||September 12, 2005
Another week has passed me by, and I find myself with more news than I can shake a stick at. It's been a strange week. My internet died for 3 days due to the typhoon, or at least I THINK it was the typhoon. At any rate. My lack of internet really messed with my ability to function in Japan. I need it to talk to the people I care about on a regular basis. To be honest, I need it just to talk to people in general. The life of a gaijin is very solitary if you don't actively seek dating over here. It's sad but true. But my internet is now back and running, and I am in good shape.
I have a fair bit of gaming news. I was in a classic game mood, but those sorts of moods don't last long. In fact, it lasted just three days, long enough to finish both quests on The Legend of Zelda. It makes me glad that I brought my Zelda Collector's Disc with me. But yeah, the second quest being so annoying at times killed the mood. So I went out and bought three PS2 games.
Two of the games are Taiko no Tatsujin games. I was very much impressed with the PSP version I picked up recently, and I played the newer of the two. It came out in 2003, and it looks just like the PSP version. What's wrong with that is my TV is much bigger than my PSP. The resolution is very poor in arcade mode, but the videos are quite nice. The controller sensitivity is also an issue; it's much more responsive. I suppose that's not bad, but I'm not used to it. The PSP responds a bit different, so the pacing I would use for a gallop on the PS2 is far different than the timing on the PSP. I think this will be remedied when I get the taiko drum controller in the US, but I wthas a bit saddened by it. It's still good, and worth the 25 bucks I paid, but I wouldn't have wanted to pay full price for it. But fans of the one in America can consider importing the old ones. I'll report on them further when I've had more time to play with them and unlock some stuff. So far, I'd give the PSP version a 4 out of 5 and the PS2 a 3 out of 5.
The other game I picked up is Super Robot Wars: Scramble Commander. Like all other SRW games, it's a mix of lots of different series. This one has Mazinger, Evangelian, Gundam Wing, Zeta Gundam, and ZZ Gundam. I didn't know about Zeta or ZZ being in the game, but I was pleased to find that out by reading the manual. Expect a mini-review when I finish it. For now, just know that it looks very spiffy.
In other news, I reported earlier that the DS had some new colors. Some time ago, red was added to the list, but that's not the only handheld available in a shiny new color. Sony is about to join the color game. White PSPs will be on Japanese shelves as of September 15. I read the box, and I'm not sure, but I think it said one free dead pixel in every box. Coincidentally, that'll be one day after Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children hits shelves. I'm not going to shell out 50 bucks to buy it, but I'll probably rent it. I'll buy it in the US for MUCH cheaper and with English subs. You can check back next week for my impressions.
Other than that, I think it's about time to wrap this intro up. The title of this update literally means 'God of Death.' What brought THIS particular phrase to mind was that I was reading the vast amounts of information on Wikipedia about Gundam. This led me to reading all about Gundam Wing, a personal favorite series, and then to Duo, my favorite Gundam Pilot, with his Deathscythe. In Gundam Wing, that was Duo's nickname, and I've been thinking about that series a fair bit recently.
That said, let's get this party started!
It was another good week on the charts. The top spot is STILL held by Tales of Legendia. This is a bit of a rare occurrence. I think it's happened only three or four times since I started checking the Dengeki chart regularly. Also, many of the games that I thought were doomed to fall off the chart actually saw some sharp rises in position. It was very impressive.
After looking at the numbers, it seems the games that did best this time around were all portable. I counted everything up, and 24 of the 50 games on the chart were handhelds. Of them, 13 went to the DS, 7 to the PSP, and 4 to the GBA. Of the remaining 26 games, only two were for the Gamecube. The others were all PS2. And RPGs (counting A-RPGs as RPGs) led the chart with action games coming in second place among game genres.
It's a lot of statistics, but I think it proves that RPGs are superior to all other kinds of gaming. Or at least the Japanese think so... That said, let's see those numbers!
While writing the Dengeki chart last week, I found a game that I didn't know much about, so I looked into it a bit. I discovered that it was a new TRPG from Konami called Twelve ~Sengoku Fuushinden~. Its world "Taiwa" is modeled closely after the Warring States period of Japanese history with a mythic age known as the "Age of Gods." It is said that long ago, humans and supernatural spirits lived together in harmony, but that age ended when a war erupted among the gods. That war ended in a great flood that washed the world clean and sealed away all the evil gods deep in the planet. But with them went the spirits, and they disappeared into the wilderness.
The hero of the story is a wandering swordsman that lives near the capital of Taiwa. One day, they rescue a young noblewoman named Tien from becoming a sacrifice to evil gods by Ocho Masanaga. They vow to bring down Masanaga, but they'll need the items with the 12 that can oppose the evil gods. These items, most of them being weapons, are important because they are relics in which the spirits of the Chinese Zodiac reside, making them alive as well. This means that not only are these weapons incredibly powerful but that they can gain experience and level up. As luck would have it, the hero just happens to be one of the twelve and has a sword embedded with the spirit of the rooster.
As for Ocho Masanaga, he is a daimyo that has conquered a large portion of the land of Taiwa including the great ravine that rips across the northern section. According to legend, the gods were sealed at the bottom of that ravine.
