review

Is the New Nintendo 3DS worth the purchase? Early adopters in Japan share their thoughts

As its super-cutesy ad foretold, Nintendo launched its new and improved version of the 3DS here in Japan on October 11. Boasting features like a bigger, improved 3-D screen and extra buttons, yet retaining much its predecessor’s form factor, the portable appears to be more of an evolution than a revolution, but that didn’t mean people weren’t excited and looking forward to getting their hands on the new hardware.

As owners of the existing models of 3DS and 3DSLL, we aren’t really in the market for the new system quite yet, but were curious to hear what new adopters thought of the upgraded portable. Join us after the jump to find out whether the New Nintendo 3DS will be worth picking up when it launches in your country.

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McDonald’s Japan just released Tofu Nuggets, and they taste… 【Taste Test】

Just days after the taking Chicken McNuggets off its menu in the light of the China food scandal, McDonald’s Japan has unveiled a brand new, rather unusual product: Tofu Shinjo Nuggets and Ginger Sauce, a combination of bean curd, fish and vegetables shaped into bite-size pieces and deep-fried.

Turning to tofu–a food that has long been a favourite in Japan and known for its health benefits–is certainly a wise move, and McDonald’s is undoubtedly in need of something new to entice customers back with, but while we’ve no doubt all craved deep-fried chicken at some point in our lives, we’d hazard a guess that very few have ever longed for a box of tofu nuggets at the end of a night on the town.

Curious cats that we are, we headed over to our local McDonald’s to grab a few boxes of the new nuggets. Join us after the jump to find out how they taste.

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Our take on Studio Ghibli’s newest anime, When Marnie Was There【Impressions】

In one way of looking at things, it’s a great time to be a fan of Studio Ghibli. In the course of its history, the famed anime production house has often taken two years between releases, but the recent debut of When Marnie Was There marked the third Ghibli theatrical premiere in the last 12 months.

At the same time, studio co-founder and acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement from anime films also has plenty of long-time fans on edge. Still, we weren’t about to pass up the premiere of a new Ghibli movie, so we grabbed a ticket and went to see Marnie for ourselves.

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【TBT】Tokyo’s Pico Pico Cafe: Where video games meet coffee

Despite having visited the town of Kichijoji in Tokyo on a near daily basis for over a year, it wasn’t until I sat down with video game developer James Kay and started chatting about our mutual love of pixels and coffee that I learned about Pico Pico Cafe, a cosy corner perched at the top of a eight-storey building just minutes from Kichijoji station.

After dropping the staff a line, RocketNews24 headed over for a coffee and a chat. We hadn’t gone two steps inside, however, before we found ourselves completely enamoured with the unique cafe’s warm, homely interior and – perhaps most of all for this life-long gamer – the subtle dashes of video game culture in every other nook and cranny.

Tons of cool photos after the jump.

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We try the new 7-Eleven premium popcorn that everyone in Japan is going wild about

Earlier this week, netizens in Japan started going nuts about a new range of popcorn on sale at 7-Eleven. Unlike in some countries, 7-Eleven Japan takes great pride in regularly launching new, limited-edition snacks, and more often than not they’re surprisingly tasty. The response its latest product garnered, however, was ludicrously enthusiastic.

When netizens got wind of the “amazingly delicious” new caramel and (curiously) cheddar cheese flavoured popcorn on sale at their local Sebun, people apparently started bulk-buying, resulting hundreds of tweets going out bemoaning a lack of stock and pestering 7-Eleven – who then added fuel to the fire by acknowledging that the snack was indeed hard to come by – and demanding to know where they could get it.

Curious to find out what all the fuss was about, we procured a couple of bags and sat down to conduct a little taste test. I can tell you right off the bat, though, that the super-amazing mecha-delicious popcorn pretty much everyone in Japan – including our own Japanese staff – is raving about really isn’t worth all the hype.

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A tale of two tonkatsu burgers – We pit McDonald’s pork cutlet sandwich against Mos Burger’s

Here at RocketNews24, we’re all about forming stronger connections between Japan and the rest of the world. Incidentally, we’re also all about burgers and fried foods.

Sometimes, the planets align just right, and we get to check all three boxes at once, like we did today with our taste-test of McDonald’s new pork cutlet burger, a Westernized version of Japanese dish inspired by Western cuisine. And since the only thing better than a fried pork sandwich is two fried pork sandwiches, we’ll be comparing it to the nearly identical menu item from hometown hero Mos Burger.

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REVIEW: Sony’s new tablet is thinner and lighter than the iPad Air, and Android fans will love it

After receiving rave reviews for last year’s model, the Xperia Tablet Z, Sony has refreshed its flagship with a sleek waterproof design that’s just a hair thinner than the last.

