One Million Ton Bara Bara is the upcoming game from Acquire (together with Playstation C.A.M.P.) the same developer who brought us Yuusha no Kuse ni Namaikida. This seems to be a very good year for the group, also on its way to release Gladiator Begins in 2010 - also for the PSP. While the mechanics seem promising - if also very familiar - the visual aesthetics are absolutely stunning. So original I felt like pinching my arm to check if I wasn’t dreaming. Please give the official website a look. Meanwhile, here’s the best possible quality version of the trailer for a streaming format I uploaded today.
Hobby Consolas is a Spanish magazine by Hobby Press that has begun in 1991. Lenghty and diverse, it was known for its passionate game review methods and extensive game guides, while never reaching the same quality of contents as the ones presented by its major contender in Spain, Zeta’s Super Juegos. The following interview belongs to a rather special issue from 1996 where Mario, Sonic and Crash appear on the cover, linking to an article featuring the new games for each of the mascots: Mario 64, Crash Bandicoot and the unreleased Sonic Xtreme. However in this precise moment there was also another new mascot being brought to life by Yuji Naka and Sonic Team: none other than Nights.
While there is no dispute that Mario 64 was the superior platform title of its day, Nights is best left out of that particular category. Its system still elludes genres even today; its gameplay gave new meaning to the word unique and its visual style reminded many that aesthetics outclass polygon count. The quality of the game was acknowledged by the public and critics, but also by other game designers who couldn’t contain their enthusiasm due to the relentless innovation of this Sega Saturn classic.
The interview, also featuring a tongue-tied Naoto Oshima, focuses on some important issues regarding the creation of Nights - from character design to game philosophy - which I hope to be of any interest not only to the admirers of the game but also to SEGA history buffs. Most will surely spot a critical gaffe in the text box below, as the writers credited Outrun and Space Harrier to the wrong Yu. Yes, these were the days before the great online videogame databases of today where facts can be easily verified; moreover, Hobby Consolas was particularly skilful in publishing this sort of bloopers.
Another interesting aspect lies in the listing of these Sonic Team members’ favorite games: they’re not afraid of showing their reverence for Mario. In fact, this links to another story where Toshihiro Nagoshi said he went to look for a job in Nintendo before heading to SEGA as a second choice. While being interviewed for the position, he said he felt comfortable mentioning Mario as one of the most influential games of his life. At a certain point, it seems like enjoying Nintendo games was a prerequisite for becoming a member of the SEGA company - which only makes perfect sense.
This idea to publish this particular piece came from my negative reaction to Prope’s new Ivy the Kiwi? for Windows Mobile and (possibly) Nintendo DS: a game so ordinary that it becomes hard to accept as a 21st century creation by the same author who had once brought us Sonic and Nights. I thought that a mere sight of Naka’s pompous sneer could bring to mind the glory days of the Japanese game design hegemony. As this delightful tradition seems to vanish, now that most Japanese studios are being affected by all sorts of afflictions, an interview such as this one may remind the oldschool reader of better times - especially for Yuji Naka himselfm whose creativity is now reduced to the degradation of cardboard box tapping.
SONIC TEAM - THE CREATORS OF SONIC AND NIGHTS
The members of the software house Sonic Team – with Mr Yuji Naka in charge of it – are the true “fathers” of Sonic. Now they have put their favorite son aside for a while dedicating themselves in full to a new challenge under the name “Nights”. Hobby Consolas wished to know more details about this promising title, which is why we sent our Japanese correspondent to the Sega headquarters, where we kept this interesting chat about the creative process of one of this new generation’s most spectacular games.
> How many people composed the programming team?
YUJI NAKA. When we started to work in Sonic we were about 7 people. Then more and more programmers arrived and we’re 20 people at the moment.
> When did you begin to work in Nights?
YN. We started right after finishing Sonic & Knuckles. In that moment we were returning to Japan from the USA and started to create the first projects. That took us about six months. The programming job actually took place in April 95.
> What is the importance of character design to the game?
YN. In order to have this game be a success we had the impression that we should not just create a protagonist that would please most of the people. Our intention was to create something revolutionary within our own Japanese culture, something that would distance itself from the usual concept of the games we know.
> Where from did the idea for the protagonist originate?
NAOTO OSHIMA. To create this character I investigated deeply into the European and North-American cultures and travelled through many countries. In the end I got to the conclusion that I’d like to make a character that would resemble an angel, mostly in its gestures.
Yuji Naka and Naoto Oshima in a moment of the interview with our Japanese correspondent, Nicola di Costanzo.
> Your initial idea of the game is the same you have now?
YN. First we wanted to create a game with a slow pace, one which the player could enjoy leisurely… but during programming we went increasing the speed, progressively, until we arrived at the rhythm the game has now. In reality, the speed is very close to that of the Sonic games, although its gameplay sensation seems much better to us.
> The character seems to be flying during most of the game. Why did you chose to bestow this ability to it?
YN. The desire to fly like a bird is a feeling that is common to the whole world. We wanted to make this dream into a reality for the users. It’s a fundamental aspect of the game. We want the players to enjoy, flying through the air and feel like playing again. Moreover, the factor of time as the life of the protagonist constitutes a new concept for the gameplay.
> What are the basic characteristics of the game?
YN. One of our premises was to create a world where the players were able to improve their abilities after playing a few times. We didn’t want to make a game where after finishing the first level you’d get right to the next one. We wanted players to have different options and have fun creating their own levels. We have also made it so the game is different every time you play. For instance, we have created the “feeling parameter” that allows the characters of the game to sometimes be allies to Nights and sometimes be against it. These characters live their lives during the game. We have made Nights with from the perspective of the player.
The Sonic Team group counts with 20 people at the time. Yuji Naka – center – is the maximum responsible for all of them.
> Why did you create a whole new character and did not reuse Sonic?
YN. Yes, it would have been a good idea to use Sonic, but we believe that we’re looking for something more, so that’s why we created a new character and a new world. We didn’t want to saturate people like other companies do. Moreover, it is hard to continue the series with the same type o game.
> Do you think you have created a master-piece?
YN. We’re no geniuses! There are better games than ours in Europe and the USA. We’ve simply did what we had in our own dreams. Anyone can make a game… but to make a good game you need to have a good team. If you have a good idea and a good team you can make a game like Nights. We don’t think it’s the best game of all time (laughs)… but yes, we believe we have worked as best we can, trying to bring together our own ideas to those of users as much as possible.
> Is NIGHTS played in a truly tridimensional world?
YN. The world of our NIGHTS is absolutely a “truly tridimensional world”. However, if all the levels were to be played in a 3D space the gameplay would suffer. That being, we have made the game so that all players could be able to fly without any difficulties.
> Is NIGHTS using 100% of Saturn’s capacities?
