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Japan Review Check: The day a "girl game" outscored the Mario Bros.

Japan's Famitsu magazine published their final round of review scores for the year in this week's issue, and the results were surprising for two reasons. One, the magazine finally got around to publishing their reviews of Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. U, a good two and a half weeks after both were released in Japan. Two, despite many Japanese forum posters expecting one or both to get a perfect 40/40 score in Famitsu, neither title was even the top scorer of the week.

That prize, oddly enough, went to White Album 2, a PlayStation 3 port of a "girl game" adventure earlier released in two parts on Windows PCs. A slightly censored version of what was an 18 and up-only game on the PC due to anime-style sexual content, the PS3 port received scores of 10, 9, 9 and 9 for 37 points, beating New Super Mario Bros. U by a single point overall.

"You're mostly doing nothing but reading story exposition in the initial part of the game," wrote Famitsu editor Atsuhiro Fujiwara, the reviewer who awarded the 10/10 score. "But that text is both important to the story and really enthralling. Overall the game unfolds in a flawless manner, and no matter what route you wind up taking through the story, it's all heartbreakingly sad, tremendously moving, and really never lets you go. The game uses the background music to tremendous effect, too."

Fair enough; we've never played White Album 2, so we'll leave it to them to judge what makes for a superior eroge (the Japanese term for the girl-oriented adventure genre, short for "erotic game"). But why didn't either of Nintendo's Wii U launch titles quite make the grade in comparison?

In the straight-9-scoring New Super Mario Bros. U's case, the problem (as echoed in some Stateside reviews) is a lack of anything really "new," despite the title. "The game's package this time around largely revolves around the variety behind Mario's moves," said reviewer Motoki Shinohara. "It's fun to move him around, and all the varied excitement that presents itself in multiplayer is neat, too. You get exactly what you expect from this game, and while there's really nothing new to it, it's a good package."

For Nintendo Land, which scored three 9's and an 8, Famitsu praised the sheer amount of variety on the disc, but had harsher words for some of the individual games. "The attractions are a bit uneven in terms of quality," Shinohara wrote, "but they all have their fun aspects and those all get amplified if you're with a lot of other people. The games all use the Wii U GamePad in innovative ways, and I like the communication aspect that Miiverse introduces. If you're playing by yourself, though, I'm not sure I'd even bother."

Despite these criticisms, Famitsu was still upbeat overall about the Wii U titles they reviewed this week. "If you have a Wii U, then certainly [Nintendo's] two titles are great picks," closed Shinohara. "In fact, if you purchased a Wii U and didn't get these, then I'd wonder what you bought the thing for in the first place."

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