hazuki no kokonoka
Kekkon yubiwa

Well, it's been a month and a bit since the last Japandemonium column, and I suppose that you all have been wondering what I've been up to. At least, I hope you all have. I'd hate to be so easily forgotten. Let me tell you, July was a busy month in Hi-no-Kuni.

First, I had to move across town just as Japan was entering its first heat wave of the season (37°C in the shade). My friend Leo helped, and his keen sense of spatial properties combined with a blasé attitude towards vehicular safety helped me to move most of my belongings in just three trips. Not bad for a family car.

So now we have a new place, mine and Nozomi's. We moved in sooner than planned as a result of some horse-trading over rent. We got a new A/C installed, gratis, which was definitely a deal-maker.

Then my parents arrived on the 20th for a whirlwind tour of central Kyushu. They visited the shrine at Dazaifu, sat in for one of my kindergarten lessons, and stayed a night at the wonderful Okyakuya ryotei (Japanese traditional inn) at Kurokawa. And that was just the first four days.

The day after our ryokan visit, we toured the Aso area with my soon-to-be sister-, mother-, and nephew-in-law.

And on Friday, we had the big day.

So yes, I had a really busy month. Time to catch up!

Co-op monster-hunting games are a strong genre these days, and Capcom's starting up another one. Unlike its popular Monster Hunter series, this one has a strong shonen vibe to it. In fact, it looks a bit like the classic anime series Saint Seiya crossed with Level-5's Cardboard Senki.

In this vision of the reasonably near future, a mysterious metallic element has been discovered deep beneath Japan. This element proves to be a remarkable energy source, and soon the technology of the entire world recenters to incorporate it. Not long after, though... Well, let's cut to the film:

In case you missed it, only a couple of years after the new element goes into broad use, giant monsters composed of the same element appear across the planet. No one's sure where they came from, or why they resemble mythical entities like dragons or phoenixes, but publicly they are known as Gaists.

In the years since, a class of warriors known as Gaist Crushers have risen to combat the haphazard monster invasions. Taking materials from the very creatures they defeat, they go around in powered armor suits with names like Flame Fenrir or Wind Garuda. I assume there is some sort of plot in there, since all the characters have proper names and personality profiles.

Gaist Crusher is scheduled to go on sale on December 5th of this year. While it's not listed as an RPG, there are stats and experience points involved, and for that matter Monster Hunter isn't listed as an RPG in Japan either. So what do you all think? Does it pass muster for inclusion in the RPGestalt?

Source: Dengeki Online

I considered tracking the sales rankings for the entire while that I was away, but the prospects of doing so without a regular internet connection was too daunting. Instead, I'm starting from the data available as of August 1st, 2013. Dragon's Crown, The Witch and the 100 Knights, and Fantasy Life LINK! are all new releases as of the week of July 22nd. Youkai Watch, Mario & Luigi RPG 4, and the latest upgrade of Cardboard Senki all came out about a week before that. And, of course, Pokémon maintains its presence indefinitely.

7/29 ~ 8/5 7/22 ~ 7/28 Title Publisher Platform
3 5 Mario & Luigi RPG 4 Nintendo
6 New Arrival! Mind ≒ 0 Acquire
7 7 Youkai Watch Level-5
9 8 Fantasy Life LINK! Level-5
11 4 The Witch and the 100 Knights Nippon Ichi
12 3 Dragon's Crown Atlas
15 2 Dragon's Crown Atlas
18 13 Cardboard Senki W Super Custom Level-5
30 30 Pokémon Black 2 / White 2 Pokémon Company

As far as game companies go, Gust is rather dependable. The Atelier series has been a longtime bulwark of the sub-genre that it helped to create, and while the company occasionally spawns new IPs, they often don't fall too far from what the company is known for. Case in point:

Chronos Materia is set in a wide, verdant world — beautiful and untouched by human hands, which leads to a very important question. Just how did a bunch of kids get here in the first place?

That is the basic point of the plot. Five youngsters — Iris, Thyme, Primula (Primrose), Shion (Aster), and Licorice — find themselves stranded in this empty realm with absolutely no idea how they got here or how they can get home. Iris at least has a valuable skill, alchemy, at her disposal, and Thyme has some pretensions of being an adventurer. Presumably the other three have their own special skills. For every other conceivable job at hand, we have homunculi.

