Earlier this month, my little school got a major addition: advertising. My friend Leo and I have been canvassing neighborhoods regularly for over a year now, but the classroom itself had nothing to really identify it. That's all changed now.
One of my students has an uncle who runs a sign shop, so we were able to get this at a decent price. There are three vertical signs as well, designed to be upright instead of hanging, and we have those posted in the area around the school. It's certainly colorful, isn't it?
For a while, I was getting pretty pessimistic about the fate of Japandemonium. In the glory days of the PS2 and DS, this column was kept afloat by the hordes of bizarre little titles that could only exist in Japan, but nowadays it's hard to find anything so niche as that. The total number of RPG releases seemed to be below the hypothetical critical mass necessary for crazy concepts to flourish.
And then I found this title in the latest Famitsu.
This is Hero Bank, a game of online prize-fighting marketed to pre-teen boys. Designer Toshihiro Nagoshi (Yakuza, Monkey Ball, et al.) has delivered a game where money seems to be the main attraction for the characters. "Seems," because in the interview he states that it's just meant to be a motif with which to paint the drama. Even so, we have characters like this:
On the left is the main character's online avatar, Enter the Gold, who's got a definitely yen thing going on. His apparent main rival is, none too subtly, The Dominion Dollar. The other opponents are suitably bizarre. Almost all of the screens available for this game feature the combat ring, where this oddball assortment of contenders duke it out. Are you man enough to take on the likes of Samurai Carp, Mr. Grand Prix, or the Vaccinatrix?
Of course there's also a collecting element to this. With enough cash in-game, it's possible to buy the rights to a character for use in combat. Money may not buy love, but in this game it just might get you victory.
Hero Bank is scheduled to be on shelves Dec. 19th, which shows some amazing forward planning on Sega's part. It's not often we get a fixed date six months in advance in this country.
It's time for one of my favorite series! I loved pretty much everything about Metal Max 3, so when I saw mention of a sequel on the front cover of last week's Famitsu, I snapped it up in a flash.
None of the Metal Max games have been what I'd call normal — being the hypothetical love children of Fallout, Final Fantasy, and Beyond Thunderdome — and the opening scenes for this one seem appropriately bizarre.
Approximately fifty years after Project NOAH went insane and decided that humanity was an ecological disaster in need of purging, young Hinata lives a surprisingly peaceful life with his dad and sis on Concrete Island, out in the middle of nowhere. Then a crazy mutant named Gomodo attacks. What he's after are "Hot Seeds," humans who survived the Great Destruction by way of cryosuspension — people like Hinata and his dad. Then Hinata's sister turns out to be an android bodyguard that morphs into a bicycle and carries him to safety.
Seriously. This is silly sci-fi, folks. Ain't no such thing as impossible here.
The series has gotten a bit of a makeover since MM3 and MM2:Reloaded came out, and I'm sort of reminded of the work RacJin did on the SaGa games when I look at the game sprites. The character art, I am not so enthused about. I really liked the style of the latter two DS games in the series, and this new art direction seems like a step backwards. Still, it's got tanks, dogs, and a maniacal panda with a mohawk, so it's all right with me.
Metal Max 4 is due out sometime this winter. I'll be getting my reservation in early.
While I can't always understand the design decisions involved, it's always fun to see a new NIS game roll out. For the company's 20th, NIS teased us with "Project Arcadia." This being Nippon Ichi, we could guess a few things, mainly cute girls and whacky plotlines.
Arcadias no Ikusa-hime (Battle Princess of Arcadias) seems to deliver both in spades. Princess Plume is bright, chipper, and surprisingly effective for a lass in a girly-girl skirt wielding a sword almost as tall as she is. The other characters are appropriately colorful.
The most interesting thing here is that Arcadias isn't a tactical title, nor is it a quasi-roguelike. NIS is trying something new here, with side-scrolling action combat. The princess can bring along two friends, though it's not clear if any multiplayer action is available. The game also advertises a very large armory, with more than nine hundred weapons supposedly available.
