I know this is old, but in my defense, I took this picture on December 27th, 2010. My brother and I were with our mom for Christmas, and at some point when we were out I saw this place:
Filtering by Tag: 2010
The next arcade on my list of places to see in Akihabara, we inadvertently came across Taito HEY (Hirose Entertainment Yard) about a minute after leaving Club SEGA. HEY occupies floors two through four of the 5-level Hirose Honsya building. Hirose's basement level, like Asobit City and other places in the district, was dedicated to various manga including hentai, lolicon, and dojinshi (self-published works) in the form of a store called Melonbooks. The first floor, like GiGO and Club SEGA, was dedicated to claw games and featured a sign advertising a Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition playtest.
The second floor is where the good stuff started, and it was here that I had what was probably my favorite arcade experience of the trip. After browsing a floor dominated by dozens upon dozens of shoot 'em ups (and playing a bit of Dogyuun myself), I noticed a small crowd of people gathered around a Japanese guy playing Terminator Salvation. A light-gun shooter, the player is armed with a customized M4A1 carbine that features force feedback, a mechanic where the player hits the bottom of the carbine's magazine to reload, and a button on the side used to shoot grenades. I watched him and the crowd for a minute or so, wondering why no one joined him on the second gun. Was it a cultural thing? Would it be considered rude for me to walk up and join him? I figured one of the benefits of being a white guy in Japan is that I can get away with such behavior, so when he died I walked up to the second gun. As he inserted another 100-yen coin, I gestured toward the weapon, my way of asking if I could join him, and he gave a nod of approval. I jumped in somewhere on the first mission (out of two total), and we ended up beating the whole game together. The game was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the metagame of us trying to beat each other's scores. With the exception of one time, he consistently had a slightly higher score than myself. One of my favorite things to do in the game was pressing the carbine into my shoulder so I could steady it with my right hand when getting low on ammo, allowing me to immediately hit the bottom of the magazine to reload with my left. It was also a useful technique when digging through my pockets for some bills to give to my brother in exchange for more coins. It felt cool, and we must have looked as such, as the crowd around us grew to around 12 to 15 people by the time we reached the endgame (my brother was counting). I've never had a bunch of people watch me play a game like that in person before, and it made it all the more exciting.
The stranger and I made a good team, with our final scores fairly close to each other, and we parted ways after entering our initials. It's extremely doubtful, but I wonder if "CAR" is still written on the scoreboard.
I can't remember if that was the last thing I did at Taito HEY or not, but my notes end after that.
Here's a list of everything I saw at the arcade:
Taito HEY/Hirose Honsya Bldg.
Melonbooks - manga, hentai, lolicon, dojinshi, etc.
Battle Gear 4 Tuned
Dance Dance Revolution X2
Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom
Elevator Action: Death Parade
Gaia Attack 4
Something I wrote that I can't read (Midnight ???? game. Might be Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3DX. Can't confirm.)
Taiko no Tatsujin
Tetris The Grand Master 3: Terror Instinct
Thunder Dragon 2
And a TON of shoot 'em ups (almost entirely on Egret II cabinets)
Arcana Heart 3
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift
Fatal Fury 3: Road to the Final Victory
Guilty Gear XX Λ Core
Mobile Suit Gundam: Gundam vs. Gundam Next
A bunch of other Gundam games with weird titles
Street Fighter IV
Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition location testing
Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion
The King of Fighters '95
The King of Fighters '98
The King of Fighters 2002
The King of Fighters XIII
Vampire Savior: The Lord of Vampire
Dragon Quest: Monster Battle Road II Legends
Football (I think it was World Club Champion Football)
Lord of Vermilion II
Kamen Rider Battle: Ganbaride
Kidō Senshi Gundam: Senjō no Kizuna
Kidou Senshi Gundam 0083 Card Builder
Sangokushi Taisen 3 War Begins
Shining Force Cross
World Soccer: Winning Eleven 2010 - Arcade Championship
SEGA GiGO was a great experience, but I knew the best had yet to come. It didn't take long to see how other arcades in the area compared, as this was the first thing we saw turning the corner out of Akihabara Station on the morning of July 18th, 2010:
Similar to GiGO, Club SEGA is a six-level arcade complex with the first floor dedicated to claw games. Passing by some Hatsune Miku gear and Mickey Mouse pillows, we headed down to B1 to discover the Japanese arcade experience I'd been hearing about for so long. In front of us were a total of 45 fighting game cabinets. Divided between Virtua Fighter 5 R and Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion, this place was absolutely packed with people. If someone wasn't fighting, they were standing around watching the matches, and after taking a quick browse of the place, my brother and I split up to test our abilities against those obviously far more skilled than us. I started out on Virtua Fighter 5 R, a series I'm most familiar with via capsule toys in Shenmue. Having never been real deep into fighting games, the most confusing aspect was figuring out what buttons did what and knowing if I needed to press a specific button to block, like in Virtua Fighter, or if I just needed to push back, like in Tekken.
