The new school year may start next week here in Japan, but mine has already begun. I've spent a good part of the week reorganizing my class lists, moving kiddoes around, and loving my new little-littles class to death (either that, or their energy will be the death of me). I've even expanded my high-level class to three people, which means I can try something I've been wanting to do for a while.
Having an interest in games helps in the children's eikaiwa business. I have several grammar exercises based around Pokémon cards, and I have on occasion given specific students homework involving Inazuma Eleven characters. For my high-level class, I've been working on something that exploits their fascination with the Dragon Quest games. Basically, I took the simplest D&D module I could find, rebuilt it as a slightly more complicated game, then switched all the encounters for DQ monsters.
The first act of "Dragon Quest E(nglish): Pilgrims of Destiny," which I did with my trio this past Wednesday, has the characters facing off against a series of weak monsters as a sort of test of their abilities. The three of them want to make the pilgrimage to the great Temple of Dharma so they can choose their own path in life, but their parents are saying no. The only way to change the adults' minds is to prove that the kids can handle it on their own in combat. So over the course of thirty-five minutes, they had to take down a bouncing Fur Rat, survive getting swallowed by a small Sand Shark, get ganged up on by Drakkies, and then face down the final monster of the set, a wild, rampaging creature that's so anxious to be free that its cage was visibly rattling in my scene description. The look on my students' faces when I described the monster as small, round, blue, and seriously ticked off — now that was priceless. It was even more entertaining after my P.O.'ed little blue slime managed to knock one of them out before getting a natural 20 and ricocheting through an NPC to freedom.
I can't wait till next week when the pilgrimage actually gets underway.
Last month Super Robot Wars UX rolled out for the 3DS, much to the dismay of import-minded mecha enthusiasts. The good thing about the SRT series, though, is that it usually doesn't take long for another entry to show up. In fact, Bandai-Namco has just announced a new one for the PSP, due sometime later this year. Super Robot Wars Operation Extend is a little different in that it is a download-only title that comes in chapters. The first chapter costs 500 yen, while the next seven cost 1000 yen each to download. Or you can download the entire thing for 6480 yen and save yourself some cash. As usual the list of mecha featured in the game is quite long, and even with some judicious cherry-picking there's more than forty pictures needed just to show off the titular war machines. So let's get that part out of the way right now.
Blue Meteor SPT Lazener
Mobile Suit Gundam; Gundam ZZ; Gundam Wing
Change!! Getter Robo
Please note that this is not a complete list, only the ones that had pictures attached. There were at least eight more unique series mentioned in the article, plus several more Gundams. The list even had "and more..." tagged to the end of it. This leads to the question of how the devs were able to fit that many series into one plot, even taking into account the usual SRT standards of coherency. Combined with the downloadable nature of the game, I'm wondering how much of this is collectable-related.
To finish up, Operation Extend goes where few SRT titles have gone before and ditches the grid-based tactical format. Instead, it uses an improved version of move-radius system from Super Robot Wars Neo, which allows for more flexible maneuvering around enemy forces. Whatever else this game may be, at least fans will still have some memorable combat ahead of them.
Taking the robots far into the opposite end of the size scale, we have Level-5's Cardboard Senki (a.k.a. LBX, The Little Battlers, etc.). That company has recently announced a 3DS port of Cardboard Senki W, the co-op combat RPG for the PS Vita. This isn't really big news, since Level-5 has shown in the past that it will port that series back and forth between PSP, 3DS, and Vita as often as the market will allow. What's more interesting is the other title that was announced at the same time: Cardboard Senki Wars.
Unlike the main series, which seems to be fairly near-future in scope, Cardboard Senki Wars is set in the year 2055 at a prestigious school based around LBX combat. Beneath the school grounds is the Second World, a ten-kilometer-square diorama upon which massive war games are played in miniature. Why this school even exists is a question that is not answered in the available info from Level-5, but it probably has some major bearing on the plot.
The Second World is a miracle of engineering in and of itself. It's a perfect scale replica of the region around the school, and can be subjected to all sorts of simulated weather conditions. Again, why anyone would feel the need to simulate large-scale urban warfare in this manner is unknown but potentially disturbing.
