day job, from taxes, from laundry, from watching the news and seeing the world as a grey androgynous blob of poverty and political and economic upheaval. Games are my drug of choice, and I want my reading material to reflect this.

Reading GameFAN is like finding Dave Halverson knocking on your front door, with a pack of brewskies in one hand and a Dreamcast under his arm, saying: “Duuuude, you gotta check out this hot new import I picked up. It’s got 2D flying demon ninjas like something out of a John Woo film! And afterwards, we can play this cool doujin shmup for my PC98.” He’s a throwback to another time which only existed in a parallel dimension. And considering he writes so much copy for GameFAN, the next 65 pages is pretty much you and him shooting the breeze about how cool hand-drawn sprites are and why Treasure is king. While his buddies chatter in the background about RPGs and indie stuff and scantily clad women.

I know that Sin and Punishment 2 will never sell well, and that a lot of these high-scoring games aren’t as great as they’re made out to be (Infinite Space for me is a 4, despite the high hopes I had), and that no matter how hard Dave fights for it the 2D shooter and indeed 2D will never be popular again, and that the mainstream will always ignore indies, and that people want bland page design. But god damn, I love being in the world that exists inside Dave’s mind for those 65 pages. It’s not real, but to hell with it, I want it to be real. It’s giddy with a joy I’ve not felt for around a decade.

GameFAN is pure absolute pandering to a niche of overlooked, often ignored, underloved, old-school hardcore game nerds; a mutually accepted LSD trip with Dave as your brain-captain. It lacks the faux intellectuality that we as gamers find thrust upon us today, and as I age physically, I am drawn to and desire simpler forms of discourse which recount the happier days of my youth. And yeah, I reckon I’m going to pay another $18 next month to have someone ship it across the Atlantic for me. It’s the only way to fly, man, and it makes me feel good about what I enjoy.

Assuming they still exist... Seeing as their website is dead.

Recettear - an RPG about running an item shop now in English

I’ve wanted to play Recettear ever since InsertCredit made an entry on it way back in 2007. So I’m overjoyed to find that Carpe Fulgur has not only taken on the task of localising and publishing it in English, but they’re promising to work on further such ventures.

The object in Recettear, a Windows based doujin release from 2007, is to run an item shop as the kind you’d find in many JRPGs. You choose what to stock, where to place it, and how much to sell each item for. Placing premium items in your window attracts more people, and as your reputation goes up you’re able to haggle over prices better. Items can be obtained from the guild wholesaler, town market, or by joining an adventurer as he pillages various dungeons. People will also sell you stuff, much like in a regular RPG. As you progress you make friends with different adventurers and start to recognise shop regulars. You can also raise your shop-master level which gives new abilities, and there's also a rival shop owner who appears in the second week. Plus presumably much more!

There’s a rather substantial demo available and, to put it simply, what I’ve played so far fulfils every hope I had for the game when I first saw it - and then some. I’ve grown weary recently of technical games, and while I’m not about to abandon shmups and fighters, I find I’m really enjoying slower, menu-driven games. Which isn’t to say this is casual - because it sure as hell is bloody not! If anything it’s a lot like Princess Maker, with many layers of hidden complexity presented to you via an intuitive interface and wonderful storyline/art direction. Easy to get into but hard to master.
There’s real satisfaction to be had from scouring for Super Antivenom and a classy longsword, placing them with prominence in your window, and then demanding such high rates they never sell. Or maybe I want to fill my central display with nothing but nutbread - I can do that! Recettear so perfectly targets the part of your brain that likes tinkering - it’s the same part which makes character building in ANY GAME fun; or arranging your crops in Harvest Moon; or dungeon building in any number of games from PC to PSP. Becoming the town’s biggest supplier of cotton shirts might not win me the game, but damn, if it doesn’t make me giddy simply by fact that I can do that, IF I WANT TO.

The corresponding adventuring sections (at this early stage) would appear optional, like they were in Princess Maker, but are such fun shouldn’t be overlooked. They’re simple, with a Zelda-esque combat system, but this is all part of the charm. Controls are slick and it supports USB pads off the bat, which I always appreciate. There’s some great music in the dungeons as well. The first adventurer I found was in need of help, so I provided him with free healing items while he took me along for the ride to steal as much treasure as we could. In-game you control adventurers directly.

