The Tokyo Game Show used to be filled with eccentric Japanese titles, destined to be locked away from all but the most hardcore collectors. Those days are over. Almost every major upcoming title on show this year was confirmed for release outside of Japan. But despite all the talk amongst corporate big wigs at panels about changes in the “global games market” and “reaching out to western audiences,” there were still tons of titles that may never make it to store shelves this side of the Pacific. Here are the five most Japanese Japanese games we witnessed at this year’s TGS. Some seem awesome and some just seem odd. But none of have been confirmed for release outside of Japan yet.
In Japan, the Yakuza series is bigger than Halo, Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, or any other popular western franchise. It’s also a vital console exclusive for the PS3. So it’s no surprise that Sega made Yakuza 4 the center of its booth at this year’s TGS. The large display came less than a year after the company displayed Yakuza 3 at last year’s show. This year, the elaborate booth featured not only the game, but many booth babes acting as hostesses. Hostesses are women who are paid to talk (among other things, if the establishment is shady enough) with customers, lavishing them with attention at special hostess bars.
Above: The face we make when contemplating the possibility of learning Japanese so we can play Yakuza 4
Above: Hostess booth babes at Sega’s Yakuza 4 display
The game is set in a fictional version Kabuki-Cho, Japan’s largest hive of scum, villainy, and drunken salary men. Yakuza 4 will feature four separate campaigns that can be tackled in any order, each with their own protagonist. The game’s climax will weave these stories together. As expected, the gameplay will feature a mix of brawling, exploration, and minigames, much like the first three titles in the series. Yakuza 4 will also introduce the ability to groom a young hostess. You’ll need to train her in the fine art of hosting and select outfits, but details on this new feature are still sparse.
Above: Don’t expect to explore Yakuza 4’s virtual version of Kabuki-Cho anytime soon
Sega has yet to announce any official plans for a western release of Yakuza 3. So it’s unlikely you’ll be seeing Yakuza 4 at your local game store anytime soon. In the meantime, our best advice for you is to check out this guide, which will help you log into the Japan PlayStation Network so you can download the Yakuza 3 demo for free.
Above: The Yakuza 4 TGS trailer posted by psinsider.com
Ni no Kuni is a collaboration between Level-5, the developers of Professor Layton and the Curious Village - and Studio Ghibli, the animation studio famous for films like Princess Mononoke and My Neighbor Totoro.
Above: Ni no Kuni is Studio Ghibli’s first videogame project
The game itself is a turn-based JRPG about a young boy who discovers magic powers through the use of a book of runes, and gains the ability to pass into a parallel world. Players cast magic by drawing runes with the stylus. From what we’ve seen of the demo at TGS, Ni no Kuni delivers lots of eye candy with loads of lush hand-drawn art and smooth cutscenes that make you feel like you’re adventuring through a colorful and picturesque world from one of Studio Ghibli’s finely polished films.
Due to the popularity of Level-5’s Professor Layton and Disney releases of Studio Ghibli films, we wouldn’t be surprised if a western release of Ni no Kuni was eventually announced. But for now, Ni no Kuni has only been confirmed for a Japan release on Nintendo DS.
Above: The gameplay footage for Ni no Kuni is most impressive for a DS title
The Korean drama that swept the world is now available in videogame form on DS. Alright, unless you live in Asia or you’re a rabid fan of Korean prime-time soap operas, you’ve probably never heard of Winter Sonata. Suffice it to say, it’s the biggest drama show to come along in East Asia this decade. Now D3 Publisher has turned it into a “visual novel.”
Above: We’re still waiting for the visual novel genre to explode here in the West
Visual novels are a genre that has never made much headway with western audiences. The titles most resemble western adventure games, except they tend to use static as opposed to animated images. The games also tend to be told from the first-person perspective. The Ace Attorney series is probably the closest thing to a visual novel that most of us have seen. Visual novels are major hits in Japan, particularly on the PC. Earlier this year the best selling game for Wii was 428 Fusa Sareta Shibuya (428: Blockaded Shibuya).