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JAPANDEMONIUM
 
kisaragi no touka
Usagi no shippou
Akemashite omedetou (mou ikkai!)

Happy new year! If you're in China, in some other region that recognizes the lunisolar calendar, or are just really into astrology, then it is now officially the Year of the Rabbit. This would be a more timely thing to say if I'd actually been able to update according to plan last week. To celebrate, I'd like to share an odd little fact about rabbits in Japan. But first, there's some grammar we should go over.

Japanese differs greatly from the Indo-European languages in many ways, and one example is in the usage of counting numbers. In the west, counting is as simple as putting a number and a noun together (e.g. one sheep, two sheep, three sheep). In Japanese, however, special grammar bits called counters come into play. Pretty much any grouping of objects imaginable has its own symbol that's used to do the counting. For example, "seven samurai" isn't just shichi (7) plus samurai, but shichinin no samurai instead because nin is the counter for people. Trees are usually counted with hon, the symbol for long, thin objects -- ippon, nihon, sanpon, etc. Draft animals like horses and cattle are counted with tou, the symbol for head -- ittou, nitou, santou, etc. All other animals of land and sea are counted with the symbol hiki -- ippiki, nihiki, sanbiki -- but with one exception.

Here's where we get back to rabbits. While obviously small, cute, fuzzy land animals, if one had only accounting records to go by then one would think they might be birds. That's because they are often counted with the symbol wa (feather) like real birds -- ichiwa, niwa, sanwa.

As it was explained to me years ago by an agèd student, centuries back the shogun's government instituted a strict Buddhist dietary code over the populace which banned the consumption of red meat. While largely ignored in the hinterlands like Kyushu (explaining the abundance of pork recipes to originate here), it was well enforced in the Kanto region. It was around this time that meatsellers began presenting chops of rabbit as "chicken" in order to avoid regulations and make ends meet. The practice became so widespread that the counting of rabbits as birds ended up a fixture of the language.

So, anyone up for some fried "chicken"?

It's been a while since we saw anything of Hiroyuki Maeda's Lovely Lady Lab. Just in time for Valentine's day, he presents us with this lovely two-page spread featuring the girls from Amagami, a popular game of the dating-sim genre. The newest version of their game is coming to PS2 and PSP this month, and they're all ready for the holiday. Remember, guys get the chocolates on V-Day in this country.



So where should a game-conscious young Japanese man take his digital belle for the day? If they're in Tokyo, there's one spot in particular that's perfect for the video-game crowd: Luida's Bar. The DQ-themed establishment even has a special item on the menu, for that most romantic of gamer-geek dates.


Yes, they're making it a special day for everyone....

Source: Famitsu
1/24 ~ 1/30 1/16 ~ 1/23 1/10 ~ 1/16 Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
1 New Arrival! * * The Last Story Nintendo
2 New Arrival! * * Valkyria Chronicles III Sega
6 2 1 Last seen at 1 Monster Hunter Portable 3rd Capcom
7 New Arrival! * * Dragon Age: Origins Spike
9 1 New Arrival! * Kingdom Hearts - Birth By Sleep Final Mix Square Enix
10 New Arrival! * * Tsukumonogatari FuRyu
12 6 8 Last seen at 6 Pokémon Black/White Nintendo
12 New Arrival! * * Dragon Age: Origins Spike
15 7 4 Last seen at 5 Ninokuni - The Mage of Darkness Level-5
21 11 off-list Last seen at 30 Inazuma Eleven 3 - The Ogre Level-5
29 New Arrival! * * Wizardry Twin-Pack Acquire
Off-list 10 New Arrival! * Venus & Braves Portable Bandai-Namco
Off-list 25 13 Last seen at 8 SaGa 3 - Shadow or Light Square Enix
Off-list 26 23 Last seen at 17 Super Fossil Fighters Nintendo
Off-list - 18 New Arrival Mass Effect 2 Microsoft
Off-list - 19 Last seen at 14 The 3rd Birthday Square Enix
* Returned to the depths 28 Risen from the depths Tales of Graces F Bandai-Namco

I originally heard of Tsukumonogatari while preparing the first Japandemonium column of the year. It was listed as an RPG to be released later in the month for the PSP, but all the updates I could find about it on Dengeki were like this:







Just from first appearances, I'd never have pegged this as an RPG. As an adventure game, definitely, and for the longest time I had nothing that really contradicted that impression. Late last week, I finally found something.






