Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!

I'd post the following on epinions, except they don't have this import only Nintendo DS title listed anywhere, and as far as I could tell no timely way of adding it to the list. So, my review of the game goes here. It is likely that later my review of Jump Super Stars will go here as well, as I didn't see that either. But I digress...

Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! is like any good Anime in that explaining the basic concept of the game doesn't endear it to anyone, despite the actually quality thereof. I will do so anyway. The basic plot of Ouendan is that you control a trio of male cheerleaders (decked out in black trenchcoats) who, by their cheering and dancing to popular JPop tunes, allow people in need and desperate situations to succeed. Situations such as a high school student trying to do his homework while his uncaring family make a lot of noise and disrupt his studies.

Honestly, were it not for the demo I was able to try out I wouldn't have laid a finger on the game. I'm glad I didn't abstain.

The mechanism for the support you give the needy people relies entirely on the DS's touch screen. No direction pads, no A or B buttons, nothing save the start button for pausing. Everything is done via the stylus. Basically, each level has a Japanese Pop song connected with it. In line with the beat of the song buttons appear on the touch pad screen which you must hit with the correct timing. The buttons are numbered for proper order, and the timing is noted by a circle which slowly shrinks around the button until it matches the button's size (which is the bullseye point to hit the button). The proximity to the bullseye timing will determine whether you score 300, 100, or 50 points for your timing in addition to points for actually hitting the button properly. If you hit it far too soon or late (or not at all) a nice big red X crosses out the button letting you know you failed. The key to hitting these buttons is in the music, as all the button's bullseye timings line up perfectly with the beat of the music.

Getting the timing down on these buttons takes a little work. I experienced early on issues in that the instant anything appeared on screen my instinct was to hit it immediately, resulting in utter failure. After some practice, you begin to get the hang of hitting the buttons, which is extremely important to getting good scores. Because of the number of buttons that eventually pop up in a given level, and given that the more buttons and other functions you get in a row without missing acts as a multiplier for your score, hitting them (and especially dead on) consistantly is critical.

There are two other mechanisms that come up during songs you must deal with. The first is very similar to the buttons. A circular button with a number on it appears, along with the familiar shrinking circle. But this button is connected to a visible path. In addition to hitting the button, you must follow a ball which rolls along the path (which appears and begins to roll once the bullseye point of the button is reached). Sometimes, a marker on the end of the path indicates you will need to follow the ball again, but in the reverse direction. This reversal can happen many times.

The other mechanism is a wheel which takes up the entire screen. It resembles a ying yang, save that it has three parts. You must spin the wheel by tracing a circular motion around the touch pad. As you spin the wheel, volume meters slowly build up on the left and right sides of the screen, which you must maximize before a shrinking circle encloses the center of the wheel. If you manage to spin the wheel more than necessary, you get bonus points.

The game sounds complicated, but there is a very nice tutorial which, though in japanese, explains everything visually very nicely. Thankfully, the tutorial is accessible even after your first play, so any friends who want to try won't require a deep explanation of everything from you.

The music in the game is excellent. This is extrememly important, as you will be hearing a lot of it. The music can't be called background music because of how important it is to succeeding. However, if you happen to have an aversion to JPop, that's a very good reason to stay away from this game. Addicting as the gameplay is, it isn't worth forcing a despised genre of music down your throat. Still, if you are indifferent, or uninformed, the music is varied and somehow fits the situations very well. If you love JPop, these are excellent examples of JPop, though performed by soundalikes.

As mentioned just before, the gameplay is very addicting. There are easy and normal difficulty modes to begin with, as well as an unlockable hard mode. Within a difficulty mode there are a about a dozen levels, which are unlocked in sets of about three. Each set is harder than the last, which provides a nice progression from difficulty to difficulty.

