Japanese video gaming adapting new tech for familiar titles

Visitors try out a game with a virtual reality headset device at the Tokyo Game Show in Chiba. (AP)
Updated 21 September 2017
0

Japanese video gaming adapting new tech for familiar titles

CHIBA: The Japanese video game industry is finding its way out of the doldrums by adapting new technology for decades-old titles. And that energy was evident at the annual Tokyo Game Show, which opened to media Thursday before opening to the public over the weekend.
“Our old fans used to play Japanese games, and those people are excited those games are coming back and they recognize them as Japanese-style games,” game creator Koji Igarashi told The Associated Press at the show in Makuhari Messe hall in Chiba, a Tokyo suburb.
“Truly game-like games” is the way Igarashi described the genres enjoying revival, including his side-scrolling role-playing games. His latest version will come with a 3-D movie section.
Although smartphones hammered the video-games market for some years, from about 2010, the companies have adjusted. After the dust settled, some of the games that stood the test of time turned out to be Japanese, such as “Monster Hunter” and “Resident Evil,” known as “Biohazard” in Japan, both from Capcom Co., the “Super Mario” series from Nintendo and “Gran Turismo” from Sony, to name a few.
Also helping are new consoles from the Japanese makers, such as the PlayStation 4 from Sony Corp. and the Nintendo Switch. More than 60 million PlayStation 4, or PS4, consoles have been sold since they went on sale last year. Switch sales already total some 4.7 million globally. Switch went on sale in March.
Kyoto-based Nintendo Co. initially scoffed at the threat from smartphones but did an about-face and began offering smartphone versions of their flagship games like “Super Mario” since 2015. “Pokemon Go,” featuring Nintendo’s Pokemon characters and played on smartphones, became a global hit.
Games are also taking on more features, such as massive online communities, as well as immersive virtual reality, not only leading to new kinds of games but also helping revive interest in old-style genres.
Igarashi compared that to the way Japanese movie-making has endured along with Hollywood films.
“We are just offering what we find as fun,” he said, noting that what he called his “Japanese idea of fun” can cross borders. “And we must never lose sight of that — what makes us truly us.”
In his latest game, “Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night,” the player becomes Miriam, an orphan who awakens from a coma and battles demons as she tries to end a curse that is turning her skin to crystal.
Igarashi, known as “Iga” among game fans, produced the classic “Castlevania” vampire-action game series, which started in 1997, while at major Japanese game software maker Konami until he left three years ago to be on his own.
He has raised $5.5 million in pledged funding, mostly from the US, on Kickstarter for his Gothic-horror “Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.” It is set to be playable on the Switch, PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Vita, when it launches in the first half of next year in seven languages, including Chinese and Italian.
Atsushi Morita, president of Sony Interactive Entertainment Japan, Sony’s game division, said Japanese culture is at the root of visual story-telling that began with manga comic books, went on to animation and films and now allows for an interactive element in games.
Many people used to play games, Morita added, but they have stopped as they got older. But with new technology like the virtual reality headset that Sony has developed and an array of software products coming out, the time may be finally ripe for the Japanese game industry to reap the rewards, he said.
“We want people to once again remember and rediscover the fun of games,” said Morita. “We want people to re-experience that joy, that emotion.”
Square Enix Holdings Co. President Yosuke Matsuda said his company is putting out the 15th game of the longtime hit “Final Fantasy” series. Long lines were forming at its giant booth at the Tokyo Game Show for a chance to try it out.
“Japanese games are loved by the world,” he said.


‘Blast fishing’ thrives in Libya’s chaos

A Libyan man buys fish from a fishmonger at the Fish market in Tripoli on August 4, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 20 August 2018
0

‘Blast fishing’ thrives in Libya’s chaos

  • There is still hope as long as some good fishermen respect the trade and go out at night with nets
  • The practice has its critics, including marine biologists, fishermen, and even religious leaders

TRIPOLI: Residents of Tripoli’s seafront wake up most weekends to loud blasts: fishermen using dynamite to maximize their catch, regardless of the damage they are causing to marine life.
Dynamite fishing, or “blast fishing,” has flourished — with impunity — since Libya’s 2011 uprising that left the country awash with weapons and explosives.
The Mediterranean country has since descended into chaos and violence, with two rival administrations struggling to impose the law and a myriad of militias vying for control of its oil wealth.
As a result, protecting fish stock and the environment are not a priority for the authorities, experts and officials say.
Haytham Ali, a newly-married teacher, lives less than 50 meters (yards) from the beach in the capital’s residential suburb of Hay Al-Andalous.
“My wife and I enjoy the peace and quiet of Friday mornings in our garden by the sea, but the explosions... as early as 7 am remind us of all that is wrong in this country,” he said.
Mariam, a 64-year-old widow, said the blasts frighten her grandchildren when they come to visit her home near the water.
“My whole house and my old windows shake with every blast... and I have to reassure my grandchildren that it’s only people fishing, not NATO bombs all over again,” she said, referring to the uprising that was backed by the Western alliance.
Dynamite fishing and the use of explosives without a permit are both officially against the law, but dynamite fishermen appear to be immune.
They even post anonymous videos online of sea water being propelled high into the sky and dozens of dazed or dead fish left behind on the surface.
“We hear (the blasts) but no one can do anything about it,” said Bannour Abu Kahal, head of the fisheries department in Garaboulli, east of Tripoli.

Some marine biologists, fishermen and fishmongers, and even religious leaders have tried to speak out against blast fishing but to no avail.
Using dynamite to catch fish “depletes the fish stock in the sea,” said Mokhtar, a fishmonger in central Tripoli, who declined to give his surname.
“This practice is not correct or healthy for the consumer” because it stuns the fish and shreds its skin, he said.
The explosives, known as “gelatine” in Libya, “kills the fish, the fish roe, larvae and sea plants,” said Fathi Al-Zaytuni, a fishmonger who uses nets for his catch.
The explosive devices used in Libya are mostly home-made and have caused dozens of deaths and injuries, according to media reports.
Lana news agency reported in March that three men from the same family died in a blast in the eastern city of Sirte as they were preparing bombs for blast fishing.

Sheikh Sadek Al-Ghariani, the country’s disputed top religious figure, has also waded into the controversy.
“If this type of fishing is banned by laws that regulate fishing, or if it is prejudicial to man and the environment, then it should not be practiced,” he said in a fatwa, religious edict, issued in 2013.
Abu Kahal, the fishing director in Garaboulli, urged “concerned authorities, especially the coast guard, to do their job and put an end to this kind of fishing.”
On a warm and humid August evening, retired fisherman Abdelrazag Al-Bahri, 72, sat at Tripoli port counting the few fishing boats heading out to sea to catch sardines.
“There is still hope as long as some good fishermen respect the trade” and go out at night to haul a catch the traditional way with nets, he said.
He said traditional fishing in Libya had mostly been the work of Egyptians and Tunisians but they had fled the country, with few Libyans now willing to replace them.