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There was once a time when MSX systems ruled Japan. A joint venture of Microsoft and ASCII, the standardized home computer architecture was released in 1983 and subsequently wound up being produced by no less than 22 hardware manufacturers in the country.
EVEN CASUAL observers know better than to undervalue the degree of affection those with a predisposed bent towards tactical role-playing games have for the Disgaea series. Certainly, it benefited from, and contributed to, the rapid rise in popularity of the Sony PlayStation 2 en route to being the best selling videogame console of all time. It took Japan by storm with the debuting Disgaea: House of Darkness in January 2003, and the title’s localization, commissioned to Atlus for the United States and Koei for Europe and hitting store shelves seven months later, proved such a critical and commercial success that Nippon Ichi Software saw fit to establish a permanent presence in California by the end of the year.
JUST TO be clear from the outset: RICO stands on solid ground. As the acronym for “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations,” it speaks to the procedurally generated action it offers, requiring the disposal of armed enemies with literal do-or-die persuasions. Gamers take on the role of a member of a special operations force charged with dismantling extremely entrenched criminal groups. Random missions need to be completed in the process, but the overriding objective in invariably involves getting any and all lowlife scums to meet their maker one room at a time.
AT THE TURN of the millennium, SNK Corp. came out with the two-dimensional SNK Gals’ Fighters on the Neo Geo Pocket Color. Designed to be the female version of the hugely successful The King of Fighters series, it was released near the end of the handheld’s life cycle. Needless to say, it was an attempt to boost flagging sales; it tried to widen the user base by making 10 distaff characters from popular licenses its protagonists under proven gameplay mechanics.
WHEN KADOKAWA GAMES released God Wars: Future Past on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 last year, it put forth a tactical role-playing game awash in Japanese lore. Its story, which began with a Queen’s sacrifice of a daughter to appease the gods and continued with the other daughter striving to find out why, offered a stunning look into the history of the Shinto-steeped Land of the Rising Sun. Parenthetically, the hope that the narrative would pull in and not alienate Western audiences was answered with success on retail shelves.