It's almost time for summer vacation! Yay! Actually, most Japanese schools let out last week, and won't be back in class until the end of August. The teachers are not so lucky. I had to help clean and repair my school for much of last week, had classes this week, and will be off to Miyazaki for some beach time next week. There's not much time in there to write columns, so I'm trying to keep things short this time around. Here's hoping I can keep my rambling mouth shut this time.
Anyway, on with the column!
There are all sorts of special offers and gimmicks used by hotels to lure guests in. This is just one of the stranger ones. All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Nintendo have teamed up to provide Pokémon-themed rooms in several of the airline's partner hotels in Hokkaido and Okinawa. Pokémon sheets, curtains, and large stuffed animals abound. Kids can also get Pikachu lunchboxes instead of the usual meals, and spend time in the Kids' Room. For the most part, this is a very limited service, with reservations taken only until mid-fall.
7/14 ~ 7/20
You know, if ever there were a game that could bump Persona 4 down from last week's insane start, it would have to be a Dragon Quest title. Dragon Quest V took the top marks this week, followed by the new Gundam fighting game at #2. The big shock was seeing Pokémon Diamond/Pearl so high in the lists. True, this data is for the week leading up to the new movie, but still....
7/21 ~ 7/27
And a new rush of high-profile non-RPG games sweeps the board, and takes away many of the titles of interest. C'est la vie. After an insane first week, Persona 4's sales are slowing down, but that's understandable. There's no way they'd ever get those sales figures two weeks in a row.
This one's for Wyrdwad: new screens, scans, and information on his favorite PC RPG franchise, Zwei! First, the scan.
Honestly, this scan from Famitsu doesn't show us much more than we already had, in terms of screens, but if you look at the bottom right corner... For those in the audience who don't know this series well, in the first game there was a pet (a dog or cat) who joined you as an AI-directed third character. In this game, the choice of pets has doubled to four, with the addition of a bird and a baby fairy.
Also, a new character has been introduced: the treasure- and bounty-hunting, 10-gallon hat wearing, boomerang-wielding Odessa. More surprisingly, she's a playable character, which makes me wonder how they fit that into the Zwei! theme of two.
The latest issue of Famitsu has also brought us news of Cross Edge, sometimes spelled with an X. Strange enough, the battle system reminds me of Xenogears for some reason. As each character's turn comes up, the player can choose from four attacks that they have previously mapped to the four buttons on the PS3 controller (X, O, Square, Triangle), and can keep attacking with combinations of these attacks for as long as the character has Action Points available. Moreover, combo attacks with multiple characters are also possible. Each skill has its own sort of experience bar, and seems to level up with use.
In other news about this title, five new characters have been announced. One of them, Mei (the girl with the ribbon in her hair) looks to be an original character. The others mentioned include: Lyner (from Ar tonelico), Zeroth (from Blazing Souls), Wim (from Mana Khemia 2), and Lilith (from Vampire Savior). To make things more fun, apparently you can dress up any character you like in various kinds of cosplay, and the costume changes will appear in-game for as long as you like. I wouldn't mind keeping Lilith in that bunny suit for most of the game, personally.
Atlus has a mystery for us. In the current Famitsu, they put in a two-page advertisement, like so:
The only thing is, this ad tells us very little about it. The only clue we have to go on is the website, which lets us know that it's TV-related, and has a cute little black cat involved somehow. Oh, and a countdown to August 1st.
Fast forward two days. And the countdown has finished, as of 6 PM Japan Standard Time. What do we have to see now? A weirdly broken countdown timer that now semi-permanently replaces numbers with the silhouettes of various demons. This is very obviously linked to the Devil Summoner series' newest addition, Kuzunoha Raidou vs. King Abaddon (media pending), but in what way? Who the heck knows. I'm still wondering why this particular site has a television domain address. I'll be checking back on this one periodically.
Time for a little S-E swag report! The first thing to catch the eye would be those lovely molded figurines for Final Fantasy VII (available for 3800 yen each) and Dragon Quest V (4230 yen each). For those on a budget, we have a pair of cell phone straps based on FFXI's Goblin and Mandragora monsters at 800 yen apiece. The large stuffed Slime is 2500 yen, while the Smile Slime mug is 1500. Finally, there's the Chocobo "rubber ducky" bathroom toy. All are available at the Square Enix company store.
This is a scan that's been a long time in coming. Normally, Japandemonium's not the sort of place where you'll see big-name franchises, at least not on systems that have any chance of porting to America. Exceptions have been made in the past, and another's going to be made right now. This one's for the newsy department, who have more than enough on their plate at the moment. I'm just doing my part to ease the workload.
For those few who haven't heard, Square Enix has a dramatic fighting game coming out later this year, by the name of Final Fantasy Dissidia, taken from the Latin word for "disagreement" or "different opinion," according to Famitsu. What we have is a fighting game set in the various final levels of the first 10 games of the FF series. Page 3 of the scan shows screens from the Temple of Chaos (FF), Pandemonium (FF2), Ultimecia's Castle (FF8), the Crystal World (FF9), and the innards of Sin (FF10). Duking it out are the various heroes of those games, versus their nemeses.
While I don't doubt these scans are old news on the message boards devoted to Final Fantasy, it's still good to get them out in the open, no? Not everyone has the time to go forum-diving after all.
Howdy doody Gaijin. I feel a bit better this time than I did last, but today is nonetheless a sad day. My cat must be put down today, and that makes me wonder what the pets of choice are in Japan.
Sorry to hear that. Oki no doku ni. Pets are very much a fashion choice in Japan these days. A certain series of commercials have glamourized the chihuahua, while miniature dachshunds are also very popular. Unfortunately, rescue shelters are often ignored in favor of overpriced pet store offerings. Seriously, how can anyone pay $800 for an American Shorthair cat? For the younger folks, pets are whatever they can catch. Crabs, cicadas, large beetles, anything will do. I think I know who the smarter group is.
Your own previous column and my accidental discovery of The Rhapsody of Zephyr make me wonder how much heed the Japanese gaming public pays to games developed in other Asian nations. I know South Korea is a sizable market of its own - how much material does China produce now?
China is an untapped resource right now. I'd imagine that the number of Chinese-language games being made in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Taipei is actually rather large though. We'll be seeing more from that quarter in the future, I'm sure. As for Korea, they own a huge share of the MMORPG market in Japan these days.
All these mahjong games in Japan makes me think the game is rather popular. Am I right?
Well... wish me luck today. She's been a loyal cat to me and I hate having to see her die.
I feel your pain, man. How about we drown our sorrows, and then blow a few thousand yen gambling at a mah-jongg club? There must be a few dozen in this town alone. Just don't tell my girlfriend I went to one, okay? I'd never hear the end of it. Seedy establishments, they usually are.
And that's it for today. There may or may not be a column next week, depending on whether or not I get any writing done while in Miyazaki. Magic 8-ball says "Do not bet on it," however.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,