Each level consists of scoring via the three mechanisms detailed earlier. However, there is more to it than that. There is a 'health' meter on the top of the touch screen which is a measure of how well you are doing. As the song progresses, a marker which rests on the right end of the meter slowly moves left. If it reaches the end, you lose the level and must either try again or give up. With each miss, it moves left faster for a time. With each successful hit, spin, or roll you refill the meter. The meter is split into a red left half, and a yellow right half. If you fall into the red, the person you are trying to help (depicted on the top screen) will falter, and fail to achieve goals which will lead them to success. Each level is split into three or four goal sections (achieving something such as the approval from Dad for studying, or the respect of your brother), as well as one final section leading to the end of the song. If you're in the red, you'll fail the goals. This doesn't prevent you from succeeding overall, but does factor into your grade. Your grade is given after completing a level (you don't get one if you fail). Whether you completed goals, how many buttons you missed, and how accurately you hit the buttons factor into your grade (C, B, A or the coveted S. There may be a D grade, but more often than not I just failed outright rather than barely, barely pass).

The gameplay is addicting to say the least. When you first begin a level, you'll struggle at first to even complete the level. Then you'll struggle to complete it with all the objectives successful. Then to complete it without missing a beat. And finally to achieve an S grade.

Overall, the game is extremely good. I find myself liking it very much, even after repeated play. I unfortunately haven't had the chance to try out the multiplayer options, but there is a mode which allows for people without Ouendan carts to play as well, a large bonus for a game not traveling overseas. The hard difficulty is just that, hard (enjoyably so). The anime styled situations are humorous to say the least, and sometimes ridiculous (and hilarious). After the inital homework level, you'll be doing overtime work at the office, cleaning up a ramen shop to drum up business, and even helping a race horse to win a derby and stop a robber on a motorcycle (and that's just the tip of the iceberg). It is extremely difficult, however, to take enjoy watching what the people you're helping are doing while you are playing. Fortunately, you can watch a replay after completing a level, allowing you to focus more on the top screen then what you did on the bottom.

The game only fails in that being so addictive, it can cause severe muscle pain. Because of all the spinning, tapping and rolling you'll have to do, playing this game for hours on end will result in some sore arm muscles. I played the game for five hours straight the day I bought it (my host parents were late coming home and I was worried), and wasn't able to play the game for two days afterwards because of a sore muscle just behind my elbow.

Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! was exactly the unique, japanese, zany import game experience I was looking for. I would highly reccomend this game to anyone who asks, or reads this. Most of you will get a shot at it when I come home, so fear not.

Overall Rating:9


Microsoft's Comment

Three posts today, don't miss the other two after this one.

Anyway, Microsoft's VP of Marketing (Peter Moore) commented on Nintendo's new controller saying, "We applaud Nintendo for their attempt at innovation." The nature of this comment has come under much fire and speculation. The basic consensus is that it is made to vainly attempt to establish that A) Microsoft is innovating, and inspiring Nintendo to do so B) To not look like an idiot if it works and C) Stab at the controller as a mere attempt.

A poster on Slashdot noted the following (A joke): Nintendo returned in kind saying, "We applaud Microsoft for their attempt at a console."



Microsoft's Quandry

I can't say I've ever been a fan of Microsoft. Honestly, I was on the bandwagon back in the 90s of pathological Bill Gates haters. I got over that this millenium, but never came to like Microsoft. Show them some respect perhaps, but not actually like.

It occurred to me recently, something that really should have dawned on me months ago when slashdot articles were talking about it, that Microsoft is in a tough spot.

Honestly, Microsoft gets some Kudos because they saw this coming ages ago. Not really ages, but early enough on that they made the Xbox. However, before I really go into detail there I'll explain exactly the jam Microsoft is now in.

Microsoft has, for a long time now, been utterly dominant when it comes to operating systems. Their market share at both home and in the office is probably only comparable to the NES and SNES days of Nintendo. There was always competition, but it never amounted to anything regardless of quality, everyone was already using Microsoft/Nintendo and changing was harder than the benefits it might bring.

