I’ve done quite a few geeky things. Raise your hand if you know what LARPing is. Now raise your hand if you’ve spent Friday nights LARPing. By nights, I mean more than one in a row. Anyone still with me?
Tonight I’m geeking out again. My housemate, who also happens to be a Japanese language Geek and who usually lives in Hong Kong, brought his Japanese Wii back with him when he returned from home. He got it at an import store there, and modded it to play both Japanese and English games. I immediately wanted to play the Japanese games. I have always thought that the geekiest thing you could do was collect foreign language video games or comics. I have also always really wanted to play the ones in Japanese. Tonight, I geeked to the max once more.
I decided that it would be appropriate to pick 2 games and to attempt to play them only in Japanese. I didn’t immediately realize how much of a task this would be. Not only did I have no clue about the plot because my Japanese is barely enough to help at all, but I couldn’t understand the written explanations of the controls very well during the early levels either. I only have 3 entire semesters of 5 day a week Japanese class behind me, after all. Fortunately there were pictures that showed me what to do when I was messing up badly enough, but I was still hard pressed to complete the next task through shockingly large portions of the two games I just played. I want to warn you before I go further, any mistakes I make about the nature of the plot can be chalked up to my lack of Japanese skills.
The first game, Red Steel, is about a young American guy who is dating or engaged to a young Japanese girl. When the two go to her Yakuza father to ask him for their blessing, she is taken hostage in a raid by a rival gang. The father instructs you to basically kill everyone while you attempt to rescue her. My first impression was that this game was awesome. The game play was a lot like those giant police academy games at movie theatres that track your motion. The Wii’s point and shoot is just great on this game. It’s actually super difficult because of how accurate the tracking is. Later on, you get a sword and have ninja battles. I definitely noticed a difference because of the language barrier. Figuring out every task was monstrously confusing. I decided to check if this was going to be a trend by throwing Mario Galaxy into the Wii.
Mario Galaxy represents one of the biggest shifts in video game style that I personally remember. Along the same lines as Red Steel, Mario’s love interest is kidnapped, and you have to stomp all the goombas on the way to rescuing her. The crazy part is that you do this in space on a bunch of small asteroid sized worlds. The gravity in the game simulated being in space so well. No longer the 2D world of the original space invaders, not even the 3D world of Mario64, this was the 3D world of tomorrow, where the world isn’t flat and gravity isn’t just “down.”
At points you fall into black holes. Star pieces fall to the ground and you can pick them up and shoot them at stuff like a cannon. It’s really just the Mario of the future. Unfortunately I have no idea about what the characters were saying. It took me 6 minutes longer than it should have to get myself to the next asteroid. Interestingly enough, the main method of travel in the future world of Mario (where everyone can somehow breathe in space) is like a personal cannon that shoots you to the next rock. Figuring that out without the help of the little star guys I was supposed to talk to was wicked hard. I’m not used to working my way through space, I guess.
I slowly realized that this experience was a lot like playing video games when I was very young. I couldn’t read, I had to figure everything out without any help whatsoever, and every change in the game was inexplicably magical. I didn’t know why I could breath in space and why the gravity was disproportionately strong, but that made me even more curious about the story that was unfolding. There was something really fun about being totally out of my element. I have a feeling that traveling in Japan would be similar yet a lot more difficult
I thoroughly recommend trying this out. I’m sure that the law students among us would enjoy what little fun-time they have if it were spent in front of an imported Wii.
In a bleak effort to tie this back to the law somehow, I have decided simply to point out that there could be a number of legally questionable practices one must either commit or aid in committing in order to mod a Wii and play bootlegged games from Hong Kong. I am offering a prize for the most complete list of legal bad deeds. Shoot me an email and I’ll send you something if you have the best list. LouisGrube [at] gmail [DOT] com. I’ll stop accepting submissions this Friday.