Tag Archive: America


Tech Review

Nintendo DS is one of the most popular hand-held systems in Japan and with its popularity comes a variety of different games. With so many games, it’s impossible for all of them to make it into the United States. One game that never made it to U.S. shores is Itadaki Street, which literally translates to Top Street. Itadaki Street is a computer board game created by Square-Enix. The version I played specifically for this review was created for the Nintendo DS and featured a crossover of Super Mario and Dragon Quest characters.

A game of Itadaki Street plays out similarly to a game of Monopoly. Players start with 1,200 gold and travel around the game board purchasing properties. As properties are acquired the street (which is a collection of 4 color coded properties) goes up in value. That is where the similarities between Itadaki Street and Monopoly get a bit skewed. Since Itadaki Street is a digital board game the arrangement of the game board and number of streets are not always the same; there are however many squares that must be in each board. These squares are the bank, casino, inn, lucky square, and chance card squares.

The bank is comparable to the Go space on a Monopoly board; it’s the square where players start at the beginning of the game and it’s where the stock trade transactions take place. Players buy stocks to increase their overall net worth which is an important factor in winning a game of Itadaki Street. Stocks also give players a small cut of any transactions happening on the streets they have stocks in. The bank is also where players earn bonus money upon gaining a level which is achieved via the aforementioned chance card squares. Chance cards are a total of one-hundred different cards that have various effects on the game, such as decreasing a street’s stock value or stealing a property from another player. There are a total of five chance card squares on each board; one is a miscellaneous chance square represented by a question mark which allows the player to pick a chance card upon landing on it. The other four chance squares take their shapes from a deck of playing cards, and also allow a player to pick a chance card. However when a player passes one of the shaped squares that shape is added to their collection. Once all four shapes are collected players can go back to the bank and level up, which rewards them with a cash bonus similar to passing the Go space in Monopoly. The inn square causes players to fall asleep which takes rent cost down to zero for that player’s properties for one turn, the casino square pits players in a random game of chance for high profits, and the lucky square gives whatever player that lands on it a cut of all of their opponents monetary transactions.

Players can buy houses on their properties like in Monopoly; however a player doesn’t need to own every property of a particular street to buy one. All a player has to do is land on any property square they own and they can put money towards a house on one property of their choice. Just like Monopoly the more money you put towards the houses, the more it will cost players who land there. An interesting action players can perform is something I’ve come to call a hostile take-over; to perform this action players must land on a property square owned by an opposing player. After paying the rent players have the option of taking control of that property square but at a high cost. There are two ways to win a game of Itadaki Street, one way is to bankrupt all other players on the board, the other is reaching the board’s preset winning net worth total which varies based on which board is being played.

Graphically, Itadaki Street DS is a beautiful looking game based on Nintendo DS’s standards. The game has a great variety of characters that animate fluidly and there is a variety of stylized backgrounds for each game board. Itadaki Street’s audio leaves little to complain about with much of the game’s music paying homage to both intellectual properties. Fans of both Dragon Quest and Super Mario might be a bit disappointed to know however that they do not take control of any of the characters from either series. Instead, players must create a character that can be dressed in custom attire should they have the gold required.

There are many aspects of Itadaki Street I find enjoyable. First the stock market system, it adds a surprisingly fun twist to an otherwise straight forward system. It’s a good feeling knowing your stocks have paid off when you start getting huge cuts of each monetary transaction. Also being a huge fan of Super Mario, it’s nice to see my favorite characters along with hearing some nostalgic tunes from the series. Even though I can’t play as my favorite characters the game does throw me an olive branch by allowing me to buy items to customize my character. However there are some problems with Itadaki Street as well. Like Monopoly, although there are some strategies, most of the game is factored on lucky rolls. Players only roll one die and it’s not uncommon to have several turns without landing on a vacant property square which can be infuriating. Game times can take several hours forcing players to put in ample free time to complete one board. It’s also an extremely hard game; even the lower ranking opponents can be extremely ruthless.

Personally I like Itadaki Street but in the end it’s a very niche experience. This is game that is built for two types of enthusiast. In the one hand are the hard-core fans of either the Dragon Warrior or Super Mario series. In the other are the die-hard Monopoly fans who don’t mind the added complexity of a stock market and changing game boards. Anyone not in these two categories should steer clear of Itadaki Street DS because it’s not the game for you.

Front Cover

Front Cover

Back Cover

Back Cover

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Japan is one of the cleanest places that I’ve ever seen. In the three weeks I’ve been in this country I’ve only counted about eight pieces of trash on the street. It sounds a bit hard to believe but it’s one hundred percent true the streets here are just that clean. Now here’s an even bigger brain teaser, there are barely any garbage cans anywhere in Japan. Oh you may find one or two in the train station or near a vending machine, but don’t expect to find one on the streets, your chances are slim to nil. I personally like it though, the lack of garbage cans helps to keep me traveling light because I don’t know how long I’ll have to walk with an empty soda can in my hands or wrappers from whatever candy I’ve purchased. Also with how clean the streets are I can’t even find the urge within myself to litter, I just don’t want to ruin I good thing. Now if only we could figure out how to psychologically stop people from littering so America could have cleaner streets.

Streets High-up View

Streets High-up View

When it comes to food service Japan is one of the best countries. Servers are always polite, clean, attentive and fast. The cherry on top for this countries’ food service industry is when it comes to the issue of tipping. It is considered rude to tip your waiter or waitress so therefore, you never have to leave a tip, prices on the menu are the prices you pay! There are even restaurants where the server is cut out entirely and replaced with a ticket selling vending machine. Patrons only need to deposit their money and choose from the nicely pictured menu. This system is great because it allows you to order at your own pace. If you’re in a hurry just pay and hit the takeout button, if you’re just on a casual stroll hit the dine-in button. The kitchen staff is incredibly fast at these vending diners, patrons usually receive their food within 3-5 minutes of their order. This may seem like magic but after my friend Pochin and I gave a closer listen we heard whatever we ordered announced over a loud speaker in the back. This is what prompted the chef to start cooking before we even sat down and handed him our tickets. Overall I feel the food service in Japan trumps that in America because the service is better and I don’t have to leave a tip to ensure it stays that way.

