yayoi no nijuuninichi

I am prone to bad headaches. I often get them in specific spots around my sinuses, and they can last for hours. Years of experience has taught me that these headaches are linked to strong changes in barometric pressure, and that analgesics don't work. Normally they aren't so bad, and I can work or otherwise function without issue. Last Sunday I was rendered almost inoperative by twelve hours of pounding behind my left eyebrow followed by another three next to my left nostril. By the time it subsided around 3 AM Monday morning, I knew something bad was coming.

Sunday had been a little rainy, but that was nothing compared to Monday morning. Forget cats and dogs — it was pouring dire wolves and saber-tooths, with the occasional mastodon for good measure. There was an hour or so where visibility was less than three hundred meters, and that was before visible waves formed in mid-air.

Taifuunami, the news channels called it. Essentially a typhoon without the actual typhoon, taifuunami is a storm system with gale-force winds that occasionally occurs in the spring. It blows through, soaks everything in its path, causes flooding and landslides, and is gone in a few hours. But man oh man, does it hit me hard on the way in.

Since I was semi-comatose for about fifteen hours on Sunday, once I woke up for real around 3:30 AM, I was alert enough to bring in all my laundry before the real weather arrived. The storm rinsed my balcony windows clean a few hours later, and would have sent my shirts through a second spin cycle if I hadn't moved them. So there's one thing I can be thankful for, at least.

Speaking of near-disastrous weather conditions, let's start the column off with a good, old-fashioned anime apocalypse. About two weeks ago, Nippon Ichi announced that a PS3 RPG adaptation of the trading card game Z/X was in the works, along with an anime based on the same. In the world of Z/X, strange portals appeared circa 201X, unleashing hordes of monsters. The game's title is actually shorthand for Zillions of Enemy X, so that must have been a pretty hefty horde. Five cities in particular — Washington D.C., Buenos Aires, Paris, Pretoria, and Tokyo — are now the sites of super gates, and their surrounding areas have been warped and distorted until they no longer really match conventional reality.

Each of these cities contains a Black Point, a portal whose egress leads into an alternate universe. These alts are the origin point for all the ZX creatures now invading Earth. Washington connects to the Blue World, a Gernsbackian distopia where scientific progress has run amok. Buenos Aires puts on a shabby look with the White World, but is the focus of some extreme mental energies. The Green World of Paris is overrun with plant life. Pretoria's Red World is apparently an experiment in industrial biotechnology. And then there's Tokyo and its link to the Black World, a zone that is pretty well defined by death.

These are the five heroes of the hour, one from each of the cities devastated by the Black Points. Kaga, Maria, Quin, Cecille, and Steve all have their own reasons to fight the Z/X. They use strange "card devices," products of the otherworld, to muster forces and repel the invasion. In other words, they have their own brand of Yu-Gi-Oh™ technology available for card battles.

Z/X: Zekkai no Crusade is scheduled to arrive in stores on May 25th.

Source: Famitsu Online
3/11 ~ 3/17 3/4 ~ 3/10 Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
1 * New Arrival! Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Remix Square Enix
2 * New Arrival! Sword Art Online - Infinite Moment Bandai-Namco
3 * New Arrival! Super Robot Wars UX Bandai-Namco
5 2 New Arrival! Soul Sacrifice SCE
9 7 New Arrival! Far Cry 3 UBI Soft
11 9 Last seen at 10 Dragon Quest VII: Warriors of Eden Square Enix
16 * New Arrival! Frontier Gate Boost Plus Konami
18 6 New Arrival! Tales of Hearts R Bandai-Namco
22 18 Last seen at 14 Monster Hunter 3G Capcom
24 17 Last seen at 9 Phantasy Star Online 2 Special Package Sega
28 16 Last seen at 6 Shining Ark Sega
Off-list 21 New Arrival! Ultraman All-Star Chronicle Bandai-Namco
Off-list 23 Last seen at 16 Magi: The First Labyrinth Bandai-Namco
Off-list 26 Last seen at 22 Paper Mario - Sticker Star Nintendo
Off-list 29 Last seen at 18 Fantasy Life Level-5

There have been so many RPG-ish battle games put out on the iWhatevers recently, I might just have to make a regular feature out of them. This week we have three such games to look at: Jewel Combo x Magic, Pipe & Quest, and Poker & Dungeons. Not very innovative names, are they? Still, they get the idea across.