After getting my ass kicked pretty thoroughly, I purchased a Tekken-Net ID card and went over to my brother, who had been playing Bloodline Rebellion against a Japanese fellow and fared about as well as you'd expect. I decided to give his opponent a try, so I sat down, sliding the overflowing ash tray to my side (apparently people smoke a lot more when playing fighting games), and inserted my card. I chose Steve, a character I always stuck with for the rare times I played Tekken 4, and began to fight. My opponent stayed with Hwoarang the whole time, and though I did better than my brother, I never won a full match. Sure, I could get it down to a tiebreaker with us each having two wins, but I could never pull it off in the final round. I think he was messing with me and getting my hopes on purpose, actually. After coming to the conclusion that I would never win and not wanting to waste any more of my precious 100-yen coins, I got up to head to the 2nd floor. As I left, I looked over to see who my opponent was. I think he had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and was wearing a fedora, but that may just be my memory making him seem cooler than he was.
If B1 was the fighting floor, then 2F was the racing floor. 20 racing cabinets - divided up between Initial D: Arcade Stage 5, R-Tuned: Ultimate Street Racing, and Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3DX Plus - took up the majority of the floor space. However, it seemed that most people there were far more interested in playing Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Arcade, even if it meant waiting in a roped-off line for a while. Not in the mood for racing or waiting, I decided to play another rhythm-based game where you hit giant buttons called pop'n music. Originally released in 1998 by Konami, the version I was playing had recently been updated in 2010. The game's difficulty is based on whether you want to play with five buttons or nine, and I was able to play five songs on the former for 200 yen. Here are my scores I wrote down:
- Butterfly - 96
- Gradius (Full Speed) - 75
- Rhythm and Police - 99
- Bonus Round: Battle W/O Honor or Humanity (Kill Bill theme) - ??. I wasn't looking at the screen when the score came up.
Another rhythm-based game on this floor was Taiko no Tatsujin 13, which you may be familiar with as "that drum game" from Lost in Translation (though that was an earlier version). I watched a few gaijin play it for future reference and scaled the stairs up to the third floor. Similar to B1 in amount of fighting game cabinets but unmatched in sheer variety, 3F contained: Sengoku Basara X, The King of Fighters 2002, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, Arcana Heart 3, Melty Blood, Guilty Gear XX Λ Core, The King of Fighters XIII, and Street Fighter IV. After playing as Terry Bogard in The King of Fighters 2002 and getting destroyed by another stranger, we went up to the fourth floor. With the exception of four Power Smash 3 (Virtua Tennis) machines, 4F was the mech floor, mostly consisting of Gundam. Intimidated by most of the games, my brother and I sat down and played a Gundam game that, like Cyber Troopers Virtual-On Force, was linked to the other cabinets, though I was able to grasp the game better. My boost ability, beam sword, and projectile weapon weren't enough to win, however, and I had to wait for my brother to play another round as he somehow wasn't defeated by the guys we were playing with. He had no idea how, either.
We went up to the fifth, and final, floor of Club SEGA, in which I soon witnessed the greatest arcade setup I have ever seen. Imagine eight players, all with their own arcade cabinets, controlling and managing their football (or soccer or whatever the hell you want to call it) players via collectible trading cards and then seeing the results of their actions on a 100-inch+ screen in front of them that's showcasing the match as if it were a live football broadcast. World Club Champion Football Intercontinental Clubs 2008-2009 made me wish I cared about the sport, and it was so impressive that I almost missed the three Shining Force Cross machines behind me. There was a guy at the end playing the game by himself, and from what I could tell by watching the demo, it was a multiplayer action RPG with touchscreen functionality, and it looked more fun and familiar than anything I had come across yet. My brother sat down at the middle cabinet, and I bought us each an IC card so we could save our progress. Nothing in the game was in English, but we managed to grasp things pretty quickly. Time ran out for me on the character creation screen as I was still figuring out all the options, like how to put "Charles" as my name and how to change the color of my hair, eyes, and skin. Not knowing how to go back to the creation screen and not wanting to play with a character I wasn't happy with, I bought another IC card and managed to get it right the second time. With my new character, "Charles", I was placed into a single-player tutorial before being able to play with others. By the time my brother and I finished and moved on to the multiplayer, the other guy had left. I was disappointed we weren't going to play with him, but that was before we met Yuto and $auels, two Japanese players who were who-knows-where. It was awesome, and the game reminded me so much of Phantasy Star Online, a game I absolutely loved. There was a little chat box where you could use emoticons to say things like "Thank you" and such, using smileys and other universal symbols to communicate with fellow players, which reminded me of the days when I had a keyboard hooked up to my Dreamcast and would stand around in groups of Japanese players saying things like "Hello" with a smiley face and thinking how amazing it was that I was communicating with these people from across the world on my gaming console. The game itself was also a lot of fun; I could have played it all damn day, really, but my brother and I agreed we should probably head out in search of the next place on our list. If I ever get to play Shining Force Cross again, it'll be as a level 7 character with 8302 EXP.
Both of my Shining Force Cross IC cards and a help booklet.
It was about a minute later after leaving that we inadvertently bumped into Taito HEY. I wondered if it could match up to the fantastic experience that was Club SEGA.
