Happy belated Halloween! This column is coming in a little late for several reasons, but the one we're talking about is parties. I had three Halloween parties to go to over the course of a week, only one of which I attended for fun. The other two were for business (though they were no less entertaining).
The big one was last Saturday, when I invited all my students — plus any friends, siblings, or cousins who wanted to join in — to the community center where I have classes. My friend Leonardo and I had plans to decorate the entire first floor and then have snacks and drinks on the second floor. So when the kiddoes arrived, this is what they saw.
My friend is an old hand at this, and he's been accumulating backdrops and decorations for over a decade. We practiced Halloween vocabulary, told stories, and Leo even did a short magic show in his Iron Man costume. We had forty-nine kids show up, ranging in age from two to twelve.
The real hero for the day, however, was my friend Nozomi, without whom we would not have managed half so well. She kept the kids in line, helped out kindergartners during the bingo game, and saved the snack area from certain chaos. She was amazing.
Nozomi and I have been dating officially for three weekends now, two of which were taken up with Halloween fun and games. It's been a blast, and we both got great comments from people on the street as we strolled down the shopping arcade in costume on the 27th. We weren't the only ones dressed up, though a lot of women opted for the basic kitty cat or cutie devil costumes, and very few men were dressed up at all. We did see a few interesting people here and there, though.
Anyone who has played Solatorobo probably remembers Mamoru-kun, the plucky young dog-person who was on a personal mission to spread the word on disaster preparedness. CyberConnect 2 created him to be the main character of a series of informative manga for Fukuoka Prefecture years ago. Since March of 2011, he's also been involved in raising funds for disaster relief following the Tohoku earthquake.
Starting this week, Mamoru-kun's Reconstruction Support Project enters its seventh iteration. For 100 yen (about US$1.20), you can receive a digital art file of Mamoru or his friends in A4 print, Android, or iPhone sizes, with many different artists delivering their own takes on the material.
CyberConnect 2 has also made available a PDF detailing Mamoru-kun's own little corner of the Little Tale Bronx universe. It's all in Japanese, but interesting all the same. I'm kind of hoping the company gets the go-ahead to finally give Mamoru his own game, to be honest.
In related news, Cyberconnect 2 is offering the third volume of Solatorobo's perfect works, Starlet, at two events next month. The Tokyo event will be held at the CC2 headquarters on December 1st, while the Osaka event will be in Namba Mido on December 8th. If anyone thinks they might be able to attend either of these (free admission, apparently) then email me for more details. I'd love to hear about what happens at these things.
While the PS Vita has hardly been flooded with RPG titles as of yet, the tide is slowly changing. Developers are definitely noticing the potential of this handheld console, for better or for worse. Here's one vita title that was announced just this week.
From Compile Heart comes Genkai Tokki Monster Monpiece. The first part of that translates as "Knight that sticks out," more or less. It's a pretty irregular combination of symbols. Unlike most Compile Heart games, Monpiece is card-based. Like pretty much every Compile Heart game, however, it involves cute girls.
Going from left to right, we have Mei, Fia, Karen, and Elsa. Mei is the main character of the game. In the world of Yafanir many sorts of monster-girls co-exist with humanity, and Mei is studying how to be a Monster Master at the famous Academy. Her friends Karen and Elsa are also students there, though with different focuses. Fia is a monster-girl from the Fenrir clan who's been assigned to Mei as a partner and bodyguard.
Yafanir is described as a broad world dominated by two great pillars known as the Hammers of God. Scattered across the world are pieces of Magus Quartz which have some macguffin-like importance that hasn't been quite explained yet. Unfortunately, after a chance meeting with a strange man, Elsa becomes Lost (again, significance unknown, but presumably bad) and sets out to find all the Magus Quarts. Mei, Karen, and Fia have to stop her.
As I said before, this game is card-based. There's a three-by-seven grid with clearly marked sides and a neutral zone of sorts down the middle. The player and opponent must place their cards to summon the corresponding monster-girls, who will do all the fighting. It is noted in the Famitsu article that the Vita's touch screen capabilities will be used to allow the player to make the girls jiggle in appropriate places. That's Compile Heart for you...
This game promises over a hundred different cards to be found, some of which will definitely be from DLC and special codes for early-bird buyers. Monster Monpiece should be in stores on January 24th.
Square Enix has had some interesting, albeit irregular, game titles in recent years. This next one, however... I have no idea what the devs meant that last word to be. The name of the game is Bravely Default: Praying Brage.
On second thought, while the katakana makes "brage" rhyme with "cage," making that G hard and that final E sound like "ay" would get you the Japanese shorthand for "browser game." And as it turns out, that's exactly what this is — a MMO browser game set two centuries after the events in Bravely Default: Flying Fairy. Now the world is split, with the survivors of the first game's aftermath living on four floating islands protected by crystals aligned with the four elemental forces. At the behest of the crystal priestesses (all of whom share a surname with the heroine of Flying Fairy), the player must go forth to slay monsters, battle the forces of rival islands, and generally promote the domination of his or her particular element. The game also includes the same job system as its 3DS sister, with more than twenty jobs available.
Bravely Default: Praying Brage is currently in beta-testing.
Nowadays it seems like every company is trying to cash in on the iPhone or Android. Sometimes these games are really lacking the spark that made their series popular. Other times they're ports or remakes of older games that may or may not be readily accessible to modern players. This is one of the latter.
Atlus and Index are making the original Shin Megami Tensei available for iPhone and Android.
The game has also been remade to allow for on the go play, so switching the Android from vertical to horizontal will automatically put it into sleep mode for convenience, it seems. If you get it by Wednesday, it'll only cost you 800 yen. After that, it's 1200 yen. That's more than the Super Famicom cartridge would cost you, maybe on par with the PSX release prices, and far, far less than the price of the GBA port.
We've got one more title for the PSP Vita today: Demon Gaze. After the relative success of Students of Round and its various ports, the guys at Experience got the go-ahead to make more dungeon crawlers. I haven't actually played anything by these guys, so I cannot comment on their past history. Still, this one looks interesting enough.
On the left is the game's protagonist, Oz. Note his right eye, because it's integral here. In the world of Demon Gaze, people like the protagonist use the powers of the evil eye to bind and control demons. Considering the other gameplay elements, I'm wondering how big an influence the MegaTen series had on this game. Anyway, on the right is Fran Bendoll, the proprietresss of the local pub and information / questing center. Apparently the player will even be able to romance her, as evidenced by this picture (note, possibly NSFW). Frankly, that's more the sort of thing I'd expect from a Compile Heart game.
The demons in this world are a varied lot. In typical anime fashion, many of them are also adorably cute. That is, until they get angry. The how and the why are not spelled out in the Famitsu article, but demons may run amok from time to time, attacking friend and foe indiscriminately. The way the article states this makes it sound like it can happen to both wild and tamed demons, so this should add a bit more excitement to the game at least.
Demon Gaze is due out in stores next January, though an exact date has yet to be announced.
I almost forgot, but my fifth anniversary as the Japandemonium guy has just come and gone. My, how time flies. What are everyone's favorite memories from JP? I hope that there are at least a few good ones out there.