I have to admit that the first information I heard about Square’s new handheld DS game, ナナシノゲエム (“Nanashi no Geemu,” lit. “Nameless Game” or “Game with No Name”), left me intrigued but skeptical. Now that the official trailer has been posted, I’m in all out excitement mode.
The concept is simple, and quite Japanese: you’re playing a game, a NES-era RPG by the look of it, that seems to be affecting, or perhaps reflecting, your real life. What makes this so great to me is the attention to detail that they’ve put into it: if you watch the shots of the RPG mode closely, you can see garbage tiles flickering around the screen as the player moves, which is a classic side-effect of mismanaged tile memory on NES games. The title screen for the game is all garbled is well (which is why it has no name, I assume), and the garbling looks like the kind of errors you get when on NES games that are corrupted, buggy, incomplete, or even dirty.
The idea is very similar to the mechanic of curse-laden objects that often appears in Japanese horror films. The idea is that a person’s emotions may be so dramatic that they can persist after death within an object (this concept is called onnen), and in the post-Ring world of Japanese horror, such possessed objects are often portrayed as slightly broken bits of technology. Instead of a blurry video tape, an untrustworthy TV or phone, or a mysterious message on your pager, Nanashi No Geemu is giving you a corrupted video game that you can actually play. And when the 3D mode shows up, I’m sure the first order of business will be to find out exactly what that corruption is.