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Dengeki Ratings I Final Fantasy XII Bundles Up I New Ar Tonelico Promotional Video I Two For Final Fantasy VII: Before Crisis I Konami Throws in the Tao I Kingdom Hearts II Sells Like Hotcakes I Sega Delays Universe I Culture Corner I Sayonara
JAPANDEMONIUM
Year of the Dog January 10, 2006


Konnichiwa

My two-week vacation to go home has passed, and so much happened over my break that I still cannot take it all in. For starters, I am now a happily married man. Caroline is now my wife, and I could not be happier. I also had a wonderful Christmas, but enough about me. I hope each and every one of you had happy holidays. It's a season of family and togetherness, and I hope everyone got their fill of it.

In gaming news, I have a lot to briefly report on. I suppose I should get the big title out of the way. I rang in the new year by waiting in Wal-Mart to pick up an Xbox 360 and Kameo: Elements of Power. For those of you that have yet to pick up a 360, I would describe it as heavy. The system is by far the heaviest console I've ever carried, and the power adaptor is almost as big and every bit as heavy as the system itself. It's a monster, but it's worth it. Kameo is a beautiful game that plays quite well. I also played a bit of Amped 3, and I would describe it as a mixture of SSX, Tony Hawk, Napoleon Dynamite, Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, and a little bit of Jackass tossed in for good measure. If you like snowboarding games, or just like a game that's totally out there, I'd say give it a look. It gave me more than a few chuckles.

For those of you that aspire to play the taiko, I can give a pretty solid recommendation to Taiko Drum Master. Compared to its Japanese brethren, the game has an interface that is easier to use, and I actually like the mix of music. The game also responds well to regular controllers, a gripe I had with the Japanese games. As for the taiko drum controller, or 'tatacon' as it is referred to in Japan, it's pretty fun. But you must strike the thing quite hard, and you WILL make a lot of noise. So much that you nearly drown out the music of the game, but it's pretty fun to use. Fans of rhythm and music games should definitely give it a look.

As for RPGs, I also picked up Mario and Luigi 2: Partners in Time. Honestly, I'm not very impressed with it. The battle system gets VERY repetitive by the end, and the plot just didn't seem as funny on the whole as the last one. There WERE some moments that were pure gold, but a lot just sort of missed the mark for me. Also, almost all of the abilities are straight from the first game, so there's a bit of disappointment there. It's not a BAD game, but it's not a GOOD game either. Here are RPGamer, there's this stigma about rating lower than 3, but if I reviewed it, I'd give it a 2.5. That's SUPPOSED to mean an average game, and to me it is. Maybe it would have been better had it not been following in the footsteps of the original, but honestly, it was a bit of a letdown.

I guess I'll throw out my two cents about one more game. I just started playing Final Fantasy IV Advance, and I cannot say enough good things about it. I can't tell you how many times I played it when it first came out on the SNES, and this version is better in every way. The graphics are sharper, the translation is tighter, and the music has been remixed. It's so good that I'm going around and talking to all the townsfolk again to see what they say. I don't want to miss any of this game, and I love finding out how it's changed from the other versions. Incidentally, I own just about every version of this game that's ever been, including the WonderSwan Color version that I tested out on a brand new Swan Crystal to compare. It blows everything out of the water. If you want a taste of the old school, go pick it up, and I'm told it looks GREAT on a GameBoy Player.

I suppose I've rambled enough, so I'll end things here. For those that are unaware of the Chinese calendar, this year is the year of the dog. There are twelve animals in their zodiac, and it seems my year is up. I am a rooster, and that was last year. But now all you born under the dog can shine. Don't know if you're a dog? Well, if you turn any multiple of twelve this year, then you are one.

All that said, let's sit up, shake hands, and get this party started!



 Dengeki Rankings

This week the chart's top is full of RPGs and looks pretty solid, but if you take a look at the bottom half, there's not much there. In the end, that will just give the chart room to grow. Maybe some day the chart will be back in double digits, but for now, only eight titles make it.

