There's a section of Famitsu Weekly that I don't check regularly -- the cell phone game rankings. Perhaps I should. The last time I looked, back in September, nine out of the ten games listed were RPGs. This week, there are three: Dragonball RPG, Romancing SaGa (port of the WSC version, I think), and Dragon Quest III (port of the GBC version with improved graphics, available in two installments).
Those are some pretty major titles right there, but they're not the only games to talk about on the cell networks these days. So, even though no one outside of Japan could ever play them, I'll be talking a lot about this sort of game this week and in weeks to come.
Because they are interesting and deserve attention.
First up today we have Alphadia IV, obviously the latest in a series which no one in the West (myself included) has even heard of before. This is a shame, as it looks quite good. The battle system seems to incorporate elements of the ATB system from Final Fantasy IV with a touch of X added to spice things up. The story has a cliché "search for the Crystals" premise, but the plot summary on the game's homepage fleshes it out into a struggle between races on a distant world ruled by six forces. After centuries of tensions, the situation ignites as crystals fall from the heavens, each one alligned with a force. So far, five such crystals have been recovered, but while it is assumed that a sixth crystal exists, no one knows where it may be.
Other points in its favor include some nice SNES-era graphics and a cooking system that allows for experimentation. One thing that surprises me is that the game comes with two price tags -- 525 yen for the regular version, and 630 yen for the voiced version. While I have no idea how much voice acting a cell phone game can manage, the fact that it has any at all leaves me astounded.
On the Kemco website, there's even a video for the game that includes the opening story sequence. Here, have a look:
OK, so it doesn't mean much if you can't read the text, but the music's not half bad.
Next up is The Summoner of Glamkahd, a card-based real-time sim fantasy game. The player can mix and match any combination of over 360 character cards to create his or her own party for combat. Apparently it's even possible to merge two different character cards to create a completely different warrior. After they've got their six chosen warriors gathered, it's time to challenge other players on the network to combat.
This title is available on a subscription model for 315 yen a month, and the second set of support, command, and character cards has just become available.
The original Famitsu Weekly article I read didn't mention any story for this title, but a look through the game's home page filled me in. Long, long ago, there were five races in Glamkahd: Fairies, Mystics, Beastmen, Mechans, and Humans. Over the ages, however, these races disappeared one by one until only Humanity was left behind. The only remnants of the other races are mysterious cards said to be created by the Mystic race. Contained in each card is the soul of a warrior from ancient times. For those with the power to tap these souls, there is the chance for great fame. There are apparently five nations from which to choose, and thousands of players to challenge.
Unfortunately, though the game's home page is bright and full of pictures, I don't know how to pull images out of Flash sites. Via Google I was only able to find the following card:
Be sure to check out the website for more pretty pictures!
Almost two years back, we commented on a phone title called Fly Height Cloudia, and it looked pretty good. At the end of October the next game in the seris, Fly Height Frontier went online, and it's looking to break some download records. What's so interesting? Well, let's look at the laundry list of features mentioned by Famitsu: fully optimized for cell gaming, a free quest system that promises a lot of content beyond the main story and allows the player to make his own decisions as to what sorts of quests are offered, a personalized airship with lots of customization options, and a job class system with 50 branches to exploit.
Heck, that looks better than some DS titles I've seen out there recently. Frontier's story picks up a few decades after Cloudia, with the player-created character joining Reinas (hero of Cloudia) in the Baldia United National Front. What happens after the introductory quests is anyone's guess. Well, unless they've played the game already and know what goes on. I really should upgrade my phone soon....
Our last title of the week is Kikai Gakuen VANIS, which was one of the titles at the top of the rankings when I checked back in September. It's a school-based sim-RPG, and like most games of the genre it alternates between school sequences and battle events. Players receive quests from the student council, and defeat monsters to gain points that can be exchanged for skills or weapons upgrades.
For the story itself, we only know the setup. On an artificial island off the coast of Japan, there's a special school created to train fighters to defend the country against the strange monsters now plaguing it. Much of the curriculum is centered on the Variable Artificial Nanite Intermixture Suits (VANIS), the primary weapons against the invading hordes.
I'm wondering if there are any good resources for learning Japanese so I
can play import RPGs, mainly the Tales series. I tried Rosetta Stone
Japanese and afterward imported Tales of Destiny: Director's Cut, but
was only able to recognize some of the vocabulary like "Eye of God".
Some help would be appreciated.
I was about two paragraphs into a reply when I realized why your email name was familiar, so I erased all the basic stuff on import gaming. I'm pretty sure you know kana and the basics of Japanese grammar by now.
So what's the problem at hand? If it's purely a grammar problem, then I can commiserate. The level of grammar taught in a Japanese course hardly prepares one for the variety of language as it is found in some games. Unfortunately it's also a harder issue to address, since there aren't many sites on the internet that teach more than the rudiments (or at least, that I'm aware of). For more advanced stuff you'll need to take a course or at least invest in a good textbook for some self-study.
If it's a kanji problem, that might be easier to deal with. Kanji-a-Day is a subscription site intended to prepare students for the JLPT. It has a decent symbol dictionary and a daily email scheme to encourage study. Mahou.org is a fan-translation site with an online kanji dictionary that's pretty comprehensive and easy to use, once you learn how to manage the radical lookup page. Finally, there's SpeedAnki, a flashcard program designed for kanji study. It's possible that not all the symbols commonly found in video games are included though, since there are some pretty obscure kanji associated with the fantasy genre.
I can't say much more without knowing exactly what level you're at in Japanese, though.
It's a short column this week, but I didn't really have much besides cellphone stuff. Well... actually I did, but it wasn't so interesting and exciting that it was worth breaking the theme. I should be back to regular updates until Christmas though.