Japanese Videogames: Part 2  
Action, Adventure, and Platform games: from horror to colorful worlds, a look at some interesting Japanese games.

MerylSilverburg For the most part, Japanese action/adventure titles are translated and brought overseas to the US. These titles (such as the "Onimusha" or "Castlevania" series) tend to be more culturally diverse, appealing to both Westerners and Japanese. Here is a list of some Japan-only titles you might never see in the States.



Espgaluda**

I've noted this game with asterisks because it's possible (very possible) this game might be released for the States. But, in case it isn't, I've put it in this guide. A side-scrolling action shooter (similar to "Ikaruga"), the game received very high scores in Japan. Originally an arcade game, the PS2 port is a prequel to the 1998 game "Esprade". The story goes that a world where people and holy ghosts live together, alchemy was suddenly becoming more advanced. Because of this, war began and turned the peaceful world upside down. A man named Jakou was the cause of this war. He desired to make his own kingdom, Shinra, into a powerful kingdom and do away with the Holy Ghosts. He created a "Holy Ghost Machine" and used this to seal the Holy Ghosts in neighboring countries. Soon, he invaded and conquered those territories. But Jakou wasn't satisfied with this and wanted to rule the world. At this time, the greatest alchemists created two Galuda called Ageha and Tateha.

Espgaluda Sreenshots Espgaluda Arts
The graphics of Espgaluda are very, very old-style.
Some small, cute character artwork.

They were a combination of human and Holy Ghost in a project called "Project Espgaluda" in order to gain a new power. Jakou was going to steal them (because it is rumored that the one person who owns two Galuda will become the ruler of the world) but another alchemist escaped with Ageha and Tateha to a remote place in the mountains to protect them. Sixteen years has passed and the Shinra troops have finally invaded their town and Ageha and Tateha must protect the world and destroy Jakou. The game itself is very classic and "old-school". Importers can get this game because the menu and story are all in English, albeit the tutorial. Also, getting the import version will allow you to view an included "Replay DVD" showing insanely skilled Japanese players going through the whole game without getting hit at all. It's good for tips or making you feel.well, inferior. Unfortunately, if you don't have a Japanese or Region-Free DVD player, you will not be able to watch it.

Garasu no Bara
(Glass Rose)

Also released in Europe, some may have heard or even own this mystery adventure Capcom game. The story takes place in Japan where you play as a newspaper reporter, Kagetani, Takeshi, who writes an update report about an unsolved murder case in Kinema Mansion during the 1920s. He is accompanied by a girl, Katagiri, Naomi, who decides to help Takeshi after seeing his article and recognizing the mansion from an notebook her grandfather gave her.

Glass Rose Sreenshots Glass Rose Sreenshots
Takeshi, the hero of Glass Rose.

When they arrive at the mansion, Naomi suddenly disappears before his eyes and Takeshi soon follows the same fate. When he wakes up, he finds out he has been sent back to the 1920s in order to prevent the murders in the future. The game can be compared to Konami's "Shadow of Destiny", but "Glass Rose" involves less action and more talking/investigating. You'd think a game like this might be brought to the US since "Shadow of Destiny" was translated with success. But, the model they used for Takeshi is drummer Matsuoka, Masahiro from the J-Pop band TOKIO and Stateside, people would hardly recognize the guy. Also, the gameplay may be too limited or dull for some, which would result in lack of replay value and overall fun experience.

Hungry Ghosts

A first-person horror adventure title from Sony, it is quite surprising this game hasn't been translated for a Stateside release. The story is appealing and the gameplay is challenging enough. The game starts off with you (I believe either playing as a man named Christopher or a female named Christine) being temporarily dead. You are destined to go to Hell since you basically led a terrible life of misdeeds and trouble. However, you are able to prevent your fate if you make the right choices/decisions before you reach the final location where you will be judged whether you go to Hell or somewhere else.

Hungry Ghosts Sreenshots Hungry Ghosts Sreenshots
Hungry Ghosts has bleak and dark graphics.

The challenge is, you can make whatever decisions you like. Kill people or make the wrong decisions and you're doomed. But, if you don't do anything, you're also doomed. There are no right or wrong actions, but there is a balance between the two which the player must figure out. The graphics are incredibly bleak and dark which echoes other horror games such as "Fatal Frame" or the recent "Siren".

One of the game's featureless silhouettesKamaitachi no Yoru 2
(Night of Legendary Monsters 2)

Yet another horror title, except this is in the form of a sound novel horror adventure. "Kamaitachi no Yoru 2" is the sequel to the popular SNES/Super Famicom game of the same title. The first game was apparently incredibly creepy involving a mass murderer in a resort hotel where the guests were not able to escape. The gameplay is basically a sound novel, where you read/listen along to the story and make decisions for the main character. What was scary about it besides the story is the fact that the developers, Chun Soft, used featureless silhouettes of people and placed them on photo-realistic backgrounds. The music also played a part in creating an unsettling atmosphere. The sequel continues on the PS2 with a new story. Children are being tricked and sent off to a resort island (perhaps the same one from the first game) and they must find a way out. It's kind of obvious why this game won't get brought over. Though the story may be appealing to horror fans but the lack of action puts a dent into gameplay experience. It's also difficult to translate certain words from the story/text for Western audiences to understand but retain the effect of the game.