YN. We’re entirely satisfied with Saturn. In my opinion we still haven’t used 100% of the console’s hardware. We believe it is possible to make something much better. Nights is our first Saturn game and, thus, we couldn’t take full advantage of the system. We have studied a lot of possibilities that we could have used and we haven’t even tried them. Just the basic manual has three volumes (laughs). This time we have limited our own abilities.
> What was the most annoying part of the programming process?
YN. We can’t talk about the word “annoying”. There were parts that were more difficult than others, but we really had a great time creating this game.
NO. Although there were some parts we had to repeat several times over…
YN. Right. It was hard for us to get to this definitive version. There are many final versions we did that have little in common with the one being released for sale.
> What type of hardware have you used?
YN. We’ve used SGI for the design. We’ve also used a PC for the CD-Emulator and a Hewlett Packard for programming.
> What is Night’s biggest adversary?
YN. The game’s strongest contender is Sonic.
> What would you tell me about a hypothetical comparison between Nights and Mario 64?
YN. There is a great difference in the 3D concept of each game, so a comparison is hard to make. Nights is a unique game, very different from Sonic and Mario.
> Do you believe Nights will have the same impact on the Saturn as Sonic had in its day on the Mega Drive?
YN. We have not set that goal for ourselves this time but we believe that Nights will have a great impact on the Saturn. We have full confidence in it.
XI pre-release pack, published by Sony Computer Entertainment in 1998. This edition contains a demo of the game together with an exclusive short story book featuring illustrations by North-American artist Dan Yaccarino, put together by CWC.
Initially designed as a Net Yaroze project, XI ended up being released worldwide under the name Devil Dice. As a puzzle game, it consisted of little devilish figures that could walk over tumbling dice that would disappear from the screen once the player was able to unite a group of dice displaying the same face. For instance, if the player placed three dice showing three dots next to one another, those would clear from the board. However, the game was far from simple and, like many other SCEE puzzle titles of its day - see IQ - it was considered to be extremely difficult on occasions.
Shift, the team that created the original title, has also published XI Little for the WonderSwan, as well as XI Colosseum for PSP and XI Go - Bombastic in the west - for the PS2. Finally, XI has also been published in a 2D version for mobile phones.
XI, read sái, is a letter from the Greek alphabet. Its use in this context derives from the Japanese word Saikoro ( 骰子 in its Kanji form) meaning dice.
The following is a translation of the small adorable story included in the preview disc. My thanks to Sorrel Tilley for the translation and ever enlightening knowledge of the Japanese language and its many secret meanings.
See also: full page scans @ Pixels at an Exhibition gallery
The Kenka Bancho (meaning Fight Leader) series is a rare example of popularity among Japanese players: developed by Y’sk and published in 2005 by Spike for the PlayStation 2, each of its episodes has sold enough copies in Japan to reach Platinum editions, even if they’re virtually unknown in the rest of the world. With a third sequel on its way, due in 2010, the games are defined by its irreverent style that combines classic beat’em up street fighting with a humorous undertone in the representation of modern-day Japanese high school life - truly a modern version of the ultra-classic Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari. This particular episode revolves around a young boy who is struggling to become the top Bancho of Japan fighting in the streets of Kyoto - the word Bancho standing for admirable and respected fighter.
I had tried the original Japanese version of the game about a year ago but had a really hard time playing since it requires a perfect understanding of the Japanese language during verbal confrontation stages. But upon hearing that Atlus USA (who has already bestowed English-speaking players this year with the gift of Demon’s Souls) was translating the PSP episode I felt ready to release my Japanese dictionary and wait for the US version.
Much to my surprise , Kencha Bancho Badass Rumble is possible one of the best-ever adaptations/translations of a game originally designed in Japan. Normally, games such as this one would hardly ever leave their country of origin due to the constant cultural references which most would not be able to understand. Somehow, translators were able to find the right words to match the atypical style of the original game, preserving the integrity of the series. In short, it feels like you’re playing a genuine import only Japanese title: only the Kanji and Hiragana somehow turned into their best possible English versions.
New to this version is the Night Out mode, in which the player can use the data from a saved game to enter a free battle in single or multiplayer mode. Reminds me of how Zettai Zetsumei Toshi also had the first two games published for the PlayStation 2, then having a fairly different third episode on the PSP with multiplayer options. This is surely a pleasing pattern I’ve enjoyed seeing this year - one of the best so far in what concerns imports/alternative games on Sony’s portable console.
As usual with PSP releases here at Eastern Mind, here’s a brief walkthrough of the first half hour of the game. Some screens will appear with the Spike Copyright information since they were actually obtained using an in-game function designed solely for that purpose. Yes, that’s right: apart from being highly photogenic because of its polished visuals, the game allows the player to save screens using the Select button when in cutscenes - or even during the game by accessing the cellphone camera.
The first step consists of choosing the character’s original prefecture, his school and his name. Originally, the character is named Takashi Sakamoto.
The story begins in a train. Several students are traveling to Kyoto for a school trip. Cutscenes such as these can be accelerated, instead of skipped, by pressing the L Button.
Meet Yohei. He is the main character’s sidekick and best friend - and a valuable help in those first fist fights.
Our man Takashi, the tough-looking protagonist that brings to mind a younger version of Daigo from Rival Schools.
Introducing our friends, this is Fujisawa. As far as first impressions go, I’d say she’s got a thing for our Bancho.
Part of the group but not necessarily a friend. Kagenuma is the smart guy, polite and delicate. His role in the game could be that of either a double-crosser or the unpredictable friend in a tight spot.
While taking a nap on the train, our character is reminded of his father’s advice before his trip to Kyoto. The scene seems to happen in the courtyard of a traditional dojo. The father is a mean-looking man who is teaching his kid the rules of engagement.
The Menchi Beam is essential to the Kenka Banchou series: basically it represents the killer look that fight leaders must train hard. Pressing the R button makes the character release a beam from his eye which will lock automatically to other characters. If those characters are prone to enter fights, then the following mode will ensue.
In Smash Talk mode the player must chose the correct words in less than 3 seconds. A tough one-liner is presented at first and it is up to the player to form it by pressing the adequate buttons. Common phrases like “I’m gonna be your master” get the fight going. If the player choses the correct words then a preemptive strike is unleashed. If not, the opponent will laugh at what was said and strike us first.
This was the hardest part to master in the Japanese version.
By pressing the triangle or square button continuously, the fighter will charge a single strike filled with energy.
Energy can be regained, very much like in the SNK combat games like Art of Fighting or King of Fighters.
After beating our own father as a part of the demonstration, the tutorial is complete.
The students arrive at Kyoto.
But it was certain that there was going to be trouble. Yohei accidentally steps trips on some guy waiting at the station.
Turns out that he’s the bancho of Hokkaido and his partner. They didn’t like what just happened and they want to solve their differences right here. Whenever another bancho is found, the screen is filled with the big letters. A bit like in Ryu ga Gotoku: in fact, there are many common points between these games and they’re fairly easy to notice.
