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  • Kotoba no Puzzle: Mojipittan (Namco, December 2001)

    Posted on March 18th, 2010 keving 1 comment

    Mojipittan, released first to arcades in 2001 and still going strong on the Wii, PSP and DS today, is a unique word game that takes advantage of the Japanese language’s complex writing system. Each level in the game consists of a tile grid, a row of kana tiles on the left, and a given goal — make 20 words, fill in all the squares with valid words, make the word “I love you” eight times on a board shaped like a giant heart, etc. — to complete before time runs out. Since many Japanese words can be made with as few as one or two kana, the game has a nice, easy learning curve, allowing Japanese students of nearly any level to complete at least a smattering of puzzles.

    I bring this up because there was some commentary on Japanese blogs yesterday over the recent departure of Takashi Nakamura from Namco Bandai Games. He’s the most well-known among the 168 NBGI employees who accepted severance packages this month from the company, which is trying to shed 10 percent of its workforce following major losses.

    Nakamura’s main contribution to game-dom was producing the Mojipittan series, but he didn’t design it — that honor goes to Hiroyuki Gotō, a rather odd guy who broke the Guinness world record for reciting digits of pi by memory in early 1995:

    “The Hanshin earthquake happened in January 1995, but I was holed up in my house right up to the day I had my second try [at the record]; I didn’t allow myself any kind of outside stimulation, so I had no idea such a huge earthquake had taken place. I didn’t have any sort of diversion during that time; all I did was concentrate on memorizing numbers. I wound up having to extend college another year because I couldn’t go to class for most of that time. I got an academic award from my college after I broke the record, though. Usually they’d give those out for some kind of serious academic achievement, but they kind of made a special exception for me.”

    It takes a man with that sort of — let’s go right out and say it — OCD-ness to write a game like Mojipittan, which includes a massive dictionary of Japanese words with meanings. “I spent every night at the office staring at these huge dictionaries,” he said in the above interview, “so seeing the game get released was all the more special for me.”

    Even if you know zero Japanese, you gotta like the cutesy paint job Namco’s artists did with the game, eh?