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Nintendo DS Video Game Review: Love Plus (ラブプラス)

 

“Love Plus” is a fantastic game and definitely much more than I was expecting. Delightful, hilarious and just a fun game! Of all the dating simulators I have played from Japan, this one has to be the most enjoyable one yet.So, if you want to experience “Love Plus”, definitely give this game a chance!

TITLE: Love Plus

PUBLISHED BY: KONAMI

CONSOLE: Nintendo DS

RELEASE DATE: 2006

You may have heard of “Love Plus”, possibly one of the most popular Japanese video games to come from Japan in the last three years and people who are spending hardcore money because of the popularity of its characters.

“Love Plus” is a dating simulator created by Konami and was released on the Nintendo DS back in Sept. 2009. What followed was a “Love Plus” manga featured on five different Kodansha magazines. In June 2010, “Love Plus +”, an upgrade version of the game was released and since then, there have been soundtracks, artbooks, electronic chargers, DSi case protectors, an iPhone and iPad app and now a Nintendo 3DS version coming out soon.

And needless to say, I’m sure many of us were intrigued (or bothered) by an otaku who had a wedding ceremony as he married a character from his Nintendo DS. Or the guys who create birthday cakes for a character on her birthday or those who take their characters out for lunch or dinner. Strange as it may be… the game is quite popular not just in Japan but many people around the world are giving “Love Plus” a try.

As for me, I actually became interested in “Love Plus” right after the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan as I was reporting news from Japan and noticed several tech-ies and otaku were utilizing the Love Plus electronic chargers which I recently wrote about and the first thing I did was purchase the first “Love Plus” game for the Nintendo DS and see if it was to my liking.

When it comes to video game dating sims, I do have familiarity with them as I have played “Tokimeki Memorial” for the old PSX and also enjoy the elements that were featured in various video games. But suffice to say, I wanted to experience “Love Plus” to see why people are going ga ga over this game.

GAMEPLAY:

“Love Plus” is a game that is about you, a second year high school student who just transferred to Towano High School. After you name your character, enter your birthday and blood type, you then set the voice system which the female characters you meet can actually say your name. It’s important to note that the characters can’t just say any game, so you want to use this as a guide of what names can be used. I used my usual online gaming name ケネデイ アミス and because the game could only recognize so many names, I ended up selecting Ken (short for “Kennedy”) and “Ami” (short for Amith).

As a new student, you join the library committee, the tennis club and take up a part-time job at a family restaurant and you will meet three female students named Manaka Takane, Rinko Kobayakawa and Nene Anegasaki.

There are two story arcs to “Love Plus”. The first storyline is that you have 100 days to get one of these girls to become your girlfriend. The second storyline is what you are going to do with this girl, after she becomes your girlfriend and if you can maintain that relationship and make her happy. Suffice to say, the first part is a bit easy, while the second part does take a little more effort.

STORY ARC 1:

Everyday, you will have to plan out what you are going to do in the morning, noon, afternoon and at night. By the classes you take, the selections you make (ie. go to club committee meeting, going to work part-time at a restaurant, going to a tennis club meeting etc.) will increase certain levels in your stats. BLUE indicates fitness, GREEN indicates intelligence, SENSE indicates ORANGE and PURPLE charm. So, for example, if you start your morning off going to science class, you will notice an increase in INTELLIGENGE. Go to Arts and you will notice an increase in CHARM, go to P.E. and you’ll notice an increase in FITNESS. And over the course of time, you will see how these characters start to warm up to you.

I highly recommend using this guide as a good way to know of which class and extra-curricular activities can help your character get the girl you want.

First, let’s discuss the characters:

Manaka Takane

Manaka Takane is a second year student and a tennis athlete at Towana High School. She is also very smart. She’s a bit shy and always kind but she also tends to worry about her tennis match. She is also known as “Takane no Hana” (because she’s so perfect, guys feel they don’t have a chance) and she loves making pastries and playing the piano.

So, you know that she will be interested in a guy with a high interest in FITNESS and INTELLIGENCE. So, you want to focus on classes and extracurricular activities that relate to that.

Rinko Kobayakawa

Rinko is a tough girl. She is a freshman but a senior library committee member and can always be seen listening to punk music on her digital audio player. She loves fighting video games, music and Calbee chips.

