Another year, another attempt at writing frequent blog posts, even if I have to literally slam my head on the desk to find an interesting subject.

Nope, I’ve got nothing.

Valentine’s Day was pretty relaxing this year, mainly because it landed slap bang in the middle of the end of semester tests, which means I had a ton of spare time at work to do all my errands and shopping without having to worry about going to school clubs or working overtime.

My girlfriend made this incredible Gears of War cake with a little chocolate Ticker as we’ve been trying to find all the collectables in the third instalment before Judgement comes out next month. Japanese releases will be slow so it looks like I’ll have to rely on importing if I want to play it spoiler-free!

So yea! How about them videogames, huh? It’s tough playing games with someone who can’t speak English. Recently we are working our way though both the Gears and Halo series, and most of the cutscenes involve me listening, translating, and then trying to add Japanese accents to each character to help enhance the experience. Even then, some words like heretic (異端者), ammo pack (弾薬/たま) or incendiary grenade (焼夷弾) always leave me drawing a blank, making it quite frustrating at times, especially since there is usually a lot of action going on.

“So why not just play Japanese games then?” is what you’re probably thinking. Well, we do! In addition to the hundreds of random Wii party games and my ever-expanding Vita collection, some of the latest and greatest games to hit the Japanese market aren’t on major consoles but are mere, free-to-play smartphone applications.

Unlike western smartphone games which are aimed at a younger and more casual audience, Japanese applications punish you for not logging in each day, and reward you for really grinding your ass off. Complete and utter time sinks, but gosh darn they are fun. If you want to get better without putting the effort in, you can buy your way to the top of the leaderboards with real money – but where’s the fun in that?

One of the bigger, mainstream releases, Puzzle & Dragons (パズドラ), has been released worldwide on both iPhone and Android. It’s free, so why not give it a go? Some gameplay footage from the English version since the Japanese commercial doesn’t show any actual gameplay:

Developed by Gungho, P&D combines puzzle solving with Columns in order to advance through turn based combat stages, peppered with RPG elements, collectible monsters, and even the ability to adventure with friends you make along the way. I was blown away with how much content and genres it takes on board, especially for being a free game, and it’s entirely possible to get really good at it without spending a single yen or cent. If you ever have a spare 10 minutes each day it’s a great little time waster. well, until you hit level 70 then you can play for up to 3 hours a day if you really want to!

I like talking about games. Maybe I’ll do this more often!