In opposition to Masanaga is the Emperor in the capital. He is a spirit in human form, and he is considered the protector of Taiwa. In general, he doesn't actually take part in the day-to-day politics of the country, but he has declared Masanaga a traitor for his dealings with the evil gods. Unfortunately, no one seems to be doing much about this decree.
Twelve ~Sengoku Fuushinden~ was released on August 25 for the Sony PSP. Check back next week for continuing coverage of this game with more screens and character information including the villains.
Hot on the heels of announcement for eM enchanT arM for the Xbox 360 is that From Software is releasing a five-chapter side-story to the upcoming game that take place before the events of the official game. They center around a school campus where the peace has recently been disturbed.
Of these chapters, the first has been posted, and it is called "The Murder of Professor Kou: Have You Seen My Yakisoba Bread? The Dangers of After School Activities for a Dollmaster." The others will go live on September 30, October 14, October 28, and November 11 respectively.
Other than this, very little is known about this story including the platform or a cost if any. Currently, there is no mention of a fee.
For those looking forward to the upcoming Slime Mori Mori 2 for the Nintendo DS, Square Enix finally has a date for you. The slime army sets out on December 1, just in time for holiday shopping. In the meantime, have a look at these propaganda scans to tide you over.
With the Tokyo Game Show nearly upon us, the official statistics for the show have been released, and this show is looking to be the biggest in history. CESA, the Japanese equivalent of the ESA, has reported that a staggering 516 titles will be sharing floor space. That takes the title from 2003's record-setting 508.
As for a breakdown, the PS2 and mobile phones lead the pack with 123 titles each. Next comes the PC with 95, and the DS trails behind at 34. The PSP is hot on the DS's heels with 31 new titles, and the GBA and Xbox have 16 and 11 respectively. As for the next generation, the PS3 will show off 4 new titles, and the Xbox 360 has 7 offerings for the crowd.
As far as companies go, Konami wins the award for the most titles on the floor with 30. Look to RPGamer for live continuous coverage from our TGS correspondent. Sadly, I have to work.
Gust just announced that remakes of Atelier Marie: the Zalburg Alchemist 1 and Atelier Elie: the Zalburg Alchemist 2 are on their way. Both games were released on the PS1 in '97 and '99 respectively and will be released together as a compilation called Atelier Marlone and Elie: the Zalburg Alchemist 1,2.
As for plot, Atelier Marie tells the story of Marlone, a student at the Zalburg Alchemic Academy that has achieved the worst grades in school history. Her professor, Ingrid, gives Marlone an ultimatum: "Create something spectacular in the next four years or fail." Players then play those four years to create something worthy of a passing grade.
The story continues in Atelier Elie with the heroine of the story, Elfile contracting a deadly disease, but she is saved by an item created by Marlone who graduated one year prior. After that, Elfile vows to become a great alchemist like Marlone and enrolls at the Zalburg Academy herself.
As stated before, both titles are being packaged together and will sport updated graphics, a new screen layout, and an improved character movement system.
With the release of Atelier Marlone and Elie: the Zalburg Alchemist 1,2, the entire series will be brought to the PS2. The game is slated for an October 27 release for 7120 yen. Check back for more details as they surface.
The official website for .hack//fragment has recently gone live. So far, there is a little information on the site, but everyone will have to wait until next week for a translation. In the meantime, enjoy all the character art.
In other website news, Konami opened their website for Suikoden V. Currently, it's only a splash page, but as it's updated, you can be sure that RPGamer will have all the information.
Those wondering when they can pick up Tales of the Abyss will have to wonder no longer. Namco has announced that it will hit Japanese shelves on December 15, the anniversary of the very first Tales game, Tales of Phantasia
It seems that I get three emails a week. I can handle that, and it prevents me from changing my template. When I'm running behind like now, keeping things simple is a help. Sorry for the lateness. It'll be discussed in the closing...
In the meantime, enjoy the return of the Japanese lessons.
That said, let's get started!
First and foremost I just wanted to say thank you for providing a
column that is consistently interesting and informative. It's nice to
be able to hear a variety of insights on life in Japan from someone to
whom I might find myself in a similar situation some day (well...it's
not really very likely, but it's comforting to be able to dream).
Also, I'd like to offer my condolences as to the death of Chibi. I've
had a few computers die on me in the past and it is surprisingly
hurtful even whilst friends and family are close at hand, so I can
imagine it would be more than a little unpleasant if you were many,
many miles away from your loved ones and just lost your main avenue
with which to contact them. I'm not sure where I'm going with this
paragraph besides general condolences so...yes, I was very sorry to
As for questions, my first is just a general 'How scary is Japan, from
a social point of view?'. The idea being that I am practically
terrified of social interaction, even here at home, in my native
language. Now I can handle the idea of learning a new language and
adapting to a new culture, but I was simply wondering how you are
treated there, being something of an outsider. And how easy it is for
you to speak with and interact with those around you. I guess my
question would be better phrased as 'Are Japanese people, on the
whole, friendly: yay or nay?'.
