utsuki no nijuunananichi

Let's start the day with an observation: there is very little interesting historical architecture in this country. Sure, there are castles, temples, and shrines, but these tend to be concentrated in a few areas, while the rest of the country is left lacking. Compare and contrast to continental Europe, where any given town most likely has buildings at least three times older than my home state and have an atmosphere to match. Pretty much every urban area in Japan looks like it was constructed in the last thirty to fifty years at the latest, and most likely was. It's not just because of the damage taken in the war, though that was substantial. Traditional Japanese architecture has always tended to building with local timbers and bamboo, while stronger materials like stone went into castles and other defensive constructs. Most shrines in this country need to be rebuilt every fifty years or so because the wood starts to rot away, which keeps an entire subset of the construction industry going. Buildings in pre-industrial Japan probably did not even last that long, as earthquakes and fire would wipe out large swathes of even the major cities on a regular basis. As for the castles, many did not survive the Edo period. Either they were razed to the ground by the shogun in order to deny rebellious vassals a place to regroup, or they were taken down during the Meiji period, often to discourage reluctant vassals from rebelling. The biggest attraction in my own city, Kumamoto Castle, had to be rebuilt from a tower and a few remaining wall fragments in the middle of the twentieth century, as the actual castle had been destroyed following the Seinan Rebellion of 1877 (inspiration for the movie The Last Samurai).

Still, if you keep your eyes open you can see some interesting architecture here and there. I'm not talking about Kyoto; that's the mecca for what traditional architecture is left in this country. I mean the little things, like tiny buildings in odd corners that look like they once housed samurai, or miniature shrines that pop up in the darnedest places.

So if you're walking through some Japanese town, just keep your eyes open. You might just see something interesting.

Last week, we got a first look at Project X (Cross) Zone, a collaborative effort for the 3DS that includes characters from Capcom, Sega, and Bandai-Namco. This week, we have six more characters to add to the roster.

From Capcom, we have Frank West (Dead Rising) and Hsien-ko (Darkstalkers).

From Sega, Zephyr and Leanne (Resonance of Fate).

And for Bandai-Namco, Alisa and Soma (God Eater)

Any bets on who's going to show up next?

Source: Famitsu Online
4/9 ~ 4/15 Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
1 Last seen at 1 Super Robot Wars Z-2: World Re-Creation Chapter Bandai-Namco
2 Last seen at 2 Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance Square Enix
3 Last seen at 6 Monster Hunter 3G Capcom
9 Last seen at 8 Pokémon Conquest Pokémon
11 Last seen at 10 Yakuza New Story: Black Panther 2 Sega
12 New Arrival! Atelier Elkrone ~Dear for Otomate~ Idea Factory
13 Last seen at 13 Harvest Moon: Land of Origin Marvelous AQL
18 Last seen at 19 Monster Hunter Portable 3rd (PSP The Best) Capcom
25 Last seen at 26 Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Square Enix
26 Risen from the depths Pokémon Black/White Pokémon Co.
27 Risen from the depths Mugen Souls Compile Heart

When Class of Heroes Final arrived in Japan, it was with the news that the "Final" in its title was literal. It was to be the last of its series. Now we find out that Acquire has changed its mind just a little. Class of Heroes Final isn't the last CoH title now; it's just the last dungeon-crawl.

Acquire is bringing the series back with Ken to Mahou to Gakuenmono: Toki no Gakuen, or "Class of Heroes: School of Time." Note that the kanji used for time, toki, isn't actually the kanji for time, but instead is... y'know, I think we already had this same discussion last year about Nora's Studio... However, as you all can probably tell just from looking, a major change has been made to the series formula -- it's no longer a Wizardry clone. We'll just have to wait and see how they try to distinguish this new title from the overly large pack of traditional RPGs on the PSP.

Anyhoo, the story (from what we know so far) seems to revolve around these three, or perhaps just one of them at a time. Moria, Roget, and Cubit here are all identified as exchange students, but the basic story outline mentions just one. It also mentions a multiple scenario system, which might mean there are major differences depending on choices in the game. Certainly, one of the above screens looks like a "shipping" wall, outlining character interactions and personal relationships.

Source: Famitsu Online

Ever since I joined RPGamer, I've tried hard to finish every game I start. It hasn't always been possible, but I think I've done a pretty good job of it. That said, I have to announce that I am officially stopping my current attempt to finish Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers on my PS3. Why?

Because a new and improved version is in the works, and it's even on a platform that I actually own. The 3DS version of Soul Hackers will include new animated sequences, voice acting, and various tweaks to combat, apparently. And Atlus even claims to have reduced the load times for this one (not that they were that bad for the PSX release).

While I don't wish to spoil the story too much, there are some things to be said about Soul Hackers. First is that, like the other Devil Summoner games before and since, this game has a plot heavily focused on good vs. evil. There are none of the game-changing choices associated with the primary Shin Megami Tensei series, though otherwise Soul Hackers plays remarkably similar to Strange Journey. Instead, the Devil Summoner games tend more to the noir, with detective novel plotlines. Soul Hackers takes this in an interesting direction by technically being a cyberpunk plot with demons.

