Bradcat’s Place Focus… Game Bar Continue

Everyone knows that video games are the life blood of Japan, after all it’s where they came to fruition in the early 70’s. So when people come to Japan, it’s totally natural to have an uncontrollable urge to visit an arcade. The bright lights of the local Namco/Sega arcade are enough to draw any one in. But what if you don’t want to pump ¥100 coins into the machines for a mere 3-4 minutes of fun? What if you want to kick back and relax whilst playing video games?

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You head on down to “Game Bar Continue” (ゲームバーコンティニュー) in the Chuo-ward of Osaka (approximately 5 minutes walk from Shinsaibashi station). Located on the 5th floor in a side street, this little paradise can easily be missed if you aren’t looking for it. As you exit the elevator you’re always greeted with a warm welcome, regardless if the bar is empty, or rammed shoulder to shoulder.

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There are a few other “game bars” scattered around Osaka, all offering different prices for drinks and charges for the games. At Game Bar Continue you pay a flat fee of ¥500 to play the games and then ¥500 for most drinks (some of the special drinks are ¥700) but you can stay for as long as you like! Game Bar Continue is open from 6pm-5am most nights (depending on how many customers are in the bar). As you can tell from the photos, it’s a very chilled place so you can easily lose track of time.

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You’ll find a vast range of video game consoles spanning over three decades, including (but not limited to); Super Famicom (AKA Super Nintendo) x3, PS2, Neo Geo, N64 x2, Playstation 3 x2, Wii-U x2, Xbox, Xbox 360, and many others. Not only do Game Bar Continue cater for the avid pixel junkie, but they have a colossal selection of board games too, many of which I’ve never seen before in my life. The entire bar is elegantly plastered in video game history too, from retro handhelds, to a (mint in box) Tamagotchi!

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Yes, that is a “bucket” of Super Famicom (SNES) games

The staff are Nisshi, Tomo, and Tenten (I’m yet to meet Yuzu and Deremai) who are always on hand to serve you another drink or snack. If there is a game you’re dying to play, all you need is ask, and they’ll leap into action to grab it for you. On my latest visit, I had an incredible urge to replay Metal Gear Solid 3 after recently smashing my way through Metal Gear Solid 5. Sure enough, they had it, and within minutes I was parachuting my Naked Snake into the jungle. *ahem*

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The bar is quite big and seems to be separated into three sections, the main bar, three tables (for board games) and a side room for those wanting a little more privacy and their own party area. I’ve found on each visit there are a mix of people; those who want to block everyone out and just play video games, and those who want to be a little more social. That’s why this place is so fantastic, you can do whatever you like and not have to worry about anyone else.

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On a previous visit I went with the intention of scoping out a new photography location. The owners have kindly said that I’m welcome to use the bar as a photography location shoot for my fashion photography. However, whilst taking some test photos, I was tapped on the shoulder and asked “Do you like board games?!” before I knew it, I was sat with Takashi, Shu, “M”, Koisei, and Chandai playing “Game of Life” (as it was one of the only games amidst a treasure trove of Japanese board games that I recognised).

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Feeling thirsty or a little peckish? Game Bar Continue offers a small snack menu and a vast array of alcoholic drinks and cocktails. You’re given a complimentary bowl of mixed nuts when you arrive, but you may want to peck at something whilst gaming into the early hours. Here are just some of the basics on offer:

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[ビール]
キリン 生一番搾り(Kirin Ichiban) 650円
シャンディ・ガフ (Shandy Gaff) 650円
レッドアイ (Red Eye) 650円
カンパリビア (Kanparibia) 650円
(and loads more!)

Food menu
[フード]
MIXピザ (Mixed pizza) 800円
ソーセージ盛り合わせ (sausage platter) 700円
ラージャン麺 (Rajan noodles) 600~円
ピクミン麺 (Pikmin noodles) 600円
チャーハン (Fried rice) 600円
(and loads more too!)

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So if you’re ever in Osaka and fancy a little R&R&R (Rest and relaxation and retro) make sure you head down to Game Bar Continue. A little heads up for tourists, you might want to brush up on your Japanese as you won’t find any English speakers here! But you came to Japan for the immersion right?!

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Address:
Game Bar Continue 中央区東心斎橋1-12-19-5F, Osaka, Japan 542-0083
Website: http://gamebar.jp/index.html
Facebook: Game Bar Continue Facebook Page
Twitter: Game Bar Continue Twitter
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Bradcat’s Japanese Culture Focus… Arcade Culture

In 1978, Tomohiro Nishikado (a video game designer from Osaka) developed the most famous video game of all time; Space Invaders. He worked for Taito, a video game company which came to fruition in 1953 manufacturing pinball games. Over the years, Taito moved further into the arcade market to become a huge player in the coin operated video game industry.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 22.32.58The iconic Sega arcade in Akihabara

Fast forward over 35 years later from Space Invaders, and Japan’s downtown areas are now clustered with arcades. Upon leaving a main train station, you’re never more than a stone’s throw away from an arcade or ゲームセンター (“Gemu Senta” Game Centre). These incredible structures are normally broken up into categories and different floors. They’re owned by many different companies including Sega, Capcom, Namco, and as previously mentioned, Taito.