One has to be very careful not to opt for words like “poem”. For instance, “Who’s your poem?” would result in our character getting a kick to his face - and just as well.
Just missed a right hook.
The final kick. The game stops whenever a new move/set of moves is learned.
Similar to what happens in other games, winning a battle will provide power-up points that can be used to custom improve the fighter’s abilities.
After a massive beating, the Hokkaido bancho can barely stand. The rule is: once defeated, the bancho must now vow to the wishes of the victorious fighter. A bit like Beatdown but without all the explicit violence.
Thought at first to be a Yakuza, this man who comes out of nowhere after the scuffle is in fact a police officer. Because his job is to arrest juveniles who are causing disturbances, he poses a biger threat than most of the rival banchos.
As other colleagues and teachers meet up with the gang, the situation is back to normal and the group heads to the inn.
Waiting at the inn is Yoshio Chiba. He’s like an adviser for promising banchos, providing tips. Shifty, of course, but helpful. Seems like all the banchos from different cities of Japan are all gathered in Kyoto so things are warming up already.
The first day of adventures begins. When in the inn room, a few options are given to the player. He can sleep for a few hours and rest, check his abilities or save the game. Anyone who’s ever played a typical Japanese adventure game should be familiar with this scheme.
During loading times, the game suggests a key-word and explains its meaning. So apart from playing one of the most exciting portable games of this year, the player will also learn a great deal about Japanese food, clothing and modern-day slang.
A brief note: in Kenka Banchou, events occur in real time. A day has only a number limited hours (abbreviated, of course) and the trip will only last for a few days. So it is necessary to plan what to do and follow strict schedules as to achieve the best result given the time constraints.
Using the cell-phone is also essential. Not only will it enable the player to call followers for bigger fights (further in the game) as it will give access to the e-mail feature.
Exiting the inn, the player can go about the streets of this capsule version of Kyoto.
There’s plenty to do like bullying annoying students cruising the streets and get their Bancho itineraries to find out where the action is. Everytime a rival is defeated, they will drop items, money and weapons to the floor which the player is more than welcome to pick up and use.
One has to be careful not to be ran over by passing cars or not to disturb police officers.
Or pay a visit to Kumart (Kuma meaning bear, as indicated by the logo) and purchase all sorts of foods and drinks to replenish HP and spirit.
But also be prepared for unexpected encounters with rivals.
These goons didn’t put up much of a fight. More leveling up points and new moves unlocked.
It’s by entering the subway that the player can move to different parts of town. Being a brief introduction to the game, I will spoil no more.
Banchos watch out for Takashi’s mean stare: in these streets, everything goes in order to become the top Bancho of Japan.
I had the rare pleasure to interview Haruhiko Shono, the ex-Synergy game designer who created milestones like Alice: Interactive Museum, L-Zone and one of my all-time favorites, Gadget: Invention, Travel & Adventure. His reputation has withered in the last years on account of the deep transformations that the videogame industry has suffered. In his early career he was influenced by the techniques of Video Art and Photography. In an unforgettable live performance in 1985, he and Ryuichi Sakamoto created one of the highlights of the Tsukuba Expo, at a time when the mixture of video, computer graphics and electronic music was an exciting novelty. His games have sold thousands of copies worldwide and have been quoted as influential pieces to movie directors such as Guillermo Del Toro, Alex Proyas, The Wachowsky Brothers and David Lynch himself - who at a certain point was so adept of Shono’s games he thought about creating his own CD-ROM title. Even today, copies of his earliest and exceedingly rare Alice are sold for over two thousand dollars, quite possibly the highest price for a non-limited game edition of all time.
In later years, the use of pre-rendered imagery ceased to be a main element of games and the industry took a turn to the real-time 3D. Because the methods of game design were suddenly changed, Shono explored the area of video and special effects where he could still be involved with the latest CGI technologies. His work in the creation of recent games can be seen in the horror sound novel Imabikisou, although in the role of CGI director. Having browsed dozens of Japanese webpages, I was shocked to find that little or no mentions to his work were available. However it is true that we live in an age of true revivalism: for some reason, the life and work of Haruhiko Shono remained unknown to most players today, with no substantial reference available anywhere that could renew the interest for his exceptional games. Such was precisely the objective of my article.
Apart from a sizeable interview, translated by my friend Sorrel Tilley, the article lists most of the published and unpublished materials designed by Shono, with a high resolution picture gallery of Gadget; it also includes a number of unseen gameplay videos from some of the rarest titles, namely L-Zone and Alice - games I think were never recorded into video before, and surely not in the quality I now document them. There is also a complete review of his video works, from the early Radical TV and TV War music performances to his CGI animation projects. May this be the starting point to your own research about this fascinating personality.
And since this is Eastern Mind’s one year old birthday I thought that throwing in a little present wouldn’t do any harm. The following file contains the full soundtrack entitled “Resonances of Gadget”, composed by Koji Ueno, without a doubt one of the rarest videogame soundtracks of all time which I had the pleasure to obtain from the author himself some months ago. I know there are many out there who have been searching for this album - my only hope is that they can somehow find it in this little corner of mine.
Much has been written about the extreme difficulty of From Software’s Demon’s Souls. Even to those accustomed to the King’s Field/Shadow Tower games, the PS3 exclusive has surely caused much hardship. Aware of this, Enterbrain has invited the famous Japanese comedy duo America Zerigani to close themselves in a room with one camera, a PS3, a monitor and a copy of the game - plus a coffee machine to help keep the body going. The format isn’t new for anyone familiar with Japanese videogame shows (see the recent GameDiggin’ PSN Feature). The objective is to have the two nerdy comedians see the end of the game and have some fun in the process. Still, nothing beats those expressions of frustration and screams of victory. If you’re having a hard time understanding the reason for all this commotion surrounding Demon’s Souls then I suggest you try playing the game and witness the humiliation… first hand.
SOURCE: PlayStation Network
quibibi is a small web design and internet publicity label by Teshigawara Kazumasa, the winner of the most prestigious awards for digital innovation. Specializing in the work of different materials, Kazumasa has gained a solid reputation as one of the most prominent independent web designers in Japan, having worked both for national and international clients. His short but significant career is often distinguished by the unique interactive experiences he creates, employing a truly artistic vision. Using photography, textiles and live footage as raw materials, he has created some of the most impressive examples of how Flash has revolutionized the history of web browsing. While not apt for the definition of videogames or even browser games, the following examples possess an uncommon quality to their interaction which is surely more significant than that which is proposed by the majority of commercial or independent games.
(click on the image to visit website)
DAYDREAM is based on the simple premise of time control. Like the figurines on the timepiece, two models will move according to the clockwise or counterclockwise mouse movements. The interaction, replicating the act of a finger rotating the handles on a clock, is based on forwarding or rewinding time. This exercise is intended as an advertisement for one of Japan’s most famous hat manufacturers, Weave Toshi (website designed by qubibi as well). Unsettling and provocative, DAYDREAM suggests a superb parallel between the weaving of cloth and the weaving of time itself; yet also between publicity and artistic expression.
