Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Hyper Japan 2013 report

Hyper Japan 2013 report News Item

This feature is also available at n-Europe, found here.

Nerd conventions aren't too common in the UK – at least not compared to the US. The biggest one, the MCM Media Expo, draws ridiculous numbers of nerds, thirsty for cosplay and overpriced merchandise.

As such, I was slightly wary of Hyper Japan. Technically, it's not a convention for nerdy interests, but because Japanese entertainment and culture has such a heavy overlap, I was expecting it to be a similar affair to MCM or London Film and Comic Con, but with superhero capes being replaced by the super kawaii.

But I was wrong – kinda. While there were a myriad ways to spend your money on authentic (and not-so-authentic) Japanese products, there were also panels on aspects of Japanese culture, music performances, and tea and sake tasting.

As for broadening my own cultural horizons, I found that I hate takoyaki (did you know they put mayonnaise directly into the batter? Disgusting), that hakama are super comfortable but not built for someone who's 6ft 5, and a cute purple bento box that will store my lunches for months to come.
There was also a very large section devoted to Nintendo's upcoming and latest releases, including a few things I wasn't expecting to see just yet.

Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies

After Ace Attorney Investigations 2 not being translated into English, the news that Dual Destinies was making it over here brings me great relief.

Ace Attorney Dual DestiniesThey've cranked things up for the 3DS – everything is now rendered in 3D, but the art direction of the originals is still intact, right down to the goofy freaking out animations when you expose a flaw in testimony.

As the name suggests, there are two stories afoot – in a direct continuation of Apollo Justice, both Apollo and Phoenix Wright stand in court to fight for the truth. The demo looked at both a court and an investigation scenario; neither of them differ much from the rest of the main Ace Attorney games, but there's a new feature added to court proceedings.

Phoenix's new assistant, Athena, is a behavioural psychologist, and carries some snazzy software what will give you readings of feelings from the witness on the stand. Some parts of the testimony might have an emotion you don't expect to see, and pointing them out is the way to progress.

Finding these inaccuracies is easier than the body-language reading in Apollo Justice, but it could still be employed in complex ways. Only time (or a play through of the Japanese version, which is already out) can tell.

Shin Megami Tensei IV

The SMT series has kind of a cult following (and most of the recent fans are of the Persona spinoff series), but Atlus have not been great at getting its instalments out to Europe.

Yet, there's a whole lot of RPG goodness heading our way on Nintendo formats. Including this game, four SMT titles are set to have an European release. Dollars-to-doughnuts most of them won't arrive here for some time, but SMTIV is bound to tide you over in the meantime.
Shin Megami Tensei IV
You play as a trainee Samurai – a member of the police force for a medieval kingdom with some really serious class divide issues. In order to keep the peace (and follow your directives), you're given an arm-mounted computer that will let you summon demons. A difficult adventure into dungeons, morality issues and gateways to post-apocalyptic Tokyo follows.

The battle system is very similar to other games in the SMT series (and if you're not familiar with that, Dragon Quest and Earthbound are close matches), and is quick to punish careless players. In the demo, there were fights with demons that could clear out my party in one turn if I didn't get the upper hand.

Fortunately, SMTIV will let you resume your game from where you died at the cost of some in-game cash or Play Coins. It's a feature a lot of other games in the series lacks, and comes personally as a great relief.

The Wonderful 101

It doesn't take long to identify a Clover Studios/Platinum game when you come across one. It might be a focus on grading your combat prowess, it might be the flying kick attack they seem to work into every game, and sometimes it's just the the hyper-passionate energy they put into making you feel like a powerful badass.

On in this case, up to 100 powerful badasses.

Wonderful 101The Wonderful 101 is partially a technique-heavy hack 'n' slash, partially an action puzzler. Playing as a superhero with the power of 'unity', you use it not so much in a 'power of friendship' way, but more of a 'chaining people together to make giant weapons' kind of way.

Tailed by an ever-lengthening crowd of people you find in the stages, you can suspend the game action to draw a shape on the Wii U Gamepad or with the right analogue stick. The shape you make will determine the weapon. A straight line for a sword, an L shape for a gun, an S shape for a whip and so on.

The longer you draw the line, the more people you use to make the weapon and the larger it gets. Joy is swinging a massive sword made from 50 people. Heaven is plunging it into a gelatinous space monster.

The character design and sense of humour reminds me heavily of Viewtiful Joe, and considering the superhero theme, I will be distraught if he doesn't cameo in some way. The battles, though chaotic, rely on a mastery of dodges and parries, just like Platinum's other works. Getting hit doesn't just mean damage, but scattering your amassed horde.

The demo only allowed for 10 minutes of play, but in that time I ran down a water slide trailing rainbows, cranked a Ferris Wheel into life with a giant fist, ripped the armour of a giant robot with a whip, and got swallowed whole by the aforesaid gelatinous space monster. Awesome.

Wii Karaoke U

It is exactly what it sounds like, though that's not a complete cause to write it off. Arguably, it was the most appropriate game to be demonstrated at the event! The Wii U Gamepad is great for queueing up songs on the fly, and the game boasts that thousands of songs will be available from the eShop.
There's an almost even mix between Japanese and Western songs, meaning I had the pleasure of seeing countless white girls butcher Japanese pop songs the lyrics of which they could barely pronounce.

I myself sung Beyonce's 'Ego' - an excellent (terrible) match for my incredibly bass-heavy singing voice. A refreshing change to the repeated requests for 'Hare Hare Yukai'. It was only one of two Beyonce songs offered though, which is a grave, grave error. 

Wii Karaoke U

A special note has to be made for the large Animal Crossing area that was set up, complete with a photo booth and fish catching competition (which almost immediately devolved into a Whale Shark-catching competition). For the tons of people going through their Street Pass data, there was a cushioned area complete with a bunch of charge points (and a profoundly irritating Emcee who's constant humming of the Luigi's Mansion theme made me want to lodge my 3DS in his trachea).

Really, it was the most ambitious Nintendo stall I've seen at a convention in a long time. They'll be holding a convention entirely by themselves soon, just you wait.

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