Those wacky Japanese, eh! What with their insane gameshows, amusing misuse of the English language and insatiable appetite for extreme pornography, they're absolutely bonkers! Not like us normal, sophisticated Brits, who can't be bothered to learn any foreign words at all, and enjoy highbrow television like Fort Boyard and Crosswits, and definitely haven't seen that video of the girls with the cup.
As you'd expect, there was plenty of wacky old nonsense to see at this year's Tokyo Game Show. Being a big fan of wacky old nonsense, not to mention Eurogamer's official Wii mini-game compilation specialist, I took it upon myself to check it out. Here's what I saw while Oli and Kristan were busy looking at proper games you actually care about.
I almost walked straight past this WiiWare title, having played enough guitar-playing sims to be going on with for the next 48 years. But I couldn't not have a go after spotting the title of the song available to play on the demo pod: Studio Bongo Mango.
Yes, Aero Guitar is a guitar-playing sim, but it doesn't require the use of any Fender-shaped controllers. You hold the nunchuk in your left hand as if it were the fret board, and the remote in your right hand. Three strings are displayed on-screen, and notes scroll across horizontally. The idea is to make a strumming motion with the remote as each note passes through the marker. At the same time, you press up or down with the nunchuk's analog stick if the note is on the top or bottom string.
Yes, it feels stupid, and one can only presume it looks even stupider. But it's fun. The principles are easy to grasp and the controls are responsive. In some ways it makes you feel more like a rock star than Guitar Hero, because you're waving your strumming arm around theatrically rather than wiggling a tiny bit of plastic up and down. In other ways it makes you feel more like a twat. Still, you know. Studio Bongo Mango.
Not, in fact, an extended version of the hula-hooping mini-game in Wii Fit, but a game based around the traditional Hawaiian dance. As a nice Japanese gentleman wearing a nylon lei and a hideous shirt showed me, you hold the remote in your right hand. On the left of the screen is a video of a hula dancer, and you're supposed to copy her moves.
Your character is shown on the right. Footstep symbols appear at the bottom of the screen, and presumably you're supposed to follow these. You wave your arms about just like the lady in the video, or, if you're me, just like the Coco Pops monkey at his least graceful.
At the end of the song, the Japanese gentleman claps politely and tries to pretend the entire experience hasn't been horrendously embarrassing for you, him, the crowd that has gathered and even the lady in the video. However, it's not clear whether this man will come bundled with the finished game.
There's no point me telling you whether Hula Wii is any good or not, as it'll never come out in Europe and you wouldn't care if it did. Besides: no idea.
National Geographic Panda
I couldn't see this on the show floor, but was intrigued when Oli told me it had been announced at the Namco-Bandai press conference. Some extensive research i.e. the press release reveals it's a DS game where you get to feed, clean and play with a load of pandas. Nintendogs with pandas, then. Nintendandas.
You can read "over 20 authentic National Geographic articles about pandas", excitingly, with "new articles unlocked each day the game is played". Plus you can buy your pandas "toys and clothes". Let's hope by "toys" they mean "flaming hula-hoops you can then teach them to jump through", and by "clothes" they mean "sombreros".
The game will come bundled with a special DVD titled Secrets of the Wild Panda. Perhaps they're all hiding heroin addiction shame, or don't really like bamboo and just eat crisps when we're not around.
Keza informs me there was a similar game at the show revolving around aquatic flightless birds living exclusively in the Southern hemisphere. Nintenguins, obviously.
Mysterious Smoking / Law-themed Games
I have no idea what the English translations for the name of these games might be. I can tell you they're being published by Takara Tomy, they're for DS and they're advertised by a strange Japanese spiv who sports an enormous quiff, bad teeth and a pencil-thin moustache. You can see why I was drawn to them.
I was particularly intrigued by the one which features nothing more than the game title and a photograph of a ground-out cigarette on the front cover. I assumed this would be some kind of aide for giving up smoking, like the DS title Ubisoft recently announced. Having played it, I've no idea.
There is a calendar you appear to put stamps in, and what I think might be a calculator for working out how many cigarettes you'll smoke over the course of your life if you keep puffing away. There's also a bizarre mini-game where people with enormous heads wander round pastel coloured streets. Every so often, smoke clouds appear from nowhere. Tapping on them makes a number pop out of them, and then they disappear. No idea.
The law-themed game features a gavel on the box instead of a cigarette butt. I think it's some kind of Phoenix Wright clone, only without any of the charm, humour or appeal. It could be a serious barrister training sim for all I know, though. At least the spiv seems to like it.
That's only a working title, you won't be amazed to learn. In Japan it's called Hardworking People, but they're thinking of calling it Job Island in Europe to complement predecessor Sports Island. Where do we sign on?
It's a mini-game compilation for Wii, but at least it's not the usual collection of rubbishy Wii Sports rip-offs and pathetic virtual air hockey games. There's even a storyline about a family who realises a giant comet is heading straight for the Earth. No one believes them, so they must take on a series of jobs to raise money to buy equipment to destroy the comet.
You can choose whether to play as the Mum, Dad, Grandpa, Little Jimmy and so on, and there are around 50 mini-games to try out. These involve anything from being a circus clown or stunt man to a tailor, body builder or bereavement counsellor. Probably not the last one.
According to Oli, who got to go hands-on, it's reminiscent of Bishi-Bashi Special - not quite as brilliantly mental, but with a unique look and feel all the same. Who knows, perhaps it might even get more than 6/10. Or not.
This Wii title is being brought to us by Yuji Naka, otherwise known as Sonic the Hedgehog's Dad. As reported by Joystiq, he's billing it as "the game that even penguins could play". Eurogamer has yet to test this claim, but I can tell you it was the best bit of wacky old nonsense I saw at TGS.
I got the chance to go hands-on at SEGA's booth. The Wii remote rests face-down on a flat surface. At the booth, this meant special cardboard boxes about the size of a book, which were filled with dense but slightly springy material. Not having bothered to learn any foreign words at all, I couldn't establish whether these will come bundled with the game.
Presented with a screen full of brightly coloured balls, I tentatively started patting the book thing. The nice SEGA lady, dressed in knee-high white boots and hotpants hotter than the surface of the sun, smiled encouragingly. I patted harder and the balls started bouncing into the air.
Next thing I knew the screen was filled with a blank canvas. I hit the book and a splodge of paint appeared. I repeated this until the screen was filled with paint, at which point the image dissolved into a watercolour painting of a mouse.
Then the screen filled some wireframe drawings of skyscrapers. Hitting the pad made fireworks explode above them. An underwater scene followed, where hitting the pad made bubbles appear and fish move about. At no point did I understand what any of this was supposed to mean, or what the objective of any of it was, but it was quite pretty.
Then the SEGA lady and I moved to a different pod and she showed me a game where you race little wireframe characters. You tap the mat rapidly but gently to get them to move along the neon tracks, and remove your hands completely to make them jump. This is how you navigate obstacles such as electric fences. There are other environmental objects along the way, such as balloons you have to blow up by tapping rhythmically.
It all made much more sense than the bouncy balls and watercolour mouse stuff, and the SEGA lady and I managed to transcend the barriers of language by laughing at how rubbish I was. It remains to be seen whether Let's Tap will be suitable for penguins, or whether SEGA will ever release it outside of Japan, but here's hoping.
All of these games are currently due out or out now in Japan, and we have no idea about European plans. Ellie Gibson also went to a ninja restaurant.