The game may have a strong amount of school-sim adventure running through it, but it has battles at least. It also has some sort of photography mini-game, by which the player can investigate potentially haunted objects and create photographic links that allow the wayward spirit to be summoned in battle.

The story is something like this. Yuto Ishigami was living the stereotypical Japanese high school life, right up to the point where a classmate shoves him out the window. After he wakes up again, he finds that he has second sight. The normality of his generic high school is shattered by the existence of two sorts of spirits. The Ayakashi (a Japanese word for "something strange or suspicious") are malignant spirits which delight in spreading chaos and misfortune. Also scattered throughout the school are yorishiro, or items which for some reason attract mystical forces like spirits. Using his cell phone camera, Yuto is able to access these spirits to do battle, much like in a MegaTen game.

Anyway, here's the human cast of fairly typical high school students and staff.












And here are some of the fairly atypical spirits to be recruited or battled throughout the game.










Tsukumonogatari hit the stores at the end of January. It was developed by a group called Killaware, and published by FuRyu.

Source: Dengeki Online

About two weeks back Aquaplus made a big announcement concerning six new titles. Among the non-RPG titles were a fighting game called AquaPazza, a new adventure title called Jasmine, and an expanded version of the hit visual novel game To Heart 2. The first title up for the RPG half of the announcement was also To Heart 2. So... how does that compute?


Well, first one has to add a secondary title to it, like so: To Heart 2 - Dungeon Travelers. Then one has to re-skin a Wizardry-style interface and draw all the young ladies of the original game in various fantasy cosplay outfits. Plenty of cheesecake would have to be included as well. After some more digging, it seems that this game is an adapted version of "Final Dragon Chronicle: Guilty Requiem," which appeared in the compilation PC title Manaka de Ikuno!.


To Heart 2 - Dungeon Travelers is due out in May, so I'm sure we'll have plenty more to ogle before then. The other two RPGs that AquaPlus has announced are still a little murkier on the details, however.



Details on their respective stories might be lacking, but at least we have the titles: Utawarerumono 2 and Tears to Tiara 2. True to their origins, both games will combine strategy-RPG play with plotlines in the style of PC adventure games. In the scans you can see the hero and heroine for each title. There'll be more to come in the future, I'm sure.

Source: Famitsu Weekly

It's time once more to venture into the realm of indie games. Last month I found a new title to talk about, called Rime Berta (pronounced REE-may). It's an SRPG being developed by Next-Soft.

In the far-off land of Sandia, a realm whose history has been lost to time, there stands a tower. At its base lies the sole human settlement in the region. At its top, so the legends claim, lies the power to grant any wish. No one has ever survived the ascent, however.


This is Livia. She's a young artisan from the town of Sandy at the base of the tower. The townsfolk are in the grip of a plague, and nothing seems to help. The only hope left is at the top. With her carefully crafted puppets fighting for her, she's ready to climb to the top of the world and back to save her family.







Livia has over twenty varieties of puppets at her disposal, all made to resemble anthropomorphic animals. The three seen above are the basic kitty-cat (fighter), flying squirrel (archer), and jellyfish (magician) models.




Rime Berta will work on any version of Windows from XP and up. There's no word yet as to when it'll actually be available, though.

Source: Rime Berta HP

A lot of work goes into making elite cyborg assassins. The crew of scientists behind the Black Rock Shooter project had to test things out first. And thus, BRS is not alone in her upcoming game. It's not easy being the last, desperate line of defense against the invading alien hordes, after all.


