As many of you could probably guess, the past two weeks have not been the highlight of the year for me. The night of Thursday, April 14th, was nice enough until the first earthquake hit at 9:26PM. The second was at 10:08, the third at 10:39, and the fourth at three minutes past midnight. I know all this because my cell phone goes "BWEEP! BWEEP! JISHIN DESU!" every time there is a seismic event nearby with a shindou (shakiness) rating of five or higher.
My wife and I did not sleep well that night, and two of our bookshelves in the other room fell over, but we didn't actually lose anything. Over in my classroom, my little avocado tree got crushed by falling textbooks, and lost half its stem and leaves. But we picked up, got stuff in order, and looked to be back on track by Friday night.
That's when the big earthquake hit, at 1:25AM early Saturday morning, with others to follow at 1:44, 1:46, 3:03, 3:56, and 4:15. Oh, and the epicenters were all in Mashiki, which is uncomfortably close to my apartment. This time, all four of our bookshelves were toppled, as well as the big shelf in our kitchen. Losses among our glassware and crockery is estimated at 80%, but amazingly we didn't lose any bottles of wine. Thank goodness, because a sticky, sour mess is the last thing we needed on top of all the broken glass. Here are some photos, by the way.
On the right is my dining room, Saturday afternoon. After the big one hit, Non-chan and I spent the rest of the night in the car, parked on the local junior high school baseball ground. We spent Saturday night there, too. To date we have had eleven twelve fourteen eighteen upwards of two dozen separate earthquakes scattered across Kumamoto Prefecture, with a couple in Miyazaki, Oita, and Tokushima, all of which appear to be following the same fault line. In addition to that, we've had two three five seven eight hundred about a thousand aftershocks in the past two weeks. This includes the one two three that occurred while I was figuring out what to type in this section today. Honestly, we're probably lucky to get through this with just a bunch of busted glass, a bit of outer wall damage, and some annoying leaks in the ceiling. Far too many buildings less than a kilometer to the southeast of me are now condemned.
Right now my biggest annoyance has to do with my classroom. The building it's in is OK, and it didn't take that much effort to clean up, once I got some help to manhandle the shattered screen of the big TV downstairs, but I'm having a different sort of post-disaster issue now. You see, the city government wisely gave everyone permission to dump all the earthquake-busted stuff in their houses in with the regular garbage, and predictably a lot of people took this as carte blanche to get rid of all the other junk that had been sitting in their houses for ages, only they didn't want to cough up the dough to get a special trash pickup for it. The downside for me is that there is an official garbage drop-off right in front of my school, and it abuts the parking lot.
At the moment, I don't actually have a parking lot. The picture on the left was taken about six days into the disaster, and it's at least three times larger now. The picture on the right is from my second story classroom window, and it only contains the middle 50% of the mess. It's a miracle I can even get in the building right now.
So here are some good words for you all to remember, should you find yourself stuck in a similar situation here in Japan:
Hinanjo - evacuation site. This is actually pretty easy to find, since most convenience stores will have a map to the nearest one taped to a window somewhere, even without the prompting of a major natural disaster. When in doubt, head to the nearest public school, elementary or junior high. The entire Japanese public education infrastructure is included in the national disaster planning and response program, and they will be prepared to take on evacuees and provide parking for people who'd rather sleep in their cars for a while. Faculty and student volunteers also get involved in things like food, water, and diaper dispensaries.
Shindou - shakiness scale. This is the relative scale that is used by Japanese services for their warning systems. It differs from the Richter scale in that it doesn't care about the actual power of the earthquake, so much as how strong it feels to the observer at any given spot. Because of that, a single earthquake can be rated at S-6 near the epicenter, S-5 twenty kilometers away, and at lower numbers as you get farther away. The highest number on the scale is 7, at which point people and heavy objects get thrown around with ease. The official description includes the words "impossible to stay standing." There have officially been only four S-7 incidents on the official records for the past century, with the fourth one happening in the wee hours of Saturday, April 16th while Non-chan and I were trying to sleep.