Microsoft still is dominant, but it is not the unreachable giant it once was. While mindless hatred of the company has died down, faith in their products hasn't. Windows Vista, code named Longhorn, was originally meant to compete with Mac OS X, though it wasn't meant to come out at the same time. However, we've seen several more cats come out of Apple, and Vista is still in beta, struggling to implement features X had out of the bag. The other geeks I know sometimes call Vista, "XP designed to force people to buy better graphics cards and more RAM."

Now, I have no doubt that Vista will sell. It will sell for the same reason every version of Windows since 3.1 sold, market dominance. When an untalented computer illiterate person invests hours in learning Windows (again, because of market dominance), there is little reason to step out of what little familiarity you have in an industry of techno-babble and wizardry.

However, Microsoft has taken good note that with each new version of Windows released, they lose a little bit of ground. They maintain dominance well, but time is catching up with them and they know it. As Microsoft has grown, it's developement times have as well. Additionally, Microsoft has to deal with continual virus attacks, spyware and adware problems, and much, much more than either OS X or any version of Linux has to deal with. The price of market dominance is a severe handicap in other areas.

Microsoft hasn't given up on pulling through, but Microsoft isn't stupid. Their products may not always be bug free, their organization structure may be shoddy, and recently the pants may have been beaten off them several dozen times by newcomer Google, but they're hardly out of the game. Still, Microsoft can see (and did see some time ago) that the monopoly like dominance they've enjoyed is not permanent, and long before now took steps to prepare for such a time.

Many, many, many times in the long, flammable debates concerning how well any given video game console is doing, it is always brought up that Microsoft and Sony work on a different model than Nintendo. Nintendo is solely and video game company, and if they don't turn a profit they sink. Microsoft and Sony are multifaceted megabusinesses that can draw on resources from one division to make up for loss in another. This is important because it explains how Microsoft can be taking quarterly losses continually from the Xbox and keep on trudging, as well as explain why they continue to push the Xbox and its successor forward despite that many would have stopped throwing good money after bad.

Microsoft may be multifaceted, but it is solely in the respect that Windows and its assorted products are viable in many different kinds of computer markets. Servers, home computers, office computers, PDAs, palm pilots etc. Microsoft has the OS and software for it. The vast majority of all Microsoft divisions deal in software. Possibly the only (at least that I am aware of) division dealing in the creation of unique Microsoft hardware is the division housing the Xbox. Everything else either is Windows, or runs on it.

For a long time, Microsoft could challenge anything and anyone, resting on the fortress of Windows' dominance in the home and business PC markets. Any and all challengers to Microsoft were crushable, simply because those markets provided Microsoft with all the finances they needed to do anything, and then some. Their strategy has been to tie everything neatly to Windows so that its dominance is maintained, and also succeed in moving Windows into another market and increase its profitability.

The Xbox is directly related to that. With foresight Microsoft saw that in the near future, Windows was bound to face stiff competition and barring decisive victories decline from market dominance. The answer? The Xbox. The same youthful computer aces that disliked Microsoft played excessive amounts of video games. Why not try and win their hearts with what they love, and create a back up source of revenue to support Microsoft in what would otherwise be a losing battle to maintain dominance. It goes deeper than that, but the basics of why the Xbox came to be lie in there.

The necessity of this can not be stressed enough. Unless Microsoft can build for themselves a steady source of revenue that does not rely on Windows to function, when Windows falters it too will falter, and defeat its very purpose of supporting Windows when its unsteady. That is why Microsoft is willing to have one profitable quarter out of a nearly twenty and still keep funding the venture. If they don't, they'll regret it. The only alternative is to engage in a battle of pure brute force versus everyone else, and it doesn't take a champion strategist to see the folly there.

If the Xbox 360 doesn't fly, Microsoft may try to build elsewhere, but I can't see where. In all likelyhood they'll keep making generations of Xboxs until Windows can no longer support them, or until they succeed.

It is important to take a look at exactly what Microsoft is doing with the Xbox 360. They are trying to A) make it successful and B) tie it into Windows, but not in such a way as that if Windows is doing poorly, so will the Xbox. They are hoping (whether it is beyond hope or not is debatable) that the Xbox 360 will be successful (either in spite of or because of Windows) and that in being successful it will promote and strengthen Windows. The scary thing is, both Sony and Microsoft want their consoles to be in controll of as much of your entertainment as possible. It's only a step up from that to controlling everything.