The arcades are set out in a very specific way for various reasons. The UFO catchers (toy grabbing machines) are usually found on the first floor, the second floor will often be comprised of semi-casual fighting games, and driving games. As we climb higher, the third floor is normally a space for rhythm games such as Dance Dance Revolution, whilst the higher floors are reserved for more serious gamers and gamblers. Obviously every arcade is different, but you’ll normally see this similar layout. Sometimes the hardcore gambling games are kept to the basement levels rather than the top floors.

In Kyoto with Sakura Panda Tea Time

The staff are always on hand to help with any malfunctions (trapped prizes, or faulty buttons) and sometimes will even lend a helping hand if they see you’re struggling. I remember one occasion in Osaka when I had my heart set on a Hatsune Miku statue, and even after pumping in over ¥800 (¥100 a turn) I still wasn’t any closer. The attendant was watching the entire time chuckling to himself. Eventually he opened the cabinet, moved the figure to the edge, and made the game 90% easier for me. It seems the staff work there, because they enjoy what they do, as they’re also damn good at the games.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 22.45.19       My UFO goodies from Osaka

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 22.36.58My Kumamon toy from Kyoto   Obviously I’m a casual gamer.

After three weeks inJapan, I’d barely scratched the surface of arcade culture. I’d spent most of my time playing Taiko No Tatsujin, a simple rhythm game comprised of a large drum, and two wooden sticks. Obviously I never went higher than “Normal” mode, however there is an advanced level known as “Oni” mode which draws in the insane level gamers.

Japanese arcades are so innovative, I can’t imagine half of the things I saw there ever catching on in the west. There are rhythm games which make Guitar Hero look like a primary school education tool. With multiple screens, literally rows upon rows of buttons which have to be mashed in sequence, with a display which looked like a July 4th celebration with explosions of colours and numbers. I saw a shooting game involving two guns, both with analogue sticks on the backs of the guns for movement of the character on screen. Not only this, but the guns would “snap” together in different combinations (side by side, on top of each other) to form extra weapons. Other nice touches included arcade cards which could be purchased, and registered online, so that on your next visit, you could continue with your progress instead of starting over again.

So what is it about the arcades which draw the Japanese to them? Simply put, there’s something for everyone. Casual gamers like myself, can jump into one of the arcades, spend ¥2,000, and leave with a few prizes and a sense of enjoyment from the cabinet games. Older gamers (I saw plenty of Japanese salarymen relieving stress after a days work) can go to the gambling floors, bet on horses or other virtual sports, or find some classic games from the 1980’s at the back of the rooms.

But then there’s the hardcore gamers. These guys can spend hours upon hours inside these amusement dojos. I don’t say dojo without grounds for it, as these guys train on these games. World champion Street Fighter player Daigo Umehara is a testament to this. It seems some Japanese communities have taken this culture from being a hobby, to a lifestyle. There seems to be a constant state of being good, isn’t good enough, with high scores being printed in magazines such as “Arcadia” for all to see, and try to beat.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 22.32.05One of the many fighting games in which I had my ass handed to me

This competitive element is only to be found in arcades. It’s something that can’t be attained from playing online at home. Many players talk of a different feeling when trying to beat someone that’s sat on the other side of the cabinet you’re on. Because the player is paying to play, they take on a new attitude and play differently as they don’t want to waste their money. They’re playing to stay alive.

The popularity of arcades in Japan in comparison to the rest of the world is easy to understand. In the west, we have fairly large homes with enough space for a huge TV and multiple gaming consoles, gaming nights, and lots of noise. In Japan, the apartments are very small and often packed together with lots of neighbours. So big parties are pretty much out of the question, which leads people to head on down to the arcades, to make as much noise as they like.

In the west it seems video games are seen as a time wasting hobby, while in Japan it’s a widely accepted lifestyle. I also find it strange that anime has become immensely popular with foreigners, but arcade culture hasn’t caught on. Will it catch on in the future? Will we see a return of arcade culture in the west? If it’s done right, and people support it, I think we will.

Bradcat’s Japanese Game Focus… Akiba’s Trip

There are plenty of Japanese games which fall into the stereotype of the “bizarre Japanese” realm. I’ve seen them all; button bashers to make a squid explode, fighting games involving school girl ninjas obsessed with their underwear, and life simulators which involve entering another dimension via a TV. Akiba’s Trip falls straight into the same category as all of these.

