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JAPANDEMONIUM
 
uzuki no misoka
Shiranui-kai
Konnichiwa

When I was little, I used to love making up fantasy worlds, complete with maps and random bits of history ... oh, who am I kidding? I still like doing that. And given the amount of reading I did in grade school, I've got a lot of experience in telling which sorts of names work and which don't. I cringe whenever I see a locale with a name possessing enough random consonants to make even Lovecraft nauseous. I can guess the author's preferences for linguistic roots at a glance.

This is one reason why I am occasionally annoyed at the cartographers of yesteryear. I'll be looking over a map or a history and come across a placename of the sort that no author with any dignity could use in a story, and wonder how it seemed like a good idea to the mapmakers. The Mountains of the Moon? In Africa, at least theoretically. The Great Sandy Desert? Western Australia.

Japanese cartography is often a bit more literal than Western cartography, if only because the constant use of kanji makes for more literal names. I used to live near a spot called Kameyama (Turtle Mountain), which was a hill (really an artificial mound) shaped like a turtle. Easy enough. Many places in Japan have names ending in -kawa (river), -saka (slope), or -saki (harbor) because those were the major landmarks. But sometimes one finds a really interesting name, one with a bit of story behind it. A name like Shiranui-kai, or Sea of the Unknown Flame.

Also called the Yatsushiro Sea, the Shiranui-kai is a small body of water in southern Kumamoto Prefecture between the Amakusa Islands and the main body of Kyushu. It's not a large sea by any means, but it's famous for its mysterious will-o-wisp like phenomenon. For centuries, strange lights have appeared in the twilit skies, visible for miles. Of course, nowadays it's known that these are caused by specific atmospheric conditions that reflect light from fishermen's lanterns, but that does not detract from the romance of it all. Unfortunately it's no longer really safe to fish in the Shiranui-kai (because of Minamata disease, among other reasons), but the memory of the legends lives on.

Now, on with the column!

It's the end of the month and time for another (three) installments of Hiroyuki Maeda's Lovely Lady Lab. Only one of the ladies featured this month is actually an RPG character, but the Pirate gal from Etrian Odyssey 3 represents her genre with panache alongside the schoolgirl charm of Paz from MGS: Peacewalker and Kasumi from Dead or Alive.




Source: Famitsu Online

It somehow escaped my attention that the series I know as Ryu ga Gotoku is known to audiences outside Japan as Yakuza. As such, I really should have been listing it in this space with all the other games we cover. Let's imagine that it's been on the sales lists since last March, okay?

Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
4 Last seen at 6 Pokémon Ranger - Path of Light Nintendo
11 Last seen at 12 Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G (PSP the Best) Capcom
12 Last seen at 8 Etrian Odyssey 3 Atlus
13 Last seen at 13 Pokémon Heart Gold / Soul Silver Nintendo
14 Last seen at 9 Yakuza 4 Sega
19 Last seen at 20 Dragon Quest IX - Sentinels of the Starry Skies (Ultimate Hits) Square Enix
25 Last seen at 10 Atelier Judie - Alchemist of Gramnad PSP Gust
27 Last seen at 23 God Eater Bandai-Namco
28 Last seen at 25 Legend of Zelda - Spirit Tracks Nintendo


Ask and ye shall receive. Last week I wrote up an On the Radar section for a few games, including a PS3 adaptation of a certain PSP title. Then, right before I posted the column, voilá! There were screenshots. Unfortunately they were too late for me to use last week, so here they are now! Now presenting Class of Heroes 2G, for the PS3.

























Source: Dengeki Online

People in Japan live and die by their daily schedules. Trains, school, jobs, they grow up in a world that is strongly dictated by the ticks of the clock. Apparently forces from the Beyond decided that someone from such a world would make the perfect hero for a game like Jikan de Fantasia, the newest title from Opus Studio, the people who made Half-Minute Hero. This time they're developing for Idea Factory, but many similar game concepts are in effect.

But back to life in Japan. The hero-or-heroine (there's a choice) was just chilling on the train with his/her friends Kotaro and Kanna en route to school one day when ZAP, they all find themselves warped to Jikandia, a realm where time management is the key to existence.

Unlike Half-Minute Hero, adventuring in Jikandia is not a 30-second affair. In fact, it's however long the player feels like playing, with a catch. When you select a dungeon, you also have to select the amount of time you'll have to complete the dungeon. Different times mean different rewards, different levels of treasure, and greater likelihood of meeting bosses. Adding more to the schedule are Time Events and Button Events, which can be seen in the upper-right corner of the game screen. Time Events come with a countdown timer, and will go off whether the player is prepared or not. These can include boss encounters, enemy rushes, or the character going into sudden status changes. Button Events can be triggered at any time, at least until their counter runs down, and include things like flashes of blinding light and localized earthquakes.







In between adventures, the Hero / Heroine and Co. can recuperate in town and engage in some powering up with a crystaline material called MagiQuartz. By fitting pieces of MagiQuartz into a clock-like artefact (set to have 13 hours, oddly enough), they can boost various stats, gain skills, or increase the likelihood of item drops.




There's no word on the story yet, but it's bound to be odd, at least.

Source: Famitsu Online

Earlier this month, fans were a-twitter with the possibility of Falcom's acclaimed Sora no Kiseki series coming to America. Now Falcom's got the attention of Japanese fans again with the announcement of a new installment, Zero no Kiseki.







