Last week was Easter week for my classes. Of course, almost none of my kids know square one about Easter beyond what can readily be gleaned from old American cartoons, which means eggs, duckies, and bunnies. After some investigation, I have found that food coloring is ridiculously expensive in this country. My local supermarket carries only yellow and red, in two gram packages for about fifty cents each. The bigger supermarket near my school also has green, but those same two gram packages cost two bucks there. Thankfully my parents were awesome and sent me egg wrappers several times over the years.
My kiddoes were fascinated by these things. Many of them refused to believe that they were real eggs, at least until one got dropped and cracked open to reveal the hard-boiled goodness within. I had a good time getting actual grammar into these classes as well. Prepositions are always something the students need to practice, since English and Japanese have very little in common in that department. In my older classes, I had them hunt for plastic eggs according to hints I'd written down on a whiteboard, and then had them write their own hints down and hide eggs for me (or each other) to find.
One student managed several good sentences, but had to resort to Japanese for the tail end of one. Specifically, she wrote "megumi tamago" (gift / blessing egg) instead of Easter egg. It was all in the western alphabet, so I didn't mind, and actually I thought it was a very pretty way of interpreting the idea. It wasn't until two or three days later that, while cleaning up the plastic egg cases after class, that I realized "Megumi Tamago" was the brand name for the eggs I'd used. D'oh. I still think it's a pretty translation, though.
If anyone pays attention to the Staff Blog section of the forums (and I'm sure there must be one or two of you out there), you might have noticed that I didn't do a gaming blog thread for any Gust games this month. Well, there's a reason for that. My Gust game for April was Falcata, the very first game ever developed by that company, and thankfully they get better. I tried to start up Falcata on two separate occasions this month, and I have yet to figure out how to play it. It's sort of like a board game in its setup, with up to four players (or AI substitutes) controlling the movements of hero groups across the war-torn land. Everyone moves one space per round, and can make various actions. I'm just not sure how to do most of those actions. The Search command was easy enough, and helped me recruit a few warriors, find a few trinkets, and fight a few monsters, but I never did get the rest of them to work. The AI-controlled teams, on the other hand, had no such problems, and they would attempt to barter with me or challenge one of my characters to a duel every so often.
So, what was the point? No idea. Was there any story or plot? None that I could see. Did I finish it? Noooooope. Instead, I dug through my PSX collection and booted up an old favorite, Linda3 Again, and went in search of monsters. I actually finished with 118 out of 120 species collected (darn stag beetles...), and spent a good amount of time slaying some of the nastiest critters in the game, a species of bus-sized black and white banded woollybear caterpillars with heavily muscled hexapods and dead, soulless eyes. Or as they're known on Neo-Kenya, pandas.
The Year of Gust was a flop for April, but hopefully my May game, Meru Purana, will be more playable.
So if you just read the sales rankings for the previous month or so, you might be wondering what the heck is up with Youkai Watch and its meteoric rise to the top of the charts. This is especially odd since the game was first released back in July of 2013. Let's have a nice graph to show how extreme the rebound was for this game.
However, there are two major factors at work here. The first is the anime based on the game, which Level-5 started broadcasting on January 8th. Much like its earlier efforts with Inazuma Eleven and Cardboard Senki, this has turned into a massive moneymaking tactic for Level-5, and the uptick in sales for the game reflects this. The other reason is what we'll be discussing today.
Recently, a sequel was announced. Youkai Watch 2, like many sophomore titles from Level-5, comes in two editions: Ganso and Honke. These translate into "Original" and "Head Family," respectively. The two versions have different youkai (Japanese monsters) available, as well as a few other unspecified differences. One very physical difference is that the two come with different versions of the same rare youkai medal, for use with the arcade spinoff game.
Keita is still the young star of the series, who works to solve problems in his hometown with the help of his human friends as well as the many modern monsters he encounters. The majority of these weird beasties are based around bizarre Japanese puns and wordplay, which helps explain why the first game will probably never see the light of day outside of Japan.
But then there's this other kid, Keizou, who looks awfully familiar even with his very old-fashioned appearance. He even has his own stable of youkai, all of which conform to the traditional Japanese monster types.
Strange happenings are always afoot in Keita's hometown, and it looks like it's more of the same with this one. That's a good thing for Level-5, since in all likelihood it means that the sales figures will go the same direction as before — up, up, up.
Youkai Watch 2 is expected to have a mid-July release.
Another oddity you all might have noted on the sales rankings is Crayon Shin-chan - Arashi wo Yobu! Kasukabe Movie Stars. Who is Crayon Shin-chan, you might wonder, and why does he have an RPG? Those of you who already know who Crayon Shin-chan is might be wondering even harder about that last one. Crayon Shin-chan is a popular, long-running anime series about the world's worst kindergartner. Seriously, if you took Dennis the Menace, halved his IQ, gave him the biggest case of ADHD in history, and then spiked his Ritalin with meth, you'd get Crayon Shin-chan. I've only seen a few episodes of his show, and I came away wondering why no one had strangled the little brat yet. And yet it continues, season after season, for going on twenty-two years at this point. In that time, the series has spawned around twenty video games of every conceivable genre. In April, this was unleashed upon the public:
Now, is there anything in there that suggests "action RPG"? Because that's what this game is identified as. I've held off reporting on it for nigh on four months now out of confusion over this. The plot seems to revolve around Crayon Shin-chan finding the Clapperboard of the Legendary Director, which when looked at one way strongly resembles a wooden sword, and when looked at another way perfectly fits the contours of his bare butt (it's just that sort of series...). He's given a quest to make (or remake) the great films of the Crayon Shin-chan franchise, and possibly some new ones besides. Along the way, he earns "kantoku" (director) points, which he can apply towards different stats like Enthusiasm, Skill, and Rank, which is the only thing remotely RPG-like to be seen in that promo video.