I don't know how many of you have noticed, but some bot or bots unknown keep posting the occaisional comment in my blog trying to get me and anyone looking to buy unnecessary things. It gives me a rather hard dilemma to solve.

Basically, the bots can achieve this because I've enabled anonymous comment posting. So, I could easily solve the problem by disabling said option. However, I have anonymous comment posting enabled for the simple reason that I know two people out of thirty who actually have blogger accounts they can use to post. While disabling anonymous comments would filter out annoying ads (which I continually delete), it would filter out everyone except Jo and one other person.

My current action plan is to leave things as is, and only take dire action if things escalate.

In the meantime, I curse the festering blot on humanity called internet advertising.



I'm long overdue informing the world of people who read my blog (population me) concerning recent events. I've been too busy participating in them to write them down.

Sunday I went with my host family to the ANA Open. There we saw some amazing golfers, joked about what would happen if I tried to golf, and contributed a little money to charity. I also got a hat out of the deal, nifty!

Monday was a holiday, so I didn't have school. Having beat the living daylights out of Jump Superstars for the DS, I moved on to my next crazy japanese only title, Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! I spent most of the day playing it, not my original intent. My host parents had gone out in the morning for some golf practice, and claimed they'd be back at 3. They didn't get back until 6, after I had tried to call their cell phones (and heard them ring in the apartment) and watched some news to see if they'd gotten hurt in a car crash or something. I pushed aside my worries with Ouendan, which was a highly addictive game.

Tuesday I didn't play any Ouendan, or most of the rest of the week for that matter. Not because the game is bad, it's incredibly fun, but because my arm wouldn't be able to take it. The act of spinning a point scoring ying yang repeatedly wore out some muscles near my elbow, and I decided it would be good to rest them. So my time was taken up with classes in the morning. In the afternoon I started my job, nothing difficult at all. I help Jason, the BCA director and professor, out with his American culture class. We introduced ourselves, talked about where we were from, and helped students identify the 50 states. It was a blast, and it'll be fun when holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving come. What I'm especially looking forward to is next week, when we explore the unique American delicacy, Peanut Butter and Jelly!

Wednesday was spent on schoolwork and classes, in the morning. However, in the afternoon I went out and bought Monopoly for my host parents. My otousan Hiro had played it in his youth, and my okaasan Yasuko was keenly interested in the game. I won, but Yasuko claims she has a killer strategy she'll beat me with, and Hiro claims he won't drink as much before we play next time (every number he rolled he routinely declared a lucky number).

Thursday was spent in class, and at home. Nothing incredible happened, except discussion of my host family's small vacation they would be going on starting Friday and ending Sunday.

Friday I had breakfast with my host parents, and then they left for their trip. Subsequent to that, the only visitors aside from myself I've ever noticed my host parents had came and tried to find out why some strange Gaijin was living where Hiro and Yasuko should be. My limited but rapidly growing vocabulary and grammar did not include how to say, "They're on vacation."

Today, I wrote this.

Now I'm up to date, and so are you.


Nintendo PWNs the Controller

Forgive the internet speak title, but that is my reaction to this.

Basically, I couldn't have dreamed for better. I tried really hard I did. But this is the most singly awesome and amazing thing Nintendo has done since the Legend of Zelda. I had thought to myself at somepoint, "If Nintendo allowed you to aim lightgun style at the TV, that would rock and help out some of my neat ideas for a FPS". However, I figured that was fanciful dreaming. Incredibly, it was not.

