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After 4 years of inactivity, Skip have finally updated their website! There’s not much of note, however, just a splash page linking to Chibi-Robo Photography. Actually – the site calls it “Chibi-Robo in Live Action” but I’ve kind of gotten used to the Photography name now.

The most noteworthy point is that the site definitively claims “Our company was involved in the development of this software”, which is nice to hear after a few rumours to the contrary.

Does this re-awakening suggest a new period of creative urgency? Possibly. The fact that Skip also just opened its first Twitter account – they’re trying not to talk about games they develop for Nintendo but are replying to fans – certainly gives me hope.

What would you like to see from Skip in the months ahead? Personally I’m hoping for another game as original, ambitious and outrageous as Captain Rainbow…

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This was seemingly announced a long time ago but was kept pretty underground as these things tend to be, but a fan group is currently working on a translation of Welcome Home Chibi-Robo – the third Chibi-Robo game, which released on DS a few years ago and is really rather good.

Check here to see the project’s current progress and lend your support.

Also – It looks as though the long awaited Captain Rainbow translation may start moving again soon according to translators Kirameki…

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Well, this was a bit of a surprise. Announced in a mini Nintendo Direct this morning, Chibi-Robo Photography is a new Chibi-Robo game for Nintendo 3DS that’s available on eShop RIGHT NOW. Naturally, I bought it and have had a bit of a play around.

While this certainly isn’t the fourth full Chibi-Robo game we’ve all been waiting for, Chibi-Robo Photography is still a pretty fun app. It’s an augmented reality game in which you have to help Chibi populate a museum called Nostaljunk by taking photos of things in your own 21st century home. The game will give you loose prompts – like take a picture of something circular – but the clever part is that Chibi will then interact with that object by popping out of it and carrying it away. Check the official site for some neat example videos.

THIS IS EASILY THE BEST USE OF AUGMENTED REALITY I’VE EVER SEEN.

For many years now I’ve wanted a real Chibi-Robo to exist in my house, running around on the kitchen floor or on the coffee table and I guess that this is the closest I’m ever going to get. In that respect it’s actually much closer to the concept of the original GameCube game than you’d first think.

Aside from the AR stuff, there’s a nice amount of traditional Chibi gameplay here. A little workshop to run around with some minor exploration and climbing, plus a second room with dust to vacuum up, some familiar faces to talk to and some mini-games, such as the one in which you have to guess the length of a tape measure.

This app isn’t the only way Chibi-Robo has been resurrected after 4 years absence. The Nintendo Direct video he was announced in features some nice if bizarre animation of Chibi cleaning up around Satoru Iwata’s head while it also seems that Nintendo is hosting an in-game photography competition, the grand prize for which is this one-of-a-kind Chibi-Robo/Nostaljunk branded Wii U.
ImageThere’s also some cool T-shirts up for grabs that really make me wish I was eligible for this contest. Nevertheless, it seems Nintendo is really putting its weight behind this small Chibi-Robo release. Could this be a sign that the publisher is planning a full resurrection of the Chibi-Robo series or even a Wii U game? I obviously hope so.

Which also raises the question – is Chibi-Robo Photography actually developed by Nintendo itself? Skip’s name doesn’t appear on the website or game’s title screen, leading some to speculate that this was made by Nintendo and not Skip. I’m trying to investigate this further…

By the way – If you don’t have a Japanese 3DS and would like to get a closer look at Chibi-Robo Photography then keep an eye on my Twitter feed. I’m going to be posting images and Vine videos there over the next few days to show off this interesting game in more detail. In the meantime, here’s a picture of a fun new character introduced in this game. It’s Chibi-Chibi.

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If there’s ever a book that could appeal to readers of this blog then it is definitely The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers by John Szczepaniak. This is a book with a subject matter very close to my heart, an epic oral history of a side of videogaming that has gone largely unheard for too long. Yes, we’ve heard about the major players in the Japanese games industry – we’ve heard about the making of Super Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog – but what about the regular developers who made so many other great games but didn’t have the Western PR and marketing support to make their own stories heard? That’s what The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers is all about…

…Unfortunately, this book doesn’t yet exist.

The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers is currently seeking funding through Kickstarter and is, at the time of writing, nearly half way to its goal of £50,o00, which will allow the writer to fly to Japan to interview various developers in person, hire a professional interpreter and print the book to various levels of quality.

Well, I’d urge anyone reading this to contribute what they can to the project as Yoshiro Kimura – of Little King’s Story and Chulip fame – has agreed to be interviewed. Not only that, Kimura, one of the nicest men in videogames, has invited the writer to go drinking with him. Aw!

Even if Kimura wasn’t involved, I would have pledged my support for this project. The people behind the most interesting Japanese games are often as interesting as the games themselves and I’m eager to know more about all of them.

Newtonica set free
In honour of Kenji Eno’s life, his good friend and collaborator Kenichi Nishi has made all of the Newtonica games on iPhone free to purchase.

On his blog Nishi writes that Eno’s passing has encouraged a lot of people to play his games, and so he has made them free in order to make them more accessible. “With every game I think of him”, he says. “Please come play with us”.

You can find all of the Newtonica apps on the iTunes store, and I recommend that you play them all. Newtonica and its sequel are actually very different games – one an endless game of collection and avoidance using a touch-spun globe, the other a puzzler starring a rubber duck that kind of plays like pool in space. They’re both great games and well worth a go.

I didn’t realise until today either that there’s a short Newtonica soundtrack available on iTunes. Each of the two tracks was scored by Kenji Eno, so have a listen to those if you can.

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It takes a lot to motivate me to update this blog these days and it makes me especially sad that it takes something like a death to spur me into action. Tonight, I learned that Kenji Eno – best known as the designer of horror games D, D2 and Enemy Zero – died yesterday at the age of just 42. The news has been widely reported across the internet and is confirmed on the homepage of Eno’s development studio From Yellow To Orange.

Eno is only tangentially related to the Lovedelic school, having co-developed Newtonica with Kenichi Nishi, primarily creating the iPhone game’s soundtrack. He also went on to co-write a blog with Nishi over at one42.tumblr.com. But he’s a designer that fits right in with the likes of Skip, Vanpool et al. Existing on the fringes of the games industry, he always maintained an independent spirit that saw him move from esoteric horror games to quirky puzzlers like the recent WiiWare title You, Me And The Cubes.

I always felt as though Eno was a designer that defied expectation. You never knew what kind of game he would make next or if he would even return to game development at all – having left it a few times to pursue other art forms and disciplines. We have a definite answer, rather sadly.

Though Kenji Eno is perhaps best remembered for his brash and outspoken demeanor during the Sega Saturn era, I prefer to remember him as he was in recent years; a quietly creative designer who clearly had so much more to contribute to the medium. I honestly believe that You, Me And The Cubes was Eno’s best game yet and I was so looking forward to seeing what his unusual mind would think up next…

If you have the time, why not honour Eno’s life by playing one of his games?

Did you know Kenichi Nishi worked for Telenet? I didn't.

While reading through this short 1UP piece on Captain Rainbow I noticed a reference to Kenichi Nishi working for Telenet Japan before he founded Lovedelic.

Now I know Nishi worked for Squaresoft pre-Moon but this is the first I’d heard about him working at Telenet. So I checked his Mobygames page and found that it was recently updated to include credits on the likes of Exile, Psycho Dream and Tenshi no Uta (pictured).

I’ve never played any of these games but I sure want to now, especially since the 1UP piece mentions Tenshi no Uta’s convention breaking ending. If you’ve played any of these games, let me know what you think of them.