The Japanese love snacks. This is the country that invented cup noodle, after all, so it is to be expected that the convenience store aisles are packed with all manner of junk food. And, just like soft drinks or Kit-Kats, the snack section is prone to fads. Two years ago, it was salted chocolate, which was actually rather good. Last year, it was chocolate covered potato chips, which were pretty awful. This year, the stores are pushing a different oddball flavor combination.
In recent months, spicy chocolates have made inroads into the market. I've had several varieties of jalapeno chocolates so far, including the orange & chili pepper combo pictured above. It's... edible. Even pretty tasty, with the right drinks. Still, I have to wonder just what they'll come up with next.
Speaking of fads, here's one from the turn of the century. That was at the height of the occult mania craze. At the time, the predictions of Nostradamus were big (hence the number of times Angolmois appears as a boss in the Wild ARMs series), UFOlogy and OoParts entered common parlance, and a manga series starring a rather batrachian little alien began its rise to popularity. One attempt to cash in on this phenomenon was Chocovaders. These little figurines were bundled with chocolate snacks and sold in the candy aisle of many supermarkets (nowadays, Pokémon and PreCure figurines can be found in the same spot). The figurines were based on actual accounts of close encounters with aliens from around the world, and I know I've seen references to Chocovader designs in manga about aliens (including Keroro), so apparently they were really popular in their time. Looking around on the internet, I was able to find a pretty substantial collection of Chocovader figurines.
Why am I talking about this now? Well, Chocovader was apparently so popular that it spawned two game spinoffs. The first, Chocovader Contactee was an arcade game. The second was Chocovader: Uchu kara Shinryakusha (Invaders from Beyond), an RPG that's fairly similar to the Battle Network games in style. We don't have a game page for it yet, but I'll bug Nyx about that as soon as she's back from vacation. For now, I'm just going to dump all the screenshots and art I've found right here. Yes, I am now reporting on Game Boy Advance titles in Japandemonium. Just because I can.
This first set of pictures don't actually appear in the game, but they're good representative art for it.
This next section is mainly game screens from the story side of things, as the hero explores and deals with alien threats.
And then we have the battle side of things. The hero has to build a party out of a wide selection of aliens whom he recruits over the course of the game. Many can only be gotten through special passwords gained through the Chocovader figurines in real life, or through the arcade game Contactee.
I'd go into this more, but I currently have this one in my DS, and I should have it finished before my next big-name title of interest hits the stores. Expect a review for it in July. To finish, I have an animated GIF that shows some of the fun and games available.
The Japanese have slang words for all sorts of things. When talking about overly trendy or fashion-conscious young women, that word is usually gyaru. Adapted from the English word "gal," gyaru come in all varieties. Today, we're looking at gyaru-kei, a more modern version of the term with a lot of different substyles. Gyaru tend to be cutesy and highly stylized within their prefered fashion, and that describes this latest group of Queen's Gate characters fairly well:
As if the cast of this game weren't odd enough, we have Allouetta Catus, chief rival to the game's protagonist, Marron Macaron. Like her, Allouetta is a magical pastry chef. No, that still doesn't make much sense, but what does in this game?
Anyhoo, Allouetta has her own posse of gyaru-kei followers at her beck and call.
You know, sometimes I regret never investing in a PSP. Games like this just beg to be experienced, if only as a guilty pleasure.
Over the years, Level-5 has made its name with original games, collaborations, and for-hire work involving other companies' series. This current piece of news is one of the latter. While their Ghibli collaboration, Ninokuni came with an amazing book, this game comes with a different sort of media attached. I'd invite you to look and see, but the Youtube video I had linked in here was yanked before I even had the chance to put this column up. Instead, we have a simple plot introduction.
"Many centuries have passed since Man first began the migration to the space colonies. After years of conflict with the Earth, it was thought that a new age of peace had been established. They were wrong."
Advanced Generation (A.G.) 101 - The space colony Angel came under attack by a force designated Unknown Enemy (UE), and was destroyed. The aftermath became known as the Day the Angel Fell. The UE would continue to plague the area around the Earth."
"A.G. 108 - The war with the UE rages on. Up to now the space colony Orvan has been spared, but not anymore. A young boy of the colony, Flit Asuno, has now lost his mother to the war. He has one thing to remember her by, a memory unit called the AGE Device. The unit bears some connection to the story of a hero and an ancient mobile suit called the Gundam. At the tender age of 7, Flit vows to honor his mother's memory and make his very own Gundam."
"A.G. 115 - Flit has been living at the Alinston Military Base on the Nora space colony for the past seven years. In that time, he has gotten in with the engineers on-base, and his hopes of recreating the Gundam have come closer to reality. The Gundam has the ability to repair and improve itself via the AGE Device incorporated into its core. Unfortunately, at the critical stage, the UE closes in on Nora. In 14 years, no one has been able to stand up to the UE. What chance does a kid like Flit have?"
As this has been refered to as a "century-spanning" series, I can only assume that the timeline on the site is going to be expanded in time.