Jewel Combo & Magic (Houseki Denshou x Majikku) takes the classic jewel-matching game and uses it as a combat mechanism. Of the lot, this is probably the least original interpretation, as several actual RPGs have made use of similar setups. In fact, two weeks ago I saw a guy on the bus playing a similar iOS game with a different graphical style. It was made by a company called liica (no caps).

Pipe & Quest is an adaptation of the old puzzle title Pipe Dream. The player has to create conduits leading from the heroes to the monsters, directing attacks and creating combos in the process. It was developed by a company called Dimps.

Poker & Dungeons is the weirdest of this week's iGames. It uses a sort of matching mechanic, with the winning matches based on winning poker hands. As such, it's not really a poker game at all. Combinations higher than a straight use a lot of MP in this game, so it's recommended to build up energy with smaller combos first. To be honest, without playing this one, I can't really say how it works. I can't even tell which monsters are supposed to be allies and which are enemies from those screenshots. This game was made by Cybird.

All three of these games are listed as free to download, with microtransactions for special items or rare monsters. In other words, they follow the basic model for iOS games in Japan. At least they look more interesting than the usual GREE nonsense.

Source: Famitsu Apps

In other iWhatever news, we have RaiderZ, which is unquestionably an RPG of the multiplayer online variety. This game comes courtesy of WeMade Online, some of whom I met at TGS last year. It's not as cutesy, but definitely more interesting than the other MMORPG of theirs that I saw last September.

Made by the same guys who did the online shooting game GunZ, RaiderZ is definitely going for the Monster Hunter fans with this title. According to the story blurb on the game's teaser site, the end of the world has come to the continent of Rindel. Five years previously, a meteorite struck in the middle of the Limoth Desert. The king of Roland sent his greatest alchemist to locate the stone, and from it was created a new alloy that would be used to craft the finest weapons imaginable. Over the next few years, the subtle influences of the meteorite would become ever more apparent, as the beasts of the desert turned monstrous and giant. Wars began as those who called for the destruction of the tainted magic alloy fought against those who saw it as the key to victory. The battle has been raging for some time now, and the story has only just begun.

Source: Famitsu Online

Dividing by zero is a great way to cause computer crashes. When I first saw the name of this next game, I felt like my brain was trying to do similar mathematical tricks. Mind ≒ 0 ("the mind is approximately equal to or the image of zero") is a title that only disciples of formal logic might appreciate. I know I do not, since it means I have to go hunting for random HTML character codes again. I doubt the game designers really appreciate it either, since in Japanese it's rendered simply as Mind/Zero.

I think someone at Acquire received a transfusion from the Persona dev team while this game was in production. It really has a similar vibe to it. The story is based around the interactions between the physical world and a shadowy otherworld wherein dwell wild and violent spirits. A few people have the ability to connect to both sides of reality. They wield a psychic force known as "Mind" that manifests as a spiritual guardian (*coughpersonacough*).

Acquire is best known for its forays into the dungeon-crawl genre, and since I cannot see anyone running around in a third-person perspective in these screens, it's likely that this game falls somewhere within that genre. That would also reinforce the MegaTen vibe this game is rocking. Mind ≒ 0 is supposed to arrive on the PS Vita sometime this summer, so we should be seeing a lot more of it before then.

Source: Famitsu Online

Dragon's Crown, the next big title by Vanillaware, finally has a release date for Japan. It should be in stores by July 25th, 2013. To remind everyone of what this game's about (not to mention the interesting graphic design choices), here's a trailer:

Source: Famitsu Online

The school year is almost over here in Japan, so it's time to reorganize all my classes. Hopefully the more things are changed around the more they will stay the same.

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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