Japan Happened Again: Japan World Cup 3

Now is as good a time as any to let you guys in on a common saying of mine. When I say that “Japan Happened,” I’m referring to that special brand of over-the-top fun and absurdity that it seems only the land of the rising sun is able to produce. If you’re unfamiliar with this sort of aesthetic, a quick glance at certain animes and Japanese game shows should be more than enough to fill you in.

This week, everyone’s buzzing about Japan World Cup 3. Is it a game? It is a movie? Is it a cultural phenomenon? Whatever it is, it’s definitely a prime example of Japan Happened.

As I understand it, Japan World Cup 3 is a browser game in which the player doesn’t play as the ‘horses’ (we’re stretching the definition of ‘horse’ a bit here) so much as they bet on the races and root for their chosen competitor. All of the races are pre-rendered animations, and the player has no indication of which race will run when they make their bet, reducing it all to a game of chance. Does that make it any less fun? Not when these are the types of races you end up watching.

Incidentally, the race cut scenes have been released on DVD — which is just as well for shmoes like me that can’t access the game’s site due to bandwidth limits.

The interesting thing about Japan World Cup 3 is that (based on the video, anyway) the joy of the game does not come from its actual gameplay. Watching the race is what the player really wants, and in my opinion, that’s where the gameplay ought to be.

The first time I ever saw this video, I didn’t realize that the players didn’t control the racers, and it made me immediately want to play it. The revelation that it’s really just watching a movie with a bit of interface at the beginning was a big disappointment, and it made me revel on how I’d construct the game had I been able. If this game were to be rearranged into an unconventional fighting game, it could potentially skyrocket into a very popular position in the console gaming realm. Imagine if this game were designed to work more in the vein of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and the players were able to choose their contestant and duke it out mid-race in whatever ridiculous manner they desired. This would redirect the core gameplay to a balance between getting the jockeys ahead and attacking competitors at opportune moments. Not only would it give the game a wider variety of outcomes (since nothing would have to be predetermined), it’d also put the focus on the gameplay — where it rightfully should be in a video game.

If you can look at this and say you don’t want to play as one of these characters, you’re lying.

If I had the resources, I’d waste no time in contacting the game devs responsible for this glorious spectacle and see if I could work out a deal on bringing the game to the console fighting market, but as I’m now a broke college grad that’s still scraping together loan payments, I can only hope that a major publisher with enough sense to realize what a gold mine this game could be might have the same idea. If this game ever hit the market, I for one would definitely buy it; hell, I might even buy a console specifically TO play it if it got released on one I didn’t have.

Oh well. I can always dream — that is, if I’m not already hallucinating that this game exists in the first place. After watching that video, I’m still not completely sure that’s reality and what’s fantasy.