Gaming

You need to play the most underrated Japanese game on PS4 ASAP

This oddball adventure story is like nothing else out there.

With the release of the PS5 just weeks away, you might not be looking to expand your PS4 library. This is a mistake, because the lame-duck months of an older console are the best time to score some fantastic deals on bestsellers and hidden gems. However, the PlayStation Store isn't the easiest to navigate, even when you know exactly what you want. That means absolutely brilliant games can sometimes fall through the cracks. One of the most memorable, innovative, and downright hilarious Japanese games made in the last 15 years is currently on sale for just $10 (with a free demo!) thanks to Sony's Big in Japan Sale. If you get a kick out of story-driven adventures and virtual tourism, you absolutely need to check it out.

It's very tough to compare 428 Shibuya Scramble to any other game, because it's so insistently odd and idiosyncratic. You take control of five different characters whose paths cross during a chaotic day in Tokyo's buzziest neighborhood — a detective, a former gang leader, a downtrodden journalist, a research scientist, and... a girl stuck inside a big goofy cat costume. There's a kidnapping to foil, a bioterror plot, and hijinks aplenty as you're tasked with saving the city.

And you will fail miserably at this lofty goal, more than a few times. This game has 87 possible endings — and no, that's not a typo. Obviously, some of these are more lightweight than others, but there are quite literally dozens of ways this interconnected story can play out.

Spike Chunsoft's branching adventure was originally released in 2008 for the Wii, PS3, and PSP, but it didn't get a Western release until 2018 for Steam and PS4. Despite boasting a solid 85 on Metacritic, it's been overlooked because it's an "old" game, but it's got a retro live-action meets visual novel style that makes it feel like a refreshing throwback to the Sega CD / Saturn days in the best possible way. If you enjoy the off-kilter humor of the Yakuza series, which immerses you in a city teeming with endearing weirdos, 428 Shibuya Scramble has a similar feel.

The gameplay is pretty similar to more recent choice-based games like Detroit: Become Human, Life Is Strange, or Catherine. It's a visual novel so it's not heavy on action, but you'll need to stay engaged with the story and think carefully about how to proceed and get a better outcome. Often, you'll need to jump back and forth between stories to get your characters in the same place in order to advance the story. The game includes a comprehensive flow chart to help you along, but even when you mess everything up, it's delightfully fun.

Tama can’t remember who she is, but got roped into wearing this costume to demo a dodgy diet drink. Spike Chunsoft

Atlus's newly released 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim has a whole lot in common with 428, right down to its carousel-like character selection screen. However, while 13 Sentinels offers you countless ways to get to just one ending, there are many more ways the more lighthearted 428 can go disastrously off the rails. It's a wildly ambitious approach to storytelling, even today, but especially for a game made in 2008.

You can pick up a digital copy of the game here at the PlayStation Store for $9.99 throughout the duration of its Big in Japan sale. If you're still not convinced, there's a free PS4 demo that'll last you a couple hours and give you a taste of the bizarro magic that's on offer in 428 Shibuya Scramble.

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