From Japan: Nintendo Tokyo

Today, Nintendo opened their first shop in Japan (and second in the world, after Nintendo NYC). Named Nintendo Tokyo, the shop is located on 6F of Shibuya PARCO, which is about a six minute walk from Shibuya Station.

Conveniently located between Pokemon Center Shibuya, and Capcom Store Tokyo, Nintendo Tokyo offers a variety of merchandise all related to your favorite Nintendo characters.

The shop is spacious and well-lit, with four large figures of Nintendo characters to designate each area of the store: Super Mario, Link, Isabelle from Animal Crossing, and the orange-haired Inkling Girl from Splatoon.

These products range from collectible plush toys and stationary, to T-shirts and hoodies. As well as designer watches and neckties, Splatoon “finger boards,” cups, plates, chopsticks, iPhone cases, pajamas, pillows, and even Link whisky glasses. Needless to say, there’s something for all ages.

The front of the store showcases the products exclusive to Nintendo Tokyo, which include red or grey T-shirts for 4,800 yen (US$45) small pillows, tote bags, and tins of cookies, each displaying the four characters you see as large figures in the store.

At the back is an “eraser buffet,” where customers can select a glass jar for 400 yen (about US$3.50) and fill it with tiny erasers carved to resemble their favorite Nintendo characters. Each jar holds about eight or nine erasers.

And yes, there are games. Specifically, only games for the Nintendo Switch, with a selection of about 15 of their most recent titles. Nintendo Tokyo also sells multi-colored Switch controllers, as well as other accessories such as AC adapters and wires.

Unlike some of the other game-themed shops you might find in other parts of Japan, Nintendo Tokyo doesn’t offer a café, events, or any other experiences beyond trying out a Switch game on one of their four TV screens. It’s simply a shop for Nintendo fans. Yet the merchandise is plentiful, and the prices are – for the most part – quite reasonable. Definitely a place to visit, for Nintendo fans of all ages.

Written by Damon Finos

Cosplayers Take A Walk In The Park

Tsuruma Park, located in the city of Nagoya, was once a popular locale for O-bon dances, bird watching, and performing morning exorcises.  Though in the last few years, the park has attracted a new breed of visitors: Cosplayers.

If we look at the reasons why this new fad has sprung, we may wonder why Tsuruma Park hadn’t been used for cosplayers sooner.

For one thing, we’ve got the World Cosplay Summit which began in 2003, and has since been held annually in Nagoya; a week-long event where people dress-up as their favorite anime and video game characters, marching in a parade and holding a championship to vote on the best outfit.

Then, we’ve got Tsuruma Park nearby, a large open space which features a mixture of both old and modern Western and Japanese-style buildings.  A perfect location for a photo shoot, just waiting for the right models.

Cosplayers Take A Walk In The Park

Then one day, it finally happened.  Word got around of Tsuruma Park’s ideal background for picture taking, and what began as an event surrounding the World Cosplay Summit, has now become a summer-long fad.  Wearing a mecha outfit?  Try posing in front of the Civic Assembly Hall and water fountain.  Dressed as the ninja Kazumi from Dead Or Alive?  Why not use the Japanese garden?  “It’s boring to take photos on the concrete streets,” says one cosplayer.

And besides, considering all the effort these fans and otaku put into creating their costumes, why wear them only during the World Cosplay Summit and Tokyo Game Show?  The summer may be hot and humid, but dressing up as your favorite anime and video game character while posing in Tsuruma Park is cool!  (Well, interesting at least)

written by Damon Finos

Walking Dead Review

9 / 10 Banzai!s

The Game:

Zombie mania is here. And to celebrate, Telltale Games has created The Walking Dead, a game inspired by Robert Kirkman’s comic book series of the same name – which in turn has also been turned in an AMC TV show. In a nutshell, The Walking Dead game is a point-and-click adventure, like many other Telltale titles such as Back to the Future and the CSI series. But that’s in a nutshell, mind you. The Walking Dead is actually far more than just that.

Reminiscent of Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, players perform actions and make choices along the way, which alter events along the storyline as well as your interaction with other characters. Unlike X-Men: Destiny, these choices matter. Save one character and not the other, and continue the story with one of the characters dead. Disagree with someone, and that person will refuse to help you later on.

