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Froggy Goes A-Roaming in “Tabikaeru”: Makers of Hit “Nekoatsume” Have New Game

James Singleton [Profile]

[2018.02.02]

Japanese software company Hit-point, makers of the blockbuster cat collecting game Nekoatsume, have rolled out another adorable app for smartphones and tablets, this time based around the escapades of a traveling frog. But instead of cooing over cuddly creatures, players of Tabikaeru (travel/journey frog) vicariously follow a wayfaring amphibian as it visits famous sites around Japan, rambles through the countryside, and meets up with animal friends for adventures in the city.

On the Road Again

The game is set at the frog’s home, a quaintly decorated stone house resembling something out of Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad series, and has a similar laid-back feel to its feline predecessor. After naming their hopper, players collect clovers, the game’s currency, that pop up in a tiny garden out front and cash in the three-leafed variety for various items. These include bentō like sandwiches and piroshki, and frog-sized travel goods, such as decorative tenugui hand towels, tents, and old-style lanterns. These accessories are bundled a few at a time into travel packs—a rare shamrock or other good-luck charm may also be added when handy—that the web-footed protagonist takes when the travel bug bites.

When at home, the frog likes to take it easy, but the in-game shop is always there to provide the travel items it needs on the road.

Tabikaeru runs in something like real time, and players may check in and find the carefree protagonist lounging at home, gobbling spoonfuls of porridge or scribbling with a quill, or discover it has hit the road and is no longer at home. When the croaker is away, there is no telling where its wanderlust will take it, or for how long. It may return after a few hours bearing snapshots and regional treats from a trip to a famous landmark or be away for most of a day on a trek through some far-flung part of Japan. Players have little to do in the interim but collect clovers, flip through the frog’s photo album, and stock up for the next outing. To break up the tedium, though, a snail or other guest may pay a visit to the garden and can be entertained with a tasty souvenir to produce a reward.

The frog sends regular snapshots from its journeys.

Along with clovers, players also amass tickets for chances to win specialty items like good-luck charms and snacks that can be used to influence the frog’s journeys. Five tickets are needed for a single spin of an eight-sided wooden box that spits out colored balls, the tint of each determining the type of prize awarded.

Hopping up the Charts

It is still uncertain if Kyoto-based Hit-point can recreate the Nekoatsume success, but in the few months since its launch in late 2017, Tabikaeru has gained a devoted and growing following of players in Japan—as well as in overseas markets like Taiwan and China, despite the lack of localized versions. The app does not yet have a dedicated social media account, but fans on Twitter have been using the hashtag #旅かえる to share screen-caps, along with original pictures and creations based on the game’s characters.

Tabikaeru can be downloaded for free on Google Play and the App Store. It is only available in Japanese—Nekoatsume started out the same way—but the cute graphics and simplicity of gameplay outweigh the potential language barrier issue.

(Originally published in English. Banner photo: The frog during a journey to Akita’s Oga Peninsula. © Hit-Point Co., Ltd.)

  • [2018.02.02]

Translator and editor, Nippon.com. Graduated from the University of Oregon in 1996 with a degree in Asian Studies. Came to Japan the same year and has lived here ever since, studying Japanese and traveling by train or foot in search of local history, culture, and dialects. Has also spent time as a kindergarten teacher and at-home dad. Began translating in 2008 and has worked both freelance and in-house at a major Japanese food and beverage manufacturer. Joined Nippon.com in 2014.

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