Welcome to 2003, and what a year it's going to be! There's some new hardware incoming (see below), and plenty of highly anticipated games are steaming their way to a store near you. E3 is coming up as well, which means that developers are getting ready to blow our collective socks off once again. All I can say is, Bring it on!
Getting into the video game industry is something that a lot of you are probably aiming for, and Sony has decided to give a group of lucky Japanese gamers a taste of this pie with its new Arc the Lad: Seirei no Tasogare competition. Five hundred people will be chosen from telephone entries made into a lottery, with these gamers earning the chance to take part in a series of meetings set for later this month in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo and Fukuoka Bay. (In case you're in Japan right now, the number is 03-5225-2446). At these meetings, the lottery winners will get to try out the game and submit their comments to the staff on hand, who will use their feedback during the ending stages of game development and the upcoming advertising campaign. When the title ships on 20 March, this group will also have the honor of appearing in the "Arc Special Staff" list in the game's credits. Not bad for an afternoon's work.
Enterbrain, publisher of Japanese weekly game bible Famitsu (and many others) will be releasing a DVD devoted to the Legend of Zelda series next month (see artwork below). Similar to the "Final Fantasy: The Adventure Bible" DVD (see below) that was released last year, the DVD will cover the history of the series, from Legend of Zelda, its Famicom (NES in North America) debut in 1986, all the way to the latest incarnation, Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker for the GameCube. Highlights include interviews with series creator Shigeru Miyamoto and other, as well as footage from the numerous installments in the seminal series. "Zelda no Video" is slated for release on 19 February for a cool 4,800 ¥ ($40).
Digicube has announced the official soundtrack for Square's recently released (in Japan, that is) Unlimited SaGa. The two-disc set, seen below, contains 56 tracks from the game, recorded using Dolby Pro Logic II for that extra surround soundiness. The packaging contains original artwork by character designer Yusuku Naora. The score for Unlimited SaGa was done by long-time collaborators Masashi Hamauzu and Ryo Yamazaki, who previously worked together on numerous Square projects, including Saga Frontier II and Final Fantasy X. The two creators also provided comments for the CD packaging. Digicube will bring the soundtrack to market on 22 January for 2,913 ¥ ($24).
Fans of Kingdom Hearts looking to unload some of that excess xmas cash will want to pay attention to this. Digicube recently released a poster book containing ten A2-sized (22" X 17") posters and other artwork from the game. The hardcover behemoth weighs in at a smidgeon under 2.5 lbs and will set importers back 3,500 ¥ ($29). For those a little lighter in the pocket, there is also a 30-page postcard book, which will set you back a mere 1,200 ¥ ($10). Check out images of all the swag below.
Korean developer Gravity's über popular MMORPG Ragnarök Online is gearing up for its Japanese release, and with that comes the inevitable special edition. This one's a little different however, as it's being aimed squarely at beginners, with the box containing all sorts of gear to get newbies up to speed. This includes a 60 day subscription to the game and a manual detailing the process of getting the game running, from out the box to onto the net. There will also be other goodies contained on the CD, such as wallpaper, screensavers and an original video clip. The game will be available from all 22,000 Digicube-affiliated stores for a piddling 2,800 ¥ ($23) come 29 January. The cover art for the deluxe edition can be seen just below.
The last item this week is a bit of exciting hardware news. Hot on the heels of the announcement of the Game Boy GameCube Player comes word of a new version of the Game Boy Advance. Dubbed the Game Boy Advance SP (the SP is for "SPecial"...seriously), the main features of the new unit are a front-light and a radical redesign (see below). Eschewing the more horizontal form factor for a vertical one, the GBASP takes on a clam-shell design, akin to the Game & Watch games of yore. Finally, the new GBA will also come with a rechargeable battery pack, which serves as the only source of power for the handheld; regular batteries will no longer be used. The battery pack will last 10 hours with the light switched on, and around 18 with it off, and it will only take 3 hours to charge. There is no dimmer switch for the light.
Also missing is a feature near to mobile gamers' hearts: a headphone jack. If you want to listen to your gaming discreetly, you're going to have to fork out $5 for the converter, which will plug in the rear power adapter slot. Apart from these features, the new GBA is identical to its non-illuminated sister, including the exact same LCD screen. The GBASP will be hitting Japan on 14 February (12,500 ¥), North America on 23 March ($99), and Europe on 28 March (€129 - €139). Japan and Europe will get black, blue and silver versions, while North America will only get the blue (Cobalt) and silver (Platinum) versions. Click on the images below for larger versions.
That's it for this week. So, what do you think of the Game Boy Advance SP? I have to be honest; I'm really excited. There are a couple things that I don't like, however, like the smaller shoulder buttons and the return to the vertical shape, but the light and battery pack make it worth it. And now I can play through Castlevania: Circle of the Moon again and actually see all the backgrounds. Lemme know what you think on the boards.