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Farewell, Vita? Production of Physical Games To End in the West, Trouble Afoot in Japan

May 16, 2018 2:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

As Kotaku learned earlier today, Sony has decided to end production of physical games in Europe and North America for their portable console, the PlayStation Vita. But that decision is merely the reflection of numerous flaws in the console that have plagued its success from launch, which is now also coming to affect its performance in the traditionally supportive market of Japan.

Firstly, on launch there was a significant amount of confusion regarding the network capabilities of the device, as two models were available to buy, but with only one able to support a 4G SIM card. Many were also not aware that this SIM card was sold separately, and were unsatisfied, to say the least, when they learned that along with the device’s hefty initial price point of $300, they would have to pay for a 4G data plan. Considering that now, you can get a PlayStation 4 for around the same amount, it certainly put people off.

What further confounded the problem was the proprietary memory cards. Sony actually decided to manufacture them exclusively in-house, instead of allowing third-party companies to make them. In theory, this would allow them to make memory cards that worked better and faster with the firmware, but in reality, allowed Sony to operate a monopoly on the market as they were able to inflate the prices and exploit the fact that players had no choice but to buy the Sony-made memory cards. Even now, a 32GB Vita memory card will cost you around $60 (down from an initial price of $99), and you can easily get a regular 200GB micro SD card for the same price.

These problems, along with many more, meant that the Vita had a rocky start in the West following its launch in 2012, to say the least. It far undersold initial projections, and beyond a couple of first-party developers such as Naughty Dog, failed to get developers on board with the platform. Within a year, it was nearly devoid of exclusives, but it wouldn’t be until 2015 when Sony finally decided to bite the bullet and cease first-party development for the platform altogether.

Even with this dire situation in the West, the Vita actually continued to sell well in Japan, in fact being one of the only markets in which the device was turning a profit for some time. It’s predecessor, the PSP, also sold well in Japan, so it’s no surprise that Japanese consumers were equally eager to support the new device in Sony’s portable line-up.

Yet, the very same things that drew Japanese consumers to the console itself, mainly being great third-party support from Japanese developers and the market’s general preference for gaming on the go, have now come to adversely affect the device’s performance. With the rapid advance in smartphone technology, the PS Vita’s hardware specifications increasingly look and perform like a dinosaur in comparison to the mobile games of today. Furthermore, the accessibility of mobile games means that Japanese developers are far more likely to turn a better profit than if they developed for the Vita.

Confounding the problem even further was the launch of Nintendo’s hybrid console the Switch, which has a lot of the same points that attracted Japanese users to the Vita in the first place; portability and great games. It’s excellent technology that allows it to perform well despite its small form factor, and more and more developers are looking to develop for the Switch, many of whom previously developed for the Vita. Most notably in this list is Marvelous, developers of the Senran Kagura franchise. This, among other reasons, means that sales for the Vita have been consistently dropping while Switch sales have been consistently on the rise - one week in April saw the Switch selling nearly 50,000 units and the Vita merely 5000.

So while Sony seems to have completely given up on the Western market, it doesn’t exactly seem like they have much to expect in the Japanese market either - one can only expect the further downturn of Vita sales in Japan as the year goes on, and although it’s doing too well to expect them to announce stopping production of physical Vita game cartridges in Japan any time soon, it may come sooner than you think. 

That being said, the Vita is now entering into six years since it’s launch, so it’s no surprise that a newer, more advanced console in the Nintendo Switch has quickly overtaken it. Yet the catastrophic failure of the Vita in the West probably doesn’t give Sony much hope for their future portable consoles - meaning that the Vita could very well be their last. 

If you want to want to buy any physical games for the Vita, then you have until February 15 next year to order them, as Sony will stop stocking them after that. The online store will remain open, however. Although I’ve fallen out of using my Vita in recent years due to the excellence of Japanese mobile games, I definitely enjoyed my time with the flawed console. Here’s to you, PlayStation Vita.

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maisou Releases Chillout New 'Fuyukan' EP

July 16, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Tokyo-based musician maisou has been making some serious waves this year, kickstarting her musical career with her self-titled heater at the end of last year, then working together with France-born Moe Shop to create "lovesick". Now we're finally getting another taste of her sound, working together once more with T5UMUT5UMU to craft her debut five-track EP, "Fuyukan". Released via Japanese netlabel OMOIDE LABEL, you can check out "Fuyukan" below:
 


From start to finish the EP embodies the exact chillout vibes necessary for these excessively hot summer days. There's no doubt that the EP is a departure from maisou's usual hard-hitting flow, but it's exciting to see a more slowed-down side of her music as well. There's an extremely raw energy to the EP, an honesty to it that feels lacking elsewhere, maisou isn't just saying words without depth. Spread out across five tracks, maisou's latest "Fuyukan" is every bit worth the listen.

Available now via OMOIDE LABEL's official Bandcamp, you can get maisou's "Fuyukan" EP as a free download, here.

