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JAPANDEMONIUM
 
hazuki no nijuunana
Natsukashisa
Konnichiwa

For all that their popular culture seems to barrel perpetually towards the Next Big Thing, the Japanese can be quite nostalgic at times. It's no different than anywhere else, really -- everyone's got their own precious memories of enjoyment past. It just seems to get buried under the constant barrage of new media over here. Leave it to JuMeSyn to ask it best:

JuMeSyn asks...

What spawned the recent resurgence in Dragon Ball's popularity? Last I checked, shows that ended years ago tend not to see gigantic outpourings of fresh merchandising, right?

To approach the answer from an odd angle, let's consider Star Trek in America. It was a low-budget science fiction drama plagued by ratings and executive apathy -- hence the fact that they barely finished its third season before it was canceled for good. How does this translate into almost a dozen movies, five spin-off series, and umpteen novels? Nostalgia. The kids who tuned in faithfully in the '60s and continued to watch it in syndication grew up to be a major adult audience in the '70s and '80s, and that led to Star Trek's rebirth.

Dragon Ball and a handful of other manga fall into a similar category. This includes shows like Gundam, Golgo 13, Lupin III, and Evangelion, as well as more family-oriented series like Astro Boy, Doraemon, Sazae-san, and Kochi-Kame (world-record holder for longest continuous pubication of an illustrated serial). Whether through good quality, good marketing, or good timing, these series helped to define -- or even create -- their niche genres. That's why they've seen so many remakes, spin-offs, revisitations, movies, or even complete series reboots -- for whatever reason, they've risen above 99.99% of all fiction in this country and become part of the public consciousness.

To be accurate though, Dragon Ball's merchandising hasn't really increased in recent years. It's always been about that level.

I'll print the rest of your letter eventually, I promise!

It's the last update of the month, and that means it's time for more of Hiroyuki Maeda's Lovely Lady Lab. This month, we have two ladies featured -- one from an RPG, the other not.


Our first lady is Tsuruhime, the Crane Princess, from Sengoku Basara 3 (soon to be released stateside as Sengoku Basara - Samurai Heroes). She's described as young and naive, as well as being very skilled with her traditional Japanese bow.


Our second lady should be more familiar to many in the audience. Originally appearing in Tales of Phantasia, Mint Adenade makes a return in the remade sequel Tales of Phantasia Narikiri Dungeon - Cross Edition.

Source: Famitsu Weekly
Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
3 Last seen at 5 Inazuma Eleven 3 Spark/Bomber Level-5
4 Last seen at 1 Tales of Phantasia - Narikiri Dungeon CROSS Bandai-Namco
6 Last seen at 10 Dragon Quest Monsters Battle Road Victory Square Enix
12 Last seen at 12 Kamen Rider Gambaride Card Battle Challenge Bandai-Namco
17 Last seen at 22 Pokémon Heart Gold / Soul Silver Nintendo
18 Last seen at 24 Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G (PSP the Best) Capcom
19 Last seen at 15 Fire Emblem - Mystery of the Symbol, Hero of Light and Shadow Nintendo
22 Last seen at 23 Harvest Moon - Twin Town Marvelous
30 Last seen in July Metal Fight BeyBlade - Attack of Susano'o Hudson
Ocelot asks...

So... Catherine. It's never leaving Japan, is it? Either way, what's with the sheep? And are you a bad enough dude to post the trailer in your column?

You know, I hadn't even checked out the trailer until you mailed me about it, but... wow. Let's talk odds here. First, regardless of publisher or development team, this isn't an RPG. It's hard to tell from what's shown in the video, but it looks to be somewhere between an action game like ICO and an adventure title like Heavy Rain, making it an odd game in an odd niche. That's before we even get into the obvious reasons for giving this game an "M for Mature" rating. But... I wouldn't put it past Atlus to try and create a market with this. If they pitched it right, and hit the right crowd with targeted advertising, they could gain a substantial customer base.

As for the ever-present sheep, I can think of a few reasons. One, the sheep has become a symbol for dreams and sleep in Japan, probably from the Western "counting sheep" method of falling asleep. Second, seeing as Vincent (the protagonist) is sporting horns in one part of the clip, I'd imagine the expressions "sacrifical lamb" and "like sheep to the slaughter" might have their place as well. It's going to be a weird game, at any rate.

Oh, and here:

The racy bits are bare glimpses unless you take the time to really slow things down and examine it frame by frame, after all. If I can show Queen's Blade material in this column, I can show this. Also, just for you, I pulled these screens from SiliconEra:








Nick, would-be adventurer and hero of the upcoming Shining Hearts, may currently work at a bakery, but it seems he's got friends in high places. Here are three of them now:




Ragnas and Lufina appear to be the two nicest royal heirs imaginable. Nicknamed the Minstrel Prince, Ragnas can usually be found strumming his harp by the fountain in the royal gardens. Lufina, ever interested in botany and herbs, has got herself the nickname "The Tea Princess." Their personal maid and bodyguard, Lorna, only looks nice and sweet. She's got steel hidden under that lace, and we're not talking pretty metaphors here. Her official job title is all in kanji, translates best as "lady-in-waiting," but actually includes the symbol for samurai.










One interesting new system that has been included in Shining Hearts makes the game's title a bit more relevant. The Mind Over Emotion (MOE) system puts a premium on how the player chooses to interact with the various characters of the game. Different reactions will garner different colors of hearts, which in turn can be used to "broaden the world," in the words of the Famitsu article. Red hearts come from happy reactions. Yellow ones come from anger. Green ones come from being nice, and black ones come from making the person hate you for something. Exactly how these hearts are supposed to be used isn't mentioned, but from the numbers involved in some of the screens I've seen, the player will be collecting a lot of them.