So let's meet the protagonists. In the middle there is the main character. The player gets to choose this guy's real name as well as his online handle. In my game, to the internet he is known as Mr. Hero. To his left is Hitomi, long-time friend and probable love interest (never actually called "girlfriend" as far as I know, but definitely assumed to be). On his right is... also Hitomi, technically. Not too far into the game, Hitomi has an uncomfortable encounter with a digital demon named Nemissa, and the two of them spend the rest of the game arguing over who is actually in control of the body. Their bickering provides some of the best dialog in the game, in fact.

Devil Summoners: Soul Hackers 3DS is due out on August 30th, and the odds are good that this will finally see foreign shores in the near future. I for one will be enjoying it, for certain.

Source: Famitsu Online

It's been a while since we last said anything about Conception: Ore no Kodomo wo Undekure ("Please have my baby!"). Honestly, I think the assumption was that it wouldn't be very good. Certainly, the premise wasn't helping. Boy and girl get transported to magic world. Boy finds out he's the chosen one. Boy has to "make babies" with more girls to raise an army, a process that actually involves magical test tubes or somesuch. This sounds like a recipe for mediocrity wrapped in an attention-grabbing schtick. Then Famitsu has to go and make it the best rated new game release of the week with a 9/9/9/8. This means it beat out Mario Party 9 (9/8/8/9), Dynasty Warriors 3DS (8/8/8/8), and both versions of the new Resident Evil game (7/7/8/6). So now, I'm not sure what to think of this one.

Now that I've seen a bit of combat, it looks rather neat. Itsuki (the hero/babydaddy) can marshall up to twelve terrible toddlers in three groups, and the position of these three teams can be altered to better surround and destroy difficult monsters. The player can choose a job class for each kiddo at "birth," and his or her skill evolution follows from that.

There are also four groupings of dungeons to work through, based on the four seasons. For example, the second dungeon is called Summer Mist Labyrinth for the first five floors. Then it gives way to the Heavenly River Labyrinth for the next five. After that the way splits, and the player has to decide which of three different deep dungeons to tackle (in this case, the Cancer, Leo, and Virgo labyrinths).

No PSP for me, so I won't be trying this one out. Still, it looks a lot better in action than I'd have thought from my first look at it back in October. It just makes me wonder sometimes. The squeaky voices would probably drive me nuts, though.

Conception: Ore no Kodomo wo Undekure hit the stores yesterday (4/26), so we'll have to wait another two weeks to see just how well it does saleswise.

Source: Famitsu Online

Here's a funny story. Back when I was little I would read about astronauts, and for some reason I always thought that the V in "Saturn V rocket" was actually pronounced "vee." I just couldn't remember that it was supposed to be the Roman numeral 5. It seems like someone at Compile Heart has the same problem, judging from the title of this next game.

Hyperdimension Neptune V. No, we didn't just skip two games in the series. In this case, V is for Victory. Who cares about stuffy old numbering conventions, anyway...

So anyway, here's the story. It's been a few years since the crime goddess Arfoire and her dark forces were defeated, and the console goddesses of Gamindustri have settled into a comfortable, peaceful life. Then one day Neptune somehow stumbles across a dimensional gateway leading to a strangely familiar other world. This new place is an alternate Gamindustri, but one that's set to the mid-1980s. This world is being troubled by the machinations of a group called the Seven Sages, and Neptune takes it upon herself to try and fix whatever is going on, dragging alternate versions of her fellow goddesses along for the ride.

Though I have to wonder, what are these goddesses doing in a 1980s-themed version of Gamindustri, anyway? I was hoping to see versions of the Atari, Amiga, and Master System instead.

Source: Dengeki Online
What's in a name?

Q: How strict do you like titles of games to be localized? Do you want it to be as accurate or just sound natural?



I lean in favor of what sounds good in English. The Japanese language has a tendency to create very long titles, some of them sentences in their own right like Conception: Ore no Kodomo wo Undekure!, while English tends more towards the short and snappy. Just look at the titles of some anime episodes, and you'll see what I mean. Offhand, I seem to recall Inu-Yasha having some ridiculously long episode titles. Other times you'll see a pile of nouns put together, like some of the Shiren or Elminage titles, where you get things like "Tower of Fortune and Dice of Fate" as the game's actual title. There is really no way to render titles like these into English and make them sound good at the same time. Truncation is in order, and to be honest I would rather have short, sweet, and sensible over plodding and accurate.

Thanks for the question!

Next week is Golden Week, and I don't have any classes. Yay! I also have no idea what to do with all that free time. Boo. But I'll have plenty of time to prepare a new column. Yay! At a time when the Japanese gaming news traditionally goes on vacation for a week. Boo. Well, we'll just have to see what the week brings, then.

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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