WHAT'S COOL IN JAPAN
In Mushiking, an arcade game created by Sega, players try to protect a forest by battling beetles that have been manipulated by evildoers. (Mushi means beetle.) It combines the fun of collecting cards with the excitement of a video game. It is so popular that many kids line up to play the game in supermarkets and shopping centers. Kids playing the game can often be heard saying things like "Gotcha!" and "There! With my Last Resort card, I've come from behind to win!" From kindergarteners to elementary students and even adults, Mushiking fans can be found in many different age groups.
The game is easy to play. Put a coin into the machine and a card comes out. There are two types of cards: Beetle Cards and Skill Cards. Beetle Cards list facts about an actual type of beetle, while Skill Cards contain information about skills that the beetles can learn and use in their battles. By sliding your Beetle card through the bar-code reader on the game console, the beetle on your card appears on the screen. You can use up to three Skill Cards to give your beetle more power.
Having selected either Solo (single-player) or Battle (two-player) mode, you then commence battle. First you and your opponent each press a button - either "rock," "paper," or "scissors." Rock beats scissors, paper beats rock, and scissors beat paper. If you win, you can use skills to damage your opponent's beetle. The one whose beetle loses its "life energy" first is the loser. The incredibly lifelike appearance of the beetles makes the game very exciting.
Mushiking first came out two-and-a-half years ago. Some 20,000 official tournaments have been held throughout Japan, and 160 million Mushiking cards have been shipped. There are 630 varieties of cards, including rare hologram cards that everyone wants to get their hands on. The rare cards are ranked according to the power they give in the game: a power of 200 for gold, 180 for silver, and 160 for bronze. So far, six gold Beetle Cards have been issued. Popular right now is the Dynastes Hercules Lichyi, a beetle with light-blue wings.
Serials featuring Mushiking have appeared in children's magazines, and strategy books for the game have been released. Furthermore, a TV anime series, Kochu Oja Mushiking: Mori no Tami no Densetsu (Mushiking, King of Beetles: Legend of the Forest People), began airing this spring, and a Mushiking game for the Game Boy Advance will go on sale in June. The arcade game is also popular in Singapore, the Philippines, and Taiwan, and there are plans to introduce it to other countries, too.