Japandemonium - Weird Science

Hello everyone and welcome to the Labor Day edition of Japandemonium. I hope you enjoyed the long weekend. No such respite for Japan, though, as things are still flittering along at a commendable pace. Some good games have been coming out, and there are several more popping up on the horizon. Before we know it, the summer doldrums will be a distant memory as we flounder in the torrent of incoming games. So, let's get this thing going, shall we?

Whatever Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles has, it isn't enough to knock Winning Eleven off its perch at the top of Dengeki's weekly Japanese sales chart. In a relatively sedate week that saw only three new releases, Konami's soccer game squelched all comers, inching ever closer to the million mark. Square Enix's GameCube offering did however manage to break a quarter million sales. Things will not be as rosy for the publisher next week, as Namco released Tales of Symphonia on Friday, and initial reports out of Japan indicate that the game is doing well. We'll have to wait until next week to get the official word, but so far things are going swimmingly for Namco. Its Game Boy Advance re-release Tales of Phantasia is still doing brisk business, with the game having shifted 100,000 units as of this past week. Nintendo's Mother 1+2 makes a welcome return to the Top 20, no doubt due to increased awareness after Nintendo and Coca-Cola announced a commemorative set of figures earlier this week. The numbers for the week ending August 24th are shown below.

Pos. Title Publisher Plat. Sales Total
2 Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Square Enix 30,811 278,099
7 Super Robot Taisen D Banpresto 16,825 144,958
8 Summon Night 3 Banpresto 15,139 191,017
13 Tales of Phantasia Namco 9,610 99,738
18 Mother 1+2 Nintendo 5,350 250,477

On Friday, From Software announced details for the theme song of it's upcoming title, Spectral Souls. Taking care of the up-front aural duties is popular Japanese band Smorgas. From has secured the rights to use the song "GP-7" from the hip hop quintet's latest album, "Electrock." You can get an idea of what the band sounds like by heading over to the official Smorgas website. For more information on the title, check out last week's column, which contains a mini-preview for the game. Spectral Souls is scheduled for release in Japan on October 23rd. Also, the official site has a preview snippet of the DVD available for download, which should give you an idea of what to expect from the disc included with the limited edition of the game.

At the risk of confusing gamers even further, Sony announced a second new Wild Arms game this week (check here for the announcement of Wild Arms: Alter Code:F). The previously announced game is a remake of the first Wild Arms, which appeared on the PSone in 1996 (1997 in North America). This new game, Wild Arms Another Code:F, is a completely new title. The creative staff is comprised of several members of the original team, and, intriguingly, the game is set to make use of save files from Wild Arms Alter Code:F. Reports in Famitsu magazine (via Gamespot) quote series director Akifumi Kaneko, who says that this feature does not mean that the stories of the two games are related. Another Code:F will also give gamers a completely new battle system. Both games are being developed for the PlayStation 2: Alter Code:F is set for release this winter, while no release details have been revealed for Another Code:F.

While the game doesn't strictly fall under our area of coverage, I thought that I would mention Square Enix's new slime-based action/adventure game, Slime Morimori Dragon Quest: Shougeki No Shippo Dan. The game, which is being developed by Armor Project and Bird Studio, follows the trials and tribulations of the main slime character as he/she/it solves puzzles and battles baddies in the shape of the Tails brigade. Further details are sparse right now and no release information has been announced. Below is the only current screen shot from the game, courtesy of Square Enix.

Slime Dragon Quest

And while I'm on the topic of Dragon Quest; Square Enix is moving its marketing machinery into place for the blade-tastic stand-alone game Kenshin Dragon Quest, and this includes filming the obligatory television commercial. The commercial, which started airing today in Tokyo, sees the boy pictured below swinging his arms haphazardly in a larger-than-normal Japanese living room, smiting slimes without so much as an afterthought. The company has also put together an official site for the game, which demonstrates how the sword-slash-controller works. Be warned that the site is quite flash-heavy and only in Japanese, but it's still informative. Below are a few images from the commercial (courtesy of Impress Game Watch). Kenshin Dragon Quest is set for release in Japan on September 19th, and there's still no word of a domestic release, so those of you wanting to get your sword on are advised to get in touch with your favorite importer.

Kenshin Dragon Quest commercial Kenshin Dragon Quest commercial Kenshin Dragon Quest commercial

Another item worth saving those pennies for is the official soundtrack for Mother 1+2. Already released in Japan on August 20th, the single-disc soundtrack contains 26 songs of newly arranged, orchestrally performed songs from Shigesato Itoi's seminal series. The first game is represented by ten tracks, with the lion's share coming from Mother 2 (Earthbound in North America). The original music for the games was composed by Keiichi Suzuki, with remixes done under the guidance of Jade Cocoon 2 composer Kimitaka Matsumae. The soundtrack will set you back 2,381 ¥ ($20). The cover art below is courtesy of CD Japan.

Mother 1+2 Soundtrack

Namco updated its official Baten Kaitos page this week with information on three new characters. First up is Gibari, a 34-year-old fisherman whose flouting of his village's traditions has caused some friction. Next up is thirtysometing Ladekahn, the king (yes, despite appearances, that's a dude) of the cloudy, floating continent of Diadem. Ladekahn is a proud warrior who has earned the respect and admiration of his subjects. Lastly, we have Rodolfo, the quinquagenarian lord of Sadarusuodo, who, despite his cunning ways, is loved by his people. Of these three, only Gibari is playable, while the two patriarchs form part of the rich tapestry that is the world of Baten Kaitos. Check out the screen shots below (courtesy of Namco) to see what these new characters look like. Baten Kaitos is confidently striding its way to its December release in Japan.

Gibari Gibari Ladekahn Ladekahn Rodolfo Rodolfo


I don't know about you, but Baten Kaitos has me amped. The more I find out about the game, the more I want to play it. As far as journalism is concerned, well, I didn't receive any comments last week, so I guess I was right in thinking that most readers just aren't interested in seeing anything too in-depth right now. I did recently run across another example of how things can get out of hand when not even due diligence is given to an increasingly weighty subject.

At ECTS this week, the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (or ELSPA, for the verbiage shy) released two white papers on the industry. The papers are titled (click to download): "Computer and video games: a British phenomenon around the world" and "The cultural life of computer and video games: a cross industry study."

Now, it seems to me that a professional industry body should be able to put together a substantial piece of research, especially for something as adventurously titled as the second paper. This is far from the case, though, as the papers come across as hastily written publicity pieces with no other intent than a little bit of blowing their own horn. There's also ample speculation and posturing with little fact citing and heaped helpings of "Gee, wouldn't that be nice?"

I don't mean to say that games aren't impacting culture at all, but the author (I shudder to think that there was more than one person responsible for this shoddy piece of writing) is seriously reaching by saying that videogames are already influencing popular culture in any way other than superficially. There is definitely some "cross pollination," but we're still a long way from the time when videogames are the dominant medium of the age. And, yes, I'm being anal, but is it so much to ask that someone praising Shigeru Miyamoto be able to correctly spell his name? No, I didn't think so either. The BBC giving credence to this paper by covering it as fact instead of fancy doesn't help matters either.

Phew, now that that's off my chest, I can get back to what's left of grad school life. Any comments, suggestions, flames? Send 'em my way. Until next week, take it easy.

Exeunt all

Missed an installment? Check out the archives.

Sources: [Impress Game Watch, Namco, Dengeki, GameSpot, Nintendo, ELSPA, Square Enix, Idea Factory, Sony]

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by Alex Wollenschlaeger

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