Geek, gamer, writer, graphic artist. KL Yong's favorite shows and adventures are those that allow him to enjoy the world from his bedroom.
1) "Toukiden: Kiwami"
Toukiden Kiwami is practically a showcase of Japan for PlayStation 4 gamers. Divided into zones (ages) corresponding to different periods of Japanese history, most zones incorporate one or more famous Japanese landmarks into their background design. Venturing through the zones is thus akin to a time travel journey across two thousand years of Japanese history.
To give some examples, in the Age of Grace, which is based on the Nara period, advance boss battles take place within the ruins of Todaiji. In the Age of Chaos, which represents the Meiji Restoration, Goryōkaku floats in the background.
In the Age of Honor, which symbolizes the Kamakura Shogunate, a collapsed version of the world-famous, Kinkakuji looms ominously among overgrown trees.
What’s more, Toukiden: Kiwami also contains an expansive compendium of famous Japanese historical figures, in the form of cards which you collect as power-ups. Each of these cards is accompanied by an Anime illustration and a concise write-up, and in my opinion, memorizing the stories of just a quarter of these will equip you with enough knowledge to speak like a Japanese history expert.
Needless to say, this knowledge also affords you a good feel of the ancient Asian civilization that is Japan. Believe me, this sensation is almost akin to physically visiting Japan.
2) "Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin!"
A lot of PlayStation 4 games incorporate Japanese elements into stage designs. Shoji screen, bamboo forests, rustic Zen gardens, the likes of. Few games, however, allow you to wander within a purely Japanese setting in an open-world way. Even fewer are translated into English for the international market.
Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin! has no English release too. But with handy guides like this, it’s really not difficult at all to get through the game. You might not even want to bother with the main quest, though, with Ishin’s rendition of Kyoto so irresistibly immersive.
The sounds, the chatter, all the exotic goods in the stores … Like me, all you want to do might be no more than just stroll, soaking in the ambiance at every corner and enjoying the many mini-games.
I’m certainly going all fanboy here. But in my opinion, no other PS4 game set in Japan delivers a more enthralling medieval Japanese experience than this fabulous Sega title.
3) "Ryu ga Gotoku 6: Inochi no Uta"
Nope, I’m not cheating here. I know it feels wrong to list two games from the same franchise. However, Ishin and Inochi no Uta are so different in feel and ambiance, they really shouldn’t be considered in the same light. To begin with, there’s a time difference of 150 years between the two episodes.
And while Ishin is all about the charms and chaos of 19th century Japan, Inochi no Uta showcases the modern face of Japan. It’s more or less a touristy look, with side-stories and Japanese pastimes like baseball, pub chatting, and karaoke. But hey, aren’t these integral aspects of the modern Japanese experience? The very things tourists go to Japan to enjoy?
On top of which, this final episode of the Ryu Ga Gotoku series also showcases the idyllic seaside town of Onomichi, temples and cable cars and Seto Sea fishing and all.
Journeying from dazzling Kamurocho to Onomichi is thus akin to a Shinkansen day-trip from Tokyo into the Japanese countryside. You will feel the excitement of a tourist in Japan. At the end of the day, you will be very satisfied with your cyber Japanese journey too.
4) "Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed"
Rather than recommend this game for its faithful rendition of otaku wonderland Akihabara, which by the way is fantastic, I’d instead draw your attention to its story. A story about stripping vampire-like creatures in the middle of downtown, so as to kill them with sunlight.
… What? What?
Yet, in the hands of its producers, this outrageous PlayStation 4 game became a hilarious adventure, one that’s occasionally infused with moments of philosophical brilliance too. Thanks to these, the entire game could be considered a shining example of the artform Japan is renowned for i.e. Anime/Manga storytelling.
In other words, if you’re looking for a taste of this unique genre via video games, there’s seriously no better PS4 game to go to. In additional, Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed is also pretty frank about the darker aspects of modern Japanese city life. You will get some unnerving insights; that is, if you’re able to look beyond the comical storyline.
PS: don’t worry too much about this game’s unique combat system. (Or get too excited) You do need to strip your enemies to win, but everything is done in a cartoonish and humorous way. Combat also ends the moment your foes are down to their undergarments.
5) "Persona 5"
Atlus’ Persona 5 is the newest PlayStation 4 game set in Japan on this list. Possibly, also the one offering the most immersive Japanese experience.
In this unique modern-day JRPG, you play the role of a Japanese high school student juggling studies, friends, and part-time work commitments. For good measure, you are also tasked with saving everybody’s souls in bizarre cognitive worlds. Worlds in which you are transformed into a legendary thief.
What’s exemplary about the Persona formula is the realism of the entire experience, in spite of the outrageous story. Despite the many supernatural elements, you completely feel the burden of a typical Japanese student struggling between textbooks, buddies, and social life.
Don’t let that put you off this magnificent game, though. It’s in no way dreary and there is enough variety of tasks to keep you looking forward to every day.
Finally, there are the cognitive battles too. If you are perceptive enough, these offer deep insights into the modern Japanese psyche. You will have a lot to think about, after beating the game.
© 2017 Yong Kuan Leong