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
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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.


4 ex-presidents among hundreds at Barbara Bush’s funeral

Updated 21 April 2018
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4 ex-presidents among hundreds at Barbara Bush’s funeral

  • President Trump's misses out on attending former first lady Barbara Bush's funeral
  • Former US presidents and their spouses attend the funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush

HOUSTON: Four former presidents joined ambassadors, sports stars and hundreds of other mourners on a gray, rainy day Saturday at the private funeral for Barbara Bush, filling the nation’s largest Episcopal church a day after more than 6,000 people paid their respects to the woman known by many as “America’s matriarch.”
President George H.W. Bush was helped into the cavernous sanctuary with a wheelchair behind his sons, former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and other Bush relatives to remember his wife of 73 years who died at their home Tuesday at age 92.
Also seated near the front of the church, in the same pew, were two other former presidents — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — along with their wives and current first lady Melania Trump.
Flags were flown at half-mast for the wife of the nation’s 41st president and mother of the nation’s 43rd as the service began at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, as the choir sang “My Country Tis of Thee.” The church is adorned with sprays of yellow garden roses, yellow snap dragons, antique hydrangeas and other flowers.
Among the other roughly 1,500 guests were former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, and professional golfer Phil Mickelson, along with Karl Rove, and other former White House staff. Many were seen embracing in the church before the service.
President Donald Trump isn’t attending to avoid security disruptions and “out of respect for the Bush family and friends attending the service,” according to the White House. He released a statement Saturday saying his “thoughts and prayers” are “with the entire Bush family.”
A burial will follow at the Bush Library at Texas A&M University, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) northwest of Houston. The burial site is in a gated plot surrounded by trees and near a creek where the couple’s 3-year-old daughter, Robin, who died of leukemia in 1953, is buried.
The family has said Barbara Bush had selected son Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, to deliver a eulogy along with her longtime friend Susan Baker, wife of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, and historian Jon Meacham, who wrote a 2015 biography of her husband.
The funeral program shows that her grandchildren will also play prominent roles: her granddaughters will offer readings during the service and her grandsons will serve pallbearers.
On Friday, a total of 6,231 people stopped by the church to pay their respects. Many of the women wore the former first lady’s favorite color, blue, and trademark pearls.
After seeing how many people had lined up to pay their respects to his wife, former President George H.W. Bush decided to attend — he sat at the front of the church in a wheelchair, offering his hand and smiled as people shook it, for about 15 minutes.
Barbara and George Bush were married longer than any other presidential couple when she died Tuesday at their home in Houston. She was 92.
One of just two first ladies to have a child elected president, Barbara Bush was widely admired for her plainspoken style and her advocacy for causes including literacy and AIDS awareness.
Barbara Bush was known as the “Enforcer” in her family, the glue who kept the high-powered clan together. Eight of her grandsons will serve as pallbearers.