Monday, December 10, 2012

Old School JRPGs For Your Iphone or Ipad

I finally got around to doing a post about old school JRPGs for iPhone / iPad.  There is a pretty good selection of RPGs in the App Store and it sure competes well with Nintendo DS or PSP.  I will admit right off the start that I'm not particularly big on RPGs so far on IOS as I own very few of them, but I don't really want to pony up the cash ($9.99 to $19.99) for them when I have them on the Nintendo DS or Sony PSP too.  I'm also not a fan of any game with a virtual joystick or D-pad, but it is not quite as bad for turn based games or these old style JRPGs.  I've tried first person shooters with a virtual stick and basically gave up, but I like cover shooters such as Frontline Commando or Epoch which use a simpler control scheme.  However, any redeveloped original console game for a touchscreen needs to eliminate pads if possible.

Shining Force
This is a real old school (and I mean old school) JRPG influenced by Dragon Quest that was well received.  Cheap at 99 cents.  The IOS interface works well with the original game interface.

Fantasy Chronicle
Another JRPG in the classic sense.  An orphan must avenge his village's destruction with the aid of companions both human and beast.  Has received fairly good reviews and shows up in conversations along with Symphony of Eternity listed below.

Symphony of Eternity
Classic JRPG style play in a more modern game.  A young man and a golem seeking a legendary weapon and rescue a princess on their epic quest.  Fairly highly rated in the App Store.  Got it myself on an Android app sale to check it out.

Dawn of Magic
By Lakoo.
Classic turn based RPG in a modern game that has received many good reviews.  Has in-app purchase. Good gameplay and graphics with an enjoyable storyline.  Magic gems power the world.  A small amount of magic remains and there are struggle to hold the world together.

Final Fantasy I
Square Enix
This is a good little JRPG from the classic school again.  It was initially released in Japan in 1987 to good success.
You are the Warriors of Light on a quest to restore the crystals to their former luster. The battles were finally shown from a side view and character classes were added.  A large world could be explored and it set the stage for the later Final Fantasy games.
This edition also contains the bonus dungeons added to later editions of the game--the Soul of Chaos and the Labyrinth of Time
Final Fantasy II
The highly anticipated follow-up to the original FINAL FANTASY, released in Japan in 1988.
Basically, FFII is a more complex game and finicky game than FFI.  I've heard it said that if you can't get into FFI then you might just move onto FFIII which is the big hit out of the three titles.  This edition also contains the bonus dungeons added to later editions of the game--the Soul of Rebirth and the Arcane Labyrinth.

Final Fantasy III
First released in 1990, Final Fantasy III was the first title in the Final Fantasy series to become a million-seller.  This is probably one of the more accessible and established Final Fantasy games on multiple platforms.  Lots of innovation happened in this title.  When darkness falls and the land is robbed of light, four youths are chosen by the crystals to set forth on a journey to save the world.  The full 3D remake released in 2006 duplicated the original's success, selling over a million copies worldwide.

Square Enix
Classic and inventive gameplay.  A classic to play again.  Some warnings about the last update for IOS 6 and usage on Iphone 5. Seems like there are problems with it based on the customer reviews.  I have this on Nintendo DS and it plays great there.

By Gamevil
Another modern RPG remake in a classic JRPG 16-bit style but with real time combat.  Lots of people like it and I have it on the list as the later games in the series have in-app purchase which is a plus or minus depending on your preferences.  Nice graphics and good adventure in this game.

Other Iphone / Ipad App Pages

Saturday, December 8, 2012

More Cool Anime or Manga Apps For Iphone or Ipad 
Last updated December 8, 2012 and into 2013.

Hey!  Hope things are going well.  My other anime and manga app page here was getting pretty big so I'm starting a second page with some new goodies on it.

My other app list pages:
EVAスライドパズル 使徒殲滅作戦
By MediaMagic Co.,Ltd.

This is an Evangelion vs angel match X of a tile type game where your eva battles one angel at a time.  You can only shift tiles left and right on a row and it is quite challenging.  I'd say it is almost too challenging as I haven't been able to unlock Asuka yet  (I finally did it last night.  You can do it on easy if you try to maximize your score against each angel with 3 cascading combos to score bonus points).  The production quality, graphics and sound are quite nice and it wasn't a cheap purchase, but I have enjoyed playing it.

By ColoPL, Inc. (added January 10, 2013)
A knock the prizes down with a pop cork gun game simulator.  Simulates the fairground game you see at Japanese festivals.  Controls work pretty good, and you can have lots of fun if you have some patience and don't spend a pile of money buying corks and such.  You get enough free corks to have fun each day.  I've found the special prizes that appear in the background pretty hard to hit, but the rest is fun.!/id488553344

QBeat -キュウべぇビート-
This is a whack a mole type game where you try and tap the Kyubeys from Madoka Magica.  Very simple with nice theme music.