Part of the reason why she is tough is because her father has remarried and she has a new mother and younger brother. She feels that she is unwanted from her home and that no one cares about her. She is always seen out at night because she doesn’t want to come home to a family that doesn’t want her there.

Rinko is interested in a guy with a high interest in SENSE, INTELLIGENCE and a little FITNESS. So, you want to focus on classes and extracurricular activities that relate to that. Primarily focusing on SENSE.

Nene Anegasaki

Nene is a third year high school student and works part-time as a waitress at the family restaurant Dixies. Nene is like the big sister for everyone when they need someone to talk to for advice. She enjoys cleaning around the house, watching horror films and eating Lozenge mints.

She is very calm and active and thus you want to make sure you take part in activities to CHARM her. Because she works often, you know you can find her at Dixies but also find her at night out and about.

Everyday, as you attend classes and partake in various activities, you get to have conversations with these young women. And judging by your choices, will determine if they will get closer to you or not. Gameplay for the first story arc is actually quite easy because most of the time, you are saying hello (with three or four version to say hello), trying to be supportive and joining them in conversations or just listening to them. If you can’t read or understand Japanese, a rule of thumb is to stay with the top 2 choices and you will be fine.

STORY ARC 2:

After you have one of the girls become your girlfriend, the next thing is maintaining the relationship. This is where things get a bit complicated because now, it requires you to set the time on your DS and making sure you meet your girlfriend on dates at that day and time. You are given two choices: Real Time Mode (this will match your DS clock) and Skip Mode (one day in the game is a few minutes in real time). The main difference though is that if you use Real Time Mode, you get to celebrate birthdays, holidays, school breaks. Also, you get to have more dream events.

So, in a way, it’s better to do Real Time Mode but the question to ask yourself is how much time can you put towards this game? Do you want the real experience? Or are you a busy person who can only play from time-to-time and not daily or at certain hours. It all depends on you?

In the second story arc, now everything is opened other than just your daily activity and e-mail. This time, you have a cell phone to call your girlfriend, you need to schedule a date and making sure you use a calendar to plan that date, selecting locations of where to take your date, selecting a time and doing research on the Internet via your computer.

While Real Time Mode allows you to live life daily on “Love Plus”, Skip Mode goes quickly and you can date your girlfriend as any times as you want to gain more affection and unlock costumes for her to wear.

And although my Japanese is OK, what helped me through the second story arc is using the following guide. I highly recommend it if your Japanese is not that good or you can’t read or understand Japanese at all!

CONTROLS:

Controls are very easy to select using the direction pad and clicking on the response via your stylus or finger. There are also times where you need to speak in the mic, well for Rinko this was the case. There was one point where the girl you like (before she becomes your girlfriend) needs to hear that you love her. So, prepare to say the following word in the mic a few times, nice and clearly…Aishiteru (I love you) or for Manaka, you will have to say “Zettai Uwagi wa Shimasen” (I will never cheat on you).

But once you get to the second story arc, this is where the stylus starts to come in play because you need to learn how to be a good boyfriend and kiss your girlfriend correctly and know what she likes (ie. feeling her cheek, touching her hair, etc.). I remember when I was with Rinko and the hand icon to “touch” came on. and I kept touching her shoulder, her hands and she was getting pissed off. It appears that there is an order of what the character likes to be touched.

Your girlfriend will be more vocal if she doesn’t like it and you will see indicators with pink hearts being good, green as OK and blue being bad. Don’t worry, you’ll get some practice time to see what she likes and doesn’t like early in the game (for the second arc).

GRAPHICS:

Graphics are good for what to expect on the DS. As most sims that I played tend to feature more of anime-like animation or stills, this one is animated via CG and there are mannerisms. Also, I like the various locations you can visit throughout the game such as going to a shopping area, cafe, conbini (convenience store), etc.

AUDIO:

Audio is very good. Good amount of spoken dialogue, crowd ambiance and the audio is utilized very well for this game! But where “Love Plus” excels is its voice acting by Saori Hayami (Manaka) known for her voice as Saki in “Eden of the East”, Wako in “Star Driver” and Lei-Lei/Hsien-Ko in “Marvel vs. Capcom 3”; Sakura Tange (Rinko) who is known for her voicework as Sakura in “Cardcaptor Sakura”, Kasumi in “Dead or Alive”; and Yuuko Minaguchi (Nene) known for her voice as Hotaru Tomoe (Sailor Saturn) in “Sailor Moon S”, Tifa Lockhart in “Ergheiz” and many other video games/anime series.