As stated earlier, the game is “inspired” by the comic book, existing in the same zombie-infested world, but with a new cast and story (though a few characters familiar to the comic make some cameos). You play as Lee Everett, a convicted felon riding in the back of a squad car on his way to prison, when the zombie outbreak begins. After surviving a car accident, he makes it to the nearest town – and is shocked to see undead walkers roaming the streets in search of human flesh. He meets a young girl named Clementine who’s been hiding up in her treehouse, and the two become a team as they search for safety, food, form a group of friends, and attempt to survive in this apocalyptic world.

Much of the game involves problem-solving. Explore a given area, find the tools you need, and figure out how to use them in order to reach your goal. Along the way, you’ll be settling arguments by choosing (under a time limit of a few seconds) how to respond to members in your group, making friends by finding and handing out food, making enemies by not giving them food, and of course battling the occasional zombie in a quick mini-game.

The Walking Dead video game was released in a series of episodes, five in total, beginning in April of 2012. In July 2013, Telltale released a bonus story titled 400 Days as an added DLC. Despite being criticized for glitches and receiving only moderately positive reviews, The Walking Dead video game received numerous Game Of The Year awards from a number of newspapers and magazines, including USA Today, E!, GamesRadar, and Best Downloadable Game at the 2012 Spike Video Game Awards.

 

What I Liked:

Obviously there’s a lot I liked about this game, to warrant 9 Banzai!s out of 10. The game strongly focuses on the story, and the story is the best part of the game. It’s as fascinating and suspenseful as the TV show based on the comic, with its own brand of colorful characters. The overall game has its own metaplot, but each Episode explores a specific aspect with its own plot and goal. Much like the comics, The Walking Dead video game begins with the focus on the zombies themselves. But soon, the players will face an even more dangerous adversary: other human beings.

Walking Dead ReviewThe gameplay is well balanced between scenes in which you’re attempting to solve a puzzle, scenes that bring out the suspense and horror, and scenes which allow you to take a break. But unlike reading the comic or watching the show, The Walking Dead video game is, of course, interactive – which further adds to the interest of the story. Like Heavy Rain, you’re forced to make choices which not only alters the storyline of the Episode, but the overall game. Continue siding with Larry and not Kenny, then don’t expect Kenny’s help in the future. Chose to sacrifice Carley and save Dog, then Carley is no longer in the story.

The puzzles themselves are far easier than other Telltale games, simply because they have logical answers which feel natural if you were literally in the same situation as your player character. Need to sneak into a building? Then quietly kill the zombies nearby. How do you kill it? With a screwdriver. Where do you find a screwdriver? In a toolbox. Where’s the toolbox? Near the construction area. This logical style of problem-solving adds to the realism of the story, as opposed to the more cartoonish Back to the Future where you need to find a character across town by having the dog Einstein sniff a pair of shoes (possible, but perhaps only in a cartoon).

In The Walking Dead video game, things will jump out and startle you. Things will shock and even disgust you. You’ll feel the clock ticking when you’re trying to save a character’s life. And you’ll feel sad when they die. Yes, it’s no spoiler than many people will die. Those of you familiar with the comics and TV show know best that, just because a character’s been with the story for a long time, doesn’t mean they won’t perish. You just never know who will be the next food for the zombies – and sometimes, it will be the result of your decisions.

 

What I Didn’t Like:

Bugs and glitches. It has been the strongest complaint by most online reviewers, and yes, I had a problem with the glitches as well. The game never froze one me, but there are hiccups throughout – even in the DLC – which interrupt the flow of the game.

The problem, I think, is that the game seems to be loading the next scene and saving at the same time, as I noticed this is when the glitches usually occur. You solve a puzzle, then there’s a cut-scene. Then the cut-scene freezes for a few seconds, but the game is still going. Best case scenario, the picture fast-forwards to catch up with your position in the game. Worst case, is there was a quick decision to make but you missed your window.

Walking Dead ReviewMost of the time, these glitches didn’t impair the gameplay. But they stand out simply because the rest of the game is so good! If these bugs were in Duke Nukem Forever, I probably wouldn’t care. But it’s like a CD skipping while you’re listening to a really good song.

 

Overall:

Despite the glitches, The Walking Dead is an exciting and fascinating game which proves that an engaging story is often necessary to make a great game. (I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy XIII) The action may not be as intense as Call of Duty, the graphics as impressive as Devil May Cry, but the story and characters are so interesting, the gameplay so interactive, that The Walking Dead video game goes beyond being a simple video game and steps into the boundaries of artform.

For trophy hunters out there, you’ll be happy to know that the platinum for this game is quite easy to obtain. Every trophy is story related, which means once you’ve completed the game, you’ve got your Platinum.

