On a stormy day in November, the students of Gekkoukan High School's Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad sit in their dorm as the school's Culture Day festival is washed out. In another part of Japan, the Investigation Team, students from Yaso-Inaba City's Yasogami High, are coming to the end of their own Culture Day festivities. Then the bell tolls.
They do not ask for whom the bell tolls, for it obviously tolls for them. These students know the terror of the Shadows and the power of the Persona, and nothing could be too surprising for them at this point. The heroes of Persona 3 are pulled into a slightly different version of their familiar Velvet Room, while the heroes of Persona 4 watch as their alma mater twists and warps into a Shadow-infested dungeon. Then 3 meets 4, and things get crazy.
No one's sure why or how these two groups of crazy kids have been drawn together, but there they are. Like any good story, this one has more than one side to it, and depending on the player's choice of hero the game's scenarios take different paths.
A few mysteries remain constant. Why is there now a clock tower outside of Yasogami High? Why have the Gekkoukan kids been pulled in? And who the heck are these two?
Rei and Zen are apparently first-year students at Yasogami High, except that no one really remembers them being there before now. Rei is sunny and happy, and able to summon corndogs and sweets seemingly out of nowhere. The kanji for her name traslates as "the sound of jewels," for what it's worth. Her best friend, Zen, takes his name from the kanji for "good," not the one for "contemplation." Either way, it doesn't suit him well.
We know this game's by the Etrian devs, but beyond that it's hard to say just how it'll play out. Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth has a sales date of June 5th, 2014, so there is plenty of time to find out.
It's a sad fact that Japan won't get the PlayStation 4 until late February, but at least we've got lots of time to check out the upcoming releases. While the one RPG I tried for that system back in September left me with a lackluster impression, there are more impressive items on the horizon. The first one to mention is NAtURAL DOCtRINE (Kadokawa Games insists on that spelling).
According to the Famitsu article, the devs are striving to break new ground and set a new standard for strategy RPGs, which are big hopes to pin on a young IP and an untested console.
The title might in some way refer to the normal balance between human and non-human races in many fantasy games. The devs are quick to point out that in this game the humans are not necessarily good, nor are the non-humans necessarily bad. An example given is how humans might raid a non-human mine in order to steal a motherlode of the precious radiant ore that serves as the plot's main macguffin. While neither side is right or wrong, they are definitely at each other's throats.
Nevertheless, the main cast seems to be limited to humans. Zekelinde, Jeff, Anca, and Vasilisa are all members of the military guard of Veste City, though each has his or her own reasons and aspirations. They're assigned to protect the interests of the human-run mining operations. Mel, on the other hand, is a Golem-using brat who doesn't trust anyone, human or non. Whether there will be any explicitly non-human races represented as protagonists is yet to be seen.
I'm not sure how best to describe the action here, though it certainly looks different. Parallels to Valkyria Chronicles may be relevant here. In any case, the battles seem to include zones of maneuvering, formation-based combo attacks, and the ability to demolish parts of the scenery in order to progress in unexpected ways.
NAtURAL DOCtRINE won't be out till February 22nd due to its multi-platform release for the PS4, PS3, and PS Vita. I might pick up the PS3 version sometime next year. It does look awfully tempting.
In the past, Hyperdimension Neptune has taken us to various visions of the game industry as an actual universe. Now, in Cho-Megami Shinkou Noir: Gekigami Black Heart (Hyper Goddess Belief System Noir: Super Divine Black Heart), Compile Heart takes us to the world of Gemushijou (Gamarket), an allegorical representation of Japan's video game market. How the Black Heart Goddess Noir arrived at a mirror version of Gamindustri is unknown, but this technicolor realm needs her help. And, in a first for this series, she'll get loads of tactical assistance.
Which is to say, this game is a tactical RPG. All the usual console and company avatars make an appearance, but what characters remain to be introduced, well, there lies the mystery.
Hyper Goddess ... Noir (etc. etc.) is due out on the PS Vita at the end of May, 2014.
If I don't see you all before the new year, have a Merry Christmas, Solstice, or Kwanzaa. I'd say Hanukkah as well, but it seems I missed that holiday this year. And if anyone is having a merry Saturnalia, let me know. That sounds like it might be a rocking good party.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,