The voice acting was delightful and fantastic!

IS IT USER-FRIENDLY FOR NON-JAPANESE READING PLAYERS

While I do feel this game, especially the first arc would be easy for non-Japanese reading players, the good news is that there are translations out there created by fans of the game on the Internet. I’m not fluent and my Japanese has waned a bit since my college years where I spoke and read Japanese quite a bit but I noticed that it does help to know the storyline, especially to enjoy the humor and the emotional parts of the game. But again, there are translations up online and I believe that anyone who wants to experience “Love Plus” can do so.

I began playing “Love Plus” and thinking “How will this be different than any other sim game?” and for starters, this is not some ecchi/hentai dating simulator, nor is it a sim that tries to focus on sex or fan service. It’s a dating simulator that seems genuine in that your character really works at trying to get close to these characters and winning their heart.

During my second playthrough (the first time was going for Manaka), I decided to go for Rinko. Knowing about her tough exterior, I was slowly trying to win her affection but you realize that this girl had quite a bit of personal problems back home and to see her get a phone call and get so upset and leaving, while you search for her and catch her crying. That was a surprise for me… You don’t really see these emotional moments in a dating simulator in this manner.

But what won me over with “Love Plus” was during your dream sequence and I’m not going to give it away but it was one of the most delightful things I have ever seen in a game where Rinko is your wife, and you have to head off to work and the things that she does to stop you from going to work and wanting to hear how much you love her was hilarious!

I really enjoyed this game and its a shame that Konami has no interest in releasing this game outside of Japan but you can find this game, especially for this first game, pretty cheap on eBay. Bare in mind, that there are special edition DSi package releases (which are sold for over $500 online but fans have bought them regardless of the price) and there is an enhanced version for the Nintendo DS titled “Love Plus +” which adds more scenery, dating areas but unfortunately, unlike the first game that has translations online, fans may not be able find that much material on “Love Plus +”.

And as mentioned, there is a Nintendo 3DS version coming out but it’s important to remind everyone that the Nintendo 3DS is region-blocked and while it depends on the publisher to make the game region-blocked, it is not known if the game will work on a non-Japanese Nintendo 3DS. So, for now the first two DS games will work on the various DS portable consoles.

Overall, “Love Plus” is a fantastic game and definitely much more than I was expecting. Delightful, hilarious and just a fun game! Of all the dating simulators I have played from Japan, this one has to be the most enjoyable one yet.

So, if you want to experience “Love Plus”, definitely give this game a chance!

Highly recommended!

 


PSP Video Game Review: Sunday VS Magazine: Shūketsu! Chōjō Daikessen (サンデー VS マガジン 集結! 頂上大決戦)

In an unprecedented move, both Shonen Sunday and Shonen Magazine have joined forces with Konami in a fighting game featuring characters from popular series within the last 50-years. “Sunday VS Magazine: Shūketsu! Chōjō Daikessen” may not be the ultimate fighting game but it’s still one heck of an enjoyable and exciting fighting game worth owning, especially now that you can buy it cheap online!

TITLE: Sunday VS Magazine: Shūketsu! Chōjō Daikessen

PUBLISHED BY: KONAMI

CONSOLE: Sony PSP

RELEASE DATE: March 2009

On March 17, 1959, two shonen (a term which means “boy”) manga magazines were released in Japan.

One was Weekly Shonen Magazine published by Kodansha and the other was Weekly Shonen Sunday published by Kodansha. The former which were known for its mature titles that targeted high school and college students and the latter which targeted various ages.

But for over 50-years, these two publications have entertained generations of Japanese.

For Weekly Shonen Magazine, they had hits such as “GeGeGe no Kitaro”, “Cyborg 009”, “Hajime no Ippo”, “Eightman”, “Violence Jack”, “Boys Be…”, “Harlem Beat”, “Rave Master”, “Ashita no Joe”, “Tiger Mask”, “Devil Man”, “Kamen Rider”, “GTO”, “Love Hina”, “GetBackers”, “Samurai Deeper Kyo”, “Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle”, “Cross OVer”, “School Rumble”, “Over Drive” to name a few.

