Bayonetta, the western way

Everything about Bayonetta, the game, was ridiculously Japanese from the crazy soundtrack to anime-inspired art style. I loved it. But would the leading lady, who shares the same title as the game, have developed such a cult following globally if her appearance was more westernised? Despite her psuedo-posh English accent and moderately-sized bust, Bayonetta was very much a product of Japan. Hair so animated it could be alive and a wardrobe that wouldn’t keep her warm let alone protected from killer angels could have been plucked from any popular Manga but concept artist Wesley Burt proposed to Sega a number of western orientated alternatives for Ms. B while the game was still being developed (via Kotaku). As history states, none where picked up or changed the finished product one iota which is a shame because they’re pretty cool. Especially the belted badass top left of the image above.

I’m not sure how jarring, if at all, having a very westernised character in an incredibly Japanese infused game would be though. And while Bayonetta wasn’t particularly original she did have a few unique qualities about her whereas some of the designs above could be better suited for id’s Rage or a fantasy MMORPG. But they’re still awesome and raise some interesting questions about character art and the big difference between regions. One thing that stays the same no matter what territory it seems is the appeal of a woman in glasses as Burt’s designs show. I doubt they’re prescription lenses though…

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Why isn’t the 3DS selling in Japan? Goo can think of at least 20 reasons

After initially selling out at launch across Japan, just a few months on and the 3DS isn’t exactly flying off the shelves. To be honest, it’s not even outselling the PSP, a system over five years old despite having a considerably larger library of games if you take into account DS and DSi titles. However, that’s just what the people of Japan are doing when deciding whether or not to pick up a 3DS and more often than not, they chose not to. A survey carried out by Goo Research (via Andriasang) asked 672 women and 438 men in Japan their main reasons for not buying the new handheld and the number one reason is price. To them, it’s far too high and the prospect of a reduction is one they’d rather wait for. Over here in the UK, the cost of a 3DS is falling by the week with the Carphone Warehouse dropping as low as £160, a £70 drop from when the system was launched. And like the UK, Japan will be seeing – if it hasn’t already done so – a price drop for the DSi which brings us on to the second reason on Goo’s list; Japanese gamers are happy with the DS and DSi. As I previously mentioned, the lack of games for the new system means people are turning to older releases but the money savvy digital hobbyists are just as content with sticking with the older handheld too. Unfortunately, that’s just what happens when you build something as robust and popular as the DS. Nintendo has admitted they’re having a hard time promoting all the new features the 3DS has to offer but I’d imagine it’s only a matter of time for word will spread.

After all, numbers 11 and 13 on Goo’s list are the inability to play GameBoy Advance and GameBoy games. Odd that such a thing would put people off buying a brand new console, even more so when the last generation wasn’t able to play these games either. But the upcoming eShop launch next Tuesday should rectify that issue. Other reasons for the Japanese public to avoid a 3DS are things not so easily addressed as the size, weight, screen size and button layout are all apparently a problem. These kinds of criticisms can only really be sorted with a lite version, something I thought Nintendo wouldn’t have to do with the 3DS because I thought the system was pretty much spot on. It has the adopted style of Nintendo handhelds being a slick clamshell with a great analog nub and decent size top screen. It appears my neighbours from the far east think differently which could force a second version within a year or so. I doubt it would be sooner but then Sony is said to be releasing the NGP and that factors into the list also. The fourteenth reason for not buying a 3DS is that those questioned want to save their money for an NGP. Quite different from the response in March when Goo asked members online as to what system they’d buy next with the 3DS being number one receiving 14,668 votes leaving the NGP with only 5,200.

So what’s happened within such a short time that is putting Japanese gamers off a 3DS? If price wasn’t such an option then why is it now? Maybe the small number of games that have come out in that time did little to inspire the audience and the slipping of the eShop may have hurt those who wish to play classic titles. This year’s E3 will be very important for Nintendo and I have a lot of faith in them delivering another great conference with not only an official unveiling of Project Cafe but also we’re bound to see a whole load of upcoming 3DS specific games too. All it needs is the next Mario Kart, Pokemon or even Monster Hunter and we could see a complete change in opinion towards the 3DS in Japan. Hell, just show more of Beyond the Labyrinth from Tri-Ace. That game looks gorgeous and designed to make good use of the 3D capabilities which are yet to be truly tested.

Here’s the full list from Goo Research:

1. Price is high/waiting for a price drop
2. Satisfied by DS/DSi
3. Worried about eye strain
4. Worried about getting sick from the screen
5. Few launch titles
6. Will buy once a game I want is released
7. Satisfied by cell phone and smartphone games
8. Satisfied by PSP
9. The battery is weak
10. It’s heavy and I don’t feel like carrying it with me
11. Can’t play Game Boy Advance games
12. The color I want isn’t available
13. Can’t play Game Boy games
14. I’ll save my money for NGP, thank you very much
15. Waiting for a version with a larger screen
16. Because you can’t move your DSi Points over
17. The buttons layout looks hard to use
18. No Famicom/NES in the Virtual Console
19. The zoom view for DS games is hard on the eyes
20. Waiting until my friend buys it

3DYes

It may have had the best console launch in the UK for any Nintendo system but there are a number of concerns about the 3DS and its lasting appeal. So much so that Nintendo’s stock has dropped over four consecutive days (via Andriasang) and hasn’t been the same since they released the new handheld back in February in Japan. But not all of it can be attributed to the 3DS however as investment bank Barclays Capital reminds the doubters of the devastating earthquake which hit the country shortly after its release day with many entertainment industries suffering the same fate.