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2ToneDisco and Happy Kuru Kuru Release 'Napoleon' Music Video

July 16, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Los Angeles-based trackmakers 2ToneDisco recently saw their entry into the idol world via their synth-heavy collaborative single with Tokyo's own Happy Kuru Kuru, "Napoleon," just a short while ago. The single was a departure from the group's typical high-speed sounds, yet it was still one that offered their usual sugar sweet lyrics. Over the weekend we saw the release of the official music video for the single, crossing between both Tokyo and Los Angeles with stitched footage of both groups.
 


We wrote up about "Napoleon" in the past when it first released, and not much in regards to my thoughts have changed. It's still a gorgeous utilization of Happy Kuru Kuru's vocal dynamics layered over 2ToneDisco's signature sounds, that much is certain. It's certainly cool seeing both Tokyo and Los Angeles interwoven in the music videos footage, looking through both the similarities and contrasts in the eyes of both 2ToneDisco and Happy Kuru Kuru.

Released via Los Angeles-based netlabel Attack the Music, "Napoleon" is available for free download and streaming via all major platforms, here.

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American Comics Legend Jim Lee Shows Love for My Hero Academia's All Might

July 16, 2018 8:00am
by Eddie Lehecka

American comic book legend, Jim Lee, has shown off his otaku pride with a recent sketch he shared on social media.

Lee is best known for his work in the 90's as the penciler behind Marvel Comics' X-Men #1 (still the highest selling issue of a comic ever printed), as well as a co-founder of the industry shaking Image Comics. Now he is the COO of DC Comics and keeps a very active streak on twitch doing live drawings as well as sharing new artwork regularly on Instagram and Twitter. If you're familiar with his work at all it should not be much of a surprise that he's a fan of anime & video games, showing off sketches of characters like Dragonball Z's Son Goku, and Overwatch's D-Va in the past.

Today he took to Instagram and Twitter to show off a sketch he drew of My Hero Academia's All Might, a character who in his muscle form seems ripped directly from an American comic book made in the 1990's. While this clash of a Japanese character with one of America's most prolific comic artists seems like a no-brainer when you consider the facts, we can't ignore how absolutely perfect this pairing is.

Those who know me well know that I am a massive American comic book fan in addition to Japanese manga, and Jim Lee is definitely someone who has had a lot of significance in my appreciation of the artform. The overlap between anime/manga personalities and American comic creators is something I'm an avid purveyor of, often making sure friends in my circles know about American comics & variants that are featuring art by Japanese illustrators (I might just have to do some kind of piece about that down the line), so I couldn't help but jump at the chance to get the word out about this as well.

I would love to see what series creator Kohei Horikoshi thinks about the work, maybe we'll have our answer later this week since the two comic giants will be appearing at San Diego Comic Con! In the meantime you can follow Jim Lee on Twitter, Instagram, and twitch.

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Aqours Welcomed with Dazzling Rainbow at Anime Expo

July 13, 2018 1:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

For a long time, it seemed like having a virtual idol concert outside of Japan was merely a pipe dream - after all, there was a whole world between it and the fans. But Anime Expo has proven consistently that lives can be a success overseas, and the welcome that the members of Aqours from the Love Live! franchise received at this year’s AX showcases the dazzling potential that these lives could have.

The members of Aqours were welcomed by a huge crowd of enthusiastic overseas fans this weekend at the Microsoft Theatre. Much like their Japanese counterparts, they came armed with penlights and happis, showing their dedication and love for the franchise. But they didn’t just come with enthusiasm. They came with a plan - to wow the performers with a rainbow of penlights. In precise timing with the song, fans would change the color of their penlights and raise them to create a rainbow that stretched all the way to the very back of the venue. It was truly a sight to be sold, and the performers were moved to tears.
 


Such a sight didn’t come from nothing, however, it was thanks to months of hard work and dedication by the team over at the Aqourainbow Project. Leading up to AX they tirelessly worked to raise awareness about the plan, producing a very detailed video about how the rainbow would work in the Microsoft Theatre and even handing out flyers to raise awareness about the plan outside the venue on the day of the live itself. Seeing their hard work pay off must’ve been a great feeling, and they deserve to be applauded.
 

Further projects surrounding penlight performance at the live included the Yousoroad and Kananrail Project, which while unfortunately didn’t gain as much traction as the Aqourainbow Project and therefore didn’t happen, showcased a similar level of dedication and love for the franchise.
 

And that’s what this live should be telling those who organize them - they can and do work overseas. Overseas fans are just as passionate, just as engaged, and just as willing a customer as a Japanese fan. In fact, the number of obstacles overseas fans have to climb over are more numerous, making them often even more engaged with the franchise - not only the language barrier but also sheer distance, with many Love Live! fans traveling across the country to be in with a chance to see Aquors. Multiple city dates in the US wouldn’t be unprofitable, nor would the welcome be lukewarm. It would be as warm as they get back home.

