Exploring Tokyo’s Urban Sprawl with Persona 5’s Katsura Hashino

The latest episode of toco toco focuses on Katsura Hashino, a video game designer, producer and writer for Atlus who has worked on the likes of Catherine, the Persona series and Trauma Center: Under the Knife.

Hashino guides us through Sangenjaya, an area of Tokyo that served as the inspiration behind the fictional Yongenjaya, a key location in the recently released Persona 5. He sets out his vision for the game’s setting and the tone he aimed to capture in its environmental design, focusing on the backstreets tucked away within the city’s colossal urban sprawl.

Hashino goes on to introduce the Carrot Tower, a local landmark and home to a popular chain of bookstores that he visits to foster his creativity and appreciate the scale of the city he lives in. The tour concludes with a visit to Atlus’ offices, to learn more about his future projects, including the upcoming PROJECT Re FANTASY.

You can follow toco toco on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Visit their YouTube Channel for more videos.

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Looking Back at the Best Bits of the Wii U You May Have Already Forgotten

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At the time of writing, Nintendo’s latest console, the Nintendo Switch, has already begun to release worldwide. As a hybrid between a home and handheld system, it represents a bold new direction for Nintendo, particularly from a software creation standpoint. However, as is the norm with traditional games hardware, when one thing begins, another must come to an end – in this case, the ending in question is that of the era of the Wii U, Nintendo’s previous home console which, whilst playing host to a number of critically acclaimed titles, served to be a commercial failure that has caused the company to rethink many aspects of its approach in designing a follow-up.

Although the Wii U will always be remembered as the catalyst for a difficult period in Nintendo’s rich history, now is a fitting time to look back and celebrate some of the things it did do right, namely those that may easily have been overlooked or even forgotten amidst a mixture of reverence for much-loved games and harsh, often deserved criticisms of the attitudes and structure that made the system what it was. Continue reading

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Romantic Treats, Artist’s Impressions and Famicom High Fashion – Culture Collection #18

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It’s been far too long since our last games culture showcase, so let’s start by going right back to the end of January, where a sighting of a Godzilla-like monster attacking Kyoto Tower became the hot topic for Japanese Nintendo fans on Twitter.

Fortunately, this wasn’t a real-world Kaiju flick playing out, but an error message that terrorised Nintendo’s online store as fans swarmed to pre-order the upcoming Switch console. With traffic high, the graphic was displayed for so long that fans even began to create fan-art inspired by it – the biscuits above, shared by pirorit_tw, being a personal favourite take. Who knows if this monster will ever surface again, but for the few hours it stared eager Nintendo customers in the face, it received the privilege of receiving the kind of attention that’s normally reserved for the likes of Mario and Link.

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Some more edible treats, this time for Valentine’s Day. Chihiro Tanaka‘s Game Boy-inspired chocolate banana cake has a particularly charming home-made feel.

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Kaj2nd‘s chocolate NES controllers do an impressive job of capturing the iconic layout’s size and scale with authenticity.

These Kirby-themed biscuits were shared by sokms2, who boasts some exceptional icing skills. Bonus points for the apposite Cupid Kirby appearance.

More hand-made Kirby goodness now, these laser-cut pins from EDITMODE and shared by the MHz Shop. The appealing sprite-work found in Kirby’s Adventure transfers remarkably well onto a wood finish. Continue reading

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Nagi, a Surreal Auditory Experience Rooted in Video Games and Reconstruction

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The concept of ‘gamification’, the application of game-playing elements to other activities, is a curious one. Whilst not strictly emerging conceptually from video games – rather, based primarily on the concept of a ‘game’ itself – it becomes easy for those with a significant investment in video games to eventually draw parallels between virtual actions and those in everyday life.

However, one core notion fundamental to both video games and entertainment as a whole that lacks accessibility through gamification is the presence of an auditory component to accompany visual perception – in other words, there’s no background music in real life. Nagi, an application created by Takayuki Nakamura, seeks to rectify this somewhat with an experimental, science-based premise of turning the sound around us, good or bad, into calming ambience perfect for relaxation.

Nakamura is a veteran when it comes to composing for video games, with the soundtracks of titles such as Virtua FighterLumines and most recently the upcoming Birthdays: The Beginning credited to his name. A lot of his past work is distinctly more lively than the soothing sounds created by Nagi, no doubt a direct result of a significant difference in purpose; created in the aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Nagi takes in all surrounding sound detected through a microphone and gradually phases it into peaceful waves (known as ‘nagi’ in Japanese, giving the software its title), with the intention being to serve as a unique auditory approach to helping victims of the disaster to recover a sense of tranquillity they may have lost.  Continue reading

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More In-Depth Switch Chat with SourceGaming and NintenDaan

Following on from my discussion about the Nintendo Switch UK Premiere with SourceGaming‘s PushDustIn, I made an appearance for the 24th episode of the SourceCast alongside games journalist Daan Koopman (NintenDaan) to talk more Switch, including impressions, hopes for the system and our general thoughts on the console’s unveiling at the Tokyo Big Sight.