Kill QB
By Ringo Games
A Fruit Ninja style game based on Madoka Magica where you slice the Kyubeys and witches, but not the soul gems or magical girls.  Again, a simple game, but nicely executed.

My Girls Camera Free - Reunion
By a1c
This is a pretty good little app where you can take a photo and pick a selection of anime girls in different costumes to superimpose into the picture.  Based of a visual novel, but an awesome little app for free at the time of writing.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann -iYoko mini-
By MediaMagic Co.,Ltd.
I've written about several different apps like this where you get to tap an anime girl to get her to do or say stuff (see the original post).  This app is cheap, but there is a more expensive version with multiple costumes for Yoko from Gurren Lagaan.

AddressBook HatsuneMiku edition
By MediaMagic Co.,Ltd.
I would probably prefer the Hatsune Miku address book organizer over the Super Sonico version, but again I don't have it on my iPad.  Graphics look nice.

AddressBook SuperSonico edition
By MediaMagic Co.,Ltd.
I'm not using this app myself, but it is free if you need your address book organized by Super Sonico.

Dungeon Village
By Kairosoft Co.,Ltd
A dungeon sim / village builder from Kairosoft.  These guys make good, fun games and it is reasonably priced.

Blind Man's Dungeon
This is more of an arcade style game where your knight must be guided by fairies to the various treasures.  The knight can only turn right when it bumps into an obstacle.  Different!

Nyan Cat: Lost In Space
By Istom Games Kft.
There are many Nyan Cat games, but this one seems to have good tunes and lots of play value.

Shizuku Talk
By OperaHouse Corporation
A cute, well animated anime girl talks to you about news and stories of interest when you tap on her.  The show is updated several times every day.

Kami of Typing - Keyboard speed game!
By Toshihiko Arai
Check your typing speed with a shrine maiden in English and Japanese.

By Seasun Entertainment
A side scrolling jumper where you take a ninja cat on adventures with various power-ups including one that turns you into a Totoro-like beasty.

Moe! Omikuji
Japanese fortune telling sim.  Shake the container to drop a stick then look up your fortune.!-omikuji/id529539938

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Air Kentucky at Japan Airlines (JAL)

Japan Airlines has a new food promo going this 2012 Christmas Season.  It is Air Kentucky!  You heard it right.  They've done Air MOS Burgers, Air Beef Bowl, and now they are doing Kentucky Fried Chicken at 30,000 feet.  These promotional tie-ins are fun.  While it isn't three star Michelin food it is nice that they do these tie-ins with such a nice presentation.

Airline food is a kind of hit and miss thing where they ask you for beef or chicken (in economy class at any rate) and in this case I'll take chicken please.  This is a nice tie-in for the Japanese Christmas celebrations as Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) plays a big role in the localization of Christmas in Japan.

According the the JAL press release:

"TOKYO, November 28, 2012: Japan Airlines (JAL) and Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan (KFC) have collaborated on the 7th installment of the popular AIR SERIES in-flight meal onboard select international JAL flights, and will be serving onboard, [AIR KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN] from December 1, 2012 to February 28, 2013.

During this period, customers traveling in Premium Economy and Economy Class on JAL from Narita to New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego*, London, Paris and Frankfurt, will be served KFC’s Original Recipe two-piece chicken meal during the second meal service. It includes one drumstick, one boneless chicken breast fillet, a piece of complementing flat bread made especially for AIR KENTUCKY, a cup of coleslaw and lettuce leaves. Customers can savor the same, unique taste of KFC’s trade secret recipe of “11 herbs and spices” as it is, or as a sandwich by sandwiching the fresh lettuce leaves and fragrant fillet in the bread, and topping it off with special mayonnaise.

*Available on the San Diego route from the inaugural flight on December 2, 2012.

JAL and KFC have created an exquisite packaging just for this tie-up. The design features JAL and the famous founder and mascot of KFC, Colonel Sanders on a special box and tray mat, unavailable anywhere else but onboard these JAL flights."

Amazing coverage of the actual in-flight meal can be seen here at Kotaku.

Now, back to the role of KFC in many modern Japanese Christmas celebrations. At Christmas, the fried chicken is a substitute for turkey, and it is quite popular.  Queues form outside KFC outlets before Christmas or people reserve their buckets in advance to make sure they get their Christmas chicken.

This tradition started in the mid-1970s as an Aoyama branch manager listened to a foreigner who couldn't get turkey for a party and opted for a bucket of other bird instead.  This Christmas chicken idea was then sent up the old management hierarchy.  According to Danny Choo, "In 1974, KFC then started promoting the catchphrase "Christmas = Kentucky" and poured a load of yen into the marketing effort. The catchphrase soon caught on and together with the commercials on TV, the Japanese then started to consume a load of Chicken during the festive season."

