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Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia

We are finally back online due to extreme downtime and of course Virginmedia being can'ts as usual.  The upshot of this is we have a sparkling new review for you. 

Thanks to SpAmazon we have a pandora battery to resurrect our PSP and a few new games to play on it.
This being Prinny Can I really be the Hero (Dood), Metal Slug Anniversary Comp and Valkyrie Profile Lenneth.  Finally we have a big old book of monsters from CFZ press called the Great Yokai Encyclopaedia.

If you're sitting comfortably we'll be gin (groan ED).

The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia.

A massive manual of mythical monsters that appear in Japanese myth and legend.  Comprising the familiar (Tengu, Kitsune, Kappa and Tanuki) with many that aren't (Ippon Datara a one legged blacksmith monster local to Mount Kumano area, and Tsuchigumo a massive earth spider.)
Sekiens Night parade of 100 demons.

They are generally well written articles for those well known monsters, including about 8 pages on Kitsune alone, however some of the least known only get a few lines or just one line.  I've yet to fully look into whether they have much more info in Japanese, but its a little offputting to see.  Much worse is the inconsistent texts, sometimes its bad romanization of Japanese names (we are fans of Macrons here rather than doubling up letters), though its often spelling mistakes and spellchecking as this example proves.  I don't think the Buddha quelled a giant dessert in Mongolia but gee thats a great image, and possibly the greatest misprint i've seen. 

As an anime nut I would have loved manga style artwork for these entries, but the art (and artist) they are using is good and reminds me of the old D+D Monster Manual stuff.  Some of the scanned artwork from various sources is rather pixelly, however its always good to see old woodblock printed stuff.

The beginning has a massive section dealing with the various media that Yokai have appeared in including a look at Kaiju movies and Hideo Nakata's Ring Series.  I never knew that Raichu was a direct take off of the thunder beast Raiju, though they are right in saying that Pokemon has a massive amount of mythical beasts in it and would take a book pointing them out.  Sadly they never talk about video games and yokai in that context ever again, which we'll certainly do after this review. 

All in all the book is a good read and while much more ruthless proofreading is required of it, is certainly worth the £14 they are asking for on the Center for Fortean Zoology website.  Anyway where else can you find a parasitic Yokai that cause you to crave acidic food and live in your spleen. 

The Not So Great Yokai Videogame Appendix.

Like I outlined above, there are plenty of games that let you experience the yokai at first hand.  Its not just Pocket Monsters, where you can find yokai to play with, I'll outline some of the best Yokai experiences below with my top 5 Video Game Night Parade.

5: Pocky and Rocky Series (Ki Ki Kai Kai)

A series of games that pit you as a Miko (Shrine Maiden) called Sayo Chan and her Racoon buddy Manuke.  Seemingly a vertical scrolling shooter from Taito this game is not only rock hard but stuffed full of yokai.  From the lantern ghosts that swirl round as cannon fodder to the massive showdowns with 9 tailed foxes, this is one of the best old school shmups featuring Yokai.  The original is available on the Tatio Memories 2 compilation for XBOX, PC and PS2.  You'll need an emulator to get the original SNES games to play, but its worth it.  More Info here.

4: Ganbare Goemon Series

A series of games that were never really translated here, only the N64 games and a SNES game ever made it out of Japan, however what did come out I can heartily reccommend.   Based on the story of Ishikawa Goemon the Japanese Robin Hood, it stars Goemon, his hapless pal Ebisumaru and (in later games Ninjas Yae and Sasuke).  Though obviously a comedy platformer, there are strong yokai themes in this one, including a village haunted by various obake and walking umbrellas, and Tanuki that is used as a save point.
You'll need an emulator to play both SNES and N64 games but its worth it.

3: Otogi.

This is a really obscure game released by From software for the Original XBOX only.  You take the place of Raiko, a samurai assassin that was killed off and back to life to unleash vengence on demons.  It had pretty good graphics and allowed you to wreak havoc on all sorts of demonic beings and mythical beings.
There is a walkthrough on youtube but its best watched on mute.

2: Shin Megami Tensei Series.

A vast series of games that revolve around you recruiting demons in some fashion.  This sounds like a horrible paraphrase to the series but let it be said if you love both role playing games and Mythology then the Megaten series is the best.  We would reccommend getting either of the later Persona games for PS2 or the remakes for PSP, for a more Modern day Japanese experience horror experience especially Persona 4 with its Ringesque investigation into a serial murder case in Inaba town.  Theres still folklore and stuff but its more up to date and current as well.

1. Okami and Okamiden

The best Yokai game and another sprawling adventure game.  You play as the incarnation of the goddess Amaterasu, reincarnted as a white wolf (providing a lovely double pun, Okami being wolf in Japanese and an honorable way of speaking of the gods), its loosely set in Sengoku era Japan (1500 ish) and has a massive array of yokai and characters from  myth.  The follow up Okamiden sees you as a puppy incarnation of Amaterasu and has even more yokai fun.  You want Sugawara and Daidarabotchan (incarnated as a giant rabbit robot owned by the moon tribe) you got it.  Evil cartwheels that roam around, oh yes, they even have Namahage as well in case you think they are being lazy.  Best of all its still available for both Wii, DS and PS2 though Okamiden is DS only. 

Conclusion.  We omitted some of the Japanese only stuff including a whole series on GeGeGe no Kitaro that would never be translated officially in a million years, and a bizarre PS1 RPG thats getting a PSP Remake, that'll never be released in a million years in the west.

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