MJ4 Evolution (8)
Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion (20)
Virtua Fighter 5 R (25)
Dragon Quest: Monster Battle Road II Legends
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Arcade (4)
Initial D: Arcade Stage 5 (8)
Kamen Rider Battle: Ganbaride
Midnight Maximum Tune 3DX Plus (8)
R-Tuned: Ultimate Street Racing (4)
Sangokushi Taisen 3 War Begins
Taiko no Tatsujin 13
Arcana Heart 3
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift (8)
Guilty Gear XX Λ Core (10)
Melty Blood (6)
Sengoku Basara X
Street Fighter IV (6)
The King of Fighters 2002
The King of Fighters XIII (4)
Power Smash 3 (4)
Various Mech Games including Gundam
Shining Force Cross (3)
World Club Champion Football Intercontinental Clubs 2008-2009
A pamphlet on SEGA Moba and a hand wipe used for cleaning arcade buttons and headphones.
Up at 4 AM and too excited to sleep, I fiddled around on my brother's laptop and began what would become my early morning ritual of watching weird Japanese television. We decided to make Akihabara the first place we visit, not only because it's the place to go if you're into video games, but also because we needed extra batteries for our video camera and a power strip to charge all of our electronics at once. (The hotel room only had a total of two outlets, one of which was in the bathroom.)
Since my brother and I got ready so early, the only place we knew of to eat at, and the least intimidating, was a Western-style breakfast cafe on the 7th floor of the Annex tower of the Shinagawa Prince. It was a nice place to eat, with large windows covering the room allowing one to look out at the surrounding city, with nearby buildings growing lush yards of green grass on their roofs. The cafe served exclusively a generic breakfast combo in which the only choice given was how you wanted your eggs cooked and whether you wanted coffee or tea. Besides that, you're given a nice variety of things to eat: two sausages, potato salad, regular salad, a fruit cup, a roll, and Texas-style toast along with some kind of soup and orange juice. The meal was pretty good, though I didn't care for the soup. It was at this cafe that I started noticing the amusing pattern of all the Japanese people speaking English to me as I spoke Japanese to them.
We left and walked the couple of minutes it takes to get to Shinagawa Station (I would recommend this hotel on its location alone) and took the Yamanote Line to Akihabara Station. As soon as you enter the district, it's immediately apparent that the moniker "Electric Town" is well deserved. Dozens of shops line the streets selling every type of electronic you could think of, with plenty of arcades and capsule machines in between. Our first task here was to buy the Canon BP-827 batteries we needed; they were nowhere to be found in Texas, and the ones we ordered online never shipped like they were supposed to. In Akihabara, we literally walked into the first shop we saw and there was a rack full of them. Shortly afterward we obtained the power strip, and in less than 10 minutes all the important shopping I was worrying about was complete.
Some advertisements along with the power strip we bought.
Down the street was Akihabara's SEGA GiGO arcade complex. I made a separate, unedited video of our visit here. Knowing filming wasn't allowed, I held the camera at my side most of the time, resulting in a lot of shaky footage. It may be unwatchable for some, but I also wrote about our experience here.
Near the complex was a row of capsule machines, one of which featured Dragon Ball Z characters. (You can watch my brother and I fail miserably at obtaining a Vegeta Final Flash figure in the video.) We then went into a store called Asobit City which, like many others, had several floors that each had a different theme. The first floor contained video games, including a section devoted to English-release titles like Red Dead Redemption, and also had an area full of capsule dispensers. One of the dispensers had six different Famicom-themed holograms, so we went back to SEGA GiGO to use a change machine (we didn't notice the one right behind us) so I could get them all. Thankfully the holograms were given in order, so there was no worry of receiving a duplicate.
The 2nd floor focused on toys and figurines and the like, ranging from Rockman to Batman, Aliens, and a wide range of anime characters I didn't recognize. There were also Persona 4 keychains and a Jack Frost plushie that stood out. The 3rd floor was devoted entirely to Gundam which, if I were a huge Gundam fan, would have been amazing - having only seen a couple of episodes, however, we didn't linger in this area for long. The 4th floor was a hobby and crafts area, featuring trains, models, and building materials. The 5th floor contained a large arsenal of airsoft guns which, in Japan, look incredibly realistic and don't have orange tips. There were Tommy guns, UZIs, M1 Garands, a Peacemaker, and various other machine guns, submachine guns, and pistols. In one of the aisles was the awesome picture you see below. As my brother was fishing for the camera in his backpack, a male employee watched us and approached when he took it out and said, "No picture." We pointed at the amusing photoshop to indicate that's all we wanted to shoot, and the employee laughed and said, "Just that." He was very nice, and we put the camera up right afterward. I'm not sure if it was this floor or one of the previous ones, but Asobit City also had a section for cosplay. The one that stood out to us was a mannequin wearing a full SS uniform with swastika and all. It reminded me of the incident with Prince Harry several years ago, though I didn't see his actual outfit until yesterday. I thought it was far more than just an armband.
The 6th floor was the shooting range, which we didn't bother checking out. As we were leaving Asobit City, we noticed we had missed the basement level. Upon entering, we were greeted by rows and rows of porn. I didn't take specific notes on this area, but it was by far the most crowded floor of the entire complex and walking through the aisles was difficult. It was here that I showed my brother his first taste of lolicon (or so I'm assuming). While most things were censored here, there was a small poster featuring a drawn depiction of an underage girl, let's say... somewhere between seven and ten years old, completely naked, vagina fully visible and all. That's something you won't see so easily in the States! And while I felt a bit weird being here, everyone else was so casual about it. There was a male and female running the checkout counter with a long line of people waiting to purchase their pornographies. It felt so normal. I liked that, but I'm also a pervert.
