HYPER Asks: Which Japanese Game Has Had The Most Profound Impact On You?

For its Japan Special, HYPER magazine asked its writers a very simple question: "Which Japanese video game has had the most profound impact on you?" Its writers came back with stories of the first game they ever played, of JRPGs that helped them through relationship breakdowns, and of the times when a Japanese game blew their minds. Kotaku editors Mark and Tracey have decided to share their stories here.

Street Fighter II -- Tracey

The first of many lessons was learned that day: if you think it’s broken, jiggle the cable; if there’s something wrong with the cartridge, blow into it, hard; and if pressing one button does one thing, pressing all the buttons won’t actually do everything.

The glow of Street Fighter II on the boxy CRT TV lit up the room and my older brother and I, dressed in Looney Toons t-shirts, held Famicom controllers in our hands, poised for battle. He was Ryu, my four-year-old self was Chun Li. As the game loaded our characters appeared on opposite ends of the screen, gently bouncing on the spot, floating like pixelated butterflies ready to sting like pixelated bees.


My brother tapped at the buttons trying to figure out combos and moves. He must have heard through friends at school that these characters were meant to be able to do things beyond throw themselves at each other, so once he had figured out kicking and punching he began trying combinations: hadoukens, shoryukens, high-kicks, low-kicks, and blocking. Having only recently mastered the skill of not soiling myself, figuring out combos was beyond me. My clammy hands grabbed at the controller and mashed buttons like it was the thing to do: if one button made Chun Li kick once, then pressing all the buttons must make Chun Li do all the kicks all the time!

Sometimes I would win through the sheer franticness of my mashing. Mostly, I would lose because of the sheer franticness of my mashing. My brother would switch characters, figuring out the attacks and combos of every character while I stuck with Chun Li, discovering that if I pressed this one button really fast and really often, her fat thigh would “catch fire” and I’d have a flaming leg to swing around in battle.

Street Fighter II was one of the earliest gaming experiences for my brother and I, and it was at a time when even he was still learning about games. We played each other as equals who both knew and understood little but were open to experience everything.

My brother eventually got better at Street Fighter, acquired more games, grew up, and realised that as a young boy and then a teenager he was obliged to be a jerk to his younger sister. And so began a decade of both of us believing the other had gender-specific germs, the refusal to interact with the other person, his reluctance to let me anywhere near his games lest I break them, and only allowing me to (occasionally) watch him play PC games while sitting at least two meters away from his computer and not saying a word.

Eventually, games became a thing we each enjoyed without the other person, our gaming paths seldom crossing, and memories of us gaming together -– let alone of us once being equals -- became a very distant, almost forgotten memory.

Two years ago, having now mastered the skill of not soiling myself for 17 years and understanding how to press buttons for a bit less than that, I brought home a copy of Street Fighter IV. Sitting in front of my HD TV, I fired up the game.

My brother returned home from work, smartly dressed in the way people in the corporate entertainment industry do. He looked at the screen. Putting down his bag, he asked for the second controller. We sat in the living room, Xbox 360 controllers in hand, as the new and flashy character selection menu appeared: I was Chun Li, he was Ryu. When the stage loaded, both characters appeared on opposite ends of the screen, bouncing gently on the spot.



Secret of Mana -- Mark

Sometimes I forget that games can be worth more than the mechanics that drive them. Even as a youngster I was obsessed with the way games worked, and I was probably about 13-years-old -- supremely self-indulgent, arrogant; greasy, dotted with plukes -- when I first played Secret of Mana.

My favourite game was The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and its methods were gospel. The mechanics, the feel, the dungeon design; the seamless way it slipped between parallel worlds. The sense of exploration, piece by piece -- the bare bones story, the way it belonged to you, how you could clutch at it, the feeling that the gaps meant something.

And it was for all these reasons that my first experience with Secret of Mana left me overwhelmingly disappointed. Nowadays Squaresoft's opus most likely feels stripped back and simple compared with others of its ilk -- but as my first experience with a proper Japanese RPG, it felt stupidly bloated. Endless menus I didn’t understand, the slack feeling of movement; the simplistic, non-existent level design. Bleh. It wasn’t Zelda, and that was the experience I so desperately longed to relive.

