One nice thing about life in Japan is that I'm definitely eating healthier. All the little restaurants scattered along my walking routes mean that junk food is by and large off my diet, and my body's gotten used to it. The last time I went to a McDonald's (for a Scizzor and a World Cup collector's glass) I was feeling queasy before I even left the store.
There are a lot of foods that I've had to learn to love, and one of those is tofu. There are all sorts of ways to eat it in Japan, and I have a few preferences. First, I like it served as a cube, chilled, with grated radish and lots of soy sauce. Second, it's good when cut into little pieces and served in miso soup. Last, I like it fried, in udon or inari sushi.
Mabo dofu is a variety I can live without. This spicy tofu dish is a staple of Chinese restaurants in Japan (most of them Szechuan style), but it's not the heat of the spice that turns me off of it, it's the texture. Whenever I've had mabo dofu the texture has been much too close to my old high school's macaroni lunch plate (the one with the noodles so soft they almost merge together).
Why talk about it at all? Well, it comes down to an item I found in the discount bin of my supermarket. It's a good place to find deals on soon-to-be-discontinued items, and that's where I found a cooking mix for mabo curry, complete with tofu. It seemed like such an odd combination that I just had to take a closer look, and when I saw what was on the back....
Take a good look at the righthand picture. While it was made by House, a big brand for home curry and stew mixes, this particular recipe comes courtesy of Bandai Namco. It first made its appearance in the Tales series, and apparently has become something of a fan favorite, as the little blurb on the back of the package explains. The main selling point of this package is the fact that it was inspired by a video game series.
Sasuga nihon... Only in Japan...
There is nothing more alluring than the unattainable. For centuries the greatest symbol of longing, hope, and impossible dreams to be found in poetry was the blue rose. Though a genetic impossibility, people have never given up the dream of finding one. It appears in every branch of traditional literature and art.
Now it's time to add a new medium to the list of blue rose references. Apollo Soft (a new company comprised of the guys behind the Summon Night series) and Nippon Ichi are bringing Blue Roses to a PSP near me in September.
In the faraway land of Austreil, human lives are inexorably (and unknowingly) intertwined with the fairy realm. Only a handful of humans, those born with blue eyes, can even see the magical inhabitants of the land. Those chosen few are known as the Blue Roses. The Blue Roses number among the upper classes of Austreil society, serving as defenders of the land and intercessors with magical forces. In particular, they fight against the Phantoms, mysterious monsters with an appetite for fairies and human souls.
The game follows the adventures of two members of the Blue Roses, Roshe and Alicia. While they're destined to be comrades in arms, their backgrounds are quite different. Alicia comes from an aristocratic household and has just been accepted into the Blue Roses. Roshe is a downtown orphan who works as a delivery boy. Her story begins when she and her mentor rescue a young girl from a Phantom attack. His begins when a routine delivery in town turns out to be ground zero for a Phantom assault.
They won't be alone, at least. Here's a quick look at some of the allies they'll pick up along the way.
Teamwork is a very important factor in Blue Roses. True to its developers, it's a tactical title, but it seems to play out a little differently than most. On the tactical map, character positioning is key, since that's what helps determine teams. When it's time to attack, the player has to designate a team of up to three characters who then take on the enemy in a more classical RPG style of combat. Other characters apparently have the option to "cut in" and perform special attacks on demand.
It's only a month or so before Tales of Phantasia Narikiri Dungeon - Cross Edition hits the shelves, and Bandai Namco has decided that now is the time to reacquaint everyone with the middle and upper level job classes to be found therein. There's quite a lot of variety, so let's take this in steps.
The Monster Tamer catches and summons monsters to do battle. The Bard is a master of support magics. The Warrior just kicks butt with long-reaching attacks.
The Sword King slices up enemies samurai-style. The Silver Swordsman uses lightning-fast slashes as well as actual lightning to attack. The Ninja does everything you might expect a Ninja to do.
The Shooter is a specialist in long-range projectiles. The Summoner calls upon the various spirits of the world to assist in battle. The Holy Knight hits hard and fast, and can also cast supporting magic.
The Phalanx relies on a strong defense and sweeping spear techniques. The High Witch just likes to blast things. The Monk has a large selection of hits, holds, and throws to whomp enemies with.
The Bishop is the heavy healer of the team. The Penetrator... puts holes in things. Preferably enemies.
And that's the list of higher level jobs. That doesn't mean there's no more to see, though. Bandai-Namco has a few special things in store for this remake -- things with cameo appeal.
The heroes of Narikiri Dungeon have two special costumes to put on. The first is a cosplay of Asbel Rant, hero of Tales of Graces, which brings several special attacks to the game. The other is a cosplay version of Haruka Amami, one of the lovely gals of The Idolm@ster, doing I'm-not-sure-what to the enemy.
Kind of makes me wish I had a PSP...
The Another World has just gotten a little stranger. Last year's demo impression mentioned the Imagenes (short e on the last syllable, like in indigenes), powerful imaginary friends drawn from the strength of young Oliver's spirit, if not by name, and how the summoned character could be manoeuvred to defend Oliver against a boss's attacks. What the demo did not show was just how many of the little buggers there are.
There are more than three hundred Imagenes available for Oliver to raise. There's even a sort of pet-sim mini-system involved, according to the article. I'm curious to see how this works out, especially since several of the critters in that second scan I recognize as enemies from the demo. This wouldn't be the first RPG to feature monster-collecting attributes without cloning the Pokémon series, but it remains to be seen how Level-5 balances all these aspects of the game.
No letters makes for a short column. Send letters please! I don't care what topic. It can be music, movies, manga, games, anything! As long as it's not dubious offers of personal "enhancement" I'm all for it.
Anyhoo, wish me luck this weekend. JLPT the Second is this Sunday.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,