It’s usually the games you love – or the games that are really, really bad – that are the easiest to write about. When you’re singing praise, the words seem to flow effortlessly from your pen – and the same goes for when you’re telling everyone about a phenomenal piece of hot garbage.
But Pocket Card Jockey for the 3DS? Hoo boy. I mean, how do you even begin to sell this concept of horse-racing sim solitaire to people? That sounds like the most aggressively boring thing on the planet. In actuality, though, it’s an amazingly complex and deep game! …with a huge mess of intertwining game systems that sounds like complete gibberish if you try to describe them rather than showing them.
But by god, I’m gonna try. Because you know what? Pocket Card Jockey is already one of the best games released in 2016. No horsin’ around.
The world of competitive gaming has existed for ages, yet it’s only recently that it’s become big business globally under the nebulous banner of “eSports.” eSports is very quickly turning into a huge moneymaker, but it’s also a field that’s going through some serious growing pains: bad contracts for players, shady team managers and sponsors, cheating and rigged game scandals… basically, all of the problems that plague more physical sports, but with additional internet drama attached due to the online-connected nature of many of these titles (and the online presence of the players and companies).
But what happens when the game itself is the subject of scrutiny?
Japan doesn’t have quite the reputation for being an eSports hub as other Asian countries do, but the field is definitely growing: numerous local teams have been formed, an eSports square has opened in Akihabara, League of Legends has been making a Japanese push, Daigo Umehara is a bestselling author… and that’s just a handful of examples. Longtime competitive gamers are seeing a lucrative market, which has some of them are saying “Hey, why can’t my competitive game be eSports, too?”
Such is the case of competitive Puyo Puyo. Much like the Smash Bros. series, Puyo has gone through numerous iterations, but a subset of the most die-hard players swear by one particular installment: Puyo Puyo Tsu, the second game in the series. Among other things, Tsu introduced the “offset” rule that allows players to counter each others’ garbage drops by assembling combos of their own. Versus matches of high-level Puyo Tsu are mesmerizing to watch as a result:
Sega, however, is more keen on promoting their current version of Puyo than Tsu, leaving competitive players feeling a bit left out – there’s not really a good way to play Puyo Tsu online, much less any sort of streamlining to aid competitive play. That’s where Magical Stone comes in. Basically, it’s a puzzle game that’s ~heavily inspired~ by Puyo Tsu, only with a few additions to make the game more eSports-friendly. In fact, there’s already an eSports team for the game with a few top Puyo players onboard!
…Or, there was, anyway. See, things got… complicated. Friend of the site Gosokkyu alerted me to ongoing drama surrounding Magical Stone via Twitter, and having a passing interest in the Japanese competitive puzzle game scene, I wanted to dig into things a bit more. So, I invited him here to share his knowledge of just what went down with this game — while the controversies have garnered some press on the Japanese side of things, Western eSports coverage completely overlooked Magical Stone. And that’s a shame, because this is an example of what can go wrong when you try and elevate your game to the big leagues — and both players and developers could stand to learn from it.
Jeez, do you know how long I’ve wanted to do a proper figure review on this site? I’ve done plenty of reports on interesting gaming stuff coming from the Wonder Festivals, but I haven’t really sat down to review a complete product yet. The main reason is that my photography setup isn’t particularly ideal: I don’t have a mini-booth or anything for shooting pictures in, and my best camera is my iPhone 6S. For reviews like these, photography is a pretty crucial element.
But, eventually, I felt like I just had to suck it up and make do with what I had on hand. After all, pictures might be worth a thousand words, but I could also write thousands more words to go with them if I had to!
Of course, then I had to choose a subject. There were two figures I really wanted to talk about, one smaller and fairly inexpensive and another that was positioned as a more high-end product. I figured we should start with the smaller one first — not only did it turn out to be the better piece overall, it’s also one of Nintendo’s most beloved characters, with a new game due out just a few months from now.
So hey, I just wrote an anime review about Osomatsu-san, the recent reboot of a classic gag manga/anime that was a massive hit overseas. Remember how I mentioned that there were two Osomatsu-kun anime series before it, one from 1966 and another from 1988? Well, as you might already know, 1988 was the launch year of the Sega Megadrive in Japan. The console launched in October of that year with Space Harrier II and Super Thunder Blade, impressive renditions of popular arcade titles, while a very faithful port of Juuouki/Altered Beast followed soon after in November. But here’s a factoid for you: the fourth-ever Megadrive game, released a little under two months after the console’s debut, was a licensed game based on Osomatsu-kun.
Titled Osomatsu-kun: Hachamecha Gekijou (“Nonsense Theatre”), the game features a bunch of familiar series characters: the Matsuno brothers, Totoko, Chibita, Iyami, Hatabou, and so on – in new and bizarre roles in a strange-as-hell series of fantasy settings.
It’s also an astounding pile of garbage. And I played all of it.
The irony of anime being easier to legally enjoy than ever before, thanks to online streaming and simulcasts, is that I’m actually watching less anime than I did when I was younger. I’m not sure why, either. Maybe it’s because the flood of new series that comes out with each season is overwhelming. Or maybe it’s because I’m an old fart who prefers the general look and stylings of anime from the 80s and early 90s. Or hell, it could just be that the list of hundreds upon hundreds of games I want to examine is higher priority. As a result, there’s a lot of stuff I want to watch, and fully intend to watch… someday. Mostly stuff folks online have given high praises, like Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, Ore Monogatari, Tatami Galaxy, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, and a whole shitload of Gintama. (And maybe some Ushio and Tora too, y’know, to satiate my love of out-of-left-field throwbacks.)
