Japandemonium - Harmony of Corruption

Evening all, and welcome to this week's Japandemonium. It's been nearly a month since E3, and, as you'll have noticed, things are still pretty quiet. Quite a few of the big games coming out in Japan right now are actually North American-developed titles, which means that things are sedate on the RPG front. On an unrelated note, I want to thank everyone who wrote in to comment on my E3 journal. I appreciate all the feedback. Enough of that. Let's get it on.

There's not too much to cheer about as far as Dengeki's sales figures go. Well, at least not for RPG fans. Sales were actually higher last week than they've been in a while, but this came at the expense of RPG performance on the chart. There were an impressive 11 new releases last week, the most in a number of weeks, but only one of those was an RPG. Scanning the list will reveal a decided Pokémon bent, with the new GameCube glorified-pokédex Pokémon Box Ruby & Sapphire securing the top spot for the week ending June 1st. Besides the oh-so-tenacious Game Boy Advance Pokémon games, now in their 6 month in the Top 20, the only other RPGs still doing well are the latest portable installments in the Fire Emblem and Dragon Quest Monsters series.

Pos. Title Publisher Plat. Sales Total
1 Pokémon Box Ruby & Sapphire Nintendo 78,433 78,433
7 Fire Emblem Rekka no Ken Nintendo 10,957 200,710
11 Dragon Quest Monsters: Caravan Heart Square Enix 10,475 520,870
14 Pokémon Sapphire Nintendo 8,600 2,192,126
18 Pokémon Ruby Nintendo 7,610 2,136,092

Digicube announced this week that it will be releasing the soundtrack for Hanjuku Eiyuu Tai 3D. The disc contains 58 tracks composed by famed Final Fantasy series composer Nobuo Uemastu. As a bonus for fans of the quirky series, Digicube is including a second disc that contains the 19-song soundtrack to the series' 1988 debut installment and a related mini-poster. The soundtrack hits stores on June 25th for 3,500 ¥ ($30), with the game following the day afterwards.

Hanjuku Hero SoundtrackHanjuku Hero SoundtrackHanjuku Hero Soundtrack

On Thursday, Sega announced that it will begin beta testing of the radically-different-to-previous-installments Phantasy Star Online 3: C.A.R.D. Revolution in the very near future. The first 10,000 gamers who head over to Sega Direct will be chosen to take the game through its paces over the period July 24th to August 31st. Sega has taken the wise decision to not exclude dial-up customers from the test. The company has also stated that beta testers will not be able to import their characters from the previous installment into the trial version of the game. This is being done so that everyone starts on equal footing when the final version of the game sees release later in the year. The beta test is (obviously) free, but, once the final version is ready, gamers are expected to cough up 600 ¥ ($5) a month or 1,500 ¥ ($13) for three months.

With Ness, Mr Saturn and the rest of the Mother crew set to make a triumphant return on June 20th, Nintendo is prepping to commemorate Mother 1+2's release by staging a launch day event at the Tsutaya in Tokyo's Shibuya prefecture. Fans will get the chance to hobnob with Shigesato Itoi and other bigwigs from Nintendo. Autographs and photo-ops are on the menu, but only for those lucky enough to get into the exclusive event. The first 200 gamers who buy the game at the store will also receive an exclusive cell phone strap.

Next up is an interesting tidbit concerning Microsoft's video game presence in Japan. The Register has a story on speculation emanating out of Japan that the company is getting ready to release a redesign of the Xbox. In the wake of terrible sales of the console, this move makes a lot of sense. To the average Japanese consumer, the Xbox is an enormous piece of hardware, and, with space coming at such a premium in that country, size does matter. Since the console's launch on February 22nd of last year, the Xbox has managed to move a mere 400,000 units. To compare, the GameCube, which is running a distant second to Sony in the Japanese hardware race, shifted just over a million boxes in 2002 and around 300,000 this year. The rumors have it that the redesigned Xbox will ship alongside True Fantasy Live Online later this year.

The last item this week concerns a rather bone-headed move on the part of the European branch of Nintendo. Most North Americans might not be aware of it, but our colleagues in PAL territories have to wait an excruciatingly long time to get their hands on most non-European-developed games, which means that a lot of gamers take the quicker (and more expensive route) of importing their games. This has always been a delicate legal area, but, up until now, most publishers have overlooked the phenomenon. Now, Nintendo has sent out notices to retailers across the U.K. that informs them that if they don't stop offering imports to their customers they will not be eligible to sell Nintendo of Europe's official releases. It's not clear how adamant Nintendo is about enforcing this threat, but it sets a dangerous precedent that might put other publishers on the same path.

That's all for this week. In closing, I have to use my editorial space down here to call Nintendo out on this move. While I can understand their concerns, they are making the matter worse for themselves by taking such a long time to bring games to the European market. The GameCube is not doing all that well in Europe, with several retailers having been on the verge of dropping it in March. Moves like this are only going to hurt the company's image amongst dedicated gamers, and it is them that are helping the company to stay alive. I've lived in a PAL territory, and it's terrible. A lot of Japanese and North American games don't come out in PAL regions at all, and when they do, they are often offered in a butchered form. The situation has been getting a lot better over the last few years, but Europe is still getting shafted. I can only hope that Nintendo come to their senses soon. Until next week, take it easy.

Exeunt all

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

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