This Week in Japan

This Week in Japan

What’s the big news in Japan this week? Next-Gen reports from Tokyo including Nintendo’s latest DS gambit (pictured), Resident Evil 4’s Wii release, Square Enix’s FFIV plans and Most Useless Product of the Week…

NINTENDO DS EYE POWER TRAINING

The current number-one selling game on Amazon.co.jp is Nintendo’s Eye Power Training for DS. It was released on May 31, for 3,400 yen. The game aims to slow the aging process of your eyes by drilling you with simple exercises like speed-reading or object tracking (shell games, etc).

The most interesting thing about this game is that it’s not nearly the first of its kind. In fact, there have been two other eye-training games for the Nintendo DS, all released in the last four months. However, this one is the only one made by Nintendo. The previous two games experienced rather harsh consumer criticism for being cheap, gimmicky overall packages. Either Nintendo realized there was a market for such a game, or the two copycats had learned Nintendo was making such a game, and decided to jump the gun.

Any way you slice it, the whole training game situation is getting kind of ridiculous. Nintendo’s original Brain Training is a very good thing — as are all of the other training games made by Nintendo. The copycats are the problem — with shoddy sound effects, presentation, and thin content, they’re doing more harm than good. It’s kind of embarrassing — almost all of them feature titles that are barely distinguishable from Nintendo’s game’s titles ("Professor So-and-So of the So-and-So Research Laboratory at Such-and-Such University Present…"), dead-ringer package designs (NIntendo’s English Training game has a green package, so most other English training games have a green package), right down to inclusion of the faces of men who look like they’re university professors. Many shops have even started putting stickers over the names of the makers of the copycat training games, probably so people will buy the copycat games by accident — otherwise, how will they sell them?

At any rate, Nintendo’s eye training is a cute idea. I don’t doubt that it might work. I remember reading something in Nintendo Power years ago about a legally blind kid whose doctor prescribed him videogames — tracking moving objects with his eyes would apparently help him develop the deficient muscles. I can’t remember if the kid became an ace fighter pilot or not, though it’s still kind of a halfway touching story.

Bonus fact: companies have been making odd "Speed-reading-training" games since the early era of the PlayStation 2. At least on the DS, everyone is guaranteed to be using a bright LCD screen.

TWO (and a half) NEW DS LITE COLORS ANNOUNCED

Two new colors for the Nintendo DS Lite — Glossy Silver and Metallic Rose — will make their debuts in Japan on June 23rd. They will sell for the standard price of 16,800 yen.

The Glossy Silver one actually looks pretty damn classy. Remember back when the PSP and the DS were both newly-released, and the DS looked like a children’s toy, and the PSP was being called "sexy" by just about every publication? The DS Lite has really turned that situation on its ear; you could expect a man wearing a D&G bathrobe and sunglasses and smoking a cigar to be tapping out Brain Training responses on this Glossy Silver DS Lite atop satin sheets as he waits for a room-service martini at a five-star hotel.

The next would-be huge game to release for the system will be Square-Enix’s "Subarashiki kono sekai" (a Square-Enix representative at the Square-Enix Party event a few weeks back specifically told us not to officially refer to the game as "It’s a Wonderful World", as that name is already copyrighted and will not be used in America), something of a brawler with RPG and rhythm elements. And hey, what do you know — it’s getting its own special edition DS Lite, as well. It’ll be a Glossy Silver DS Lite, with the game’s logo on it.

While we’re on the subject of the DS Lite: it’s now actually possible to buy them in Tokyo. As of late April, it’s been easier than ever to casually walk into a shop and find them stocked with every color of the console (though sometimes the original white color is sold out). The insane, panicking shortages of DS Lites lasted for just over a year before Nintendo’s promise to ramp up manufacturing finally took effect. Either that, or people are finally getting tired of the system.

Okay, so they’re not. Not yet.

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