Super Mario Bros. Tower Records Cafe pops up in Tokyo

Written by: William on June 16, 2015 at 1:02 pm | In GO SEE | No Comments

Super Mario Bros. fans should head on down to Tower Records (yes, the chain still exists in Japan!) for the Super Mario Bros. Tower Records Cafe at the Shibuya, Ebisu and Omotesando branches from June 22nd to July 1st.

To celebrate 30 years since Japan’s most famous game export first appeared on the NES (Famicon), Tower Records is offering discounts, as well as selling special anniversary merchandise like cups, plates and t-shirts at Tower Records stores and spin-off dining branches in Tokyo.

super mario bros cafe tower records tokyo shibuya ebisu omotesando

But the really super goodies are on the cafe menu, where you can get a Mario Latte, tiramisu and even squid ink pasta. Of course, everything is themed around the iconic video game, from individual game characters and items (Super Star omelette) to overall color schemes, such as drink inspired by the underwater levels we love.

super mario bros cafe tower records tokyo shibuya ebisu omotesando

super mario bros cafe tower records tokyo shibuya ebisu omotesando

The menus vary a little depending on whether you head to Tower Records Cafe Shibuya, Tower Records Cafe Omotesando or Tower Records Dining Ebisu. The Shibuya branch cafe also opens on June 23rd, a day later than the Omotesando and Ebisu cafes.

super mario bros cafe tower records tokyo shibuya ebisu omotesando

super mario bros cafe tower records tokyo shibuya ebisu omotesando

Customers also receive a special “2.5-dimensional” themed figure when they order a main set dish and a free character coaster with a drink order.

The pop-up cafe is a mainstay of Japanese promos. In the past we’ve seen a Pokémon Cafe, Funassyi Cafe, and Snoopy and Woodstock cafes (also at Tower Records).


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Category: GO SEE

Get your own Star Wars Battle Pod… for $37,000

Written by: William on May 28, 2015 at 2:13 pm | In COOL PRODUCTS | No Comments

Bandai Namco has announced it is offering individual customers a chance to their hands on their own Star Wars arcade machine!

Yes, if you’re a real Star Wars fan you will definitely want to step inside the Star Wars Battle Pod, a fully immersive arcade game machine.

There’s only one snag: it will cost you ¥4,560,000, roughly $37,000.

star wars battle pod arcade machine game bandai namco

According to Kotaku, there is also a “premium edition” version that is even more: ¥12,000,000, or nearly $100,000!

The designs—a Rebel pilot’s helmet and Darth Vader—are unique to the premium versions. The pod’s movable seats are covered with real leather, the cabinet has exclusive carpeting, and the machine comes with a specially bound owner’s manual.

Each cabinet is numbered and emblazoned with the owner’s name on a plaque. And in the game, the owner’s name appears in the credit scroll. And so, a hundred grand price tag.

However, the Bandai Namco website says that currently there are no plans to sell the premium edition.

Orders are only being taken domestically for the regular Star Wars Battle from June 18th.

In the words of the official website:

Star Wars™: Battle Pod™ is a experiential arcade game that features a dome-shaped screen, transporting players into heated battles in a galaxy far, far away. In iconic locations like the Death Star, players will be able to take control of some of the most memorable vehicles and morments in the Star Wars universe and pilot them to victory.

The new interactive arcade shooter by Lucasfilm, Disney Interactive, and Bandai Namco has multiple games and locations, including Hoth, Yavin, Endor and the Death Star.

If you can’t afford your own Star Wars Battle Pod, you can check for arcade locations in America, the UK and Japan. There are currently two machines in Tokyo.

star wars battle pod arcade machine game bandai namco

The Japan market frequently has exclusive tie-in merchandise that no one else gets.

The latest example is the Star Wars Interactive Bluetooth Snow Globe, which syncs with your smart device to create a “powder snow dance” effect in time with your music.

star wars snow globe amadana imp interactive bluetooth

Past products include a holographic R2-D2 Original Sound Virtual Keyboard, the bestselling Star Wars English-Japanese Dictionary for Padawan Learners, the R2-D2 Talking Fridge Gadget, and the Star Wars Nestle Gold Blend Coffee Machine.

Star Wars is huge in Japan at the moment, including a massive exhibition in Roppongi.

