I miss the summers in Japan: How videogames overcome language barriers

I sat cross legged in front of the TV and watched as Alex carefully removed the Super Nintendo from its dusty, neglected box. Our grandfather hardly used it, preferring to play Shogi on his computer instead of the console. Also stored away were a pile of games with labels we couldn’t read. The Japanese characters were printed in bold intimidating letters, with no illustrations to help guide our interpretation of what the cartridge held. He fished around for a second before grabbing the Super Mario World (1990) cartridge, blowing into it. It was a very familiar ritual, repeated during our…

Neko Atsume

Prepare your cat butts for a live-action Neko Atsume movie

Neko Atsume (2014), the beloved cat game for smartphones, is being turned into a live-action movie. Meow indeed. That means it’ll feature real cats—proper little fluffballs that deserve all the strokes—so perhaps it stands a chance at being the best videogame-to-movie adaptation (not that it would take much). AMG Entertainment are the people doing the world this favor, however, they only announced the movie for Japanese audiences for the time being. That said, the game was only available in Japan at first, before its popularity transcended language barriers and sent us all into a cat-feeding frenzy. The movie will be…


The Japanese folktales that inspired Miyamori

Last summer, we stumbled across Miyamori, a lovely folktale-infused videogame about Japanese mythology in the Tōhoku countryside. The game follows a Japanese woman named Suzume as she attempts to find her missing brother. Joined by the shrine guardian fox Izuna—who is looking for her partner Gedo—the game follows Suzume and Izuna’s journey through the countryside to find their missing halves. Since then, Miyamori has been seen in action for the first time to due to the arrival of its debut trailer, released earlier this month. Hence, it seems as good a time as any to talk to Joshua Hurd, one of…

Shin Godzilla

All bow down before the mighty Shin Godzilla

At one point in Shin Godzilla, Toho’s 29th entry in this ancient series, a character calls Godzilla a “perfect organism.” This might sound familiar to anyone who’s watched Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979): it’s how the devious android Ash describes the xenomorph. Godzilla movies don’t typically reach outside the big guy’s cultural bubble, the occasional crossover with King Kong notwithstanding. They exist within a cloistered half-century of constant reinvention; there are whole eras of Godzilla named for whoever was emperor of Japan at that time, all refracting and, frankly, diluting the original premise into a repeatable formula that yielded enjoyable-but-inessential riffs on everything…


I’m feeling some scarlet curiosity about the new Touhou game

Being bored sucks. There’s many ways that we find ways to cure our boredom: videogames, books, music, watching a decent show or movie. For the 500-year-old vampire Remilia Scarlet, those petty activities are far below her. Her boredom is on a whole other level, one the likes of which her maid companion Sakuya Izayoi has never seen before. Luckily, there’s a neighboring monster that’s terrorizing the countryside near her manor, the adequately titled Scarlet Devil Mansion. Finally, the excitement she deserves. That is, until the beast destroys her home, and then it’s just a case of revenge. That’s the basic…

Olympics Shinzo Abe

You shouldn’t be surprised that the Japanese PM dressed up as Mario

So at this point you likely saw what happened during the Olympics closing event. Yeah, I know. At first glance, it seems like an unnecessary commercial incursion in an already saturated Olympic event. Nintendo, a $42 billion-dollar videogame company, needs no additional exposure, especially of the heels of the success of Pokémon Go. This is an opportunity for Japan to shine a light on any number of different cultural contributions and instead, we get Shinzō Abe emerging from a warp pipe with Mario’s plumber cap. Don’t get me wrong—videogames are important, but truly important enough to be the key signifier for…


Miyamori will be a foxy love letter to Japanese folklore

Japanese folklore is a pretty common inspiration when it comes to storytelling in videogames. From Clover Studio’s Ōkami (2006) to ZUN’s iconic Touhou Project, Japan’s mythological spirits and creatures provide a familiar backdrop for Japanese game makers to tell their own, new stories to their audience through the cultural legacy of Japan’s mythology. But the upcoming action-adventure title Miyamori isn’t being made in Japan. Instead, the game features a production crew located across the Western world. Developed by Joshua Hurd, with pixel art from Lachlan Cartland, and promotional art by Kevin Hong, the game features a “folktale-inspired story about community, love,…


Embrace your fetish in a videogame about washing a giant foot

Ashi Wash is a ridiculous game with a ridiculous premise—a terrible, funky foot comes crashing through your ceiling. It’s got a serious fungus problem. (I’d suggest crashing into a doctor’s office next time, foot.) Its toenails are overgrown. Also, it can talk. The giant foot makes it pretty clear—in its greasy Brooklyn accent—that you’re to wash it; if you don’t, it’ll “smash ya house up.” Thems the rules, after all. Troy Grooms, Matt Murphy, Alex Zako, and Julian Francis created Ashi Wash during the summer edition of My First Game Jam, held on itch.io. The prompt was to create a…

Branching Paths

New documentary hopes the “indie” game invasion of Japan is a good thing

One of the first things that Anne Ferrero says to me is that her new documentary isn’t “Indie Game: The Movie [2012] in Japan.” She tells me this as she’s aware that many people will assume that to be the case. But it’s not just a matter of a director looking to ensure that her potential audience isn’t misled: there’s a lot more to it. Much of it is summed up by one of Ferrero’s interview subjects in the documentary, Alexander De Giorgio, the chief organizer of Tokyo Indie Fest. “I think it’s dangerous to try and compare the Japanese indie…