Honestly, my money's on Nintendo, literally. The college here gave me $700 to buy a train pass that would last me the year. However, I live a five minute walk from the college. The BCA director told me flat out I should just pocket the money. I did, but not until after I bought a Nintendo DS (some other students here had them, which tipped the decision), and cheap too. While I've only played one game in depth (Jump Superstars, basically Super Smash Bros. gone Manga), it's one heck of a game. I'm only planning on buying games here that I couldn't get in America, but I may end up buying an entire RPG just so that I have something to force me to practice Japanese at home (Lunar is looking pretty). Other technology I have bought is a temporary cell phone so that my host family and others in Japan can contact me, and an electronic dictionary for translating Japanese (and even Kanji).

Anyway, as I said my money's on Nintendo. The Xbox 360 will be nice, the PS3's sure to do well, but right now Nintendo is golden. Even if other publishers create terribly crappy games which mangle the new control structure, Nintendo is certain to make games so intuitive you'll swear they took apart the human genome to figure out genetic predispositions of control preference. The only possible failure I can see at this point is if Nintendo releases the Revolution to far after its competitors, or if the Revolution is significantly behind graphically. I don't expect the latter, but the former is a small possibility that could be disasterous. While the Revolution is bound to generate interest, at the very least long time gamers might err on the side of familiarity if they have to wait a long time for the Revolution.

In any case, I think it's safe to say at this point that the Xbox 360 will not be able to adaquately mimic this. Any such copycatting would require an expensive addon to an already expensive system. Gamers can be die hard, but there is a point where the infeasibility of things takes over. Sony could pull something together, but unless they delay their launch date, I doubt anything adaquate could be generated in time for the PS3's debut, and the games that have been in developement for both competing consoles will certainly not be able to adaquately incorperate any such addition even were it incredibly well made.

My hands are already itching to get my hands on the new controller.

Lastly, I programmed the Zelda Intro Theme into my temporary cell phone from sheet music.

Rock on.



Here in Japan, the classic Kevin staple of PBJs for lunch every day is simply too much work to accomplish. It's not that I can't get them, it's just that going to all the work of finding the necessary ingredients in a place where peanut butter is rarely used, jelly sparingly, and bread very little at all, is a little too much for my lazy butt. That and I don't know how to say, "I'm a lazy foreigner, can you tell me where X is?" yet.

However, I believe I've found viable substitutes to replace the PBJs and heaping bowls of Macaroni and Cheese I'm missing out on. Instead of PBJs, a nice plate of Curry Rice has been hitting the spot. In place of Macaroni, Ramen has been excellent. This isn't the pansy Ramen that my sister lived on through college. This is a huge heaping bowl of delicious broth, filled with noodles, veggies, meats and seasonings. It looks like a work of art, and tastes like one too.

My host mother (okaasan) is an excellent cook. My breakfasts and dinners are incredible meals. I eat everything I can, it's all so delicious. I need to start asking for names so that when I return to the states I can identify these dishes at exotic asian restaurants.

A brief list of foods I would never have touched before but now eat readily. Eggplant, peaches, pears, prunes, tomatoes (as a tomatoe, not a sauce), cabbage, and all sorts of japanese vegetables, miso soup, and more. I really need to start identifying these things I'm eating.

I hope your meals are as delicious as mine!



I continue to deny any part in the recent typhoons in Japan. I had nothing to do with the one that hit Nagoya just as I flew out of the airport there for Sapporo, zero influence on the one that hit the Fuji region that prevented my climbing that great mountain, and certainly not any affect on the one that smashed through the Hiroshima region just after I left there and subsequently followed me up to Hokkaido.

It's all lies I say! Lies!

In other news, a short psuedo haiku.

Deep puddle.
Did not see. Wet foot.


Definately Still in Japan

For those of you who were wondering, I was not in anyway responsible for either of the typhoons that have visited Japan since my arrival. Don't believe what the news says.

In other news, some people can get so embedded in their own arguments, shouting the phrase, "Dear Lord! Help me my pants are on fire!" very sincerely won't phase them from continuing to bonk heads over whether a laquered box counts as art when defining art itself has been the migrane of philosophers since the dawn of time, or at least the afterbreakfast of time.

In any case, I'm having fun here. And you're not. HAH!

More when I have more consistant internet access.