While Weekly Shonen Sunday had hits such as “Meitantei Conan”, “InuYasha”, “Major”, “Submarine 707”, “The Legend of Kamui”, “Ultraman Taro”, “Urusei Yatsura”, “Cyborg 009”, “Touch”, “Mai, the Psychic Girl”, “Tenchi Muyo”, “Ranma 1/2”, “Mobile Police Patlabor”, “Ushio and Tora”, “Ghost Sweeper Mikami”, “H2”, “Flame of Recca”, “ARMS”, “Konjiki no Gash!” to name a few.

And in an unprecedented move in Japan, both publications would combine their March 29, 2008 issue to celebrate their 50th year anniversary and also do a commemorative event including merchandise and manga crossovers.

And sure enough, that included a video game released titled “Sunday VS Magazine: Shūketsu! Chōjō Daikessen”, a fighting video game featuring 30 playable characters from both publications plus over a 100 support characters.

Needless to say, to have characters from both rival publications in one video game is exciting and while it was amazing to see all Shonen Jump characters in the “Jump Superstars” videogames for the Nintendo DS, needless to say, many people have grown up with both Shonen Sunday and Shonen Magazine publications and to see characters from the last 50 years in a video game is unheard of.

Granted, you’re not going to see characters from Rumiko Takahashi’s popular “Urusei Yatsura” or “Ranma 1/2” but you will see characters from “InuYasha”. You’re not going to see the Ultraman or the Kamen Rider characters, “Patlabor”, “Tenchi Muyo”, “Ghost Sweeper Mikami” series as well and frankly, I’m sure that the licensing for these characters for this game must have been challenging and possibly costly. But for those who do want those major characters, there was a trading card battle pack released in conjunction with this anniversary, but suffice to say, for various gamers of different generations, the characters will appeal to many people.

For “Sunday VS Magazine: Shūketsu! Chōjō Daikessen”, you do get the following 30 playable characters:

Shonen Sunday:

  • Hayate Ayasaki (Hayate no Gotoku)
  • Kaoru Akashi (Zettai Karen Children)
  • Yoshimori Sumimura (Kekkaishi)
  • Tokine Yukimura (Kekkaishi)
  • Kenichi Shirahama (History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi)
  • Miu Furinji (History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi)
  • InuYasha (InuYasha)
  • Kosuke Ueki (The Law of Ueki)
  • Recca Hanabishi (Flame of Recca)
  • Ryo Takatsuki (Project ARMS)
  • Aotsuki Ushio and Tora (Ushio and Tora)
  • Yaiba Kurogane (Legend of the Swordmaster Yaiba)
  • R. Tanaka Ichiro (Kyukyoku Chojin R)
  • Noboru Takizawa (Blazing Transfer Student)

Shonen Magazine

  • Ippo Makunouchi (Hajime no Ippo)
  • Mamoru Takamura (Hajime no Ippo)
  • Natsu Dragneel (Fairy Tail)
  • Lucy Heartfilia (Fairty Tail)
  • Negi Springfield (Negima! Magister Negi Magi)
  • Itsuki Minami (Air Gear)
  • Croissant Mask (Air Gear)
  • Shinichi Mechazawa (Cromartie High School)
  • Ban Mido (GetBackers)
  • Demon Eyes Kyo (Samurai Deeper Kyo)
  • Koutarou Shindou (Kotaro Makaritoru)
  • Devilman (Devilman)
  • Joe Yabuki (Ashita no Joe)
  • Tiger Mask (Tiger Mask)
  • Cyborg 009 (Cyborg 009)

Others:

  • Boss (specially made for this game)

GAMEPLAY:

“Sunday VS Magazine: Shūketsu! Chōjō Daikessen” is a fighting game, featuring one-on-one battles but also quest mode included. The various modes in this game are:

  • Arcade Mode – One-on-One 2D battles and you can select from simple mode (for those who find fighting games difficult) and technical mode (for those who like to string combos). Each time you beat the arcade mode with a character, you open up new characters in the game. (Note: For more moves for a character, you will need to play Quest Mode to earn points in order to purchase and unlock moves and assign support characters, special moves to buttons, etc.). There are no stories for these battles.
  • Quest Mode – Quest Mode features a player (or you and a few friends) on a 2-D fighting game in which you fight against various alien-like characters, warping from various stages and trying to beat challenging levels within a time-limit. This mode is essential to earning orbs for unlocking a characters super and ultra moves and more support characters.
  • Free Battle – Fight against the computer or versus a friend via Ad Hoc.
  • My Room – This allows you to learn about your character, information on the series and data for the game and what orbs/sections can still be opened up for characters/move sets.
  • Options – Options to change rounds, difficulty, audio settings, etc.