(click on the image to visit website)
The following is a world of nostalgic reverie. Objects drawn with crayons over scraps of paper come out of a hanging cage and fill the screen with images of the past. Emulating the classic nightmare, the little girl is being chased by a large and menacing bird of prey. The user is invited to interact, moving objects to feed the hungry bird, while the short sequence of events remains unalterable.
(click on the image to visit website)
Dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the art, style and culture magazine Pen, INDIA is an interactive system that characterizes Kazumasa’s vision of the country’s society and religious belief. Hand painted figures roll over the decor relating to one another. This perpetual motion represents the accumulation of karma, whereas the coupling between male and female elements represents the idea of birth - if also a direct reference to the problem of overpopulation in India. Death can be achieved by driving the avatar into the river Ganges, enabling it to be reborn in different caste, as suggested by the pattern of Hindu reincarnation. Time, love, tradition and creed are made one in this highly expressionist work of interactive art.
[ This edition of JAPANoFILES revives an old tale from the depths of the sea in the shape of a fish with the head of a man. While it is true that Seaman has been covered by most existing videogame websites, there is a fascinating part of it which is still largely unknown to most. It relates to a curious viral marketing campaign launched by Vivarium sometime before the release of the game. My foundation for this article was none other than the official Japanese Guide Book: a tall hard-cover edition whose pages tell the incredible events that unite an inexplicable age-old being depicted in Egyptian art to an early twentieth century French scientist. ]
HATCHING THE EGG
Seaman completed its tenth anniversary this last July. Winner of the 1999 Japan Media Arts Festival’s Excellence Prize, this puzzling Dreamcast title was created by the game design virtuoso Yoot Saito, creator of the strategy game “Tower” (known abroad as “Sim Tower”) and its infamous sequel, the aptly named “Yoot Tower”. His work can also be seen in the obscure GameCube relic “Odama”, a delightful blend between voice operated strategy and Pinball table mechanics. Seaman was an exceptional success, especially in Japan, having sold a few hundred thousands of titles, due in great part to the booming Dreamcast console launch. Apart from the special editions of the original game, a sequel was brought to the market in 2007 exclusively for the PS2, introducing a all-new game and control pad equipped with a built-in microphone.
Unprecedented, Seaman has defied the deeply rooted videogame dogmas of its day. Although it is played using the control pad, the key lies in the use of the microphone to communicate with the strange beings behind the television screen. But to Saito, the idea of creating a different game did not suffice and so his project required further refinement. In anticipation to the release, this underground Japanese designer thought of a very ingenious viral marketing campaign that would transcend the game experience, permeate the media and capture the public’s attention with its numerous allusions to the shady fields of the paranormal. Displaying a remarkable knowledge of History and of Natural Sciences, Saito fabricated that which remains as the most intricate and outlandish viral marketing campaign that has ever been seen in the industry of games, using an obscenely limited budget and resources.
Starting with the next paragraph, we will flow into a bizarre world ruled by strange lineages of creatures whose role, still unknown, appears to be of vital importance in the realization of Human destiny. Myth becomes reality, just as the very reality becomes the myth.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF JEAN-PAUL GASSE
The story told in this spartan-looking book is a long one, certainly too long to be transcribed in full. It starts during Egypt’s Third Dynasty when a man, son of the Pharaoh, fell in love with the daughter of a priestess. The legend says that their relationship was not approved by the ruling leader. The Priest sought the help of the god Thoth who was depicted as being a man with the head of a bird (Ibis), carrying scrolls where he would write down the record of all events. His role in the divine society was secondary although he was of particular importance when dead humans received judgment. As a solution to this conundrum, Thoth transformed the son of the Pharaoh and the daughter of the priest into a fish and a bird, respectively. In their newly acquired morphologies, both lovers parted. The Priest, whose hard work was being put into the construction of the pyramids, asked Thoth if ever his daughter would return: the god answered him that he needed to build a massive landmark that could be used as
While introducing the subject, the book dedicates a few pages to Ancient Egypt’s, with greater emphasis given to a series of mysterious occurrences from the Third Dynasty.
Thousands of years after, in the year of 1997, Egyptian newspapers circulated the rumour that a young boy, while fishing in the waters of Alexandria, caught a strange fish with the head of a man. Professor William Southerland, the director of the Anthro-Bio Archaeological Research Institute in France investigated the case and announced to the media that the case was genuine, and that the origin of the creature he named “Seaman” could be as old as the ancient Egyptian civilization time. Careful examination of the specimen, through its dissection, revealed that it contained four eggs, immediately sent to France for further studies. This discovery, however, is deeply related to the previous events in the life of an obscure French scientist named Jean-Paul Gasse. His pioneering work about this new species shocked the scientific community of the early 1990’s. His belief was that the field of anthro-bio archaeology was of the outmost importance in the study of ancient Egyptian finds.
The discovery of this unknown animal has been covered by media from all over the world.
Gasse’s life was filled with struggle. Having been born in the Parisian suburbs in 1899, he felt divided between the roots of his parents; her mother came from noble families while his father came from poor families. Because social distinction and prejudice was so common in those days, Gasse felt deeply shattered by the fact that his father would not attend festivities or gatherings held by his mother’s family in order to avoid shame and public ridicule, thus becoming an opponent of all the materialistic culture of Paris’ high society.
His family’s wealth, however, allowed young Gasse to attend the best schools and be granted the best education possible. Science was becoming a popular phenomenon, at the time, as a consequence of the Nobel Prize awarded in 1905 to the Curies. His interest in Nature and Biology developed around the time of the first World War, following the death of his father from tuberculosis and the unbalanced life he led from then on, constantly moving from one residence to another across France.
Jean-Paul Gasse as a child and as an adult in two very credible photos.
A common dinner table photo illustrating the merry and wealthy life of the French bourgeoisie.
After entering the University of Paris, commonly known as La Sorbonne, he travelled in an expedition to Egypt as an archaeologist investigating the biological ecosystem of the Nile. In his thorough research he found puzzling fragments of bones from mutated creatures that seem to have suffered a sudden adaptation to the changes in the Nile Valley. These fragments also hinted towards another discovery made at the time such as the Hieroglyphics found in the pyramids of the third dynasty. Gasse was shocked to learn that the fragments of unknown creatures matched some of the mythical beasts depicted in ancient Egyptian art. From these images of the past, he was able to conclude that such creatures were not only known to ancient Egyptians, as they related to them and, given their morphology, were indeed able to communicate verbally. Some of the older local residents were also aware of this creature long ago, back when their ancestors named it Sea-Man (the man from the sea).
