Ok, Tim (or Mr. Sexy as NNL calls me) here with Go! Go! Nippon. This will probably end up being more of a travelogue than a discussion of the game, but since the game itself is basically a travel guide, that should be just fine.
As the lovely Makoto and Akira will explain to you, Suica cards are 57 varieties of awesome. You can use them for train fare, for purchases at convenience stores, and hell, you can even use them on some vending machines. They’re an absolute necessity for those of us who hate carrying around small change. And it will save you a huge amount of time since you won’t be standing around in train stations calculating fare. So here’s your priority list when you land in Japan for the first time: 1. Swap currencies; 2. Rent a cell phone; 3. Get a Suica card. And the only reason getting a Suica card isn’t #1 is that you’ll walk past the bank and the phone stores before getting to the train station. Efficiency is everything, after all.So here is the main street of glorious Akihabara. The lavender building with the space invader on it is a Taito Game Station. Oh god, the number of 100 yen coins I burned through in there. That’s
also where I got my first taste of Do-Don-Pachi Dai-Fukkatsu Black Label. I thought years of avid Touhou playing would have prepared me for that, but I was wrong. And how. I still occasionally wake up in a cold sweat from the damage that game inflicted on my psyche. It truly is the ninth circle of bullet hell.
On the far right, hidden behind the trees, is Go Go Curry, a most excellent restaurant that everyone needs to try. It is easily recognizable by its bright yellow store front and large sign emblazoned with the image of a gorilla. I’m normally a big fan of ultra-spicy food (and I’ve got the free t-shirt and bumper sticker from Quaker Steak and Lube, the makers of 500,000 Scoville buffalo wings, to prove it) but I love Go Go Curry despite it not being the least bit spicy. It’s thick, hearty, and extremely savory. And you get a mountain of food for only a few hundred yen. Just be ready to wait in line for a bit – I’m not their only fan.
And the big building in the middle with the Dear Drops billboard is one of about 3425262 SofMaps in Akiba. But despite there being 3425262 of them, they’re all different. And they’re all awesome. When I was there, the newest Monster Hunter had just come out, so all the game-centric SofMaps (and every other game store for that matter) were plastered with a cocoon of Monster Hunter posters. Perhaps by now they have emerged from their pupal stage and have become beautiful Rathaloses (Rathali?).And here is the main shrine in Kamakura. This is where I went for New Year’s. The place was so crowded it might as well have been day four of Comic Market. On the upside, festivals are awesome, and the food
is amazing. Old favorites like takoyaki, yakisoba, and chocolate bananas. The oddest thing I ate there was a jumbo hot dog wrapped in an omelet on a stick. It was delightful.
And while we’re on the subject of food, the Coca-Cola in Japan is magnificent. It even puts Mexican and European Coke to shame. And Mexican Coke makes American Coke look like battery acid. My one great regret from the trip was not filling a suitcase bottom to top with cases of Coke.And here is Ikebukuro. I didn’t really do much of interest here. But there are a lot of good food options there, including some really solid okonomiyaki joints. And if memory serves, there’s also a Tokyo Hands near the station. Tokyo Hands is a giant department store with everything you could ever need for any do-it-yourself project your could ever conceive of. Everything from paint brushes and fancy drawing paper to drywall can be procured there.
This is also a good point to to show off one of the game’s coolest features. See the “Show Photo” button in the bottom right corner? Click that to load up Google Maps with a street view of the place you’re currently standing at in the game. So if you were wondering if that “Sunny’s” you see in the game is a reference to Denny’s, hit the button, and yup, there just happens to be a Denny’s on that street.
My one complaint here is that Google Maps is woefully outdated in Akihabara. The photos are from when the station was undergoing major construction, so you can’t see a lot of things like the Vie de France
(an excellent French bakery), the UDX building (home to a bunch of restaurants, many free live events, and other goodies), and the Gundam cafe. As a quick side note, there are a few Vie de Frances in the United States, mostly centered around Washington DC and Chevy Chase, MD. If you’re in the area, they’re worth checking out. There’s also one somewhere in Los Angeles.So I’ll leave you with some final free advice. When flying to Japan, don’t take the plane the protagonist did. First of all, the luggage rack is wide open, so if you hit even a little bit of turbulence, all those suitcases are going to become aireborne. And that’s assuming they even stay put during take-off, which they won’t. Secondly, judging by the 2-1 seating arrangement, this is an Embraer EMB-145, or something similar. This is a commuter plane that doesn’t even have the range of a Boeing 737. This is the kind of plane you would take from New York to Chicago. It would run out of fuel and crash long before it reached Japan, unless you’re taking off from, say, Hong Kong. Plus it’s tiny and cramped, and thus unfit for a 14 hour flight from New York. So not only will it be crashing in the Canadian tundra (the flight path from New York takes you up over Canada and Alaska, and down the Russian peninsula that all Risk players know is called Kamchatka), it will be horribly uncomfortable. Get yourself a flight on a Boeing 777 if at all possible. They’re the most amazingly comfortable planes I’ve ever flown on. Or an Airbus A-380 if you want to fly on what can only be described as the final boss of commercial aviation. But it’s probably best to end this before this tangential digression turns into a full-blown rant.