It’s even just slightly thinner and lighter than the iPad Air.

Packed with a high-resolution screen and great battery life, the Z2 Tablet is among the best Android tablets you can buy today, although it doesn’t feel quite as premium as the iPad.

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REVIEW: Samsung’s new fitness gadget makes a sleek smartwatch

After releasing a critical dud last fall with its first major smartwatch release, the Galaxy Gear, Samsung surprised a lot of folks in the industry when it announced an attractive new entrant into the wearable computing category, the Gear Fit, just a few months later.

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I used the giant Samsung phone that Apple wants to kill — and I’m never going back to a tiny screen again

When I first started using Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, almost everything about its enormous size annoyed me. I couldn’t text with one hand. It barely fit in my pocket, or didn’t at all. I felt silly holding it up to my ear to talk on the phone. It was the least subtle or elegant phone I’d ever seen.

Even my friends were horrified. I’d plop the Note onto a table or I’d whip it out to take a picture, and anyone I was hanging out with would double-take.

“What is that thing?!” they’d gasp.

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Yes, Mountain Dew flavoured corn chips are a thing in Japan – and they taste…

We see a lot of weird stuff on the internet, but corn snacks made to taste – and fizz, no less – like the carbonated soft drink Mountain Dew are undoubtedly the oddest thing to happen since millions of adults across the globe simultaneously lied to their children about a bearded man sneaking into their home and leaving gifts for having refrained from murdering anyone or punching an otter since the previous December.

Nevertheless, as the internet chatter suggests, Mountain Dew corn snacks really do exist here in Japan, and so despite imagining that they’d taste about as good as minty orange juice, we tracked some down and, along with a can of actual Mountain Dew (or “Mtn Dew” as it’s now being branded in the US, because who has time fr vwls?) for comparison, conducted a little taste test of our own.

Full impressions after the jump.

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Does Xbox One’s new Kinect camera work in a tiny Tokyo apartment?

With its new home console, Microsoft is hoping to make Kinect – the motion-sensing camera that comes bundled in the box – one of the main features of the Xbox One experience. Far superior to the original Kinect camera released in 2010, the new unit is noticeably more accurate and can be used in almost complete darkness, also boasting a field of vision 60 percent wider than the original.

But for many Japanese gamers, Kinect simply isn’t a device that works for them. Compared to Western residences, Japanese homes are much smaller, in closer proximity to others, and in some cases with walls so thin that you might wonder whether you could punch through them during moments of nerd rage.

Can Kinect for Xbox One offer the same exciting, controller-free experience in Japan that it does in America and Europe? Our man went hands-on.

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Kaguya Hime no Monogatari: The other side of Studio Ghibli 【Review】

Kaguya Hime no Monogatari (The Tale of Princess Kaguya) is quite unlike any Studio Ghibli offering that has gone before it. There are no benevolent forest spirits or spritely young witches to be found here; no soft, familiar faces or bright-eyed heroes with a passion for adventure; no piles of mouth-watering street food or freshly baked bread to drool over. This is a tale set in far simpler times, and although – with its thick, bold brushstrokes, muted colours and incomplete lines – it is quite the departure from the Ghibli releases many of us know and love, it still manages to be one of the studio’s most visually striking and emotive creations to date.

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PlayStation 4 impressions: An Xbox fan and a Sony lover go head to head

Sony’s PlayStation 4 has been out in North America for over a week now, and is finally heading to Europe this coming Friday. Thanks to the efforts of our game-loving staff in the US, we managed to pick up a few units, and have been tinkering with them for about a week now, so felt it was time to share our thoughts on the new hardware.

Rather than getting all techy and giving you lists of stats or focusing on frames per second, however, we decided to take a slightly more human approach, and talk about how Sony’s newest console rates in the eyes of both a self-confessed Sony fan and a long-term Xbox lover.

Let the mud-slinging begin!

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7-Eleven’s One Piece “Gomu-Gomu no Mi”: Looks kind of like an alien brain, but it sure is tasty

Always keen to cash in and come up with some new character-themed promotions, Japan’s 7-Eleven recently began selling blueberry and whipped cream-filled bread made to look like none other than Gomu Gomu no Mi Devil Fruit from the One Piece manga and anime.

We couldn’t resist finding out what the fruit that made Monkey D. Luffy the man he is tastes like, so when we spotted the new sweet bread at our local combini we grabbed one right away. Join us after the jump for our full taste test.