This bas-relief sculpture depicts deities and holy men: on the lower right, an interesting Egyptian-style depiction of the abnormal half-frog, half-man creature.
Investigation ensued back in Paris, after Gasse returned with some Sea-man eggs to the laboratory. Using a controlled environment he started experimenting with these eggs, in an attempt to bring one such creature to life inside an aquarium. His painstaking annotations were kept in a journal. Later he wrote to his friend and colleague Kimo Masuda who helped him with the research.
My dear friend, Kimo,
I came across a strange living creature by chance in the marketplace in Alexandria on the 7th Egypt Investigation sponsored by the French government. I brought an egg sample back to my lab. This legendary creature is called man from the sea by the locals, or “Seaman” in English.
While trying to reproduce Seaman’s region and environment, I continued making experimental mistakes the lab-based aquarium. While doing so, I realized that Seaman was not an ordinary creature.
These Seamen live together, reproduce and breed by parasitism and spawning, feed on one another, capture, transform, and emerge. The Seamen changed quickly and drastically, while powerfully repeating all the activities maintained by creatures on the Earth. It was like the embodiment of Darwin’s theory of evolution that we were so keen on when we were young students in Paris.
There was one thing that did not change, however, and that is his face. This creature’s face is just like a human being’s.
Furthermore, it seems the Seamen continue evolving. They begin to mature intellectually. As time passes, they are more able to comprehend my words. Surprisingly, I’ve verified the fact that they can even speak their own mind. It’s surprising but although this creature has very primitive characteristics upon being hatched, through the transformation and complicated generational change processes, dynamic changes occur.
This living creature is without a doubt made from organisms that exist on land. However, this creature may be a warning sign from God about civilized society or a new creature on Earth. Nobody knows. There’s one thing I can say - that it’s an anomaly to what we biologists know.
I would like to meet with you as soon as possible and look forward to showing you this odd creature.
Information on subsequent events is scarce. Although the Seaman Diary of Gasse was detailed, there were no actual records to be found as to what conversations he engaged with, although Yoot Saito, the chairman at the Japanese Institute of Anthro-Bio Archaeology - the new branch of Biology inaugurated by Gasse - speaks of some facts known from the actual effects of dialoguing with the Seaman: claiming that through this strange entity, people are taken to the depths of their subliminal unconscious as if some strange variant of psychotherapy.
A drawing of the dissected organism showing the unusual digestive system and skeleton.
Also it is known from this diary that the experiment was a failure because the creature eventually died in its early stages. By dissecting this creature, Jean-Paul Gasse entered phase two of his investigation whose results were edited in the historical document “The Examination of the Evolution of Living Creatures as Seen through Seaman’s Adaptation to His External Environment and Speed of Organic Change”. Here, Gasse gave the creature a scientific name, Habibi de Kimo (Habibi from the Arabic “Best Friend”) and concluded that the creature would become increasingly closer to Human by means of acquiring knowledge from those around him. He added that this specimen did exist in ancient Egypt times and was probably used as a means through which Egyptian mathematics from older civilizations - long before the Egyptian civilization - transmitted them such knowledge.
Kimo Masuda’s photograph near the Giza plateau appeared cover of the branded science magazine National Geo…metric?
But the document came to cause more outrage than astonishment in the scientific community. Scientists and peers received the document with high skepticism, not surprisingly, since the theory enclosed in those pages changed the face of Natural and Human History, as well as western academic traditions. Summarizing Gasse’s career, Mr. Saito said, “Gasse’s devotion to research threatening to undermine the most basic idea of human history - the assumption that it is indeed a History of Human beings - constantly places him at odds with authority and destined him to a life of tragedy”.
BEFORE AND AFTER SEAMAN
Viral marketing, as a concept of advertising, can be very complex. Instead of advertising a product directly and using regular promotional channels, this strategy often tends to publicize a concept beforehand, using a format that is not usually associated with advertising in order to captivate the attention of the audience. When properly executed, this strategy tends to originate a scenario where information is transmitted and debated among the different members of the target audience, spreading naturally like a virus. For this campaign, Yoot Saito searched well beyond the videogame playing public as the target population for his campaign: he sought to create something on the same scale as a new myth that could be presented to different audiences across the world. As a result of that, it is said that a number of people still believe in the existence of the Seaman to this day.
There are sublime details to this false account that could only have originated from either extensive knowledge or thorough research work. The entire narrative fits perfectly to the very first moment of the game, where a voice (in the case of US release, the voice of none other than Leonard Nimoy) presents the laboratory of Gasse, providing instructions on how to bring a Seaman to life. Secondly, the ideas regarding communication with the sea creatures as being therapeutic is an excellent analogy to the game experience taking place in a silent, dim-lit and relaxing environment where the player is merely asked to perform routine tasks and talk to his screen pet.
These animal’s anatomy is composed by a very atypical combination of bones and fish spines.
Furthermore, the narrative is also related to the existing branch of Cryptozoology, a field of expertise on legendary or seemingly non-existing animals of nature. Defined by skeptics as a pseudoscience, this is a field of animal research that is older than its very definition, whose initial steps might have been performed by a number of private researchers who did not agree with Science’s dismissal of unidentified animals. Recurrent reports of sightings include unknown beings such as the Yeti, Bigfoot, Dragons, giant snakes or octopuses. Some of these creatures are still being investigated today; others are inexorable parts of local folklore as seen, for instance, in the unique case of Thailand’s minuscule Water Elephants.
An unsettling photo of a preserved specimen (this prop was later donated to a Japanese museum that specializes on singular artefacts).
Modern Cryptozoology derives mostly from the work carried out by one of the first full-time researches in this field, none other than Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans who, not surprisingly in the context of this tale, was born in France. Both to skeptics and mainstream scientists, the field of unknown animals is ofte n grouped and tagged along with other non-scientific and largely theoretical investigations that gained strength during the 60’s and the 70’s – what some call of “new age”. This term is also frequently applied to the field of alternative archaeology or “new age archaeology”, defining a range of different theories from lucid to insane, concerning an alternative and highly confrontational chronology of human civilizations. Interestingly, New-Age archaeology is intimately connected to the field of Egyptology, namely in the suggestion that the ancient Egyptian gods referred to existing beings not known to modern man, sometimes pointed as beings from other worlds.
Production of this campaign went to lenghts in order to achieve convincing results, judging from this competent reproduction of ancient art.
Perhaps the most macabre of all photos included in the book, this still shows the actual bones of the Seaman creature in its final amphibian form.
Seaman’s viral marketing was certainly forgotten by most, although a few seem to remember it quite clearly to the point of using as an inspiration source for their own work. One of the most notorious examples of this following would be the magnificent production behind the “Giants” viral marketing supporting the release of Shadow of the Colossus, in which several pictures or videos of the game’s colossal figures were shown in false newscasts, private videos and websites. Additionally there was the forged account of a scientist named Arkadi Simkin who reported the finding of traces of ancient giants buried in the snow during an expedition.
