GameSetWatch contributor Kevin Gifford is off to a great start with Magweasel's new format, covering "game/Japan/retro/nerd-culture" in a way you're likely to see elsewhere. His article on The Phantom of Akihabara: GAME OVER, for example, translates what he describes as "almost certainly the only apocalyptic SF novel themed around used video games that has ever been written."

Written by Yoshitaka Ohsawa, the serial novel was published during 2002 to 2004 across eight issues of Yuge (now called GameSide), a Japanese magazine devoted to old and new games.

You can read an immensely interesting (to me at least!) excerpt from The Phantom of Akihabara's first chapter that Gifford translated below:

“I don’t care what it takes. I want to play Teitoku no Ketsudan [P.T.O.: Pacific Theater of Operations] from Koei. The first one,” the man said, as if confessing his darkest desires. “I’m not talking about the console port, either. The PC-8801 one. First printing.” With that, he fell silent.

Now I knew why that envelope was so thick. I had heard stories about that one. Even back when otaku culture was booming, the game was infamous, treated by the industry like some kind of demon spawn. Koei was a publisher that made it big with historical simulations, especially the Nobunaga’s Ambition and Romance of the Three Kingdoms series, and Teitoku was their World War II sim, one that attracted an exceptionally dedicated fanbase. WWII sims had a tendency to be obsessively detailed and accessible to only an elite few, and Teitoku (released in 1989) became a hit because of its comparatively simple and “game-like” battle system. Releasing a “war” game like this nowadays is something beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

The initial pressing of the first game in the Teitoku series had a command called “Comfort.” This option, when selected, displays a little animation that shows a soldier putting his arm around a (presumably native) woman. It was a simple command that let you rest your soldiers, but the media at the time was perpetuating a scandal at the time about “comfort women,” something or other whose significance is nil at this stage, so the depiction was not taken to very kindly. It became the target of pundits claiming that video games are socially irresponsible, and so another version got made.

“Huh. No wonder you’re throwing that kind of money around.”

“During the Second Korean War, I was–”

“Wait. This doesn’t need to get depressing. I don’t need a reason — you’ll pay whatever it takes for that game, right? That’s all I need to know.”

“Yeah.”

“Pretty generous guy. Does being an author get you that much?”

“It doesn’t matter what I write about. With all the regulations, all they need is something coherent, and they’re ecstatic.”

I checked the envelope after the writer left. There was a million inside. Inflation being what it is, that was about a month’s salary for your typical office flack, but even an office flack is an enviable position these days. I thanked myself for calling him generous.

The full translated chapter is available at Magweasel.