As a special promotion, Falcom is giving out thirty opportunities at digital immortality to members of their adoring fanbase. Until the end of May, fans can sign up here for the chance to become one of thirty NPCs. The lucky winners may choose their name and game sprite, but the rest is up to Falcom's disgression.


To register for your chance, go to the sign-up site and click on the bright yellow button at the bottom. Choose a character and enter in your prefered name (you'll need some means of typing katakana for this part). After that, you'll need to fill out some basic information: Gender (left button male, right button female), age range (easy enough to figure out), where you're from (just pick the last option on this -- it means "overseas"), which game systems you currently own, and where you heard about the promotion (feel free to type in RPGamer.com). You can also choose to sign up for the Falcom mailing list, and you'll have to enter a valid email address at the end anyway. Click the big button at the bottom, go through a page or so of confirmation clicks, and you're done! For the record, I've signed up for the chance to be male character #6. Anyone else going to give it a try?

When last we heard about Tales of Phantasia - Narikiri Dungeon CROSS, it was all in French. So I guess some recapping is in order. Ten years ago, Narikiri was released for the GBC and this year it returns to the PSP with a full graphical makeover. Set a century after the adventures of Cress, Mint, Claus, Chester, and Arche, twin foundlings Dio and Mel are on a quest to find the truth of their origins and the identity of the mysterious woman who found them as infants. To do that, they must master the powers of narikiri, or "quick change." The twins can and must take on any role available in order to succeed, which of course means they go through a lot of costumes.





Just for example, here they are dressed as Elementalists, Hunters, Knights, and Pugilists. Now, as this is a direct sequel to Tales of Phantasia, it shares most aspects of the first game's setting. Since the original game included time warps in its first few hours, just because Narikiri starts a hundred years later doesn't mean that it ends a hundred years later. A few familiar faces may be showing up.


















Source: Dengeki Online

Speaking of twins, the next DS iteration of the Harvest Moon series, Futago no mura or "Twin Village," will come to stores in July. Until then, Marvelous Entertainment has teamed up with a Japanese dessert cafe called Sweets Paradise to offer a special collectible.



Okay, so it's only a cell phone strap with a brown-or-white alpaca on it, but it's cute.

Title Publisher Release Date Platform
Tir na Nog - The Benevolence of Eternity (SystemSoft Selection) SystemSoft Alpha 5.20.10
Full Metal Alchemist - To the Promised Day Bandai-Namco 5.20.10
More NUGA-CEL! Lupinas / Idea Factory 5.20.10
Blaze Union Sting / Atlus 5.27.10
Valhalla Knights 2 Battle Stance (Best Collection) Marvelous 5.27.10
Super Robot OG Saga - The Lord of Elemental Bandai-Namco 5.27.10
Medabots DS Kabuto / Kuwagata Rocket Company 5.27.10
Source: Famitsu Online
Greetings from Singapore

Gaijin-san, Konnichiwa.

It's me again, and it's been almost half a year since I last wrote and came back from my honeymoon in Japan. Thanks again for your advice and we did buy the Japan Rail Pass and made some decent use out of it.

The trip was fantastic. One night stay in Izu, in a town called Kawazu, was the most memorable one as it has this green tea onsen (matcha onsen, I believe it's called). I took the liberty to drink the onsen water a little bit *gasp* and it tasted like green tea so yep, it's genuine all right.

And then there's the trip to Akihabara (my little wonderland), Shibuya (very trendy), and a shop called 'Book Off'. I think I spent hours in there as it has this huge used CDs sections and that's where I got lots of my out-of-print J-Pop fix.

Gaijin

Glad to be of service! I've never tried the matcha onsen myself, but it sounds interesting enough. There are Book-Offs throughout Japan, by the way. It's a franchise secondhand media store. Selection can vary a lot between different stores, so I sometimes have fun treasure-hunting in them.

Okay, on to the questions:

- Do you attend game music concert regularly over there? Must've been such a privilege as we don't get many of them over this side of the world in Singapore.

Gaijin

The big concerts are mostly in the Tokyo or Osaka areas, so I don't have much chance to get to them. I have been to art galleries for game illustrators though.

- I like Level 5 games, and I think so far only the Inazuma Eleven series that has never been brought over to US. Have you played any of them, and if yes, what's your opinion?

Gaijin

I've played the demo for Inazuma Eleven 2, and it was ... different. Like, instead of random enounters, there are random scrimmages. Like a traditional RPG with every aspect taken and refiltered through the perspective of a soccer fanatic. The kind of game that makes me regret never having played a FIFA title, because the experience would have come in handy. And they have a strong storyline to boot. I'm really going to have to invest in that series sometime soon...

Anyway, let's hope for Ninokuni and Ushiro in the near future, and Time Travellers as well.

- How do you pronounce this Chinese name in Japanese, 唐英仁? (switch encoding to UTF-8 to read correctly)

Gaijin

Hm... Well, the family name kanji would never be used by itself in Japanese, but it has two name-readings: Tan and Karo. The first name would probably be best read as Eiji. So... Tan Eiji? Eiji Tan?

Hey I'm enjoying Final Fantasy XIII too, even more so than XII actually. The battle system is one bright idea.

Gaijin

Yeah, the battle system's a high-point of the game. Interesting how they made the L-button the most important part of the entire control scheme, though.

Ganbatte on JLPT, and enjoy your trip back to US!

QTmonster

Gaijin

Thanks on both accounts, and thanks for writing in!

Well, as soon as I get this indexed, I'm shutting down the computer for a few days. The next time I'll have a chance to boot it up will be in the US. I hope everyone has a good week, and the column should be back on May 14th.

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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