Arcadias no Ikusa-Hime hits the shelves on September 26th, so I might see the finished game at TGS this year. Odds of an overseas release are pretty good, at least.
When I first saw screens of Puzzle & Dragons for iOS, I figured it was just another in a long line of casual games fitted with "RPG elements" to increase their appeal. When an expanded 3DS version was announced, I had to take a closer look, and what I found surprised me. Puzzle & Dragons Z is still primarily a match-three puzzle game, but there's a little more to it than that. It's got the rudiments of a story (at least as much as the average Pokémon game) and a good amount of exploration. So how does it all fit together?
The obvious part is the color combos. Matching more jewels of the same color powers up monsters of that type, allowing them to attack. Each critter also has a special skill that can be activated under various conditions, either hitting the enemy for more damage, healing allies, or changing the state of the puzzle board. Monsters will occasionally drop eggs which can be hatched into new allies. I'm hoping that means that the 3DS version has completely dropped the gachapon micro-transaction model found in so many iOS games. The player can also receive chips from enemies. When pieced together in an ally's puzzle grid, these enable that creature to achieve strong forms.
Puzzle & Dragons Z should be out sometime this winter.
Hello, dear Gaijin. I guess this mail had been a long time in the making. Remember when I wrote you back in March? Me neither!
But yeah, looking back, I wrote you in March that I was just about heading to Japan for a vacation asking for advice on getting a PS3. And so now I have a baby (more like grandpa) PS3 that I bought 2nd hand from Big Camera department store in Tokyo. My earlier shopping experience in Japan's department store had always been at places like Tokyu, where the entire place only has the main store, but nothing else. So it was rather surprising to see them carry 2nd hand goods as well. It was great price too--half of what it would cost 2nd hand in Bangkok. The only downside is that I have to lug it back to Bangkok, and then buy a converter (240V->100V)--weighs like 7 or 8 lbs, by the way. Boy, were my arms tired.
That was almost a good punchline, there. Glad you were able to find what you wanted. It's also not uncommon to see major retailers stock secondhand as well, usually in a separate section of the store. My local Tsutaya has used games, CDs, and movies in their own area on the side.
I really recommend against people do this unless you are sure that there is a local place that carry a converter, because that thing can set you back a ton if you need it shipped. I am using one of these.
Thanks for the link! I'm sure someone can find this useful.
And man, ski resorts in Japan are WAY cooler than the ones they have in the US. For one, there are Onsens. Not that I would actually go take a public dip outside in the snow though (the "public" part being the least of my worry. Who in heck came up with the idea of bathing outside in the snow, even if it is hot water?) Two, spider crabs and uni. Three, holy hell, the ski hills were huge! I went to this one called Piano Resort in Kiroro, and their largest hill took nearly half an hour just to get to the top in the ski lift. I think I actually passed two villages on the way up!
Since then I have moved to a new job, and things had been super hectic. I never even got to read rpgamer for the past month and something. I noticed that Japan has been going through a whole lot of policy changes as well. How are people taking to the new Abenomics, or the newest export (infrastructure building)? I wonder why Japan doesn't take the Korean route--the Koreans made a big headway by spreading their idol culture to the world, making everything Korean cool. Japan has such a strong head start with anime and a lot of shows and games (and frankly, J-Rock is so much better than K-Pop). It would have been a good long-term way to bump up their export goods.
Considering how easy it was for Abe to get the first two parts of the Abenomics plan through, it seems that there's a fair amount of support for it in the political circles. The average man on the street doesn't seem to have strong feelings either way. As for cultural exports, Japan's been up to that for decades now, just not in a very concerted manner. The primary market for Japanese music, games, and animation will always be Japan, first and foremost. Even now, foreign markets are more of an afterthought, it seems.
Thanks for writing in. I look forward to your next piece of correspondence, sometime in October!
Rain, rain, go away. I'm not sure when the next JP update will be, unfortunately. I'm moving to a new apartment in two weeks, and I'm getting married in three, so July is just a leeeeeeetle bit busy for me. If any major news pops up, I'll do my best to cover it.