All Japan Wants For Christmas is Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Evangelion's Rei and Asuka Figures Homage

I have a few Rei and Asuka figures in my collection as I am a big Evangelion fan (even though there's quite a bit of angst in the show as everyone seems to be emotionally damaged).  I've found that the story still resonates with me after a decade of fandom so it has to be pretty good.  The reboot movies 1.11, 2.22 are quite good and it'll be good to see the 3.33 movie whenever it leaves Japan finally.
Having the figures is a fun way to bring the show to life and it is pretty interesting to see a 2D figure represented as a 3D sculpture.  Anime and anime figures seem to have gained momentum over the years, but the figures have risen in price too.  

Now for a brief show of the figures.  I've found that the cosplay figure variants are pretty fun too!

This Asuka and Rei in their plugsuits are 1:6 scale version from Alter and were some of my earliest purchases.  Wounded Rei seems to always be popular and eyepatch Asuka will probably be popular in the future.  These are probably eight years old now and much more dramatic poses and such are now common.

This was a series of three UFO catcher machine prizes, with the Mari being released much later.  I believe the figure series was titled "Seat of the Soul."  These are about 1:10 scale with a basic pilot couch included for each figure.  I kind of like these figures as they have a nice level of detail about them, but Rei is the only figure that looks the other way so it is difficult to pose the three in a display.

You have to love the UCC canned coffee promotional tie-ins with Evangelion.  I though this particular series with the bases that attach to the tops of the collectable coffee cans particularly well done.  You kind of get a nice display base and a figure topper!

Here is a series of cosplay variants of Rei and Asuka.  They are ninjas on the left, and special forces troopers on the right.  These are fun little 1:10 scale figures with a medium level of detail that are a nice little addition.

Here are a couple of nurse type variants of Asuka and Rei.  They can take my temperature any time.  I really liked the hypodermic needle base that sticks up out of a pack of prescription medication.  A nice touch at 1:8 scale for the set.

Here are a couple of artsy / gothic variants of Rei and Askuka with angels to boot.  They are Grimrock figures from a Wonderfest in the early 2000s.  Still a couple of my favourites.  They are about 1:10 scale in size.

These two figures are a couple of my favourites with the two cosplaying as witches.  Evangelion meets Kiki's Delivery Service! Again, these are UFO catcher prizes that have a medium level of detail but I love the way they were sculpted.  They action poses and many nice touches(such as the cat and the hat flying off) are pretty good.  About 1:10 scale.

Finally, a couple of Evangelion units and some gashapon figures by Sadomoto.  These figures are tiny but they are nicely detailed.  I like the fact that the bases were interlocking.  I couldn't get the Rei, but a special request when I ordered some figures from Animenation got it for me (they picked one out for me all those many years ago - I really appreciated it!).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hobbits, Sushi, and Chicken Waffles in Snowy Edmonton

I had a pretty busy weekend in Edmonton and there was a definite eating out aspect to it.  It all started on Friday night with a pretty good dinner out at Nomiya Ramen, Sushi, and Tapas.  The restaurant had a special sushi set on offer that was made up of fresh fish flown in from Japan that day.  I haven't tried most of these fish before as sushi and it was a great change of pace. 
Apparently they do this once in a while for some of their regular customers who want something special that isn't on the normal menu.  As you can tell from the photo above, it looked and tasted delicious with a wide variety of flavours, preparation and textures available.

The next day started as a Food Networkish event as we went down to the Sugarbowl for breakfast.   Their Cinnamon Bun and Chicken Waffle were featured on "You Gotta Eat Here" earlier this year.  There was a short line of people waiting to get in and we lucked out as our wait was under ten minutes.
The Chicken Waffle is apparently a southern U.S. dish and it was surprisingly tasty with maple butter on top.  The oven baked chicken with breading was crunchy and hot on top of a firm waffle.  The food was very tasty and the giant cinnamon bun was a big hit too.

Afterwards we took the old train down to the Art Gallery of Alberta where there were a number of excellent exhibits on at the time (November 2012).
The kids area had interactive musical floor tiles with origami folding.  There was a display of early prints of mythological creatures from the National Gallery.  The highlight was an exhibit of Edo Period Japanese art that represented a Japan in rapid transition.  There were suits of samurai armour, a katana, numerous Ukiyo-e prints from Hiroshige, Hokusai, and others.  There was this amazing human skull with a snake on it carved from ivory that really stood out from many of the other artifacts on display.  No pictures were allowed so I'll make do with a publicly available print from Hiroshige to give you an example of a Ukiyo-e print.  It is amazing that some of these beautiful prints were used as packing material for shipping and they became popular in the west as when people noticed them this way!
Wikimedia Commons (no copyright restrictions)
Some amazing sculptures were being shown in the other galleries with a pair of cool looking mutant deer and an amazing melted wax house you could walk through on the third floor.

Best of all, after the museum visit we hit the Southside Italian Market and the liquor store and found some goodies and drink.  I love how this Flying Monkey Atomic beer is packaged.