Good Food Great Service

Good Food Great Service

Toilet Doko Desu Ka?

Bathroom breaks are a fact of life. No matter what culture you’re from or how you feel about the world, when nature calls we all think along the same line. In Japan one can find toilets similar to the thrones back in the United States. However there are also toilets with extreme upgrades over our well known American toilet, as well as extreme downgrades. Most toilets in Japan have heated seats the help protect users from cold shock syndrome upon placement of their posteriors. There are some toilets that have automatic lid lifters that tend to scare unsuspecting users. I almost broke the door of the bathroom I was using the first time I was put in front of an automatic seat lifter. The final feature of the upgraded toilet is the washing features it offers. If one is inclined to use it all that needs to be done is the press of a button and the toilet will help clean you out. With all the features of washing toilets it’s hard to know why squatting toilets can still commonly be found in Japanese restrooms.

Toilet

Toilet

Move over America, it doesn’t look like baseball is your favorite pastime anymore. You haven’t witnessed a live baseball game until you’ve seen one here in Japan. First thing to note some of the nicest security you’ll see anywhere. Yes, the guards at the gates will search you bags but they’re not pushy or irritating about it like the security back home. Second, if you’re entering the arena with a drink from the outside of any kind the associates will graciously pour it into a nice plastic cup for you and thank you for buying tickets to the game. Third, the prices inside the stadium are actually fair, still more expensive than outside goods but not to the level where complaints can be deemed necessary. Finally the crowd, absolutely everyone at the stadium is excited to be there, and the home team receives non-stop praises and chants from their loyal fans. The fans may be loud but they’re fun and extremely nice. There was a super fan sitting in front of us who taught us some of the cheers rather than laughing at our ill fated attempts. I don’t think I can experience a baseball game in America quite like the one I was a part of here in Japan.

Dr. C. Enjoying Baseball

In the United States if one desires to be self-reliant they need a driver’s license if they hope to go anywhere. There are not many places in the U.S. where other forms of transportation are available or affordable. That’s why coming to Japan is a bit of a culture shock because it’s basically turning this mentality on its head. There are many different forms of public transportation available in Japan, and it is more common for a person to use a subway to get from point A to B rather than a car. As an American, the idea of not having a driver’s license is extremely odd because back home it’s hard for someone to be successful without one, although there are those rare cases. In Japan I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that most individuals probably don’t have a license due to how expensive it is to own a car here in Japan and how cheap it is to ride the subway, take a train, or charter a bus.

Another Unrelated Cool Pic

Another Unrelated Cool Pic

While walking around Japan you’ll find vending machines absolutely everywhere. These vending machines sell a variety of goods from hot and cold drinks, ice cream, noodle cans, meal tickets, and even French fries. Really almost anything you can imagine could very well be sold in the vending machines in Japan. Besides being a marvel of variety, Japanese vending machines are also a marvel of technology. In America if you want a hot or cold drink you have to find a specialized machine for one or the other. In Japan both drink types can be offered from a single machine. If you’re in a hurry some machines allow you to buy products with your subway card which is a great way to extend its usability. I can’t help but be amazed at how well maintained the vending machines are here even the ones hidden in back alleys. No matter where you find a vending machine in Japan it’s always clean, well stocked, and one-hundred percent functional.

VendingMachine

VendingMachine

Here in Japan there are convenience stores everywhere, all along the streets one sees multiple signs for AM/PM, Lawson, 7/11 and the like. In the US, a trip to the convenience store usually implies a late night snack, or a beer and tobacco purchase. In Japan one can get these items and I dare say that convenience stores in Japan offer so much more. They are comparable to mini super markets in America, and as such it is where most Japanese people go when they need supplies for whatever reason. Food, toiletries, health and beauty products; all of these items can be found within the shelves of a “konbini”. Due to their popularity, they are able to offer better prices and more options than those of their American counterparts. Besides the usual candy and soda aisles we find in America, a Japanese convenience store is stocked with pre-prepared meals that come in little boxes known as bento. Bento boxes can hold a variety of different meals. I’ve seen some that have beef rice bowl (gyudon), pork cutlet with sauce (katsu), and many different varieties of cooked fish, seafood, or sushi. Some Japanese convenience stores have meal cards at the counter. For around 300-700 yen the clerk will cook you a meal of your choice detailed on the meal cards. With all the aforementioned information it’s hard to argue the usefulness of the Japanese convenience store.

Picture unrelated but cool!

Picture unrelated but cool!

While here in Japan I can’t help but be jealous of the mobile technologies available to them through their keitai denwa (portable phones). I’ve seen all kinds of weird and cool gadgets attached to the cell phones here and I can’t help but wonder when America will catch up with some of the Japanese innovations. Having a digital camera attached to your cell phone is nothing new back in the United States, but having a cell phone built around a digital camera is new entirely. I’ve seen a cell phone with a rotatable screen that had a full size camera lens that took ten megapixel shots. To compare to America’s best, the i-phone only has a three megapixel camera. I’ve also seen cell phones with built in solar panels to help power users up while they’re on the go. Being stuck with a Tracfone back home I’m not certain if there are cell phones capable of streaming television shows in America, but in Japan streaming TV to your mobile phone is fast and smooth.

cell phone

cell phone