CONTROLS:

Controls were fairly responsive. For me, I had no problems controlling the characters (as I’m used to fighting games on the Sony PSP) but it’s important to note that I did use a PSP 3000 version versus my 1000 version which made the characters slightly faster as I have read some people having sluggish problems on the older PSP system. There was a sense of a little lagging, so it’s not as fluid compared to a “Street Fighter”, “King of Fighters” or “Tekken” game. The fight mechanics are OK nothing great that you can do hardcore combos. So, this is not exactly type of game to expect so much fight-wise compared to the heavyweight fighting games but compared to anime-related fighting games, it’s actually pretty fun and if you know how to utilize the technical moves of the game, you can do some really cool combos, including aerial combos as hitting L and R can initiate a burst mode sending some characters to the air.

Especially once you open the fighting moves for each character, some of those moves are devastating and fantastic to see. For example, I was using Ippo Makunouchi (of “Hajime no Ippo”) and he seemed sluggish at first as I had to use a lot of defense to move him in and out to land a blow because at times he seemed slow until I activated a support which gave him a bit more speed. But once you unlock his special moves, he starts going crazy with combos and he is much quicker. This happens to a lot of characters. Once you play them in arcade, play them again once you open their moves and they are totally different and much more fun to play.

GRAPHICS:

Character animation is pretty good on the PSP. The characters are similar to their animated counterparts and presented in that manner instead of 3D. Colors are vibrant and the backgrounds for the matches are done well.

AUDIO:

Audio is as expected from this game in terms of in-game fighting with the grunts, occasional yelling of words and sound effects from hits but there is no spoken dialogue and there is no story mode in this game. But for the most part, audio is fine for this game.

IS IT USER-FRIENDLY FOR NON-JAPANESE READING PLAYERS

Very user friendly. There really is no reading to be done unless you want to read about their character histories and information in the “My Room” section. But for the main part of the game and Quest Mode, there is no need to know Japanese. You’ll be able to figure this game out with ease.

When it comes to fighting video games, “Sunday VS Magazine: Shūketsu! Chōjō Daikessen” was exciting for me, in a fan service kind of way, because you get so many characters from the last 50 years from two rival publications in a fighting game. How cool is that? And there is a lot of replayability if you want to utilize the various support characters in the game. And as for support characters, there are over a hundred of them to use.

With that being said, this is not a game where one should think technical fighting in the sense of “Street Fighter”, “King of Fighters”, “Tekken”, “BlazBlue Calamity Trigger”, “Guilty Gear”, etc. Those games had years and years of upgrades, tests with gamers who look to these games for competitive fighting (Granted moreso on the console and arcade rather than portable) but by no means is “Sunday VS Magazine: Shūketsu! Chōjō Daikessen” a bad fighting game because it’s not.

The thing is, your moves are not available from the start, you’re going to have to play a quest mode that is a bit tedious and challenging in order to get points to purchase these moves and then the fun really starts for the game. This is where you can really pull off some fun combos, aerial moves and see these characters fight crazy. And this is where a lot of people probably dismiss the game because they start off on arcade mode and realize how simplistic the moves are and they button mash thinking that the moves are limited without opening the characters full set of moves.

I will say that if there is one bummer about this game is that the speed can get a bit cumbersome with its lag at times and while it’s not as bad when you have a bad signal during an online matchup, for some people, lag is lag and it’s bad. But for me, it wasn’t that bad at all but it’s there. Bare in mind, I tried this on my PSP 3000 and not on the 1000 to see how slow it would be.

And I think another bummer for some players, including myself, is that not all your favorite characters will be on this game? Heck, I would love to play Lum (Urusei Yatsura) or Ranma Saotome (Ranma 1/2) with an Akane or Ryoga support but still, you do get a good balance of characters (30 playable characters) and then with over a hundred support characters, it makes the game worthwhile.

