Hello everyone, and welcome to this week's Japandemonium. Things are actually starting to look up in Japan. This might not be reflected in game sales (see below for proof), but there does seem to be a lot more activity in the video game world, after a couple months of pretty stagnant performance. That said, let's get right to it.
This week's Dengeki chart holds few surprises. Japan was all about the Mother series last week, with the Game Boy Advance compilation package, Mother 1+2, dominating sales for the week ending June 22nd. The title shifted just under 135,000 units, which is considerably more than Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, the other major Game Boy Advance RPG re-release, managed in its first week on the market back in March. The rest of the chart looks pretty much the same, however. Nobunaga's Ambition Online took it in the gut and slumped all the way down to 12th place, with only 7,000 units shifted. The arrival of Hanjuku Eiyuu Tai 3D this week should serve to spice things up sales-wise even further.
Not much to see in the way of RPG reviews in the latest issue of Famitsu, but the magazine did weigh in on the recently-released Nobunaga's Ambition Online. Koei's title, which has shown some mettle at the cash register, garnered a Gold award from the magazine's editors. Check below for the individual scores.
Player killing is usually frowned upon in the majority of MMORPGs, with a number of games actually outright banning it. Ordinarily, MU is one of those games, but GameOn and Webzen have announced an online event that should have proponents of the taboo act smiling ear-to-ear. On July 5th, two 50-player battle royales are being planned that will allow players to go head-to-head until there is but one man standing. The event is only open to characters above level 40, and they should also have a clean rap sheet, as far as in-game player killing is concerned. The winners of this unique contest stand in line to win some nifty, rare items.
Square Enix was at it again this past weekend, with several of Hanjuku Eiyuu Tai 3D's creators taking another "pilgrimage" (see this past installment of Japandemonium for the previous event), this time to Tokyo's Akihabara neighborhood to commemorate the game's release. Square Enix president Yoichi Wada, composer Nobuo Uematsu, theme singer Isao Sasaki and director Takashi Tokita were on hand to send the game off into stores in grand style. Sasaki gave the assembled masses a performace of three tunes from the game's soundtrack, which went on sale the same day, while the rest of the Square Enix crew chatted about the game.
Wada, who ditched his suit in favor of one of the hiking outfits sported by his fellow travellers, stated that gamers should expect a quirky game with tons of surprises. He encouraged gamers to forgo game guides for the first play-through so as not to ruin the fun of stumbling upon all the neat scenarios involving the two-timing Egg Monsters, suggesting that they save the hints for later to discover all the egg-centric characters. Tokita shared with the gathered audience that of all the different egg creatures in the game, his favorites are the Canon Sisters, a brains & brawn pair of eggs with canons on their shoulders. The wrestler-looking guy in the pics below is "Mr" Tekken, one of the main bosses in the game. Square Enix has done a good job of hyping the game, but we'll have to wait for next week's sales figures to see how successful they've been at winning over gamers, who haven't seen a new installment of the series on a console in 11 years.
On Friday, Japanese company Ask announced that it will be releasing a Final Fantasy XI bundle (seen below) for the PC. The package will consist of a copy of Final Fantasy XI: Vision of Zirate All-in-One Edition (which contains the original and the recently released expansion pack) and ATI's new graphics behemoth, the 128 MB Radeon 9800 Pro. Other software included in the pack includes the PlayOnline viewer and also Tetra Master, a card game similar to that previously included in Final Fantasy IX. The bundle is slated to hit retail on July 5th, with pricing to be determined by the individual outlets.
Regular readers of Japandemonium should be painfully aware by now of how badly Microsoft's Xbox is doing in Japan. To remedy the situation, the company announced this week that it will be bringing a number of its anticipated releases to Japan in at attempt to bolster flagging sales. Several RPGs were in the 11-game-strong list, including Peter Molyneux's highly anticipated Fable, and the promising Level 5-developed online RPG, True Fantasy Live Online. True Fantasy Live Online is scheduled for release in Japan later this year, with Fable to follow in 2004. It will be interesting to see how these titles fare relative to one another, given their very different presentation and gameplay, and the Japanese penchant to shun most Western games.
With the release of Sword of Mana rapidly approaching, Square Enix and Nintendo are setting the marketing machine in motion. Part of the campaign is a limited edition "Mana-blue" Game Boy Advance, which is scheduled for release on launch day, August 29th. 18,300 ¥ ($153) will net you the Game Boy Advance, a special edition carrying pouch, an AC adaptor, and, of course, the game itself.
Last up this week is a snippet of merchandise news that'll intrigue Shin Megami Tensei fans. Media Factory announced last week that it will be releasing a collectible card game based on Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, the remake of the third installment in the popular series that was released for the PlayStation 2 in February. Set for release on July 25th, the starter kit will retail for 1,500 ¥ ($13), with expansion sets running 350 ¥ ($3). Even better, the company is releasing a limited edition starter kit for 2,000 ¥ ($17) that will include a 5" action figure of one of the main characters. Series character designer Kazuma Kaneko had a hand in making the figures, so those who take the plunge can expect a quality piece of work (check them out below for yourself). No word on whether the figures are set for release separately, unfortunately.
That's all from my side for this week. I'm still reading Steven Kent's "Ultimate History of Video Games," and, after nearly 300 pages of mainly Atari history, I've finally reached the NES era. Reading the book, it strikes me as rather unbelievable how different the current video game landscape would be if there had been only one or two minor changes in the flow of events in the early-to-mid 80s. The book is a very interesting read, and I think that I'm going to review it for the site as soon as I'm done. If you don't want to wait till then, take my word for it, this book is worth owning. I'm out. Take it easy.
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|Sources: [Impress Game Watch, Dengeki, Atlus, GameSpot Japan, Quiter]|
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by Alex Wollenschlaeger
with contribution by Jesse Kanda