Hello everybody! I hope everyone enjoyed last week's special April Fool's guest column by fellow staffer Ocelot. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like she wants to take over Japandemonium duties after all, so I'm back to pounding the pavement in search of news.
I've been walking so much since I came to Japan that I decided back last May that I should get something to keep track. It also happened that I was suffering from Pokémon pangs at the time, so I decided to KO two Pidgeys with one stone and got HeartGold with its complementary Pokéwalker. Just this Tuesday, I hit a major milestone, and I thought I should share.
332 days, 5 million steps. Last week's trip to Nagasaki really helped, what with climbing a small mountain and biking around an island. I was afraid the battery would run out before I made it this far.
Of all the western traditions for the Japanese to adopt, April Fool's Day makes the least sense. Still, there's a certain subset of the population that just delights in the shenanigans on the first of April, and most of them play video games. They all certainly have too much time on their hands, as evidenced by videos like this one made a few years back for a proposed Touhou-Valkyrie Profile mashup game.
This year, my regular doujin games site was flooded by all manner of odd news. Here are the two RPG picks.
This one's sort of a double joke. This one doujin circle created a train-racing game that parodies the manga series Initial D. For April Fool's they created this video for Densha D Saga: Personal Train of Steel, which apparently features land sharks terrorizing the JR rail lines.
Another doujin circle (a Touhou one) put up this site for a new Touhou spinoff called Gensou Shisouden. It is effectively a Touhou-themed Pokémon game, or rather that's how it's presented. It is also definitely not real.
Touhou's always been a fan favorite, and as we've seen above it's had its fair share of April Fool's material. The following game is not one of these.
The Crisis of Sakuya is a self-styled bullet-hell action RPG, with all that entails. The story appears simple enough: Sakuya Izayoi, head maid of the Scarlet Devil Mansion, has been invited to the Earth Spirits Treasureland along with the rest of the mansion's inhabitants. Unfortunately, it's all a ruse by another Touhou character, Rin Kaenbyo, who traps Sakuya in the Underworld with her trademark Time Magic sealed and useless. Instead, she must rely on something called sharepawaa ("the stylish power") to succeed. Using this power, Sakuya can draw on the abilities of other members of the Scarlet Devil Mansion household. Mainly, her mode of attack seems to involve throwing herself at enemies and knocking them over like bowling pins. Another aspect of the game is the "Diet Girl System" which allows Sakuya to prepare treats from ingredients taken from enemies, but penalizes her if she overindulges.
If you want to see what this game looks like in action, go here. There's a NikoNiko video link on that page, but no corresponding Youtube video yet. Not being a NikoNiko member, I can't embed anything from that site, it seems... The video wastes a lot of time showing menus having to do with the Stylish Power setup system, and not enough time showing the frenetic pace of the game. Skip to about the 1:30 mark to see how it plays.
Back in 2009 I posted a list of series that Japanese fans wanted to see remade or continued. Number 23 on that list was an obscure PSX title called Ore no Shikabane wo Koeteyuke by Alfa System. I'd never heard of it before, and while it stood a better chance than some games on that list, I figured we wouldn't be seeing it again. Well, I was wrong.
Ore no Shikabane wo Koeteyuke translates best as "(something) crossing over/by way of my corpse," though the slightly less accurate "Over my dead body" certainly has its merits, and catches the spirit of the game. OreShika is a generational game, with skills and power being passed twelve times down a lineage of demon hunters. Unlike other games with a similar theme, OreShika has a much shorter timeline -- twelve years.
It all starts with a curse. The greatest of Japanese demons held a child hostage in order to keep his demon-hunting parents at bay. The hunters were cut down even as they begged for their little boy's life. The demon (being a lover of irony) let the boy live, but under dual curses. The first that he would have no children by a human not of his own lineage (and he's an only child, so tough luck there). The second was that he would age, grow old, and die within the span of one year. So technically, the demon-hunters' lineage should have died out in just twelve months' time.
The good spirits of Japan intervened, however. Noting that the demon's curse specified no children by human mothers, a supernatural lover is to be chosen each generation by the player. The next hero thus gains the skills of his human parent as well as whatever power his spirit parent held.
Twelve generations, one hundred forty-four months, one demon lord to defeat.
The graphics designer for this game certainly has a liking for the ukiyoe style, which works well with the large variety of Japanese monsters that appear. This being a remake, it's hard to tell what's actually new, and what's being presented as "new to the player" by Famitsu.
Ore no Shikabane wo Koeteyuke is due out on the PSP sometime this fall, but nothing more specific has been said on the matter.
Over the years, Nintendo has found a lot of ways to cram Pokémon into every imaginable genre of game software. Later this month, they're branching out once more into the realm of educational software.
For the record, the bluetooth-enabled wireless keyboard comes with the game. This game is designed to teach elementary school students proper typing skills when entering romaji (Western alphabet) characters to be changed into kana (Japanese phonetic script). To help the little kids figure out the concept of letters, certain variations on spelling are used which don't necessarily match up with how Japanese is spoken. So, Pikachu would be written as "pikatyuu" on this game.
Aside from straight typing, there are a variety of mini-games to be played, most of them to improve letter recognition and typing speed. The Whack-a-Diglet game looks fun, at least.
Pokémon Typing and its associated keyboard go on sale April 21st, for a combined price of 5,800 yen.
Normally, water and slime aren't things that mix well. All that melting is bad for the figure. As mentioned two weeks back, everyone's favorite little blue slime is hitting the high seas in Slime Mori-Mori Dragon Quest 3: Of Pirates and Plob. Gone are the clunky tanks of Rocket Slime -- this time around the citizens of Boingburg have a ship of their very own to sail around and battle with. There's definitely some level of customization involved, so it should be interesting to see how this turns out.