Our next stop was a place called Big Apple, a massive pachinko parlor. Unlike similar machines I've seen in America that feature boring 7s and cherries, these were far more interesting, making you match up pictures of things like Neon Genesis Evangelion characters instead. The floor above had a video game theme, like a Resident Evil machine (Pachi-slot Biohazard is its official name) that, graphically, reminded me of the remake for the GameCube. This machine was a bit more interactive - as I watched a guy hit the buttons to stop the slots, he was also shooting a monster as Chris Redfield.
We headed back to Shinagawa Station, dropping by Super Market for the first time. I got some milk (there were cows on the side of the carton so I knew!), a bag of "Tortilla Chips Adelita Au Fromage" (basically Belgian Nacho Cheese Doritos), McVitie's Strawberry Cream Digestive Biscuits, and something else that I don't know the name of since I threw away the label before taking notes. I also bought a box of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl Kraft Macaroni & Cheese that I didn't get to eat until I got back to the States. We returned to the hotel to charge our electronics, and it was then that the front desk called. I picked up the phone and said, "Moshi moshi" ("Hello"), a customary greeting for when one answers the phone and something I've always wanted to do. It might have been better for me to just say hello in English, however, as the employee started speaking in Japanese. I replied, "Nihongo wa hanasemasen" ("I don't speak Japanese"), and he proceeded to ask, in English, if we wanted the room cleaned today. I said no and decided to never answer the phone in Japanese again. On a side note, these may totally be the wrong English spellings as I don't spend my language-learning time on rōmaji.
Om nom nom nom nom nom
Though fairly exhausted, I knew I needed to eat a proper meal before retiring for the day, so, a bit later, we went to the food court on the second floor of the Annex tower for the first time, which soon became a common place for us to eat. Various restaurants are located in a sort of semicircle, with seating and a beverage counter in the middle along with an eating area outside. Instead of ordering your food at the restaurants and having the chefs handle your money, you use touchscreen kiosks located at the entrance. You put in your money, pick your selection of restaurant and food, and a ticket is printed out with your order that you hand the cooks at your restaurant. My brother went to the Soba Udon place and ordered minced tuna and rice and was handed a yellow numbered ticket after ordering. I went to Shinagawa Ramen and got the... Shinagawa Ramen. I was given an electronic device that beeps when your order is ready (like the ones you would find at a Buffalo Wild Wings or Olive Garden). We went to the beverage counter while our orders were being made to get our drinks. For dessert, we ordered from a place simply called "Crepe", whose motto is "Sweet, fruity & happy taste." My brother got the crepe wrapped around green tea ice cream, which he thought was OK but tasted weird (like, DUH). I got the super delicious banana crepe, which was warm and wrapped in a cone shape, holding cool cream and banana slices inside. Happy taste, indeed.
We decided to head back to the Super Market before returning to our hotel room. My brother's green tea dessert started to melt and, after commenting that finding a trash can in Japan is like trying to find a toilet in France (extremely difficult), abandoned me in front of Shinagawa Station for what felt like far more than the ten minutes he claimed. He apparently bumped into some sort of festival where they were serving food and was able to discard his dessert in a cardboard box they were using to collect trash. We bought more milk (a red carton instead of blue this time!), and my brother got some Asahi Tea and Asahi Beer.
A Weekly Shōnen Jump I picked up somewhere. Also, all the receipts I have from July 17th! Woooooooo, receipts!
Back at the hotel my brother rested as I organized some stuff related to the trip. I also began research on the Takarazuka Revue, an all-female musical theater troupe. I can't remember why, but something reminded me of Phoenix Wright, which in turn reminded me of the Phoenix Wright musicals the troupe had put on a couple of years back. I got the urge to see if the same cast was performing locally and started researching things like how to get to the theater, how to obtain tickets, how one should dress, etc. I eventually discovered that the Cosmos troupe, considered the more experimental troupe of the theater and the ones that performed the Phoenix Wright musicals, were performing Trafalgar at the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater, which was only a short walk and train ride away from Shinagawa Station. After struggling to order the tickets online, I discovered a Yahoo! Group dedicated to the very subject. I posted a message there seeking assistance and went to bed.
We would be returning to Akihabara in the morning.
Welcome to the first entry of Japan Uncut! This series is a supplement to Japan: The Series. Videos with the "Japan Uncut" label are videos that were either too long or too shaky to include in the main series.
This video takes place on July 17th, 2010, as my brother and I explore our first Japanese arcade: Akihabara's SEGA GiGO complex. Knowing I wasn't supposed to be filming, I kept the camera at my side, resulting in the footage being very shaky. I've done everything I can to stabilize the image as much as possible, but I understand and apologize if it's not enough. I thought that some might want to see what the inside of one of these places looks like, however, so I decided to upload the video we shot in its entirety.
SEGA GiGO is a six-story complex full of arcade machines, claw games, and capsule dispensers. The first couple of floors are filled with these last two, where players can win trinkets, figurines, stuffed toys, and body pillows of various anime characters, with the music of Hatsune Miku nearly drowning out whatever sounds these machines would make. The third floor and up are where the actual arcade games began. (I have a detailed list of the machines at the bottom of this post.)
