Every now and then, I learn about a Japanese game that seemed like it would’ve been a hit had it been released to Western audiences, but it wasn’t so nobody except the Japanese know about it. When I saw an ad about Nanashi No Game on the DS that a friend posted online, I knew that this was one of those games.
Nanashi No Game, or The Nameless Game as per the fan translated rom, is a horror game made by Square Enix about a cursed game and how people who play the said game die after seven days. One day, your character suddenly receives a crudely made game on his TS, the Twin Screen portable gaming device (a parody of the DS). After trying it out, a friend tells you about the curse and laughs it off as an urban legend. But is it just that?
The Nameless Game is played in two different modes, the first of which is a first-person style mode where you walk around and explore while inspecting the objects in your surroundings. In this mode you’ll need to hold your DS sideways, with the touchscreen on the right and the upper screen on the left. The two screens then combine to serve as a first person perspective from your character.
You can walk forward by touching and holding your stylus against the center of the touchscreen or by pressing the right directional button (now pointing up because of how you’re holding the device). Doing both at the same time makes you run faster. To turn, you’ll need to press the up or down button or point the stylus on the direction that you wish to turn, and walking backwards requires pressing the left button. Sometimes, you can find objects that you can interact with, such as doors. To use/inspect the item, just walk up to it and touch it with the stylus.
The second mode of play happens when you get your character to access the cursed game on his TS, which looks like a glitchy 8-bit roleplaying game. In this mode, you’ll need to hold the DS the normal way.
Nanashi No Game features what they call 3D sound – whenever you use stereo earphones, the sound effects are played in such a way that if there’s a noise that’s supposed to be behind your character, it’ll sound like it’s right behind you. And let me say this – you should never underestimate how much this effect can change your experience. Any time I heard footsteps of someone walking or running in the game, or even those weird moans and groans, it really felt like it was right behind me.
In terms of the story, you’ll be able to see the references to The Ring and Ju-on, two popular Japanese horror films that had Hollywood versions. Despite the parallels between those films and this game, Nanashi No Game still managed to feel unique, and the way they explained how the curse worked made sense.
I had an awesome experience playing this game. Nanashi No Game has flaws – if you strictly think of this as a game, there’s really not much to do other than walk around and touch stuff, and you can’t even walk around freely enough as your paths are very linear. You walk slow, and what the game defines as “running” is more like a brisk walk than an actual run. The novelty of holding the DS sideways during the first person segments is mostly unnecessary and just serves to widen your view (and maybe make it taller) but this gives an off-balanced feel as you see a lot on your left side but very little to the right without turning.
And yet, Nanashi No Game is one of the few games that managed to scare me. I seriously couldn’t play this game for more than 30 minutes at the time because it was just getting too intense for me. The combination of a great story, wonderful sound effects, and the inability to run fast or defend yourself properly worked. I highly recommend this game to people who like getting a good scare every now and then.
Please note that this was never released outside of Japan, so the only way to play this is to grab the translation and a ROM and use a flash cart or an emulator. I’d have wanted a chance to play a legit copy but I can’t read Japanese. I wish that Square Enix would consider releasing a Western version of Nanashi No Game for the 3DS, with upgraded graphics and better voice acting quality because I think there’s a market for that.