The Japanese are sticklers for precision when it comes to handwriting. Every kanji symbol has a precise stroke order that must be adhered to, and a very large part of a child's elementary education is spent learning the right way to write things.
Which is why, when it comes to teaching English handwriting in this country, headaches are unavoidable. It's not just that various letters of the alphabet have multiple morphologies depending on the country (lowercase q comes to mind), it's that some of the reference materials available are just plain awful, with stroke orders that I'm not sure anyone uses.
Most of the quirks I can live with. If I were in second grade I might get points deducted for writing my K's or 5's incorrectly by Japanese standards, but at least I can see how they might decide on how they write those. "Pillared" letters like H, M, N, or W are more annoying. The commonly used handwriting texts over here insist that the outer lines for each of these letters be done first, like so:
While you're at it, look at how this text tells children how to form the upper- and lowercase E. The sad fact is that this particular source is American-made, mistakes and all, and the Japanese accept it as accurate. My third grade penmanship teacher, Sister Michael Mary, would've had a fit and gone for the ruler by now. All I can do is calmly teach my kids a better and (in my opinion) more elegant way to form their letters, and occasionally have arguments over morphology.
And now, on with the column!
It's the last update of the month, and so it's time for Hiroyui Maeda's Lovely Lady Lab! We have two updates to show this month, so let's start with the second. Last week's Famitsu presented us with a triple: Manaka, Rinko, and Nene from the updated version of Love Plus. Don't ask me who is who -- I don't usually play dating sim games.
At the beginning of the month, there apparently weren't any new games with cute girls to draw, so Maeda went for a fallback and drew Alicia Melchiott from Valkyria Chronicles, armed and delightful.
I don't normally post the parody comics from Famitsu, but I thought this was funny. One of the most memorable team members ever, Pochi the Tank Dog has been the mascot for the Metal Max and Metal Saga games since they first started. But just how useful would he be in real life? This comic explores that possibility with Pochi being called on to stop fights, eliminate pests, and help with his master's morning commute. The results are about as one would expect.
Being a delinquent means you have a lot of free time. Just ask Ryuji Ukyo, protagonist of Yakuza New Story: Black Panther. This is a young man with lots of time to kill, and the seedy entertainment districts of Kamuro-cho are the perfect place for it. Whether he's prize-fighting, practicing his swing at the batting cages, or beating the crap out of random passers-by, Ryuji keeps busy.
And then there are the girls.
I've heard tell that the series' move to the PSP might be intended to appeal to Japan's highly mobile population of high school commuters. I wouldn't know, but I can say that if anything were to grab and hold a teenage boy's attention, it'd be a pole dancer. The girls in question are Yuu Chijima ("The Lady with the Loving I-Cups"), An Nakamura ("The Voluptuous Pole-Dancer"), and Aya Hoshi ("Popular and Perceptive"). While I can't remember exactly how old Ryuji is supposed to be, I'm pretty sure all three of these ladies are older than he is by a few years. Wish-fulfillment fantasy, anyone?
A game populated by anthropomorphic kitties and puppies is bound to be odd at times, but Solarobo has taken it a bit farther than that. How? Let's look at the scans.
The game's protagonist, Red Severin, is a were-human. Yes, I know that term is etymologically unsound, but it's better than the alternatives. It's not full moons that turn him on, though. For reasons unknown, in times of great stress and need his body changes to provide more power. Why this means he turns into a human is also unknown. It may or may not have something to do with the medallion he finds in one of the new game screens. The game calls this the "Trance" state, which I take to mean that the developers played too much Final Fantasy IX in their youth. What's more interesting is what else Red can do when he's in this state.
Red and his robot DAHAK have always been very close, and they take this to a new level when Red goes into trance. While it looks cool, and is undoubtedly very strong, I have to wonder just what else this duo gets from joining together like this.
Super Dimensional Game Neptune is an odd duck. There's no argument about that. These latest screenshots only underscore that, at least once you get some sense of what they are. Neptune uses a button-combo system to activate combo skills, and these screens show part of that system in progress. Different images can be assigned to each combo, and the image sources are what one would expect of a game set in a world of games. Combo skill names shown in the screens include things like The Super Shinobi, Alex Kidd, Ashura (which could reference any number of video games), and Golden Axe. Looking through the total list of classic Sega titles, there are a lot more sources of material available, and that's not counting the in-game images available for combo attachment.
The iPad has yet to really catch on in Japan, realm of hyper-specialized mobile devices that it is. Some people must be warming up to it, though. There are already game developers jumping on the bandwagon.
Today we have iPad-related goodness from two RPG developers. First is Hudson Soft, which has just released its iPad title, AR Monsters.
AR Monsters is all about battling and cataloging the game's 600-plus monster types, so in that respect it isn't setting any new ground. But in the gimmicks department, Hudson Soft has created something a bit different. In the screenshots you may notice what looks like real buildings in the background. AR Monsters makes use of both the iPad's GPS and its camera. Players must use the GPS to track down nearby monsters, then use the camera to reveal them at that location before battling.
The other developer to try its hand at the iPad this week is Gust, once again proving that Atelier games can fit on just about any platform. Technically it's not a full Atelier title, though. Instead, it looks like Gust has taken the desk-cleaning mini-game from Atelier Annie and turned it into an app.
I figure it's only a matter of time before Atelier Marie gets ported, though. It always is.
I just watched Gozilla vs. Mechagodzilla with my 7-year-old. Any insight into why an ancient Okinawan hero-monster would be called King Caesar? Ancient Sino-Roman international monster cross-breeding?
That's what we'd call a translation blooper made by someone who knows nothing about Okinawa. The Shiisa (also known as Siisa or Shi-shi) are the ugly dragon-tiger-dog thing statues that guard temples and homes in Okinawa. When it's spelled out in Japanese katakana, it looks identical to the word Caesar.
I'd like to say sorry to everyone who missed me last week. With E3 dominating the news, and little hope for more material in the coming week or two, I decided that it was better to skip a column. Almost everything in today's column was originally meant for last week, so you can see what I mean about pickings being a little slim. I was even going to write about an interesting non-RPG, but then Konami went and announced it at E3. Talk about surprises.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,