Overall, fans of the comic and TV show will not be disappointed. And anyone new to the series will be in for a treat.

Just don’t play it with the kiddies around.

 

written by Damon Finos

From Japan: Waikiki and the Japanese Tourists

Back in the 1980′s, the Japanese economy was booming.  With all this money and looking for ways to spend it, many turned away from the local hot spring resorts and began experiencing travels abroad.  While neighbouring countries such as Korea and China were popular choices for a holiday, Hawaii dominated – beautiful resorts, safe, and only a 7 hour plane ride away.  And Waikiki, located on the South shore of O’ahu, became a prime target for Japanese tourists, with its white sandy beaches and shopping districts conveniently placed nearby.

Over time, things continued running in a cycle.  More Japanese tourists visited Waikiki, so the local shops catered to their tastes and studied the language, which only brought in more tourists.  Now, the rumour in Japan is that “you don’t need to speak English if you visit Waikiki.”

I recently returned from a holiday in Hawaii, which included a 5-day stay in Waikiki, and found this rumour to be 100% true.  From bus drivers to restaurant waitresses, I heard “Irashaimase” and “Arigatou gozaimasu” and “Ki o tsukete kudasai.”  I, of course, was spoken to in English.  But my girlfriend, whose English ability is rather limited, felt confident to roam around the city on her own, using Japanese to order and buy things, while I stayed by the pool and played video games.

And it’s not just the language.  The stores themselves are obviously catering to Japanese women, who are more prone to travel overseas than men (I don’t know the exact statistics, but my guess would be 8-1).  Louis Vuitton, Coach, Prada, Gucci, and about a million cosmetic stores.  I even found a Book-Off, a Japanese shop which buys and sells used books, games and DVDs.  The lady at the counter who sold me some games spoke very little English.

Japanese touristsDue to part of my Italian background and having been depraved of real Italian food for so long, I was anxious to sink my teeth into some veal fried in tomato sauce, or feast on a huge plate of ravioli or lasagna.  We went to an “Italian” restaurant in Waikiki, but unfortunately the menu was just like those here in Japan – paper-thin crusted pizza with corn toppings, and bowls of spaghetti served with tuna.

Overall, I enjoyed my stay in Waikiki.  The beach, though crowded, was beautiful with waters as warm as a pool.  I even managed to find a Gamestop and make the owners happy with my vast number of Xbox game purchases.  And riding that helicopter over the volcano was pretty cool!

If you’re Japanese and looking to travel abroad, but worried about the language barrier, then Waikiki’s the place for you.  and if you’re North American who wants to experience Japan but worried about the problems with communication, then Waikiki’s the place for you.

It’s like Shibuya with a beach.

 

written by Damon Finos

X-Men Destiny Review

6.5 / 10 Banzai!s

The Game:

Up until, and even after, the game’s release in September 2011 in North America, and October in Europe, X-Men: Destiny was saturated in scandals, reminiscent of the infamous Duke Nukem Forever.

Silicon Knights, the developing team behind X-Men: Destiny and founded by Denis Dyack, was drowning in lawsuits and counter-lawsuits with Epic Games over the Unreal Engine 3 licences. Shortly after X-Men: Destiny was released for the PlayStation 3Xbox 360Nintendo DS, and Wii, and receiving fairly harsh reviews, Silicon Knights lost the counter-suit, resulting in its founder to leave and start up a new company: Precursor Games. Then, an article in Kotakuclaimed the reason behind X-Men: Destiny‘s poor quality was a lack of funding, after Dyack had diverted money towards other projects. Denis Dyack, now an Executive at Precursor Games, posted a video online stating that the allegations weren’t true. He also apologised for the game’s quality, stating that Silicon Knights had tried to give it their best and make a great game, but “sometimes it doesn’t happen.”

But scandals and lawsuits aside, what’s this game about, anyway?

Based on a story written by Mike Carey, the creator behind the X-Men: Legacy comic series, X-Men: Destiny takes place in San Francisco. Professor X is dead, Magneto is missing, but the X-Men continue to find peace between mutants and humans. This dream is quickly shattered when, during a peace rally, everyone is attacked by anti-mutant Purifiers possessing a high-level of technological weaponry. But why are the mutants being captured alive? What do the Purifiers have in mind, and from where did they get this super technology? You’ll need to play the game to find out.

