[Nintendad Coffeehouse] Talking Japanese Guidebooks

Why are you collecting Japanese guidebooks?

This is a question I get a lot from friends that take a look at my living room bookshelves. The fact that there are other guidebooks in these shelves (written in English or German) does not lead to questions about their existence and residence in my library. I speak German and English and play video games (none of my friends or relatives do) so they accept me as the geek that I am and don’t raise an eyebrow at these books. The Japanese guides, however, catch them cold and confuse them. See, I don’t speak Japanese. Neither can I read the Kanji, Hiragana or Katakana that these books feature. So why do I buy books I can’t read while there are guides available on the internet in languages I do understand, often without me having to pay a dime for them? Additionally, why do I own more Japanese guidebooks than German and English ones combined?

Now, the answer isn’t simple. I’m not even sure if I can even answer it, because I seriously don’t really know. But perhaps talking or writing about it will shed some light into this darkness and help unearth some kind of answer. It might be a good idea to start with the first of those guides: the guidebook that started it all.

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer

ISBN 9784047330634, 1200 Yen, 735 pages

Before the New Horizons craze, there was a spin-off game called Happy Home Designer for the Nintendo 3DS. This game had you design and decorate homes and gardens for Animal Crossing characters. It was fun and I played it a lot, in fact more than I ever played Animal Crossing: New Leaf. What was really interesting was the huge number of furniture and design options available in the game. Especially all the ones that were exclusive to Japan and would practically never make it to the west. I wanted a list of all that, with pictures to drool over! This is were the guide came in, and it really delivered. Each and every item is pictured in this massive volume of Animal Crossing goodness. It’s fun just to browse through all the stuff and to imagine using it for various decoration projects. Also, model houses for all available animals are presented, giving you design ideas (or a hint into their personality). All in all, this guide offers great enjoyment!

Monster Hunter X

After I played 800+ hours of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, I awaited Monster Hunter Generations quite eagerly. Naturally, the urge to get my hands on the official guide grew strong as well, ever stronger because I had missed the one for Monster Hunter 4G (Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate’s Japanese title). When it arrived I was staggered! This is not a book, but a bible detailing each and everything about the game. Yes, I know that this is exactly what guides are supposed to do. But believe me, with all the different armour options, weapon choices, upgrade paths and decoration skills, to have all of that in printed for is overpowering.

Each weapon and upgrade, each armour in its male and female form, maps, collection points, monster traits and weaknesses are there and more. Sure there are websites available that do the same – and I rely heavily on Kiranico when playing the game – but they all lack the monster illustrations and pictures. Also, the book is sturdy enough to clobber any of the series monsters into smithereens (quite literally)! Definitely a book for your coffee table!

Yo-kai Watch 2

ISBN 9784091065438, 1200 Yen, 330 pages

This is the only guide I got second hand because it was already out of print when Yo-kai Watch 2 released in the west. It’s a small guide detailing every location in the game and showing exactly where the hidden boxes are located. But the best part of it is the Yo-kai-dex (for the lack of a better word) taking up most of the book. It’s fun to browse through it and admire the creativity of the designs. Shame about the paper quality, though. The book was printed on rather dull, non-glossy paper instead of the better quality glossy one that nearly all my other guidebooks use. That’s a real shame! It’s still totally fun to thumb through the book once in a while.

Yo-Kai Watch 4

Speaking of paper quality, the guidebook for the latest Yo-Kai Watch game (our sneak peek of the game is here), was printed on non-glossy paper, too. Printing quality is better, so the colours shine and I can give you some visual impressions of the pages. If you’re only interested in the designs, you’ll be satisfied with this guide. It’s cute enough!

Octopath Traveler

I know exactly why I bought this book. It tempted me with an included poster of the cast/map of the world feature. Also, it was marketed not only as a guide, but also as a partial artbook. And, those few pages of art and design studies are so beautiful that they alone justify buying the guide.

In case you like what you saw, you might be interested to know that the guidebook is going to be published in English in the not so far future! As far as I know, this is the first time a Japanese guidebook has been given the localisation treatment. Artbooks have been localised before, but this must be the first guidebook.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

ISBN 9784048936576, 2000 Yen, 367 pages

Now that Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition has had a very successful launch, let’s not forget that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was an awesome game in its own right. Needless to say that it also got a guidebook in Japan (And an excellent artbook, too!) The book features a detailed Beastiary and maps, but what makes it beautiful to look at are the pages of all the Blades and their data. You don’t get more than a portrait of the Blades – the really good stuff was kept for the artbook it seems – but browsing through it after playing the game gives you a feeling almost equivalent of going through your high school yearbook – a true wave of nostalgia. It’s hard to describe, but just going through the book makes me want to play the game again.

The artbook is definitely more suited for your coffee table, but the guidebook is a nice to have as well.

Conclusion?

Do I now have an answer to the question that started this mumbling? Perhaps a partial one: I seem to like the artwork and detail that gets into those guides. But then, playing the games would give me both of that directly. Why do I feel the need to get the guidebooks, too? And why so many of them? My search for an answer must go on, especially as there are two more guides on the way to me right now. The story goes on.