yayoi no youka
Pii Emu Ni-ten-Go

It's almost spring in Hi-no-Kuni, and any number of things are in the air. A certain warmth, the scent of flowers, love... And then there are some not-so-nice things, like red cedar pollen. One item in particular has recently caught the public interest: PM 2.5. That stands for particulate matter, 2.5 micrometers, and it's the latest buzzword in Japan.

Japan is no stranger to stuff blowing in from far away places. Every year the rainy season is heralded by the arrival of rich yellow dust arriving on the wind from the highlands of China. PM 2.5 is a more recent development, though it may also be of Chinese provenance. It's air pollution.

Kumamoto has the unfortunate distinction of being the first prefecture in Japan to issue a public health warning based on the morning measurements of PM 2.5. It's not likely to be the last, either. Certain parts of the prefecture, such as Arao City and Mashiki Town, have registered PM 2.5 levels above 70 micrograms per cubic millimeter (μ/mm3) — more than twice the level that is considered "safe."

Still, it's better than Beijing. A news show I saw last week reported levels of 500 μ/mm3 and up in China's capital. Unfortunately, this is the sort of problem that likes to share itself. The Japanese government is offering aid to China in the fight against the smog monster. Let's hope it works.

Several months ago, Level-5 informed the world that it had another one of its multi-media projects going on. Like Inazuma Eleven and Cardboard Senki, this was to be a game with major anime and product tie-ins. It was to be called Youkai Watch, but no genre was announced. Well, fast-forward to this week, and there is still no official genre attached to this game. But now we have something to help pin it down. We have battle screenshots.

Pardon the format, but these had to be taken off of Level-5's own site. The screenshots have yet to appear on Famitsu's or Dengeki's websites (though they did appear in Famitsu's print form). Whatever else may be in this game, those battle screens can be nothing but RPG.

The main thrust of the game is that the protagonist, Keita, must investigate the activities of youkai (strange little Japanese monsters) in and around his home town. Youkai are responsible for all manner of problems, from lost bikes to quarreling parents, and only Keita can see what's going on. The game's eponymous Youkai Watch not only reveals this secret world, it allows him to make contracts with different monsters. Once he has received a special medal from a youkai, he can fit it into one of the six slots in his watch and summon that being to help him in various ways in and out of battle.

All youkai fit into one of eight categories. Unlike most any other monster-collection game out there, these categories are not elemental in format. Instead, we have Warrior, Illusion, Armor, Wild, Heart, Mischief, Dark, and Scaly types. The majority of youkai also seem to be named for bad puns in Japanese.

Keita and his friends live in Sakura New Town, a residential area that kind of reminds me of Seira Town in Kumamoto. It's bright, happy, and modern, and thus a perfect target for sneaky spirits who like ruining things for people. Along with his ghostly sidekick, Whisper, Keita has to make sure nothing happens to his family or his friends.

Youkai Watch still does not have a release date, but with the amount of material we're beginning to see, it shouldn't be long before it's announced. My 3DS is looking forward to this one.

Source: Famitsu Online
2/25 ~ 3/3 2/18 ~ 2/24 2/11 ~ 2/17 Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
6 * * New Arrival! Shining Ark Sega
9 * * New Arrival! Phantasy Star Online 2 Special Package Sega
10 2 1 Last seen at 1 Dragon Quest VII: Warriors of Eden Square Enix
14 8 6 Last seen at 6 Monster Hunter 3G Capcom
16 4 * New Arrival! Magi: The First Labyrinth Bandai-Namco
18 9 4 Last seen at 3 Fantasy Life Level-5
22 15 11 Last seen at 12 Paper Mario - Sticker Star Nintendo
27 * * New Arrival! Risen 2: Dark Water UBISoft
29 18 16 Last seen at 15 Inazuma Eleven Go 2: Chrono Stone Level-5
Off-list 23 18 Last seen at 7 Demon Gaze Kadokawa Games
Off-list 24 20 Last seen at 20 Pokémon Black 2 / White 2 The Pokémon Co.
Off-list 30 30 Last seen at 28 Toriko: Gourmet Monsters Bandai-Namco
Off-list Off-list 28 Last seen at 22 Digimon Adventure Bandai-Namco

It's time to play catchup again! There's quite a lot of material for 7th Dragon 2020-II available now, and only so much space to show it. Check out the overflow here.

As those of you who already care about this time most likely know, the 7th Dragon games are dungeon crawlers, and where you have that genre, you have crazy class choices. Here are two now.

The Trickster and the Idol classes are just two of the colorful and flashy possibilities in this game.

Adding to the lore of the 7th Dragon universe, it turns out that the Japan Incursion is not the first time that the draconic menace has come to Earth. Many thousands of years before, the lost empire of Atlantis fought the First Dragon War. Now, through the power of narrative science members of the lost race of Atlantis, the Luxie (loo-she-ay), have been awakened to fight alongside modern humanity as the dragons once again attempt to annex our planet.