X-Men Destiny ReviewPlayers select from one of three characters, each with their own backstory, and one of three powers. As a mutant newbie, you begin by assisting members of both the X-Men and Brotherhood of Mutants, but eventually make your way to joining one of the two sides. As a third-person action title, X-Men: Destiny also includes RPG elements, such as upgrading both your character and powers by collecting X-Genes.

 

What I Liked:

I have to admit, sometimes I’m in the mood for a simple button-masher. Reminiscent of DC Universe Online, you’ll spend the majority of your time hitting the square button (on the PS3) as you progress through the levels, while occasionally jumping, climbing, and using another button which activates a special power.

Now, I’m not praising the game for being a button-masher. Some people aren’t into that, just like some people aren’t into RPGs or first-person shooters. But sometimes when I come home after a rough day at work and want to play a game, but too tired to play anything complicated, then a simple button-masher is the ideal choice. If you ever find yourself in one of those moods, then X-Men: Destiny is the game for you.

The story is well-written, and heavily targets avid X-Men fans. If all you know of the X-Men universe comes from the movies, then you won’t be familiar with over half the characters in the game. Mike Carey did a great job of immersing the player in the X-Men world, with a story as though straight out from the comic books, filled with mystery and surprises, and even interesting back-stories for the three playable characters.

 

What I Didn’t Like:

Again, reminiscent of Duke Nukem Forever, the game felt unfinished. There were cutscenes which looked fantastic, and others that seemed forgotten to be rendered – such as buildings exploding in large polygraphic shapes surrounded in digitalised pixilated smoke. Occasionally, you’ll be watching Cyclops or Wolverine talking to your player-character, and all of a sudden, for a quick second, they spasm as if electrocuted. Or you’ll be moving the camera, and something white will flicker on the wall. This last bug wouldn’t be so annoying, if the collectibles didn’t happen to be small white markers. Each time you think you’ve found a collectible as you move the camera, you’ll waste a few minutes scouting the area, only to realize it was a flaw in the imaging.

Also – and this is more on a personal note – I wasn’t a big fan of the whole “choosing sides” thing. It was cool when you first experienced having consequences for your actions, like back in the days of Fallout 3 with its karma system, or choosing either the good or evil path in Infamous. But it feels to me this whole choosing light or dark sides has been done to death, to the point where it now feels like a cliché. Like anything else in a game, if it’s done well and creatively, then great. If not, then I’d much rather play a game from start to finish without worrying about two different endings to watch.

X-Men Destiny ReviewIn the case of X-Men: Destiny, you make choices which either link you closer to the X-Men or the Brotherhood of Mutants. It’s as though they took this cliché, and made it the whole point of the game. It’s even in the title: “Destiny.” Okay, so there’s these two different teams among mutants with different ideologies, that’s fine. But at the end of the day, your choices don’t matter. If you side with the X-Men, all it means is there are certain missions you can’t clear with the Brotherhood, and the final 2 minute cut-scene is a bit different. Otherwise, your “destiny” has no bearing on the game. In Infamous, for example, your character begins to look different depending on your choices, and the environment gradually becomes filled with either civilians rooting for you, or throwing rocks at you. But in X-Men: Destiny, nothing really changes depending on whether you side with the X-Men or Brotherhood. You appear the same, your powers are the same, and your enemies are the same. Now, I’m not saying they should have taken this “choosing sides” out of the game – rather, they should have integrated it more. Maybe have you battle one side or the other. Ironically, there’s a boss fight with Magneto – and it doesn’t matter which side you choose; you’ll still be fighting Magneto with Cyclops at your side.

 

Overall:

Much like Duke Nukem ForeverX-Men: Destiny is an average game with the potential of being more. Interesting concepts and a great story, but clearly left unfinished – and I don’t just mean the bugs. Yes, it’s basically a button-masher, and yes it will get repetitive. If you’re in the mood for that, then great. But if you’re looking for something a little more challenging – particularly mentally – then you might want to pass on this one.

As far as trophies go, X-Men: Destiny‘s Platinum isn’t too difficult. Two playthroughs, one of which on Hard mode, find some collectibles along the way, and use the chapter select to mop-up. Should take the average gamer only about 15-20 hours to complete.

On the plus side, if you’re an avid fan of the comics, then there’s plenty to entertain you, from the story to the vast number of character cameos. Overall, the game isn’t as bad as many other online reviewers stated, but it’s not that much better than Duke Nukem Forever. In the future, X-Men: Destiny may be more remembered as the last game developed by Silicon Knights, and for the scandals surrounding it.

 

written by Damon Finos