Takidashi - free food. Here's one that's really good to remember. Obviously, there will be a lot of stores shut down during a disaster. Major franchise chains tend to stay out of order the longest; McDonald's and KFC took two full weeks before even some of their stores in this city reopened, and one of the main ones downtown is still closed for the duration. Smaller restaurants will often offer free food, usually curry or rice balls. Several of the places I ate at that first weekend weren't even able to let customers inside because of the mess, so they had a big (but simple) buffet for all comers out in the parking lot. Also, small groceries and veggie markets are far more likely to remain open, in part because they rely on local supply lines while every road out of the prefecture is under repairs. Most of the small vendors on the Kengun shopping arcade were open for business on the very day of the big quake, while all of the bigger supermarkets were shut down. In the case of the big supermarket on the Kengun arcade...
It got really shut down. That used to be a three-story grocery and department store. Perhaps we should be thankful that the big one hit so early in the morning, because I would hate to have been grocery shopping when that happened.
There is one little piece of good news to end with, however. After what happened to it on the first night, I wasn't too optimistic about my avocado tree's chances of surviving the second. Sure enough, when I checked the classroom that Saturday, there was a huge mountain of books atop and behind the desk on which it usually sat, but no sign of the tree itself. I didn't have time to do cleanup that day, but when I came back a few days later, I looked behind the desk and found...
My little avocado tree, standing upright in its pot and somehow completely uncrushed and unbothered by the huge pile of books right next to it. Ganbatte, Avocado-chan!
To start with today, we honor one of the forgotten. Sometimes in this unfortunate and unfair world of ours, a game simply fails to happen. Such was the case with Chronos Materia, which we reported on back in August of 2013. It looked good, sounded interesting, and was supposed to be on store shelves at the end of September. Only... it didn't. The game was announced as being delayed, and then we never heard about it again. That is, until earlier this month, when Famitsu Weekly made a quick mention of the fact that Gust was officially terminating the project. Just how and why it came to this, no one outside of the company can say, but I think we can all agree that it's a sad thing to hear.
Every once in a while, I realize that I missed something in years past, and we have a bit of a retro-look. This time, the year is 2014, and the game is HamaTora: Look at Smoking World for the 3DS. Based on the anime Hamatora, this game takes place in a different city, Kobe in Gunma Prefecture, within the fictional neighborhood of Hamakaze. While the game's locale is largely made-up, it's heavily based on the real city of Kobe.
In fact, FuRyu made an actual product-placement agreement with the Mix+ smoothie shop chain of Kobe to place one of its stores in a prominent spot. And how prominent it is. This game's entire character advancement system is smoothie-based, with different blends increasing different stats and moods (which grant new combat skills). I just know now that if I'm ever in Kobe, I'm going to have to visit this store, along with the local Chinatown.
The game itself is part visual-novel/adventure and part tactical combat, with some strong similarities to titles like Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters and the later Persona games. The eight main characters are members of a problem-solving agency working the Hamakaze shopping arcade who call themselves the Trouble Busters. Using the normal Japanese method of taking the first two kana off of each word to form an acronym, "Hamakaze Trouble Busters" becomes "HamaTora". It's only connected to the anime series via some cameo appearances in the side quest section, so even if you're not familiar with the source material, it's pretty fun to play.
I'm almost finished with this one, so expect a review to appear sometime soonish. I just wanted to give it some air time before then. More details to come!
Mediascape keeps on chugging with its "Play, Doujin!" project, which takes fan games of the Touhou series and gives them a legitimate avenue of publication. Just this past week, another game joined the ranks of the published, and is now available for download on the PS Vita. The title is Touhou Souzin Engi V - The Genius of Sappheiros.
The basic premise is that once again something is strange in the lands of Gensokyo. Not that this is strange in and of itself. This is a realm that's largely defined by its strangeness, after all. However, this time the strangeness comes in the form of a smothering blue mist that is having deleterious effects on the monstrous population of the land. It's up to Reimu, the shrine maiden who guards the main egress into and out of Gensokyou, to figure out what the source of this problem may be and put a stop to it. Along the way she picks up the motley cast of usual suspects, including Marisa the completely ordinary magician, Sanae the wind priestess, and Aya the intrepid tengu newspaper reporter.