On Sunday morning we tried out the limited time Hobbit Menu at Denny's.  I was a little disappointed there weren't any hobbits, wizards or elves present, but at least there weren't any orcs or goblins!
We lucked out again and the food was well prepared and piping hot when it hit our table.  We had the Hobbit Slam and the Shire Sausage Skillet.  The food was not necessarily something out of Middle-Earth but it was tasty.
In particular, the large Shire Sausage was peppery and very yummy - they should have it on the menu permanently.  The pumpkin pancakes were nice too and a good tie-in for American Thanksgiving!  We did find the Seed Cake French Toast too sweet (much like lemon poppyseed cake) - but kids will love it.  You also get a pack of collectable cards with each meal and they are snazzy too.

Afterwards I went to check out the new Microsoft Surface tablet at the Microsoft popup store at West Edmonton Mall and the tablet is a nice little device, especially with the full keyboard.  It is nicely built and if you use Microsoft Office it is great!  Just make sure you download the full version of Windows Office via a free update using Windows Update on the Windows 8 side of the device to get rid of the Preview version from what I've read on the web.  A trip to T&T to grab some Chinese BBQ ended the day out nicely!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

JRPGs and the Japanese Gaming Industry

Over the last year (2011-2012) there seemed to be a bumper crop of gaming articles about the death or decline of the Japanese gaming industry.  A few Japanese game developers even said their own industry was dead and the Western media seemed to pick up on that like a bunch of vultures circling a crawling man in the desert.
Megaman / Tostzilla
On this subject, I definitely think:
  • The Japanese gaming industry has shrunk.  They don't produce as many traditional console titles, but they seem to be jumping on the mobile gaming platforms pretty good.
  • Japanese gaming doesn't dominate gaming like it did at the peak of the Nintendo Gamecube and PS2 in 2006, some 6 years ago at the moment. The next generation consoles hit them hard.
  • The Xbox, Xbox 360, the first person shooter (e.g. "Halo") and the massive amount of innovative game design in the West did overwhelm them. But it is one island nation versus the world.
  • Japanese game developers follow their own tropes and memes.
  • Japanese games didn't keep innovating in general like games being developed in the West.  They have tried and tested franchises that work for them.  e.g. Are you still playing Megaman, Mario, Resident Evil, Metal Gear, Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest?
  • Japanese BIG game development budgets are smaller than Western BIG game development budgets.
  • Japanese games are well, "Japanese."
  • I think you either like Japanese games or you don't for some people too.  I like all games in the genres I play.
With this in mind, I don't think Japanese gaming is "dead."  The industry certainly isn't the same international powerhouse it was, but it still produces games that satisfy and entertain.  I can believe that Japanese developers are now developing more for the Japanese market first - after all it is their strength.  This certainly doesn't help them compete internationally with what sells best now, but nations rise and fall all the time.  Their games are still relevant to their primary audience and it was lucky that all of us overseas got dragged along for a fun ride.

Japanese game developers could certainly innovate more, but getting kicked in the head is a good wake up call for change.  So right now, they maybe behind, but they have tried both successfully and unsuccessfully to break out again.  Best of all it is certainly early in the game as everyone is getting kicks to the head.  I think the entire gaming industry is undergoing a massive change right now and we have front row seats or maybe a few rows back in the old theater where the view is better.

Traditional game sales everywhere have been pretty much declining and mobile gaming is expanding like crazy.  The Tokyo game show this year showed that Japanese game makers are starting to make big moves in this space.  Apple has killed traditional gaming and Nintendo with cheap or free game apps that reach out to millions.  I have to admit I've been playing a number of games on the iPad and really liking it and the free to cheap price point.  I like JRPGs too but I can't say that I've played every one of them or even a large fraction.  In fact, the longer the game, the less likely I am to finish or start playing it now - I can't afford the 40 or more hours and grinding is a waste of time.  After all I need to write the next installment of Exocrisis Blue too and enjoy life in general.

Note:  I've never even finished Final Fantasy VII, but I finished  Final Fantasy XII and XIII (part one).  Most of the JRPGs I've played are on Gameboy or Nintendo DS systems (Pokemon is great!).  The PS2 had a lot of my favourite games on it from Katamari Damasi, Persona 3 & 4, Dragon Quest VIII, etc.  I did buy a Playstation III just to play Valkyria Chronicles which was an awesome tactical / story-telling game. I was also a hobbyist level designer for Half-Life myself with a number of level sets and I pretty much played more western RPGs on my PC prior to buying consoles. 

Like the boom in anime that died out in 2008-2009 all things change.  Japanese soft power has peaked in its cultural exports of video games, pop music, anime, and manga.  However, the cultural artifacts are now part of our culture.  We create based on these ideas and they are still relevant to fans and people who don't even realize it (see Wreck-it Ralph as an example). In a way this is good as the true fans still appreciate a Japanese product and the Japanese will innovate in their own way and time.  They are not dead, just resting with their eyes closed, while building mobile games which are cheaper to build.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Six Favourite Science Fiction Anime

A great deal of anime are science fiction or fantasy oriented.  The setting might be a primary or secondary school (which half of anime seem to be set in), but there are these out of this world or speculative elements that kick the anime the extra step to avoid the normal 9 to 5 of reality.

