Japandemonium - Vision Thing

Evening everyone, and welcome to this week's Japandemonium. It's clear that things are starting to pick up again in Japan. There's a healthy buzz building in all sectors of the industry, which is no doubt due to the approach of fall and the ensuing holiday season. There will still be plently of time to ruminate about that, though, so let's jump into this week's offerings.

Comparing last week's Dengeki chart to this one will reveal a lot of similarities. For the first time in a few weeks, Japan saw very few new releases, which no doubt resulted in a collective sigh of relief from the nation's wallets. Last week's top seller, Winning Eleven 7, retained the top spot, and it looks likely to be the first million-seller in a few months. It's heartening to see that Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles is still toughing it out. The game has now crossed the quarter-million mark, which is unspectacular for a Final Fantay game but still relatively decent. The next big releases are Tales of Symphonia for the GameCube and Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu for the Game Boy Advance. Both games are set for release on August 29th. The numbers for the week ending August 17th are reproduced below.

Pos. Title Publisher Plat. Sales Total
3 Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Square Enix 67,744 247,288
6 Super Robot Taisen D Banpresto 32,100 128,133
7 Summon Night 3 Banpresto 32,327 175,878
11 Tales of Phantasia Namco 16,656 90,128

As mentioned above, Namco's highly-anticipated GameCube Tales game is set for release in Japan at the end of this coming week. The editors of Famitsu have weighed in on Tales of Symphonia, and much to the joy--and relief--of GameCube owners the world over, the game took in a Gold award from the prestigious magazine. Tales of Symphonia is one of the few RPGs on Nintendo's console, with the editors of Dengeki, who also scored the game well, going so far as to say that it's worth buying a GameCube just to give the game a whirl. Other games reviewed include Square Enix's Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu, the Game Boy Advance remake of 1991's Game Boy classic Seiken Densetsu (Final Fantasy Adventure in North America), which earned a Silver award, and the Sega Ages PlayStation 2 remake of Phantasy Star. Gamers can expect a few enhancements to the original, including prettier graphics and sound, and a booklet that details the making process.

Title Publisher Plat. Scores
Tales of Symphonia Namco 9, 8, 8, 9 - 34/40 (Gold Award)
Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu Square Enix 8, 7, 7, 8 - 30/40 (Silver Award)
Sega Ages: Phantasy Star Generation 1 Sega 7, 6, 7, 6 - 26/40

In a rather surprising announcement this week, Atlus revealed that it will be releasing a port of Shin Megami Tensei 2 for the Game Boy Advance later this year. The announcement comes just five months after the first game was re-released for the Game Boy Advance in Japan. Sales of the initial installment were lackluster, to say the least, with first week sales of under 5,000 units, and a final tally not much higher. Shin Megami Tensei 2 will hit Japan on September 26th with a couple of additions and enhancements. The 1994 original's gameplay and graphics have been polished, and there is now a new mode that will make use of the link cable. Just like in the Persona games, players will be able to form relationships with demons in the game. There's also a special training dungeon where players can earn experience points and items; losing here will result in the loss of a level and also a reduction of one of the player's stats, chosen at random. As we've received no word of localization of either game, it's fair to suppose that anyone wanting to get their devil-liscious Game Boy Advance fix is stuck with importing for the moment.

On Tuesday, Digicube announced a campaign to commemorate the release of Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu. Gamers who purchase the accompanying soundtrack and hintbook between August 27th to September 30th will then be able to complete an entry form to win one of the two prizes show below. Five randomly chosen entrees will rewarded with a 3 foot-tall cushion, and 100 winners will receive the obligatory cell-phone strap/lcd cleaner. (Images courtesy of Impress Game Watch.)

Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu campaign prizes Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu campaign prizes

With the release of Kenshin Dragon Quest drawing near, Square Enix is starting to get the word out on the stand-alone game. One of the traditional ways of increasing awareness of titles in Japan is by holding public demonstrations, which is exactly what the company did this weekend. The first floor of the AsoBitCity super-store in Tokyo's Akihabara prefecture was home to a number of demo pods on Saturday, which gave gamers a chance to weild the mighty plastic sword and smite the on-screen virtual baddies. The demo was popular, with many Japanese shrugging off their natural inhibitions to flail their arms around wildly. The demo offered some of the early sections of the game, as well as a slime-dicing mini-game. Images of the festivities, courtesy of GameSpot Japan are shown below.