Finally, we have the matter of pre-order goodies. For Shining Hearts, these take the form of the "Pirate Treasure Fan Disc." Among other things, the fan disc contains a soundtrack, voice samples, digital wallpaper and accessories for use on the PC or PSP, a copy of the opening movie, an art booklet, and some cards from the inevitable CCG tie-in. Shining Hearts hits the shelves December 2nd, 2010.


Source: Famitsu Online


Dungeon-delvers, rejoice! Chunsoft recently announced the inevitable continuation of their popular series, Shiren the Wanderer. In Shiren 5 DS - Tower of Fortune, Dice of Fate, the title character and his fuzzy sidekick has yet again come across a problem to solve and a dungeon to conquer in the process. According to this week's Famitsu, the issue at hand is that the village of Inori (last seen in Shiren 2 DS - The Demon Castle of the Sands) is facing a nasty and seemingly unstoppable fate. In order to change that fate, Shiren is asked to climb the Tower of Fortune, at the top of which lives Reeba, God of Fate. Only divine providence can save Inori Village, so an adventure it is! Shiren's new friend for this outing is a girl named Tao, who works as a guide at the Tower of Fortune.




We also know that the tower will be full of monsters, twists, and oddly designed traps, because that's how this series usually works. Hopefully it will work well in this iteration.








Source: Famitsu Online

Where there's a trend, there's a way. Square Enix understands that well enough. With the success of so-called social games like FarmVille, some attempt to duplicate the experience was practically a given. And so S-E is rolling out their very own social game, Knights of the Crystals.



While I'm not sure just yet how it all works out, Knights allows the player to choose a character class, perform quests, and find treasure. Simple enough. The choices of job class include Engineer, Mage, Dark Knight, Warrior, Gunner, Thief, and Paladin. How players are supposed to interact with each other remains to be seen. For the moment, this game is only available on cell phones via the GREE network, but S-E is apparently working on a FaceBook version as well. Following the model set by FarmVille, it's free to play, but allows players to purchase better items with real cash.



Source: Famitsu Weekly

Are you ready to rock? Falcom Japan thinks so, and if you've got the will, they'll provide the way with their new album, "Falcom vs. jdk Band - Summer 2010." Featuring songs from some of their more recent hits (especially Ys Seven), it includes remixes of their most popular bits of game soundtrack as well as a full version of the theme song from the upcoming title, Zero no Kiseki.


Track # Song Title Game
1 "Oretachi no Legend" (Our Legend) Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki
2 "Till the Night of Glory" Sora no Kiseki the 3rd
3 "Mother Earth Altago" Ys Seven
4 "Great Tree" Ys Seven
5 "Shion no Ie" (The Violet House) Sora no Kiseki the 3rd
6 "Majuu Shutsugen" (The Appearance of the Beast) Legend of Heroes II: Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch
7 "To Make the End of Digging" Gurumin
8 "Crossing Rage!" Ys Seven
9 "Legend of the Five Great Dragons" Ys Seven
10 "way of life" Zero no Kiseki

Source: Famitsu Online
To Buy or Not to Buy

Hey Gaijin!

My question for you is this: considering the number of JRPGs being put up on the Japanese PSN store, is it cheaper to buy the digital versions or in most cases can you find it cheaper used?

Thanks! I'm interested to hear your response!

- Sam "Nyx" Marchello

Gaijin

I'm going to have to do a bit of generalizing here. I'm also only going to talk about the PSOne Classics downloadable games, since original copies of good PC-Engine games are a lot rarer and more susceptible to price inflation.

There are several factors that come into play here. The first two are popularity and quantity. How much in demand is a particular game, and how many copies were actually printed? It's possible to get pretty much every Final Fantasy title ever made for between $10 and $20 right now. I think some of the handheld ports actually go for a little more than their console counterparts at this point, but all the disc-based games, including XIII, fall within that range for used prices. I'm not exactly sure how much the PS1 games of the series go for at the Playstation Store, but it can't be much less than that, for no physical media and no pretty game manuals.

One other major factor is how one's retailer of choice wishes to deal with aging media. It seems like the two major game retailers in my area, Tsutaya and GeoGeo, are trying to unload a lot of their older, secondhand games, so PS1 titles have had some dramatic price reduction, and even a lot of less popular PS2 titles are getting the same treatment. I can easily walk into a store with five bucks in hand and get more than one PS1 game right now. Will they be good games? I can't be sure till I play them. Will they be cheaper than a digital version? Probably, but that's assuming there is a digital version for some of the games that I've found. Meremanoid doesn't appear to be available, nor does Ningyo no Rakuin (two of my PS1 purchases this year). Both of the Crime Crackers games are available, but I can get either of those for a dollar, easily.

On the other hand, there are plenty of minor titles that have been included for digital purchase which aren't likely to be seen anywhere else, ever. I know some of Gust's earliest titles, Falkata and The Adventure of Robin Lloyd, are on PSN, but I've never seen a copy of either in stores.

There's one game that I can guarantee is cheaper to get from the Playstation Store though, and that's Weltorv Estleia. While our preview of the title makes it sound quite interesting, I just can't bring myself to pay the $45 price that GeoGeo has given it.

Does any of this sound helpful? Thanks for writing in, and sorry it took so long to actually get to answering it.

Speaking of nostalgia, last week I found the entire series of Dragon Quest - Legend of Abel (shown in the US as Dragon Warrior) for rent at the local GeoGeo. I borrowed the first DVD, enjoyed it immensely, but when I went back to get the rest, the series had mysteriously disappeared from the spot where I'd seen it last. Very annoying.

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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