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JAPANDEMONIUM
 
kikuzuki no mika
Daidai-iro
Konnichiwa

The vocabulary of the Japanese is full of color, but strangely enough there are only four true color adjectives in the language: kuroi (black), shiroi (white), akai (red), and aoi (any of three shades of blue depending on the kanji). A few others, like midori (green), kurenai (scarlet), and murasaki (purple), are nouns that are often used as adjectives by adding the particle -no to the end.

The majority of color words in Japanese are created by adding -iro (color) to the end of another word. So, nezumi-iro (mouse-color) and hai-iro (ash-color) both stand for grey. Mizu-iro (water-color) is sky blue, while cha-iro (tea-color) is brown. Ruri-iro (blue like lapis-lazuli) and shion-iro (violet like an aster flower) have largely been forgotten outside of literary usage. I'm not quite sure if neri-iro even has a name in English, but it looks like this. Bara-iro (rose) and momo-iro (peach) are both shades of pink, but in common use they're slowly being supplanted by a foreign interloper -- pinku.

Then there's daidai-iro, which is still listed in my students' notebooks as the color orange, but which I have never seen used. Orenji is a far more common word in Japanese these days. One day, out of curiosity, I looked it up.

The daidai is a variety of ornamental citrus, originally from China but exported broadly throughout its sphere of influence. Its name is derived from a word meaning "several generations," because of its one truly singular feature: daidai fruit that is left on the branch will not fall off on its own, nor will it go bad. Instead, the fruits will actually unripen, regressing back to a green and immature state, and wait for the next fruiting season.

Nature truly can be amazing sometimes.

Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
3 New Arrival! Hyperdimension Neptune Compile Heart
4 Last seen at 3 Inazuma Eleven 3 Spark/Bomber Level-5
6 Last seen at 4 Tales of Phantasia - Narikiri Dungeon CROSS Bandai-Namco
11 Last seen at 6 Dragon Quest Monsters Battle Road Victory Square Enix
16 Last seen at 12 Kamen Rider Gambaride Card Battle Challenge Bandai-Namco
17 Last seen at 18 Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G (PSP the Best) Capcom
18 Last seen at 17 Pokémon Heart Gold / Soul Silver Nintendo
19 Last seen at 22 Harvest Moon - Twin Town Marvelous
27 Last seen at 19 Fire Emblem - Mystery of the Symbol, Hero of Light and Shadow Nintendo
28 Last seen at 30 Metal Fight BeyBlade - Attack of Susano'o Hudson

A while back I signed up for the Falcom Japan newsletter, and about once a week I get an email full of cramped Japanese script, mostly about minor updates or merchandising. I've been a little bad about reading through them, since the font's a little hard on my eyes. This week I checked the mail though, and I got a nice surprise. Falcom emailed an embedded video of the trailer for Legend of Heroes - Zero no Kiseki to the world at large. At three minutes in length, it gives a pretty decent impression of how the game looks in action. Here, see for yourselves:

Y'know, this game makes me wish I could afford a PSP of my own right now.

Source: Dengeki Online

As regular readers of RPGamer probably know, JuMeSyn is famous for his long, multi-question letters to Japandemonium and the Q&A column. I've already chipped two questions off his latest letter to me, and I figured I'd print the thing in its entirety this week. Then Fate swooped in and made another of his minor questions topical.

JuMeSyn asks...

Just to get you talking on a favorite subject: would you say SaGa 3 or Romancing SaGa 3 is more likely to be remade?

I'd have to say this question is moot now. SaGa 3 has just been announced for the DS in this week's Famitsu. While I enjoyed it sixteen years ago, I can't say that I'm particularly looking forward to a remake. There are a few things I'd have to see in order to decide on a purchase.

Criterion #1 - Story. All three SaGa games suffered from this, as the early GameBoy carts just didn't have the memory for both a game and large amounts of text. The first two made do without, largely by presenting the player with varied, separate worlds and NPCs whose paths just happened to cross with the party's at that point. Giving the player full control of the party's composition helped.

SaGa 3 went a different route, providing four set characters to use, a pair of largely unified worldmaps, and an attempt at a single, coherent story involving time travel and interplanar invaders. By any modern standard, the story fails. The set characters have little personality or character development, the time travel aspect is poorly managed, and it has so many plot holes that it could pass for lacework.

Again, it's not like the first two SaGa games have superb stories either, but they have other things to back them up. So, criterion #2 for me to consider is gameplay. The first two games allowed for an amazing amount of variety in terms of just who and what the player could put in the party. SaGa 2 was particularly good about this, with physically and magically inclined humanoids (of both genders), robots, and monsters that could morph into any of 36 clades (with five tiers of monsters to a clade). Added to this was almost a dozen weapon types that often worked in very different ways. In short, great variety and replay value was to be had.

The original SaGa 3's combat is a clone of the Final Fantasy formula, complete with set equipment layouts, magic points, and leveling by experience -- this last part making it the odd man out of the entire series. While players could opt to transform the characters into Monsters, Beastmen, Cyborgs, or Robots, the choices available in the original are limited by level ranges, and in the end-game only eight non-human character types are actually available. Compare this to the 36 varieties of god-tier monsters in SaGa 2 and it just seems lacking.

I really hope the developers in charge of the remake take these items into account. I believe it's possible to do a good job with this game and make it worlds better than what it was. But I also recognize that it has a lot farther to go to reach that point, compared to its immediate predecessor.

