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Tank Girl Liberation – PlayStation JapanStyle, June 2014

June 30, 2014 Written by Heath Hindman

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Before we get rolling, we’ve got a poll going here about which import review you’d like to see next on PlayStation LifeStyle. Two of the three games on the ballot are given brief impressions in this column, and the third is a PSP game that North America never got. Send off a vote so I know which to finish first!
So here’s the life and times of a Japanese gamer in June.

~E3 Comes and Goes~

Astute gamers out here know what E3 is, but I find a lot who don’t. Mostly, the ones I run into who don’t know what E3 is are college age or below, which is understandable. I’m going to stereotypically assume they’re too busy studying at cram school and going to club activities seven days a week to notice that the Japanese game websites and magazines do indeed make a big deal about E3.

The most popular items on news reels of websites such as Famitsu and Dengeki were on the topics of Metal Gear Solid V, DriveClub, Psycho Break (which you’ll know as The Evil Within), World of Warships, Bloodborne, Xenoblade: X, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Bayonetta 2, Hyrule Warriors, Oculus Rift, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD, and everything with Atlus’s name on it.  I’ll have more detailed fan reactions in the next column; this time around, my skin is clammy, I feel sick, and I gotta get this column live.  Blecchh :(

I’m hoping that the releases of some of the above can drive PS4 sales up out of the basement.

~Watch Dogs Hype: Can It Transform Into Sales?~

Weekly Famitsu has Watch Dogs on the cover and includes a special insert this week with a 36-page mini guide. There’s a lot of hype around this one, but similar things were also done with games like inFamous: Second Son, which only sold around 30,000 in its debut week. (That figure is about the same as the other two inFamous games.)

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Check back on the site’s main page this Wednesday for its first-week sales performance.  The game came out on June 26.

~Two Things That Don’t Matter in Japan: Graphics & Famitsu Reviews~

Speaking of Weekly Famitsu and Watch Dogs, I noticed in the most recent issue’s reviews (which Japanese people don’t even care about, yet Western gamers…oddly do, for some reason) that Watch Dogs got 9/9/9/9 for 36/40. It got this same score across all three platforms, PS3, 360, and PS4. This goes to show two things. 1) Famitsu reviews continue to be a little odd, showing no difference between different generations of consoles. Then again, this case could just be due to the fact that: 2) Graphics simply don’t matter in Japan.

It’s why PSP versions of games were selling more than Vita versions for quite a while, it’s why PS3 exclusives will score higher sales than PS4 exclusives even come the end of this year, and it’s one reason new hardware isn’t so quick to fly off shelves in Japan. Yes, install base definitely has something to do with the sales of the console, but that’s just it. One of the reasons the install base for new systems has a rough time moving up is that the Japanese market doesn’t see graphics as a strong reason to upgrade. It’s going to take unique, exclusive, compelling software for the PS4 to catch fire in Japan.

~Impressions~

Freedom Wars (Vita)

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I haven’t gotten far in Freedom Wars, but I’m cautiously optimistic about what I’ve seen and done. It seems quite overwhelming at first, with characters and menus having to explain a lot of the games intricacies in great detail. The early going has been a slog as I move through and wonder “am I doing it wrong?” practically the whole time. While I’ve dabbled just a little bit with God Eater and played two Monster Hunter games on PSP (the better of which sadly never game out in North America), they’ve never been like, my main thing, so this’ll take a bit longer for me to get into.

I love the premise and world though, that’s for sure. Players begin in prison, which made me lovingly remember Elder Scrolls, but similarities pretty much end there. Prisoners are often given ridiculously long — actually impossible — sentences, but can work down their time by helping the nation’s war efforts. That’s where the hunting and fighting come in, and that’s where Freedom Wars‘s greatest strength can be found.

There’s a lot of buzz around this game, and I hope people aren’t setting themselves up for disappointment. It’s a first-party Vita exclusive which is like, wow, water in the desert, but I hope that’s not setting expectations too high. I’m not saying it won’t or can’t meet them, I’m just saying it’s better to be pleasantly surprised rather than just satisfied or disappointed.

Girls & Panzer (Vita)

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This game hasn’t stopped making me smile. I make no apologies, this has captured my heart. The anime is goofy, cute fun; and the game is more of it. The story is very faithful to the anime, with some scenes featuring still images and voice overs and other moments done up with animated video sequences. I’m sure that’ll please some fans but not others. There’s always a bunch that want a faithful adaptation and others who’d prefer new material, and this game satisfies the former crowd a lot more, from what I can tell so far.

The tank battles seem fun so far, and quite unique. I was worried at first, because the first few battles were rather samey and basic. It was understandable, as the game allows players to replay missions as any of four different squads, but it did start to feel repetitive. The AI, at least in these missions, had tanks charging right at me most of the time, wanting only to stand still and shoot each other in the face instead of evade and counter like I’d expect a tank battle to go. Correct me if I’m wrong, those of you who know more about tank warfare than I do.

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Getting into chapter 2 really opened things up, as my first battle was the one we get a glimpse of in the anime’s prologue. My objective was to start some shit and then lure the opponents into an ambush, which proved thrilling. Chapter 3 moved things along even more, so things are looking up.

~Kinda unrelated~

A friend of mine got married early in the month. She requested that, as a wedding gift, I make a video with the kids at the preschool where we work, to be played at the reception. Here’s what I came up with:

That’s all for this round of JapanStyle! Don’t forget to vote for the next import review!

またね~