Here are the protagonists. Starting from the top-left, we have Arata (the new kid), Hikaru (the pretty-boy), Haruki (the no-nonsense leader), Sakuya (the mechanic), and Yuno (the happy girl). As per usual, their bios are limited to basic personality descriptions, but it's pretty easy to see which roles they might fall into over the course of the game's story. Hikaru in particular has "moody rival" written all over him.
Finally, what Cardboard Senki update would be complete without the LBX mini-mecha? The Dot-Facer, the Bal-Sparos, and the Orwein belong to Arata, Hikaru, and Haruki respectively. Presumably this title retains the massive equipment lists and modular modifications found in the co-op games.
Cardboard Senki Wars will be out on the 3DS sometime eventually, but there is no timeframe given as yet. The Cardboard Senki W 3DS port is due out this summer, though.
Like clockwork, the game ateliers of Gust have announced another installment of their flagship series. Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusky Sky embraces the subtly post-apocalyptic setting of Ayesha, up to and including a title that would be pronounced "escha-to-logy" in Japanese. Here also is where the game takes its first big diversion from the series norm. It's the first main-series console Atelier to feature two protagonists. (The WSC and GBA games are considered secondary and the Iris games are technically a different series.)
Escha Malier is a wandering alchemist who learned her craft from her mother. Most of her knowledge is considered antiquated by the modern alchemy revivalists at Central, including the game's other protagonist, Logix Ficsario. He studies alchemy at the behest of the institute at Central, and as such knows mostly the "new" style of the art. Presumably there will be plot-related complications coming from this mismatch of backgrounds. Logix (call him Logy!) is also odd in that he's the first male protagonist in a main-series Atelier title, ever. (Again, the Iris games are considered a separate series.) The two protagonists share a storyline, but the flow of the game may differ somewhat. Escha's side of things focuses on day-to-day events and the sort of gameplay that Atelier fans would naturally expect. Logy tends to range farther afield, and his side was designed to appeal to more traditional RPGamers who might still not have come fully to terms with the Atelier model.
Central lies in an as yet unnamed region far to the west of Ayesha's homeland, and it doesn't look so good. There isn't as much greenery evident, and everything seems to going a bit brownish — even the sky. Just like its predecessor, however, this game wears its setting well, with atmosphere evident in most every screenshot. Have a look.
There's even more to see on the game's media page, so check that out too.
As predicted, Atelier Escha & Logy will arrive in stores on the last Thursday of June, just like every other PS3 Atelier title for the last five years.
Okay, I just noticed that I have a few items that were put on the back burner in mid-March. Let's get these out of the way.
First up, we have another Digimon title coming up: Digimon World RE: Digitize Decode. Once more things have gone crazy in the digital world, and the host computer system Yngdrasil is stepping in to fix it. It has begun an emulation of the sealed region known as Mt. Infinity, and entities called X-Programs have already started deleting "foreign" elements. This does not bode well. The game is due out on the 3DS sometime this year.
Moving on to the PSP, we have a few more tidbits from 7th Dragon 2020-II, which hits the shelves in two weeks. To start, we have the Hacker class.
Hackers make use of virtual keyboards to alter the local reality in various ways, such as manipulating monsters, influencing local machinery to attack the enemy, or even taking over orbital defense arrays to deliver Akira-style lasery death unto their foes.
After this, there are the Samurai. What romp in Japan would be complete without them, after all?
And then we have these two. Shouji and Izumi Sakuraba, despite their Japanese names, are American citizens working for the US-based Sect 11. While ostensibly a sister organization to Japan's Murakumo anti-dragon taskforce, the two groups don't seem to be getting along very well. They've been sent to Japan on orders of President David himself, though. Best not to look this gift horse in the mouth.
Because when push comes to shove, it's humanity versus the dragons above all else. Just ask Tiamat.
