So how’d 2014 treat you? As a Japan-based gamer, it was a year of PSVita and, though you might not expect it, PS3.
This year, odd as it might sound, my PS3 has been getting way more attention than my PS4. I was ready to dive into the new generation. I was prepared for the slow start that accompanies most new generations, but given how much time developers and hardware makers had to prepare for this generation, and the Vita coming out of the gate freaking flying on its launch day, I suppose I expected things to pick up more quickly than they did.
Part of it is indeed my own lateness to the party on some games. The curse of being expected to keep up with a certain market’s games is that I tend to fall behind in others. You don’t really get to pick what you play. Moreover, even games from the Japanese market, if they end up being covered on-site by other people, that makes it a poor use of time for me, because I do the game thing in my free time.
So things like Dragon’s Crown? I didn’t end up finding time for it until this past summer. Rain? It’s by Japan Studio, but I just picked it up the other day (did that get a physical release abroad? It did here).
This Christmas break had me, as I’ve said, playing Yakuza 5, but also getting into long overdue time with Borderlands 2. We picked up the Game of the Year Edition because I don’t buy very many brand new games anymore, since they always need patches and shit. Often enough, there’s a version of the game released later on that has all the DLC and/or patches in it, so I wait for those versions. I guess that’s the nice thing about being bogged down; you can be very, very patient. But what a freaking game that is.
I’m a huge fan of couch multiplayer, so the two-player, split-screen, co-op, heavy-hyphens mode takes a good game to amazing new heights. It reminds me a lot of a more humorous Fallout 3 — which I ironically only just got into last Christmas break — with multiplayer. So good. We’re only level 11, but this is looking like it has potential to be one of our favorite games of the generation.
I’ve got Beyond: Two Souls in the plastic wrap and can’t wait to tear into it.
Then we get into re-releases of old favorites. Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD and Kingdom Hearts 2.5 were both insanely good re-releases, with new gameplay bits that could flip the originals on their heads in some cases, or bring handheld exclusives to the console audience in others.
But PS3 didn’t get all the love in 2014. I did have several days in a hospital, left with my Vita and 3DS, so I gained an appreciation for Animal Crossing on one and Persona 4 and Sonic & All Stars Racing on the other. Played those a ton and loved both. The following summer would be dominated by Miku, Puyo Puyo Tetris, and Girls Und Panzer. With those and more, Vita’s had itself a hell of a year for me, too.
PS4’s time will come in 2015, I think. I’ve got JRPG Omega Quintet sitting here, Yakuza: Ishin just begging me to finish it — and what a great game that is — plus The Wolf Among Us just arrived. I’ll be hitting Akiba’s Trip 2 as soon as I finish the original PSP game that non-Japanese never got. Meanwhile, upcoming PS4 releases like Dragon Quest Heroes, Persona 5, Yakuza 0, and Senran Kagura Estival Versus make me excited to give my PS4 a little more of a workout. Or start the real workout now that the stretching is over. Sports analogies!
But enough about me! What about you? What was your most played system of the year, PlayStation or otherwise?
~So This Was Christmas~
Japanese Christmas always interests me. There’s all kinds of hype about Santa, Kurisumasu-purezentos, buckets of KFC, and special cakes, but there are very few actual family traditions. Growing up in the USA, it’s hard for me to picture waking up on December 25th and not running to the living room to see what was under the tree. I’m not saying either one is better than the other, just pointing out differences and reasons that both interest me.
On both sides of the Pacific, I find the Christmas season starting way too early, though. I got off a plane for a brief visit to Canada one September and there were already Christmas decorations hanging around. Meanwhile in Japan, I was sitting in the mall the day before Halloween, watching kids walk by dressed as pumpkins and witches while “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” played on the loudspeakers. It was one of the most bizarre and surreal experiences of my life.
Most of the kids out here got Yokai Watch games for 3DS. That game is making a serious run to overthrow Pokémon. The anime, the toys, the games… they’re everywhere. In fact, for the first time in at least eight years (probably more), the McDonald’s calendar does not feature Pokémon. It’s got Yokai Watch characters instead. This might seem like a little thing, but imagine if, say, the TBS marathon 24 Hours of a Christmas Story were replaced with 24 Hours of __(some newer movie)__.” Subbing in something else seems unimaginable. That alone doesn’t spell the end of a huge franchise like Pocket Monsters, but it’s just one factor among many.
Things like that are happening everywhere. Kids are walking around with Yokai merchandise and not even recognizing Pokémon that were household names just a few years ago. I really wonder if Nintendo will fight to stay at the top of the monster collection scene or take its foot off the gas and let Level-5 run that show for a while. If there’s friction… I’d love to see Yokai Watch 3 come to Vita.
Be it 3DS or whatever, I might have to take the plunge soon, just to keep up and see what all the fuss is about.
Got any experience with winter holidays abroad? I’d love to hear them, so please share in the comments. The world fascinates me.
And that’s all for December, and with it, 2014, in the life of a PlayStation gamer in Japan.