As part of their Metro Smile initiative, Tokyo Metro are introducing iPads for station staff to use in order to help people navigate the complicated subway system. They can plan routes, zoom and pan an interactive network map, and also access station plans that show the exits and platforms, etc. I think this is aimed at people from out of town, tourists and the elderly. I could never see myself ever needing to use this service. If you’ve got an iPhone, this service is completely redundant, and even if you haven’t, I would say the map above the ticket machine is enough for people who’ve been living in Tokyo for any period of time. The fact that they are using iPads though, shows how the Japanese have really embraced Apple products, since the iPhone and iPad came out especially. In that sense, I’m all for it – regardless of how useless it is to me.
You can see it in action in this follwing clip:
(Sorry, Nihon Television don’t allow embedding.)
Could the new app from Muji entitled Muji Notebook be a success? And more to the point, could it be useful for web designers? I actually think it might. At least it’d be good for notating wireframes and draft layouts on an iPad. You could even use it when doing so in the presence of the client. Moreover though, this app is a good idea for anyone who wants an electronic version of what Muji sells in their stationery section – plus a lot more besides: see the promotional video on YouTube for more info.
Available on the App Store.
I saw an advertisement on the train for a new iPhone app developed by Tokyo Metro, so I decided to download it. You won’t be able to ditch your Jorudan (Norikae Annai) app just yet, but it’s a worthy addition to your tool set for navigating around Tokyo. You can search for your nearest station (Metro only), explore the map of the Tokyo Metro network, find information about in-station facilities and exits, see a map of the inside of each station, and of course plan your journey from one place to another by Metro.
When you fire up the app, you are presented with a screen showing the symbol for each metro line. From here, clicking on the appropriate icon will give you information on service disruptions. This page is therefore totally useless unless in the event of some huge natural disaster as I’ve never experienced any service disruptions during my journey in the 3+ years I’ve been here. Another word of warning is that you will probably need to read some Japanese to use this app properly. Most of the functions are pretty self-explanatory, but the route planner is somewhat hard to find, but if you tap around you should work it all out.
As I said, this won’t replace your main Tokyo train app, because you can’t get the time of the next train and you can’t get the time of the all-important last train. Also, it doesn’t cover any other lines apart from the Tokyo Metro. It’s still worth downloading though I think, and the design is not too bad (better than Jorudan for sure).
This game is genius if not a little old, and at the detriment of the rest of the modern world, is only available here in Japan. If you can’t tell from the picture above (taken at one of my my local video arcades), this is a game in which you assume the role of a Japanese train driver on the Enoden Line and several other tourist lines located along the Enoshima beach area near Kamakura (outside Tokyo to the South West). These lines are famous for having old-style engines and carriages and tend to travel along the coast or through densely built-up areas of traditional Japanese housing, as well as stopping at some of the famous sightseeing spots in the area.
Your mission is to uphold the perfectionist ethos of the entire Japanese train network in general by driving the train observing signals and speed regulations and of course arriving at the stations at the exact designated times, plus/minus 4 or 5 seconds to avoid picking up penalties and thus maximizing your score. Penalties are also incurred for braking too sharply (causing the passengers annoyance) or for forgetting to trigger the announcements, and so on. You also have to open the doors having perfectly lined them up with the markers on the platform. Again, inaccuracy will get you in trouble and cost you points (possibly even resulting in a Game Over if you really mess up). The controls are supposed to closely mimic those of the actual trains in real life, so if the driver were to have a heart attack on the Enoden line, rather than hurtling through stations and ending up in a high speed collision, you could probably find a train geek somewhere on board capable of rescuing everyone in a smooth, controlled and orderly manner; as this is only one of a whole series of games totalling almost 30 different versions found in arcades, on Windows PC and on PS2, and is extremely popular here in Japan.
As a special bonus, here is a YouTube video of the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) version:
Ghibli are working on a video game. I still don’t own a Wii or a PS3, but then something always comes along that tempts me to buy one, like this game for instance, Ni no Kuni (Second Land). It appears to be an RPG in which Studio Ghibli (responsible for the animated movies Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away) are in charge of the character, world design, background artwork and storyline, and possibly even the gameplay too. If you thought that was a good idea, you’ve also got the legendary Joe Hisaishi composing the musical score. Game development is by Level 5 and it will be available in 2011 on both the Nintendo DS and the Playstation 3. See the trailers for more details, you really have to see it.
If you’ve played the original PS1 version of this game, you have to get this iPhone version! It’s based on the cult Konami classic Castlevania – Symphony of the Night, famous for its musical score (hence the title). This new iPhone version is actually a puzzle-based RPG, unlike the original which was an action RPG platform game, but it still retains the original music! I was going to play this game whilst travelling on the Tokyo Metro, but I ended up playing it at every opportunity, as should you.
