Label Art Work["I often import games from abroad and play them. On such occasions, my imagination is sometimes stimulated more as I don't understand the language.” – Fumito Ueda, creator of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. 'The Gaijin Restoration' is a weekly examination of underappreciated Eastern games that never cross to Western shores. This week's title is Jung Rhythm from Altron. It was released in early 1998 for the Sega Saturn in Japan.]

Music Makes Me Move
When I was two years old, my parents noticed my left eye bulging out of my head. This led to that and whatyaknow, I had a brain tumor on my optic nerve. Snip-snip, all better. Except now I had monocular vision, but no monocle. A steady diet of 2600 games were prescribed to build up my shattered hand-eye coordination. But somethings never hit 100%, including my spatial reasoning (you don't want to be in the car when I'm merging on the freeway), my handwriting (I was a prime candidate for Ms. Mavis Beacon) and my rhythm (a straight-A 3rd grader pulled down to the murk of mere adequacy by the tyranny of the recorder.) Also, on the latter: I'm very white.


vibWhat I lack in rhythm I make up for in plucky soul. Though I adore music games, I am by no means good at them. Now the question is: I may not have Rhythm but do I have Jung Rhythm? This is a quaint Sega Saturn game which apes PaRappa the Rapper, or more accurately, totally bites its style more than a little. Fundamentally, both games are singing games, have you play as children, require precise timing, have six story based stages/songs, an unlockable seventh, and I suck at both of them. More importantly, they both feature really odd scenarios, from Parappa getting a drivers license to Jung Rhythm's eating breakfast, painting a cow and competing in a version of Set It Off with a low poly Paris Hilton 3rd grader.

The low poly count isn't really an issue, but it's a constant reminder of the Saturn's sorry fate, at least in 'The Colonies'. The stills presented here have shrank some of the ugly, but believe me, its a bit of a grimace, especially when you have to consider the charming superflat of PaRappa. Scenes are vibrant, and change dynamically depending on performance and progression. Control is amazing for any right brained or two left thumbed would-be 8 year old little girl. Even with God of War coming out a decade after the PlayStation controller was released, I still have problems hitting TRIANGLE or SQUARE with conviction when it's dictated. The Saturn's more literal ABC control makes me a much better pusher-bot, and when the D-pad is brought into the equation, I can cope with transliterated cardinal directions.


Everyone's a Critic

vibThis is a fairly easy game to play without a firm grasp of Nihongo, though the songs are indeed in Japanese. There is a cutscene with a song rendered in English, and quite a few songs have the odd purloined word show up - Ms. Mini Hilton even starts counting in Swedish at one point, bringing chills to spines of anyone who ever saw mid-90's John Candy/Doug E. Doug vehicle Cool Runnings. The one caveat is stage progression. When you make it to the end of a song, a panel of judges pass fiery convictions on your performance. You must be up to muster with all the judges to a certain degree to continue. And here we find no Jung Rhythm nor reason. While one Judge seems to just go for general accuracy, and another likes when you go crazy on the ad-lib moments, the others are conundrums wrapped in enigmas presented by Japanese text and bar graphs. Frustrating.

Coda

no alt textIn the end, it's another music game that never came to the states. It's available and cheap. Making progress can seem random at times, but the bizarre plot and hum-along music are up to par. So, I invite you to enter the 3rd grade, eat some breakfast, slap down a ho, paint a cow, sing some karaoke (does that count as a post-modern gaming scene?) and make it to the stage to sing a stunning duet with rock god Mr.Chorking. Which is a horrible name for a rock god!

[Ryan Stevens is the associate producer on the various Cinematech shows on G4TV, which showcases many of the games written about here. He's been known to do the collaborative blog thing at That's Plenty and recently wrote about Zelda and its lateral connection to the seedy world of attractive violinists.]