While April Fools Day hasn't penetrated particularly deep into the Japanese psyche, it's fairly well known in this country. The gaming industry and fandom in particular love to "celebrate" it in many creative ways. For example, we have a bit of fake news posted on the FFXIV blog by someone claiming to be one of the game's progammers, who claimed to have special inside news about a new race for that game.
According to the source, the FFXIV team asked the fans what they wanted, and the fans replied "Viera" and "Bangaa." Somehow it was decided that if one was great and two was awesome, then mixing the two together would be totally awesomesauce. And thus the "Viangaa" race was born. I'm sure someone out there is sorry this will never become a reality.
In other April Fools news, a Japanese blog dedicated to Transformers produced a well-photoshopped magazine scan showing a familiar Beast Wars character getting an interesting remodel.
Looks like Ditto's not the only non-legendary pokémon to know the move Transform.
Finally, some enterprising soul took it upon himself to show the world what a true romantically entangled RPG experience should be like, with Rune Factory Harems.
Adventure! Farming! Love! Now with three-hundred-sixty-five brides! Under the blue sky, across the wide fields, spread your wild oats wherever you desire! (Actual translation from the Japanese).
I got most of these off a Japanese blog. There are plenty more listed on there, but most are a bit hard to get even for most Japanese. In-jokes often are, however.
And some in-jokes keep on coming. Ever since her game (Makai Wars) went vaporware back in 2005, Asagi has been breaking fourth walls left and right, forcing her way into pretty much every Nippon Ichi game in the last decade as she struggles to gain the elusive prize of being a real protagonist. Memorable moments include the time where her rightful game got blasted into oblivion by Zetta (Makai Kingdom), the time she had to fight alternate-world versions of herself (Prinny 2 B-side), and in the fourteenth ending of Disgaea Infinite, where she defiantly screams that one day Makai Wars will have its epic release.
So on Monday, April 1st, Nippon Ichi puts this page up.
Honestly, I'm not sure which would be the better April Fools joke, to troll the fandom with the promise of an actual Makai Wars or to choose that particular day to announce that it's real. The page promises some real info on Friday (and I'm writing this on Wednesday), so we'll have to wait a bit, and....
Now it's Friday, and the meaning of those four Os trailing behind Makai Wars becomes apparent. NIS is not presenting us with a new game, but neither is it trolling us (well, at least not entirely). The Nippon Ichi 20th Anniversary Live Event has been announced, and its title is "Makai Wars Live Episode 1: Asagi Strikes Back." I'm assuming a Star Wars reference when I translated that title, of course. Nothing else seemed quite appropriate.
This live event will happen July 13th at the Yokohama Blitz arena in Yokohama City. A wide variety of musical talent will perform at the event, which will have two showings on the 13th. Tickets are on sale from April 6th to April 20th, and are available through E+.
To finish off our extra-length column, we have some Nep-Nep news. Compile Heart is far from finished with the Hyperdimension Neptunia games, as can be seen by the fact that I have four different things to talk about here. First, we have a spin-off.
Cho Megami Shinkou Noir (Hyper Goddess Creed Noir) follows the exploits of the Black Heart Goddess doing whatever she darn well pleases. It's due out sometime in 2013.
Then there's Hyperdimensional Idol Neptunia PP, which is supposed to go on sale on June 20th. Its actual genre has yet to be revealed, so it may not even be an RPG. From the title, it could even be an idol-management game or a vocaloid.
Thirdly, there's Cho Ji-Jigen Neptunia Re:Birth. I'm wondering if that title's meant to be a dig at Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts re-titling. The doubled "ji" in there might change the meaning to "Hyper-Next-Dimension," whatever that might mean. It doesn't make much sense in Japanese either, but then again when has this series ever been about making sense?
Finally, we have a promotional video, just not one about a game.
Hyperdimension Neptunia hits the airwaves this summer with an animated series. It includes all the characters from the first two games, so it's likely a continuation of the main plot instead of a straight retelling. Or it could be a complete reboot. We'll just have to wait and see.
Wowza, this has to be the longest column I've done in a long time. I should probably go back to weekely updates, since the news seems to be picking up speed again, finally. Bi-weekly is no longer going to cut it.