My viewing habits have changed, too: rather than buying DVDs volume by volume as I did in the early aughts, I prefer to binge-watch batches of stuff when the time arises. I make a few exceptions: I eagerly ate up SeHa Girls when it came out, and I’m watching the adaptation of Jojo part 4 weekly. Generally, though, I like my anime in meaty chunks — which is how I opted to view the subject of today’s article. I watched most of the first half of Osomatsu-san before I left for my Japan trip, and blazed through the rest of it last weekend in-between some writing, which was probably the ideal way to consume this show: Once you get a taste of the Matsuno brothers, you want another hit of it as soon as possible.
Tetsuya Mizuguchi was, at one point, known as a wunderkind for making great arcade racing games (and later Saturn ports of said racing games) before transitioning into a developer at the forefront of the intersection between music and games with titles like Space Channel 5, Lumines, and Rez. These days, he’s got a new company – Enhance Games – and is currently working on Rez Infinite, a re-imagining of perhaps his most beloved title for the PlayStation VR platform.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Mizuguchi at this year’s Game Developers Conference, not long after he gave his postmortem presentation on the production of Rez. Without further ado, let’s chat with Tetsuya Mizuguchi!
We’ve been around for a while now, and I’ve been doing my best to try and establish a few traditions around these parts. Last year on April Fools’ Day, we ran the Kusogecast, which involved many hours of playing a wide variety of garbage for your entertainment.
Well, we’re doing it again! We’re still going to play awful games for a lengthy stretch of time, but this go-around we’re going to limit it to a single title. We’re going to see how far I can get into the legendary Famicom RPG, Hoshi wo Miru Hito/Stargazer, in a six-hour stretch.
It’s going to be painful. And amazing. Painmazing!
Everything will be going down on my stream channel. We will be starting up on Friday, April 1st, at 5:30 PM PST and end around 11:30-midnightish. Co-commentators will be joining me throughout to share in the “””fun””” and “””excitement””” of one of the most utterly unfair RPGs ever.
If anything changes — which is possible, given some connection hiccups I’ve had lately — I’ll be sure to post it on my Twitter accounts, @Zerochan and @Gamingmoe. I’m looking forward to another April 1st of terrible retrogames, and I hope you are, too!
I should preface this with, perhaps, an admission of potential bias: I think Fangamer is one of the raddest “nerd stuff” companies out there. Their merchandise is clever and classy, their clothing is nicely designed and high-quality, and they’re just a nice collection of really cool folks selling cool gear. They don’t put out books quite as often as clothing and accessories, but when they do, they’re usually pretty fantastic.1 So when Clyde Mandelin, well-known fan and pro translator, announced that he was going to expand on some of the material of his Legends of Localization site in book form, I was pretty hyped!
Though, I have to admit, I wasn’t horribly enthused by the initial choice of focusing on Zelda I. There really wasn’t a whole lot of text to the game, after all – how could you possibly fill up a 200-page book about it? As it turns out, however, there’s a lot of interesting ground to cover in localization that extends beyond just in-game text, and Mandelin’s book goes into all of it in great detail.
So, let’s get right to it – here’s a review of Legends of Localization, Book 1!
Images used in this piece are a combination of my own and promotional images from Fangamer’s website. The latter should be easy to distinguish with the watermarks!
I went to MAGfest in the DC metro area again this year, after having a lot of fun last year and putting on a really cool panel. Besides doing another panel (which will be up shortly, with notes), I also had the opportunity to partake in some of the musical festivities – it is the Music and Gaming Festival, after all!
Above: Manami Matsumae plays the keyboard in a live performance of Mighty No. 9 songs at MAGfest 16.
Among the performers at the show was Manami Matsumae, a storied game composer currently working with BraveWave. She’s perhaps best known for her work on the original Rockman/Megaman. Her body of work encompasses many more great tunes, however, including several of Capcom’s early-90s arcade classics. She graciously took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with us during the event, and the result was some very cool anecdotes about working on the Capcom sound team during the great Japanese video game boom of the 80s and early 90s.
It’s weird to think that Mario, one of the most influential and important action game series ever, not only has an RPG spinoff, but has multiple such spinoffs. The original Super Mario RPG felt like a unique, one-off affair back in its time, but the groundwork laid by that title has since spawned the Paper Mario and Mario and Luigi series. After years of doing their separate takes on the Mario universe – and producing some all-time classics in the process – the two series recently crossed over in the 3DS game Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam. (Can we stop and ruminate on the sheer brilliance of that title for a bit? It works beautifully on so many levels.)
I had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Akira Otani of Nintendo and Mr. Shunsuke Kobayashi of Mario and Luigi series developer Alphadream about the creation of this 2D/3D adventure. Read on for some fun little tidbits about what went on behind the scenes of this game’s creation!
Please note that since this was an email-based interview, it’s a bit shorter and doesn’t have quite the same back-and-forth as the interviews I do in person or over voice/IM. There will also be minor spoilers for events about halfway through the plot. Please be aware, and I hope you enjoy it!