This is definitely a game for the fanbase, though. It doesn't really matter what outsiders (like myself) feel about it, as long as it appeals / panders to its audience, and this game certainly does that.
The classic beat 'em up game River City Ransom (Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari in Japanese) occupies an interesting place in the history of gaming. In many ways it's as much RPG as action, despite never intending to be so. The popularity of its characters has led to many spin-offs, some following the original game's model while others take off in new directions like flying dodgeballs. Now, the series has hopped onto the magic carpet of fantasy, acknowledging the RPG elements within the classic game structure while making fun of all things high fantasy in the process.
Nekketsu Mahou Monogatari filters the original game through a Dragon Quest filter, to hilarious results. It should be available April 30 as a download title for the 3DS, with a price tag of 980 yen (~$10).
I might check this one out sometime. It looks like it could be fun.
|Child of Light
|Genkaitotsuki Moero Chronicle
|Atelier Escha & Logy - Alchemists of the Dusk Sky (PS3 the Best)
|Hyper Goddess Belief System Noir - Ultimate Divine Black Heart
The Tales of series has long been notable for the lengths it will go to please the fans. The fact that the series has its own dedicated magazine says a lot, but the series has an even longer tradition of fan-related software publications and crossover games just for the sake of fanfiction. the Tales of the World games have come in many flavors — some (Narikiri Dungeon) better than others (Radiant Mythology) — but all predicated on the assumption that fans want to see otherwise impossible team-ups.
And so we have Tales of the World: Reve Unitia. The broken French/Latin secondary title probably means something like "united in dreams," to judge from the story setup. The beautiful realm of Revalia sits somewhere in the spaces between dreams, fed and watered by the hopes and aspirations of entire worlds. Darker emotions like hate and fear also seep through, however, giving rise to strange manifestations called the Vuul. The inhabitants of Revalia have fought the Vuul since time immemorial, but recently something has gone wrong. The Vuul have risen in shapes never before seen, stranger and stronger than ever. At the same time, the Dream Guardians who would normally deal with such evil have all gone missing. All that's left are a pair of young Revalians, Nahato (Nacht) and Terun (I'm assuming her name's based on a word for day).
These two sprites decided — independently of one another, it seems — to recruit strong fighters from the Waking Worlds to help. Reve Unitia follows two storylines, depending on which little thing the player decides to work with. Oh, and also depending on which famous Tales heroes the player wishes to use. The known characters include Asbel (Graces), Lloyd (Symphonia), Natalia (Abyss), Yuri (Vesperia), Jade (Abyss), and Meredy (Eternia). Others are likely on the way.
The game takes a departure from the usual Tales format, giving the player a team of up to eight characters for a "cooperative tactical" experience. It should be interesting to see how this turns out. Tales of the World: Reve Unitia will be coming out on the 3DS, probably sometime late this year, but no firm date has been given as of yet.
Let's end our day with an appropriate level of twilit goodness, shall we?
In about two months, Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea will arrive in stores, and Gust wants us to be well aware of it. From these screenshots, we can also see that this title carries on the proud tradition of its sub-trilogy in terms of art and flashy battle mechanics. Every system that was available in Escha & Logy appears to remain intact, while the two Shallies also get a couple of new field commands (like fishing) to expand the range of collectible ingredients. So the next question is, who are the rest of the people in those screenshots?
Starting with age before beauty, we have Teokhuga, master carpenter of the Ship People. He's been like an uncle to Shallistera (black-haired Shallie) since she was little, and when she decides to go adventuring there's nothing to do but follow along and pray she doesn't get herself in too much trouble. Next is Kortes, who is just the sort of character Nyx and Ocelot love. He fills the strong, stoic bodyguard role quite nicely. After that beefcake, we get some cheesecake with Jurie Krotze, who apparently lost the lower half of her shirt at some point. She says she's a treasure hunter, but her sketch art says pirate (literally). The blonde with the harpoon gun is Jurie's little sister Miruka, who recently returned from her studies at Central and has converted the family's old smithy into an alchemy atelier of her own. Her sketch art lists her as "rival."
The last two aren't party members, but they're just as important. The green-haired lady is Nady Elminas, Shallotte's mother, who helps run the atelier whenever her daughter's out on business. All the alchemic talent came from her husband's side of the family, so mainly she just minds the counter. Last and certainly most... stoic? low-tension? antipathetic? Solle Grumman is a weird one, he is. Newly arrived in Stellade, he's been tasked with helping the local merchants guild, and probably has to wrangle the local homunculi with promises of shiny-shinies as well.
Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is due out at the end of June, right on schedule, and I can hardly wait.
In closing, I'd like to take a moment to mark the passing of Andrew "Castomel" Long, former Q&A guy, regular review, and long-time contributor to the site. I never had much chance to interact with him outside the occasional chat on IRC, though I did tweak his nose once or twice over his well established, visceral loathing of a certain game. I do not know why or how he left this world at the young age of thirty-three, but I do know he will be sorely missed.
Whatever afterlife may await him, I hope it does not include that game.
Your man in Japan,