Japandemonium - Along the Way

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another installment of Japandemonium. This issue is a little late, thanks to our server having some issues over the weekend, but things seem to be going smoothly again. As you'll see below, Japan is still stuck in the post-E3 doldrums, with very few games seeing release. Most of the big video game companies revealed their financial results last week, and the general message is not too rosy. Despite generally increased sales, most companies struggled to make a profit over the last fiscal year. Let's hope that things pick up in the near future. The last thing we need right now is even more consolidation (and hence less competition). Enough of my uninformed pseudo-economics, let's get to the news, shall we?

One. That's how many new games were released in Japan last week, and it wasn't even an RPG. The numbers, according to Dengeki, are pretty grim, but they are representative of the time of year and the state of the industry. The list below contains RPGs that made it into the Top 20, during the week ending May 18th. This puts it slap-bang in the middle of E3, giving some perspective to the figures. It's encouraging to see that Nintendo's GiFTPiA survived another week, even if it didn't do too well. The rest of the list is identical to last week, save for some musical chairs on the part of a few titles. The only new RPG scheduled for release next week is Rune II (Lost Kingdoms II in North America), so don't expect much more from next week's numbers.

Pos. Title Publisher Plat. Sales Total
2 Fire Emblem Rekka no Ken Nintendo 14,438 178,590
6 Dragon Quest Monsters: Caravan Heart Square Enix 12,668 498,698
8 From TV Animation: One Piece Ocean's Dream Bandai 10,661 92,892
12 Generation of Chaos 3 Idea Factory 7,495 27,995
14 2nd Super Robot Wars Alpha Bandai 6,872 484,728
15 Pokémon Sapphire Nintendo 6,810 2,176,086
16 Pokémon Ruby Nintendo 6,490 2,121,832
17 GiFTPiA Nintendo 5,771 55,271
20 Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Nintendo 5,238 261,335

While Square Enix is finally starting to see some growth in the console MMORPG market (see last week's installment for more), other smaller publishers are still leery of taking the plunge. The latest such company is Atlus, which announced earlier this week that it has put the release of the online version of Shin Megami Tensei Nine for the Xbox on hold. You may remember that the off-line version of the game was already released in Japan late in 2002, and, despite the company's best promotional efforts, the game tanked. The effective cancellation of the upcoming online iteration is no doubt due as much to the lack of a workable plan for online video games in Japan as it is to the distinctly poor sales of Microsoft's console in that country. Despite occasional sales jumps, the console has consistently managed to eke out only minimal sales, surpassed by even the nearly-decade-old PlayStation.

Square Enix announced on Monday that the demo for its upcoming biker PC MMORPG, Bakusou Yankee Damashii, is no longer available for download. The demo was available as of last Friday, but user demand exceeded the company's expectations by so much that registration became impossible. This same problem popped up when its last online endeavor, Final Fantasy XI, was released. Once the initial problems have subsided, you can give the game a go by heading over to Square Enix' official site to download the demo. For system requirements and more information on the game, refer to this previous installment of Japandemonium.

With so few games coming out over the last couple weeks, things have been rather quiet in Weekly Famitsu. The latest issue features just one review of interest, that being for Rune II, developed by From Software. The game has already been released in North America under its domestic title, Lost Kingdoms II.

Title Publisher Plat. Scores
Rune II From Software 8, 7, 7, 8 (30 / 40)

One of the least known, yet successful, games around is Korean developer Webzen's MU. What seems to be merely a Diablo clone has grown to be one of the most popular games ever. The game started off in Korea and has since moved to China and Taiwan, with Japan and North America firmly in its sights. The game currently has a phenomenal 10 million subscribers. Yes, you read that correctly: 10 million! The Japanese closed beta is coming to an end next month, being replaced immediately on June 13th by the open beta test. The game is being overseen by GameOn in Japan, and the company is expecting around 500,000 users during the open beta. For an idea of how the game plays, have a look at these two impressions by RPGamer staffers from E3. System requirements can be seen below. The demo and patch can be downloaded from the MU Online official Japanese site.

    Minimum System Requirement (Recommended)
  • OS: Windows 95, 98, 2000 (XP)
  • CPU: 300 MHz Pentium II (1.0 GHz Pentium III)
  • RAM: 64 MB (512 MB)
  • Graphics card: 32 MB (64 MB)
  • Hard Disk: 100 MB (2 GB)

Digicube is running a campaign in Japan to commemorate the release of "Final Fantasy X-2 Ultimania." The 700+ page Final Fantasy X-2 book (see this installment of Japandemonium for more details) hits stores May 31st. Gamers who head over to Digicube's site and fill in a questionnaire stand in line to receive a "Final Fantasy X-2 Collection box," which will be awarded to 20 lucky draw winners. Three boxes are being offered, one per main character, each consisting of a phone card and a metal fastener. There's also a replica of Yuna's necklace up for grabs. The swag can be seen below.

Final Fantasy X-2 promoFinal Fantasy X-2 promoFinal Fantasy X-2 promo

Yuna necklace

Another quiet week in Japan. Thankfully, there are a lot of games to play right now, so lack of news isn't too disappointing. We're coming up on a bumper year for RPGs in North America, as E3 should have proved to you. There are a ton of games that I'm looking forward to playing. I finally posted my journal from E3, which you can find over here. I would really like to hear any feedback that you may have. I wanted to convey a sense of what it was like to be there, but I don't know if I succeeded. Anything you have to offer will be appreciated, so that I can do a better job next year. You can e-mail me with any thoughts you have. Until next week, take it easy.

Exeunt all

Missed an installment? Check out the archives.

·Discuss this story in the RPGamer message forums    

by Alex Wollenschlaeger    
Sources: [Impress Game Watch, Dengeki, GameSpot Japan]

<- Back