Japandemonium - Atomic Garden

Hey all, and welcome to an on-its-way-to-new-look issue of Japandemonium. As you can see, I have a new logo, courtesy of Pedro Guarani, who is from faraway Brazil. Thanks Pedro, and congratulations. Your Vivi plush doll is in the mail. I've also reorganized the Dengeki chart layout, based on comments I got last week. Hopefully, this makes it a little easier to read. The changes don't end here, however, as I'm working on a whole new layout for the column, which should go up some time after E3. As for this week's column, well, as you can see, it's a little sparse. This is largely due to Golden Week, which is in full swing in Japan right now. Basically, Golden Week is a collection of four public holidays in a seven day period, which results in many businesses (including games publications) coming to a standstill. But, enough of the culture lesson, let's get on with the show.

As you can see from Dengeki's sales figures for last week, there are quite a few changes in the charts. Sales as a whole are still a little lackluster, but with no big-name games seeing release, this is understandable. The previous week's first-place game, Final Fantasy XI: Vision of Ziraat, plummeted down to the 27th spot, with a scant 6,000 units shifted. The other victim for the week is Bandai's final .hack installment, .hack//Absolute Encirclement, which also only managed to sell around 6,000 copies in its third week of release. Check the table below for the best-performing RPGs during the week ending April 27th.

Pos. Title Publisher Plat. Sales Total
2 Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken Nintendo 122,156 122,156
3 Summon Night: Craft Sword Story Banpresto 28,832 28,832
4 Dragon Quest Monsters: Caravan Heart Square Enix 27,545 432,356
5 GiFTPiA Nintendo 22,900 22,900
8 2nd Super Robot Wars Alpha Banpresto 16,185 455,167
11 RPG Tsukuru Advance Enterbrain 13,420 13,420
18 Final Fantasy X-2 Square Enix 10,699 1,928,323
20 Pokémon Sapphire Nintendo 9,680 2,139,957

A few months ago, Digicube put out "The Black Mages," a heavy metalized version of Final Fantasy battle themes. Last weekend, Nobuo Uematsu and his band appeared at the Shibuya AX in Tokyo for two performances of the album to rabid audiences of Square faithful. The celebrated composer led his troupe through all ten tracks from the album, and stopped from time to time to speak to the audience about the songs. The tracks, which span the entire history of the landmark franchise, were accompanied by footage from the games, giving fans the chance to appreciate the scenes in a whole new context.

It wasn't all Final Fantasy, though, as Isao Sasaki stopped by to talk to the audience and perform the theme song from his newest project, Hanjuku Eiyuu Tai 3D. One piece of news that should please fans of "The Black Mages" is that Uematsu confirmed that he would like to record a second album in the same style. Below is a list of the songs performed and some images from the festivities. If you haven't heard the album (and shame on you for that), head on over to PlayOnline's Nobuo Uematsu page to get your hands on a couple samples.

  • J-E-N-O-V-A (Final Fantasy VII)
  • Force Your Way (Final Fantasy VIII)
  • Clash on the Bridge (Final Fantasy V)
  • Battle Theme (Final Fantasy VI)
  • Battle Scene (Final Fantasy I)
  • Battle Scene II (Final Fantasy II)
  • Matoya's Cave (Final Fantasy I) (unrecorded bonus song)
  • Those Who Fight Further (Final Fantasy VII)
  • The Decisive Battle (Final Fantasy VI)
  • Dancing Mad (Final Fantasy VI)
  • Fight with Seymour (Final Fantasy X)

Black Mages Live ConcertBlack Mages Live Concert

Black Mages Live ConcertBlack Mages Live Concert

Black Mages Live ConcertBlack Mages Live ConcertBlack Mages Live Concert

Black Mages Live ConcertBlack Mages Live ConcertBlack Mages Live Concert

This week, Sony Music announced a couple of Dragon Quest concerts for later in the year. First up is a show in Tokyo on the 28th of August. The Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra will perform a concert based on several installments of the über-popular series. Last year saw the orchestra take on Dragon Quest IV, and this year they will tackle not only Enix' 1992 Super Famicom classic, Dragon Quest V, but also the three installments of the Dragon Quest Monsters series. Tickets for the event range in price from 3,500 to 5,000 ¥ ($30-42) and go on sale on May 26th. Dragon Quest fans in Nagoya will be treated to a performance as well. The Centrai Aichi Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to perform a set comprised of material from the first three games in the seminal series. Tickets for the August 1st performance, which will set you back 3,000 to 4,000 ¥ ($25-34), went on sale this past Thursday.

Since this week was a little slow in Japan, I thought that I would mention something that should be of interest to most of you. British gaming mag Edge has a regular monthly feature that delves into the production process of historically significant games. The most recent issue (at least in North America), #123, tackles a game that is held in very high esteem by most RPGamers: Final Fantasy VII. The 6-page spread features commentary by the game's director, Yoshinori Kitase. He describes the series' shift to 3D as a "daunting task," calling the change in dimension, "a massive [undertaking] for Square" that required a much larger staff familiar with many new tools.

While the now-infamous rift that arose between Square and Nintendo during the game's development might never be fully explained, Kitase does mention that during the planning stages it was clear that, in order to achieve their goals, "CD was the only option and so from that perspective, PlayStation was the only choice." Interestingly, Kitase was more worried about Japanese gamers' take on the new graphical style, since Westerners do not have a "manga culture" and are perhaps less hesitant to embrace a more realistic presentation.

Probably the most endearing aspect of Final Fantasy VII was Hironobu Sakaguchi's plot, which was an abstract thesis on the inextricable link that exists between people, animals and creatures, and their planet. Kitase describes Sakaguchi's ideas as, "incredibly difficult to represent in the game since they concerned an invisible abstract concept." The central tenet was also present in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which went into production at around the same time as Final Fantasy VII.

Both character designer Tetsuya Nomura and Kitase also weighed in on one of the most memorable scenes in any RPG: The death of Aerith. This dramatic event was crafted to intentionally distance itself from the cliché of heroic lead characters dying to demonstrate their love. The creators' intention, according to Nomura, was to make, "people feel something intense," something that is more like what happens in the real world. Or, as Kitase puts it, to arouse, "feelings of reality and not Hollywood."

The director also addressed persistent speculation on the Internet that there is some way to revive Aerith. "The world was expecting us to bring here back to life, as this is the classic convention. But we did not. We had decided this from the beginning. We even received a lengthy petition addressed to our scenario writer asking for Aerith's revival. But there are many meanings in Aerith's death and that could never happen." Kitase concisely sums it up as follows: "This is the game that changed everything," a feeling echoed be legions of fans.

The article is a very interesting read, and this particular issue also contains a feature on the RPG-behemoth that was the Super Nintendo. If you have a quality magazine store in your area, I would highly recommend picking up the issue. You can check out Edge's website for subscription information.

That's it for this week's abbreviated installment. I want to take the time down here to thank everyone who sent in logo designs. I received a lot of cool artwork, and it was pretty tough to choose my favorite. I'll be back next Friday/Saturday with another update, and then it's E3. If you haven't already, you can check out our E3 Preview. Catch you guys and gals next week.

Exeunt all

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by Alex Wollenschlaeger    
Sources: [Impress Game Watch, Dengeki, Famitsu, Edge]

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