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Players assume the role of a young man who is lured into applying for a new job (the payment being rare figurines, as in every otaku’s fantasy) with a company which turns out to be ran by evil vampires AKA “Synthisters”. The player is then turned into a Synthister but saved by drinking the blood of a Synthister hunter named Shizuku, turning the player into a strange hybrid with the intent of saving Japan’s electric town of Akihabara. The player is then informed that these monsters can be defeated by stripping them of their clothes, exposing their bare skin to daylight, vanquishing them forever.

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Players are able to wander the streets of Akihabara, and partake in all the activities one might indulge themselves in, including; visiting maid cafés, buying figurines, trying on new clothes, eating in various restaurants, and loads more. The game has painstakingly recreated Akihabara on a street to street level. While some names of companies have changed for legal reasons, the logos remain the same and feel true to life. I felt incredibly nostalgic going to different areas I’ve been to in the real Akihabara…

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Left; Me in front of Akihabara station, Right; Nanashi stood in the same spot

Akiba’s Trip is by no means a perfect game. Many game review websites have criticised it for being a tasteless brawler. But you have to take the game with a pinch of salt. This is by no means a hardcore RPG with immersive battles, it’s a quick, fun, adventure game which offers a huge fan service for people that love the wacky side of Japanese culture. The combat feels very fluid (there’s the occasional annoying camera positioning) and over the top, with the ability to chain “strip combos” allowing the player to strip multiple enemies in quick succession. Players can customise their avatar in a range of outfits and accessories, and can upgrade them back at their secret base, giving the game a bit of variety.

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The audio is great as the passive sounds of Akihabara are captured brilliantly. The hustle and bustle of shoppers, and shop keepers shouting “いらっしゃいませ!” feels authentic. There are video billboards which display adverts for various products, shows and artists, one of which I actually watched in Akihabara known as the “Alice Project” which is a nice touch.

If you’re a fan of silliness, modern Japanese culture and want a bit of over the top fun, then this game is perfect for you. Just make sure no one is watching over your shoulder when you have it on, or they might wonder what the hell it is you’re playing…

Bradcat’s Japanese Game Focus… Janken & Issei No Sei!

Normally I reserve “Game Focus” for the latest video game, however today I’m going a little old school… Very old school in fact. Today we’ll take a look at the most simplistic and one of the most popular games in Japan (and the rest of the world)… Janken! (じゃん拳)

In the West, we know “Janken” as “Rock, Paper, Scissors” and you must’ve been living under a rock if you don’t know how to play Rock, Paper, Scissors. Players make the shape of one of these three objects with their hand on the count of 3, with Rock beating Scissors, Scissors beating Paper, and Paper beating Rock.

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However in Japan, it’s slightly different. The hand gestures remain the same, but obviously the names change. Rock is called “Guu” (ぐう). Scissors is called “Choki” (ちょき). Paper is called “Paa” (ぱあ).

Games typically begin with the chant of “Saisho guu… Janken pon!” (最初はぐう… じゃん拳ぽん) with players revealing their chosen object on “Pon!”

If it is a draw, then players instantly chant “Aiko sho!” (あいこでしょ) and try again, this time revealing their hand on “Sho!”

Sometimes you’ll have a joker who will pull out a random hand gesture such as “Fire” (Palm faced upwards with waving fingers) insistent that it trumps all other gestures.

Or sometimes players will have their own “unique” rules on this traditional format such as “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock”

Another popular game is “Issei no sei” (いっせい の せい ) however this game is a little more difficult.

“issei no sei” broken down, translates roughly to “いっせい”  issei = together and “せい” sei = voice

A group of people put their hands out with clenched fists next to each other. As a player calls “issei no sei…” they follow this up quickly with a random number between 1 and however many maximum thumbs are in play. For example, if three people are playing, the number called must be between 1 and 6.

As the number is called, players must raise however many thumbs they like (or keep them held down). If the person whom called the number guesses the correct number of thumbs up, then he/she is allowed to remove a single hand from play. The person to remove both their hands from play, wins.

Sounds complicated, but once you see it in action (or play for yourself) all becomes clear…

I hope you enjoy playing “janken” and “issei no sei” with your friends, or even playing it to help settle those age old arguments, such as “who gets the last chocolate in the box?”

Bradcat’s Japanese Game Focus… Taiko no Tatsujin (太鼓の達人)

In the United Kingdom the arcade scene is all but dead. There are a few arcades left with somewhat dated cabinets, or special event nights which have to be hunted out. In Japan however, the arcade scene is very much alive as amidst the bright lights of Tokyo and Osaka, you’re never more than 40ft away from the next cave of entertainment.