Kenshin Dragon Quest demo Kenshin Dragon Quest demo

Meanwhile, on the 6th floor of AsoBitCity, Sega was showing off the PC version of Sakura Taisen 3. In addition to the simply getting a chance to play the game before its release next month, attendees received a nifty Sakura Taisen 3 poster. The game, which originally appeared on the Dreamcast in 2001, has received several upgrades, making for an experience different enough that fans of the original might want to give the game another go. Notable are the considerably improved graphics and sound, which have been tweaked to take advantage of the latest video cards and the PC's sound capabilities. One interesting aspect is the title's use of previous save files. If you have saves for the PC versions of Sakura Taisen and Sakura Taisen 2, the game will use these to alter various aspects of the story. For instance, by making use of old save files, conversations and other character interactions will progress differently and certain sequences will contain new artwork. The six-CD PC edition will set you back a whopping 9,800 ¥ ($83) when it hits stores on September 18th. This price includes a character-adorned music box, which should help lessen the fiscal pain somewhat. Image below are courtesy of Sega Japan and GameSpot Japan.

Sakura Taisen 3 demo Sakura Taisen 3 demo
Sakura Taisen 3 demo Sakura Taisen 3 demo

Those of you itching to rid yourselves of the silver and indigo shackles of Game Boy Advance existence will be pleased to hear that Nintendo has announced yet another two colors for Japan. The new colors, Pearl Pink and Pearl Blue, will hit shops on September 5th at the usual price of 12,500 ¥ ($106). Slowly but surely we're getting to point where the multitude of colors on display at E3 will be available. Pictures below are courtesy of Impress Game Watch.

Pearl Blue Pearl Pink


I don't have all that much to talk about this week. I do, however, want to direct you to an interesting discussion over at Insert Credit. The editors of the site have put together a lengthy, 11-part discussion on the state of videogame journalism. The article features essays by Brandon Sheffield, Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh and Tim Rogers (Insert Credit); Nich Maragos (GIA); Kevin Gifford (Video Fenky); Tycho (Penny Arcade); Chris Kohler (Animerica); Jane Pinckard (GameGirlAdvance); Kyle Orland (Video Game Ombudsman); Michael French (Blessed Magazine); and Tom Keller (GameGO).

There's a lot to read there, but if you're an aspiring videogame journalist, or just interested in that side of the industry, it's well worth your time. I can't say that I agree with all of it, but several of the authors bring up very valid points. I do think that videogame journalism needs to change, but what we need is a wider variety of coverage, not merely a replacement of the old guard. Sure, most current videogame coverage amounts to little more than press release rewrites and free advertising for publishers, but at some level, there is a need for that. The majority of people who read magazines and web sites do it simply to get information. They are not there to get a 12-page critique of a game, when all they want is some indication of whether a game is good or not.

I've spoken about this subject before, so I won't repeat myself (at least not yet, I'm sure I'll speak about it again in the near future), but I do think that there is a demand for something other than game reviews. How many of you read reviews of games you've played, simply to see what other people thought? I do it all the time, and I'd wager that a lot of you do too. In this instance, I agree that there is reason to start analyzing games at a deeper level than reviews can reach. Games and gamers are reaching a point where an intelligent dissection of all aspects of a game is warranted. I have no idea how many people are interested in something like this, though. I do know that I would be very interested in seeing Analysis join News, Previews and Reviews as staples of videogame writing.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Insert Credit feature. You can e-mail me (and the individual authors too, if you're so inclined), or post your thoughts on the board. I'll catch you all next week.

Exeunt all

Missed an installment? Check out the archives.

Sources: [Impress Game Watch, Atlus, Dengeki, GameSpot Japan, Quiter, Digicube, Famitsu, IGN, Gamers]

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by Alex Wollenschlaeger

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