And because its sheer amount of characters, there is no connection to the gameplay of “Sunday VS Magazine: Shūketsu! Chōjō Daikessen” with “Jump All Stars” as they are two different games but I will say that if they did share something in common, it’s the fact that you can assign support characters and that is about it.

Overall, I can’t help but think of how cool it is to have characters from 50 years in a fighting video game. Who would have thought you would see some of these characters in a video game at all…especially from competing two rival publications. Again, it’s definitely a rare situation to see this happen and the fact that they joined forces for their 50th anniversary is quite unprecedented.

While “Sunday VS Magazine: Shūketsu! Chōjō Daikessen” may not be the ultimate fighting game nor it be close to being a great fighting game, it’s still a fun and exciting fighting game with characters that you will probably never ever see again together in a video game. This is a one-shot deal and if you are a manga or anime fan who have familiarity with these characters, then you know how special this game is.

And the fact that you can get this game quite cheap online (I paid $18.99) makes this game worth owning!


PSP Video Game Review: Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition (アイシールド21 Portable Edition)

 

“Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition” tries to be different from other football video games by focusing on football training mini-games and while fun at first, the game is primarily for those who want to focus on managing the team and building a player’s attributes through these mini-games.

TITLE: Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition

PUBLISHED BY: KONAMI

CONSOLE: Sony PSP

RELEASE DATE: 2006

In Japan, American football may not be too popular compared to the international futbol (soccer), but there are a few high schools that have football teams and the NFL does have a game played in Japan, helping to spread the game’s popularity.

But in 2002, writer Riichiro Inagaki and illustrator Yusuke Murata introduced American football to a broader audience through their manga “Eyeshield 21″ which has been featured on the very popular Weekly Shonen Jump, has led to several videogames and also a 145-episode anime series which lasted from 2o05-2008.

“Eyeshield 21″ revolves around a young teenager named Sena Kobayakawa who has passed his entrance exams at his local high school, Deimon Private Senior High School. The school where his childhood friend Mamori Anezaki attends. Both Sena and Mamori are close because all throughout his life, Sena has been bullied and Mamori has been there to protect him.

Living his life as a gopher for other friends, Sena hasn’t had any true friends until he meets the devil-looking Yoichi Hiruma and the very huge Ryokan Kurita who try to get Sena to join their football team.

Of course, Sena doesn’t know how to play football but being the new kid at school, once again, he gets bullied but this time, the huge Kurita ends up taking care of them. Out for revenge, the bullies start to pick on Sena once again but Sena is sick and tired of getting beaten up and when they go after him, he demonstrates a skill which he has had for a long time, speed. Because Sena has lived his life running away, he is very quick and immediately, Hiruma wants to utilize him on the Deimon High School Devil Bats football team.

Sena just wants to become a team manager but Hiruma wants Sena to be the team’s running back. And because Hiruma wants to make sure that no one can steal him for their high school, he plans on a disguise that no one but he, Sena and Kurita will know and that is putting an eyeshield on a football helmet and giving Sena a #21 jersey and the nickname “Eyeshield 21″.

Now the three are determined to find more players to join the Devil Bats and getting closer to their goal into making it to the high school football tournament championship round.

The main characters of “Eyeshield 21″ are:

