November 14, 2003

Article at Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine

Only in Japan: Gegege no Kitaro

Horrifically cute or cutely horrific? How about splitting the difference?

"I see dead people," the famous line goes. Kitaro, star of Konami's new simulation RPG Gegege no Kitaro, has the same problem--he sees ghosts all the time. That might seem natural when you consider that he's a monster himself, but it gets a bit odder when you factor in the fact that his father is a disembodied eyeball who lives in Kitaro's left eye socket. All this wackiness is based on one of Japan's best-known horror anime (think ghost stories), penned by the truly insane Shigeru Mizuki. The anime -- tapping into a strong Japanese cultural belief in yokai (spirits) -- hit it really big in the 1980s, with predictable NES and Super NES games released to capitalize on the popularity.

Now that the anime is enjoying a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-esque revival, it's not surprising to see that a PS2 game will hit Japanese stores in December. The art of the series has been faithfully reproduced -- check out those awesome hand-drawn characters in the screenshots -- but the game has been given a modern makeover. 

On his quest to hunt down and defeat evil spirits, Kitaro has two new companions: a mobile phone and a laptop. They're a far cry from the unlicensed nuclear accelerators of Ghostbusters, but they're apparently effective nonetheless, equipped to sniff out ghosts in their hiding spots. Despite being equipped with these mechanical companions, Kitaro can't surf the Web or chat for hours with his girlfriend. But he can morph into various "jobs" to perform attacks -- jobs like a juggler (surely not the most intimidating). You could liken it to FFX-2's dress-up system, but without the bevy of hotties changing into different outfits.

Details remain sketchy on where the "simulation" aspect comes into play (is it possible for a ghost-hunting game featuring a monster hero with a dad in his eye to be a simulation at all?), but the kooky humor, art, and generally spooky vibe of this RPG look good to us. Pity that look is all we can do: Konami hasn't announced this for the United States, and it probably won't.,2053,1490511,00.asp