Features// SPOnG: August in Japan

Posted 20 Aug 2008 11:56 by
There were no new games of note released in Japan last week. How about that for a great introduction to a new weekly column on what?s happening ? or, more precisely, not happening ? in the Japanese game scene? To be fair to the United Game Makers of Japan, it wasn?t their fault: the middle week in August is the time when Japan slips into summer holiday mode and stops working, instead choosing to celebrate the o-bon festival (something about dead ancestors) with fireworks displays, mountainside fires (planned, controlled ones) and traditional costume.

A handful of unimportant PSP games did manage to sneak into retail, and online releases in Sony?s PlayStation Store continued unabated, with Squaresoft?s (as it was then known) Brave Fencer Musashinden turning up in the PS Archives at a very reasonable 600 yen (? 3.7) price point ; but basically the Japanese games industry was sleeping.

This week ? on the other hand - Japan and its video game industry has a massive wake up. Tomorrow, there are new games again. Important ones, too, such as Vampire Rain: Altered Species on the PS3. This is from the sometimes-good-sometimes-rotten Artoon studio, and it?s a horror game.

Good timing with this release, actually, as Japanese culture seems to view horror as something to be enjoyed in summer ? as soon as the calendar flicks into August you can bet that Japanese TV channels will be promoting horror movies (mostly domestic ones), and cinema showings of new Japanese horror films similarly tend to be linked with this season. So, games might as well follow suit, and Vampire Rain: Altered Species could even benefit from some extra sales thanks to the timing of its appearance.

Another big release this week comes from Level 5, the talented RPG team from Tokyo, in the form of Inazuma Eleven on the DS. Traditionally games are released in Japan on Thursdays ? the only exceptions are Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy games, which tend to get pushed into the weekend ostensibly to maintain civil calm and prevent millions of kids from wagging school.

Inazuma Eleven, confusingly, will be released on Friday. Not really sure what this says about the game or its potential for messing with cogs in Japan?s well-oiled machine, but I know ? having played a preview build earlier in the year ? that it?s likely to be a success here. It?s a football RPG, and it?s quite dramatic. A whole Japanese generation grew up watching the Captain Tsubasa anime and reading the Tsubasa Manga (Japan?s equivalent of Roy of the Rovers or, um, Billy the Fish ? only not as funny, of course), and this could be the DS game for them.

And sticking with footy, which we might as well now that the season has kicked off and Man United are looking shaky (Ha!), there?s also a new Winning Eleven (aka Pro Evo) game being released on the PS2 here tomorrow. The ?new? game is called J-League Winning Eleven 2008 Club Championship, a seasonal update of the officially licensed local league version. It?s nothing major, but it will sell. Why? ?Because, at the end of the day, it?s Winning Eleven. And when push comes to shove, Konami knows that goals win football matches and it gives 110 per cent week-in week-out?? (Thanks, Garth.)

Read More Like This


Joji 20 Aug 2008 11:56
Good post and I'm looking forward to more of this japan section.

Might I make a few suggestions for stuff to focus on, like there being no second hand market or game rentals in japan. What's all that like for japanese gamers? Rarely do we hear from any of them.

I'll keep an eye out for Inazuma Eleven.
Posting of new comments is now locked for this page.