Over this weekend I had the pleasure of attending Hyper Japan Expo, located in the heart of London. This three-day event tries to capture as much about Japanese culture as possible; from J-Pop to board games, from maid cafes to bonsai gardening, it has a bit of everything and this, of course, includes video games. There were some arcade and VR machines around, as well as a stall selling retro games, but the big focus for gaming at Hyper Japan was Nintendo themselves, debuting Super Mario Odyssey for the first time in the UK as well as various other upcoming Switch and 3DS titles. You don’t get this opportunity very often so of course, I am going to share my impressions with you all today, so read on.
Let’s start with the big one being Nintendo. The booth itself was well organised with a variety of different stations. Obviously, the lines were longest on Mario Odyssey and Mario + Rabbids, two of the big original titles coming soon, but I managed to time it well enough that I wasn’t waiting really long. The other games I got to try, including Pokken DX, Splatoon 2 and Hey Pikmin!, had no queue at all which was nice. The 3DS section felt especially comfy with lots of bean bags you could sit on while trying out the new titles. Then on the main stage, you had the Nintendo reps holding tournaments and giving out free swag. I didn’t enter any but this event went on all day with very few breaks. Good on those guys!
I’ll only give short impressions of the games I played as that isn’t the focus here. Mario Odyssey felt a lot faster than previous titles and the new rolling mechanic allows Mario to take a page from Sonic’s book and Spin Dash around the map. It was a lot of fun but I am curious about how many moons will be available. I managed to get 10 in about 10 minutes so with that pace 120 moons (same as 64) would only be about 2 hours of gameplay. It can’t be that short so we’ll have to wait and see. Mario + Rabbids played really well and I was impressed with how much distance you can travel by making the most of your environment. I’m not sure how well the visual quality is in cutscenes though. It looked a bit blurry to me, but that could also be down to the TV. Decidueye in Pokken can fly which seemed OP to me, but the multiplayer aspect is exactly how I wanted it to be. Much better than what the Wii U attempted. Splatoon 2 was Splatoon and Hey Pikmin! was ok but nothing ground-breaking.
Moving on to the other events, there were some VR machines you had to book based on Shonen Jump properties. I tried the One Piece and Death Note VR. The quality of the former was really good but the game itself wasn’t really a game, you just looked at artwork from the series. As for the latter, the game was an escape room and was fun, but the quality of the VR was a bit lackluster. On the plus side, I didn’t feel ill playing these games which means VR certainly is improving!
There were a lot of stands selling toys, cards, artwork, food and advertising trips to Japan. If you are interested in visiting Japan or taking something home with you there was a lot of variety which was nice. I myself bought a Fire Emblem Fates sketchbook from the artist Kidura. Check-out some of her work!
Various Japan Culture Clubs were organizing activities you could take part in. This involved Maid Cafes, making Eco Bags, painting figures and playing Go. I did the latter, as Go was a game I had always seen but never understood and thankfully that has all changed. The guys who run the Go club were really nice and friendly. There aren’t many of them in London but if you know of a local Go club then check out the game. It’s all about controlling territory rather than taking pieces.
In the center of the venue was a big stage where various J-Pop bands, musicians and plays took place. There was also another room for talks from personalities like Danny Choo, founder of Culture Japan and creator of the Smart Dolls. I didn’t check out a lot of these but if you like Japanese music this could’ve been your chance to see your favourite musicians live!
Overall, as someone who lived in Japan and enjoys Japanese culture, Hyper Japan was a lovely refresher in ways. I got to walk through halls with hiragana and kanji splattered about once more and see all the beautiful Japanese aesthetics. There is something for everyone here and the price of entry isn’t bad for a single day. That’s all you’ll really need. It was open for 8 hours and after about 3 I had been to the majority of stalls so the rest was going over things I really enjoyed and chilling in the Nintendo area some more. The next Hyper Japan is in October so if you find yourself around in London then make sure you come check it out, it will be worth it.