All posts by Pete Davison

Southampton-based music teacher, writer and enthusiast of Japanese popular culture.

Puzzler Essentials: Starsweep

Although the abstract nature of the puzzle game genre makes it theoretically possible to make a game out of pretty much anything, we tend to see a lot of the same sort of thing.

In particular, over the years, we’ve seen a lot of “match dropping things so that their colours match”, “swap things around to make lines of three like-coloured doohickies” and “shoot bubbles at precarious arrangements to make groups of three like-coloured blobs”. As such, it’s always rather pleasing to come across a game that does something a little different from one of these common conventions favoured by the most popular titles in the genre.

Starsweep, a game that originated in Japanese arcades and was subsequently ported to PlayStation and Game Boy, is just the ticket to refresh the jaded puzzle fan.

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GAMERS! The Feel-Good Anime of the Summer

Less than five minutes after the first episode of GAMERS! started, I had a broad grin on my face.

This, it was abundantly clear, was a show put together by people who understood gaming. People who understood why people play, why they feel so passionate about their hobby — and even why, at times, you just want to enjoy it by yourself without sharing it with others.

After the two episodes that have already aired at the time of writing, the show is already a delight, and looks like being a distinctly “feel-good” summer hit.

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Mega Drive Essentials: Fatal Labyrinth

Roguelikes have been around for many years now, but in recent years we’ve seen an explosion in popularity of more accessible games that present a friendlier face to this notoriously obtuse genre.

Well-received Western indie titles such as Spelunky, Rogue Legacy, Dungeons of Dredmor, FTL and numerous others helped popularise (and, some may argue, dilute) the roguelike genre. At the same time, games such as One Way Heroics and the Mystery Dungeon series helped develop the genre in a distinctively Japanese direction.

But this development isn’t quite as recent as you might think. In fact, we’ve had accessible console-style roguelikes since the 16-bit era, though many may not have been aware of “roguelike” as a genre at the time. And a great — if particularly punishing — example can be found in the form of Sega’s Fatal Labyrinth (aka Shi no Meikyuu: Labyrinth of Death, no relation to Compile Heart’s MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death) for Mega Drive.

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How Video Games Might Have Saved My Life

With today’s news about the suicide of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington, I thought now might be a good time to reshare a very personal piece I wrote a while back on my now-defunct personal blog.

Its link to Bennington is tenuous at best, I’ll freely admit, given that it’s an article about video games, but there’s an important core message in here that is relevant.

There are times in our life when we feel like we’re suffering, like things just can’t and won’t get any better. During those times, it can be tempting to contemplate taking drastic steps, up to and including ending your own life.

But, and you’ve probably heard these words a lot today already: don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to people and ask for help if you need it. And if there’s something that helps you cope, make use of it. Taking this advice is why I’m still here today.

This piece was originally written in April 2016, so some references may be a little dated! Oh, and here’s the source for the header image.

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Granblue Fantasy: Spotlight on Lyria

Granblue Fantasy is filled with an enormous variety of awesome characters, most of whom are playable characters that can be drawn in the gacha.

From the very outset, though, you have two faithful companions who never leave your side: the protagonist’s feisty baby dragon-type thing Vyrn, and Lyria, the latter of whom in particular is a big reason I find myself continually drawn back to the game.

While initially appearing to be the same sort of “mysterious young girl” character seen in a wide variety of Japanese role-playing games over the years — and particularly in mobile-social RPGs such as Granblue Fantasy and its peers — Lyria quickly distinguishes herself as a thoroughly pleasant character to have around, making her an ideal companion for you, the player, as you proceed on your journey around this fantasy world.

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From the Archives: A Square Sequel

Final Fantasy is probably one of the best-known names in the JRPG genre. And yet even within this long-running series there are titles which have had more attention than others.

Everyone can vouch for the quality (or at least impact) of Final Fantasy VI and VII, but what about the ones people don’t talk about in quite such reverential tones?

Today I’d like to talk about one of the less fondly-regarded entries in the franchise and explain why you should give it another look.

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2013 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been edited and republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

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Nekopara: A Day in the Life of Some Cats

The concept of the “fandisc” is a curiously Japanese phenomenon that allows fans to engage with their favourite works in alternative ways, and for creators to celebrate the success of a work without making a full-blown sequel.

The closest equivalent we probably have here in the West is downloadable story DLC or expansion packs for popular video games, but those aren’t quite the same thing as a fandisc; while exceptions exist, they tend to be about “adding value” to an existing product, whereas your typical fandisc stands by itself as its own discrete title in the context of a larger series.

Such is the case with Nekopara vol. 0, an all-ages fandisc for the series that launched in August of 2015, about eight months after the surprise success of vol. 1.

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