Another recent example is the book “The Excavation of Mushroom Island”, an analogous albeit more humorous implementation of Saito’s methods in the form of a scientific report on the supposed creatures that inspired the universe of the Super Mario games. Authored by an archaeologist named Logan Zawacki, the book includes maps of the remote Pacific Islands where the remains of the creatures were supposedly found, detailed sketches and even a chronology of their appearance through different periods of pre-History.
1: A mock newspaper clip from the LA Times reporting the find of a gigantic fossil in Iran, as a part of the Shadow of the Colossus publicity campaign / 2: The bone structure of a Goomba, from “The Excavation of Mushroom Island”, a witty new book musing over the possibility that the characters of the mushroom kingdom in the Mario series were, in fact, inspired by real fossils from a remote island.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND CONSIDERATIONS
Yoot Saito is irrefutably one of the most unconventional minds in the sect of alternative Japanese game designers. He does not fit well into categories or labels and his posture towards the industry has always been that of a truly independent creative force. When founding his small studio, Vivarium, Saito showed no interest in generating profits: not in one occasion has he budged an inch under the pressure of sales. Judging from this book and its contents, not to mention the very game it introduces, Saito wished to give birth to a modern myth that would make his virtual laboratory exceedingly more complex than what the language of games could provide.
Using a witty sense of humor together with a wonderfully suggestive chronicle, Yoot Saito has managed to write a new chapter in the employment of viral techniques in the promotion of an aberrant and unpredictable game concept. One may ask about the actual purpose of such a complex deceit that, in spite of being a fairly economical solution, implies a considerable amount of work and craft. I believe we are in the presence of a meticulously devised allegory was meant to instill a stronger feeling of enthusiasm to the very experience of nurturing and dialoguing with the bizarre beings that fill the screen. A whole ten years time after its creation, this marginal title remains one of the paradigms of dynamic life in a digital environment.
[ For this second edition of JAPANoFILES I wished to unveil another dormant cult classic, a game I have found some years ago while going about my usual research: one that, I’ve verified, is still unknown to the majority . Avid Japanese game collectors might recognize the game because of its value in the market, being one of the most expensive and rare PlayStation classics of all time. Notwithstanding, actual knowledge requires thorough research and information about this game is anything but abounding. The prospect of being among the first to write – in English – about this forgotten gem has made the composing of the following text exceedingly pleasurable. ]
The first surprising feature about Yuuyami Doori Tankentai, released by Spike in 1999 for the PlayStation, resides in its aptly chosen Japanese title. And since there was never an official translation by the developer Spike or any other publisher, we may very well engage into some musings as to what the best English translation could be. In three words, the authors have been able to sum up a relatively large portion of what the game consists of.
夕闇通り探検隊, the original Japanese title, is composed of the words:
夕闇 – Yuuyami, meaning twilight
通り – Doori, meaning street
探検隊 – Tankentai, meaning expedition or journey
However, the word 探検隊, in Japanese, has a broader meaning. Because 探検 (Tan Ken) could be translated into “exploration”, while 隊 (Tai) means party or group. So the final result, of many arguable and literal results, one of them could very well be “Twilight street group expedition”. And to a large extent, that is exactly what the game invites the player to do.
The setting is that of a modern Japanese city. After a population boom, it has become a place for large apartment buildings where people sleep between work hours. In this environment of daily routines, of streets crowded with people going about their lives, a group of inquisitive teenagers are living the adventure of their lifetime. Rumors have been going on in their school about strange occurrences taking place in different parts of the town, as youngsters amuse themselves, telling each other different versions of a same story about a creature that lives hidden in the dark and dense woods behind the school space. Three students, attracted to this urban myth, decide to take it out to the streets and measure if the legends of unnatural events and beings can question their skepticism and disbelief.
The first contact with paranormal events portrayed in the game is shown in the very first scene, where Nao, Kurumi and Osango go walking into the park by night. Nao, the 13 year old boy leading the party walks alone inside a temple space where he has a close encounter with a strange creature: a bird with the face of a woman descends from above with a prophecy:”After a hundred day, somebody dies”. Incredulous and shocked, Nao faints and falls on the ground.
Given the early warning presented to Nao by the mysterious bird-woman, the three friends’ interest in the spiritual side of circulating rumours is severely increased. From then on, their routine – and actual game plan for this title – will consist of attending school, visiting with friends, overhearing conversations in classrooms, hallways or even the toilets in order to later verify them in loco. The player is given five minutes during the school recess to gather material – usually when children tell each other tales of some uncommon event that happened somewhere in the town. The facts are conveniently written down to a notebook which is possible to consult later on. Later, by dusk, the children are allowed to go out in the streets under the pretense of walking the dog, roaming freely about the town and finding more about the haunted locations, the sacred grounds and the mythical landmarks.
The game exploration areas are built with different layers, placed in different distance relations to the screen, simulating the effect of depth.
After the period of street exploration – seven actual minutes - follow some brief scenes depicting the life of the juvenile myth busters at home where additional research ensues, as well as conversations with members of the family or simply as a chance to listen to the unique thoughts of each character concerning the latest events. Given the character choice at the beginning of each day, the number of possible narrative outcomes is surprisingly large: not only is the game programmed to acknowledge that each different character relates to different people inside the school, it also understands that the difference in of sex and age is also determinant. For instance, if the chatter is becoming increasingly active in the boys toilet, it is recommended that Nao is selected for the mission; additionally, if the rumours are increasing on older student’s classrooms, it is wiser to let Mika handle the job, as she is one year older than her friends. The “end of day” scenes are also of particular importance to the construction of a credible scenario as they tend to reveal, with the passage of days, the uniqueness of each character in relation to different family structures.
School scenes, depicted in a very naturalistic manner, work as the launch platform for street exploration phases.
It is impressive how beautiful and genuine the whole Japanese suburban environment looks. In order to achieve such a result, the graphic designers went out to the streets taking hundreds of photographs which they later converted into a fictional city composed of bits and pieces of actual locations of Japan just before the turn of the century. Characters have been digitized from real actors and display very smooth movements and transitions between animations in what is one of the best available examples of this old-school technique. Sounds have also been implemented: car engines running on the background, the humming from high tension cables spreading across the residential areas, the indistinct chatter from the crowds or even the famous zebra crossing music that plays whenever it is safe for pedestrians to cross theroad. Such details in the audiovisual production of Yuuyami Doori Tankentai make it a pleasurable and credible voyage through Japanese quotidian.
A map of the surrounding city. At the beginning of each investigation stage, the player is allowed to select the starting point.
Occasionally, some locations of the game of particular importance to the quest will take the player closer to the action. Using a proprietary version of QuickTime VR, in which several pictures are used to compose a seemingly tridimensional perspective of a single space, from a steady point of view, the creators have implemented such scenes in order to instill more tension given the proximity to the element of danger. Though very common in the field of graphic adventures, mostly adopted by western game creators, the employment of this technique in a Japanese title is a rare event in itself.