Backing up the gameplay is some really wonderful anime designs and expertly written dialogue. I can’t vouch for how faithful it is to the original, but I don’t care. Carpe Fulgar’s script is witty, blithe, and absolutely hilarious in places. Reading their Q+A section there’s an entry regarding the Japanese voices, almost apologetically pre-empting anyone who might complain about lack of English dialogue. This shouldn’t be a problem, since the original voices adds some real charm to the game, and anyone likely to complain isn’t the kind of person who’d be interested in buying this anyway.

Recette, your archetypical and heavily moe orphaned-yet-numbskull-young-girl, contrasts superbly with the sharp and businesslike fairy Tear. Their constant banter throughout proved a joy to read, while the in-game sprite of Recette, showing her wide-eyed and wholly incapable of grasping anything Tear tells her, raised some genuine laughs. Despite her lack of ability, she pushes onwards valiantly, shouting her catchphrase: “Capitalism Ho!”
Speaking of capitalism, this appears to be Carpe Fulgar’s first commercial venture, and I hope they make sufficient money off it to continue. Though it saddens me to think that this is such a niche game, both in concept and style, no one will take interest. Certainly I don’t foresee EDGE, GamesTM or EGM covering it. GameFAN might, if they’re still around. But the other mags? Unlikely. Once out, and assuming my PayPal account is sufficiently stocked, I hope to bring you a typically comprehensive HG101 article on this little gem.

Also, let me add: there is NO DRM. That means no bullshit involving Starforce copy protection screwing your computer, and no need to be online when playing a single player game. EA and all those other scum publishers can get bent if they think I'll purchase a game with that stuff.

One final thing which I've left until the end: I have one slightly serious complaint regarding Recettear. The game doesn’t tell you how much you paid for an item from the guild. And what you pay doesn’t match its base value - meaning after buying a whole bunch of guild items, although the game told me what its base sales value was, it didn’t tell me how much I’d actually paid for them.

I’d like some kind of listing which says NOT what the base sales price is (which is irrelevant when I’ve bought it from a wholesaler), but what its going-rate is at the guild.

I realise this probably can’t be changed now - that would require recoding of the entire engine. But it is annoying. I guess I’ll be playing with notepad open on my desktop to jot things down!

You know what this game makes me think? How awesome would an anime-styled, Japanese developed game about running a game store be? You could decide how many plastic models to have on shelves, how many imports to stock, how much retro, how big your second-hand area is, whether to put OSTs next to their respective titles or in their own section. Do you have the radio, regular band or OST music playing inside the store? Do you stock game mags, and if so, which ones? How about a section dedicated to anime and manga and related items of interest to gamers? Oh the possibilities!

Actually, this line of thought also reminds me of that PC game, where you played a movie director, and had to deal with all the aspects of film making, and how much that game made me want a game where you made games. There’s Segagaga, and it’s slowly being fan-translated, but man, this feels like such an untapped well of ideas. Games about the world of games. Amazing. Except games journalism - a game about that would be 110% concentrated lies, with minigames involving working for no pay, get screwed over by game publishers, becoming an alcoholic (at least 2 ex-colleagues fell into this), and then the final level would be you going postal and killing absolutely everyone. Ahem. Not that I’m bitter about my time as a games journo. It was sunshine and dandelions.

Boku no natsuyasumi 3 - DAY 10-14

This is the final entry in my Boku no Natsuyasumi 3 diary. I had wanted to do 30 days, but 2 weeks seems like a good run. We've not had many comments, and I've only seen one link on another website, so I'm guessing it wasn't hugely popular. Furthermore, playing with a notepad and camera by my side is counter-inducive to fully enjoying the game. My final word of advice: water grandpa's garden everyday using the tap by the side. I failed to do this and his vegetables all died on the 15th or so. Also, I've worked out that to find acorns I need to talk to Megumi on the 10th a lot, until she mentions the squirrel, so visit her at night too. Days after the 14th have been really neat. Since uncle asks Boku to say itadakimasu during meals, which kind of symbolises that he's now really part of the family.

