Japandemonium - Nine While Nine

Evening all, and welcome to another edition of Japandemonium. After last week's extravagance, it was inevitable that this week would be a much more sedate affair. The sales figures for the first half of 2003 have been released, and things are looking rosy as ever for RPGs. That's coming up in a bit, but for now, let's have a look the weekly numbers.

Japanese gamers traded in their steering wheels for fresh underwear last week, helping to secure the top spot on Dengeki's weekly sales chart for Konami's Silent Hill. No new RPGs made it onto the newest list, but most of the titles from last week's bumper crop did manage to hang tough and maintain their Top 20 status. Shigesato Itoi's Mother 1&2 collection is showing healthy resilience, with total sales of the cart coming in at just under 200,000 units. Below are the specifics for the week ending July 6th.

Pos. Title Publisher Plat. Sales Total
5 Mother 1+2 Nintendo 21,488 193,155
6 Hanjuku Eiyuu Tai 3D Square Enix 20,506 118,449
9 Sangokushi Senki 2 Koei 12,987 40,961
15 Pokémon Ruby Nintendo 7,027 2,170,479
16 Pokémon Sapphire Nintendo 6,645 2,228,380
18 Atelier Viorate Gust 5,613 37,339
19 Pokémon Box Ruby & Sapphire Nintendo 5,409 137,244

In addition to the weekly sales figures, Dengeki has also posted a list of the 100 best-performing games of the first half of the year, according to Media Create. Japanese gamers continue to be enamored with RPGs, which did exceptionally well, taking seven of the top ten spots. An impressive 35 RPGs appeared on the list, with nine (all RPGs) of those 35 coming from Square Enix. The most successful publisher overall was Nintendo, which claimed 16 places (18 if you count the Pokémon games, which are technically published by a subsidiary). From a market perspective, it's interesting to note that 29 of the top 100 games were actually released last year, a fact that takes new meaning when you realize that, in general, games tend to sell best in the first two weeks of release and then quickly tail off in the weeks thereafter.

The best selling game for the first six months of the year was Square Enix's Final Fantasy X-2, which sold just under 2 million copies. As an indicator of the range of sales figures being looked at, the 100th best selling game was Banpresto's Summon Night: Craft Sword Story, which shifted just less than 55,000 units. As one would expect, the PlayStation 2 was best-represented on the chart (55 games), with the Game Boy Advance coming in a distant second (27 spots). Below is the complete list of the Top 10 games for the first six months of the year.

Pos. Title Publisher Plat. Release Sales
1 Final Fantasy X-2 Square Enix 2003-03-13 1,970,010
2 Dynasty Warriors 2 Koei 2003-02-27 1,109,809
3 Pokémon Sapphire Pokémon 2002-11-21 642,807
4 Pokémon Ruby Pokémon 2002-11-21 628,333
5 Dragon Ball Z Bandai 2003-02-13 566,275
6 Dragon Quest Monsters: Caravan Heart Square Enix 2003-03-29 542,377
7 2nd Super Robot Wars Alpha Banpresto 2003-02-27 505,810
8 Star Ocean 3: Till the End of Time Square Enix 2003-02-27 481,850
9 Final Fantasy Tactics Advance Square Enix 2003-02-14 450,131
10 Devil May Cry 2 Capcom 2003-01-30 447,910

With the onslaught of games hitting Japan over the past couple weeks, it's no surprise that the editors of Japan's most popular video games magazine, Weekly Famitsu, have been rather busy. Unfortunately for us, however, despite reviewing 22 games, only one of them was an RPG. Although, it was a game that's sure to be the undoing of pale-skinned gamers the world over. Yes, Boktai, Hideo Kojima's unique Game Boy Advance RPG, finally came under the discerning gaze of the prestigious periodical, and it walked away a Platinum award richer. The game will be released this coming Thursday, July 17th, so get your import orders in pronto.

Title Publisher Plat. Scores
Boktai Konami 8, 9, 10, 9 (36 / 40) Platinum

One game that might have found its way onto the Top 100 list above had it shipped when it was first scheduled to is developer Victor Interactive's Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life for the GameCube. The game has recently had its release date pushed back again, for a fourth time. It seems that things are not going so well in the testing department, as quality control issues are being blamed for this most recent delay. Barring further setbacks, Japanese gamers can get their hands on the title on September 12th.