Oh, and of course there’s a certain small movie getting released this December. We can’t wait to see what tie-ins that brings!



100,000 Slimes Battle in Shinjuku: Gamers pop bubble wrap in Shinjuku Station to celebrate Dragon Quest Heroes launch

Written by: William on February 24, 2015 at 12:16 pm | In COOL PRODUCTS | 6 Comments

Head to Shinjuku Station to try popping 100,000 Slime bubbles.

No, it’s not what it sounds. Slime is the mascot character in the PlayStation game Dragon Quest and this is a promotional stunt by Sony and Square Enix to advertise the release of Dragon Quest Heroes on February 26th.

slime bubble wrap shinjuku poster wall station battle dragon quest heroes promotional campaign

For one week only, Shinjuku train commuters can have fun popping Slime-decorated air bubbles along the wall of a promenade in the subway station. Gamers will notice the music playing in the station passageway is also taken from the first nine Dragon Quest games. “Defeat” all the bubbles and there will be online wallpaper giveaways.

The “100,000 Slimes Battle in Shinjuku” bubble wrap poster covers a long wall in the Marunouchi Line Tokyo Metro section of Tokyo’s busiest station. To get there, head to Exit A9 at Shinjuku Station’s East Exit, near the Alta underground entrance.

slime bubble wrap shinjuku poster wall station battle dragon quest heroes promotional campaign

Check out the official website to see how many Slimes have been popped so far. Imagine having the fun job of having to do the counting!

The installation will be there from February 23rd until March 1st, from 10:00-21:00. Will all the Slimes be “defeated”? Given the popularity of the game in Japan, we suspect yes.

slime bubble wrap shinjuku poster wall station battle dragon quest heroes promotional campaign

Plus, Sony have been clever here since this promo appeals to everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a Dragon Quest fan. Who doesn’t love popping bubble wrap?! In fact, in Japan this is so addictive they even once made an “infinite bubble wrap” toy!

The space on the long concourse between the main East and West Exits of Shinjuku Station is also frequently the location for large wall advertising stunts, including free manga samples. Another similar passageway in Omotesando Station was used to give out free cosmetic samples.

However, these stunts haven’t been without controversy. A big poster of Arashi boy band attracted such crowds of fanatical fans that it prevented ordinary passengers from using the Shinjuku concourse.

Will Slime’s bubble wrap generate the same level of frenzy?


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“Diggin’ in the Carts”: Red Bull Music Academy’s documentary series about Japanese video game music

Written by: William on September 18, 2014 at 9:33 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Red Bull Music Academy has produced a great series of documentaries about the little-known world of Japanese video game music.

The series is called “Diggin’ in the Carts” and so far parts 1 and 2 have been released. Each episode is around 15 minutes long and have English subtitles.

Hiroshi Kawaguchi Takenobu Mitsuyoshi red bull academy video game music japan diggin in the carts documentary series

Composers featured in the series include Hirokazu Tanaka, Hitoshi Sakimoto, Shinji Hosoe, Hiroshi Kawaguchi and Takenobu Mitsuyoshi (both above), Masahi Kageyama (below), and many more.

The series highlights how important video games and their soundtracks were for the generation growing up in recent years, and “yet for most of us the composers behind these timeless melodies remain faceless”. The central thrust of the series is to put a face to these undervalued composers and argue that video game music has been probably Japan’s largest musical export to the rest of the world.

masashi kageyama red bull academy video game music japan diggin in the carts documentary series

Here is Episode 1: “The Rise of VGM”.

In this episode we look at the birth and rise of music in video games. From the earliest sounds and melodies to the first fully formed continuous music to be pioneered in the arcade games from Namco. We meet Junko Ozawa, one of Namco’s earliest sound team composers, and also the legendary Hirokazu ‘Hip’ Tanaka, who joined Nintendo in 1980 and was responsible for composing some of the giant’s most loved classics like Metroid and Tetris.

The series is directed by Nick Dwyer and Tu Neill.

For some reason they have elected not to put the other full episodes on YouTube (yet?) but they exist as heavy videos on their own site that don’t really embed well.

The first episode was released in early September. Episode 2 is called “The Outer Reaches of 8 Bit” and is out now. The final three episodes are scheduled to go online over the next few weeks.

Watch the rest of the series when they are released and see other bonus content over on the Red Bull Music Academy website.