While not RPGs, I'm going to give some honorable mentions to Mario Kart DS for making the top three, and Nintendogs is worthy of note since it is the only title from 2004 still on the chart. The DS truly is the handheld that could, as it is going toe to toe with the PS2. Even though the PS2 DOES have one more title on the chart, the bulk of its games are on the bottom. The DS owns almost half of the top of the chart with the GBA and GameCube filling in many of the holes.

As for the top spot, it's an RPG again. This makes three times in a row it's been one, and each week has seen a different game take top honors. Let's find out who made it this week, shall we?

Position Title Publisher Platform
1 Kingdom Hearts II Square Enix
6 Pokémon's Mysterious Dungeon Blue Nintendo
7 Pokémon's Mysterious Dungeon Red Nintendo
12 Tales of the Abyss Namco
15 Rockman EXE 6: Dennoujuu Grega Capcom
18 Mushi King: Road of the Greatest Champion DS Sega
20 Rockman EXE 6: Dennoujuu Falzer Capcom
24 Final Fantasy IV Advance Square Enix
29 Rogue Galaxy Level 5


Source: Dengeki Online



 Final Fantasy XII Bundles Up
Final Fantasy XII

With the coldest December in recorded Japanese history, Square Enix has decided it's time to bundle up for their upcoming release of Final Fantasy XII. When the game goes on sale on March 16, gamers will also be able to pick up a brand new slim PS2 emblazoned with the Judge Master's logo. It will also feature a vertical stand, a mobile phone strap, one controller, and all the usual cables. It is also of importance that the hardware included will be the most recent series, SCPH-75000. It has had some trouble playing a few games, and due to the lack of HDD support, Final Fantasy XI is among the games this system is unable to play.

No price has been set for the bundle, so it appears that retailers will have free reign on pricing. The hardware normally retails for 20,800 by itself, and the game will sell for 8990 yen. Bundles typically come at a slight premium, so it's likely the set will sell for over 30,000 yen.





Source: Game Watch



 New Ar Tonelico Promotional Video
Ar Tonelico

With the upcoming release of Ar Tonelico, Gust and Banpresto have decided to give gamers a sneak peak. The official website offers this video for download. While the video is absolutely gorgeous, it is quite large. The video runs just over five minutes and is 89.1 megs should you wish to download it.

Ar Tonelico is slated for release on January 26 for the standard 7140 yen. So far, there has been no mention of a release in North America.


Source: Insert Credit



 Two For Final Fantasy VII: Before Crisis
Final Fantasy VII: Before Crisis

Those following the ongoing story in Square Enix's Final Fantasy VII: Before Crisis have two new ways to play. The first is called "Tseng's Side Story" and is a special chapter that delves into the details of Tseng's past and his connection to Veld, the leader of the Turks during the Before Crisis timeline.

The other chapter is number 22, and it is a part of the main storyline. This new chapter focuses on rescuing Veld, who has been captured by Shinra. Normally, the Turks fight Avalanche, but due to the machinations of Scarlett in chapter 21, Shinra has ordered the elimination of all Turks. Now players will be dodging the attacks of Shinra Soldiers for a change.

Both chapters went live on December 22 of last year and can be downloaded for the usual fee of 525 yen. They require a DoCoMo i900 or higher cellular phone, and considering DoCoMo now gives out the i901 to people that sign new contracts, most anyone here can make me jealous and play this game.



Source: IT Media



 Konami Throws in the Tao
Konami

Sometimes a game slips through the radar, and it seems that this is one of them. Konami released Tao: Mamono no Tou to Mahou no Tamago on December 22nd of last year. The game is an action RPG for the DS that features a magician named Tao in a turn-based, dungeon-crawling quest. One of the more interesting aspects of this game is that it is played entirely with the stylus. Movement is controlled by tapping the directional wheel in the lower corner. It also supports multiplayer LAN play in case you have some friends wanting to get in on the action.

Like so many other games, there has been no mention of a North American release, but stranger things have happened. That said, I'm not holding my breath.








Source: Jeux France



 Kingdom Hearts II Sells Like Hotcakes
Kingdom Hearts II

Square Enix released Kingdom Hearts II on the PS2 on December 22 of last year, and by Christmas, it had sold over one million copies. This plus the total units of Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories total over seven million sold world-wide. Square Enix projects the North American and European releases of Kingdom Hearts II to bring this number to a cool ten million. Accordingly, Square Enix is touting the "Kingdom Hearts" series as one of its three flagship titles, next to names like "Final Fantasy" and "Dragon Quest."