Kyoufu Shinbun (Heisei-han) Kaiki! Shinrei File
(Fear Newspaper (Heisei Version)! Spirit File)

Originally a comic strip of the same name which created a "spirit interest phenomena" in Japan, Konami has taken the plot and created an horror adventure game. More loosely titled as "Terrible News: Heisei Edition" (Heisei is the current era in Japan), the story is about this cursed newspaper that appears on the doorsteps of random people. A terrible situation will be written on the paper and the person reading it will die in the same situation within a hundred days. You play as the main character, who went to Ishido Senior High School and thought the supernatural phenomena was nonsense until one day, he receives a "Fear Newspaper" himself. The newspaper he receives is cursed with a poltergeist and now possesses him making him weaker and weaker by the minute. The same situation will happen to an old classmate of his unless he is able to prevent the events and save his own life. Armed with only a flashlight and a cellular phone, the player visits locations such as the Ishido Senior High School at night and abandoned factories. The game makes you feel uneasy with the dark and the unknown lurking in the corners. The graphics help play a part, but it's nothing like the gritty film of that in the "Silent Hill" series. The narration flows along with photos of real life people being interviewed (like a newspaper). It's unlikely this game will be brought to the States since a majority of the story and setting is "very Japanese" and might be not frightening enough for hardcore horror fans.

Mahou no Pumpkin
( Magical Pumpkin/Castleween for Europe/Spirits and Spells for Canada/Also on Nintendo GameCube )

A cute platform game that is also released in Europe under the name "Castleween" and Canada as "Spirits and Spells", you play as a witch named Ann (Alicia in the EU version) and her demon sidekick Greg. It's Halloween night and Ann, Greg, and some of their friends decide to go off to the forest in search of a "Candy House" which is rumored to have a ton of candy. When they get there, the Bogeyman steals the souls of Ann and Greg's friends, so it's up to them to rescue their buddies. You visit typical "Halloween-themed" places such as a cemetery, haunted house, a laboratory, and many more.

Castleween Sreenshots Castleween Arts
The Halloween-themed world of Mahou no Pumpkin.
Ann and Greg artworks.

Both characters are playable and in order to solve the puzzles or advance to the next area, the player must utilize both Ann's and Greg's abilities. Ann has the power to control ice and Greg is able to control fire.Greg can double-jump across gaps and Alicia is able to survive long falls with her skirt. Why is this game not brought to the US? Good question; a platformer such as this should be able to settle just fine on US shores. Perhaps a translation is in the works or someone just needs to pick the game up.whatever the reason, if the game is going to be released in the US, it should arrive hopefully arrive within the next year since it has been a year since its release in Japan and Europe.

Poinie's Poin

Strange circular items called Poin has begun appearing all over Jelly Town. Poins, are parasites which have the ability to affect human feelings. They are harmless but a young moppot named Lolo and her sidekick pets, Hell-Neow, has begun to transform them into evil and pesky Poins. Poinie (the main character, who looks like a minotaur) has been separated from his mother and while searching for her, a young girl named Lilin discovers Poinie and asks him to help her figure out the cause behind the Poins and the other events around the town. The player must go through nine stages in different worlds to defeat Lolo and find Poinie's home at the same time. A billingual game from Sony, the game is quite colorful and bright and the characters and worlds are wacky and very "Spyro the Dragon"-like. The unique Poins (which looks a lot like candy) are critical to the game; players are able to utilize them to suit their needs, such as jumping to higher places or floating to the sky. A very simple game that isn't in the US because, well, it's billingual with English and Japanese dialogue (though if you don't have a Japanese PS2, you can't play it) and also there are only nine stages which doesn't make for a lot of replay value. However, "Poinie's Poin" is good for just some simple fun if you have the right console.

The Daibijin
( The Great Beautiful Woman/The Giant Beauty )

The Daibijin BoxThe plot is very simple: a bikini wearing model is in Okinawa, Japan on a photo shoot when she gets attacked by aliens. The alien injects some kind of mutation virus into her body and she faints. Next thing she knows, she's a giant, around 157 feet tall. She begins a rampage through the district of Okinawa and it's up to the player, as a member of the Japanese Self Defense Force, to subdue the threat. The player is able to use helicopters, tanks, jets and anything else in their disposal against the "Daibijin". It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out this game is nothing more than eye candy (why else would they make the giant a "bikini clad model"?). But, it's definitely a humorous game, since the girl is so huge and the player is so tiny and it's funny to think how tanks and jets the size of her thumb could possibly destroy her. Ah, but that's the challenge! Point is, this is another one of those games that would really not be seen on US consoles. Some people might like it, others (especially females) would not be too pleased.

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In the next feature, we will explore another genre of games released in Japan and that the rest of the world might never see - and play. Visit Ps2Fantasy.com often for more!


- MerylSilverburg (7 Sep, 2004)