There was also something I read about the issue of after-work drinking
playing a fair part in working relations. Now being that I live in
Scotland, I'm not a stranger to the idea of going out to a pub with
some people from work and having a drink. The point in case being that
I don't drink alcohol. At all. And I have heard that it's a little
impolite to continually decline such an invitation, even if you do it
in quite a polite manner? I guess I just wanted a little clarification
on that .^_^
My second question is somewhat less ambiguous: have you any tips that
might help with the memorisation of kanji? I've come a fair ways with
my study of Japanese now, but I find myself struggling to bolster my
knowledge of kanji very far beyond the couple of hundred that I know
now. Games help somewhat, but they tend to teach me a fair few kanji
that lack much use in 'real-life' Japanese (and, unfortunately,
'real-life' Japanese teaches me a fair few that never seem to turn up
in games). I fully realise that it's going to be an uphill battle to
fluency if I'm struggling at a couple of hundred, and I need to learn
several thousand, so... Yes, any ideas?
Please excuse the length of this. And the general rambling nature of it.
*edit: converted to romaji for the readers*
atarashii conpyuuta omedetou gozaimasu.
(It's probably not typically said, of course...but getting a new
computer is a big occasion worthy of celebration ^_^ Well...maybe...)
Thanks for the condolences about Chibi. He will be missed. Also, thank you for the kind words about my column. They are greatly appreciated. Believe me, I don't write on this thing for the better part of a day for nothing. I do it out of love for the job and for my readers.
As for your first question, I can give a resounding 'yay.' The Japanese are generally very friendly to gaijin. I find that it's easy to interact with people here if you yourself are easy to interact with. If you try, they'll try. And yes, going out with coworkers can be compulsory, but it's a lot of fun, even if you don't drink. Trust me. Last time I went out, I had nothing more than water, and I enjoyed myself.
In answer to your second question, there is no good way. Write them, write them again, and then write them a few more times for good measure. You CAN learn radicals, the parts that make up kanji, but you still have to learn what goes where. For instance, 'mae' has a roof, a moon, and a katakana 'ri,' but does the moon go on the left or right? I wish I had some magic bullet, but just keep working. A good kanji book might help. Try buying the ones the elementary kids use.
Thanks for the letter!
Hey, I read your column every week and I think its excelent! My question is what type of game is most popular in japan?
I'm not sure if this will answer your question, but I tallied up everything from the dengeki charts. Here are the results:
Strategy RPG: 4
Action RPG: 2
Granted, this is not the exact answer, but it's a good snapshot of gaming right now. It seems that as a pure genre, action is most popular, but all the RPGs added together also total 13. So it looks like they're not that different than most of us, just that they don't play nearly as much GTA or FPS games.
Thanks for the email!
I wrote a while back about traveling to Japan, but not
sure if it got to you. Been just focusing on my work
and next thing I know my flight is in two days. Doing
a lot of mass planning, and one of the things i
thought of doing was climb Fuji San like you did.
However was very disappointed to find that climbing
season ended two weeks ago.
I've got one of those in depth guide books, and it was
saying if you are outside peak season don't go if you
don't have good gear or experience climbing, because
it can get very cold up there. My plan is about the
3rd week of September so I wanted to ask would Fuji
San be that bad that an inexperienced person like me
should rule it out completly?
Also I've looked at Ryokans and seems many need
reservations via mail if you are out of the country. I
have yet to see anything on if you can call them when
you get to japan, and how much in advance you have to
book reservations. Do you have any info on this?
Just curious will you be attending TGS?
Sorry about such a late notice, I was all caught up in
work and here I am so close to my trip. If my mail
gets to you too late, it's okay thank you for your
assistance, your articles are always great to read.
David Lam (Minnesota)
Due to the time-sensitive nature of this email, I replied personally, but others can benefit as well. If one wants to climb Mt. Fuji outside the official climbing season, it CAN be done, but it requires registration with the local police in case you don't come down. The mountain can be brutal outside of those two months. I climbed it at the peak of summer, and I was freezing in only a t-shirt and a rain jacket. Proper attire WILL be needed for an ascent later.
Another issue is that there will be NO mountain huts. You won't be able to stay for a sleep or have the benefit of the toilets that I had. I had a rather cozy 3 hours in a pay toilet on the 8th station. Don't expect that. You will need to start early and finish early. I don't know how dangerous trying to see the sunrise is, but you'll have to go without sleep or camp out on the mountain.
As for the ryokans, I recommmend using this site.. I had a good stay at a ryokan thanks to them. There are other such sites available if you look, but I found that one, and I'm going to stick with it.
Thanks for the email, and I hope your trip is awesome. Good luck to you!
Another column finished. I apologize for the delay. There were some private issues that prevented the column from being worked on on Monday night. I generally do it before bed on Monday. Also, nothing got done yesterday due to there being a teacher's meeting for GEOS. Imagine 100 gaijin in one room. Now imagine all those gaijin that weren't going out drinking on the same train. Now imagine that they're in the same train car. They're going to talk, and talk we did. I WANTED to work on my column, but I was expected to be social. Not that I minded. Any other day, I'd gladly talk to everyone, but I was hoping...
Catch you on the flip,