Musings on Life and Culture from the Contemplative Mind Behind Doshin the Giant

Toco Toco‘s latest Japanese cultural showcase focuses on Kazutoshi Iida, the creative mind behind Aquanaut’s Holiday, Tail of the Sun and Doshin the Giant – minimalistic, pensive experiences that blend the traditional hallmarks of game design with distinctly human elements aimed at encouraging thought and reflection.

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The soft-spoken Iida guides us around a number of his favourite Kyoto locales, starting with the Rissei Cinema Project, a former elementary school building dating back almost one hundred years that has since been converted into an arts centre that plays host to a variety of events, including screenings of documentaries and world movies. Next is the Kyoto Art Center, also a former elementary school, which serves as a portal for the area’s cultural offerings with regular performances and exhibitions.

In his research lab at Ritusmeikan University, Iida discusses his work in the games industry, offering a thoughtful commentary on the role of entertainment in society and the way it defines our personalities, as well as how it influenced him personally in designing the contemplative experiences his works seek to convey.

You can follow toco toco on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Visit their YouTube Channel to watch past episodes.

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Highlights from the 2017 My Famicase Exhibition

We introduced this year’s My Famicase Exhibition, an art show consisting entirely of creative designs for make-believe Famicom games, at the end of last month.

Hosts METEOR have now uploaded their full online gallery of every cartridge on display. After the break you can browse a selection of our favourite designs from this year’s line-up, as well as find out where you can follow some of the talented creators who make the show happen.

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You’ve Probably Never Played… Barbarossa

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Barbarossa
Developer(s): SystemSoft
Publisher: Sammy

Platform(s): Super Famicom
Release Date: November 27th 1992 (Japan exclusive)


Hitler was a bad guy. It’s hardly a surprise, all things considered, that the majority of his video game appearances have seen him take on the fitting role of bad guy. Be it the titular Hitler of Capcom’s Top Secret: Hitler’s Revival (better known as Bionic Commando), the iconic cyborg Hitler seen in Wolfenstein 3D or the skeleton-summoning Hitler of the Atlus-published RPG Operation Darkness, it seems that the common trend found throughout most of the moustachioed dictator’s virtual appearances is as follows; Hitler comes back from the dead, does something suitably sinister and proceeds to later die, generally in the most gruesome fashion possible.

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But what about the exceptions to this rule, the games where the führer’s head doesn’t explode at the end? Released for the Super Famicom 1992, Barbarossa is one of these games. As a matter of fact, it has Hitler’s head looking quite thoroughly intact – and unsettlingly heroic – on its front cover.

The game was developed by SystemSoft Alpha Corporation (occasionally going as simply ‘SystemSoft’), a studio with a rather uneventful track record as far as commercial releases go who champion a unique niche of developing strategy games aimed at an audience of Japanese military enthusiasts largely shunned in their tastes by Western-made historical strategy games that portray the army of Imperial Japan as villainous members of the Axis powers. Only a handful of SystemSoft’s titles have ever made it to the West, primarily as a result of both the company’s system of choice being the Japan-only PC-98, as well as the controversial political nature of many of the games themselves – Barbarossa understandably falls into this category.

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Programmable Series – The Sounds Of Context

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Audio in video games is an interesting beast to tackle. You’ve got background music to set the mood and enhance the environment. You’ve got sound effects for the actions players and characters perform within the game. You may even have voice acting to consider as well. It’s a lot to think about and although it’s only a piece of the game design puzzle, it can be one of the most important. The audio of a game can be what draws players in or drives them away.

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Anyone who has ever played Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 will never be able to hear the words “I Wanna Take You For A Ride” without having flashbacks to the iconic audio loop that pounds away on the character select screen. Perhaps it is intended to make you select your character faster, because instead of making a careful and calculated decision you’re likely to just pick the first character that has some appeal and get into the fight – anything to get away from that song and avoid the oncoming headache. The same can be said about the music in the main menu for Cruis’n USA. You just want to pick your car and get going, to spare you any prolonged exposure to the horrible noise that is escaping your speakers and invading your ears.

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The Irresistible Uphill Battle of Nintendo Pocket Football Club

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In a way not unlike the failure of Mario Bros. to capture the nuances of the plumbing industry with any sum of accuracy, Nintendo Pocket Football Club is a football management simulation that pushes aside the preconceptions you may have garnered about what’s required to manage a professional football team, in video games or otherwise. It offers a wholly positive take on a career that involves both emotional and economic responsibility, doing away with any of the potentially unattractive realities and concentrating on the sheer act of ‘the beautiful game’ itself.

It’s a satisfying perspective. But what do you expect from a take on a real world practice with the word “Nintendo” in the title?


There has been something of a pattern to my football management career in Nintendo Pocket Football Club. Starting with nothing but a randomly picked assortment of players and a pittance to get off the ground with, it would take two painful seasons of highs and lows for my fledgling side ‘Raijin FC’ (a name intended as a playful take on ‘Raimon’, the titular XI of Level-5’s fantasy football RPG series Inazuma Eleven) to claw its way into the next division up. A small victory to start with, but a victory nonetheless.

The season that followed would be bittersweet to the core. A shot at rubbing shoulders with teams on the cusp of the world stage, missed out on by a total of points you could count on one hand. What would follow, however, was an onslaught. Revenge.

The team had quickly become the footballing equivalent of the figurative fish that’s too big for its pond. We didn’t lose a single game that season, the odd 1-1 draw enough to drag down a consistently perfect rating of fan support; at a glance, perhaps the result of a flawed algorithm at work, but it’s not like real life fans aren’t above such fickleness. No matter, for it wouldn’t be long before they’d get a chance to celebrate again.