On the top row, the blue-haired kid is Flit. We've covered his story pretty well already, so let's move on. The blonde kid is Asem Asuno, pictured at age 15. He's Flit's son (obviously way down the line). After him is Kio Asuno (13), a.k.a. the third generation (Asem's daughter). On the second row, the fourth character is Emily Amond, the first friend Flit made when he came to Nora Colony at age 7. She's also presumably Asem's mom sometime in the future. The captain-looking gentleman is Grudeck Einoa (official name spelling still pending). He is exactly what he looks like. His second in command is Milace Aroi (name spelling also pending).
Over the course of the series, the AGE Gundam goes through some changes, it would seem. The first three images above are all for the AGE-1, in Normal, Titus, and Sparrow modes. The fourth one with the salmon pink highlights is the Junoas (RGE-B790), which is apparently the standard model for the Earth Defense Force. It's noted that there are a lot of custom models for this one, though, as pilots are given free rein to tinker with their machines.
And finally, there's the mysterious Unknown Enemy. The UE has plagued Earthspace for the better part of two decades at this point, and still no one knows where it came from, what its agenda is, or even who (if anyone) is controlling it. All shall be revealed in time, of course.
Now, it's official that Level-5 is also handling a video game version of Gundam AGE, but everyone involved is being chary with the details. We do know that Bandai-Namco will be handling the publishing end, but that was largely a given. Also, we know that they already have an arcade CCG in the works. We do not know what system the Level-5 game will be on, but it's likely to be a major console.
But I doubt this will make anyone in the audience happy. We'll have some actual coverage on the game side of things as soon as it becomes available.
In another bit of Level-5 news, we have The Little Battlers, also known as Danbooru Senki in Japanese. Where we got the English title, I'm not sure. Anyway, it's been just about two years since we had anything to say about this game, and yet it was released June 16th (i.e. yesterday). So here's a recap.
These are the main characters. Ban is the dark-haired boy, the lighter-haired boy is Kazuya, and the girl is Ami. All three of them are big enthusiasts of the latest craze in games -- the LBX, or Little Battlers eXperience. These amazing robots come in kits, ready to be assembled. The player directs them across a diorama-like battlefield where they fight other model-kit creations. Here are the heroes' battlers:
For Ban, we have the Achilles model. For Kazuya, the Hunter model. And for Ami, the Kunoichi model.
LBX wield a wide variety of miniature plastic weaponry. The arsenal includes hammers, spears, rifles, pistols, artillery, knuckles, swords, and rocket launchers. In general, they can be categorized into slashing, piercing, and shooting damage. Here are some screens of them in action.
As LBX battle, they gain experience, and in turn access to their special attack functions. These bear such kid-friendly names as Power Smash, Lightning Lance, Grand Stamp, and Napalm Bomb. They're also appropriately flashy.
It wouldn't be great robot combat if there weren't customization to be had. The Little Battlers is reported to have over 2500 varieties of custom parts, allowing the player his or her own unique build. However, each part has its own weight to take into account. LBX fall into five weight categories, with speed bonuses or demerits included. There are also high-grade and master-grade parts to be found, which not only give better bonuses, but may also belong to a set. Bringing together an entire set will raise an LBX's speed rank up by one.
The Core Box unit of an LBX may also be customized, allowing for better base stats or special skills to be equipped.
This being a PSP title, it should come as no surprise that it has an ad hoc combat mode. Up to four players can participate in a battle royale, or in a ranking battle that can put the player on top of the regional leaderboards (if they're good enough).
Interestingly, Little Battlers features a game within a game. In stores, the player can purchase collectible cards for a game called LBX Card Battle. Playing this sub-game may garner the player new items or other bonuses.
LBX, like most collectibles, take a lot of money to pursue as a hobby. To get the cash, Ban and Co. can search the BBS sites for part-time work (i.e. side quests).
And finally, as if the meta-gaming aspects of Little Battlers weren't thick enough, there are capsule figurine machines available that dispense collectible parts.
Finally, if anyone wants to see the game in action, a fifteen-minute video has appeared on Youtube as promotional material, courtesy of 4Gamer.net.
Whew, that was a lot of material to go through. That's what I get for playing catchup, unfortunately.
Japan's been slow to get on the social gaming bus, but things are still picking up over here. Recently, Falcom got on the bandwagon with Ys Nexus, a social game with an original story tangential to Ys I & II. As it's a social game, there's a focus on item crafting and guild cooperation between players.
As usual, Ys protagonist extraordinaire, Adol Christin, makes an appearance, as do many other popular characters from across the series.
Looking over this column, I notice a pattern. We have two bits related to chocolate. Level-5 has two games mentioned here as well. Bandai is set to publish two of the titles this week. And one Falcom game. Symmetry demands we include one more item from them. So here we go.
This is the second promotional video for Falcom's Ao no Kiseki. Also, the official game site has a nice selection of wallpapers fit for any Falcom fans computer.
And the rain continues to fall. At my school we're now very thankful for all the roadwork done in recent months (annoying as it was at the time). The road in front of the school has yet to flood out, even as the river behind us stays almost two meters above normal.