Please, let me clear the air before I reveal my innermost nerd. I’m a big fan of AAA gaming experiences from around the world. I dig Gears of War, Uncharted is a great franchise, traditional Mario games make me happy and I kill a ton of time playing daily games in NHL. I enjoy mainstream gaming. However, I’m finally putting a finger on something that’s always tickled my fancy. I am a huge fan of weird, strange Japanese games.
It’s all about that Japanese quirk.
For some strange reason, the bizarre premises and mechanics that surround the oddest Japanese games get me all sorts of pumped up. You say I get to roll up the world as a tiny prince with a giant sticky ball? Yep, I’m in. You want me to clean a house while its owners go about their lives? Bingo, sounds great. Now I get to play a mosquito as I stalk a family around their daily activities? Sounds awesome. Katamari, Chibi Robo and Mister Mosquito are some of my favorite games, and they are absolutely weird and Japanese.
There’s something about these types of games that always gets my attention. I’m so used to traditional ideas (go to war, save the world, score some goals), that being told to clean a kitchen while making music with my feet sounds incredibly awesome. It’s that weird premise, that odd quirk and that unique design that always pulls me in. I love a great, top-tier gaming experience tied to common tropes and ideas; but, I’m finding that I’m more in love with the idea of stuff that’s different.
The bad news? This genre is shrinking.
Take a gander at the PlayStation 2’s library. You’ll find some absolutely terrible games in that huge pile of titles. Just terrible. But, you’ll also find some truly weird hidden gems. Disaster Report, for instance, take the survival horror genre, removes the monsters and adds a city followed by a train of earthquakes. Where’s that game today? It doesn’t exist.
The sheer success of titles like God of War and Call of Duty has made it risky to develop games like Mister Mosquito. So, unfortunately for me, Japanese companies have moved towards an era of similarity rather than difference. Capcom used to put out strange, charming games at a constant clip. Now, the me-too publisher has given big franchises to western houses and can’t be bothered with oddities. I haven’t played a game like Chibi Robo in a long, long time. It’s simply becoming to risky to develop and publish such experimental nonsense.
There’s still hope.
If you’re like me, and you love these quirky Japanese games, I come bearing good news. There’s hope. There’s a lot of hope, actually, and it’s coming from a place that I didn’t think it would come from - digital marketplaces are making these weird games possible in today’s gaming world. Pushmo, Tokyo Jungle and Crashmo. All digital-only games.
And, the game that inspired me to write this article, Tokyo Crash Mobs for the Nintendo 3DS. Take Zuma and replace the art with pictures and video of real people. It’s weird, it’s strange, it’s Japanese and it’s exactly what I’m looking for.
So, listen up fellow fans of strange Japanese gaming, check out the digital marketplaces. They hold some weird, weird stuff.