If Secret of Mana was released today I’d probably treat it with the precise same disdain I’ve slavered on every JRPG released since, but back then I was 13. Homework was done in minutes, not hours. I was given a couple of games at Christmas and that was it. So I stuck with it, against what I thought was my better judgement, determined to get my Mother’s money’s worth.

The moment it clicked is lost in time and memory; I actually have no honest recollection of ever truly loving Secret of Mana, except in hindsight. I remember being drawn in by the story, which probably seems trite now. I remember becoming invested in the characters, which were mostly projections of my own crude making.

Most of all I remember the music -- the most direct route to that addictive, relentlessly destructive nostalgia that leaves us all vulnerable. That time machine whose destination is not a real place, or a genuine feeling you once had -- more like a hollow echo, a sense of looking back at the person you once were, for better or worse, and being trapped in an empty shell of what it used to be. A shell where the details just drizzle and you’re left with just a vague sense of it.

Those words may seem self-indulgent, but it's something we can all relate to -- part of us wants to shake off the malaise and push forward; another part clings to it desperately.

Every now and then I do a search on YouTube -- 'Ice level Secret of Mana', that's what I type. Then I listen.

My brother is annoying and wants to play, but I don’t let him because it’s my turn. I got 19/20 in my maths test but I don’t like school, because it's so stupid. My sweater is too big for me, but I have to wear it. It itches. My Dad is outside walking the dogs and it's freezing in here. I wish my Mum would stop vacuuming all the time, it's too loud and I want to play Secret of Mana.


HYPER magazine's Japan Special is a celebration of Japan's contribution to the world of gaming. This issue goes on sale today at newsagents all around Australia and New Zealand.


    Aww yeah Secret of Mana! Love that game. Solid choices by the both of you. : D

    Final Fantasy VIII all the way.

      ^ Double this, first game i broke 100+hrs (that was tracked anyway :p)

        /\ Triple this, I'd been playing games for years before this but no game had so utterly consumed my life before, so many hours of grinding, so many all nighters of chocobo racing/breeding sessions. And that agonising battle with Green Weapon.

        And I never beat Red Weapon :-(

          Emerald and Ruby weapon. And if you check carefully, you'll see that the post you are replying to said "VIII"... as in 8 :P

    Final Fantasy III or Chrono Trigger on SNES.


      This! plus harvest moon and lufia 2

      This! plus harvest moon and lufia 2

    Resident Evil

    Wheres Wesker?

    Great article - fascinating reading.

    For me, it's Metal Gear Solid... or maybe Starcraft.

      Scratch starcraft, it's not Japanese. :P ooops.


    Because if you're going to make a pretentious story, you should spin the PRETENSION dial to 11.

    *wipes tear* Beuatiful guys. Just beautiful.

    Tales or Symphonia~~~
    my first Tales series game ^^
    i how have an addiction to the series :3

    Street fighter, was my first game on SEGA.

    Secret of Mana was pretty awesome but the first game I ever played from start to finish was Secret of Evermore. I really regret selling my SNES and my games to buy an N64 (although there were some pretty seet games on that one too).

    If only I could time travel...

    Phoenix Wright.

    First video game which after playing the entire trilogy and accumulating to the final case - brought tears.

    That's saying alot for someone who hasn't cried for a video game character - ever. Not even Aerith.

    hypers still around? havent seen that mag in shops for years..

    Nice to see a Hyper shoutout.

    Wasn't Mark Serrells's predecessor, David Wildgoose, a Hyper editor or something?

      Some might suggest he is the current Hyper editor!

        Ah, I knew there was some sort of connection somewhere but I completely had no idea what it accurately was!

