Grooving Defeated Retail Warriors – PlayStation JapanStyle June/July 2015

July 18, 2015 Written by Heath Hindman

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Welcome to PlayStation JapanStyle, the PSLS blog of a gamer in Japan.

The biggest game release of June for me was Vita-exclusive Persona 4: Dancing All Night, which hit Japan on June 25. I love that universe and set of characters, and was more curious about the game than excited. But my curiosity was a powerful one — just how would this control? Would it feel satisfying to play, like, at all? It did, and I wrote a pretty glowing review of it right here. It’s a music game kind of summer, and I’ve since moved on to Taiko Drum Master: V Version, also on the Vita. I don’t think I’ll be playing IA/VT, however. I don’t dig the voice.

Japan held its collective breath for 90 minutes at a time as the Women’s World Cup came and went. Its final match was a repeat of the 2011 final, with Japan taking on the USA. This time, however, Nadeshiko’s magic didn’t show up. The game was on in the morning for us in Japan, on what happened to be my only morning off for that week. I rolled out of bed in time to see a score of 4-1 and was like “Welp.” There’s no coming back from that… not in soccer.

But the Japanese women remain one of the world’s feared teams. Not feared enough, however, to be in the new FIFA game. For the first time ever, women’s national teams are in the game, but the World Cup finalists and champions of the previous World Cup aren’t in it.

Image: BBC

Image: BBC

I’m not mad, because I don’t play soccer games (you have to say if you’re not mad on the internet, because if you write about something, people assume you’re mad. It pisses me off so much), but I can’t figure out the logic behind that.I don’t think the local population realizes it, though. Even though Nadeshiko (the country’s pet name for its women’s soccer team) is a national treasure, there isn’t much buzz about FIFA 16 including women. Any connection to the lack of Japan could only be a guess. As an example of how little the Japanese public cares about this news, here are the reader reaction stats for Dengeki Online‘s post about the FIFA 16 news:

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Meanwhile, its readers react to Nitroplus Blasterz limited edition box art and costumes:

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Priorities.

E3 news isn’t usually as big in Japan as it is abroad; the convention that gets the most headlines and starts the most discussions at the water coolers tends to be the much closer Tokyo Game Show. There are, of course, exceptions; and I’m far from alone when I call Sony’s E3 2015 press conference exceptional. In fact, you’d have to lack a lot of social awareness to say that Sony’s show was not prime material for discussion, regardless of your anticipation level for the games shown.

Oddly, I’ve never met anyone out here who’s played Shenmue. Even old time game fans who had Saturns and Dreamcasts that I know, don’t have experience with the first two Shenmue games. Everything in this column is anecdotal, but there’s the insight I can offer. I’m sure Shenmue III will have its following out here, assuming launch day actually comes, but I sure can’t find it.

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The Last Guardian is getting more buzz. ICO and Shadow of the Colossus are greatly respected over here. Instead of being bundled together, their HD releases were also available separately, because there was confidence that each could stand on its own in the Japanese marketplace. TLG isn’t on the lips of the general public, but the type of people who, say, read gaming magazines and websites are certainly familiar with “Toriko.”

The undeniable champ of E3 for the Japanese audience was the PS4 Final Fantasy VII remake. This is the one that brought everyone out of the woodwork. This game might bring some people back to gaming. I know more than a few Japanese adults who grew up gaming, but haven’t picked up a console controller in years.

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One is basically begging me to let her come over and play it once it comes out. She played Final Fantasy back in the day, but the last one she played was FFX. She hasn’t owned a console since the PS2, because she can’t afford one. When she saw the FFVII remake trailer, she was speechless…until the questions came rolling in. As you already know, I had a lot to say on the matter as well (and still more to write, yet).

High school and junior high kids are excited to play this game they’ve heard so much about. A lot of them haven’t played it, though a few of them say their parents have. As one 15-year-old told me he’s excited to try such a famous game, I wonder if the game he’ll end up playing will actually be anything like the original version. If someone in the future only plays the remake (which will happen), can we really say “that person has experienced Final Fantasy VII?” It’s a head scratcher.

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These announcements are exciting, but don’t expect a PS4 weekly sales bump until we’ve got some release dates, or maybe even until the games are out. The Japanese consumer doesn’t usually buy hardware until the desired software is already on shelves right along with it. We’ve been bitten too many times out here by unfulfilled promises, and the money situation is tough out here these days.

Speaking of money being tight, Japan was trying to impress the world with the most expensive stadium ever for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but just now halted that deal. Let’s remember, the country was so out of money that it made an across-the-board tax hike last year, for the first time in 17 years, because it saw “no other way” to bring revenue back. Then it wanted to blow more than $2 billion on a stadium that will never make the taxpayers back their money. No matter where you go, people in groups make horrible decisions. Speaking of which…

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to rewrite the pacifist constitution and enable Japan to send soldiers overseas came one critical step closer to reality on July 15. Currently, Japan’s self defense force is only allowed to take action on its own shores and in its own waters, but the Abe government wants to allow it also to aid allies and embark on missions overseas. Because what do you do when you’re out of money and your population is decreasing rapidly? Spend more money you don’t have to go to war and kill some of the precious few people you actually have in their primes. Thumbs up!

Getting a thumbs up from its players is Yokai Watch: Busters, the spinoff of Level-5’s extremely popular 3DS games. It sold almost 700,000 copies in its debut weekend here in the ‘Pan, and you can bet it’ll be madness when the proper Yokai Watch 3 drops.

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We won’t have to wait too much longer to see even more 3DS software madness, however. Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer will go on sale July 30. It’ll be interesting to see how it does, because it’s the first 3DS game to support amiibos via a card reader. I don’t expect it to match its 3DS elder, but it’ll undoubtedly debut huge and probably be a steady force all summer. Maybe longer?

I also wonder how much gas the 3DS has left in the tank. Its hardware is doing well in Japan (relatively speaking), but I get the impression that it’s slowing down elsewhere. The New 3DS seemed like a stopgap from the beginning, and now is only barely outselling systems whose sales are at historic lows. Good…job?

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But how well can new hardware sell in this market? The 3DS is doing well only when we compare it to market failures, and the Wii-U…is one of those failures. But you can’t just sit back and do nothing. Tough decisions ahead.

Sadder news on the topic of Nintendo was something you’ve definitely read about already, the passing of Satoru Iwata. Everyone knew about this one. Staff at the junior high, basically every adult I’ve run into, fellow foreigners, and even a couple of elementary school kids. A bunch of us played Nintendo games as tribute. Naturally, fun was had by all. That’s kind of been Nintendo’s business this whole time: fun.

My usual partner couldn’t handle doing the podcast with me, so I flew solo for our official memorial cast. I’ll close by embedding that here. If you want to download it, click that down-pointing arrow in the top right corner. If you’d rather watch the YouTube version, here ya go. The song at the end is “Because I Love You” from Earthbound.