The term “jank” has become more entrenched in the gaming lexicon in recent years, becoming a universal term to describe bad games, and many would argue that it does a disservice to the distinct and completely unique titles outside the mainstream. Eurojank is one of the more famous games within this particular subsection of games, having become synonymous with players looking for a unique experience coming from European studios. They remain games that tend to leave an indelible impression among the many flaws and design quirks.
But what about other regions? Well, despite not being official, there is something called Japan-Jank. These can sometimes be Japanese games that can fall into Kusoge, the Japanese equivalent of a bad game. Deadly premonition is probably the most famous example and one that has a number of admirers worldwide. Here are a few others worth checking out if SWERY, aka Hidetaka Suehiro’s distinctive style, is up your alley.
6/6 Gungrave: GORE
The third entry in Gungrave franchise and the first to be released in over 20 years, with Gungrave: Overdose was released as a budget title way back on the Playstation 2 in 2002. Modern gamers may struggle to get anything out of Gungrave GORE, from a mechanics and level design standpoint it feels very firmly set in the early 2000s. For those who want an explosive bite of Japanese madness, Gungrave GORE will not disappoint.
With an ear-splitting soundtrack that gets the blood-pumping, over-the-top combos and AOE moves, its dated foibles can be forgiven. Even with outdated elements, there is something completely entertaining and retro about the presentation. As players start unlocking more characters, better special moves, and can sweep budget issues aside, it becomes almost a violent rhythm game. It’s possibly the most entertaining Japan-Jank entry in recent memory.
5/6 Earth Defense Force series
Potentially the most famous entry on this list, and rightly so Earth’s defense force series is the grandfather of Japan-Jank and Kusoge gaming. Bad voice-overs that cut into each other? Check. Dated graphics and cheesy dialogue? Check. Giant Kaiju battles, destroying buildings, Mecha battles and dogfights? Check, check and double check. The Earth’s defense force game, or EDF as it is colloquially referred to by fans, is the very definition of playable B-movies. Even with their slightly stretched campaigns and repetitive gameplay, it’s hard not to have the biggest grin on your face as they blast hordes of alien menaces across various locations with gleeful abandon and wanton destruction.
Developer Sandlot and publisher D3 know exactly what they’re doing, and luckily gamers are in on the ridiculousness too. Fans would be hard pressed to find another game series that Earth’s defense force for pure entertainment value at a reasonable price. With a sixth main line now released in Japan and several other titles available to play either via Xbox’s backwards compatibility or Playstation 4 / Playstation 5, there are multiple ways to enjoy most of the western-released entries.
4/6 Way Of The Samurai 4
Too many games these days are trying to be big epics in hopes of parting fans from their hard earned money. Length doesn’t necessarily justify the quality of a game, and as some recent titles have proven, not all long and sprawling games are created equal, often leading to bloated open worlds and boredom. The beauty of the shorter game lies in its replayability and titles such as Resident Evil and Dead Rising understand this. On the budget end of the spectrum is Way of the Samurai series, more specifically Way of the Samurai 4manages to create an engaging and replayable experience on a shoestring budget despite technical and gameplay issues that can sometimes hamper the experience.
The small-scale locations and time limit add a sense of claustrophobic urgency to the proceedings, while the short game length and the ability to replay the game with different divergent paths help break the repetitive cycle and stop it getting old. The dialogue is laughably funny in places, and while everything else is of the budget variety, it’s still infinitely more rewarding than a 100-hour modern AAA title.
3/6 Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories
Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories is not a good game, not in the long run. Like other entries on this list, the game feels dated in several key areas and suffered from a stagnant development period. But it’s hard not to admire what the developers were trying to achieve, especially when it feels unlike anything else fans might have played before. Essentially, it’s a survival simulator with enough dangerous moments of suspense through an earthquake-stricken city that would give the king of blockbuster disasters, Roland Emmerich, nightmares.
What follows is the player desperately trying to escape the destroyed city, while encountering other survivors and their stories. Although it was crippled upon release due to being a poorly optimized game, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories has a lot to offer players willing to ignore the technical issues. One of their trump cards is the inclusion of a strong, character-driven story with some heavy moments of melancholy thrown in for good measure. Yes, it’s a bit of a rough gem, so if you can ignore the flaws, it’s a rewarding and unique experience.
2/6 The Onechanbara series
This long-running hack-and-slash series originally began as part of D3’s Simple 2000s series and has been developed by Tamsoft since its inception. Like a handful of other titles from that label and developer, they can move into slightly risqué and mature territory. In case of Onechanbara series, it targets a specific demographic, the otaku crowd with a penchant for zombie-slaying samurai who exclusively wear cowboy hats and bikinis. devil may cry this is not. About like Earth’s defense force, Onechanbara plays into the horror B-movie aesthetic, but instead of sci-fi, it’s gruesome as our fearless demon-zombie slayers slice and dice their way through arena scenes.
Graphically and technically Onechanbara series is nothing to write home about. However, the series is filled with fun mechanics, such as swords splattered with blood eventually becoming less sharp and dulling their effectiveness against the zombie slaughter. This leads to a minor element of strategy in choosing the right moment to wipe the blood off the blade during an intense combat encounter. The series has gained enough of a fan base to make two live-action films, Chanbara beauty and Chanbara Beauty: The Movie – Vortex. A fun series, but just don’t play it with the family.
1/6 Left alive
Despite the high caliber of talent behind it Left aliveincluding co-creator of Kingdom Hearts series Shinji Hashimoto, Metal Gear Solid character designer and artist Yoji Shinkawa, and supposedly Hideo Kojima who was consulted during development, this is a budget title through and through. Nothing feels polished, and it’s clear, based on countless negative reviews, how deeply flawed and fundamentally broken various aspects of Left alive stay. Even with the patch, player Left alive can often feel like a war of attrition, leading to anger-inducing frustration due to poorly explained mechanics, survival or otherwise.
The shooting is clunky and dated, and the environmental sound is sorely lacking, especially when giant Mechs are around. And yet, even with these glaring shortcomings, there are occasional nuggets of joy to be found. Be it the bizarre story and characters or the European-inspired setting and aesthetics. It’s often glitchy and terrible to play, but has a certain charm, despite never reaching the lofty so-bad-it-go heights. Earth’s defense force or Onechanbara.
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