It hit me last night, as I was watching the fireworks light up the 4th of July sky, that another summer has almost reached its halfway point without me even realizing it. They seem to go by faster every year, but this year’s seems especially fast. Maybe it’s because this summer is the first in my life that hasn’t included some type of multi-week summer break. Maybe it’s because the end of this summer marks the end of my unmarried life. Or maybe it’s because in less than two weeks, I’ll be revisiting Baltimore for quite possibly my favorite weekend of the entire year: Otakon.
What started out as a summer diversion for myself and 3 of my 16 year old friends back in highschool has turned into nothing less than an annual tradition for my closest hometown pals. Every summer since 2001 we’ve descended onto Baltimore for an extended weekend of goofing off, trading stories, watching crazy movies and playing video games. While it may seem that I’m skirting around the idea that Otakon is the “convention of an OTAKU generation”, the anime lures that drew me in as a teenager have most definitely taken a back seat to the quality time I get to spend with my friends. Highlights usually include:
- Making fun of cosplayers
- Watching awfully-dubbed and usually ridiculous Asian cinema
- Playing a host of video games with over-competitive fanboys
- Being amazed at how badly people can smell
- Buying all sorts of imported goodies from the gigantic dealer’s room
Overall, it’s always an amazing time.
This year, however, I’m looking for a little help. One of my more recent traditions, (especially after returning from Japan a few years back), has been to pick up an import game or two from a few of the specialty video game shops that make their way to the Con. Now that I can pretty thoroughly understand that garbled text that they call “Japanese”, and considering that games were the original reason I was sucked into Japanese culture, I find it fitting that I at least try out a few imports here and there, not only to keep up on my Japanese skills, but to gain a bit of insight as to what’s behind the latest obsession in the robot-crazed wonderland.
Keeping in mind that I own four current-gen systems that can play imports (PS3, Wii, DS & PSP), I’ve been scanning over the list of recent Japanese releases, trying to narrow down what I’d like to try over the rest of my summer. Here’s what I’ve currently been mulling over, and why:
Arc Rise Fantasia – This gorgeous JRPG has been top of mind for me since I first glimpsed it. It’s imageepoch’s first non-handheld offering (creators of the Luminous Arc series), and won’t be hitting US shores until early 2010. It hit Japan in early June, and has been fairly popular in its reception – I’m eager to give it a chance.
Fragile: Sayonara Tsuki no Haikyo – Fragile’s another game I’ve been tracking closely. Noted for its exceptional lighting techniques and original plot, it tracks the story of a boy named Seto, searching for clues that will uncover why there’s no one left in the world except for him. Seems creepy, but looks great. XSeed’s also bringing this stateside come winter.
Monster Hunter G – The Monster Hunter series has literally been the biggest thing to hit the Japanese gaming landscape since Pokemon. It can be argued that these titles alone have sustained the PSP in its bitter struggle against the monstrous DS install base, and the announcement that the latest entry would be for the Wii sent shockwaves through both Sony and Nintendo’s executive suites. I’m interested here not only to see what the hub-bub’s about, but test how well this heralded Wii version lives up to the hype.
Captain Rainbow – Ah, the incredibly bizarre Captain Rainbow. A true showcase for how the West never gets a glimpse at how strangely original Nintendo can be with its own properties, it tells the story of a guy named Nick (yeah, I know) who transforms into a multicolored super hero in order to aid some of Nintendo’s lesser known characters through their own embarrassing problems. This one’s been out for quite a while, but I’m strangely still fixated on it…
Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen EX 3 – Pity is all I can feel for those that have dismissed this series as a “kid’s show,” and the Wii fighters as nothing more than “cash-ins.” The Gekitou Ninja Taisen series (known as “Clash of the Ninja” in the states) has proven itself to be one of the very best outlets for four-player fighting mayhem, even alongside Nintendo mainstays like Smash Bros. I picked up one of the previous entries for the Gamecube a few years back, after watching just how accessible and delightfully entertaining the game proved to be among Con goers and Naruto fans alike. My friends and I have had a total blast with it – I’m tempted to upgrade to a Wii entry.
Dragon Quest IX – Probably the most tempting of all the games on this list, DQ IX has easily been one of the most hyped titles of the past year and a half. Square-Enix’s decision to make the newest installment of it’s uber-popular JRPG series for the DS has not only shocked the gaming populous, but been met with quite a few speed bumps along the road to release. But it’s coming out in the next week, it’s got a really crazy multiplayer set up, and I can’t help but be a little excited.
Space Invaders Extreme 2 – This little gem has been available in Japan for quite some time, but will only be hitting US shelves in September. Although the wait’s not that long, I can’t help but put it on this list – the first one was fantastic in its retooling of the classic arcade shooter. The hard part would be paying more than 20 for it…
And there you have it. As I continue to take a look at possible import titles, I’d like to hear from everyone as to what they think I should pick up. What game would you like me to talk about on the podcast? Anything I missed? Otakon’s coming up soon, so let me know!
In the meantime, I’ll be over here watching some robots fighting… or something.