  • Sena Kobayakawa – The main character. Short, shy and clumsy. Sena has been bullied throughout his life and now wants to stand up for himself. Especially since he has made friends on the Deimon High School football team. So, outside of football, he is seen as the manager, but when he’s on the football field and disguised as Eyeshield 21, he is a running back that dazzles the audience and his teammates with his impressive speed.
  • Mamori Anezaki – Sena’s childhood friend and a girl who has always protected him when he was getting bullied. Scared that Sena is hanging out with Hiruma and team, she decides to become a manager of the team alongside with him and oblivious that Sena is disguised as Eyeshield 21.
  • Yoichi Hiruma – The captain and quarterback with devlish looks and is always up to something that is typically up to no good. Either gaining intel on people at school, taking care of his devil dog Cerberus or trying to make his football team better by pushing them (and taunting them with his machine gun).
  • Ryokan Kurita – Despite his huge size and being a great lineman, he is also shy, soft spoken and kind. Also, loves to eat a lot!
  • Tarao Raimon (Monta) – Had dreams of becoming a baseball player but when the Deimon High School baseball teams kicks him off, the football team utilizes his fantastic catching skills and makes him a wide receiver. Has a monkey-like appearance.
  • The Ha-Ha Brothers – Bullies who are constantly tormenting Sena, the members consider of Kazuki Jumonji, Koji Kuroki and Shozo Togano. Hiruma blackmails them into joining the football team. At first they want nothing to do with the team but now they realize that they are becoming better people and tougher individuals.
  • Manabu Yukimitsu – Known for his balding head and a student that has always been focused on cram schools because of his strict mother, Yukimitsu wants to prove himself that he can do more than just study and wants to become a member of the Deimon Devil Bats and will do all he can despite not being an athlete. He may lack athletic skill like the others but he is very smart.
  • Daikichi Komusbi – A linemen and a short, stocky member who looks up to Kurita as a mentor. Although short, he is strong and has dedicated will power.
  • Natsuhiko Taki – A man who loves to dance and thinks he can do anything by himself. He is the brother of Suzuna and tried to become an American football player, now he is a tight end for the Devil Bats.
  • Tetsuo Ishimaru – Although not a main member focused on in the series, he does pop up once in awhile as the second running back and a member from the track team.
  • Yohei Satake and Kenta Yamaoka – Members of the basketball team who are blackmailed by Hiruma to become wide receivers and linebackers for the team.
  • Suzuna Taki – The sister of Natsuhiko and often rollerblading. She works as part-time reporter and is also the cheerleading captain for the Devil Bats.
  • Cerberus – Hiruma’s ferocious dog that likes to bite people. Used for training on the football players who try to run their fastest away from the dog in order to avoid being bitten. Cerberus has a large appetite.

GAMEPLAY:

The following Japanese import game will work on a US Sony PSP.

As for gameplay, this is where “Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition” differs from the Nintendo DS “Eyeshield 21” game.

In the Sony PSP version of the game, the emphasis is on training and management versus playing an actual football game (which you do on the DS version). You can think of this version of the “Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition” as more of a game featuring many mini-games which are literally training-related mini-games.

The game follows the anime TV series and manga (with slight differences). The game features a season and each week you play a game and each day, you train. You play as the Deimon High School Devil Bats and everyone trains in passing, rushing, catching, strength and stamina tests.

For example:

As Yoichi, for the passing mini-game tests you throw the ball according to the buttons shown on screen. If you see triangle, you press triangle, if you see square, you press square.

For Monta, his catch game is similar to the old school bomberman video game. In this case, you use the should L and R buttons to catch the footballs and avoid the bombs that Yoichi is throwing at you.

For Sena, you can practice your running as the screen tells you to move up, left, right or down and occasionally showcasing two buttons in combination with directional and button hits.

For Kurita, you need to bench press a certain amount of weights, a certain time before the clock expires.

There are so many of these mini-type games that you can also test other players. One game has you trying to run backwards before the time expires, another one is an insanely tough but possible 40-meter dash in which you keep hitting the buttons (ala Track & Field) as quickly as possible, then there is a Stop & Go mini-game where you need to rush as fast as you can and timing your stops.

These are just a handful of the mini-games featured in “Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition”. And with each mini-game, you can level up that player’s attribute, as well as the entire team’s attributes.

Attributes that you will need to boost each player is their: Stamina, Kick Force, Tackle Force, Power Force, Top Speed Force, etc.

But of course, as you continue to get better, as does your opponents, so you need to make sure you move the training up to higher levels and of course, the mini-games get harder and harder.

And then comes game time. The Devil Bats takes on an opposing football team and for each move that your opponent makes, you counter it with a technique which then goes to another mini-game (that has nothing to do with the actual football game) that has an effect on the player during the football game. You can watch the game and if you win, it will follow the storyline of the anime series, if you fail, you can play the game over.

CONTROLS:

Controls are fairly easy for the game and fortunately, the game is not going to hurt your fingers such as “Track & Field” type game on the portable console. I will say though, that if you are using a PSP-3000, there were times that during certain mini-games, I accidentally shut the PSP off because I accidentally moved the power button up to turn off with the bottom of my index finger. I’ll have to test this on my PSP-1000 to see if this happens as well. But for the most part, “Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition” is easy to play.

GRAPHICS:

Graphics are on par with a lot of games for the Sony PSP especially for a game released in 2006. While the game features a lot of the anime-style character designs and does feature good renders of the players, mostly everything is closeup. Don’t expect anything magnificent (as you will mostly see dirt or sky and opponents) but for this game and for the character design, everything does work.

