"Oh God, this soda." The smell alone kind of makes me feel sick. As the fizz bubbles past the fallen marble, the smell…well it's like kimchi. My stomach recoils. I don't want to drink this…this Kimchi flavored Ramune.
The drink, from Hata-Kosen, is not new, but it made the rounds a couple weeks ago when game company Experience Inc. put up a blog post saying, "We bought a case of such a thing! It has been unpopular with our staff… It's drinkable, but…stinks. If there is anyone in the industry who wants to drink it, come on over to our office…"
I decided to take their invitation seriously after noting on their website that they were not terribly far away—about an hour's train ride. Not that I am necessarily an industry person, but in a certain way I am, since I can introduce them to all of you. Have you ever heard of Experience Inc.?
Screen from Generation Xth Meikyū [Labyrinth] x ["cross"] Blood
I met with representative director Hajime Chikami who said they were surprised how far that blog post spread and lamented that posts about their games don't get around quite like that.
Originally a PC dungeon crawler RPG company, Experience has begun putting an effort into Xbox 360 releases with Kadokawa Games. Their main staff is about 11 people based in Hachioji on the third floor of a small office building, but not all the work is done in-house—for one major example, character designers are hired from outside.
I was warned that their games are for "maniacs," not just your average gamer. You have to really love difficult dungeons and have a taste for the "grotesque." Not only is the content violent (blood!), but there are also some images that might be disturbing. They originally set out to create horror games (like the Generation Xth series where students with super human powers have to investigate gruesome incidents and battle monsters), but also ended up branching out into fantasy with more typical anime-style characters in Entaku no Seito - Student of Round (i.e. "Students of the Round Table").
None of their titles have been released in North America or Europe yet, but it sounds like it's more due to land of bandwidth on their part due to upcoming projects than lack of interest on the part of Western publishers.
Now back to…that SMELL. I let Chikami and co. get back to work and performed the famous marble maneuver after giving the bottles a bit of refrigeration once I got home. Thankfully the stuff didn't explode all over my room. Yeah, I still don't want to drink this.
I put my lips to the brim and tilt. First just fizz, then the liquid, and my taste buds revolt. The crisp sweetness of original Ramune has been soured to reproduce the flavor of...fermentation. In fact, "souring agent" or maybe "acidity agent" is second on the ingredient list. Of course, for a soda, sugar is first. The other ingredients listed are "flavoring, spices, red #102, salt."
If you saw me taking serial sips, you might guess that I enjoyed it, but it was more just genuine confusion over the flavor. The taste is so…well it's not spicy, contrary to what the bottle would have you believe. There is no heat per se. Before I tried any, Chikami described it as "strange" (or "mysterious"). That's about it, and it's why it's hard to stop drinking it. There is just enough of something like kimchi flavor involved that the rest becomes like a puzzle to solve. I understand the kimchi flavor, but the finish is sweet, tilting the entire experience in a nauseating direction, so I have to pull away, and yet… No, no. I pull away. Dude, it's so bad, you don't even understand. And yet…NO!! It does not surprise me one bit that they offered to let me take more if I wanted. How could anyone get through one of these, much less 30?
After a while I got thirsty and absentmindedly took a drink of the half finished bottle on my desk. What a mistake! I'm just gonna put this way, WAY over there (down the drain *ahem*) and see which of my friends is brave enough to drink the other one I received.
Kimchi image via Closet Cooking