A knock on effect of the earthquake is how a number of games have been delayed so punters are left with a limited amount of titles to choose from. This lack in games is adding to Nintendo’s stock issues and the 3DS was beaten by Sony’s PSP last week in the hardware charts with its overall sales just over half of what Nintendo had predicted for March.

So is the system in trouble? I don’t think so and more to the point, from what? It’s true, the system isn’t selling quite as well as Nintendo had hoped after having a promising launch but with an earthquake to contend with, it’s not really the best time for any non-essential piece of entertainment. One thing that keeps being noted is how the 3DS isn’t selling out with plenty of stores comfortably fulfilling the customers’ demands. Nintendo have previously said that this will be the case and they’re making sure people who wish to buy one won’t have to wait too long if at all. The company has been through supply problems in the past with the Wii and although it may have spurred sales for short time, the low units became more of an annoyance than anything else so it’s unlikely Nintendo wish to replicate that.

As for the lack of launch titles, is anyone really that surprised? Out of the initial 13 (or 15 if you count the three Nintendogs + Cats separately) there is a good variation of genres with a few ‘must haves’ too and I’m not sure we could have realistically hoped for anything more. The original DS launched with around 15 games and a similar ratio between those you should buy and those that need ignoring. It’s worth pointing out though that that was six years ago and the proof of worth is so much more important now what with Smartphones muscling in on the handheld territory. April and May will no doubt be quiet for the 3DS but there is the eShop update coming late next month that brings with it a Virtual Console service consisting of GameBoy and GameBoy Colour games, some with enhanced features. I’ve previously said how buying a brand new system to play old games isn’t the smartest thing to do but it’s a neat addition and depending on what exactly these enhancements are, we could be in for a retro treat.

Worries of headaches and dizziness from the 3DS’s fancy upper-screen was brought back to our attentions by The Sun this week who alleged that thousands of weary eyed gamers were returning the 3DS after hours of uncomfortable play. Later in the week, Nintendo plus the retailers themselves said, surprise surprise, this simply isn’t true. There has been a few returns as there is with any system but I wonder how many of them are down to shops like HMV offering £200 trade-in value for e 3DS when you can pick one up from Morrisons new for £180. That’s twenty quid profit right there. I’ve personally found that if you have to constantly focus on the 3D screen because you’re not holding it steady, then yeah, my eyes felt weird but laying down or slouching in a chair with a good hold of the device is headache-free. That’s if you choose to play with 3D on at all.

Am I trying to justify to myself the purchase of my 3DS? A little bit but I do think it’s way too early to tell whether or not it’ll be a success. We’re yet to receive its unique killer app and for the industry to properly settle down after the earthquakes in Japan. If this time next year the 3DS is still under performing, Nintendo may have a problem but by then I’d like to think I’ll be too busy playing Super Mario 3D and Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D to care.

The saddening of a nation

PlatinumGames ceo Tatsuya Minami has opened his heart via the company’s official site (via Videogamer) about the state of the current video game industry and how saddened he is by the lack of originality. He revealed that one of PlatinumGame’s founding ideas was to “delivery smiles and surprises around the world,” and after five years of dedication from his staff, the studio’s brand has “truly been recognised.” Even with the complete juxtaposition of mechanics, PlatinumGame’s previous big hitters, Bayonetta and Vanquish, are very much linked with their art style and frantic gameplay that have carved a neat little grove in the respective genres.

Minami went on to say how he and his team are following a new ethos, aiming to be the “Japanese standard bearer in the competitive global video game market,” as he’s one of the many voices who claim Japan as a video game originator is a shadow of its former self. To him, games exist to offer fresh surprises to those who play them, however “the current games business is struggling. The ‘fresh surprises’ I mention are becoming few and far between, especially in our home of Japan. Not so long ago, Japan lead the world’s games business, and it was not a stretch to call games a uniquely Japanese speciality; however, now it appears that Japanese games companies have lost their vigour.” Such a change hasn’t happened overnight with the decline in Japan’s influences spreading at least the last two generations. That being said, the games that truly count still have a foothold in the ideas of Japanese companies. Mario titles, more so the platformers, have almost always revolutionised the genre in their own special way, maybe not originating those ideas but certainly pioneering them. Like the eccentricities of Super Mario Galaxy for example.