Someone asked if this was like Harvest Moon, and really it isn't. It's more like 30 mini-adventures where you need to have as much fun as possible. I'd go as far as comparing it to the Bill Murray film Groundhog's Day, almost. Except your actions carry over. It's also nowhere near as monotonous as Harvest Moon, since monotony in your daily activities results in a dull diary entry (all of mine so far have been special event entries). While I won't write up the remaining 15 days, I will probably at some point make a blog post with all my remaining diary crayon images. If you've enjoyed these entries to this point you should enjoy playing the actual game, I've provided plenty of links to Youtube tips and a Japanese wiki which can be machine-translated

Tuesday 10 August.

Exercise. Told family about yesterday’s adventure and aunty suggested I go again with Midori and her baby sibling, and have her introduce me to the old lady who lives there. Midori didn’t seem pleased.

Fed Cowcow. Checked sparrows. Cheated with Haiku man for a score of 95! Based on conversations with Hayato nearr the den, I think he has a crush on Midori. On the way to meet Midori I saw a massive fish. I’ve named him Chubbo Derrick, and I vow to catch him someday! Apparently some fish only like lizard tails as bait, but I don’t know where to find lizards.
I went with Midori to the new area and we sat and chatted in the grass, then visited a cliff face where we bumped into the old lady.
After introductions Midori ran off, stranding me there - the big meanie! I sat looking at the old woman, but didn’t know what to say, so ran off in the direction of the lake. Went swimming and found a drowned tanuki statue which I’m going to name Wet Derrick. I went too deep though so passed out again.
Awoke at the barn. Dinner, bath, then bed.

DAY 11

Wednesday 11 August. Another snake was harassing the sparrows so I attacked it with even greater courage this time.

Fed Cowcow. Haiku man gave me 100 points for my new poem, something about a cow trapped in the rivers of hell. He also gave me a new rank. Yay! I am now HAIKU MASTER!

Next was insect sumo. After 10 wins I had to crown him, so gave him the title BROWN MAGNUM! (technically black magnum, based on the kanji, but it’s the same kanji used for brown bread, so I thought it would be fine). I had wanted to call him BROWN THUNDER, but thunder was only in the first column, not the second column for naming. After 37 straight wins with BROWN MAGNUM there were no other challengers so I stopped playing.

Went to the lake and caught an Itou fish using crayfish as bait. He’s huge and spotted, so I’m going to name him Freckley Derrick.
Also skipped some stones, it bounced 9 times. After dinner I visited Megumi at her house, while it was dark, and she gave me a crystal drinking glass she’d made.

DAY 12
Thursday 12 August. Got an egg from the chickens and gave it to aunty who said we’d have it for breakfast tomorrow. Checked the sparrows and fed Cowcow. Next headed to the temple and found a caged bear! He’s just a cub and very cute. Slid down the big hill but missed the bottle cap near the tractor.
Afterwards met Megumi’s younger sister Harumi at the glass shop. She seems nice. I was in a hurry so then rode the conveyor belt up to the barn. I spent the rest of the day looking acorns but couldn’t find any! Aunty gave me a quiz on dinner again and I got it - soon I’ll have that bottle cap. After dinner uncle, grandpa, Megumi and Harumi sat outside by a fire. Aunty stayed inside looking after baby while Midori did homework.

DAY 13
Friday 13 August. Over breakfast I spoke about the bear cub, saying I wanted to name him Goro (this is what my physical self said - in my mind I wanted to call him Fuzzy Derrick). Fed Cowcow. Visited Goro while wearing my Goro T-shirt.
Slid down the big hill 6 times before finally getting bottle cap #49! Then I played beetle sumo and beat Hayate’s King Kabuto beetle in KING RANK. What a great end to the day.

DAY 14
Saturday 14 August. This morning everyone talked about visiting the cemetery to pay respects to our ancestors, which I agreed to. Aunty also said to leave well alone the brick outside the house - but I took it anyway to fix the wall bridge over the stream.
Fed Cowcow. Found that TWO sparrows had falled out of the next today - the silly fools. Then went and fixed the bridge. I should have fixed the next day, but I was so impatient I did it today. As a result, this evening, instead of drawing a picture of us praying, I drew it of myself on the wall. My priorities were wrong in this case.

After exploring the new area and collecting some bugs I went to the cemetery dressed in my best white T-shirt. The priest explained how in Hokkaido the spirits don’t like snow falled on their graves. After prayers I walked home.

Dinner was steak and salad.