On a side note, one of the most famous composers of Japanese video game music, Mamoru Samuragochi, was exposed as a fraud earlier this year.


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Category: CULTURE

Sony cancels Summer Lesson Project Morpheus HMD demo at Tokyo Game Show

Written by: William on September 12, 2014 at 8:17 pm | In NEW TECH | No Comments

It was supposed to be Sony’s big advert for the Project Morpheus HMD system at the Tokyo Game Show (public days on September 20th-21st).

Instead, Sony Computer Entertainment just canceled the “Summer Lesson” demo.

sony summer lesson project morpheus demo hmd tokyo game show 2014 cancel creepy

Officially Sony says it has made the decision because it received so many inquiries about it after they announced the virtual reality demo on September 1st that it fearer it would not be able to cope with the anticipated demo from the media and the general public at TGS.

Our guess is that the backlash was so strong they wanted to have a re-think.

As soon as it was announced there was a strong intake of breath. Sony had chosen to go with a demo made by the team behind Tekken that showcased the virtual reality headset’s technology in a way that could be described at best as, well, creepy.

sony summer lesson project morpheus demo hdm tokyo game show 2014 cancel creepy

There were many at home and abroad quick to apply other adjectives. The “Summer Lesson” demo features a loosely dressed schoolgirl at home that the player can, to be blunt, ogle up close.

It certainly lives up to the stereotype of Japanese male gamers being perverts and is bound to be a big hit with a specific demographic. But the TGS is the most important event in the industry and this was Sony’s chance to fight back after being in the economic doldrums (billion dollar losses for fiscal 2013).

Rather than going mainstream, it went with a divisive and (to many people) sexist demo.

Officially Sony is saying that it is considering a new date and venue to showcase its demo, though we have our suspicions that “Summer Lesson” may not see the full light of day in its current state.


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Category: NEW TECH

Nintendo plans NFC Mario NFP toy figurines for saving, reading video game data

Written by: William on May 14, 2014 at 9:02 am | In COOL PRODUCTS, NEW TECH | No Comments

Mario to the rescue? The mustachioed plumber is going to become a toy figure — no surprises there — except that this is going to have NFC technology.

Kyoto-based Nintendo are calling this “Nintendo Figurine Platform” or “NFC Featured Platform”, or NFP for short, and it will debut at E3 in LA in June in an attempt to build up interest in Nintendo’s consoles in the wake of the Wii U disappointment and three years in the red.

nintendo nfp mario figurine toy nfc wii u

A series of toy figurines will harness the Wii U GamePad’s near-field communication (NFC) features. Like the Skylander game series, the NFP toys can read and write game data across different titles.

It seems like a step backwards in some ways for the troubled game company. Normally you move on from the small toys you play with as a kid for the more visceral excitement of a video game. But Nintendo has tried this before with Pokémon Rumble U and toys with NFC for the Wii. Mario is also an impossibly popular character and maybe even older “kids” will like to have a toy of him around, especially if he is performing some connectivity function.

nintendo nfp mario figurine toy nfc wii u

Mario won’t be alone. Nintendo is planning a range of NFP character toys from the end of the year. You can “customize” your own NFP but storing your game data in it, watching it “grow and develop”. Could this catch on? We’re not sure.

NFP will be usable for multiple Nintendo games and the company is also going to install a NFC reader-writer on the 3DS, so you can use the NFC toys not only with your Wii U (assuming you have one).


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Other categories: CULTURE, GO SEE, LIFESTYLE

Movie adaptation of “The Idolmaster” premieres January 25th

Written by: William on January 15, 2014 at 8:47 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

Movie adaptations of video games rarely work.

For every Silent Hill and Resident Evil there’s a Final Fantasy, Super Mario Bros. or Prince of Persia.

But things go better when Hollywood isn’t meddling with the Japanese source material.

And so it is we wait with bated breath for the upcoming film version of The Idolmaster, the mega successful Namco Bandai Xbox game that sees players become Yasushi Akimoto-type idol producers. If you’ve ever wanted to be in charge of your own idol group, this is the game for you.

he Idolmaster Movie: Kagayaki no Mukogawa e! The Idolmaster Movie: To the Other Side of the Light

The Idolmaster Movie: Kagayaki no Mukogawa e! (The Idolmaster Movie: To the Other Side of the Light) is a brave choice. Although the franchise is immensely successful as a game and anime series, how do you turn such a subject matter into a feature-length film?

