Part 2 of The Otaku Holiday Gift-Giving guide is here, and video games take center stage this time.
It’s the second installment of my gift-giving guide!
This section has similar rules to my previous guide:
- No AAA series. Again, your friends and family have already probably heard of all the major releases.
- Mix of platforms. I will avoid games released for only one system.
- Stand-alone game. That means nothing with sequels and nothing directly based on an anime or manga. Which, unfortunately, eliminates a lot of possibilities like Project Diva musical games, fighting crossovers, etc.
- Must have a physical release. If you’re sending a digital game to a friend, I’m sure you are be able to see their collection or know what they want already.
- Sales are a goal. Partly because the above already limit the choices and partly because a lot of Japanese-inspired games only get a limited print run. A lot of stores will be having buy one, get one 40/50% off or buy two, get the third free. (Target had one last week, sorry.) Best Buy also offers 20% all gaming purchases for two years for $30, so those are ways to lower your out-of-pocket expenses.
You’ll notice PlayStation games come up a lot on this list. That’s because a) PlayStation consoles are popular on both sides of the Pacifics, b) a lot are available on multiple platforms, and c) Nintendo games tend to be more AAA titles. There are a lot of other possibilities out there from Ni no Kuni to Dragon Ball Xenoverse to Yo-kai Watch, but my personal caveats eliminated a lot of choices. Darn me.
Once again I have included the MSRP as well as sample prices at popular stores. You may be able to get the price lower with coupons, but be sure to factor in any shipping costs.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (PS3/PS4/PS Vita) – $39.99 to $79.99 (PS3 version $39.99 at Amazon)
Odin Sphere actually a spiritual successor to an unreleased-in-English game, but close enough. Although Odin Sphere did make the Greatest Hits line when it was originally released on PS2, it’s still an action RPG that many haven’t tried. Play as five different protagonists — each with their own storyline and playstyle — to piece together all the mysteries. The Storybook Edition (pictured above) is stunning.
Root Letter (PS4/PS Vita) – $39.99 to $59.99 (Vita version $31.99 at Amazon for Prime members)
There are a lot of visual novels (and visual novel-adventure game blends), but if you want to pick one, why not choose the brand-new Root Letter? It’s almost certainly going to get lost in the midst of Pokemon Sun/Moon and Final Fantasy XV, so I think a lot of people will miss this game. Set in Japan, the protagonist receives a long-lost letter from his pen pal saying she has committed murder.
The World Ends With You (Nintendo DS/Android/iOS) – $17.99 to $29.99 (DS version $22.00 at Jet)
This one was on the verge of breaking a few of my caveats, but it’s so good that it deserves a mention. The DS version, which is playable on 3DS and 2DS systems, is hard to find, but you can still track it down. Neku awakens in Shibuya’s busy Scramble Crossing and finds himself in a mysterious “game”. The World Ends With You incorporates a lot of Japanese culture, and I like how you can make the game easier or more difficult.
Natural Doctrine (PS3/PS4/PS Vita) – $19.99 to $39.99 (PS4 version $29.99 at Toys R Us)
Ever hear about people complaining that games today are too easy? Well, meet Natural Doctrine, a game described as in the “hardcore strategy” genre. A love-it-or-hate-it game for many players, but I give the developers credit for coming up with a game where you can’t bash X mindlessly.
Again, there are a lot of anime-related items out there: figures, towels, plushies, cups, cards, and so much more! But if you want to give something Japanese-inspired, here are some ideas:
Japanese Snack Assortments – $10.99+ (pictured is $13.95 on Amazon)
You are probably able to find Japanese food like pocky and ramen at your local store, but plenty of sites have gift basket-like assortments of Japanese snacks. There’s a variety pack to meet any size budget, and it’s a good way for your friend/family member to practice reading the packaging.
Tokaido Board Game – $39.99 ($25.50 at Walmart)
Despite this being the digital age, board games are making a comeback. There are quite a few that originated in Japan or are just inspired by Japan. In Tokaido, you travel the East Sea Road connecting Edo (now Tokyo) to Kyoto. The board game is for two to five players (although at least three is recommended), but it’s not very cutthroat or difficult for non-gamers.
A Treasury of Japanese Folktales: Bilingual English and Japanese Edition – $19.95 ($13.62 at Barnes & Noble)
Yeah, you could buy one of the many Japanese language learning books out there. A lot of anime and manga incorporate folk tales, so it’s nice to understand all the Momotarou and Kaguya-hime references. In addition, readers can practice their Japanese since all the stories are written in both English and Japanese.
Uncle Goose Japanese Blocks – $43.99 ($38.95 at Amazon)
Whether you’re buying for a young person or just young at heart, blocks are always fun. You can build the largest tower possible, study the names of animals, or arrange the hiragana to spell out “welcome”. And hey, it’s made in my state!