Download Castlevania Encore of the Night from the App Store
The mighty indy game devs Pixeljam, those who brought you Dino Run and Gamma Bros., are back with a new website, new games and some forthcoming project news. You can already experience the hilarious Cream Wolf and Mountain Maniac as well as some other new offerings, but check out Glorkian Warrior, currently under development.
3Waves Japan Market Research is a full-service qualitative research agency based in Tokyo that serves the overseas market exclusively with a team of bilingual and bicultural consultants, and they chose me to build their website. The project was a joy to work on because they’re great people, but I also got to build a Flash weather widget for Tokyo, as well as scrolling interfaces, dynamic XML-driven slideshows, and a component in Flash that interfaces with the WordPress blogging platform. All-in-all it was a bit of a tour de force and we’re all over the moon with how it turned out. Have a look for yourselves, or even better, contact them about your market research requirements in Japan. Unfortunately they’re so good at what they do they’re in very high demand already so get them while you can (the launch was January 1st 2010).
Some Uniqlo news now. I was in the newly expanded Ginza branch yesterday and had the good fortune to see the new +J line of clothing at the back of the new mens’ section. I tried on some of the outerwear, and I liked it very much. Although I didn’t buy anything (yet), I was taken by the fine tailoring and the details. This lead me inevitably back to the Japanese Uniqlo website where I saw the new Flash toy launched this Autumn – Uniqlo Tunes. It plays video in time with MP3’s, and you can even upload your own. As usual you have the option of integrating it into your blog. This new music toy joins a small collection of other Uniqlo Flash virals and microsites.
Hold onto your hats, this is quite unbelievable. Some guys, who I think are German, have been able to put together an audio production environment that runs in your browser, called Audiotool. It obviously uses Flash, but I don’t know how this is possible! There doesn’t seem to be a sequencer, so it can’t really claim to give Reason a run for its money, but the visuals and the interaction design are pretty stunning. A nice tool to use to play with sounds, but not for finished tracks. Have fun, but remember to do some work!
Marui department store has a poetic and beautiful new promotion in the form of ‘All New 6 (senses)’. I didn’t have the perseverance or the time to decipher the Japanese text juxtaposed over the sepia toned stop frame animations of small model characters living out their lives in various locations in Tokyo, but that didn’t matter. The music and the atmosphere of this piece will draw you in, and then demonstrate to you a side of the marketing sensibility in Japan not often seen in other countries, certainly not in the west. One of haunting, wistful moodiness. A bit strange and sinister. It reminds me of watching those strange eastern European animations on TV when I was a kid.
I’ve got a Wii at home now, so I really want to get my hands on this game. I used to love it on the SNES/Famicom, and now it’s come to Nintendo’s newest home system and it looks even better, plus you’ve got the nunchucks and Wii-remote to use to throw your punches. Ding-ding!
Uniqlo’s continuing viral campaign perpetrated through lots of great Flash mini-sites never ceases to be awesome. The latest one to launch, called Uniqlo Calendar, features time-lapse photography of various locations in Japan given the tilt-shift photography treatment also known as miniature-faking, where a very shallow depth of field often found in macro photography is simulated thus giving pictures of life-size subject matter the appearance of a tiny model. Flawlessly executed as usual with characteristically quirky and hip background music, I’m left eagerly anticipating the screensaver (the link on the site says ‘coming soon’, unfortunately).
I’ve been playing a new incarnation of an old favourite recently, the last in the series from SNK actually. Samurai Shodown V Special is the best in the entire series. You’ve got most of the best characters, plus many new ones, with additional special moves and additional techniques. In this game, you can go into Rage mode, or you can exchange your anger for ‘concentration’ by meditating in order to, at a certain time, go into Concentration One mode, where all of your enemy’s moves take place in slow motion, whereas everything you do is normal speed. This enables you to land about 10 strikes on him while he’s still drawing his sword, as well as move behind your enemy and slay him before he has time to turn around. There are many more cool features, too many to list, and it’s a pixel-art masterpiece – every frame of every sprite. As icing, Yuki and SNK Playmore added Suicides and Fatalities. If you know how, you should play it (but not if you want to be productive at any time in the near future). Oh, and get the uncensored version. That way you can see people getting sliced in half, beheaded or spraying fountains of blood.
And, on the very same day, I found this. A twisted, retro sci-fi first person shooter that seems to have been inspired by early David Lynch. Now this is worth checking out, just to hear square-head’s surreal monologues. The game is called Mondo Agency and it’s developed by a guy called Cactus. Unfortunately (for me), there’s only a PC build, and no Mac version. I ran it under Parallels but it ran pretty badly. I enjoyed watching the YouTube clips more.