RPG Grind Time – A Video Game Fan In Japan

Today’s column is special, as I’m writing it while in Tokyo to cover Tokyo Game Show. I’ve been blessed these last few years to go to Japan for various Game Informer-related things, and it’s always such an amazing experience. You need to put it on your list of things to do in your life. Part of what I love about Japan is just its enthusiasm and pride for what’s created in its country. This, of course, includes video games. While things have definitely changed over the years, it’s still the one place I can go where I feel my favorite series (Persona, Final Fantasy, Tales) are constantly on display. Over the years, I’ve tried to share as much as I can about these moments, from theme restaurants to stores dedicated to these beloved franchises. Because I find this so special and fun, I figured I’d do that once again in this column.

This year’s trip has been fun because of all the games that have come out represent Japan in some way, such as Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth and Tokyo Mirage Sessions. Visiting places like Nakano Broadway and Akihabara, which are represented in these games, is a blast. Not just because I’ve been to them in video game form, but also because they cater to video games wonderfully. And just like in these games, convenience stores are everywhere you look, maid cafes are well-represented, ramen shops are plentiful, and you can hear booming J-pop beats as you shop and walk around streets. People really do love their anime and video games, and figure and collectible shopping is a favorite activity. There’s excitement around every corner – a public declaration that these things matter and are important. 

I always visit Nakano Broadway (pictured above) when I come to Japan. It’s a fun place filled with various shops, but it also has tons of little stores dedicated to figures and other memorabilia from Japan. As you can see in the below picture, TOYS! TOYS! TOYS!. Mandarake is known as a figure and otaku shop and it has multiple chains all over, from Nakano to Akihabara. 

Another big part of the experience is arcades. While arcades aren’t that alive in North America, in Japan people love to go blow off steam in them after work or school. I always get sucked in by the crane machines; I have loved them ever since I was a child. I love to strategize on how to get the adorable plushie in front of me. In Japan, they have really cool prizes (much better than anything I’ve seen in the U.S.), but they’re much harder to get. I wouldn’t go as far to say rigged, but…Anyway, here’s a picture of some cool Dragon Quest headphones you can win. Gotta represent my DQ love!

I soon was distracted by this Kirby crane game. Kirby’s Adventure for NES is one of my favorite games, and I loved trying to pick up the giant Kirby from the crane game in it for extra lives. Seeing this machine instantly brought me back to my childhood. I knew what I had to do. This was my proving ground. 

I want to preface this by saying for years I have wasted money in these Japanese crane machines. I’m pretty good at them in the U.S., but these are on a whole other level. I never win, but the Kirby machine lured me in, and on my first try I picked up Waddle Dee. The crane picked it up as it always does, moved a little bit and dropped it as it always does, but this time it tumbled into the winner’s slot. I WON. I’m sharing this feat with you because besting one of these machines has been years in the making for me. Isn’t he adorable? I will cherish him forever. Mainly because he’s my trophy for overcoming the crane game.

I wanted to share a photo of this cute cafe in Nakano Broadway, because if you played Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, you’ll remember coming to it quite a bit for side quests and to buy items. Yes, it’s real! Also, if you haven’t played Cyber Sleuth, get on it. It’s not perfect, but I had a lot of fun with it.

Of course, I also know what really matters: the purchases. I never leave these places empty handed. So without further ado, I bought an import game that’s going to make Falcom fans jealous. Maybe I’ll save this for some impressions for a later column.

I also left Nakano Broadway with some new friends. Ace Attorney fan for life! Sadly, I couldn’t get Edgeworth to smile…

Click on page two to see Akihabara and Persona 5 love…

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