It was the third floor where I discovered Pokémon Battrio, the first Pokémon arcade game ever made. I didn't even know it existed (I had to create its wiki page on Giant Bomb) and decided to make it my first Japanese arcade game. And for my first time playing an arcade game in a language I didn't know, I didn't do too bad! I actually won a match, somehow, and it wasn't until reading about the game later that I realized just how clueless I was. It turns out there are pog-like items that you purchase separately and then position on the grids near the buttons (I was wondering what they were for...) and a bunch of other mechanics I had no hope of figuring out. It was at this machine where a nice Japanese lady walked over and made a giant 'X' symbol with her arms, politely telling us we weren't allowed to film there.
After failing Chimchar and the rest of my Pokémon squad, I decided to try one of GiGO's many claw games. A slime from Dragon Quest caught my eye, so I tried my luck, receiving five tries for 500 yen. My mom took the fun out of these games when she told me the operator of the machine simply sets how often the claw will actually grasp something, so I didn't bother wasting more money when I didn't win.
Exiting the escalator on the fourth floor, my brother and I were greeted by eight massive P.O.D.s (panoramic optical displays), which, after a little examining, were for Kidō Senshi Gundam: Senjō no Kizuna (Mobile Suit Gundam: Bonds of the Battlefield). Near the P.O.D.s were two "pilot terminals" in which you could watch the games being played on an LCD screen or buy game cards to save your own progress. A bit too intimidating for me, I opted to play the Tekken 5 machine in the back (I unknowingly passed Street Fighter IV). As I sat down at the cabinet, I remembered a 2008 Giant Bombcast I heard during the Tokyo Game Show in which the crew discussed the difference in setups between Japanese and American arcades. In America (in my experiences, at least), a fighting game like Tekken 5 would be played side-by-side with your opponent on the same cabinet, with a player needing two out of three wins to be declared victor. In Japan, each player gets their own cabinet, which is placed back-to-back with their opponent's, and the winner isn't decided until a player nets three out of five wins. I prefer the Japanese way since you get your own screen, don't have to acknowledge your opponent, and get to play longer. It's like playing online, except there's no lag and way more cigarette smoke! Speaking of which, each cabinet had its own ashtray (I thought they were to hold 100 yen coins, at first). No one seemed to actually be smoking there, thankfully.
After warming up with the familiar, my brother and I headed to the fifth floor to find something a bit more... foreign. While we passed by eight Border Breaks, an interesting-looking mech-based action game that supports up to 20 players via network connectivity, we decided to skip it since it looked too complicated. The fact that there were four "GiGO Border Break Rookie Guides" laying on a table didn't encourage us. So we went up to the sixth and final floor and found another mech game called Cyber Troopers Virtual-On Force. Attracted by its 4-player setup, I played as a lolita robot against my brother and a random Japanese dude. I won the second round, but I never grasped the controls and was merely haphazardly mashing buttons and wiggling the joystick around. Eventually losing and seeing everything GiGO had to offer, my brother and I descended the complex and left.
It was nice to exit an arcade without thinking, "Man, that employee was an asshole," or "I wish that machine had actually worked." GiGO was a place full of people there to have fun and play games. It was a place with employees on each floor willing to politely assist if needed. It was clean, every machine worked as it was supposed to, and it had the latest releases. It even had a designated area to trade cards and read guide books for the more complicated games! GiGO represented what an arcade was supposed to be, something I hadn't experienced for a quite a while prior to my visit. I knew the best was yet to come, however, so my brother and I went to further explore Akihabara.
Here's a list of everything I took notes on in the arcade:
B1 - Caffe Pasta Restaurant
First Floor - Various claw games and capsule dispensers
Second Floor - More claw games: pillows with anime characters, anime figurines, slimes, stuffed Rilakkumas, etc.
Third Floor - More claw games and capsule dispensers. One Piece, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Arcade, World Club Champion Football, Pokémon Battrio, Dragon Quest: Monster Battle Road II Legends
Fourth Floor - Kidō Senshi Gundam: Senjō no Kizuna (8 P.O.D.s), Tekken 5, Street Fighter IV
Fifth Floor - Border Break (8), Sangokushi Taisen 3 War Begins
Sixth Floor - Cyber Troopers Virtual-On Force (12), DVS (6), MJ4 Evolution (11 - Mahjong), Shining Force Cross (8)
Japan Uncut is a supplemental side-series to Japan: The Series. These mostly unedited videos are either too long or too shaky to include in the numbered episodes and will be released in between them.
I'm currently working on Episode 02: Electric Town which is far more difficult to edit than Arrival was. There's so much I want to show, and putting it all together is harder than throwing together a train montage set to music. One of the places I want to show is my visit to Akihabara's SEGA GiGO arcade. You're not allowed to film inside there, so I kept the camera on and at my side which resulted in a lot of shaky, unusable footage not fit for an episode in the main series. I thought that some people might be interested in the sights and sounds of a place like this, however, so I decided to start this side-series to show off stuff like this. The first video in the series will be released later this week. It may be unwatchable for some, but hopefully implementing some image stabilization and such will help.
Making Japan: Arrival was a lot of fun. It being the first video I've ever truly edited - meaning I'm excluding the two very, very minor things I've edited in the past using Windows Movie Maker - meant that I had to get a program capable of doing what I wanted to do and learn how to use it on my own. After browsing reviews, I settled on CyberLink PowerDirector 9. I went to The Pirate Bay and torrented a copy (I soon purchased a legal copy of CyberLink PowerDirector 10 to replace it, which is what produced the final video) and was impressed by how fast it loaded up and how easy it was to use. Having practically zero experience with this sort of thing, I was expecting it to be more difficult than it was to figure everything out.
