juu-ni-gatsu no juu-kyuu-nichi

Ah, the snowman. The typical symbol of a snowy winter season, pretty much anywhere outside the tropics. That's not to say all snowmen are the same, however. There's plenty of difference between an American Frosty the Snowman and a Japanese yuki-daruma. For starters, Frosty is usually made with three large balls of snow, at least in tradition and illustration, if not in practice. It's a simple format -- head, torso, legs, with sticks for arms.

Japanese snowmen, on the other hand, are made with two balls of snow and no arms. The reason for this goes back centuries, to the story of a Buddhist monk named Daruma, or more properly Bodhidharma, founder of the Zen Buddhist sect. In a particular Japanese legend of the man, Bodhidharma once sat in meditation for a great while. As days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years, his arms and legs withered and fell off. Even now, Bodhidharma's great spirit of dedication is held in the highest regard, both for Zen practitioners and for laymen. Many Buddhist temples in Japan sell rotund little clay dolls bearing his name as good luck charms.

See the resemblance?

Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
7 Up from 8 Pokémon Platinum Nintendo
16 Down from 10 Chrono Trigger Square Enix
26 Up from 29 Inazuma Eleven Level 5
34 Down from 26 Patapon 2 SCE
35 New Arrival! Chocobo & the Magic Storybook - The Witch, the Girl, and 5 Heroes Square Enix
37 Down from 9 Fallout 3 Bethesda

Welcome once again to the Age of Discovery and the mysterious land of Amazia. Bandai-Namco's upcoming multi-player RPG exploration RPG, Destiny Links, is back with more to see.

While there's no more word on what the story side may be (though it's apparent that there's something there), these scans make it plain that much of the advancement in the game is request-based. There are several agencies that hire adventurers for dirty work, as well as individuals who have their own wants. For its part, the game seems to have its share of interesting monsters, from blazing turtles to murderous lepines, tanklike insects to squids disguised as trees. The player gets rewards for various milestones, as well. One can even team up with friends for monster-whacking competition.

Of course, if you're going to go exploring, you'll need a boat. There are plenty of boats to charter and customize, each with different capabilities and resources for sale. For example, the Takarabune can seek out rare monsters for you to fight, while the Highturn has a special challenge shop for unique quests.

All I can say is, live the adventure.

Source: Famitsu Weekly

While it's not exactly under JP's purview, after reading through the story description I just had to say something about Mario & Luigi RPG 3, out in stores this February. Here are RPGamer's scans:

The story starts simply enough: a strange malady has struck the Mushroom Kingdom, causing those afflicted to inflate to ridiculous sizes. It's up to the Mario Bros. to save the day! Unfortunately, Bowser the Koopa King, probable and unwitting source of the plague, swallows the heroes, thus beginning one of the strangest partnership gimmicks I have ever seen.

The game plays out on both screens of the DS in very different ways. On top, there's Bowser as he rampages through the Mushroom Kingdom in three dimensions. On bottom, the plumbers navigate the Koopa King's innards in side-scrolling fashion. The A and B buttons control Mario and Luigi, while the X and Y buttons are for Bowser.

Actions within can affect things without, and vice-versa. Need to raise the water level for Mario? Have Bowser take a long drink from the fountain. Need a boost of strength for the Koopa King? Mario and Luigi can hit muscles to keep things pumped.

It may not be the Fantastic Voyage, but it certainly is unique.

Source: Famitsu Weekly

Global A Entertainment is on a roll, it would seem. Every time you blink, they've got a new dungeon-maker game announced for development. So, what is it this time?

The name of the game is Chronicle of Dungeon Maker - Nanatama (trans. "seven souls"). The rather dark-looking hero must quest through ancient ruins and player-original dungeons, as per series format. The game's story isn't explained in much detail, but there is mention of special orbs to be found in the depths, orbs which may contain monsters or new allies.

The hero can summon up to two orb-characters at a time to assist, though there are probably other restrictions as yet unmentioned. Of the orb-characters mentioned, we only know of three: the elfin Phir, the mountain giant Leo, and the devilish Rose. All three were taken by an unknown force within the ruins and locked in orbs. That is as much of the plot as is known at this time.

Part of me wonders how long Global A can string this series out, though.

Source: Famitsu Weekly

Here's a short mention on the upcoming PS2 strategy title Sacred Blaze. The game is already known to have twelve major characters (or masters), and a large number of servant characters sworn into the service of a particular master. To make things more interesting, the programmers have included a lot of options for customizing the appearance of your characters. Aside from the obvious weapon and shield variations, many of these customizations are decorative, and some are downright silly. Let's take a look at a few.

As well, changes in character appearance carry over to the dialogue screens.

Source: Dengeki Online

And so begins my winter holiday. Except that I'll have to work next Tuesday at my school's Christmas party. But after that, it's two weeks of hanging out with my girlfriend and her various relatives. We're planning on heading over to Huis Ten Bosch, the big Dutch-themed park near Nagasaki for their winter lights show. Other than that, I'll be doing whatever I please, and most likely not column-related. See you all in January!

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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