You can check out more content from Source Gaming over on their website and YouTube channel, and follow them on both Twitter and Facebook. Daan Koopman can also be found on Twitter and Youtube, as well as on a whole host of other Nintendo sites, which you can find links to on his website.

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A Look at Work and Play with a Real-Life Street Fighter

Japanese culture series toco toco‘s latest episode follows pro gamer and EVO 2011 Super Street Fighter IV champion Fuudo, touring some of the day-to-day places he frequents for work and play.

The video offers an interesting look into the offices of Dengeki, one of Japan’s biggest video game media publishers and the hosts of the regular live show where Fuudo plays Street Fighter V amongst other titles.

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Following this is a tour of some of the pro’s regular haunts for eating and drinking with other players and catching a few evening rounds of Gunslinger Stratos. It gives us some curious insight into the cultural differences between the everyday lives of pro gamers in Japan and the west.

You can follow toco toco on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Nintendo Switch UK Premiere Discussion with Source Gaming

I recently sat down with Source Gaming‘s PushDustIn to discuss my time at the Nintendo Switch UK Premiere, including my thoughts on the hardware itself and the currently announced first-party line-up. If you fancy hearing me expand on some of the bases touched in the impressions feature posted earlier this week, as well as some insight from Push on the details Nintendo have shared with us, then give it a listen!

You can check out more content from Source Gaming over on their website, and follow them on both Twitter and Facebook.

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The Overlooked Star of the Switch Presentation was Ken Ishii’s Slick DJ Set

Let’s all take a moment to appreciate what could possibly be the most overlooked aspect of last week’s live Nintendo Switch presentation – the ridiculously cool build-up DJ set from Ken Ishii.

The Sapporo techno pioneer has something of a gaming history and may be familiar to you from having worked on games such as Rez – for which he provided ‘Creation The State of Art‘ – as well as producing a number of tracks for the CD release of LSD: Dream Emulator‘s surreal and experimental soundtrack.

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Ishii’s live set offers a gradual, silky smooth build-up that serves as a fitting parallel to the anticipation many would have felt in the final minutes prior to the presentation beginning. The vibe throughout carried a fresh yet refined tone, a flavour that perhaps could be seen to signify an attempted change in image on Nintendo’s part with the launch of their newest hardware. It all culminated in an energetic section that made use of the distinctive ‘click’ sound that has quickly become a trademark of the console and its promotional material.

Few will remember this part of the Nintendo Switch’s introduction – many likely forgot it had even happened the second the first game was shown. Regardless, why not take twenty minutes to sit down, listen and relax with a pleasant surprise that Nintendo have subtly treated us to.

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Radical Dudes, Not-Game Boys and The Late Hudson Soft – Culture Collection #17

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It’s the first Culture Collection of the year! To start things off, let’s go right back to the start of 2017 and check out how l00scr3w spent his New Year’s Day morning – tinkering with Game Boys and Famiclones.

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Kaj2nd opted for a multiplayer-focused start to the year. He’s clearly well-equipped for those big Bomberman sessions Hudson’s Super Multitap was made for.

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Continuing the Hudson Soft theme with a double-whammy of pics from THUNDERBOX‘s Nazo no Mise store, which we talked about last year. This cassette tape apparently features the theme song from  Adventure Island. Continue reading

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Programmable Series – Turn the Page

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A great advantage that games have over other types of media is the inherent interactivity that comes with them being games. You can simply push a button and the outcome of events will change. The player gets to control the actions of the game in every aspect that is available to them. Like playing with a digital puppet, they control when the characters move, jump, run or attack. However, even with all of that control, the story still belongs to the game’s creators – no matter how the player gets to the end of the game they are going to see the story you’ve created for them. So, what if your story is more complicated than something that can be portrayed in a platform or action game? What if your story is the game? This is where narrative, adventure and visual novel games come in.

Many people believe that visual novels are designed for a niche audience and don’t appeal to everyone. At a glance this is an understandable assumption, as many modern visual novels are geared towards fans of romantic stories and make use of anime-like visuals. However, if you look back at the history of visual novels, you’ll find they were originally marketed more towards adult audiences when they first became popular. The themes of many games were very adult oriented and often included excessive violence and nudity. Although their popularity wasn’t as widespread in many countries, the Japanese market was bountiful with these types of games in the 80’s and early 90’s.

Home computer systems like the PC98 and the X68000 had a large assortment of visual novels due to the fact that they were easy to create and these types of computers could handle them well. The popularity of the visual novel started to shift in the 90’s as more affordable home consoles took over the gaming market. With SEGA, Sony and Nintendo systems having fast refresh rates and responsive controls, they were able to deliver more action oriented games which really took over as the preferred genre. People could bring the fast action that they would find on an arcade game into their home. Continue reading

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