Gundam 00 - pretty cool SF too, but see my Gundam post instead.

In this post I'm going to talk about six, out of hundreds of scifi anime, that I found entertaining because they had some very nice hard SF elements to them.  This means the science is "good" and stories are entertaining.  All of these shows were released on DVD in North America.  There are many other quality shows like Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Last Exile, FLAG, Appleseed (CG), Denno Coil, Ergo Proxy, Stein's Gate, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Zipang, Kiddy Grade, etc., that are also be worth writing about! Space Operas are another SF category worth a post at some point as shows like Gurren Lagaan, Heroic Age, Xenosaga, Macross, Space Battleship Yamato, and Crest of Star/Banner of Stars fall into this category.  Gundam is pretty fun SF too, but I would put it in its own category as it is GUNDAM!

Planetes is an anime released in 2003 about a crew of debris collectors that work out of an orbital station.  The space debris they collect is all the leftover junk and bits and pieces of mankind's venture into space.  Already, we steer shuttles and rockets clear of the thousands of pieces of orbital junk that need to be avoided as you would hate to hit one of these or have one of these zip through your satellite or capsule at rifle-like velocities.

This show has well scripted stories and the show is very realistic about how it deals with working in space.  There are great characters along with a nice romance between a hardened spacer and a newbie hire who is represents the happy, glasses are half-full type of spunky anime girl.  But it isn't all about debris as there are visits to the moon, a mission to Jupiter (but not to look for the 2001 monolith), and terrorists!
Pacing - this is not a fast paced anime or action oriented.  Other anime with near future themes set in space would be Rocket Girls and Stratos 4 (both with increased fan service - but not over the top, so you can either like it or hate it depending on your point of view).

This anime (released in 2003) is set 200 years after "close enough" supernova basically blasts the Earth and devastates it killing off most of everything.   Mankind has recovered and has re-entered space with far more advanced technology.  Students who qualify can attend one of many space academies to train for a spacer's life.  They also are key to defending the Earth by deploying a massive energy barrier to block an approaching second shockwave that will wipe us out the shield fails.

Stellvia stars the peppy young heroine, "Shima," who has just joined the Stellvia Space Academy and has lots to learn.  The show is vibrant and has some interesting takes on space school.  The characters develop and mature under the tutelage of their instructors.  The show takes an interesting turn halfway through as it shifts, but I found it to be pretty enjoyable overall.  Competing space academies with space races, and lots of interpersonal dynamics make this show stand out.  The great OP by Angela is also nice!  This show has a mecha.

Another show involving a space academy is Infinite Ryvius.  In this show a cruise goes badly wrong and the students end up in a "Lord of the Flies" situation which I didn't like much.

Geneshaft is a show (released in 2001) set in the far future that has some pretty interesting world building going on it.  Humanity is now a species governed by controlled breeding.  The vast majority of humanity is now composed of women in a 9:1 ratio with men.  The few males are in leadership positions as they are more risk takers and aggresive, but each man has an emotionless female minder watching them.  Genetic engineering plays a big role in this show as you can be bred for various attributes.  Even dogs have been uplifted to high intelligence.

The show is mostly about a mission to investigate these mysterious rings that show up around the Earth along with all of the political machinations that accompany it.  I enjoyed the show for the world building first and the other stuff second. I don't believe this show was particularly popular.  There is of course the customary giant mecha called a Shaft!

Starship Operators
Starship Operators is a fun little show (released in 2001) that is full of episodic starship duels.  Each starship duel is similar in concept to having anime superheroes battle it out with their signature moves but using starships instead.  The Amaterasu, the protaganists' ship, is a well balanced cruiser design that happens to be the last free roaming vessel that refuses to surrender to an attacking star empire.  In the series, the naval cadet crew must survive a series of duels with enemy ships, each of which have different strengths and weaknesses.  Lots of politics, good characters, reality TV, and starship tactics in this show. This show is a mecha free zone.

Scrapped Princess
Out of all of the shows I've mentioned I have a real soft spot for this particular anime series that was released in 2003. The somewhat spoiled Pacifica is the cursed or Scrapped Princess who is under a curse that has everyone out to kill her.  Fortunately, she has a wonderful brother and sister who protect her as a fighter and magic user respectively.  The show starts out as a fantasy series with swords and sorcery and develops as you find out more about Pacifica's curse.  I'm not going to say any more because this show is awesome SF!  If you like SF, I highly recommend Scrapped Princess if you can find it. Giant war machines - I hesitate to call them mecha - exist in this show.

