Last weekend was a short one for me, as my school had its winter carnival on Sunday. We had most of the kindergarten grads back to run around and play, and every classroom had a different game set up. There were beanbag games, dart games, bowling — even a limbo dance room. As the odd person out on the staff, I got the game project that no one else could get to work out. I had to come up with a treasure hunt.
The biggest issue was one of time and resources. The school isn't that big, and we would have over sixty kids running all over the place. Any sort of organized treasure hunt risked being discovered prematurely, and it would be impossible to restock all the treasure spots as often as needed. The answer? Think "geocache."
I decided to make this a team effort on the part of the kids. They could sign up in groups of three or four, and I would give them a worksheet. The paper had six clues that would lead them to six plastic eggs scattered around the school. Each egg contained a part of a secret message. The kids had to write down the bits of the message on the spaces provided on the worksheet, then put the words in the right order to make a secret message. If they could tell me the secret message, they would get prize tickets to redeem for candy or small toys.
The important point, the one that was written down twice in the rules section of the worksheet (the second time in all caps), was that the kids had to hide the eggs back where they had found them. No giving them to me, no hiding them elsewhere. They just had to find the egg, write the message, and give it back. In the two hours of the winter carnival, I had twelve groups sign up. Two of those were actually kindergartners who were all excited to try it out, but couldn't really do it. Eight of the elementary school groups managed to finish it handily though, and the other two had almost managed it by the time the whole shebang was done with. A fun time was had by all, though.
Whether or not you are a fan of the Pokémon series, the prevalence of Pokémon in the media makes it hard to avoid iconic characters such as a striped yellow rodent named Pikachu. As the Japan release date for Pokémon Plus Nobunaga's Ambition approaches next month, many people may not be as familiar with the assortment of characters from the other side of the equation.
Koei's historical simulator, Nobunaga's Ambition, is set during the Sengoku period of Japan and the characters featured in the series are mostly prominent figures from that time in history. However Nobunaga's Ambition is not the only Sengoku period themed game in Koei's repertoire. Koei is also known for having several spin-offs from their Dynasty Warriors hack-and-slash series, one which includes a Sengoku period themed game named Samurai Warriors. Although Pokémon Plus Nobunaga's Ambition makes mention of Koei's historical simulator, the crossover characters found in game use the same designs and share the same personalities as their counterparts in Samurai Warriors 3. This choice was likely made because the focus in Nobunaga's Ambition is not so much the characters' personalities but rather the faction and tactics you use in your game. On the other hand, the Samurai Warriors series focuses more on their stories which are loosely based on their historical counterparts.
Although the best way to learn about these historical figures is through textbooks and other trusted sources, here is a quick rundown on a few important and interesting characters that have appeared in the Pokémon Plus Nobunaga's Ambition trailers.
Oda Nobunaga was the force to be reckoned with during the Sengoku period. He was the daimyo who successfully unified a large portion of Japan before his untimely death during the Incident at Honnouji. However, this feat was not without criticism of cruelty in his methods. For instance Oda was not afraid to attack anyone who stood in the way of his ambitions. This would include warring against the Azai who Oda had created an alliance through the marriage of his sister. These accusations of brutality are echoed in the Samurai Warriors series through the character of Akechi Mitsuhide.
Akechi Mitsuhide is famous for betraying Oda Nobunaga during the Incident at Honnouji. The reason behind the betrayal is mostly unknown in historical sources. However, some consider the interpretation of the opening poem in the Atago Hyakuin, a 100-verse linked communal poem which Mitsuhide was first to compose, to have set the tone for the Incident at Honnouji. Regardless of the reason, Koei took this open-ended betrayal by providing several possible reasons and outcomes. In most of the Samurai Warriors games, Mitsuhide's reason for betrayal was because he did not agree with the cruel methods Nobunaga employed. The Incident at Honnouji would play out but with several outcomes. Did Nobunaga commit seppuku while Honnouji was burning to the ground? Perhaps someone else killed Nobunaga? For me, the most interesting possibility was when Mitsuhide had a change of heart during his final duel with Nobunaga. Although Mitsuhide made a last minute decision not to kill Nobunaga, he inadvertently does so during their duel.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi's rise to power was quite impressive considering that he began as a servant to Oda Nobunaga. As Hideyoshi rose through the ranks, he did not get his big break until after the Incident at Honnouji. Upon hearing about Nobunaga's death, Hideyoshi promptly defeated Akechi Mitsuhide at the battle of Yamazaki. Thereafter, he would complete Nobunaga's ambitions by unifying and ruling Japan until his death. A consistent theme in most portrayals of Hideyoshi is for him to have a monkey-like appearance. This notion stems from a nickname given by Nobunaga in regards to Hideyoshi's physical characteristics. In the Samurai Warriors series these monkey characteristics are shown through the character's movements and laidback personality. This monkey reference is also apparent in Pokémon Plus Nobunaga's Ambition through Hideyoshi's physical characteristics and his Pokémon being an Infernape.