Namco's two upcoming Tales titles are both set for release in August. To commemorate the occasions, Namco is readying a trio of marketing campaigns to offer fans some rather neat swag. Gamers who pick up Tales of Phantasia for the Game Boy Advance also stand in line to win an original poster, which is limited to 5,000 copies. Flyers located at retailers will contain a keyword that grants access to a restricted area at Namco's official site where entries can be made. For the GameCube game, Tales of Symphonia, Namco is offering gamers a calender and a "Special Disc," which contains artwork, desktop accessories, and a mini-soundtrack. Of course, supplies will be limited, so preordering is essential. Lastly, each of the two games will contain a special coupon, and by sending both in gamers stand in line to win either one of five DVD players or one of five digital cameras. Additionally, 1000 randomly chosen entries will also receive a QUO pre-paid phone card featuring Tales art. Check out images (courtesy of Impress Game Watch) of all the gear below.

Tales of Phantasia campaign Tales of Phantasia campaign Tales of Phantasia campaign Tales of Phantasia campaign

As if that wasn't enough Tales merchandise to siphon off willing gamers' dough, Namco also announced final details for the Tales of Symphonia-edition GameCube (first reported in this past installment of Japandemonium). The bundle will contain a "symponic"-green GameCube featuring lid-art of lead character Lloyd, a matching Game Boy Player, a memory card, and, of course, a copy of the game itself. Set for release on August 29th, the bundle will set you back 28,000 ¥ ($238). Images courtesy of Impress Game Watch.

Tales of Symphonia GameCube bundle

On Friday, Square Enix official drew the curtain on the official site for its upcoming dragon-centric RPG, Drag-On Dragoon (Drakengard in North America). The Flash-intensive site delivers all the usual information (game world info, character and dragon bios, etc.), as well as details on the game's three battle systems. As outlined in our E3 impressions, the game makes use of high-altitide dragon-based dog-fights; low-altitude dragon-versus-ground troop battles; and finally ground-based one-on-one fighting that sees lead character Caim tackle hundreds of enemies on foot. Drag-On Dragoon is set for release in Japan on September 11th at a retail price of 6,800 ¥ ($58).

Gust fans with some extra cash burning their pockets will be glad to hear that the company has announced some new merchandise for its recently released title, Atelier Viorate. To qualify for one of the "Gust Summer Celebration 2003" prizes, all you have to do is head on over to developer Salburg's official site and fill out a questionnaire before July 31st. Prizes include a large, 33 cm x 90 cm poster, a fan and a tea cup, all featuring artwork from the series. Check out some pics of all the swag below. Images courtesy of Impress Game Watch.

Gust Summer Celebration 2003 Gust Summer Celebration 2003 Gust Summer Celebration 2003 Gust Summer Celebration 2003

That's all I have for this week. I do have a couple items that I wanted to mention down here. I finally finished "The Ultimate History of Video Games" (look for a full review soon), and since then I've been spending a lot of my free time lately playing Sony's Frequency, which is a fantastic rhythm game. If you like electronic music at all, I highly recommend picking it up.

I also picked up an issue of UK video game magazine gamestm. Like Edge, gamestm is a high-quality magazine that a lot of North Americans are missing out on. Each issue is approximately 180 pages, around 50 of which are devoted to retro games. Castlevania fans might want to pick up last month's issue (#6), as the series is shown off in all its glory. There's also a rather large feature on SNK and the Neo Geo.

What I find most interesting when comparing the UK and North American magazines is the distinct dearth of ads in the UK ones. Comparing the most recent issues of Edge, gamestm, EGM, and GamePro, the breakdown goes like this:

  • gamestm: 180 pages (25 pages ads) - £4 ($6.50)
  • Edge: 132 pages (30 pages ads) - £4 ($6.50)
  • EGM: 136 pages (54 pages ads) - $5
  • GamePro: 126 pages (59 pages ads) - $5

Of course, given the fact that the UK is 1/40th the size of the US, distribution costs must be a much more significant factor for domestic magazines. Another striking feature is the lack of a more-mature magazine in the North American market. Yes, EGM and its ilk are fine magazines, and I enjoy a couple of them, but since Next Generation folded at the end of 2001, North American gamers have not had (easy) access to a magazine specifically directed towards the more discerning gamer. It'll be interesting to see what Polygon (a magazine by the editors of XenGamers) is going to be like. Maybe I'm just being snooty. Am I wrong here, or are we not getting what a lot of us in North America want? Let me know on the boards (or by e-mail) what your thoughts on the matter are.

Exeunt all

Missed an installment? Check out the archives.

Sources: [Impress Game Watch, Dengeki, Namco, Square Enix, Polygon, Quiter, Salburg]

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by Alex Wollenschlaeger

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