I watched all the videos saved in the "July 15th" and "July 16th" folders and threw them into PowerDirector. Totaling a little over six gigabytes with a run time of 35 minutes, most of the videos consisted of shots outside the window on the Narita Express. While the landscape was beautiful, watching a video of it would only be interesting for so long. I knew I would have to make some drastic cuts and throw in some music to make it watchable. Not wanting to risk having my videos taken down by YouTube or anything, I would either need to use some royalty-free music or get permission from someone whose music would be a good fit. I've been following Hamst3r for a long time now (before The Giant Bomb Community Song, even) and had the idea of using his music for my travelogue since the trip. I didn't want to just be some guy asking for his permission, however, so my plan was to make the video as if he had said yes and send it to him privately. I went to his website and listened to a bunch of tracks, going mainly off of their titles, until I stumbled upon "At Last...". It was both a fitting title and theme for the video, so I downloaded it and added it to PowerDirector.
Now that the music and videos were in, it was just a matter of making everything fit. Being a huge fan of the work done by 2 Player Productions on Penny Arcade: The Series (and later Vantage Point Productions), I had wanted to edit everything in a similar vein before we even went on the trip. (Being a huge fan of Whiskey Media has influenced my thinking when it comes to video editing, as well.) That's easier said than done, however, especially since no shots were planned on the actual trip, and it was just me walking around with a video camera. One of the main influences I took from these guys was editing the progress of the trip to the beat of music; it's not a concept they invented by any means, but they're where I got it from. "At Last..." is only two minutes long, so this meant making further cuts to the footage of the train ride. I ended up having to be very selective with the shots I chose, especially since each one would only last a couple of seconds at most. Maybe after the series is done I'll upload the whole files for people interested in them, but I'm happy with the final sequence. Most of my time was spent stretching out the file editor and shaving milliseconds off different clips to make the scenes change on the beats. I've probably heard "At Last..." almost a hundred times now!
Making something of your own is just as much about avoiding the things you don't like as it is copying the things you do. One of the things I find most annoying when watching a YouTube video are long opening credits - the kind where there is one sentence per page followed by slow fade transitions, all before you ever see anything of the actual video. I've always been a big fan of just jumping right into the action, which is why Arrival starts in the middle of me playing Rastan. Anything that needs to be said can be said later in the video after something has happened, preferably with something going on in the background.
After stitching everything together, I added in the ending credits over the television scene. Though I will always credit the work of others at the end of my videos, future credit segments will be far shorter. I felt it was appropriate to give them more time in the opening and ending videos, however. With the video nearly finalized, I uploaded it to YouTube and marked it private, embedded it into a PM and sent it off to Hamst3r to ask for his permission; he quickly got back to me and said it was fine. This happened over three months ago, and since I decided I wanted to start the project in 2012, I had plenty of time to make whatever changes I wanted to before January.
Only a few changes occurred between then and the video's release, most of them minor. I edited the opening paragraphs and added in the kanji ("Japan") under the late title card (I love late title cards). I also took out the "Special Thanks" section I had at the end of the credits, which listed Whiskey Media, Penny Arcade, 2 Player Productions, and Vantage Point Productions. I chose to remove this part to avoid confusion, as they had nothing to do with the video and may not want to be associated with it. The only major change was the final part of the video, the one that plays after the episode information pops up. Before, it was bit more ominous, with the camera slowly zooming in on one of the televisions in the Narita Express while an accident report for another train line shows up and the video then cutting to black. Then I had the idea of doing what I've seen the likes of Freddie Wong and Corridor Digital do (even Egoraptor does it now) and added in clickable annotations at the very end. I already had the perfect shot - the one where I scrolled through all the games on the Global Arcade Classics machine - so I took some screens of the Giant Bomb blogs I wrote along with the list of episodes and overlayed them on the sides of the arcade cabinet. Since the Arrival blog couldn't be finished until the video was uploaded, I posted an unfinished version on Giant Bomb, taking a screenshot and quickly deleting it. This was all before I found out you couldn't place external links in YouTube videos, so I ended up just adding an "All links in description." speech bubble. I also added a Subscribe button at the bottom and decided to take a screenshot from one of the videos I would be using for Episode 02 to later turn in to a link for the next video. I made sure annotations would only come up at the very end since I personally hate having to turn them off every time I play a video after one pops up.
The video was then complete. After asking a few members to watch it to ensure there weren't any issues with it (online playback was choppy on my computer), I soon finished the blog post and released the video to the public on January 12th.
Three more things:
1. Someone asked why everything looked blue. This was because for the first bit of the trip I hadn't realized the video camera was set to "Tungsten". Whoops!
2. In the introductory blog post I said I wanted to edit and show everything in chronological order. I already broke this rule with the first video, as the superfast train sequence after the tunnel actually happened before the tunnel. It was the only bit of footage I had that fit with that point in the music!
3. This is one of my favorite Penny Arcade episodes. It has thus far been impossible for me to watch it without at least one tear!