Source: Game Watch



 Sega Delays Universe
Phantasy Star Universe

Sega has delayed their upcoming Phantasy Star Universe for the PC and PS2. The game was originally set for release on February 16, but it has now been pushed back to March 30. A Sony representative said the delay was needed to improve the quality in several areas of the game.


Source: Game Watch



  Culture Corner: Ask Sensei

I hope everyone had happy holidays. Since I was married over the break, I had a pretty nice Christmas. I hope everyone was a good boy or girl and got lots of presents for their respective day. Santa gave me a wife, so I suppose that means I was good.

I have a TON of letters from the break, and I even got a question phoned in! This is a Culture Corner first, and I tried to type it as close to how it actually happened. At any rate, I've got 10000000000 questions to get to, so on to the letters!



Told you so!


Jordan,

Howslife? Wow, so you're already married now? Congratulations! (hope you were talking about last December 26th, not the one of 2006) So how does it feel? So did you have to arrange a lot? What style wedding is it? I've got a friend who is about to get married, but he's getting headaches of all of it (his fiancee is very, very specific about all of the things). But I do hope that you're enjoying/enjoyed it. Did you have a bachelorsparty?

It seems I missed one column! I actually didn't expect one, so that was a surprise.I just saw it this morning, when I was looking for your friend code of Mario Kart DS. Yesterday I've gotten a Nintendo DS from a friend (he's kind of crazy to give such an expensive gift!) with Mario Kart, so now I can join the battles too! Need to get the WiFi to work though at my university!

I see you have tea in your kitchen (and nothing else interesting - I hope you eat well!), is it Chinese or Japanese? I've bought Japanese tea a while ago, which isn't like the Western or Chinese tea, but some sort of (bean?) paste (I've got a green and red one). Well, I believe it's tea! I've seen in an anime that you prepare it differently, can you tell something more about this? (sorry, too lazy to Google this one!).

So, I like that "photo corner" you've got on your wall. I might do something like that too! It seems also that your sleeping place is high (how do you call that?), but you still have a futon. It's quite efficient, as you've got more place to store stuff. How common are futons in Japan? Do everybody have them, or does it only seem like that?

Oh and before I forget, now I see your house, do every Japanese room really have that standard dimension (forgot that it was)? Ehhmmm, what I mean is that I heard that the floor can be devided in six parts - not sure though - where you place those floor mats (don't know how they are called). My little sister told me when she was playing Animal Crossing (because you could choose that type of floor too).

You've talked about beer, so can you tell me what's up with that Japanese beer? For some reason, in the movies I see, they drink beer in shots (I might be confusing it for something else?). So they have a bottle en a small glass and then take shots and refill it every time, right?

By the way, when you're done in Japan - I mean, you're going back to the USA for good, what'll happen with Japandemonium? Will you still be writing the column, gathering news and answering letters, or will they try to find somebody else?

Well, that's it... See you next year I guess, and please be careful with fireworks! Don't forget to tell us more about your wedding!

Douggie

PS. Are those comics in your bathroom?

"We all know that birds fly, but now can you tell me where they are actually flying to??"


Sensei

See? I TOLD you that you'd miss a column one of these days. It was bound to happen.

As for your questions, I didn't do much of the planning for my wedding; my mother did most of it. Since I live in Japan, she handled the bulk of the planning, and the rest of it we did over the phone. It was quite easy, and we were only planning for a small wedding. Including Caroline and me, we only had 20 people there. And I did not do a bachelor party, but I am doing one kind of this summer for my other wedding. I'm going to go to either the New River Gorge or the Red River Gorge with my brother and spend a week rock climbing, mountain biking, and possibly rafting if we're at the New. I never was much for bars or other typical bachelor party events...

At this point, I suppose I should explain that bit about two weddings. I'm actually having another in the Vietnamese style. We had this one sooner than later so I can work on getting Texas state residency so I can apply to law school faster. That and I just wanted to be married to her as soon as possible, so we'll have two ceremonies. This is not unheard of for Vietnamese that marry Americans. My wife and I have a mutual friend that is Vietnamese, and she just had her second wedding on Jan 3. That couple has been married for almost a year before having that ceremony.