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We try surprisingly delicious Miso Curry Milk Ramen in Aomori

Locally owned ramen shops can be found spread out all across Japan. In fact, some of the best flavors aren’t found at the big chain restaurants, but at the hole-in-the-wall shops that you might never even notice without a proper introduction. Hence, we’d like to make it our duty to tell you about an amazing, little ramen joint in Aomori Prefecture, which is famous for its miso flavored curry milk ramen.

When we at RocketNews24 first heard about this place, we couldn’t imagine how so many different flavors could possibly achieve good balance within a single bowl of noodles, so we sent one of our adventurous Japanese reporters, Mami Kuroi, to try it out. Here’s what she had to say about the experience.

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Wonda Power Blend Coffee packs the “perfect” heart-jolting punch, our energy expert says!

We here at RocketNews24 know that time is money and sometimes you need more than 24 hours in a day. Until we figure out how to manipulate time, we will be relying on our energy drink expert, Energy Man, to find out which beverage gives us the most bang for our sleep-deprived buck. Energy Man downs at least one or two (sometimes four, he admits) of these stimulant-laden drinks a day and wants to share with us his new favorite drink to wake us all up.

Energy Man recently saw a new drink on the market that he had to try. Being a connoisseur of these jolting beverages, Energy Man wondered if the world needed Wonda Power Blend Coffee in the already crowded energy drink market. Click the link to read why our Energy Man found himself saying “bravo!” to the new coffee drink.

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A day with the new PlayStation Vita Slim: Unboxing, hands-on and screen comparison

It’s Thursday October 10, and that can only mean one thing: the PlayStation Vita Slim is finally here! Unveiled by Sony at the beginning of September and proudly displayed at this year’s Tokyo Game Show, the currently Japan-only handheld charmed us the moment we held it in our hands, so much so that for a moment we wondered just how strong the cable tethering it to the smiling Sony rep was and if we could make a break for it.

The new portable console went on sale here in Japan just this morning, our own unit arriving via courier delivery a little after 9 a.m.. We’ve been putting the console through its paces for most of the day now, so join us after the jump as we unbox, poke and prod Sony’s newest piece of gaming hardware, and see how it stands up against the previous model of PlayStation Vita.

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The price of immersion: Hands on with Sony’s new HMZ-T3 personal viewer headset

As well as showing off its new PlayStation 4 console, PlayStation Vita 2000 handheld and Xperia Z1 smartphone at last week’s Tokyo Game Show, electronics giant Sony was also quietly pushing its newly designed HMZ-T3 personal viewer headset into tech fans’ consciousness, with demo units popping up in a number of booths. Since bringing its first headset to the market back in 2011, Sony has been gradually tweaking and refining its tech in response to consumer feedback, with its newest iteration due to go on sale later this year.

With the HMZ-T3, Sony has produced its lightest, most compact headset yet, retaining the ability to watch movies and play video games in both 2-D and stereoscopic 3-D, as well as boasting smartphone connectivity and, for the first time, wireless operation thanks to a portable battery pack.

Our experience of the previous model having been something of a bittersweet affair, we were keen to see whether Sony had managed to perfect its headset the third time around, so with the help of a friendly booth attendant we slipped on the new HMZ-T3 and put it through its paces.

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Why Puppeteer is one of the grandest romps ever to grace the stage 【Review】

We have to admit we fell quite in love with Puppeteer‘s visual style from the very first moment we saw it. Although essentially a 2-D platformer, the game is presented as a live puppet show, heavily influenced by Japanese Bunraku puppet theatre, with a healthy dose of pantomime thrown in for good measure, and it looked positively spellbinding.

Due to go on sale both on disc and as a digital download via PlayStation Store in North America and Europe this week, the game was in fact released in Japan on September 5, so naturally we rushed out to grab a copy right away. Three days of platforming, applause and magical scissor snipping later, we’re delighted to say that Puppeteer is not just a superb platformer, but one of PlayStation 3’s most inspired titles to date.

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Japan-exclusive Oreo Sticks – Can they compete with the real thing?

There are few things with the power to excite and abhor travellers more than foreign versions of sweets and cookies that exist back home. Even though we pass them by dozens of times a day in supermarkets and convenience stores in our own country, spot M&M’s, Doritos or even a Kit-Kat in a land where everything else is alien, and immediately we feel like home is not so far away; it’s like running into a friend from your home town during your first week of college where everything else is scary and unknown. What happens, though, if that same friend has a weird new haircut and is affecting some peculiar accent just because they’re in an unfamiliar town?

Oreo Sticks, a snack exclusive to Japan, will likely have the very same unnerving effect on snackophiles. With packaging familiar to millions, yet containing a snack entirely different to those we’re used to, Oreo Sticks have the potential to shatter cookie fans’ dreams, but with a little courage they could also be something quite wonderful.

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