Thursday, September 15, 2011

TGS and Dash-Mura

TGS and Dash-Mura Yesterday I went to the Tokyo Game Show! ...which is deceptively titled, as the show itself is all the way out in the boondocks of Chiba prefecture. But anyways. It's a huge deal, a video game conference and show of epic proportions, Japanese equivalent of E3.

I work in the game industry, so as a little treat to its employees my company bought everyone business day passes and allowed us a half day off to go check it out. I was only there for a morning and had to scuttle back in the afternoon to get to the office, but here are some of the games I liked the looks of: Ni no Kuni : So Level 5, a game developer that brought us Dark Cloud and Dragon Quest VIII , teamed up with Japan's national treasure of an anime studio "Studio Ghibli" (Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, the list goes on and on) to make the most beautiful looking game ever called 'Ni no Kuni'. It's a Japanese style RPG with cell-animated look that level 5 does so well. They already made one for the DS (didn't play it) but now they're making one for the PS3.


I really like pretty games. As long as the characters in the game aren't too annoying (sorry Star Ocean, End of Time, I wanted to like you, but I can't stand girl characters with no substance other than a squeaky voice and massive titties), I say, bring on the HD. I'm spoiled, can't even play games on the Wii anymore because compared to the PS3, the graphics are crap. But Ni no Kuni... oh sweet Ghibli, I can't keep the drool in my mouth.

Other games I want to get my little paws on... Biohazard Revelations was fun to play and looked really good on the 3DS. Once I turned off the 3D, that is. Have you played or used 3D handhelds? They're different from 3DTV or movies, you don't have to wear glasses , you just have to hold it exactly right about a foot away from your face. I tried the 3DS out in the local 'denki-ya' a few months ago and was amused, until I put down the console, looked at real life things again, and my brain was like 'wait, this is 3D too! wait? what?!?!' and then gave me a massive headache for several hours afterwards.

Another very pretty game was Dragon's Dogma, which looks a lot like a western-style RPG like Dragon Age or Oblivion, only done by the Japanese company Capcom. I mean, you can tell they were trying to copy Dragon Age. The towns look the same. The character designs look the same. There's even a Dragon in the title. But it *looks* so much better. The previews and glances I stole over other people's shoulders got me pretty excited, but hopefully they'll bring something new to the genre and not fall into the trap of trying so hard to copy something all the fun is squeezed out of it.

FFXIII-2 ... I'm a sucker for Final Fantasy games. And once I got past that FFXIII wasn't an RPG, but a strategy action game, I had a lot of fun with it. I'll probably pick up a copy of the sequel, that features the continued adventures of Lightning and her sister Sarah. I tried it on the XBox, which is kind of strange because I read somewhere (oh yeah, this hilarious Penny Arcade comic) that the Microsoft's XBox 360 console will be slowly but surely phased out of Japanese stores. Like, all of them. The stores were fed up with slow sales and consumer complaints of crashes and glitches. I've never owned and XBox or its kin, so I wasn't particularly moved by this announcement, but it does seem a little unfair. Microsoft at least hasn't had a Massive Outage of it's Play Online services like a certain Japanese company I know. Whose name starts with an S and rhymes with Tony.

But that's not going to stop me from picking up a Sony Vita (their new handheld console). It already has like 80 games I want lined up! It has touch panels on the front and *back*! And best of all it doesn't encourage you to use the headache inducing 3D functions!
but I digress.

By the way, at the game show, there was an earthquake... just a little 6.2 magnituder. These happen all the time, so I didn't think much of it, but apparently it was a big deal to the international guests coming from places the earth is slightly less prone to movement.
...About that... it was just the 6 month anniversary of 3/11 this weekend, and there are still aftershocks, and still radiation troubles.

Speaking of televised treasures of the country, one of the best TV shows on air here is the show called 'Tetsuwan Dash'. : A group of four funny, good looking guys started a show ten years ago where they made a farm and started living off the land, raising sheep, digging a well, making a rice field, doing everything the old fashioned way with out electricity or power tools or pesticides. It's a really wonderful, environmentally-minded show. That wasn't the only thing they did, they drove an entire loop around Japan's coastline in a home-converted solar van... a little bit every week, in a little people carrier with a big 'ol solar panel on the roof. (they just finally finished their five year loop last year!)
Two years ago they also started and taking a tiny piece of the dirty Tokyo bay and putting in new sand, planting seaweed, nursing the little clams, and now it has a bunch of marine life in that one spot.

But the heart of their show was really the village they made, called 'Dash Mura'. It was a fixture of Sunday nights, Takeshi and I watched it every weekend, watching them laughing and cursing and making pickles or sheering their sheep or trying to figure out how to keep the monkeys from stealing their peaches. The location of the village was kept a secret, but after the earthquake, it turned out the village is in Fukushima.

Not only is Dash-mura Fukushima, it's within the 20Km exclusion zone. I can speak for the whole country when I say that that gets to me, the reality of the situation, when every Sunday we see the guys not able to go back to their farm.

This weekend on the show, on the anniversary of the quake, they went back wearing special radiation suits and gas masks, taking readings. The village was overgrown with weeds, but the peaches were still there, being eaten by the monkeys, the pumpkins were growing wild and had boar bites in them, and the honeybees had moved into the well. It had a beautiful overgrown wild feel, and if you didn't know, you would have never guessed that there was high radiation. The highest spots were the dead leaves, up to 35 microseiverts per hour, but overall the average was around 12 microseiverts per hour, still enough to make you pretty sick if you live there for a year.

I don't know any of the farmers in Fukushima but, thanks to Tetsuwan Dash, I can feel acutely that sadness of not being able to go back to that beautiful, painstakingly kept land. Its so cruel, and ironic, that the farm they made without electricity was rendered uninhabitable by a power plant.

Okay ... you nitpickers with the phD in Nitpickery are going to say 'that's not ironic! ironic would be ... a farm made without electricity being rendered useless by *lack* of electricity!'...
Fine, you win. But it's at least tragic. So please excuse me while I sniffle over here.

Maybe the real irony is me blogging about power-hogging video games and the tragedy of Fukushima in the same post? *looks away guiltily* ...
... by the way, Tokyo managed to cut its power consumption by more than 15% this summer, with both corporations and individuals doing what they could. Corporations turned off the lights of vending machines, civilians used fans instead of AC whenever possible and swapped out their light bulbs for LED lights. So at least we're giving this funky new thing called 'energy conservation' the old college try!


Anonymous benjamin said...

Hey ! ^^
Great blog ^^
Since you seem to be living in Japan I have a question.
Actually I would like to know if you or readers of this blog are interested in writing about the way you have personnally experienced the Northeastern Japan Earthquake (if you haven't but you know people who have experienced the earthquake in Japan, it'd be great if you coud let him/her know about this).
Tokyo Room Finder Short Essay Contest is an online project to gather heart-warming experiences following the earthquake in Japan. We strongly believe that sharing those experiences will give people hope and revitalize Japan.
We also offer 2 tickets for Tokyo Disney Resort to each of the winners.

For more details :

1:41 AM  
Blogger Weav said...

Wow, Ni no Kuni looks *SO* Ghibli I expect to see a Totoro or Kiki or some such.

Shame about Dash-Mura. well, it does bring the situation home.

6:46 AM  
Anonymous grandma said...

I wonder what the radiation is doing to the monkeys and the boars? Not so interested in games, but I'm glad I read to the end.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Weav said...

Wait a minute, boondocks of Chiba? I thought it was out past the airport or something but it's really at Makuhari Messe which is just over the line, just past Koiwa.

1:17 PM  

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