As for more details, you can expect them soon. I'll do a special report when I'm not so pressed for time or backlogged with news.

Since you had a lot of questions about my apartment, I guess I'll move to there. My kitchen IS pretty basic. I don't do a lot of cooking due to my work hours. I normally only cook on weekends, so I don't need much in there. I do drink tea that I bring over from America though. My wife buys it in the Asian part of Houston and sends it to me. It's a lot cheaper to drink that tea than to buy it here. Tea can be a bit expensive, so I take any opportunity to have cheap tea that tastes good. In your case, just add water to the tea, and you should be OK.

As for the bathroom, those were in fact a couple books of manga. I had Trigun and XXXHolic in there. I also read Negima and Deathnote, but I read all my manga in English. Well, I DO sometimes read Negima in Japanese, but that's only when I buy my bento and they have the magazine out that it's printed in. I've been following the story in Japan and reading each book as it comes out in America. I suppose it's kind of spoiler, but that's ok. I don't mind.

The upper area you ask about is called a loft, and it has been VERY useful. I do keep my futon up there, and in winter, it's the best place to be. Since you asked about dividing rooms up, it is common to measure a room's size in the number of tatami that will be put in it. Typical room sizes are six or eight tatami. Mine is a bit small to be six, so I'd say I'm around four to five tatami. And since I mentioned futon, not everyone sleeps on them in Japan. Some people prefer western beds now, but many still use traditional mats.

For your last question, the beverage is actually sake. Interestingly enough, it is technically a rice beer, even though people refer to it as rice wine. The reason it is called rice wine is because it is similar to wine in alcoholic content, and the quality is as varied as that of wine. But since it is a beverage brewed from fermented grain, it is technically a very strong beer. The bottle you saw is called a bizen, and the small cups are called sakazuki.

Thanks for writing!


Mistaken Identity


Question: did you go to aheHa for the armin van buuren show on... hmm. what was day that. November 23rd or 24th? I just noticed the apartment shots and you look a LOT like one of the other foreigners on the train that I noticed. At least, that's where I think I saw the person in question. I have hair that looks like fire so you probably would have remembered.

anyways, just thought i'd check. would be random if that's the case :)

--kim


Sensei

Nope! That wasn't me, but from the sounds of it, this guy must be very handsome. I had to confirm the dates, but I was in Niihama on the day in question. I wasn't anywhere close to a train.

Maybe if you stop by Niihama, you'll spot me for real, but thanks for writing!


Thanks!


Heya,

Thanks so much for the xmas post, it was a fun way to relax at the end of the night and the pictures of your (teensy:) apartment made me realize just how much I take mine for granted. But, much more importantly, Omedetou Gozaimasu on your wedding! I wish you two all the happiness in the world in your new life together, a Dai Kichi for married bliss;P

Elysse

BTW, love the plushies;)


Sensei

Thanks for writing in. So far, our wedding has been a happy one. I hope it continues to be even better when I move back to America in a few weeks. Also, glad you like the plushies. This is only PART of my collection; I left most of them at home in America. I only took four of them originally, and I have acquired the others since then. When I go to New Orleans, I will merge my plushie collection with my wife's, and then we'll have enough plushies to take over the world... I think. Maybe.

At any rate, thanks for emailing, and I hope you had happy holidays!


You're Welcome


I was reading your latest Japandemonium column and noticed about the apology response question. That led me to this one:

Is there a Japanese response equivalent to "you're welcome" when one says "arigatou/doomo arigatou"?

Joanna


Sensei

"You're welcome" translates to "Dou itashimashita" in Japanese. Literally, it means 'It was nothing.'

If you have another question, feel free to send it on in, and thanks for writing!


I'm a Big Fan of Your Email


Merri Kurimasu, or something like that. Anyway I was just wondering what the name of the giant white paper fan is that people are always being hit with in anime. And where can I buy one?

Thanks

Tom-kun


Sensei

I knew that answer to that at one point, but I had to google it to remember. After looking through about 10000000000 pages, I finally found my answer. It is called a harisen, but I'm not sure where you could buy one. I suppose you could make it. Most people in Japan don't actually have one; it's only a gag used in anime and comedy sketches.

