The new gaming generation hasn't been kind on the Japanese gaming industry; the once leading giant had a steady run for two decades
1985-2005 its glory days of Megadrive SNES & PS2 are behind it. Frankly put the land of the rising fun's gaming reign has ended, it sees a similar pattern being mimicked by its auto industry where it's heavily driven by US sentiments or western ones to be precise.
There was a time when 8 of the 10 best games on leading platforms where Japanese brewed & the western entries were novel like EA's annual sport tittles with an occasional sim or RTS by any other developer. The big dogs where Konami, Capcom, Sega, and Nintendo.
Whereas the show dogs were companies like Psygnosis, Crystal Dynamics, Core, Bullfrog, Akklaim, Shiny; all of which are now defunct and hardly made the transition to the Xbox or ps2. It's a rarity to see a game solely coming out of japan taking wide acceptance in a western market as lately even sacrilege tittles like Final Fantasy XIII has seen heavy criticism.
It's like sushi enthusiasts frowning upon a California roll or wasabi mayo calling it an unholy mix. That however is not the case with save Toshi it's a delightful balance of eastern-western gameplay it is a refreshing take on popular 2d physics puzzlers like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope & the breakthrough storm charting tiny wings which I'll review next week.
Nitako the developer behind Toshi is an indication that Japanese developers are now focusing on the IOS platform which for us gamers holds much promise in the coming months as more intuitive colorful games in the fashion of the Wii & DS will make their way to our palms. Frankly put I've seen games out of japan seeing favorable results on handhelds like monster hunter, Pokémon, kingdom hearts even final fantasy tittles have seen more sales than it's big brother HD ones.
Save Toshi's saving grace is the injection of colors that would put skittles, jellybeans, a kiddie paint workshop to shame that coupled with its J-pop sensation starlet Toshi-San who loves to bust a move on the dance floor clad in her colorful kitsch highstreet-high school fashionability.
She's cheery, responds to your inputs like an elated high spirited anime character that has a crush on the smoldering senior in her school. You'll hear her saying things like "save me handsome", when You accidentally flick her off with a ball from an elevated platform which she often teeters precariously she'll say "look you got Toshi all wet" in a cute affable tone expertly voiced by a Japanese voice actress.
The premise is very plausible if you sip jasmine ice tea with fried tempura for breakfast. Toshi loves to dance but has forgotten how to walk & will find herself standing on platforms supported by beams, suspended hinges, ice blocks etc. the idea is to use few balls to knock these beams & platforms to hurl Toshi onto the dance floor, fewer the balls used higher the scores & ratings. The controls are responsive and simple Tap at your intended targets which come in the form of structural support like wood, glass, ice, concrete, TNT crates & hinges, swipe your finger around to get a rotational view of your environment to best tackle the puzzle. The level designs have a steady learning curve, some might have you scratching your head for minutes others an hour or so, until a friend takes over putting you out of your sweet torment.
Luckily like all popular games out there is a free version, if you choose to expand which you most certainly will want to then the full game which gives you 100 levels, new costumes, background music & levels to unlock all adding to your experience thus giving you lasting appeal and replay value.
The redeeming merit of the game is that all my friends seem to have taken Toshi to heart but to really put it to the test I coyly planted this in the hands of one such individual who to me is a balanced hybrid of eastern western schools of thought, his wall rack is adorned with countless figurines by Japanese toy makers & American ones, on one end you'll see Gundam Mechas alongside a street punk version of the hulk with a purple Mohawk, dog-tag collar & high rise chucks, he drives a grey-import racing pedigree albeit in its American form the stellar Acura NSX (Honda NSX), on certain weeks of the month he sports a Fu manchu the others a goatee, he cherishes the read of Ronin the graphic novel by Frank miller on gloomy days.
So when he took to this game like a kid on the other end of an ice lolly eating marathon I knew that the japs had sent their secret weapon a nano-ninja which stealthily used its bushido to cut itself above the competition and the scabbard that the blade rests in is shiny & well crafted.