Book Review: Legends of Localization Book 1: The Legend of Zelda by Clyde Mandelin

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!

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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!

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  1. With the noted exception of SMB3 Brick by Brick, which I was so disappointed by that I vowed to start reviewing gaming books – and here I am!

Interview: Manami Matsumae, former Capcom and current freelance composer at BraveWave Music

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.

Read on for the details, and remember – it’s thanks to the support of readers like you that I’m able to travel and conduct cool interviews like these!

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Interview: the minds behind Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam, Akira Otani and Shunsuke Kobayashi

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!

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The Gaming Figures of Winter Wonder Festival 2016

Y’know, with so many gaming websites now printing a bunch of general “nerd news” amongst gaming-related articles, I find it saddening how much Wonder Festival gets ignored. Here’s where all of the coolest gaming figures on the planet are being showcased, but nobody’s talking about them! It’s not even a matter of “well this stuff is only available in Japan” anymore – hell, GameStop and Hot Topic are stocking Nendoroids and scale PVC figures these days! It’s never been easier to get a lot of these things! But no, we’re gonna focus on unboxing whatever garbage Funko pooped out last week, I guess.

Oh, uh… I guess I got a little ranty there! Eheheh. Anyway! Winter Wonder Festival 2016 was last weekend, and with it came a whole mess of figure news! As usual, I’m here to collect the coolest gaming figures that were shown and put them all in one handy little article for you! Hooray! This year brought us some super cool surprises – while I was a little disappointed overall that my favorite manufacturers didn’t have much truly “wow”-inducing new stuff to show, the out-of-left-field announcements of stuff like a friggin’ figma Iron Fossil and Beat from Jet Set Radio more than made up for it.

The usual disclaimer: I know things like the Fate series. Shining stuff, KanColle, etc. fall under the “games” category, and I am excluding them because there are just so many of those figures that you can very easily find pics and info elsewhere.1  We’re focusing on the more under-the-radar gaming figures – the sort of stuff that doesn’t get merchandised in shiny plastic form all that often.

Click on the photos to see bigger versions if they’re available. And, as always, if I missed anything, let me know in the comments!

Images are sourced from Akibahobby, FigSoku, Dengeki Online, and the official Good Smile website.

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  1. I would also like to welcome Granblue Fantasy into this category. Damn, does it EVER have some gorgeous figures, though.

Interview: Kenichi Iwao, Scenario Writer/Planner/Director for Capcom, Square-Enix, DeNA, and Oriflamme

Sometimes, a personality associated with a famous game is so visible and so spoken-about that we ascribe all elements of a game’s creation to them, rather than recognizing the true team efforts that many of these titles are. Such is the case with the original Resident Evil/Biohazard – you’ll often hear Shinji Mikami given full credit for the title, when in truth, Biohazard wouldn’t have taken the industry by storm if it wasn’t for the entire team who made it a revolutionary horror experience. Kenichi Iwao is one such individual: his scenario and storywriting for Biohazard set the stage for two decades of sequels, offshoots, and lore to follow. It’s not his only claim to fame in the business, either: Iwao has worked on many beloved titles like Demon’s Crest, Einhander, and Parasite Eve II. He also carefully created the sprawling worlds and stories of the Final Fantasy XI and XIV MMOs. It’s an honor to have to opportunity to interview one of these great unsung heroes of the game industry.

We had a unique opportunity to sit down with Iwao and discuss his lengthy career in the video game industry, and he surprised us with some of his answers to our questions. What do Steve Jackson and MSX games have to do with Biohazard? Read on to find out!

Special thanks to Alex Aniel of Brave Wave Music for assisting with this interview.

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The 2015 Gaming.moe Waifu Awards

Ah, yes, it’s that time again – 2015 has shuffled off into the history books, and the majority of 2016 lies untold before us!  Which means it’s also time for a now-annual Gaming.moe tradition – the Gaming.moe Waifu Awards.

In case you’re wondering – no, we’re not awarding awards to our favorite game waifus, because I’d have the same winner every year. It’s a name we adopted in the general spirit of the site for non-traditional year-end awards. Rather than doing typical categories like “Best Graphics,” “Best Fighting Game,” and the ever-argued-over GOTY, we give awards based on weird, arbitrary categories based on noteworthy happenings of the previous year. (You might want to check last year’s awards to get a better idea, as I explain the concept a little more in-depth there.)

2015 was a very good year for gaming as a whole. We got lots of fantastic new releases, juicy industry drama, and promising new projects. Of course, not all noteworthy happenings were the stuff of major hashtags and gaming news site headlines. Let’s celebrate the best (and worst) Waifus of 2015! Continue reading

Arcade Road Trip: Natsuge Museum (Akihabara, Tokyo)

I visited Japan for the first time in a while over the holidays, spending my new year with a posse of fellow nerds celebrating in the most irredeemably dorky way possible: Comiket and arcade-hopping. (And a few game bars, too, for good measure – A Button is a lot smaller than I thought it would be!) While some Tokyo arcades like Mikado and HEY have already developed a strong reputation among retro-obsessed fans from abroad, I’d like to showcase a smaller, cozier, but similarly cool retro game space called the Natsuge Museum.