Zegapain is another under rated show that aired back in 2006.  It is pretty much pure SF though.  It starts off in the typical fashion where a bunch of high school students attend school, but then it starts to get strange.  There are giant mechas called Zegapains that are piloted by the students to fight evil aliens called the Gards-orm.  The mystery deepens and you find out more and more about this weird world, but it all makes sense later on.  The show involves massive quantum computers and I can only say it is a bit Matrix-like.  I enjoyed this show and thought it was well done with giant mechas and all that.  I was cheering for the characters to win.

Other Six Favourite Anime Posts
I've also written some mecha anime inspired SF. It has received some good reviews. Visit here if you are interested.  I could always use some community support from anime fans!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Skylanders Giants Released!

Wow, the BIG day is here for the new GIANTS release.  I didn't bother to preorder as I kind of figured that they would have lots of stock on release day after the little "we're all sold out fiasco" that happened last Christmas.  I went down to the nearest Toys R Us with a hyper-excited youngster and found a 50 or 60 person line already there when the store opened this Sunday morning at 11 AM.  Lots of people in the line had preorders and some were only in the line to get the Toy R Us exclusive Skylanders.  Marketing works!
Tree Rex Giant on Portal of Power
The line went pretty quickly and people were chatting in line in a friendly manner about the different Skylanders figures or their trauma about not being able to get any last year.  Many parents were there getting the stuff for Christmas as they had such a hard time getting the stuff last time.  It was hard to tell if some people were getting it for the kids or if they were the BIG kid (and there is nothing wrong with that either!).  I was there as I do kind of like the game and I can play the kid card to boot!  This is a great little collectable game with the figures and a pretty fun and entertaining game to boot that you can play co-op.  The kids that were there were going nuts about the wait, which only lasted about 20 minutes or so.

The staff were friendly and they had all the checkouts in the electronics department working full tilt and had staff escort overflow to special outside tills to ring stuff through.  When we walked through the GIANT cardboard Skylanders gateway we snagged a PS3 starter without the portal that includes the giant life Skylander Tree Rex.  There were lots of expansion kits and extra figures kicking around in big bins.  There was no shortage of any figure and they could have easily satisfied twice the number of people in the line.  I picked up a whack of stuff that will be rationed out over the next month.
An initial assortment of the new Skylanders.
The new GIANTS are pretty cool and BIG.  In game, they take up a good chunk of the screen too.  Not all of the original Skylanders are making a comeback in this second game, but the ones that do get a very nice makeover.  All of the figures are fancier than the first time around and some even tempt me to re-buy a few of them as their poses, equipment, and bases are so much fancier.  Did I mention that the GIANTS now have glowing parts and eyes when they are on an active base in-game - with no extra batteries required?

The initial reviews of the game and my limited play so far indicates this is a good new expansion to the franchise and I look forward to playing through the game with the kids. A western Pokemon type hit at last and I see that the trading cards have finally arrived!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The New Hikari Centre in Shibuya Tokyo

Shibuya is one of the fashion and lifestyle centers of Tokyo for the young.  The new megaplex Shibuya Hikarie building adds to the many places to shop and be entertained in the area which already includes the iconic Shibuya 109 building.  More nifty architecture in Tokyo and I look forward to seeing the interior with its maze of escalators and big open spaces.
Shibuya Hikarie
This new building opened in April 2012 and replaces the older Shibuya Tokyo Bunka Kaikan building. It is located right next to the east end of the Shibuya train station with above and below ground approaches.  There are several fancy food floors in the basement, shopping on the lower floors, restaurants in the upper floors, and there is a 2000 person theater along with event and gallery space.  On top of all this are many floors of office spaces as the building is 34 stories high with 200 shops in the lower levels.  The focus of many of the shops are high-end food, lifestyle, beauty, and fashion from around the world. One interesting item about the mall are the restrooms from levels B3 to the 5th floor which are jazzed up rest areas called "Switch Rooms" Each Switch Room is designed differently with special functions including oxygen bars and massage chairs.

ShinQs is the brand name for this new entertainment city that is not just the younger crowd.  The building is supposed to bring a new and innovative combination of shopping, dining, entertainment and business to the Shibuya area.  The building itself has many large television displays, colorful lighting and animations, and is designed to be energy efficient for electrical and heating.
Front Atrium of Hikarie
There is a huge underground atrium that enters the building from the subway and some nifty lighting and circular LED bands that display animations too.

The eighth floor of the Hikarie Centre is the museum / display floor that is devoted to contemporary art and design.  The floor is divided up by art galleries and is not something you usually find in a mall. The design firm D&Department Project is a hub to all of this with a focus on products from around all of Japan. Their shops and galleries include a designer travel store, a museum, and café.  Another part of the floor is a exhibition space called Cube managed by Art Front Tokyo.  Also here is a workspace called Creative Lounge MOV  for artists, designers and other creative types to frequent.
Atrium Level
View towards Shibuya Crossing
Above this via escalator is a movie theatre and a massive atrium with observation deck where you can even see Shibuya Crossing if you peek around the corner of the buildings in front!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Tokyo List of Top 10 Lists To See, Eat, and Do

There are a ton of resources out there for visiting and seeing Tokyo.  I'm posting a list of top 10 lists with some category breakdowns to organize this.  I'm planning for a trip over there myself so I thought I would share everything I found interesting. This list was originally compiled in August of 2012 and last updated on October 12, 2012.

