Japandemonium - The Salaminizer

Hey everyone, and welcome to another issue of Japandemonium. There's quite a bit to see this week, so I won't bore you with pointless blather. I'll save that for the end. Let's jump right in, shall we? Pre-emptive apologies to those of you on dial-up.

This week's Dengeki chart reflects what happens when Japanese gamers have unhindered access to the PlayStation 2 network adaptor. Koei's Nobunaga's Ambition Online reaped the rewards of the peripheral's release and proved to be the most popular online game, surprisingly even managing to edge out Minna no Golf, which came in third. The 20,000 units the title shifted might not be astronomical in any sense, but it's enough to give the recently-rather-morose Japanese video game market a firm kick in the behind. There was another new release this past week, but it failed to make any impression on gamers: Konami's Monster Dungeon infiltrated stores and was found languishing in 43rd place in it's debut week, with a paltry 2,100 units shifted. This past week witnessed the much-anticipated release of Mother 1+2 (see below for more), which is sure to shake up next week's chart.

Pos. Title Publisher Plat. Sales Total
2 Nobunaga's Ambition Online Koei 19,386 19,386
4 Pokémon Box Ruby & Sapphire Nintendo 14,950 116,153
8 Pokémon Sapphire Nintendo 7,480 2,207,226
9 Pokémon Ruby Nintendo 7,250 2,150,252
11 Dragon Quest Monsters: Caravan Heart Square Enix 6,268 534,137
13 Fire Emblem Rekka no Ken Nintendo 6,200 215,253

Weekly Famitsu scored a couple of new releases in its latest issue, both of which were received well. Hanjuku Eiyuu Tai 3D, which was scored by Famitsu PS2 last week, got its turn and came out smiling, Gold award in hand. Gust's popular Atelier series added another to its ranks with Atelier Viorate for the PlayStation 2, which did similarly well. Below are the individual editor's scores.

Title Publisher Plat. Scores
Hanjuku Eiyuu Tai 3D Square Enix 9, 8, 8, 8 (33 / 40) Gold
Atelier Viorate Gust 8, 8, 8, 8 (32 / 40) Gold

Yes, as mentioned above, it finally happened this week. Mother 1+2 invaded Japan, amidst a torrent of fanfare. The event marked the country's first exciting video game launch event in a while, and people were eager to soak up the nostalgia on offer. The first 200 gamers who picked up the title at the Mother-wallpapered Tsutaya Q-Front store in Shibuya, were rewarded with entry tickets to an exclusive event hosted by the game's creator, Shigesato Itoi.

A Q&A session (If you've never played a Mother game, Itoi recommends the second one) was just one of the attractions at the event, as the masses got to mill about while checking out some neat series-related items. Itoi took some time to hang out with his many fans and stood for photo-ops, and there was a lucky draw that saw five winners walk away with an enormous Mr. Saturn and a bag of swag. Also on display were cool-looking toys and some of the reference material that helped Itoi during design of the game; an interesting melange of Western influences, including "E.T.," "The Goonies," "The Blues Brothers" and "Stand By Me." Check out the whole mess of pics from the event below.

Mother 1+2 Launch EventMother 1+2 Launch EventMother 1+2 Launch Event Mother 1+2 Launch EventMother 1+2 Launch EventMother 1+2 Launch Event Mother 1+2 Launch EventMother 1+2 Launch EventMother 1+2 Launch Event Mother 1+2 Launch EventMother 1+2 Launch EventMother 1+2 Launch Event Mother 1+2 Launch EventMother 1+2 Launch EventMother 1+2 Launch Event Mother 1+2 Launch EventMother 1+2 Launch EventMother 1+2 Launch Event Mother 1+2 Launch EventMother 1+2 Launch Event

Nintendo is planning a live music evening for later in the year in Japan, with a bit of a difference. Instead of a traditional or even orchestrated style, the "Mario & Zelda Big Band Live" event will bring songs from the seminal series to life in the rich, brassy big band and jazz stylings of the Big Band of Rogues ensemble, directed by Hidenobue Iba. Guests at the event will include the series' creator Shigeru Miyamoto, legendary composer Koji Kondo and other musicians from Nintendo's rich ranks. The show is scheduled to go down on the 14th of September, and tickets are going to run you around 3,800 ¥ ($32) a piece.