Oichi is said to have a supportive role to the protagonist in Pokémon Plus Nobunaga's Ambition. In history she was known for her role as a catalyst in creating political alliances. That is to say, as Oda Nobunaga's sister, she was used to create ties with armies such as the Azai through marriage. Koei adds more color to this alliance by creating a love story between Azai Nagamasa and Oichi. Something which Koei does not seem to touch upon is that after the death of Azai Nagamasa, Oichi was remarried to Shibata Katsuie, a character who also appears in the Samurai Warriors roster.
Gracia Hosokawa is the daughter of Akechi Mitsuhide. After the Incident at Honnouji, the Hosokawa family turned against Mitsuhide for his decision to overthrow Nobunaga. Luckily for Gracia, the Hosokawa family did not expel or kill her after Mitsuhide's deafeat at the Battle of Yamazaki. Instead, Gracia was said to have died on her own terms, being killed by a family retainer rather than commiting seppuku, when Ishida Mitsunari attempted to take her hostage. The reason why her name is Gracia is because she is a baptized Christian. Although Christianity and Jesuit missionaries are not directly mentioned in the Samurai Warriors series, it is portrayed through Gracia's European-influenced character design and fascinating headpiece.
There's more of her story than what Varie says here. After her father's rebellion, she was sequestered in an out-of-the-way stronghold for about two years. In 1584 she was moved to the Hosokawa family residence in Osaka, where she was first exposed to the Catholic missionaries. Later in the year she converted in a secret ceremony, taking the name Gracia (Garasha in Japanese) instead of her birth-name of Tama. She remained in Osaka for the next decade, as her husband was a strong supporter of Hideyoshi. After Hideyoshi's death, however, Hosokawa Tadaoki sided against Tokugawa Ieyasu (later the shogun). One of Tokugawa's lieutenants, Ishida Mitsunari, attacked Osaka in 1600 with the intent of taking all the important inhabitants hostage. As previously agreed by both husband and wife, Gracia was killed by her own servants to prevent this sort of coup from succeeding. Such was the Lady Gracia's popularity that the backlash from this event forced Ishida to give up on taking Osaka.
Gracia Hosokawa's personal memorial still stands in the Hosokawa family memorial park on the side of Mt. Tatsuda in the middle of Kumamoto City, where the Hosokawa clan eventually settled after Tokugawa took power. It's a nice place to go walking. One other thing to note: she was the inspiration for the character of Mariko in James Clavell's Shogun, though that character's personal details were quite different and her death scene was a bit more spectacular.
Thanks again to Varie for providing some historical perspective to this crossover title. There are still several more historical characters included in this game though, so I hope she can come visit again soon.
Genius Sonority is not a name I am familiar with, but perhaps I should be. Formed in 2001 with members from the dev studio Heartbeat (one-time developer for the Dragon Quest series) and Creatures Inc. (developer of the Mother games as well as the majority of the Pokémon franchise), its main focus has been to develop Pokémon titles for consoles. At some point, the team also found the time to make Dragon Quest Swords. This time around, however, it has something new up its sleeve.
Denpa Ningen no RPG starts with what Genius Sonority's members know best: monster collection. This download game utilizes the camera of the 3DS to help players catch "electromagnetic people" to use in the game. In terms of gameplay, it seems to be something of a dungeon-crawler, though how battles work out with eight characters in a party isn't really explained. The look of the battle system and the monster designs definitely bring later Dragon Quest titles to mind, however. The music is being provided by Hitoshi Sakimoto, whose previous work should be well known. He did much of the soundtrack for Final Fantasy XII as well as the music for entire Ogre Battle series. Denpa should be a nice auditory experience, at least.
The electromagnetic people come in a wide variety of shapes and colors, further enhancing the feel of this title as a monster-collecting game. Just how they are different from one another has yet to be explained, but there has to be some reason to collect and field a variety of them in the player's party. Just from the videos it would seem there's an elemental color-code involved. The plot involves a vague and generic Dark Lord kidnapping people, but the focus of the article is on the little dudes.
Denpa Ningen no RPG had its trial version made available this past Tuesday, and the full version should be ready for download on February 8th. Japanese 3DS players can get it for 800 yen.
More and more often I wonder if I should be getting an iWhatever someday soon. It certainly seems to be a hotbed of up and coming RPG developers. There looks to be a lot of interesting stuff to be had, but since Famitsu so rarely reports on it (and I don't think to check it more frequently) I tend to miss a lot of iOS-related RPG goodness. That's why I only just recently heard about this title, even though it has been out since November.