And without the interaction element of the game and the digestible length of the TV anime, will it be as interesting for the general public, enough to justify the larger budget?

There is always the problem of the fine line between satisfying the hardcore fans and also bringing in new audiences.

he Idolmaster Movie: Kagayaki no Mukogawa e! The Idolmaster Movie: To the Other Side of the Light

Here’s the trailer.

We will find out on January 25th when it premieres in Shinjuku.


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Category: CULTURE

Japanese seniors get into video arcades gaming

Written by: William on January 9, 2013 at 8:59 pm | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

How do you get new people into video arcades? That’s the dilemma facing Japan’s famed “game centers”.

The amusement centers are slowly but surely dying. Sales have been dropping annually for five years, with 2011’s figures 1.7% lower than 2010. A steady decline as people turn to other forms of entertainment like apps and mobile games.

But anyone who’s ever been in an Akihabara game center — or one everywhere in Japan — will known what a loud but vibrant place they are.

As the population here gets older, can Sega et al get seniors into the game centers to spend their national pensions on futile trials with the addictive claw crane? It might just be the solution to saving the industry.

japan game center video arcade senior older generation

Sega’s Galileo Factory 3: Planet Zero is a “medal” (coin) game that is relatively easy to play and get into — and has proved enough of a hit for the maker to continue the series to its current third incarnation (analog games are more popular with the age bracket, it seems).

Taito also introduced a game where you throw a large but light ball at a big screen to smash “castles” and “robots”. Capcom, says the Tokyo Shimbun, is targeting even younger consumers (55 and up!) with money and time on the hands, and is even considering offering tours where you can go around the game center and try out arcade machines for free.

This has been going on for a while, with the Asahi Shimbun reporting in 2011 that one game center in northeast Tokyo had started to see an increase in senior players two years before and they had since grown to be some eighty or ninety percent of the center’s daytime patrons. And already back then a savvy Namco was offering special deals for seniors on Thursdays at all its 200 game center branches where players could get double points.

japan video arcade game center

CNN also did this nice report on the trend in early 2012, noting that membership stamp cards were switching back to paper versions rather than electronic ones that you might use via your phone.

The Kataokas, both 70, certainly feel the arcade is friendly for their age group. They come every other day. Teruo Kataoka plays about six hours. “It’s fun here,” he said, rarely taking his eyes off the video game. “It keeps my brain vibrant.”

His wife, Tsuneko, splits her time shopping in the mall and playing video games. “We’re bored. We have nothing to do. I don’t have anything to say to my husband anymore. It’s much better to come here than just sit in the house watching TV all day. We need some excitement, too,” she said. The Kataokas, like many of the gamer-retirees, prefer the more analog games at the arcade, which mirror more of the video slot machines in Las Vegas.

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Sony Building lights up Ginza with Toro Inoue, awesome Crystal Aqua Trees illumination

Written by: William on December 18, 2012 at 11:24 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

The Sony Building in Ginza recent saw big lines to get your photo taken with a certain person. A celebrity? A hunky guy?

No, it was Toro Inoue (aka the Sony Cat) from Doko Demo Issho, the Playstation game that went on sale first in 1999.

sony building ginza toro inoue ai no izumi charity

Despite dating from the veritable Dark Ages the annual the Ai no izumi (Fountain of Love) events are still popular, a charity program that Sony has been running since 1968.

Toro fans were braving the winter chill to line up and get their snap with the character. Foreigners, of which Ginza usually boasts a fair few, were also keen to jump in front of the cameras for a pose with Toro.

sony building ginza toro inoue ai no izumi charity

The Ai no izumi program this year also features as its main highlight some aquatic themed illuminations, Crystal Aqua Trees. They looks amazing!

On the Ai no Izumi website Sony is also donating 1 yen per click (the blue button at the bottom) to charity.

In spite of Christmas, Sony doesn’t have much to be cheerful about recently, having seen four years of losses (though they hope to eke out a tiny profit for 2012) and laying off thousands of workers (a very rare thing in Japan), so they should be commended for continuing their annual charity events.

The illuminations and related events continue until January 14th.

[Images via YouPouch]

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Category: CULTURE

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