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A Peek Behind the Curtain on Captain Toad with 1-Up Studio’s Company Recruitment Guide

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Nintendo second party developers 1-UP Studio Inc. have recently shared their 2017 company recruitment guide, for use by prospective employees to better understand the company and roles on offer in anticipation for a recruitment seminar at the end of the month.

The studio was formed largely by ex-Square 2D artists and was known as Brownie Brown up until a major internal restructuring in 2013. The team worked on a number of lesser-known Nintendo published titles such as Magical Vacation and A Kappa’s Trail, as well as serving as co-developers of the critically acclaimed Mother 3. More recently, the company has entirely re-focused its efforts into serving as a co-development team for Nintendo’s first party studios, contributing to the likes of Super Mario 3D World and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

Captain Toad takes pride of place in the guide as 1-UP’s most recent release, with concept art and 3D models offering just a taste of the kind of projects potential employees could be able to work on should they get hired. Whilst perhaps not as visually impressive as Nintendo’s own recruitment guides, which serve as remarkable celebrations of the creativity its first party studios are largely known for, it’s nice to see a similar approach taken from one of their subsidiary companies, not to mention the rare glimpse of the people who make their games as good as they are.

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The Playful, Sinister Graphic Design of a Surrealist Art Game Luminary

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It would be a stretch to say that the work of Osamu Sato has made a significant mark on the video games industry. A digital artist, photographer, composer and champion of what can only be described as psychedelia, Sato’s wide creative output is noteworthy for being largely absurdist – and frequently unsettling – whilst exploring themes and imagery that few would dare take a risk on in any kind of entertainment medium, let alone video games. The likes of Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong-Nou (1994) and PS1 cult favourite LSD: Dream Emulator (1998) are far from material intended for mainstream or commercial acceptance – Vice’s Motherboard even went as far as aptly naming them as some of the “most terrifying” games ever made.

In spite of their often oppressive artistic overtones and forward-thinking gameplay concepts that display bold scope whilst falling short on execution, Sato’s forays into the world of games design have asserted themselves as some of the most evergreen pieces amongst his diverse portfolio, fostering a dedicated community of fans simply fascinated by the enigmatic nature of his creations. LSD in particular, a game that serves of something of an adaptation of the haunting dreams of one of Sato’s employees, can still be seen to provide a cause for curiosity almost two decades after its release, with many of its mysteries still unsolved and under investigation from the few who have bypassed its immediate mechanical inaccessibility.

Shared with us by Don Miller (who has produced several projects of his own featuring technological audiovisual exploration under the alias NO CARRIER that is not unlike that seen in Sato’s endeavours, many of which utilise the potential of ageing computer and video game hardware in unique ways) is a book published 1993, The Art of Computer Designing: A Black and White Approach. The book serves as both a compendium of Sato’s work, as well as an artistic guide, showcasing the potential of then emerging computer hardware in producing sophisticated graphic imagery using simple geometric forms.

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2017’s My Famicase Exhibition Is Open for Business

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Nakano design store METEOR is once again playing host to the My Famicase Exhibition, an art show of make-believe Famicom games featuring original label artwork from over 160 contributors around the world.

The show runs until the end of May if you’re in the area and want to see the exhibition in person. The official online gallery is due to go live soon, and once it does we’ll be sure to bring you our yearly selection of the best designs of the bunch. Until then, you can find a nice assortment of shots shared from the exhibition’s opening night below.

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The Story and Inspirations Behind EDITMODE’s Nostalgic Nintendo-Themed Apparel

We’ve drawn attention to Kyoto-based apparel brand EDITMODE a number of times in the past, most recently when we showcased the 2017 Spring collection for their ‘THE KING OF GAMES’ line of quality Nintendo-licensed apparel.

The latest episode of creative-focused documentary series toco toco offers us a fascinating look behind the scenes at EDITMODE, following director/ designer Enami Masaaki and photographer/PR manager Chikako Yamanaka as they discuss the process and inspirations behind their design work, which features some of the most beloved gaming IP of all time.

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The video begins with a look at Hedgehog Books & Gallery, a bookshop and exhibition space near the EDITMODE office which has played host to a number of displays of their work, including their yearly Christmas pop-up shops. The pair also introduce the Nishitomiya Croquette Store, where they regularly meet with clients to eat and discuss work.

Enami offers some insight into the founding of the company, explaining the process he went through in trying to license the images of iconic characters from a protective Nintendo, as well as how he hoped to incorporate them into designs that would be popular with people who enjoyed games during the Famicom’s heyday.

You can follow toco toco on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Visit their YouTube Channel to enjoy past episodes.

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Solar Power, Quirky Cabs and The Great Outdoors – Culture Collection #20

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Spring has well and truly sprung and it’s the time of year where many partake in ‘hanami‘, the viewing of spring cherry blossoms during the brief window in which they adorn fruit trees across Japan. Miki7722‘s blossom-viewing trip was apparently lacking in many of said blossoms, but she did have the privilege of run into a Slime of Dragon Quest fame.

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Here’s another Japanese speciality, this time an edible one – Kananmds got their hands on this rather delicious-looking Magikarp taiyaki, a Pokémon-inspired take on a type of fish-shaped pastry traditionally filled with bean paste.

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Another week, another snap of those charming Diskun biscuits, this time courtesy of syrup_frog and served alongside an equally appetising pon de ring-style doughnut. The Yume Kōjō (a media event run in the late 80s by network Fuji TV that would serve as the basis for Nintendo’s Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, and later Super Mario Bros. 2 – this video by Gaijillionaire provides some excellent background and is worth watching) drinking glass is a nice touch.

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