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 ANDROID FEATURE

Big In Japan: An Old Game Makes A Modern Return In Gyakuten Othellonia

Get Ready For A Dramatic Reversal Battle
Product: Gyakuten Othellonia | Developer: DeNA | Publisher: DeNA | Format: Android, iPhone, iPad
 
In Big in Japan, we take a look at a game that is currently topping the charts in Tokyo, to see what mobile gaming looks like across the pond (and then a few more ponds).



So what's Big In Japan this week? Well, it's actually a brand new take on a very old game.

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That game is Othello, a strategy board game. It's extremely popular in Japan, so it comes as no surprise to find that it's the basis for Japan's latest mobile hit for iOS and Android, Gyakuten Othellonia (Reversal Othellonia).

It's a brand new free to play game by DeNA. Yup, the company selected by Nintendo to help it into the world of mobile gaming.



So what is Othello?. Well, it's is one of those games that's simple to understand and play, but really difficult to master. And that makes it an excellent foundation for a casual game.

Also known as Reversi, this strategy board game is played on an 8x8 squared board using 64 discs which are black on one side, and white on the other.

Players then take turns placing their assigned colour onto the board in order to create straight lines between two of their pieces.

When this happens, all of the pieces in between those two pieces are flipped to the same colour, and the player with the most pieces at the end wins. Like I said simple.

This is also exactly how Othellonia plays out on the small screen, with some of the easiest controls you'll ever find in a game. There are a few other gameplay mechanics thrown into the mix as well though.



The biggest of these, is both the addition of a life bar for each player, and the use of a variety of anime infused characters, each with their own powers and abilities.

All of these characters can be divided into one of three types - Gods, Demons, and Dragons. Each of the trio is is weak against one of the types, and strong against the other.

What's more, all of these collectible characters also has a special power that's activated when they're played, or when they combine with another character on the field.

These powers are wide and varied too, ranging from dealing double damage, to the recovering the life they take from your opponent.



Whilst the use of the game's extensive range of characters don't fundamentally change the game of Othello, they do slightly alter the way you approach the game.

In the original game it's about having the most pieces on the board, here it's about depleting your opponent's lifebar. This encourages you to make the best attacking move.

It also adds a different kind of strategy and depth to the game, whilst speeding up matches. All of which is more than welcome within a mobile title built for burst play - especially one that places its focus on multiplayer action.



As with all good mobile games these days, Othellonia also places a heavy amount of attention on collecting stronger allies, through both free and paid methods.

In that aspect, it's very much in the same vein as recent hits such as Monster Strike and Puzzles & Dragons.

In fact, much of the game's basic displays, menus, and even its soundtrack, can certainly be seen to have been inspired by other Japanese mobile greats.

But it's the classic foundation of Othello that sets this one apart. And the love for the subject matter in Japan is certainly a window into the game's early success.



Ultimately, Gyakuten Othellonia utilises a very traditional game, one that many compare to Chess, and brings it into the modern world of mobile gaming.

It also brings in other concepts that are liked by Japanese gamers, like collecting, anime aesthetics, and RPG levelling systems.

Honestly, it's very easy to see why this one is big in Japan right now.

But will we see it outside of Japan? Given how easily understood and accessible the game is, there's no reason why not.

Moreover, while the game is obviously designed with Japanese gamers in mind, there's nothing in the characters that would alienate a western audience.

But, with DeNA currently back to focusing on its Nintendo products, which are dead certs for a global release, it's more than likely that this one will slip us by.

Nevertheless, Gyakuten Othellonia is a new take on old game, and one that is certainly accessible to all. Sometimes the old ones are the best.
 

Reviewer photo
Simon Drake 26 February 2016
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