Sunday, May 12, 2013

White Comic Game Review

This is going to take a little bit of backstory.
Yamada Denki is a big commercial electronics chain in Japan, and there's one store about a 10-minute walk from my apartment along the Kotsuki river. The front part of the store acts like a discount konbini, and I used to visit every couple of weeks to get toilet and tissue paper more cheaply than from the nearby grocery store. In the main electronics section, there are several aisles of video games, music CDs and movie DVDs. A few weeks ago, when I was looking for more games to buy, I noticed that they actually have a used section. This kind of surprised me, in that they don't carry anything else, like cameras, used. Anyway, one of the games that caught my eye was White Comic, for 950 yen ($10 USD).

Now, in 2009, two of the oldest boy's manga magazines - Shonen Sunday and Shonen Magazine - celebrated their 50th anniversaries together. One of the events was an exhibit at the Kawasaki museum, called Sunday-Magazine DNA, which I visited. In the DNA exhibit, they had an English handout, which I'd typed up later, listing the featured manga and artists.

(Travel map section.)

Which brings me back to White Comic. This is a video game for the Gameboy DS that was released in 2009 as part of Sunday and Magazine's anniversary. You have a choice of playing one of two characters (I picked Kenta), which represent one of the two magazines. Kenta is walking home from school with a female classmate, when he sees his father being abducted by a demonic hand emerging from the ground. Immediately afterward, Edogawa Conan and Hijime Kindaichi warp in and complain that they're too late. They explain to Kenta that his father was the only one that could use the White Comic - a special item - to travel between the real world and the world of manga. Manga Oh (Manga King) has abducted him, and being his father's son, Kenta also has the ability to use it. Thus begins Kenta's adventure of visiting various towns based lightly on a mish-mash of locations from a number of the manga titles. Along the way, Kenta must collect "copies" of the characters he meets in order to have them fight for him.

(Battle mode.)

There are 374 different characters in the game, from Ranma 1/2 and Lum, to Ashita no Joe and Tensai Bakabon's Father. According to the stats, I've only collected 91%, even after having cleared the game. It's pretty fun encountering characters that I'd never heard of, and the roster section includes 3 sample panels from each manga title. I'm now interested in learning more about one particular story, of a girl with duct tape on her head, who lives in a house boat on a river. So, from a historical view point, this is a must-have game.

(Attacking character during battle mode.)

From a gaming standpoint, it's fairly frustrating. About 20 of the characters were made specifically for the game, including Kenta and all the story bosses, and that artwork is amateurish compared to the professional stuff. The maps and various buildings are very elaborate and detailed, but you keep fighting the same 4 low-level thugs (with just different colored head gear as they advance in level). The enemy has access to the same characters you do, plus some that you can't use yourself, and the battles are essentially a cross between Pokemon and Yugi-oh, where you both pick an attack, and then up to 2 supporting characters for boosting strength or recovering health. There are 6 "chapters", each with their own boss, plus Manga Oh's tower. The point is to recruit characters to be copied into the White Comic, but you also encounter RPG-style puzzles to be solved. One example is a book bag that is left lying on the ground. When you find the owner (Devilman) you go back to the bag, and this lets you recruit the owner's friends (Devilman's friends or rivals). This is a good thing gamewise because when you fight with the main character, his/her friends add bonuses to whatever you're doing (attacking, replenishing health or boosting defense). The problem comes in with all the fighting you have to do with the thugs as you explore each town. The action animations slow the combat down, and even in the best of cases can take 5 minutes per fight. You can figure 30 seconds of exploring to 5 minutes in one battle.

(Koutaro, roster shot.)

In the first run-through of the game, beating the area boss causes the thugs to disappear from that town. In the clear game, you can go straight to the boss fights, but the thugs keep showing up after the boss is gone (and they've leveled up, too). So, there's less point to keep playing the clear game, unless you're really desperate to collect every single one of the manga characters. I think I have most of the main ones, but it's hard to imagine how I could be missing 30 supporting "friends", and right now the game is feeling like a major waste of time. I may come back to it eventually, though.

(Lum, roster shot.)

I doubt that anyone outside of Japan is ever going to see White Comic, so there's no point to going into much more detail. Suffice it to say, though, that if you want an easy way to sample 50 years' of manga history from Sunday and Magazine all in one place, this game is an excellent starting point. (Especially if someone finished it for you.)

1 comment:

TSOTE said...

I'm not sure I really got across my main point, which is that this game is a must-have for anyone interested in manga history. If you combine it with the list of manga featured in the DNA^2 museum exhibit from 2009, you get a nice overview of the titles that appeared in both magazines for their first 50 years. There actually is a game forum for White Comic, although it's been inactive since 2010. I've taken the list of titles used in the game from this forum (
Ashita no Joe
Ahiru no Sora
1 2 no Sanshirou
Ueki no Housoku
Ushio to Tora
Ushiro no Hyakutarou
Ucchare Goshogawara
Urusei Yatsura
Air Gear
8 Man
Area no kishi
Otoko Oidon
Obi wo Gyuttone!
Obou Samba
Ore-tachi no Field
Kaze no Sylphid
Katte ni kaizou
Karakuri Circus
Ganbare Genki
Kyuukyoku Choujin R
Kyou Kara Ore Wa
Kyojin no Hoshi
Kindaichi shounen no jikenbo
Gu-Gu Ganmo
Cross Game
GetBackers dakkanya
Kenko- zenrakeisuieibu Umisho-
Kenta yarimasu
Ghost Sweeper Mikami gokuraku daisakusen
Ko-taro- makaritooru!
Godhand Teru
Golden Age
Kongou Banchou
The Kabocha Wine
Saikyou Toritsu Aoizaka Koukou Yakyuubu
Psychometer Eiji
Saijou no Meii
Cyborg 009
Sakigake!! Kuromati Koukou
Sasuga no Sarutobi
Samurai Deeper Kyo
Sayonara sankaku
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
Shijou Saikyou no Deshi Kenichi
Shounan Junaigumi
Shinsei Motemote Oukoku
Super Doctor K
School Rumble
Zettai Karen Children
Tiger Mask
Daiya no A
Dash Kappei
Dame Oyaji
Tsurikichi Sanpei
Tensai Bakabon
Violence Jack
Hakaiou Noritaka
Hajime no Ippo
Batsu & Terry
Hayate no Gotoku
Fairy Tail
Bloody Monday
Pro Golfer Saru
Honoo no Tenkousei
White Comic
Makoto chan
Mahou Sensei Negima!
Mr. Ajikko
Musashi no Ken
Meitantei Conan
Meimon!Daisan Yakyuubu
Megumi no Daiko
Mou, shimasen kara.
Yakitate!! Ja-pan
Yankee-kun to Megane-chan
Love hina
Ranma 1/2
Rekka no Honoo