Now that I'm done editorializing, let's look at the pretty pictures, shall we?










Well, they're off to a good start. The dev team is obviously building off their work in SaGa 2 in terms of visuals and level design. I'm more interested in the combat screens below. They've added SaGa 2's combo system into the mix, but there's more to it than that. In this week's Famitsu, skill-learning is described as being "real-time" in battles, which means they've brought in a version of the Glimmer System, complete with little light bulb, wherein new techniques are learned on the fly in battle. This has been a staple of the series since Romancing SaGa 2, and it should make combat much more interesting. One last thing that's interesting is that in several of the screens, little messages pop up after attacks. Things like "Strength UP!" and "Max HP UP!" make me wonder if they haven't revamped the leveling system a bit as well.

Storywise, it's hard to say at this point, but apparently this game allows the player to make some choices in scenarios that may affect the outcome, or at least the dialogue. The degree to which changes can be made (or for that matter, the degree to which the source material has been fleshed out), remains to be seen.



















I'm definitely more optimistic about this title now than I was when I started writing this section, that's for sure. Still, the biggest hope I'm getting out of all this is that, now that they've set a definite trend for remakes in this series, they'll soon move on to the two remaining Romancing SaGa titles.

And Jumes, sorry about this, but time constraints forced me to bump coverage for the new Super Robot Wars title till next column. Gomenasai!

Source: Famitsu Online

This past Wednesday, Sega opened a new teaser site. It won't be forthcoming with any details (such as a name) for this new game until September 16th, so until then all we have to go on is the image on the page.


So, how many Sega series can we name that involve tanks?

Source: Famitsu Online

Yuuki Nobuteru, in his role as character designer for CyberConnect2, is definitely one of the major draws of the upcoming Solatorobo (and I'm still not satisfied with their choice of title). He's worked on quite a few animated productions in the past, but Western audiences might also know him from his work on Tail Concerto, for the Playstation. I'm more familiar with his work for the government of Fukuoka Prefecture, a series of public-service disaster preparedness pamphlets, email images, and posters he designed starring Mamoru-kun (whose name is a homophone for "protect" in Japanese).

As CyberConnect2 would have it, Tail Concerto, Mamoru-kun, and Solatorobo all exist in the same world, Little Tail Bronx. Solatorobo has just gone from a spiritual sequel to an indirect one as its hero, Red Savarin, meets several foreigners over the course of a few side-quests.






From the continent of Prairie comes the Black Cat Gang, headed by Alicia and her little sisters. Waffle, hero of Tail Concerto, and his sidekick Banta are following close behind as they try to prevent an international crime wave.





From the continent of Nipon, Mamoru and his dad have come to spread the word about disaster preparedness, and don't hesitate to help Red out when he gets into a pinch of his own.









I might just get this one. It'll depend on my finances, but I always liked Mamoru-kun's art design, and this game is a lot more of the same vein.

Source: Dengeki Online
Independents Day!

Gaijin,

I have a couple more questions for you this week.

What is the #1 most interesting "doujin" (independent / low budget) Japanese PC game you haven't told us about yet? Would you tell us about it? The upcoming Recettear inspired me to ask this question.

Gaijin

To be honest, I'm still trying to get my act together on the doujin game market. I've commented on them in the past, but only if one gets a high enough profile that it appears in more mainstream gaming news outlets in Japan. Right now I'm keeping my eye on this site, which has some nice screens for Territoire (from the guys who made Recettear).

Seriously though, the only reasons I might have to not mention a doujin game in this column are if #1, it's cell phone only, and I forget to include it in the column for three weeks straight (the main reason why Inotia Chronicle never made an appearance), or if it's #2, pornographic (not that that's stopped me before, but April 1st is a special case).

If and when I do find something interesting, I will put it in the column. I promise. In fact, I was going to include some things this week, but life stepped in and took almost all my free time away. I'll get to it soon!

I am reading a Japanese manga (you know, in Japanese). Any good advice on what to do if I get stuck? Or what to do in general if you're stumped when reading Japanese text? I'm looking for general advice, not specific.

Thanks,

Jack Dietz

Gaijin

My first suggestion is to always pick your reading material carefully. Manga covers every reading level from first grade to collegiate, so if one's thinking of taking up manga in the original language, it's best to start low and work up. From the way you say it, I'm assuming you have a specific manga in mind to read, so I hope it's one with furigana (phonetic notation) on it. Most manga made for elementary and middle school kids, and especially any published by Shonen Jump, will have furigana next to all the kanji. Beyond that, invest in a good dictionary, and learn how to use kanji look-up systems online. I usually recommend this site. Also there's the obvious fact that the images in manga give tons of context, and from that you can more easily figure out what people are saying.

Probably the biggest problem with reading manga in Japanese is that the writers will use very natural spoken language throughout, and if all you know is standard school-taught Japanese, then there'll be a lot of catching up to do. There are all sorts of colloquial or non-standard tense endings in Japanese, not to mention several dozen alternative pronouns. Without going into all sorts of specific examples, all I can say is, keep your brain open for patterns, and take notes if you see something repeat in the grammar.

What are you reading, by the way?

Long story short, a sudden change in my social life has left me with precious little free time. The next column's going up when the next column's going up, and I'm hoping that it will be next week. It may not be. Thankfully, the situation at hand is bound to change soon, so this isn't going to be a permanent state of affairs.

It's not helping that this is officially the hottest summer Japan has seen since Meiji 31 (1898 A.D.).

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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