Hope you had a Merry Christmas, and thanks for writing!


Moneys


Heya j, I felt bad that you only got one letter last time and i do have some question regarding the whole teaching position you have there...

I know you've probably talked about every aspect of it before so many times but ya know how sometimes you'll just let things pass by you without any thought... i just finished my first semester at college and i wasn't really motivated at all so i feel like if i had an actual goal i was working towards (teaching english over there) then i would be able to fight through it all. I don't even really need you to lecture me on it maybe just give me a couple links regarding the pre reqs? Also i do have a question i bet no one's asked you, what do you wear when you teach and where did you get it?? I'm not a big suit guy ya know so i figured i should ask :) Oh ya and approx how much did you make as a C1 then?

MEIRI KURISUMASU!!!

-barooboodoo

PS: Ever heard of a jazz singer, kojima mayumi?? nintendo used one of her songs for a commercial a while back over here...


Sensei

I found my job through GEOS by searching online for a position. The hiring process was kind of hard. Initially, I sent in a resume and was offered an interview. Then I had to fly to New York for it, and it was three days long. Few months later, I found myself in Japan making 250,000 yen per month. I'm paid in yen, so my salary fluctuates with the exchange rate. After taxes and rent, I cleared around 200,000 yen each month.

As for pre-requisites, the only thing they require is a bachelor's degree in the field of your choice. It can be anything from accounting to zoology as long as you have the drive to go over here and teach. Well, they also require you to be a good teacher, but I suppose that's a given.

And finally, I AM required to wear a suit every day, but I don't wear my jacket unless it's cold or a visitor is in the school.

Oh, and I've never heard of that musician, but I'll look into her. I need to stock up on music before I go. I'll hit her up. Thanks for the tip!

Hope that answers your questions. Thanks for writing!


My First Phone Question


I was thinking of buying a PSP, and then I remembered your number from a long time ago. I thought I'd give you a call since you know all about electronics and video games and stuff. If I buy a Japanese PSP, will it play games from other countries? Will I be able to charge it in New Zealand? Also, what about the DS? Will it play other games too?

Elder Brown


Sensei

I wasn't expecting this question, but since some people might find this information useful, I'll print it. The PSP and DS are completely region free for games. I've tested this with games from both regions on systems from both regions, and they play with no problems. While the games are region free, the UMD movies for the PSP are not. They will be have to come from the region where you buy it.

In other region news, the PS3 is nearly abolishing region codes since Blu-Ray will only have three regions. North America and Japan will finally be in the same region as far as the PS3 is concerned, and SOME of the Xbox 360 games are region free. But I have yet to test that out. My 360 is in America.

As for the other half of your question, charging your handheld shouldn't be too hard. You have two options. You can buy a charger from that region, or you can just replace the end of your cable. From past experience, I know that you have other sony hardware, and they all use a cable with a figure-eight block at the end. It turns out that it doesn't matter what this originally came from; they are all essentially the same. To test this, I swapped power cables with my PS2, my camera, my PSP, and my TV. All cables worked with all systems. The only hitch is that each region has a slightly different shape on the end. North American machines have a square side and a round side, but Japanese is round on both sides. This is probably to ensure that the electricity goes in the right way in North America similar to the way that some electronics have one prong that is larger on the plug. If yours doesn't fit, you can just take a pair of nail clippers and trim it so it does. Just be sure you plug it in the right way, but I don't know if it would hurt anything if it were upside down. I left my Japanese power cable in my apartment when I visited my wife in August, and we had to trim down her PS1 cable to fit in my PS2. I assume it was either plugged in right, or it doesn't matter either way.

The other option is to buy a travel plug adaptor. That should do the trick as well.

Thanks for calling!



 Sayonara

And thus ends the first column of the new year. I hope 2006 is a good one for all of you. Since many people have expressed concern over what will happen to the column in February, there is no need for worry. I will probably miss a week, but I will continue to write the column from America. Living in Japan helped me to get the job, but it's not required for Japandemonium.

Catch you on the flip,


Jordan "You are teh n00bs, we will r0XX0Rs u and rofl" Jackson




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