4 JRPGs Based on Sitcoms You Didn’t Know Abouton July 17, 2015 by Oscar TK
Quite a few video games only come out in Japan. Sure, we can emulate and import all we want, but some of the more text-heavy ones are just plain hard to enjoy without a decent fan translation — and they are few and far between! Until recently it seemed that Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth would forever be one of them! But did you know that there are also some JRPGs based on sitcoms you might have missed? Here’s 4 of them!
Central Perk no Yūjin (Central Perk の友人)
This rare gem was the result of a short lived collaboration between NBC and Squaresoft at the height of Friends-mania in the 90s. The original concept was to release the game episodically via the Nintendo 64’s 64DD Randnet system. Each episode of Friends would be adapted through the entire 24 episode first season, when the contract would be reviewed. The JRPG sections of the episode would be intercut with short footage from the actual series, though the quality was poor. Here’s part of the introduction to the first episode, Central Perk no Yūjin: Mizu Senjin (Central Perk の友人: 水先人).
The lack of popularity of the Randnet system caused tension between the two companies. The digital distribution was halted after the third episode, Central Perk no Yūjin: Oyayubi o Fukumu Monogatari (Central Perk の友人: 親指を含む物語). The remaining two completed episodes were then compiled along with the broadcast three into a physical 64DD game, which had a very limited print run.
Copies of the game were given to the cast of Friends by Squaresoft as a gesture of goodwill, though Matt Le Blanc has claimed to never have received it in numerous interviews on Japanese television. The rest of the cast have never commented. There are rumours their copies contained the incomplete code of a sixth episode, Central Perk no Yūjin: Shiri o Fukumu Monogatari (Central Perk の友人: 尻を含む物語 ), but this has never been confirmed.
Below is a downloadable Randnet trailer for the game used to advertise the series:
Watashi ga kiite imasu: Isha kurēn wa, azuma no hae!! (私が聞いています: 医者クレーンは、東のハエ!!)
It’s no secret that in the 1980s Cheers (1982), known as Kassai!! (喝采!!), was a massive hit in Japan. For a time you couldn’t walk out in Ikebukuro without seeing young Japanese men and women styling themselves after Ted Danson’s character, the owner of the bar, Sam Malone. Danson-style, or Danson-Ryūgi (Danson-流儀) is still a popular sub-set of the Visual Kei scene to this day, though “Kassai!! Fever” obviously isn’t what it once was. After Cheers ended, the creative team moved on to make a spin-off, Frasier, starring the Cheers character of the same name, Frasier Crane, played by Kelsey Grammar.
A young couple who are Danson-Ryūgi
Executives at NBC decided to follow up on their prior success in Japan, retitling Frasier to Kurēn!!, and reusing a lot of assets such as fonts and brand colours to ease the transition with the Japanese audience. In order to co-ordinate international marketing NBC decided to rent out some offices in Tokyo, a floor beneath Disney’s own offices, and eight floors beneath those of Squaresoft. It was at this time NBC were looking into targeted marketing to the Japanese public using “video games”.
At this time Atlus also had offices in the building. A chance meeting between Kouji Okada and Kelsey Grammar in an elevator allowed Okada-san to pitch an idea he had been working on, based on Kassai!!, Okada being a prominent Danson-Ryūgi himself. Grammar liked the idea and invited Okada to a meeting, where the idea was repurposed from a Kassai!! game into a Kurēn!! one.
Original plans to feature the Frasier Crane character in Earthbound fell through, but the tie-in episode had already been shot (pictured)
The game was set to be released towards the end of the third season of Kurēn!!, on PlayStation One. However, Kurēn!!‘s failure to match Kassai!!‘s success in Japan was beginning to be felt by NBC, who in turn were putting a lot of pressure on Kelsey Grammar. In 1995 Kelsey Grammar spent more time making goodwill appearances in Japan than on set.
“It was clear that Grammar-san was beginning to become frustrated at the NBC executives putting that responsibility on him. At the time, I knew it wasn’t fair, and I just tried to keep my head down and work on the game. But, eventually he just snapped.” – Kouji Okada
Clever PR at NBC actually managed to stop the headlines from running in the west, but on 17th March 1996 Kelsey Grammar and Kouji Okada had a very public falling out, eventually leading to a physical altercation, the both of them dressed as Ted Danson’s Sam Malone character.
Grammar has always refused to talk about the incident in interviews. Shortly after Grammar exploited a loophole in his contract with NBC, allowing him to step in and forbid his likeness being used in Asian territories.
Having invested so much time and money in the project Atlus decided to push on anyway, releasing the game as Megami Ibunroku Persona (女神異聞録ペルソナ), known as Revelations: Persona in the west, replacing the Kurēn!! characters with high school children. Besides this, very little dialogue and story were changed. This is also why NBC earn 20% royalties on any game in the Persona franchise.
Okada eventually forgave Kelsey Grammar, which is why Grammar’s name has appeared in the Special Thanks in the credits of every Persona title, with the exception of Persona 4: Dancing all Night.
Tonari no Seinfeld: Seima no Kōseki Festivus (となりのサインフェルド: 聖魔の光石ピザ )
This game is the sequel to the rare Tonari no Seinfeld (named after the show it’s based on and discovered by Shmorky).
Tonari no Seinfeld: Seima no Kōseki Festivus follows Seinfeld and his friends as they search for meaning in the Festivus season. The series adopted strategy battles, and was lauded at the time for being both innovative and challenging. The game is fully voiced acted, with all the voice actors from the Japanese dub reprising their roles except for Seinfeld, who was voiced by Jerry Seinfeld himself (a talented multi-linguist).
Shīman 2: Watashi no Namae wa Alan Partridge Desu
While this game is a JRPG, it’s actually only half-JRPG. The rest of the game is a repackaged version of Seaman for Sega Dreamcast. Original plans had been to release Seaman in the UK as an Alan Partridge game, but as importers began to praise Seaman the plan quickly became to simply release Seaman as it was. This left Sega with a complete build of Seaman with Alan Partridge’s face all over it.
The game was almost trashed completely, but Yoot Saito himself stepped in. Why not revamp the game, and sell it to Japan as a sequel? Unfortunately when Saito suggested updating the game, the takeaway seemed to be “add a JRPG component”. Besides a few improvements made when porting the game to PlayStation 2, not much else changed.
Loosely based on Phantasy Star Online the game saw the customisable player character having to take care of Alan Partridge, who had been cryogenically frozen in the past and brought back as a fish. He would accompany you on missions via a communicator headset, with the ultimate goal being to install a radio system on the recently colonised planet on which the game is set, and instate Partridge as its premier radio DJ.
Steve Coogan recorded voice acting as his Alan Partridge character for the Seaman portions of the game, but players can also choose to hear the lines dubbed in Japanese by the same voice actor who would later go on to do the dub of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. The latter voice acting is the only one available for the JRPG sections, as the BBC had long washed their hands of the project at that time.
Stay tuned with Rice Digital as we bring you more of the best Japanese content!