Without Japan, video games would not be very fun. Atari's early work was important, but Japanese developers, publishers, and hardware makers were responsible for almost every major advance in video games for the first 25 years of their mainstream existence. In recent years, it has often been said that they have become less relevant than Western developers. In the indie games movement— (our area of greatest interest here at Indie Games Ichiban)—Japan does not have anywhere near the presence that America, Sweden, or several other nations currently have.
Japanese one-man indie developer Hojamaka is one of the few among his countrymen who have generated a buzz on the indie game development scene recently. His most well known work is called Mamono Sweeper (or Mamanosuipa), and will surely lighten the heart of any longtime Windows user. It combines Minesweeper, the Windows-bundled game that I and millions of others have had crack-like binge periods playing, and an old-school JPRG. Minesweeper's great strength is that it is undemanding (in terms of cost, technical requirements, attention needed to play), and yet oddly satisfying. Its only problem is a lack of staying power, but adding RPG elements to it should freshen the experience enough to draw the attention of any old-school minesweeper.
In addition to Momono Sweeper, Hojamaka's recent game Samegame Fighter (pictured in article thumbnail above) takes the concept of a Final Fantasy 1-era JRPG and puzzle game fusion even further than Momono Sweeper. Well, perhaps not further, but at least into a Columns-style, gem-matching puzzle game format. It has charming 8-bit art, Puzzle Quest-ish combat elements, and like all Hojamaka's games, is free to play in your browser from his website.
There are tons of other games on the site as well. None are as good as the two above, but Ten-Mei-Kai-Go, a simple sidescolling action game about achieving Buddhist spiritual harmony, and The HTML5 TAMOYOKE!!! (blame Google translation if I butchered that one) are both fun webgame diversions that show hints of the creativity present in Hojamaka's more well known works.
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