Owen Sound Sun Times (On)
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Gaming world has much more to offer than selection available in North America
I had the chance to play many video games which are unavailable in North America last year during an academic exchange in Japan, especially games for Nintendo DS.
Here are some great Japanese-only DS or Gameboy Advance games (which also play on the DS). They probably will never be released in North America but can be easily ordered online for a small mark up, as little as $5.
Moeru! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii – Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2 (DS)
This is the sequel to Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! which was retooled into Elite Beat Agents for North America. It plays exactly like EBA; there’s a ridiculous scenario, accompanied by a pop song. You tap circles to the rhythm of the game to help the character and progress to the next stage.
The difference between Ouendan 2 and EBA is this game has all Japanese songs and very Japanese scenarios, which makes them even more outlandish and fun than EBA.
While I love both Ouendan games I have to recommend this one for import over the first for a few important reasons. It has much improved graphics.
The game also starts out easier, making the learning curve better and resulting in a more fun experience. The visual cues are also easier to understand, making Ouendan simple to play if you speak no Japanese.
The game is completely in Japanese but the tutorial is interactive and all the difficulties are indicated by pictures of fires, increasing in size or number. Everything else is very clearly presented leaving a non-Japanese player well able to navigate and enjoy.
Rhythm Tengoku (GBA)
Very similar to Wario Ware, this game is a collection of mini-games.
Rhythm Tengoku’s games are all very rhythm based. Pay close attention to the music as you press buttons to match.
The games are completely off the wall, great fun and simple. They range from punching flying objects to plucking chin hairs from an onion, all to the rhythm of various original songs. No one game is very complicated, and there are lots of them. Highly recommended but less accessible than Ouendan 2 because the rhythmic difficulty has a steeper learning curve.
The games use minimal Japanese and are not hard to understand, but the game’s menu is difficult to navigate. It branches in all sorts of directions with labels in Japanese. You can still navigate at random, but Ouendan definitely does a better job of menus.
This game comes from the Bit Generation series of simple GBA games released at budget prices. Orbital is an amazing game and great value for about $20.
You play a small “planet” floating through space. Gravity is your only control. Press one button to attract yourself to other planets and another to repel.
The objective is to collect other “planets” by colliding with them, then reach the level exit while avoiding objects too large to merge with you.
It plays a little like “Katamari Damashii” in space. The game is beautifully executed and tons of fun.
You do have to take into account realistic physical forces, gravity, momentum and so on, but you won’t care. It’s just fun to careen through space picking up stuff. Very highly recommended, especially for the price.
The game is completely in English, except the packaging. The concept is simple and addictive, and it’s cheap.
ChouSouju Mecha MG
If you like robots, especially transformers, this game is for you. It gives you hundreds of possible robots to purchase and play, like transformers mixed with Pokemon.
The game is all in 3D, with the bottom screen a unique control panel for each robot, allowing you to transform, turbo-charge, reload your giant revolver and take other action. Most missions are either “kill everything”, “race” or “move stuff” and you can replay all levels with different robots for better ranks. You start off with pretty basic robots then get increasingly cooler units later on.
The controls are very good and the missions are fun. If you like giant robots, there’s no better DS game for you.
Most missions are easy to understand, but the long-winded story is all in Japanese text and you have no choice but to click through it to get to the cool parts. Online FAQs exist if you get stuck on any missions, which will likely happen a few times. None of this ruins the game. It’s great fun even if you speak no Japanese.
Jump Ultimate Stars
If you like anime buy this game. If you like Super Smash Bros, buy this game. This is one of the best DS games yet.
Jump Ultimate Stars has hundreds of licensed anime characters and plays very much like Smash Bros. It’s a 2D fighter with tons of missions, tons of characters and online multiplayer functions.
You collect “cards” to make your character, and characters from the same anime get bonuses for being in rosters with others from that show. Once you have a deck you plow through world after world in deathmatch, last man standing, while some levels also have specific objectives.
The game also has local and Wi-fi multiplayer and a single player arena.
It’s the closest thing the DS has to Smash Bros. and offers much better single player function.
With so many anime characters in the game, and problems with licensing from North American anime distributors, it’s highly unlikely this game will ever come out in English, so best to import it yourself.
You will need an online FAQ to learn how to roster characters, but after that it’s very easy to understand. You may also need online FAQs to figure out some of the more obscure mission objectives, but the payoff is well worth it.
My favourite import site for picking up some of these unusual games is www.play-asia.com, as they have good prices and reliable shipping. The good, but infrequently updated www.gamebrink.com has full reviews of most of these games.
Calen Henry is a fourth-year student of Japanese studies and multimedia at McMaster University. He grew up in Owen Sound, has been a gamer since childhood and is also interested in music and film.
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