Here's Japan: Arrival. Episode 02 will be released in February! -
I hadn't slept much. The little time I had left that wasn't used preparing for the trip was spent preparing for our return. The few things I kept, such as my game consoles and computer, were strewn about the bedroom floor; the rest of my stuff was on its way to a storage facility in Oklahoma. See, we were to be moved out of our house in Texas and on the road to Fort Sill the day we got back to the States. I wanted more time to get ready, but it was my fault for spending so much time messing with my new Xbox 360 S and watching Lost. (I had set up my own mini home theater in my room after the movers took our projector and spent more time on Netflix than I should have.) I wasn't completely unprepared, though - after spending eight hours trying to find our hotel in France, I made sure of that. This time, I bought two binders, one for me and one for my brother, and made note of some key bits of info to avoid issues later, such as directions to our hotel and a small glossary. I figured the covers of the binders should represent things we like from Japan, so I put some art of Metal Gear Solid 3 by Yoji Shinkawa on mine and a badass drawing of Toshiro Mifune on my brother's.
The stuff I kept in our binders, including our itinerary info, basic phrases, and the aforementioned directions and glossary.
I also brought the menu I had been using for our local Japanese restaurant, Shogun. I've always had an aversion to seafood and was able to count on my fingers the number of times I ate it throughout my life. Figuring this was something I should get over, I started going to Shogun a few months before the trip to try foods I never had before. I circled the things I liked and placed an asterisk by things I didn't like. Having now been to Japan and various Japanese restaurants across the U.S., I can say Shogun has had the best food I have ever had - we once drove six hours just to eat there! Also, I ate more than what the menu shows; I just stopped circling stuff at a certain point.
When it comes to being authentic, Shogun is the Kid Rock of Japanese restaurants. Mmmm, old Giant Bomb memes...
With an 8:20 AM departure, there wasn't a lot of time to mess around. After gathering up our luggage, unplugging all the electronics in the house and taking a stupid picture, we took a cab to the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport.
After checking our bags and getting our boarding passes, we headed upstairs to wait in the food court. Luckily for me, there was an arcade right across from where I sat.
My boarding passes and the book we took on the trip.
A couple of shots of the arcade. On the left is the Global Arcade Classics machine I played Rastan on. On the right is the only full shot of the arcade I had. I was waiting for the announcer lady who interrupted my video to shut up so I could finish talking.
I didn't spend much time actually playing games. The arcade had Global Arcade Classics, T-Mek, Giga Wing (which wasn't working), Tekken 3, Off Road Challenge, Demolish Fist, Ranger Mission, and San Francisco Rush: The Rock (Alcatraz Edition). I played Rastan on the Global Arcade Classics machine, but it was time to go through security so I rushed through the game until I died, hence my terrible playing in the video. A short while later we were on the tiny plane en route to Houston. We arrived about an hour later and took a bus to the actual airport, which is the first time I've ever had to do that. We took a train cart to Terminal E and waited to depart for Tokyo.
We were a little concerned about our flight. Every international flight I've been on had seats in rows of three. On Travelocity, they had an overhead map of the plane and let you click on the seats you wanted, which I thought was pretty cool. There were rows of just two seats in the back of the plane, and I chose to go with those. My brother had recounted a story in which he sat in the back on an international flight before, and the seats didn't lean back at all, which would be pretty bad for a 12-hour flight. It ended up not being a problem, and we had the benefit of not sitting next to someone else.
I was surprised by the variety of people on the plane. I'm sure I would have heard a lot of interesting stories if I asked them why they were going to Japan (though I know there were a few on their way to China), but I decided to indulge in the massive entertainment selection available, instead. Far more robust than when I went to France, there were 192 movies, various TV shows like The Office and The Simpsons, music, and a video game selection that included basic titles like Asteroids. I tried to watch Up in the Air, a movie I have still yet to see, but my headphones couldn't go loud enough for me to hear all the words. I decided to watch movies I liked and already saw before, such as Get Smart and Ratatouille. I went with the beef and rice meal for dinner, which included bread, salad, and a cookie. It was actually pretty good, like most food I've had on planes, contrary to what comedians of the '90s led me to believe. Maybe something about being 34,001 feet in the air makes food taste better. That, or it's improved over the past fifteen years or so.
They brought around fruit and eggs for breakfast. I skipped the eggs, since any eggs that aren't made by me usually aren't very good (the trick is lots of margarine and salt). They soon brought around the customs declarations forms, and we landed at Narita International Airport shortly afterward.
What the customs declarations forms look like. Riveting!
After taking the escalator down past the "Welcome to Japan" sign, we stood in line for about twenty minutes with the rest of the people entering the country. We scanned both our index fingers and had our pictures taken, got our luggage and handed customs our forms and continued on through the airport. They didn't bother looking in our bags or anything, and it was the first of many instances that revealed just how much better dealing with Japanese airport employees was compared to the TSA.
We went to go purchase our Suica & N'EX package from a lady who didn't speak English. Thanks to those handy Arabic numerals, however, we were able to eventually figure everything out and went toward the train heading for Shinagawa Station. We got on the Narita Express and sat in our reserved seats, 7A and 7B, placing our luggage at the front of the cart in a convenient storage area.
Some of the pamphlets we picked up, along with our Suica & N'EX receipt.