7th Dragon 2020-II is due in stores April 18th.

Source: Famitsu Online

Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere is many things. It's a social/school simulator. It's a tactical RPG. It's based on a light novel series, so it also has a broad and well-supported cast.

No, not that way... okay, fine. Yes, that way too. The jokes just write themselves whether you like it or not, sometimes. What I'm getting at is that in a game like this, it's common to have a player stand-in, a character sans character to serve as a blank screen for the player's projected feelings. Someone like this guy.

He looks a little creepy, true, but you haven't seen his female counterpart yet. Click the image above for a quick comparison.

I'm pretty sure that every female character in this game is either flat as a board or (more often) obscenely over-inflated, with maybe one or two exceptions. Now I understand why "pneumatic" used to be used as a positive adjective to describe women. The ladies in this game look like they've had a bicycle pump applied to their upper chest.

Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere is available for the PSP starting March 28th.

Source: Dengeki Online

In last year's crop of games, one in particular stood out due to its name. Conception: Please Have My Baby! isn't the sort of title a developer just gives willy-nilly; it had to be a calculated attempt to grab attention for this late-gen PSP game. As it turned out, the game itself wasn't nearly as pervy as had been expected, and has gained a following. Enough so that Spike and Chunsoft have decided to give it another go.

This one doesn't have nearly as provocative a title, though: Conception II: Path of the Seven Stars and the Nightmare of Mazul. I really do not understand why Japanese devs (and Chunsoft in particular) keep doing those two-part secondary titles. They are always unwieldy. For future reference, I'm chopping off that last bit whenever I write about this game.

We don't know much about the story as of yet. The protagonist does not look like he was pulled out of a Japanese high school, unlike his predecessor. The featured heroine, Fuuko, doesn't look like she's from Earth either, so perhaps the tenuous inter-world connection of the first game's plot has been abandoned. Fuuko is one of the holy girls with whom the hero must form bonds in order to create star-children. These astral toddlers are then led into battle against the various monstrosities plaguing the land. The first Conception used a zodiac motif when it came to the ladies, but the title of this one suggests that the devs are using the septentrion of Ursa Major this time around, meaning there's likely only seven girls (or eight, if they include Alcor) involved in the baby-making shenanigans.

Source: Famitsu Online

Our last game of the week is Ultraman All-Star Chronicle. Pretty much everything you need to know about this game is included in the title. If you're a fan of tokusatsu shows with ridiculous rubber-suit monstrosities, then this is a good game for you. On the side of good, we have the Ultraman family.

Honestly, while I know that each of these guys is a different character with a different history, I cannot tell them apart at all.

And where there are Ultras, there are crazy looking monsters. I think this game successfully captures the rubber-suit style, don't you?

For this RPG iteration, Bandai-Namco went with a tactical style with linear stage progression. Each stage seems to be set up to look like an episode from an Ultraman series, with all the classic monsters making an appearance. Interestingly, it seems like several aliens and giant monsters can be recruited to fight alongside the Ultraman family.Of course, full gallery modes for monsters and Ultras will be available.

Finally, a variety of PSP themes are ready to adorn the tokusatsu lover's handheld gaming device.

Ultraman All-Star Chronicle went on sale yesterday, March 7.

Source: Famitsu Online
Title Publisher Release Date Platform
Soul Sacrifice SCE 3.7.13
Tales of Hearts R Bandai-Namco 3.7.13
Legend of Heroes: Rei no Kiseki Falcom 3.7.13
Ultraman All-Star Chronicle Bandai-Namco 3.7.13
Monster Hunter Portable 3rd HD Capcom 3.14.13
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix Square Enix 3.14.13
Frontier Gate Boost+ Konami 3.14.13
Sword Art Online: Infinite Momento Bandai-Namco 3.14.13
Super Robot Wars UX Bandai-Namco 3.14.13
Disgaea D2 Nippon Ichi 3.20.13
Atelier Meruru Plus Gust 3.20.13
Final Fantasy XI: Seekers of Adoulin Square Enix 3.27.13
Sei Mado Monogatari Compile Heart 3.28.13
Muramasa: The Demon Blade Marvelous AQL 3.28.13
Dungeon Travelers 2 Aqua plus 3.28.13
Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere Kadokawa Games 3.28.13
Fate/EXTRA CCC Marvelous AQL 3.28.13
Source: Dengeki Online
Shortest Culture Corner Answer Ever

I was looking at the price cut the Vita is getting in Japan and I noticed it goes from 24,980 to 19,980 and I kept wondering why do the amounts end in 980? Dragon Quest X is also going to be 6,980. Is this a common price point? I know in the states we make everything .99 so it looks cheaper, so why wouldn't they do the same for yen and make it 19,999 instead of 19,980?



Three words: Sales. Tax. Adjustment.

The weather is finally warming up! I haven't had to use the heater in class for three days now, which is saving me a little pocket money. Of course, I'm then investing said pocket money in Pokémon cards... But hey, it's spring!

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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