The birth of a myth: the rumoured figure of a bird with the human head, sketched in some student’s school book (no relation to Seaman 2).
A divergent look at the average Japanese High School: one can almost hear the echoes of children’s murmurs, telling secret and strange stories to one another.
The quest for paranormal events depends also on other factors that provide valuable assistance in finding the location of haunted locations. When in the presence of evil spirits, the dog becomes frightened or unstable, barking constantly or refusing to move further. This can be considered as one of the earliest and most effective uses of a dog character as helping hand in a videogame of this genre (a feature that became very popular in the Survival Horror genre with Punchline’s Rule of Rose and Capcom’s Haunting Ground). The very rhythm of game play is affected by the canine partner, named Melos, as he will often stop to attend to his physiological necessities beside a lamppost or slow down the running party when he is tired.
Some screens from Suda Goichi’s Twilight Syndrome Kyuumeihen, an earlier Japanese game release for the PSX in which two young girls investigate the mysterious circumstances of a friend’s disappearance.
Because of its side-scrolling perspective and its treatment to the horror theme - from the viewpoint of young-aged students - Yuuyami Doori Tankentai is highly reminiscent of Human’s Twilight and Moonlight Syndrome. This spiritual link that unites all the three survival horror titles derives from the fact that, after extinction, a few Human members went on to join Spike – also accounting for the fact that the recent remake of Twilight Syndrome, for the DS, was release by none other than Spike. Exploration of locations is similar, allowing movements to both left and right, but also to enter different zones using the illusion of depth – although this effect was used more often in Suda Goichi’s Twilight series, since the game used an actual 3D engine for the locations employing zoom routines in the character sprites in order to simulate the effect of distance. A major influence, superseding the above mentioned games, could be Human’s original Clock Tower that, albeit the point-and-click controls, was essentially the forefather of all 2D and, perhaps, 3D survival horror games created in Japan.
Using limited means, the team designing Yuuyami Doori Tankentai was concerned about reproducing a living space where different people would cross the sidewalks beside the characters, with vehicles passing by randomly and the different sounds that a city produces.
Nao is walks near the shrine where he has a close encounter with the strange creature.
Released a full decade ago, YDT is one of the most surprising videogames of all time. It is safe to say that the modest budget was undoubtedly counterweighed by the true passion for the project, led by the producer Suzuki Shiyouiti. This compelling and somewhat realistic depiction of everyday life in Japan creates a beautiful contrast with the darker worlds of demons, apparitions and otherworldly beings. Three children live in a society of rumors where no one else seems to be affected by spiritual forces: the player is left with a question in mind, whether the events are real or a shared hallucination materialized by the young minds. Immersing the player deeply into the fields of contemporary mythology, this title tends to create an alternative horror environment: refusing to be exceedingly violent and visceral, it contemplates the fine line between normality and the existence of domains beyond sense.
In actual Japan, religion and allegory still occupy a very important role in the everyday life, especially in the case of older generations. Modern metropolitan areas, equipped with cutting edge infrastructures, are still known to harbor several temples and other sacred locations for prayer and worship – some claim, for protection against evil spirits. Capturing this singular debate between a traditional and folkloric Japan and its contemporary version, branded by emerging technologies and imported lifestyles, Yuuyami Doori Tankentai presents a modest and highly enjoyable vision of the untapped dimensions of reality where myths originate from.
Above is the TGS Trailer for the new PS3 exclusive Ryu ga Gotoku 4. It’s a bit confusing how the game system will work but it seems like there will be new alternatives to playing with Kazuma - the fact remains that, as far as lifelike character design goes, this studio seems to be light years ahead of what every other studio has been doing. And, with the recent news of Yakuza 3 being brought to the West, I’m already picturing myself playing this game in later 2012. If it ever gets to that, of course, one can only hope. Let’s have the demo first.
Juusei to Diamond (Diamond and The Sound of a Gun Shot) is a recent PSP release in Japan by Sony Computer Entertainment, developed by Zenner Works, the small Japanese company who developed Okage for the PS2. As expected, the game is not fit for those who have weak Japanese reading skills, this being a rather heavy text adventure - or sound novel according to standards. As you can verify from all the in-game stills below, the visuals of the game are quite stunning - way up there with the likes of Anata Wo Yurusanai also for the PSP. Moreover, the game has an impressive sound effect work and this unusual soundtrack that mixes Argentinean tango with more contemporary sonorities and beats. Following the tradition of the genre, there is no voice work for the character dialogues to accompany the on-screen text.
In spite of the difficulties I managed to make my way through the Intro and first Chapter. The game starts in a fast-food restaurant where a mad man is holding the two waiters hostage. The main character of the game, Onizuka Youichi, is negotiating the release of the two hostages while pretending to be an ally to the criminal. In fact they are communicating so smoothly to one another that it’s hard to realize they’re in the middle of a crisis.
So far the criminal seems satisfied: that’s because Onizuka is leading him into the belief that he’s actually on his side.
Outside the store is the police barrier. Onizuka’s assistant and fellow freelance negotiatior Kamizaki Hiromi is lending a helping hand.
Meet Katagiri Yuusaku, the fair and forgiving boss who gets along very well with Onizuka.
Onizuka reports the situation: two men placed behind the counter. One door on the back leads to the toilets.
This is the easy going negotiator. Young and light-hearted.
The team is in the Police van digging up information that may be useful to solve this crisis.
Something went wrong. The perpetrator went berserk and now he’s waving his gun at the store employees. He seems highly unstable so the negotiators team is forced to act quickly.
Onizuka comes inside and takes the two out, assuring everything will be OK.
The strategy is to force the criminal to surrender by creating another hostage situation in that same space. The young detective points a gun at Kamizaki as part of act.
Commence negotiation. When the situation is dire, both parties enter a battle mode of sorts.
The yellow line in the middle determines the level of tension. It is also recommended that the emotion gauge never reaches its limit, otherwise it will become almost impossible to succeed. Whenever the player presents a valid argument, his portion of the screen will increase as shown below.
I wasn’t aware of the rules at first, so I lost a great deal of terrain. And thus mad man went furious. Notice how genuine his facial expression is.
The key to these negotiations lies not only in the selection of what to say next: there is also a certain timing for inserting the next input which may allow the player to gain more terrain using the same option. As seen above, Onizuka is winning terrain over his opponent.
Finally, he surrenders his weapon.
Onizuka checks up on the two attendants. All’s well that ends well.
The credits follow this rolling start. Nice touch with the divided screen, similar to the conflict situations during the game.
The 1st chapter begins with Onizuka and Kamizaki sitting on their desks, at the beginning of a new work day.
Yuusaku, the boss, arrives to the office and provides instructions.
The officer briefs the two on the next case they should follow, while laying some photos over the table.