There is one game you’ll find in practically every single one of these venues, and that is Taiko no Tatsujin (太鼓の達人)

Taiko no Tatsujin (太鼓の達人) has been going since 2001


As you approach the cabinet, you are presented with two taiko drums and a holster with drum sticks in them (Red and Blue for Player 1 & 2 respectively) The menus are fairly easy to navigate, even for none Japanese speakers. Don (Red face drum mascot) and his twin brother Katsu (Blue face drum mascot) will shout the categories to you regardless.

Once you’ve selected a song to drum to, the aim is to strike the notes or Onpu (音符) in time with the music, striking the centre of the drum for red, or the rim for blue. There are special Onpu to watch out for in the form of yellow circles, they can be anything from a drum hitting frenzy in a designated time, or trying to make a balloon burst as quickly as possible.In this video you can get an idea of what the game is about. If you’ve ever played games such as Guitar Hero or Rock Band, then this will be a walk in the park for you. However, being somewhat arrhythmic when it comes to drums this was a challenge for me (After all, I’m a bass player!)


It’s a great way to make friends too. Here you see Okuno (@S25Bt) and her friend Kako (@llcakoll), two girls I met in Osaka by simply watching them both play. After they had finished their turn, I simply asked (in my broken Japanese)…

 “すみません! 一緒に遊んでください!” 
(“Sumimasen isshoni asonde kudasai!”) 

…which roughly translates as “Excuse me! We play together please?” We had a few rounds together, but as you can see in the video, she destroyed my efforts by racking up over double my points, and 150+ streaks of flawless hits. After our turn had finished, I referred to her as “先生” or Sensei, meaning teacher.

In Kyoto I was able to meet up with Matt and Nat from Sakura Panda Tea Time (@sakurapandatea) who you can see in the picture below! It seems Matt’s coordination matches that of my own… it’s terrible.


Then in Osaka I challenged my friend Hana (@HanaBott) (I featured one of her “VINES” in one of my previous blog posts) and actually won this time! 



太鼓の達人 ちびドラゴンと不思議なオーブ 
(Taiko no Tatsujin: Chibi Dragon to Fushigi na Orb) 
(Drum Master: The little dragon and the mysterious orb)

In an effort to improve my skills, I purchased a Japanese 3DS (the Nintendo 3DS is region locked, so a UK console won’t work) and a copy of Taiko no Tatsujin. The game comes with two chunky stylus drum sticks (one blue, and one red) so it feels similar to the arcade. The song selection isn’t as vast, but it does come with a story mode in which you have to defeat bosses using your rhythm skills. If anyone would like a go, feel free to ask, as you can’t get this game in the UK.

Have you played Taiko no Tatsujin before? If so, where and when? Let me know in the comments!

(Special thanks to Bob Jones for recording the videos of us playing)

Bradcat’s Japanese Game Focus… Muramasa: Rebirth

The Genroku years in Japanese history are considered to be the most significant period of the Edo era. Art and architecture reached new levels of beauty, and many of the most famous events took place, including the 47 Ronin incident. So what better era to base a game story on?


Muramasa: The Demon Blade was originally released on the Nintendo Wii back in 2009, but was revamped and ported to the Playstation Vita late last year. Players assume the role of either Kisuke, a young ninja with no memories, or Momohime, a young princess possessed by the spirit of a demon.


Combat is relatively simple as combos can be chained together with simple direction pushes and tapping square. However the tactics come into play when you’re given the ability to forge your own swords. As each sword has it’s own durability level, and the ability to only carry three swords, players must decide on the best three swords to carry based on durability, speed, and power.

One of the larger “Oni” bosses in Momohime’s chapter

The game has some beautiful 2D artwork spanning over 30 locations from Japanese history. This is a perfect example of how games don’t have to be flashy, over the top, 3D innovative control, blockbusters. The simple side-scrolling formula is enjoyable and easy for any gamer to pick up.

For those who aren’t a bit fan of the “hack ‘n’ slash” genre, don’t be put off by the play stye. There is a big emphasis on character customisation and a degree of RPG style “leveling up”. There are over 100 swords to piece together for you to find the best combo of three blades to suit your attacking style (I personally go for two “quick” swords and a long “slower” sword for those bigger bosses)


I often found myself pausing for a few moments to admire the artwork

The game was released in Japan in June 2013 and then other countries a few months later. While it fell under most people’s radars, the addition of the game to the PSN digital store saw a huge rise in it’s sales figures. So much in fact, that Muramasa Rebirth ranked as the seventh most downloaded digital Vita game on the Japanese PlayStation Network in 2013.

You can pick up Muramasa: Rebirth from PlayAsia here or view more on the PSN store here.