Mario & Zelda Big Band Live

With Square and Nintendo now working together, it's easy to forget that there was considerable animosity between the companies not too long ago. Casualties of this were, undoubtedly, portable versions of past Final Fantasy titles, which were ported to Bandai's WonderSwan Color instead of the much more popular Game Boy/Game Boy Advance. While Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II have already made their way over to Bandai's handheld, Polygon is reporting that sources close to Square Enix have confirmed that the third installment has been canned. Worse still, there are currently no plans to port the game to Nintendo's current Game Boy Advance. To add more confusion to the mix, Quiter is reporting that the new issue of Weekly Famitsu has company representatives stating that the game is still in development. Expect clarification as soon as the company makes a firm commitment, either way.

Sticking to the Final Fantasy theme, Square Enix announced this week that it will be releasing vocal collections for each of the three main characters in Final Fantasy X-2: Yuna (voiced by Mayuko Aoki), Paine (Marika Matsumoto) and Rikku (Megumi Toyoguchi). Each set actually consists of two discs: A CD containing two vocal tracks and two instrumental tracks; and a DVD with a vocal track, an interview, and a specially compiled CG movie. Each of the discs will set you back 1,800 ¥ ($15) when they hits stores on July 16th, or you can save effort and get the set of three for 5,400 ¥ ($45).

Final Fantasy Vocal CollectionFinal Fantasy Vocal CollectionFinal Fantasy Vocal Collection

Hori is back in the Final Fantasy merchandise game, with a special edition memory card for the upcoming GameCube title Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. The card features a sticker containing artwork of the main characters, and it'll retail for 2,200 ¥ ($19) when the game launches next month.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chroncles

When you think of shareholder meetings, you probably think of it looking mostly like this. Not so if you're Namco, one of the biggest video game companies in Japan. The company held its annual shareholder meeting in Tokyo on Saturday, and instead of just boring the 500-strong audience of stockowners and their families with stats and graphs, the company took the opportunity to wow the already-converted with some of its upcoming products. Namco founder and president Masaya Nakamura touched on recent merger talks with Sega, stating that, although the deal is off, the two companies are still commited to the partnership that has been in place since 2001. Games on display included the ever-popular Taiko no Tetsujin rhythm game and both of the upcoming Tales titles: Tales of Symphonia for the GameCube and Tales of Phantasia for the Game Boy Advance.

Namco Shareholder MeetingNamco Shareholder MeetingNamco Shareholder Meeting Namco Shareholder MeetingNamco Shareholder MeetingNamco Shareholder Meeting Namco Shareholder MeetingNamco Shareholder MeetingNamco Shareholder Meeting

As mentioned above, Koei released the final version of Nobunaga's Ambition Online in Japan just over a week ago and the company has experienced overwhelming demand ever since. In response, a new server was fired up on Thursday, which should allow gamers to get their historically-accurate war on in a more lag-free environment. Also new to the game is a fourth area, the first of several planned for the next year, that is set to give players a bit more freedom. While the other three game regions are based on historically accurate data, the new area will take a politically neutral stance, allowing gamers to do more of what they want to do without the hinderance of adhering to a set course of action.

Gust fans should start gathering their pennies for the upcoming Atelier Viorate original soundtrack, which was announced this week. The two-disc collection, which carries a pronounced Northern European style, will contain 70 tracks and run over two hours. Those who preorder the soundtrack will also receive the production's full score, including lyrics. The soundtrack is slated for release on June 26th for 3,000 ¥ ($25).

Atelior VioletAtelior Violet

That's it for another week. There are a couple publications I wanted to bring to your attention in my closing space. I picked up Steven Kent's "Ultimate History of Video Games" this week and so far it's a very interesting read. I'm still in the pre-NES days, but already there is a lot of interesting information. Did you know that Steve Jobs of Apple fame worked at Atari when he was still a teenager? And that the arcade industry made $5 billion per year in the early 1980s? The book is filled with interesting facts and interviews with the people who created our industry. The other item I wanted to mention is the new issue of Edge magazine. If there is one issue that folks should try to pick up, it's the latest, issue 125. Not only is the magazine filled with information from E3, but there is also a free DVD that contains a metric crap-load of footage straight from the show floor. This should give those of you that couldn't make it to L.A. a taste of what it was like. I'm out. Till next week, take it easy.

Exeunt all

Missed an installment? Check out the archives.

Sources: [Impress Game Watch, Dengeki, Polygon, GameSpot Japan, Quiter, Nintendo Japan, Square Enix]

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by Alex Wollenschlaeger

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