      Yeah, David Wildgoose is the current editor of Hyper>> now. He was actually one of the original creators of Hyper>> with Stuart Clarke the original editor (where is Stuart these days? Last time I seen him in a magazine was Australian Gamepro!), Stuart Clarke was also editor of Sega Megazone at one time too (if I remember correctly). And they used to review games on "The Zone" videogame TV showback in the 90's too! Also, the second editor of Hyper>>, Dan Toose, is a designer at Creative Assembly/Sega Studios Australia (Brisbane) and is part of the Total War team!

      Then there was Eliot Fish of Big Heavy Stuff "fame" ;) who last I heard was writing for Good Game on ABC. Cam Shea (who knows where he got too), and Kevin Cheung who also used to edit Official Australian Xbox360 magazine (until he couldnt take the corporate buttkissing any longer I suspect. Also he reminds me of Freddie Wong...) I think thats all of the Editors... plus all the great writers that have been there over the years, and the greatest Aussie art director - Malcom Campbell (cant even spell todayz)

    Metal Gear Solid 1 hands down.

    Legend of Zelda was japanese, right? My childhood centered around the N64, namely Golden Eye and Ocarina of Time.

    But I dare say the series that kept me coming back was MGS.

    Metal gear 3 was amazing.

    Okami :)


      I didn't care that you had to fight every boss what seemed like a billion times, this game was a masterpiece, it was one of those games which you thought couldn't be achieved on the hardware at the time.

      A proper sequel, 1080p, Move/Kinect Support would be absolutely glorious!

    It's hard to point out just one game, between the tens of Mario games and certainly Ocarina of Time that I have invested thousands of hours into over the years. And gods forbid I forget Metal Gear Solid 3, which while I may not have spent that much time on it, it had my attention the entire way through. And then there are countless other games I can easily forget just how Japan they are.

    So I am going to cheap out here:
    I was maybe 10 years old, we were renting some rooms out in our house, and one of the borders had a Playstation, something being a Nintendo kid I did not have. He had a few games, but the one I liked the most started with some pretty graphics in an FMV, ending with a train pulling into ACTION. From there on there was a man with a gun for a hand, a scary countdown timer, a robot scorpion, an amazing soundtrack and everything was going on.

    Over the years I finished Final Fantasy VII a whole bunch of times. Never did beat those stupid Ruby and Emerald weapons, though.

    Any Zelda game on Nintendo 64 or Gamecube.

    When they were released, my brother and I would buy a copy for our Christmas present. He would give me his half, and I would give him my half. On Christmas day, after all the family business was done, we'd sit down and play it.

    Great times.

    The Japanese game I played the most before I turned 10?

    Ghosts 'n' Goblins.

    It's no wonder I love Dark Souls so much with a gaming heritage like that.

    Final Fantasy 7 for me.

    We had just shifted to Australia and aside from some early-90s dalliances with a Sega Master System II which burned out from overuse in about 1995, I grew up as a PC gamer (actually a Mac gamer with a PC on the side). We were cooped up in a company-provided apartment for several months while we decided on a suburb to look for more permanent living arrangements, schools and so on. I wasn't in school for about four months in the end.

    Anyway, when we moved, my father realized we would be stuck with nothing to do for a while, so when we arrived in the country there was a brand new Playstation waiting for me and my sister, with Tomb Raider and Crash Bandicoot. They were both good games, but I got sick of them fairly fast so a few weeks later we started hitting up the local Civic Video for games to rent. I had a few hits and misses before I noticed Final Fantasy 7 on a shelf. I'd heard of the game before, but had no real idea what to expect. I'd played a few RPGs before, but they were all fairly simple tile-based strategic Dungeons & Dragons-derived things. FF was utterly different to anything I'd ever played, and anything I had actually even thought that games could be. I had no idea what was going on at first, but within half an hour I was completely hooked, and by the time I went to renew the game for the third week I ended up deciding to just go and buy a copy. It ended up being a gateway drug for JRPGs in general for me, and via those, anime and other games as well, and now I find myself studying Japanese in my spare time so that eventually I'll be able to play all those games which are kept tantalizingly out of reach by a lack of official localisation.

    My sister apparently has nightmares about being in a tiny room with the FF7 overworld theme playing all the time, incidentally, and the end-of-battle fanfare makes her cringe.

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