Japandemonium - No Substance

Hello everyone, and welcome to this week's trim issue of Japandemonium. As you'll notice below, not much happened this week. Again. I don't have too much to say up here (I'll save that for my outro), so let's get to the news, shall we?

Oh man, are things ever dull in Japan right now. If you browse the unimpressive Dengeki chart below, you'll see what passes for game sales at the moment. No new RPGs and little movement add up to the generally crappy sales figures derived from the same five games as last week. The only title that managed to do a fair amount of business was a soccer game from Sega. At least things can only get better from here on out. It might take a couple weeks, though, since the next big game seeing release is Nintendo's Mother 1+2. The classic compilation hits Japan on June 20th. Koei is going to give the MMORPG genre a go next week, with the release of Nobunaga's Ambition Online for the PlayStation 2.

The sales performance of Nobunaga's Ambition Online will be interesting to watch, since Sony released the broadband adaptor as a standalone peripheral for the first time this past week. Up until now, the accessory has only been available through Square Enix with the purchase of Final Fantasy XI. The big game during the first week of the adaptor's release was Minna no Golf Online, so all eyes are now on the upcoming RPGs to see what kind of business they can rustle up.

Pos. Title Publisher Plat. Sales Total
3 Pokémon Box Ruby & Sapphire Nintendo 22,770 101,203
7 Fire Emblem Rekka no Ken Nintendo 8,343 209,053
9 Pokémon Sapphire Nintendo 7,620 2,199,746
10 Dragon Quest Monsters: Caravan Heart Square Enix 6,999 527,869
11 Pokémon Ruby Nintendo 6,910 2,143,002

After a couple week's absence, thanks to the lack of new RPGs, Famitsu's review crew makes a comeback to Japandemonium. The esteemed magazine's editors doled out scores for a single RPG, but it was none other than Nintendo's highly-anticipated Mother 1+2. With no real additions to the compilation, the Gold award stands as a testament to the longevity of the series' playability. The PlayStation 2-exclusive version of the magazine, Famitsu PS2, also had a look at Square Enix's Hanjuku Eiyuu Tai 3D. The quirky title managed to impress the editors enough to earn a Silver award. Gust's latest installment in the Atelier series, Violet no Atelier, came in just behind. Check out all the individual editor scores below.

Title Publisher Plat. Scores
Mother 1+2 Nintendo 9, 9, 9, 8 (35 / 40)
Hanjuku Eiyuu Tai 3D Square Enix 8, 8, 8, 8 (32 / 40)
Violet no Atelier Gust 7, 8, 9, 7 (31 / 40)

One upcoming title that might help to inject some life into the industry is Namco's highly-anticipated Tales of Symphonia for the GameCube. As was reported earlier this week, Namco held a meeting in Tokyo on Monday where they announced several details for the two Tales games in the offing: Tales of Symphonia for the GameCube, and Tales of Phantasia for the Game Boy Advance (a remake of the original Super Famicom game). A swanky new mint-green, limited edition GameCube was also unveiled. The unit, which features art of lead character Lloyd on the lid, will be available in a special collector's edition bundle.

Attendees were treated to a demonstration of both of the upcoming Tales games. Kosuke Fujishima, character designer for Tales of Symphonia was also on hand in video form to speak to the crowd. The final treat for fans came in the form of a performance of sections of the game by the voice talent. Both the Game Boy Advance and GameCube games are scheduled to ship in August, and it was revealed that Namco is planning elaborate campaigns for each of them. Expect a lot more from the Tales series as August approaches.

Tales EventTales EventTales Event

Tales EventTales EventTales Event

Tales EventTales EventTales Event

Tales EventTales Event

Konami's Boktai is one of the more interesting games coming up, and to commemorate the title's release, the company announced this week that it will be teaming up with Nintendo to release a special edition Game Boy Advance. The two-tone unit, which can be seen below, is scheduled for release on July 17th, the same day as the game. You can expect to pay around 16,800 ¥ ($143) for the bundle of the game and Game Boy Advance. In addition, Konami is planning to give gamers who preorder the game an exclusive coffin-shaped carrying case.

Special Boktai GBASpecial Boktai GBA

Special Boktai GBASpecial Boktai GBA

The Sakura Taisen series, while virtually unknown in North America, is huge in Japan. Not only have there been countless games in both the main series and spin-offs, but there are also regular theatrical productions and a dedicated store. The store, located in Tokyo's Ikebukuro neighborhood, celebrated its fifth anniversary this week, and throngs of dedicated fans lined up to get in on the action.

It was announced that things are going to be getting a bit bigger, literally, in the future. The store, currently on the fifth floor of GIGO, is jumping up to the seventh floor. With this change in location comes some additions to the store, specifically a "Sakura Cafe," which will more than likely try to get even more money out of its patrons with Sakura-flavored items. The store currently sells merchandise of just about any form that you can imagine, and a load of new merchandise was unleashed on fans on Saturday. Check out some pics from the mayhem below.

Sakura Taisen store 5th AnniversarySakura Taisen store 5th AnniversarySakura Taisen store 5th Anniversary

Sakura Taisen store 5th AnniversarySakura Taisen store 5th AnniversarySakura Taisen store 5th Anniversary

Sakura Taisen store 5th AnniversarySakura Taisen store 5th AnniversarySakura Taisen store 5th Anniversary

That's all for this week. To finish off, I wanted to make a personal comment on some news I read this week. First, PricewaterhouseCoopers did a market analysis for the video game industry, and they predict that by 2007 the U.S. video game market will increase to an enormous $35 billion, from around $8 billion last year. As with most market analyses, the figures are not set in stone, but that's still a large chunk of change. With so much money derived from games, there are going to be more people that want a piece of the pie. If things go the way of Felix Ortiz, one of the beneficiaries will be New York state. The state assemblyman has proposed a one-percent tax hike on video games (as well as junk food and TV commercials), because, according to Ortiz, video games are contributing to the obesity problem that is sweeping the U.S. Simply put, to make generalizations like this is preposterous. This is simply taking advantage of a stigma that is still attached to video games and gamers themselves. While the industry is getting bigger by the day, society is still hesitant to accept video games as a valid form of entertainment or art. We may very well have to wait until adults who grew up on Mario and Sonic enter the upper ranks of society before video games are taken seriously. Phew, rant-mode off, I'm out. Take it easy, everyone.

Exeunt all

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

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