Something About Japan: a new kind of MOBA, and what critics think of Hotline Miami and To The Moon
As far as competitive gaming goes, in Japan the fighting game has long reigned supreme. This week, though, instead of looking at the gargantuan list of tweaks Capcom has planned for Street Fighter X Tekken, we’ll be looking at one studio’s attempt to adapt the MOBA for a Japanese audience. We’ll also be taking a look at Japan’s take on some of the most notable western-developed PC indie games, both new and a little bit old.
FLAG (four-letter acronyms galore)
The Aeon Of Strife and Defense Of The Ancients mods for StarCraft and Warcraft 3 must be proud parents, given the headlines League of Legends and Dota 2 generate these days; both seem to be rapidly gaining ground on StarCraft 2 as the most lucrative eSport in the world. Japan’s competitive gaming heritage is, of course, rooted firmly in the arcades, and perhaps that’s why StarCraft has failed to gain a foothold in the country like it has in the west – or even in Japan’s neighbours, South Korea and China. With neither League Of Legends nor Dota 2 yet to be localised for Japan, it has fallen to the Koreans to try and tap this virtually untouched market by adapting the MOBA to Japanese tastes.
Enter LOCO, another four-letter acronym, which stands for Land Of Chaos Online. Developed by Danal Entertainment, it will be the first MOBA to be officially released in Japan. “The alpha test used the English version of the game,” reports 4Gamer, after checking out the game at an early showing. “It was a small-scale event consisting of around 20 people, at the 7th i-Cafe PG Game Party in Akihabara, which lasted through the night. The event was timed to coincide with the League Of Legends tournament also being held. Opinions were collected from players of both games in order to make balance adjustments.”
Despite the language barrier, there is a niche scene of MOBA players in Japan already, which Danal is wise to have consulted. But how have they altered the standards of the genre to appeal to a wider Japanese audience? “The first noticeable difference breaks from MOBA games’ RTS heritage, most of which use an isometric view of the field,” 4Gamer notes, “LOCO, however, positions the camera behind the player’s chosen hero, like a standard thirdperson game. The left mouse button launches a standard ranged or melee attack, and the space bar is used to jump, lending LOCO more of a typical action game feel.”
This seems a wise move in a country where Monster Hunter still has a claw to the industry’s throat, and spicing up the combat to make it familiar to Japanese players, but also distinguish it from rival MOBAs, seems to be something Danal Entertainment is keen on. “When a hero runs out of magic points (MP), a special skill becomes available,” says 4Gamer. “But rather than your standard healing or damage dealing, the skills are rather unique. Designed to take advantage of the action-game camera, one such skill allows you to disguise yourself as an enemy for a limited time.” The viewing angle puts the player in the thick of the action, adding immediacy to the thrill of deception, while the special move’s availability only after spending all MP suggests the mechanic is geared towards lending a hand to beginners, a comeback mechanic in the mould of Street Fighter IV’s Ultra Combo.
These tweaks are all well and good, of course, and give LOCO a good chance of beating LOL, Dota and so on to the punch and becoming Japan’s first big MOBA. Yet camera and control changes only go so far, and 4Gamer is in no doubt about what consitutes LOCO’s main USP. “Adding Japanese is fundamental. While playing MOBA games is fun, for some, doing so in English can be somewhat tricky. Those people are sure to be glad that LOCO is on its way.”