Whatever happened to the glamour of detective investigations? Instead of the long black Caddillac, these negotiators cruise in a pink, economy class car. And guess what: the lady’s driving. Marlowe would be ashamed.
Arriving at the residence of the first name on the list, the two begin making a series of questions. I’m under the impression that the man in the raincoat is an informant.
This lady was rude and unwilling to help. All throught the conversation, she kept this glare pointed at Kamizaki. Unpleasant to say the least.
On the way back to the office, old Yuusaku presents us Nakamura Keisuke, a profiler returning from America, where he acquired new skills working at the FBI. I’m not so sure I trust him, as the Japanese tend to create a specific sort of villains with this specific look.
Finally, they meet with the woman on the picture at the hospital.
After a long day of gathering information, interrogating suspects and informers, matching the data with the computer database and travelling around in those economy class wheels, the two partners stop by the local bar for a relaxing drink. Even after work hours they keep discussing the case they’re investigating. Not a moment to spare for these workaholics.
This image comes from the manual of Gekibo, the 2001 sequel to the original PC-Engine game where a whacky photo journalist found himself working for a ruthless newspaper chief editor. Showing their unusual sense of humor, Irem created a mock newspaper page and printed it inside the game manual. The Planet Times, dated of May 17th 2001, contains a few mock articles and comments (Please raise our pay!) mostly related to Gekibo. On the left bottom is a small mention to Zettai Zetsumei Toshi I had missed the first time I have browsed the manual.
Presenting the new Irem sensation, this small news clip offered a small picture of the game and a very interesting description. The supposed journalist who took this photo kept talking about Zettai Zetsumei Toshi, not knowing exactly what it meant: was this a game title? Was this the future of Irem? The research - the article says - would continue. This small teaser appeared about a year before the Japanese release of Zettai Zetsumei Toshi and is possibly the first official mention to this game ever. A small trifle, really, but something I thought might interest fellow admirers of the series.
In the world of videogame playing, the Japanese are a fortunate people. For the Japanese re-release of Ryu ga Gotoku 2 (Yakuza 2), SEGA prepared a bonus DVD with exclusive contents that focused on advertising the third game of the series, the Kenzan! spin-off. Within this DVD there are a few presentation trailers to be found, as well as a couple of exclusive interviews that were never released online before - or at least not with proper subtitles. Because the very purpose of this blog is to fill the information gaps between East and West, as much as I can, I now publish two small video features that will close the Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan! chapter here at Eastern Mind.
In order to take the most out of both videos please watch them in full screen with the scaling option disabled.
The first feature presents some of the new characters in this episode as well as the actors selected to not only record their voices but, as you’ll see in this video, provide facial expression data that was featured in the game. Characters are of a particular importance to the series, each of them carefully designed to look and sound genuine.
We come now to the main event, the exclusive pre-release interview with Toshihiro Nagoshi, the director of the Ryu ga Gotoku series. In this interview he accounts for his change to a different setting, namely to another period of Japanese history - a Jidaigeki style that allowed the team to go after new emotions. Because we rarely see these creators being interviewed in film, I though that this small feature could present a different side of Nagoshi that was unknown to most. The background music, Non Blade Sword, is an actual theme from the game soundtrack composed by Hideki Sakamoto and Hidenori Shoji.
I would like to thank Kevin Gifford and Patick Honeyman for the help they provided in the translation of these features.
[JAPANoFILES is a new feature from EasternMind concerning unique Japanese games – and game related materials. The objective of this new group or articles is to go a little deeper into the description (and occasional) analysis of games that are unknown to western players. All the information included in this and future pieces will derive only from trusted sources, as well as the personal experience of the author with the featured title.]
The scene is a common Japanese living room. On the center is an eating table with an electric shabu-shabu hot pot, cooking greens, mushrooms, extra thin slices of meat and chunks of tofu swimming on the boiling water. There is the furniture, a TV set and an electric carpet. Around the table sits a family of five: the father and mother to the left, the grandfather sitting in the middle, and the two children – a boy and a girl. The wide eyed cat gazing the table waters his mouth, starving. The player controls the contents inside the frame, able to zoom in and out, focusing on different parts of the environment. One button highlights one person or character; the other related the selected object to where the camera is focused on. Action, association and reaction - such are the elemental rules of interaction on the first level of リモココロン (Rimo Cocoron).
Unlike the majority of videogames, Rimo Cocoron’s cover design doesn’t include game stills or feature descriptions, rather a full size illustration.
Released in 2001, this SCEE title is a delicious essay on Japanese society that makes use of stereotypes as a mechanism to portray and appraise. The outer layer of apparent childishness, proposed by the colorful vector graphics engine and overall design tone, hides a number of unique ideas that position this title together with the likes of UFO: A Day In the Life. As far as the game system goes, and no matter how accustomed to the usual extravagances of the Japanese, Rimo Cocoron is a non-linear experience that never disregards the principles of humor and entertainment it respects from the very start. Each level requires the player to carefully observe the characters and understand their roles and needs. Some characters require objects to be handed down to them, whereas others simply need to be introduced to certain locations of the paper cut city.
The number of animated elements on screen creates quite an impression.
Each action and reaction that is adequate to the game environment results in the completion of an objective. When enough objectives are completed, the player may become qualified to move on to the next chapter, although the number of possibilities allows for distinct outcomes depending on the player’s priorities. To a large extent, the objective of the game consists of creating situations based on the materials included in each room, street or part of the cheerful town.
As the introduction shows, the game designing team went to great lengths in the creation not only of a suitable visual engine that would parody different social positions, but also a large number of characters that identify the patterns of most communities and families. See, for instance, the example of the association of the departed grandmother’s picture with the old grandfather, who responds with the shedding of a few tears. There is an interesting contrast between humor and drama that is easily associated to Japanese society.
The Laforet Harakuju free admitance event in 2001.
Another interesting fact concerning Rimo Cocoron is the invited character designer, a talented young artist by the name of Kenichi Nakane, whose work is not instantly recognizable as Japanese given the influences of illustrators such as Zdeněk Miler or Virginia Lee Burton (visit his website for some more delightful designs and graphics). His unique sense of aesthetics was only translatable into game due to the technological leap in real-time vector graphics processing. Giving life to his characteristic mix of design aesthetics, Rimo Cocoron became a smooth and appealing playground of highly expressive animation – with which later releases like Katamari Damacy surely hold more than occasional semblances.
Nakane and Sony promoted Rimo Cocoron back in April 2001 in the famous department store and museum Laforet Harajuku where several cardboard printed versions of the characters decorated the exposition where people had the chance to try the game. The event was quite successful and drew people from several regions around Tokyo, some of them congratulated with an exclusive T-Shirt. Not surprisingly, the game did not gather enough requisites to be shipped overseas, being a highly concentrated resource of digital Japanese idiosyncrasies and archetypes.