Tokyo Tower   Flickr / Alexxis

About Tokyo in General
This is a great big city with fantastic diversity to see and do.  You could museum once every week for a year and not see all the museums.  You could eat your way through city and never finish finding the next best restaurant.  The city also seems to be the city of the future with its blend of tech, urbanism, and coolness.
 Game / Anime
Tokyo Food
Tokyo is a foodies paradise with excellent food from the cheap to expensive with 3 Michelin stars.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Square Enix Store, One Piece Store, and Thunderbirds Cafe

Seems like themed anime stores and cafes are popping up everywhere in Tokyo.  I was there in 2009 and there has been a ton of new stuff since so I'm heading back next year.  A holiday could be spent just visiting these stores and cafes to immerse yourself in your favourite anime series and related goods.  There is the Evangelion Store, Pokemon Store, Gundam Cafe, the Square Enix Store, the One Piece Store, etc.  Today, I'll cover three more places, two of which are new!
Square Enix Store in Shinjuku
This store was CLOSED as of November 25, 2012.  It used to be located where Square's OLD HQ was.  Square Enix has now opened a new cafe and store called Artnia that is still in the Shinjuku area.
Click here to go to my post on Artnia, the new Square Enix Store, which includes directions.

This old store has all the Square Enix merchandise you could shake a stick at and more!  Some of my favourite goods would be here as I love Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy.  There are cute DQ slime towers, Chocobo plushies, blue smile slimes, trading cards, all kinds of branded stationary, figurines from Final Fantasy, game soundtracks, Final Fantasy posters, etc.
Sephiroth FFVII  -  Chi (in Oz) / Flickr
As it is a themed store, there are statues of slimes, tons of figures, and posters everywhere.  The highlight on the second floor is a 1:1 scale statue of Sephiroth who is laying in a suspended animation chamber in embedded the floor (neat, but creepy).

Old Address below for history only.

SQUARE ENIX Hatsudai Bldg. 1st Floor
4-31-8 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku,Tokyo
03-5352-6402 (Japanese only)
JR Shinjuku Station South Exit, New South Exit - Turn right, 15 min walk.

Directions can be found on their website.

Official One Piece Store
The "Store straw ONE PIECE" opened on September 28, 2012.  It is on the 6th floor of the PARCO PART1 Shibuya Koen-dori in Shibuya.  The store has more than 10,000 One Piece related goods on sale with unique products than can only be found at the store too.  I'm not an avid fan of the series, but it is popular, and I'll probably pop in to have a look at it myself. 
Luffy  Figurine -  Halloween king captain ryno / Flickr
This concept store covers the anime series produced by Toei Animation and the manga that runs in Weekly Shonen Jump. There is a restaurant and many series related items are on display.  A life sized Luffy and many other replicas are on display.

PARCO Shibuya (6th floor PART1)
15-1 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 〒 150-8377
Official Site

Map below has the location of the One Piece Store and the Artnia the new Square Enix Store on it. Click on the link to expand.

View Shibuya Shinjuku Harajuku in a larger map

Thunderbirds Cafe
This cafe is based on the British puppet television series run in the late 1960s by Gerry Anderson.  The show has a bit of an older fan base and I still remember it fondly too!  I really like the look of the big green, Thunderbird 2, rescue vehicle.  It is a very retro cafe and they even still manufacture model kits and toys for it in Japan.

The Thunderbirds Cafe is located in Jimbocho, where R.O.D. is set with the used book stores! The cafe was created by Pasela, which has themed karaoke bars, and the Dragon Quest bar which I talked about here.  Entry is via doors disguised as foliage and you enter a foyer with a Thunderbird character and model.  There are many replica models of the various rescue vehicles used by the team embedded in the fake transport pods set into the wall (pods are carried by the Thunderbird 2 transport).  Clips from the Thunderbirds play in the background and the menu is varied, with dishes from around the world.

東京都千代田区神田神保町 1-21-5 
パセラリゾーツお茶の水店 B1F
〒 101-0051
1-21-5 Kanda Jinbo-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 
Ochanomizu B1F shop Pasela ResortsA 3 minute walk from exit A7 "Jimbocho station"  Head out of Jimbocho Station and go east along Yasakunidori street for a few minutes.  To your right, on a street in from the main road, you can see the Pasela Resort karaoke building along with a big blue Thunderbirds Cafe sign.
Official Site

Other Tokyo Anime / Otaku Highlights Worth Visiting

Cool Anime / Manga Themed Apps for iPad, iPod, iPhone 
After you get an IOS device, you have to have anime apps.  There are the more common apps such as Crunchy Roll for anime viewing (hundreds of anime series for free - but you have to ignore the membership prompts properly - also easier to use with an iPad than iPhone), VIZ Media for manga, and Yen Press for more manga.
Here are a few IOS apps on my iPad that that are more off the beaten path and have an anime / japanese pop culture type theme.  I'll update this page from time to time, but the majority of the updates are now continued on the More Cool Anime or Manga Apps page below!