These are certainly more lifelike than most artificial humanoids to come out of the Gust factory, and they come in a wide variety of types. Besides the more prosaic Witch, Magic Swordsman, and Summoner types, there are also Star Singers, Amaterasu-shi (Divinity Master?), Battle Maiden, Moon Priestess, and Holy Tree Girl. The actual roles these homunculi fill aren't always easy to guess, so I'm kind of interested in seeing where they go with this.

At least this part is very familiar, taking both elements of the Atelier series and the 2010 collaborative effort Nora's Studio. Materials gained from killing monsters can be rendered down to provide raw materials. Using a mysterious artifact called the Eternal Coil, materials can become useful items, and new paths can be opened to times that have been or may be. Iris et co. can only hope that this can somehow lead them home.

Combat and exploration are mainstays of the experience, though neither looks as flashy as what's been seen in the more recent Atelier titles. This might be a good thing, as it could mean that more attention was paid to area design and interaction. We'll just have to see.

Chronos Materia hits the shelves on September 26th, but unfortunately I don't have a PS Vita with which to enjoy it. If I should ever pick one up, this (and the other Gust Vita titles) will be on my to-buy list.

Source: Famitsu Online

Just a short one here, because this is all the info I have. Square Enix is bringing another classic GameBoy title to the 3DS in remade form. Dragon Quest Monsters 2: Iru to Ruka no Fushigina Fushigina Kagi, or to give a likely subtitle in English, Cobi & Tara's Strange and Mysterious Key, is a remake of the GameBoy Color title. Apparently the remake devs decided to forego the paired versions of the original release.

Beyond that title pic, we have nothing else on this title. No screens, no art, estimated time of arrival, just a teaser site.

Source: Dengeki Online

Metal Max 4: The Moonlight Diva still has about four months to go before release, but the special box pre-order goodies have just been announced, and man do they sound enticing to the fan in me. Aside from the obligatory soundtrack CD, there's an A4-size micro-fiber cloth with a map of the entire game region and an 84-page comic book done by the head artist. Oh, and these guys as well:

These are the four generals of the Grappler Gang, the primary villains of Metal Max 2. The four of them are bundled in a set of exclusive special box DLC as optional Wanted monsters. Considering how much trouble it was to take down Ted Broiler — he of the blue jumpsuit, red mohawk, and gauntlet-mounted flamethrowers — in his original game, I'm looking forward to taking him on with a modern-game arsenal at hand. Just the ability to freely use healing items would make him easier to handle.

The other major item of DLC is costuming. The player will be able to dress the playable characters as various character types from Metal Max 3 and Metal Max 2: Reloaded, which is a bit of a relief. I'm still not entirely sold on some of these character designs.

Still, it looks to be an interesting and varied cast. At any given time, the player can use three characters and a canine in battle, but this time around it seems like the player is able to switch things around at any time outside of battle, which is a nice change. That was definitely something that Season of Steel could have improved upon.

Speaking of Season of Steel, Metal Max 4 is borrowing another idea from it. In SoS, there was a customizable cannon called the O-DEN, which was built of modular parts that strangely resembled Japanese food items. It's back in MM4 as the Yakitori Cannon, and it's just as odd as ever.

Metal Max 4: The Moonlight Diva is in stores November 7th, and I have my reservation already made.

Source: Famitsu Online
Title Publisher Release Date Platform
Mind≒0 Acquire 8.1.13
Yakuza I & II HD Sega 8.8.13
Shining Blade Sega 8.8.13
One Piece Romance Dawn Bandai-Namco 8.8.13
Conception II Spike/Chunsoft 8.15.13
Dungeons & Dragons: Shadows Over Mystara Capcom 8.15.13
Super Robot Wars OG Saga: Maso Kijin III Pride of Justice Bandai-Namco 8.15.13
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Square Enix 8.27.13
Ragnarok Odyssey Ace Gung-Ho 8.29.13
Source: Dengeki Online

Sorry to keep you all waiting so long. The next column shouldn't take nearly so long, I hope.

And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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