Sorry to be on the blunt side. I'm sick of writing, since that's all I've been doing for the past week for my thesis.
Be as blunt or as sharp as you like. Letters are always welcome.
3 Questions this time:
1) I've seen in anime and manga where people write post cards into radio shows. Is this for real? What's the logic there?
Yes, the Japanese do this for radio and television programs. I assume that it began as a way of getting reader feedback in the days before email became common, and has held on as a tradition. I know that kids' shows use it as a way of getting neat fanmail and fan art from the national audience.
2) Why do some otaku-oriented songs (especially from cute fan service anime) have lots of food name in it? Is food really that squarely in the feminine realm in Japan?
Because if you're going to make a silly song or parody tune, there are two sure ways to go: food humor or toilet humor. Food humor is generally cuter. And as Weird Al Yankovic has proven time and again, funny food songs sell.
3) What's the job market for a foreigner in Japan like right now? I'm finishing my engineering degree soon, and with all the rebuilding that will start eventually, I figured maybe it would be a good time to relocate there.
I've heard that a lot of foreigners have left the country. Many of them I'd assume are English school folks who were only going to stick around for a short while anyway, while others are probably family and dependents of foreign company workers. In any case, I don't doubt that there will be a market for engineers willing to work in the Tohoku area. It'll take a decade at least before that part of the country gets back together.
Hope you're doing well over there. My best wishes for the people in Japan who are coping with the disaster.
And again I am quite thankful that I am nowhere near any of the affected areas. Kumamoto has been hit by one earthquake this year, and that was a magnitude 3.5, barely enough to shake the walls. Thanks for the well-wishing!
Oh, and Ocelot asked me to field this one as well:
You gobbled up my mail to the old Japanophile forums! I demand that my questions be answered post-haste!
1) Why are there so many reference (in anime and manga) about people writing post cards to radio shows in the country with most mobile phones per capita (I think) in the world?
Already answered this one! I'm guessing you don't live in an area that "celebrates" April Fool's Day, do you?
2) What are some past times of people out in the country side in Japan? I guess young un's in the city go to the mall, etc. But out in the country, there's no mall. No one can hear you scream when you're in the country. So what would people do?
Have you played Persona 4? That game's set in a typical small town in Japan. There are several chains of shopping centers like Junes across Japan, and odds are that there will be one within decent travel distance of any small to medium sized municipal area in the country. There are lots of small parks dotting the country that are good just to have a place to go. And of course there's always video games!
A Columnist Appears! Action?
How's it going? I should write in to your column more since you've sent so much good stuff to me, I suppose I'm just not used to doing anything but answering these yet!
Well get used to it, goshdarnit!
So I've spent awhile thinking about what cliche to twist and turn into something really cool. My initial thought was to go with the hero with amnesia cliche, but Knights of the Old Republic already did the coolest thing that could be done with that.
True enough. That's a trope that's been run to the ground.
So this next brought me to the idea of the main character seeming liking a good guy, gung-ho about killing monsters, but having it turn out that not everything is as it seems. Of course, Nier already did this not to long ago, so that's out as well.
You want a really fun twist on this? Try Moon. That game has a young player getting sucked into a video game world in order to make reparations for the damage caused by his character avatar.
Almost broken, I finally realized that I had neglected to think of the silliest of all cliches: the mute hero! Born out of old RPG conventions, presumably to make the player think of the character as their own, it really sticks out like a sore thumb in a day and age where we have games like Mass Effect that allow you to make a character your own, AND still have voice acting!
So what do we do with this cliche? I'll lay out the scenario for you. It starts out like a typical JRPG. You're a hero in a small village, something bad happens and a group of town-folk set out with you on a quest to make things right. However, subtle hints will be given that not everything is as it seems. Characters will do things that don't seem to quite match up to what they're saying. Not only that, but the characters seem to keep their distance to the hero, despite saying friendly things to him.
Hmm... a promising start, though a lot would depend on the ability of the graphics department to show that much in character body language. Please continue.
Finally they reach their destination, only everything that's hinted at finally comes to a head, the villagers had brought the mute hero to an insane a special insane asylum for the magically adept. The player finds out that the mute actually doesn't understand the language of these villagers at all, and had been imagining everything that had been said. Worse yet, he was the cause of the disaster in the first place, and had been living in an abandoned house with the villagers unable to get rid of him.
Oooh, nice one.
Finally among those whose language he actually knows, our "hero" must confront the demons of his own madness, venturing into his own mind to find the cause. The remainder of the game would be spent wondering the insane asylum, having flashbacks to the many awful things he did in his madness and confronting them. Finally the hero finds his "voice", and concocts a bit of time magic, to go back and stop the many horrors he inflicted. Having succeeded, the "hero" peacefully dies in the past, finally free of guilt. The game would leave in doubt whether he actually did this, or it was all in his head.
The confronting emotional issues bit sounds a little like Whisper of a Rose (though I admit I haven't played that one myself). I'm not sure about the ending though. A big part of the healing process would be having to deal with the consequences of his actions, so waving a wand to make all the mistakes go away in the end sort of cheapens the plot. I do agree that he has to make peace with those he's hurt
There you go, crazy mute hero RPG!
'till next time,
I was going to invite you to post the next challenge in the reply to my letter in your next column, but you've already used it! Even so, I await your challenge.
The AIRs is pretty fun so far. I should have a review available by the end of the month! The big problem is going to be finding screenshots for this game, though. As far as I can tell, there are no actual battle screens available anyway. My search is complicated by the fact that the title, while pretty unique for an RPG, is still really difficult to do a good Google search on. Even if I search in Japanese, I end up getting more hits for Ayers Rock than anything else.