But Minami is right, generally when you think of video games you think of Western developers and it’s more crushing when it’s for genres that Japan used to excel in. On a global scale, platformers tend to have been taken over by Indie developers adding all kinds of charm and wit to their games. As for RPGs, BioWare and Bethesda seem to almost have equal share in the future of role playing in a video game space with the term ‘JRPG’ reserved for titles riddled with cliche and tiresome grinding. One of the reasons for this is the frequency of sequels that simply don’t allow originality, “Games with new at their core are disappearing. Japanese games that garner worldwide acclaim are slipping away,” said Minami adding how PlatinumGames must adapt to reflect how they’re one of a few healthy Japanese game studios, delivering titles that now represent the country not just themselves.

I don’t think Minami should be quick to dismiss sequels altogether though. Some carry a great amount of change for the better, much like Mass Effect 2. While not drastically different from what came before, it changed enough fundamentals to be original in its own right. And right now, I’d kill for a Bayonetta 2. The first game was unashamedly Japanese and played like a crazy dream. Furthering its ideas in a second game shouldn’t be seen as unoriginal but simply extending an already brilliant concept. Though from Minami’s comments I doubt we’ll be seeing it anytime soon.

Help Japan with Street Fighter IV

To help victims of the tragedies befalling Japan at the moment, Capcom have promised (via Andriasang) to donate 100 million yen to relief funds out of their own pocket. How generous eh? Now we can do our bit too but picking up Street Fighter IV for the iPhone which, for one week, has been discounted to only 59p from its usual three quid mark. Every penny of that will go towards the relief fund and as well as being a jolly good samaritan, you’ll be getting one hell of a game too. I gave it full marks in my review for the fantastic gameplay, interesting art style and the inclusion of a satisfying virtual d-pad and buttons – something of a rarity in touchscreen titles.

So don’t hold back, buy Street Fight IV and help those in need. If you have it already, gift it to a mate, it’s only 59p!

The good, the bad and the boycotting of 3DS

If the weekend’s release of the 3DS in Japan is anything to go by, Nintendo are going to be a whole lot better off at the end of their fiscal year. Confirmed by Adriansang, the 3DS sold its entire 400,000 units in 24 hours with another shipment arriving yesterday morning to appease the hordes of gamers who missed out. In total, Nintendo plans to ship 1.5 million systems to Japan before March 31st and 3.5 million to the rest of the world. It’s highly probable if not a certainty that come April 1st, the 3DS would have already hit the 4 million mark and continue selling out for the rest of the year.

So Nintendo are happy and first impressions seem all positive too, especially for all those who have R4 cards. Those scurvy pirates managed to get the infamous hacking device to work on the 3DS within hours of it going on sale. But since the system is backwards compatible and the R4 works by tricking the device into thinking its a real DS cart, it was inevitable really. New 3DS games are still safe from the evil ways of R4 for the time being.

Apart from that little hiccup, all’s well with Nintendo’s new baby right? No. A group on Facebook (via Destructoid) is urging people to boycott the 3DS due to their belief that it uses material mined by downtrodden workers in Congo led by armed rebel groups. A spokesman from the Enough Project who started the movement said: “allowing people to die and suffer grave human rights abuses for the sake of video game console production. What I am asking you to do is to refuse to buy a Nintendo 3DS system until Nintendo announces plans to halt use of conflict minerals in production — and this can only happen through monitoring of trade systems. I am not in any way opposed to the 3DS itself — I actually think it’s one of the coolest things I’ve never seen in person. But I am not going to be one of the millions who looks the other way purely for entertainment, and I hope you will join me.”

It should be noted that the organisers do not have any proof that Nintendo are using the materials of which they are accused so you really have to make your own mind up on that one. Before I bin my pre-order, I would like to have a bit more evidence but still wish the Enough Project all the best as their overall cause does seem for the greater good.

From developing to dealing

Kairosoft’s Game Dev Story was a big hit last year for the iPhone as players sunk many hours into developing their ultimate fictional game. A simplistic approach to game development made what many find long and stressful into something twee and fun. While the sequel is said to be porting over to the West soon, a more natural progression for a title about making games is one about selling them. Kairosoft is way ahead of those ideas and released Waiwai: The Game Dealer onto the Japanese App Store (via Touch Arcade), treating the cut-throat video game retailer world with the same kind of fanciful notions as it did for the development side. Instead of a studio head, Waiwai has you in charge of a game store dealing with stock levels and the likes. An inclusion of some form of E3 is probable since real-world retailers plan strategies around this event and what would be even more mind-blowing than the idea that a game about stock taking is something to look forward to is if the game could use data from Game Dev Story for its titles. I appreciate I’m now in my own little dreamworld what with the iOS port of GDS based on a game nearly 15 years old but think about it, you make a top selling, highly revered game in GDS then a few clicks and swipes on your iPhone later you’re in Waiwai, ready for a shipment of the same game. Oh how crazy a world that would be! Back to reality now and despite no official word of a English version of Waiwai: The Game Dealer, the huge success of Game Dev Story almost cements a future release.