Attached to the ceilings were TVs that displayed trip progress, news stories, advertisements, an overhead map of the next station, updates on other train lines, and the time; they would even cycle the information through various languages.
When we weren't looking at the TVs, we were admiring the view out the window. One of things that surprised both my brother and I, even on the flight in, was just how green everything was. There were seemingly miles of perfectly cut grass without a dead patch of brown in sight, not to mention all the lush trees. Passing by dozens of homes with clothes hanging out to dry only reinforced the quaintness of it all. Another unusual sight, though I'm sure it's no different in America (not that I would know since public transportation here is terrible), was seeing everyone playing with their phones at the various stations we stopped at. You would have been hard-pressed to find someone not staring at a tiny screen of some sort as they waited for their ride.
Look at all that green! Also, the first McDonald's we saw.
There were a couple of people reading manga on the train, one of which was a Weekly Shonen Jump. At one of the stops, a white guy with an N7 Mass Effect shirt got on. As we arrived at Shinagawa Station (the entire trip was about 70 minutes) I was sure to say "Awesome shirt." He looked up from his DS (I think he was playing a Pokémon game) and said, "I appreciate it." in an accent that wasn't American, and I gave a thumbs up and simply said "Mass Effect", which I think should totally be a thing.
Shinagawa Station is a large place with various shops for whatever one might need, including a Super Market (That's the name of the store!) that's always crowded. Outside of Shinagawa Station is a large crosswalk that takes you to the Shinagawa Prince complex, which is composed of a few different towers. We stayed in the North Tower, which was a little tricky to find at first as the complex is so big. During my stay, I saw several different stores (including a drug store), a movie theater, a bowling alley, a bunch of restaurants, and that wasn't even close to everything the complex contained. I could have seen Gary Whitta's The Book of Eli with Japanese subtitles!
I accidentally read about the revelation at the end on NeoGAF before seeing the movie. :(
After checking in, we took an elevator to the sixth floor. There was a vending machine as soon as we exited that contained various drinks, such as orange juice, tea, and ... beer. Asahi, specifically. My brother was thrilled.
Our room was right by the elevator, and my brother practically passed out after we got settled. I hadn't slept properly for about 39 hours at this point, but I wanted to get some writing done for the trip. I decided to go to sleep as to not disturb my brother and later awoke a bit earlier than him at 4 AM. I knew trying to rest at this point would be a pointless endeavor. I was too excited, because today was the day we were going to Akihabara.
On July 15th, 2010, my brother and I took a two-week trip to Tokyo, Japan. It was a place I had been wanting to go to since I was in elementary school, and I planned on filming the trip so I could make a series of videos afterward. We purchased a Canon VIXIA HG20 shortly before leaving, giving me just enough time to learn how to use it. It was then that I learned my computer was too weak to play the videos properly, not to mention that I had zero experience with video editing and didn't own a proper program to do so.
It's been nearly 18 months since we returned, and, with assistance from Will and Norm over at Tested.com, I finally have a top-of-the-line computer that can play the 1080p videos at full resolution. I recently got my first video editing program, too, settling on CyberLink's PowerDirector. I'm still amazed at how fast and easy the program is to use, and, though I've just started, I feel like I've learned a lot.
With over 300 videos totaling around 168 gigabytes, my goal is to whittle those down into a series of videos that are hopefully somewhat entertaining. I actually didn't film as much as I had planned to, opting to just enjoy the trip and not focus on documenting it. Because of this, I don't really have a set plan; I'm just organizing and editing these videos as I go, eventually turning them into something I feel comfortable showing other people.
As of right now, I intend to have each video in the series represent one day and be edited in chronological order, though I might throw an extra day in there if there's not enough footage. The first episode, which I'm titling "Arrival", is nearly done and takes place during July 15th and July 16th. Each episode will be accompanied by a blog post that I'll be posting across the various Whiskey sites. I imagine the Giant Bomb and Anime Vice crowds will be most interested in these, as you can't turn a corner in Tokyo without seeing something related to video games or anime. I also spent a lot of time in arcades, though I don't have much footage of that as they don't like people filming or taking pictures inside.
There's no set format for each video, since, as I said before, I'm just now editing them and will be releasing each one when it's done. My shots weren't planned, so the quality of the videos will be dependent on what footage I have and what I can do with it. I kind of prefer it that way, as I have no idea what an episode will be until I'm nearly done with it. I'm really enjoying the process; it's a completely new experience for me and gives a unique satisfaction that I don't get from writing.
On the subject of Japan, it's the only place I've traveled that I can say I would like to live at (though I probably wouldn't want to work there). I was taking Rosetta Stone courses to learn Japanese beforehand, but decided to stop a while before the trip for a very specific reason: that out-of-element feeling one gets when in an unfamiliar environment where they don't speak the language. I experienced it in France and Italy and loved it, and knowing that Japan is a place I'll be going to more than once, figured I could either have the one experience of knowing the language and culture, or have both experiences of not knowing what the hell is going on, and then returning later, fluent and far more knowledgable than before. I chose to have both experiences.
I think that's everything I wanted to say. The videos will be uploaded to YouTube (and my SmugMug account) and posted as blogs. Episode 01 will released on the 7th, and then I'll start working on Episode 02: Electric Town. All in all, this is just something I'm doing for fun to both showcase the trip and learn how to edit video.