It does look like a lovely example of a 16-bit RPG, doesn't it? The story focuses on a young man named Blank, whose job title is literally Risktaker. He and his friends apparently search for ancient artifacts called crests on behalf of a trade company called Maximum Holdings. They're not the only ones on the hunt, of course, so that is probably the core portion of the plot. It was developed by Megames, published by Menue, and is generally available for about $5 or less, depending on the day, the exchange rate, and the current round of pricing campaigns.
Okay, I am really getting annoyed with myself. There's no reason I should have missed this next title, but somehow I did. In any case, fans of Atelier and Hakuoki have reason to celebrate, as Otomate (a subsidiary of Idea Factory) and Gust have come together to make a new game in the otome genre. Games in this genre are usually relationship sims and interactive novels focusing on the female protagonist and any number of romantic male leads. While the game definitely retains aspects of the meister genre (namely, item synthesis), it doesn't seem to have any of the other RPG elements of the Atelier series. Still, it's of sufficient interest that it's worth mentioning here.
Atelier Elkrone is a bit odd in that it does not actually use the heroine's name in the title. Meriella (call me Merry!) has just set up shop in her grandmother's old workshop in the town of Elkrone, which apparently suffers from a surfeit of eligible bachelors. You can see them all with their names in English in the video, though strangely it doesn't confirm the exact spelling of Merry's name. She does get her own fairy helper, Popotto, to help her out. Also, those well-versed in the series' history might see a few familiar faces in those portrait cards at the end of the video. Marlone of Atelier Marie and Elfir Traum of Atelier Elie both apparently make cameo appearances in this game, as does the bald blacksmith from their hometown of Salburg.
In any case, Atelier Elkrone is for the PSP, and should be in stores sometime next month.
To continue with the odd new titles from Gust, we also have Ciel no Surge: Lost Tribute to the Stars, a title that showcases Gust's continuing issues with the use of foreign or foreign-sounding words without any real idea of how to use them. The game's title includes a French word, an English word, and a Japanese grammatical particle, for crying out loud!
The player follows the story of Ionasal Kukrul Priciel (call me Ion!), a sufferer of plot-induced amnesia, as she and her fairy friend work to jump-start her faulty memory. Time is not on their side. Their world, Laciela, is soon to have a fatal end as its sun slowly expands. There are two options: Migration and Restoration. Each has its adherents, forming two great factions who vehemently disagree over the best course to take, and Ion's past is somehow involved. Even with all this, this game is not an RPG apparently. It's a life-sim with the odd genre designation of "Seven-Dimensional Communication Game." It is also the first game in a new series, called Surge Concerto.
Ciel no Surge will be Gust's first title for the Vita. According to its own site, the game should be in stores on April 26th.
Yes I know, I'm terrible at asking questions. What can I say!
Anyway, how are you? Hope all is well over in Japan. I hear the Vita isn't
doing too well so far, what's up with that?
Honestly? At a guess, I would say that it's a combination of people being happy with their current PSPs, the pricing for the Vita and its peripherals, and the current lack of Monster Hunter on that platform.
And on to the challenge. Now, originally I thought I had a great idea.
Monster Hunter Thanksgiving! It seemed like the perfect match for mixing a
holiday with an RPG. The problem? I swear I already used this idea before.
I can't remember where or when, but I couldn't beat this nagging feeling.
So I decided to go with something different.
I don't recall you writing in with anything like that, though it does sound like it would fit in well with the basic premise of Toriko, a manga/anime series that manages to combine the best parts of Monster Hunter and Iron Chef.
I present to you: The Secret of Christmas! Yes that's right, taking
Santa's brief cameo from Secret of Mana and rolling with it, Secret of
Christmas is a brand new Mana game staring Father Christmas himself. What
is the plot you ask? A Christmas celebration is being planned at the foot
of the mana tree. Knowing the importance of the event, Santa makes a
special present for each nation, each meant to symbolize the peace the
world is currently enjoying. Naturally these presents are stolen, and its
up to Santa to traverse the world unraveling the fiendish plot.
Combat and everything would obviously be very similar to Secret of Mana,
with the differences being that all the weapons, spells, and spirits would
be Christmas themed. So for example Jack Frost would serve as the spirit
controlling ice magic, and Santa might wield a candy cane instead of a
sword. Everything would be very light hearted of course, and you get to
travel to many new and old locations from Secret of Mana.
I think this would make for a delightful little holiday game, don't you?
Get on that Square Enix!
This sounds more like something that the Japanese doujin games scene would pick up on, actually. Goodness knows those indie developers have made some odd game combinations over the years.
One last Japan question - What's the response been after the Monster
Hunter series seemingly jumped ship from Sony portables to the 3DS (and
Wii)? I'm guessing there hasn't been much anger given the high sales,
though I can't help but be sad this makes it impossible to import them if
Capcom should choose to skip a localization.
That's all for now, talk to you soon!
This is Japan. Monster Hunter makes money. Currently, the only MH game for the 3DS is an adapted port, so if there is to be any major reaction, it probably won't happen until MH4 actually hits the shelves.