AUDIO:

The game does feature audio from the voice talent (using the seiyuu for the anime series) of the characters of the anime series. There is a good amount of spoken dialogue and if you can’t understand Japanese, you can just click the button to skip. But this is not a full-audio game, a lot of type to go through and I found myself skipping over it most of the time.

IS IT USER-FRIENDLY FOR NON-JAPANESE READING PLAYERS

Yes, the game is very easy and you can figure out the mini-games by trial and error. There are some mini-games during a matchup that requires you to decide what you want your player on offense or defense to do. Again, this is trial and error but if you can read katakana and know what is catch, what is run, what is block, it helps but it isn’t necessary.

I have been a big fan of sports-based anime and in Japan a lot of their sports manga and anime are big hits. From the soccer-driven series “Captain Tsubasa”, the basketball series “Slam Dunk”, the baseball series “Touch”, the tennis series “Tennis no Oujisama” (Prince of Tennis) and many of them have this underdog vs. the better team type of mentality and this extends to the video game versions of these anime and manga series.

Yes, there is a banality when it comes to sports genre video games based on anime series but there is often this side of supernatural element that an athlete has. A super kick, a special tennis serving or hitting ability and with “Eyeshield 21″, what makes the series so exciting is that every team has its special individuals with unique talents. But when it comes to the Deimon Devil Bats (the protagonist team), these guys are like a group of misfits put together in hopes to accomplishing their goal of making it to the Christmas Bowl. But they are surely talented. Sena (Eyeshield 21) has this special ability of his running and in this latest volume, he hones that talent and makes himself even better. We also see new characters pop up and joins the team and definitely see how everyone works together, faces adversity together as a team.

But the question is, do you feel that sense of competition like you would get when playing a sports game (ala EA Sports video games). There are some games that capture the anime/manga series well by showcasing a characters special abilities, for example, like certain Prince of Tennis video games.

And as for “Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition”, this is where you are either going to love or hate this game.

This video game is pretty much a mini-game compilation and all the mini-games revolve around training. There are football matches in which your Deimon Devil Bats will go against teams such as the Ojou White Knights, the Sokukaku Chameleons, the Seibu Wild Gunmans, the Taiyou Sphinx and other teams and yes, you do go against them in matches but not like other football video games. These games are simulated and during some points in the match, on offense or defense, you must decide what you want to do. On defense, want to go after the quarterback, go for an interception? On offense, want to pass, want to run?

You have no physical control of the characters like typical football video games. If you select pass, you will then get a mini-game where Monta must catch the ball (a ball is thrown and you hit the shoulder L & R buttons to time the catching of the ball) or for Sena (Eyeshield 21), using the directional buttons as a button is screened quickly and you must press that button right afterward. On defense, your player may be going for an interception and you must go through a maze running backwards and controlling the player (directions are inverted) or pumping up Kurita by doing some sit-ups.

So, you don’t exactly play a real videogame football match ala Madden or even Tecmo Bowl. You don’t control the destiny of your team if they are going to win or lose because it follows the anime series story. The only thing you have control during a match is certain player’s decisions on what to do during a play and if you do it right, it goes according to what you see with the anime series. Fail, you can play that part over again.

“Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition” is a collection of mini-games that requires good decision-making and management, nothing more and nothing less. If this doesn’t excite you, it’s not a game for you. But if you are a fan of the series, because you know how the characters are, you want to play the mini-games for the fun of it and challenge them.

And while I did enjoy the game, I’m going to tell you the truth and say that I am happy I didn’t spend a lot of money on it several years ago when it was like $55. I got this for a pretty cheap price from Japan ($17 which is pretty cheap ala import). Otherwise, if I did spend a lot, not knowing what the game was about, I would have been disappointed.

But even though it’s a collection of football training mini-games, if anything, part of the delight of playing this game is because I enjoy the anime series so much. You really have to enjoy the series to enjoy this game.

For those who are not exactly big fans of the series, it’s up to you if you mind the game being about management and mini-games and if you are a die-hard fan, I’m sure you’re going to buy it regardless.

Otherwise, if you are wanting a true football video game experience, “Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition” is not for you. If you want a better “Eyeshield 21” game, go for the PS2 or DS version.