BRS is joined by the project's prototype model, codenamed Gray, seen on the right. She was apparently the seventh prototype the project produced, and the only one still alive. The character on the left is WRS. You get three guesses as to what that stands for. Just where WRS came from and what her goals are remains unknown. She may be the Mark II model, but then again she might be a product of the invaders' technology. She does make for a cool action figure, though.






Source: Famitsu Online
Title Publisher Release Date Platform
Atelier Violet - Alchemist of Gramnad 2 Gust 2.3.11
White Knight Chronicles - Dogma Wars Level-5 2.3.11
Dragon Quest VI - Realms of Reverie (Ultimate Hits) Square Enix 2.3.11
Dragon Quest Monsters Joker 2 (Ultimate Hits) Square Enix 2.3.11
Tales of the World - Radiant Mythology 3 Bandai-Namco 2.10.11
Cross of Venus SPECIAL ASQII Media Works 2.10.11
Students of Round Experience 2.10.11
Two Worlds 2 Ubisoft 2.17.11
Daikoukaijidai Online - Tierra Americana Koei 2.22.11
Disgaea 4 Nippon Ichi 2.24.11
Rune Factory Oceans Marvelous 2.24.11
Phantasy Star Portable 2 Infinite Sega 2.24.11
Source: Reuters
Sequel Segue

Hi Gaijin san,

I had a quick question for you. I recently read at rpgamer.com that a sequel for Final Fantasy XIII was in the works and that it was "...acknowledged that valid criticisms were levelled against XIII. They hope to address those criticisms in the sequel." I was actually sorely disappointed with this game and was wondering if there was any specific news about which criticisms SquareEnix is hoping to address in their sequel. Have you heard anything?

Thank you

Gaijin

I've looked and looked, and I think I missed the issue of Famitsu with all the interviews in it. That said, I have yet to find a more specific reference to what the complaints might be. At a guess, it'd be the blatant (as opposed to gussied up and disguised) linearity that's the number one Japanese complaint. Probably a relative lack of customization in equipment figures in as well. We'll just have to wait and see what they do with it all.

First Food! Haven't You Ever Played Phantasy Star?

Dear Gaijin,

Excellent column, as always. I have a short question for you: What's the deal with the fast food conglomerates over there? I am currently in Thailand, and the Japanese fast food conglomerates are finally starting to hit us here, but I have seen quite a few passes at them from various manga and anime. It seems like there are a some really huge companies that sets up many types of fast food franchises in Japan. It's usually mentioned that these companies tend to have franchises for everything (I guess similar to how McDonalds also have McCafe now, except imagine that they also sell noodles, and cakes). Is it really as common as I think it is, or is this a rarity?

Oh, and on a very unrelated note--how popular are iPhone and Apple products over there?

Thank you,

Savin

Gaijin

Which fast food conglomerates are you talking about? Over here, the biggest ones are McDonald's and KFC. MosBurger and Lotteria are competing burger chains. Otherwise, what determines fast food? Speed of service or cheapness of food? Yoshinoya's a big beef bowl chain, Coco Ichiban's a major curry restaurant group, there are at least three sushi franchises that might qualify, and of course there's Ajisen Ramen (biggest ramen restaurant chain on the planet). All of these are pretty specific when it comes to selected cuisine. Family restaurants (think something like Denny's) are common as well, and they have a much wider range of food to order. Is that the sort of place you mean?

On the Apple front, iPhones are gaining in popularity, iPods have held onto their place in the market since the beginning, and iPads are the subject of strong marketing via various cell providers. I have no idea how popular the computers might be, though.

This week's update bucks the trend and arrives early! This is largely due to the Foundation Day holiday tomorrow and my subsequent internet blackout as I do something, anything, with my girlfriend. Next week's update is a little up in the air, as I have about a dozen more student reports to finish for a different set of classes, and these are a bit more writing-intensive than the previous ones. Hopefully there won't be any issues.

And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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