But who could be behind it all? Could it be the cunning vampire, Remilia Scarlet, who once blocked the sun with scarlet clouds so she could take a walk in the park? Or is it Yuyuko the ghost princess, who may have gotten too forward in her recruitment for the afterlife? And then there's Kaguya the former moon princess, who once stole the moon to keep invasive tourists away. Of course, we shouldn't forget Tenshi the incredibly bored celestial being, who once caused a massive interplanar crisis simply because she wanted people to pay attention to her.
Obviously, the main draw of this game is the fact that it's a Touhou fan spinoff, but there seems to be a pretty good RPG in there as well. The skill lists are incredibly varied between playable heroines (which, aspersions of character aside, seem to include all the ladies shown above, and then some), and party formation appears to play a big role in combat as well. And in keeping with the general Touhou style, the attacks are suitably flashy.
To be honest, the way the heroines and monsters are set up on the screen reminds me of the Romancing SaGa games. Then again, I am also a massive fanboy of that series, and I might be reading too much into it, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Strawberry Bose is a fan, too. What do you all think?
Just this past Sunday, I found a surprising bit of news on the Japanese gaming sites. It was a teaser trailer announcing a new game, though it didn't really show much if anything of the game itself. Not that they ever do, but this one had an important and interesting distinction to it. It's going to be XBox One-exclusive.
This one comes from Experience's Muramasa Project studio, which shouldn't be much of a surprise. This is the same group that published pretty much all of its big titles on the 360 in the last gen cycle, and while these guys are definitely trying to expand into the Vita market as well, they seem to have a strange level of loyalty to Microsoft's hardware. The name of the game this time is Yomi wo Saku Hana, which translates as "The Flowers that Bloom in Hell." For more linguistic fun, the actual kanji used for "saku" in the title, when taken in a different context, means "to rip or tear." Now there's some fun imagery to work with...
Now, the teaser tells us exactly jack about the contents of the game, aside from there being two young female (probably) protagonists. This being Experience, however, I think we can safely assume that it's going to be a dungeon-crawler of some sort. I don't think this company has produced anything but that genre so far.
In any case, we shall certainly be hearing more of this one in the future, as the proposed release date isn't until sometime in 2017.
For our last item of the day, we have another new title to look at. Dynasty Warriors is one of Koei-Tecmo's flagship franchises, known for its loose interpretations of Chinese history and superlative flashiness. The first piece of art for this new game seems to offer up both in good measure.
The title is Dynasty Warriors Eiketsuden, which is an odder name than it would seem at first glance. At first, I could not find an actual English translation for eiketsu, because Yahoo kept coming back with the Chinese name Yingjie. A more thorough search through Jisho.org suggests that it might mean "Tale of the Great Hero," which is vaguely epic enough.
The important thing this time around is that unlike most Dynasty Warriors games, Eiketsuden is not a musou-title. It's a strategy RPG that follows the adventures of a fan-favorite character, Zhao Yun, in an all-original story. And what any original story needs is some original characters.
On the left is Lei Bun (Japanese, Raihin), an old friend of Zhao Yun who is a dedicated scholar of historic heroics and ancient cultures. On the right is Li Xia (Japanese, Reika), who was magically trapped in a small shrine near Zhao Yun's village for an unknown but probably immense amount of time. So, we have nerdy-but-kickass best friend and a girl-in-the-box. We're all ready to have a JRPG adventure!
This is definitely a strategy RPG, and as such, it conforms to pretty much every mechanical aspect of the genre. There are probably some interesting curveballs to be thrown, but we can't see them from these screenshots.
Dynasty Warriors Eiketsuden is in development for the PlayStation 3, Playstation 4, and the PS Vita. It should be out sometime in 2016.
So in closing, I am safe and sound. My apartment doesn't have any major damage, despite what the pictures might suggest, and aside from the occasional all-too-frequent aftershocks, life is pretty pleasant. I'm just waiting for the garbage services to send a truck or twelve to pick up the stuff in front of my school.