My other app list pages:
Akihabara Guide By Prime Style Corporation
I would say this is a cute app with some decent information for someone visiting Akiba for the first time, but I think it needs more info. Also check out my blog post on Anime and Japanese Pop Culture Information here (there is some pretty cool stuff out there).  I made a map for my own trip to Akiba (shown below) and it has annotations of some of the hotspots to see that could supplement this guide.

View Akihabara Highlights in a larger map

(new October 2012) Manga Camera BySupersoft
This is an awesome little photo app that lets you take pictures and apply different manga filters to it to make your photo look like Manga!  I've tried it and it looks really good.  So far it is free and a top download in Japan too!

(new October 2012) Visit Japan With Hello Kitty By NEC Big Globe
This is a VR app where Hello Kitty will appear in your shots at various locations in Japan (need to be in Japan though).

WorkingMirai By Mirai Inc
This app is from Danny Choo and it is pretty basic, but pretty again with a picture of his mascot girl Mirai working. There is also a Mirai 3 app.

This is basically a Haruhi Suzumia Clock.  The other characters are also available.

(new August 2012) Moe-Tra
Girls in cute costumes help you with Japanese and say cute things.

(new August 2012) EriMoekko
This is a Moe guide to the  Hidaka area in Hokkaido.  You can even take photos and automatically superimpose the two cute girls into them!

Miku Miku Mobile By Masaki Kimura
A little dancing Hatsune Miku rendered in CG.

Mugen Pop Pop™ By Bandai America Inc.
Just like the little keychain toy that was popular. Pop the bubbles, every so often a random noise happens.

Edamame Touch By 965 Studios
Mindless, but fun for awhile app that lets you pop soybeans from their pod.  There is a free version with ads at this link.  Many different beans to collect.  Reminds me of the Bandai Edamame keychain toy or the Mameshiba (豆しば ? ) Japanese merchandise franchise created by Kim Sukwon.

Angry Break (Vending Machine Style) By Absolute Imagination LLC
Its about vending machines, but not the good ones in Japan.  Again, mindless fun and free.

Nendoroid Planet By GoodSmileCompany

This little app is one of my favourites as it is a disguised tower defence game for free that you play with the little Nendoroid figures. It has a gashapon mini-game and a collectors gallery where you view the Nendoroids you have collects. All in Japanese, but I've included a link to a guy who basically explains how it all works in English!

Imaginary Range By SQUARE ENIX Co. LTD.
This app is unusual as it is a cross between a comic book and a game.  Entertaining to try out if it is still free.

Evangelion vol.5 Puzzle Lite By APPLIYA
There are a whole series of these apps as you can tell from the title (it is the fifth app). The clock app is pretty cool too, but costs some $. This one is your basic sliding puzzle game, and it is Evangelion themed, so what are you waiting for?

Itadaki Donbei (Bon Appetit Donbei) By NISSIN FOOD PRODUCTS CO., LTD.

This is a promotional app for instant bowl noodles from Nissin. It is a little mini-game where you basically go through the steps of making a bowl of instant noodles. An easy registration (click agree to the privacy stuff) is now required.  All anime characters (especially geeky guys seem to live off this stuff).

Me So Ramen By Moxy Games

Time for more ramen based restaurant food prep games. You're now the ramen chef.

Ripples By vNovel Interactive

This is a short, but free, visual novel where you read a story that is PG-13.

Momonga's Snow White By DICO Co., Ltd
This is an ebook app with anime style art for the Snow White fairy tale.  Cost is $4 so it is a little expensive for about 10 pages of art, but you might find it worthwhile if you are collector or have a small child.

LAWSON By sonicjam Inc.
Here is an app to tell you where to find your local Lawson Konbini and what products they are carrying. Wonder if Shinji in Evangelion also uses it - probably not as they use DAT tapes for music so no smart phones yet - but big robots. Big robots > smartphones (probably true). Lawson also has a number of other apps, including an Evangelion augmented reality app you can use in Hakone (where Tokyo 3 is located with the big lake) to see a giant Eva blended with the landscape. See the Natural Lawson app to see the "healthy choice" line for the corporation and their new stores.  With these apps from Lawson, you can see what they are selling in the stores for quick meals.

Hello Kitty 35th Anniversary By AITIA Corporation
This is a cute little app describing Hello Kitty, her friends, and was a 35th anniversary celebration app.

Also see my second Anime / Manga Apps page.