Category Archives: Reviews

Perfect Performer: The Yellow Monkey

Reviews
Perfect Performer - Title Screen
Hardware: PlayStation
07/01/1999 (Japan)
パーフェクト パフォーマー ザ イエロー モンキー
The Yellow Monkey (abbreviated "Yemon" or "Iemon") are often described as the band you'd get if you mixed 70's British glam rock and enka (traditional Japanese ballads) together. They started their career as an indie band who primarily played out of a Shibuya rock club called La.mama in the late 80s, which was something of a home-base for the "Japa-Metal" movement that sort of forked off into glam rock. The first several years of their career were spent struggling to find an audience, constantly being misclassified by Japanese media as visual kei. Their third major label album "Jaguar Hard Pain" finally started gaining them that audience in 1994, and their popularity slowly took off from there. After 1997's "SICKS" was released, they were one of the most popular rock bands in Japan. This is viewed by many as Yemon's best album, and is a very influential rock album in general. 1998's "Punch Drunkard" continued that upward momentum, resulting in a tour made up of 113 dates that lasted almost an entire year. Yemon was at the height of their popularity, so it was the best time to release a game that would take advantage of this. The singles for My Winding Road and So Young had been released not too long before this game, and both are featured in some way. Continue Reading

The Yellow Monkey: Trancemission VJ Remix

Reviews
Trancemission VJ Remix - Title Screen
Hardware: PlayStation
04/14/2000 (Japan)
This is less of a game, and more of a multimedia promotion tool for the movie Trancemission and the rock band The Yellow Monkey. For an overview on The Yellow Monkey, look no further than my article about Perfect Performer (the previous PS1 game they were featured in), or my ongoing look into their career if you're interested in more details. Trancemission was the first film by director Eiki Takahashi, and was a science fiction drama released in 1999. Takahashi was the director of "Spark" music video, The Yellow Monkey's 10th single that released in 1996. The band even appeared in this movie as futuristic policeman, and their 18th single "So Young" was used as the theme song for the movie. It also starred Jun Murakami, Natsuo Ishidou, and Chiharu Kawai. Matsudo (played by Murakami) is a regular salary man working in the stock market in forward trading. One day he gets a promotion, but something seems off. He's kidnapped by a mysterious organization, brain washed, and is now under their control. Continue Reading

Stolen Song

Reviews
Stolen Song - Title Screen
Hardware: PlayStation
05/21/1998 (Japan)
Virtual Music Entertainment previously released a game on PlayStation and various home computer OS' called Quest for Fame, which featured music from the then extremely popular American rock band Aerosmith. Stolen Song uses the same engine as Quest for Fame did, but features legendary Japanese guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei. He may not be so known to western J-rock fans, but is probably best known for "Battle Without Honor or Humanity". This song was featured in Quentin Tarantino's movie Kill Bill: Volume 1, but has since been featured in many other films and commercials. And it really can't be understated just how much of a presence he's been in Japanese rock for the last few decades. Continue Reading

X JAPAN Virtual Shock 001

Reviews
X Japan Virtual Shock Title Screen
Hardware: Saturn
10/20/1995 (Japan)
If you're reading this article, there's a good chance that you already know who X Japan is. But if you don't, they're possibly the most internationally popular Japanese rock band. Though they weren't signed to CBS Sony records until 1989, they'd already built a name for themselves on the indie scene long before. And they took the world of rock music by storm in Japan by basing their sound around power/speed metal, with a lot of symphonic influence (from Yoshiki's classical music background, no doubt) that would follow later as they turned into more of a prog metal band. The lineup at the time of this release was Toshi (Vocals), Yoshiki (Drums and Piano), hide (Guitar), Pata (Guitar), and Heath (Bass). Not only was their sound different, but their look as well. Like most successful visual kei bands, they'd eventually switch things up to a more standard rock band look. But they were one of the pioneers of the visual kei movement for much of their earlier career. This made them stand out quite a bit before visual kei really took hold, so their fans (who often mimicked their style) naturally stood out too. To help them feel better about this and thank them for their support, vocalist Toshi would often shout "mune hare!" ("Be proud!") repeatedly to the crowd at the end of their early gigs. Continue Reading

Ninja Ryuukenden

Reviews
Ninja Gaiden - Title Screen
Hardware: Arcade
10/1988 (US and Europe), 02/10/1989 (Japan)
忍者龍剣伝
Legend of the Ninja Dragon Sword
Ninja Gaiden
Shadow Warriors
Taking full advantage of America's lingering ninja boom, the Ninja Gaiden arcade game was released four months earlier in the west than it was in Japan. This game is not to be confused with the much more well known NES/Famicom game by the same name though, and here's where things get a bit confusing! According to this wonderful interview with Hideo Yoshizawa and Keiji Yamagishi by gaming.moe's Heidi Kemps, the two titles were in production at the same time, and retained the same names to achieve name recognition (seemingly at the insistence of the company president). The arcade game hit America quite awhile before the NES game did, but didn't hit Japan until after the Famicom version. Regardless, history has already determined which Ninja Gaiden people would end up caring about. Continue Reading
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