The name “Natsuge Museum” is derived from a combination of the words “natsukashii” (nostalgic), “Game,” and “Museum.” It’s located a short walk away from Akihabara station, though it’s in the opposite direction of Chuo-dori where HEY and most of the major stores are located. It’s a bit easy to miss: it’s not on any major roads, and its signage is limited to a few posters and banners hanging around the vicinity. It’s a fair bit smaller than those arcades, as well, being a single-floor establishment with as many machines as possible crammed into the space while still allowing you to move – just like the good ol’ game centers of old! This place is here to make you feel like you’ve warped back to the 80s, or perhaps the early 90s, when little arcades like these dotted the landscape, offering fun, strange, and challenging titles for everyone who was willing to waltz in and plunk a couple hundred yen into the machines.

Let’s take a more detailed look inside, shall we?

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Game Music Highlight: Super Mario Galaxy 2

You ever find that there’s a piece of music that comes out of nowhere and is just perfect for your mood at the time? Sometimes it’s something new you’ve never heard before, but for me, it’s usually a song I haven’t heard in a while that crops up again somewhere. I hear it again and then BAM! It’s in my head, it’s in my music player, and it’s playing nonstop, because it echoes my emotional state so utterly perfectly.

As I write this, I’m a little over a week away from visiting Japan. It’s been a while, but I’m super excited to go back to Comiket and see a bunch of old friends (and, of course, get some great material for this very site!). I’m looking forward to it with a feeling of adventure, but also some nervousness: Have things changed significantly since the last time I was there? Is my spoken Japanese still up to snuff? Will all my meetings go as planned? Am I going to get bodied at the FV2 player meetup?

I was pondering this over the weekend, after getting home from an event out in Oakland. I was watching my pal Tie Tuesday stream 12 hours of Super Mario Galaxy 2 (he does 12-hour streams monthly) and was immediately struck with that feeling of this is that song when the theme for Starship Mario came up.

The more I think about it, the more I feel that this is probably my favorite piece of Nintendo music ever – yes, even moreso than songs from the F-Zero games, which I love to death. I was very disappointed that it wasn’t in Smash 4, with the Mario Galaxy stage and all. It’s just such a wonderful song, evoking a feeling of being in a pleasant, comfortable space, but facing forward into a (quite literal, in this case) universe of adventure and discovery waiting just beyond. No matter where your travels take you, there’s always the special place you call home waiting for your return. It’s so pleasant and uplifting that I simply can’t tire of it, and it’s so utterly perfect as I’m sitting here packing my bags and making all my preparations.

There’s a bit of that distinct Nintendo flavor to it, as well, in how the song evolves as the game progresses – a common motif in the Mario series. The link above contains all of the versions of this song, starting with the woodwind/flute version that plays at the very beginning of the game when the Starship Mario is just starting its voyage. As you get further in and you add a few more features to your ship, the song changes up a bit, retaining the same melody but adding drums and changing the key instruments to strings and brass instruments. The final step of the song, coming in during the endgame, goes in even more heavily with the bass and drums, making for a heroic-sounding anthem and reflecting all the progress you and Mario have made on your journey. It’s so, so good!

The Mario Galaxy series has no shortage of excellent music , but this stands out to me as the best of the best. I’ve had it playing regularly all week, and I’ll probably continue at least until I board my plane to Haneda. It’s a wonderful feeling.  Maybe I can pass it on to you through this. If not, well, I tried at least!

The Problem with Level-5

One of the most awkward feelings in the world is seeing everyone around you get excited for something and not being able to partake in said excitement. I get that feeling every time a Level-5 game is announced for localization (or, really, just announced in general). Folks on the professional and consumer side of things seem to get super hype for anything Akihiro Hino’s team from Fukuoka cooks up, while I find myself kind of sitting on the sidelines trying hard not to rain on anyone’s parade. Because frankly, I really don’t like Level-5.

“But Heidi!” you say, completely hypothetically, “What’s not to like about Level-5? They’re one of the few Japanese developers investing in big, beautiful games that have global appeal! They’re proof that Japanese game development can still be on par with Western AAA offerings! Isn’t that a good thing?”

That wouldn’t be an incorrect statement, either. Level-5 is very much like a Western AAA developer – they make games that are graphically sumptuous, filled with charm, and are appealing to global audiences. And that, I feel, is their major problem.

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Misadventures in Romancing SaGa, part 1 of ???

In retrospect, my attempt to do a SaGa theme month for November was… well, not a bad idea, really, but terribly misguided. Here I was, thinking I’d be able to blow through Romancing SaGa 1, 3, and the heavily SaGa-inspired Legend of Legacy all in the course of a month. Not only did that not happen, but I learned a very hard lesson: SaGa games beyond the initial batch of localized Final Fantasy Legend titles require an intense persistence and dedication on the part of the player. The only way these games reward you is if you’re willing to put a hefty amount of time and effort into learning their weird quirks.

Not only that, but you have to be prepared to mess up. Like, a lot.

So in the time I’d hoped to have completed three games, I wound up kind-of-completing… one. Sort of. Actually, I didn’t finish Romancing SaGa at all. Instead, I got to a point where I realized “Holy crap, going into this totally blind was a real bad idea and I’m gonna start over now that I’ve learned what it is I should actually be doing.”

Yep, you heard me. I’m going to toss all my Romancing SaGa progress out the window and restart again at some point down the line. I’m thinking in… March or so? So consider this Part One of a continuing RS1 travelogue, with a continuation down the line once I’ve played through a few other SaGa titles and had some time to read over guides more thoroughly.1

So, the question is: What went wrong this time through, and what did I learn from it?

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  1. I was offered a copy of the PS2 Romancing SaGa remake, as well, which I’ll likely also play through at some point.