How can Othello be improved?
That was a question a game publisher known as Zamuse asked in 1994. The answer they came to was a very unique one. They decided that putting a game of Rock Scissors Paper between rounds was a great way to liven things up. Oh, and to add kittens.
Lots and lots of kittens.
This game is very simple. The black and white Othello disks you know and love are replaced with blue and red kittens on the board. You play your turn as normal but then you get a chance to steal another counter (kitten).
When you choose the piece you want the screen morphs into a Pokémon style battle (with a rabbit for a referee). The player then chooses to jump, punch or kick the opponent’s cat in a mini game that works a bit like Rock Scissors Paper. Kick beats jump, jump beats punch, etc, etc. If you win the kitten is yours, lose and things stay as they are. Rinse and repeat, the game really is very simple.
It is simple but so cute, the little cats have sweetest little animations and even the RSP battles are handled in an adorable way. It really adds to the appeal of this game, what should quickly become dull keeps your attention for much longer than you would expect.
These days however this type of game is much more suited to a smart phone. I would be far more likely to give this game another whirl if I was on the train rather than in my house with a TV full of other entertainment options. After a bit of internet sleuthing I found out that a smart phone version of the game did exist, at least for a short time. An app called Othello Brother Cats was released on the Android app market but, if the screenshots are anything to go by, it is just a badly emulated version of the Asameshimae Nyanko ROM.
Not only does this app highlight the wanton piracy that goes on with smart phone apps but how tricky it can be to translate game titles from the original Japanese. Othello Brother Cats kind of describes the game but Asameshimae Nyanko means something very different. Asameshimae means “a trivial matter” or “a piece of cake” or simply “Easy”, while Nyanko is a cute way of saying kitten. I’m sure video game translators both then and now struggle with what to call localised games.
With very little coverage of this game on the net I had to think of a translated title myself. At first I went for Uncomplicated Kittens but I wasn’t happy with it. Easy Kittens didn’t quite have the right ring to it and I felt Trivial Kittens gave the wrong impression. The more puntastic titles of As Easy As A,B,CAT and A Piece of Cat felt far too forced. Eventually my friend suggested the super literal translation of Kittens Before Breakfast, which makes no sense but sounds delightful (Asameshimae literally means “before breakfast”).
I now sympathise with those poor unsung game translator heroes. If you are a game translator and happen to be reading this, I recommend that you take a break now, switch on your Sufami and challenge your co-workers to a game of Asameshimae Nyanko. It’s a great way to waste a bit of time.
If only we could play it on the bus too.