Musings of a Gamer XIII
1. Papo, Yo and PSN
Papo & Yo has quickly become my most sought after PSN game for 2012, alongside Journey, even if details are currently scant on this colourful, fantasy adventure. What we know so far is that you control a boy named Quico, resident of a South American slum and best friends with a hulking beast by the name of Monster. The usually amiable Monster happens to have a frog eating addiction, which causes him to go a bit wrong in the head and cause all sorts of mayhem. As Quico, you must track down a cure and save your friend from himself.
Behind the charming exterior is a dark tale of addiction, one that draws upon the troubled childhood of creative director Vander Caballero, whose father was a drug addict and alcoholic. Going on the trailer, and that is pretty much all we have at the moment, Papo & Yo looks like a unique title that will balance charm and creativity with the kind of substance that is sometimes missing from similar games.
While we are on the subject of PSN, the 2011 best seller list contains a number of surprises. Tetris came in at number one, despite the fact that everyone already owns at least one copy of the timeless block puzzler; I think I have accidently accumulated copies across at least three platforms over the years. Coming in second was another game that has already seen numerous iterations: Resident Evil 4. It would appear that we just can't get enough of Leon and the Ganados. Battlefield 1943 cracked the top ten (#8) despite being released in 2009, though this is probably due to EA (eventually) giving away free copies with Battlefield 3. I wonder what the servers are like now, almost three years since I last played it.
2. And More Skyrim
I just can't shake free from Skyrim. Last week I tried to walk away, but I soon aborted my attempt to enjoy games that don't feature incessant load screens and epic helmets. After three days of abstinence, I fell straight back into old habits. My intended next game, Saints Row the Third, peaked with my purple man-lady bumping and grinding in a busy street, wearing only a moustache and a pair of trainers. Once that had ceased to be entertaining - I kept grinding for a solid ten minutes - I realised I was not in the mood for Saints Row and could not be arsed with dealing with the transitional period into a new game.
My few days away haven’t caused me to miss a Dragonborn beat. I'm now churning out dragon and daedric armour as quickly as I can locate the materials to fund them and there are very few enemies that can withstand more than three lickings from my overpowered axe and sword combo. I have even started eyeing up the platinum, though I could already be out of luck thanks to a trophy I may have missed. I'm hoping that, alongside the increasingly tiresome lag, this week’s arrival of Resident Evil Revelations will help to wean me off Skyrim as February looks to be a busy month for new games that I want to be playing, but probably shouldn't be buying just yet (Final Fantasy XIII-2, Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and Binary Domain).
3. Resident Evil 6
I'll keep this short as you have probably already had your fill of all things Resi 6. I'm very happy to see that Leon will be taking a significant role, and I'm pleased to see that we will be getting a good mix of traditional RE as well as the more action oriented gameplay of modern entries, though transitioning between the two could be problematic. I thoroughly enjoyed RE5 co-op, so I welcome the news that there will be six player cooperative play, though I am wary about it wandering into squad based shooter territory.
We’ll likely be sick of RE by the end of this, its fifteenth year. 3DS title Revelations drops this week in the UK and Operation Raccoon City, which has quickly been overshadowed by its higher profile brethren, will follow in a couple of months time.
4. Big In Japan
I used to be big in Japan. In fact, I recently calculated that I was, at my peak, 23.4% more popular in my Tokyo heyday than I am now - a sobering thought. However, I never managed to eclipse the popularity of gaming portables in my second home, despite my rampant socializing (read: drinking) and British charm. From five year olds to grannies and even the homeless guy living under the fly-over, everyone in Japan seems to love portable gaming, as shown by the end of year break down of the bestselling games of 2011. Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, Monster Hunter 3G and Final Fantasy Type-0 took the top four spots in Japan, in that order. Monster Hunter Portable 3rd (#6) and Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 Professional (#9) also featured in the top ten. Final Fantasy XIII-2 (#5) and Tales of Xilla (#8), both for the PS3, and Rhythm Heaven (#7) and 2009's Wii Sports Resort (#10) on the Wii were the home console representatives.
Clearly portables still dominate in Japan and the 3DS, despite some significant early struggles, rebounded astoundingly well to claim the top three sellers for 2011. A second appearance for Capcom's Monster Hunter franchise and two for Final Fantasy speak volumes for those series' enduring popularity. Despite talk of Japanese gamer's increasing appetite for western developed games, there isn't a single one in the top ten. As far as I can discern, Ubisoft's Just Dance (Wii) is the only western developed game in the top thirty, charting at number 16 for the year.
2011 looks to have been a healthy year for gaming in Japan, one that was heavily focussed on portables and largely disinterested in non-traditional and non-Japanese products. Business as usual then.
5. Japan vs. England - Yet another Update
As regular readers will be aware, my wife and I have been going back and forth over the last six months trying to decide whether we are going to stick it out in England or return to Japan. At one point last summer, a move back to Tokyo looked to be a done deal but the plan quickly unravelled, which in retrospect was probably for the best as it was far too rushed and emotional a decision. This dilemma has continued to weigh heavy, but we have now managed to reach a decision, albeit a short-term one. We have come to the realisation that we are not yet ready to make such a daunting choice and are therefore looking to give England another year or two before we fully commit one way or the other. So for now at least, I'll continue to be surrounded by English people, piss-poor sushi and TV shows that I have the misfortune of understanding word for word.
With the pressure temporarily lifted, I have come to the realisation that a fortnight's trip back to Japan this year is probably not on the cards. This is due to both financial reasons and the fact that, if we do end up staying in England long term, then we would need to get out of the habit of making costly, annual returns to Japan. That means that the prospects of my attending Tokyo Game Show ‘12 are not good. It would be the first TGS I have missed in six years and the thought of not attending has me feeling rather glum. Come September, and if I'm not in attendance, I may have to bury my head in sand and pretend that, for one year at least, TGS does not exist. Oh well, there’s still Christmas.