Even Japanese fans were impressed by the enthusiasm and passion of overseas fans, with some exclaiming “They really did a rainbow” and others commenting “The organization of overseas fans is really amazing!”. Furthermore, it seems like the idea for the rainbow is spreading to Japan, with attendees of the Fukuoka live taking place this weekend attempting to organise a repeat of the AX spectacle. It’s worth noting that a fair number of the Fukuoka attendees are actually overseas fans, many of whom choose to enter the ticket lottery for the Fukuoka live because there is a higher chance of winning, but pulling off the rainbow in Fukuoka will definitely inspire Japanese fans to do the same as well.

Fans are cooperating and showing their passion in other ways as well. UK-based group Aqours Tea Party are currently lobbying to get a delayed live viewing organised in the UK, the success of which could spell a new dawn for lives in the west. But as it stands, overseas fans have clearly demonstrated their passion and willingness to support lives overseas. What remains to be seen is if that passion will be rewarded. Aqours Tea Party is currently running a general interest survey in a delayed live viewing. You don’t have to be a UK resident to fill it out, so please show your support if that’s something you’d like to see become a reality.

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TiMEMAXERAS Release Debut EP 'SUGAR C and THA FRESH!'

July 13, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

There's been an undeniable resurgence in appreciation towards 80s Japanese pop music over the past few years, with many international fans looking back to the past for what they would consider a fresh new sound. It's not without good reason either, that timeframe birthed an entire generation of sounds that to this day hold their own as timeless classics. This is where Tokyo-based musical duo TiMEMAXERAS comes into play -- bringing a modern twist to the sounds of the past through their debut EP "SUGAR C and THA FRESH! " released via Attack the Music.
 


Delivering an authentic 80s Japanese sound direct to your feed, TiMEMAXERAS is fronted by both sound designer SUGAR C and image designer moji8fresh. Their debut EP, "SUGAR C and THA FRESH!", is filled to the brim with masterpiece after masterpiece, with a remix by French trackmaker Moe Shop tying the whole package together. Released today via Japan-focused netlabel Attack the Music, TiMEMAXERAS is coming in hot, and we're sure they won't be slowing down any time soon.

TiMEMAXERAS - SUGAR C and THE FRESH!

Tracklist: 

  1. MAKE IT LAST FOREVER
  2. Runaway
  3. TONiGHT
  4. Tokyo Night Flyght
  5. TiME MACHINE
  6. Tokyo Night Flyght (Moe Shop Remix)
Available now for free download via Attack the Music, further information on TiMEMAXERAS can be found via their official website.

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Neko Hacker Release New EP 'SUMMER', New Music Video

July 12, 2018 3:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

For a group that was quite literally formed this year, self-described "Kawaii Future Rock" band Neko Hacker most definitely have a lot going for them. This week marked the release of the duo's second EP, the fittingly-titled "SUMMER!", as well as the release of an all-new music video for the track "Night Sky (feat. Mashilo & ichika)". It's not too often that an artist can burst onto the scene and leave me clinging on the edge of my seat for their next release, so I'm definitely excited to see how much I can listen to this new EP too.
 


There really is one question on my mind, and that's how long is it going to take before Neko Hacker are picked up to start working on anime OP/EDs? There's an undisputed energy to everything they've released to date that makes for the perfect match, and I can only hope that one day it gets applied fittingly. As a little bonus, you might note featured artist Mashilo as a particularly familiar face, especially if you're familiar with the always incredible CY8ER idol group that she is a member of. 

Available now for streaming via both Apple Music and Spotify, you can find further information via their official website.

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The Original 151 Pokémon are Getting New Plush Toys

July 12, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

With the upcoming Pokémon Let's Go! games set to bring trainers back to the Kanto region -- the setting of the original Pokémon titles -- there's certainly a lot of reasons to be excited as we inch closer to the game's release. Even if the idea of the new game isn't quite hitting that same sense of nostalgia brought forward when thinking about trying to catch them all during your childhood years, maybe this will tickle your desire to collect them all. The Pokémon Company have this week announced their upcoming "Pokémon Fit" line of plush toys, offering all 151 original Pokémon in an adorable new form.


Launching across Japan at numerous Pokémon Center locations, fans will be able to pick up the initial lineup of 30 Pokémon from July 13 and then the remaining 121 Pokémon from November 2018. Priced at roughly $10 a piece, the plush toys are described by The Pokémon Company as palm-sized toys. At that price, it would cost buyers over $1,500 USD to catch them all, if you're able to get your hands on them fast enough. The first run of 30 Pokémon contains a mostly oddball collection of various creatures, while of course containing both Pikachu and Eevee.

Available from today at Pokémon Center locations across Japan, you can find further information on the Pokémon Fit toy plush collection via its official website.

Source: IGN

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