Japandemonium - On the Outside Looking In

I'm upset. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that, being the weak-willed person I am, I had crumbled and preordered an import Game Boy Advance SP. So, imagine my dismay this week when I received a friendly email telling me that not only would I have to wait longer to get one, but I would have to fork over an extra $40. Needless to say, my wallet-survival instincts kicked in and I decided to wait it out. The thing is, I have already sold my old, non-lit GBA. I believe Mojo Jojo said it best: "Curses!" For the cause of my woes, see the GBA SP snippet below. For now, let's get into some figures.

Role-playing games took it on the chin last week in Japan, as the latest Dengeki charts show only four RPGs in the Top 20. Nippon Ichi's tactical RPG Makai Senki Disgaia, which debuted at third place last week, dropped all the way down to the 8th position. It's possible that this Friday's release of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance had an effect on the game's sales, which is disheartening, as Makai Senki Disgaia looks to be a rather solid tactical romp. It's interesting to note that Link's newest adventure, Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, has dropped out of the Top 20, languishing in 23rd place. Below are the RPGs in the Top 20 chart, for the week ending February 9th.

    Position; Title (Publisher), Console, Sales this week; Total Sales
  • 5. Pokémon Sapphire (Nintendo), GBA, 24,820, 1,967,170
  • 6. Pokémon Ruby (Nintendo), GBA, 23,320, 1,924,685
  • 8. Makai Senki Disga (Nippon Ichi), PS2, 20,080, 70,293
  • 18. Final Fantasy X (MegaHits) (Square), PS2, 6,353, 30,006

As reported last week, Atlus has its promotional machinery for Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne in top gear, with creators Cozy Okada and Kazuma Kaneko touring around Japan in support of their latest title. What I did not mention was that in addition to having the two designers on hand, Atlus is also exhibiting Kaneko's original Shin Megami Tensei work, including replicas of in-game outfits and plenty of original art. The exhibit was in Tokyo until February 11th, with future stops including a sojourn in Nagoya this Valentine's weekend, before moving to Osaka for February 21-23.

Kazuma and Kaneko were at the Tokyo exhibit on Wednesday and were met by many eager fans. The two signed autographs and spoke a little about the genesis of the game, which has been nine years in the making. Of course, the actual game was available, too, for early birds to play ahead of the title's official release on February 20th.

Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocture ExhibitShin Megami Tensei III: Nocture ExhibitShin Megami Tensei III: Nocture Exhibit

Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocture ExhibitShin Megami Tensei III: Nocture ExhibitShin Megami Tensei III: Nocture Exhibit

Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocture Exhibit

Despite having dropped the Spring iteration, Japan's Tokyo Game Show still ranks as one of the most popular video game events in the industry, and the inclusion of public access days makes it a huge hit. CESA and Nikkei BP announced on Wednesday that this year's event will be taking place from 26-28 September at its usual venue, the Makuhari Messe in Tokyo's Chiba prefecture. The first day is exclusively for press and company muckety mucks, but the real fun begins on Saturday the 27th, when everyone else gets access. Last year saw nearly 135,000 drooling fans roam the halls over the weekend, and with the industry still growing we can expect this year's turnout to be even better.

Gamers eager to get their import tactical game on will be glad to hear that Namco's promising-looking PlayStation 2 game Venus & Braves shipped on Thursday. In addition to the 6,800 ¥ ($56) puny regular edition, a limited edition containing the 20-song soundtrack for the game, a "Special Visual Book" and figurines of the three main characters (image below, courtesy of NCSX) was released. This edition will set you back 9,800 ¥ ($81). If you can still find one, that is.

Venus & Braves Limited Edition

Way back in November, in the very first installment of Japandemonium, I mentioned a competition that Sony was holding in Japan that would whisk winners on a global tour to spots related to RPGs. Sony released a statement on Wednesday stating that despite the fact that it has already received in excess of 30,000 entries, it will be cancelling the competition outright. The reason for this is all too evident to anyone that has turned on the news in the last couple months. With the prospect of a "pre-emptive" strike looming large, and terrorist threats around the world, the company has decided to err on the side of caution by not getting gamers anywhere near the hot zones. While this is bad news for the winners who were set to depart later this month, it's refreshing to see a company acknowledge the utter bedlam that is international relations right now. If only mutual consideration was as contagious as belligerence.

While we still have an agonizing six weeks of poor-visibility gaming to look forward to, Japanese gamers spent Friday morning waiting in line to pick up Nintendo's front-lit Game Boy Advance SP. The release of the original Game Boy Advance went off without a hitch in Japan, but it seems that this time around Nintendo has underestimated the demand for its new handheld. Across Japan, gamers lined up outside their favorite stores, but they were left empty handed, as the console sold out shortly after stores opened for business. Check out some images from around Tokyo below (click for bigger versions). Hopefully Nintendo will sort out its supply issues in time for the North American launch on March 22nd.

GBA SP Launch DayGBA SP Launch Day

GBA SP Launch DayGBA SP Launch Day

SEGA is preparing for the PlayStation 2 release of Sakura Wars: Atsuki Chishioni, and part of this effort is some large-scale advertising around Tokyo's Ginza district. SEGA is also planning a week of launch events leading up to the game's release. Sakura Wars: Atsuki Chishioni is set for release on February 27th, in both regular and deluxe editions (see this previous Japandemonium for details).

GBA SP Launch DayGBA SP Launch Day

In other SEGA news, the company announced today that it will be merging with Japanese firm Sammy, later this year. Sammy's current president, Hajime Satomi, will take the reins of the company, once the merger is completed on the 1st of October. Things have not been looking good for SEGA, which slaughtered its 2002-2003 profit outlook by an astounding 90%. Hopefully, this move will allow SEGA to continue to create games for the forseeable future, as it will be a sad day indeed should the venerable company be forced to leave the video game industry for good. I'll have more details on this next week.

And on that gloomy news, I bid you adieu. Enjoy the company of your significant other tomorrow. Just remember to keep it safe, so that we can all gather around for another session next week. Till then, take it easy.

Exeunt all

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by Alex Wollenschlaeger    
Sources: [Impress Game Watch, Dengeki, Famitsu, GameSpot]

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