Japandemonium - Plastic Surgery Disasters

I tried, good readers, I tried, but the Japanese videogame industry just didn't want to give. This week's update is rather devoid of news, and it's more than likely due to three little letters: T. G. S. Yes, it's show time again, and in three short weeks tens of thousands of rabid videogame fans will descend upon the Makuhari Messe in Chiba for this year's Tokyo Game Show. Until then, however, it seems that we're in for some more of those oh-so-familiar pre-show doldrums.

This week's Japanese sales figures are proof that things are starting to pick up for Nintendo's GameCube. Topping the charts for the period ending August 31st is Namco's Tales of Symphonia, which sold over 175,000 units in its first weekend. A good portion of that number was based on sales to newcomers to Nintendo's console; according to Media Create's hardware sales figures, the GameCube sold over 35,000 consoles last week, which is about 20,000 more than it usually sells. GameCube sales actually outpaced PlayStation 2 sales for the first time in many months. Another big winner for the week was Square Enix's Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu for the Game Boy Advance. The remake of the decade-old Game Boy game shifted over 150,000 units. The last new RPG to crack the charts was yet another remake--Sega's Sega Ages 2500 Vol. 1: Phantasy Star Generation for the PlayStation 2 attracted just over 13,000 gamers to its well-worn shores. Check out the numbers below for the rest of the week's details.

Pos. Title Publisher Plat. Sales Total
1 Tales of Symphonia Namco 176,600 176,600
2 Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu Square Enix 151,544 151,544
6 Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Square Enix 17,170 295,269
11 Sega Ages 2500 Vol. 1: Phantasy Star Generation Sega 13,546 13,546
12 Super Robot Taisen D Banpresto 11,000 155,958
15 Summon Night 3 Banpresto 9,435 200,452
19 Tales of Phantasia Namco 6,940 106,678

Now would also be a good time to point out something about Dengeki's numbers, so those of you firing up Outlook to tell me I'm wrong about Tales of Symphonia's sales figures should listen up. Each week, Dengeki collates sales figures from a good proportion of the video game retailers in Japan. They do not, however, check in with all of them, meaning that the figures are always a little lower than what actually sold. So the reports last week that around 200,000 units of Tales of Symphonia sold are more than likely accurate. Until I find a reliable, weekly sales figure provider, though, I'm sticking with Dengeki.

It was another busy week for Famitsu's editors, who opined on two relatively high-profile games and two that completely snuck up on us. First up is Square Enix's dragon-slash-sword game Drag-On Dragoon, which failed to wow the esteemed publication's reviewers. Faring much better was Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life; the frequently-delayed game seems to have ironed out most of the its wrinkles and pulled in a Silver Award. And coming out of nowhere are Shin Megami Tensei Devil Children: Fire Version & Ice Version. Unfortunately, the low-ish score might indicate that not much has changed from the first games (which incidently are finally being released in North America next month under the name Demi Kids). Check out the individual editor scores below.

Title Publisher Plat. Scores
Drag-On Dragoon Square Enix 8, 7, 7, 7 - 29/40
Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life Marvelous Interactive 9, 8, 7, 7 - 31/40 (Silver Award)
Shin Megami Tensei Devil Children: Fire/Ice Atlus 7, 7, 7, 7 - 28/40

To celebrate the recent release of Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu and its accompanying soundtrack, Square Enix held a little get-together at the AsoBitCity in Akihabara on Saturday. Most of the game's principle creators popped in for the event, including (left to right below) composer Kenji Ito, producer Kouichi Ishii, character designer Shinichi Kameoka, and scenario writer Miwa Ikuta. During conversations about the game's visuals, Kameoka mentioned that while he doesn't think 3D graphics are completely useless, his company (Brownie Brown) is more interested in sticking with 2D. Kouichi Ishii had some good news for Mana fans, stating that Square Enix is interested in making more games in the popular series. Hardly surprising news, but it's encouraging to get official word on the matter. It wasn't all about the creators though; a lucky draw was held to give three winners one of the recently released, limited edition Mana Blue Game Boy Advance SPs. To the delight of the 200-strong audience, Kenji Ito closed off the event with a performance of tracks from the game's soundtrack, and he took requests for songs from the audience as well. Below are some images from the event, courtesy of Impress Game Watch.

Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu live event Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu live event Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu live event Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu live event Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu live event Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu live event

With the release of Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution rapidly approaching, Sega is preparing a special version of Phantasy Star Online Episode 1 & 2 for the GameCube, which is designed specifically to bring new players up to speed. Titled Phantasy Star Online Episode 1 & 2 Plus, this latest update will basically be a compilation of everything that's come before in the series, with all the regions and items from the first two games. The third region in the game world, which has until now been available for offline play only, can be tackled online. Several special items are being planned for this new version, as well as a new online challenge mode. While this game is designed to allow new players to experience the world of Phantasy Star Online, Sega has not forgotten about those that have forsaken their social lives in order to gain that extra level or ten. In addition to the aforementioned updates, Phantasy Star Online Episode 1 & 2 Plus will allow gamers to import their save files from the previous iteration of the game. Even better news for seasoned Hunters is the price; the game will retail for a paltry 3,980 ¥ ($34). Both Phantasy Star Online Episode 1 & 2 Plus and Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution will hit stores on November 27th.

As mentioned above, the latest installment of the now-annual Tokyo Game Show is but a few weeks away, and Japanese videogame companies are gearing up for getting down. The major players have started announcing their line-ups, and amongst that group is Square Enix. There are no real surprises in the company's list (see the table below), although Front Mission 1st will be making its public debut at the show, in playable form no less. Elsewhere on the floor, gamers can expect to try out most of the company's recent offerings. There are rumors afloat that Square Enix will be showing off a few new games (with some sites speculating that a game related to Final Fantasy VII will be there), but so far there's nothing solid. Gamers with annoyingly bulging wallets will be pleased to hear that the Square Enix Store and Digicube stands in the booth will be more than happy to help relieve the burden. Capcom has also announced it's show line-up, but despite having 20 games slated for the floor, there's not one RPG in the batch. They will be giving out preview DVDs though, so it might be worth your while to swing by their booth if you're in the area.

  Title Platform
  Bakusou Yankee Damashii
  Cross Gate
  Drag-On Dragoon
  Final Fantasy XI
  Front Mission 1st
  Kenshin Dragon Quest Stand-alone
  Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu


That's all as far as news for this week is concerned. I don't have time for a closing commentary this week, but I do want to talk about the column for a bit. While doing some vanity searching on Google (yes, I'm horrendously self-centered), I came across an application from someone who applied to work at RPGamer. When asked what part of the site needed work, he mentioned that Japandemonium's archives are in a shambles. And you know what? He's right.

So, it's time to get things in order. I'm going to be working on the steadily-growing archives, making it a bit easier to find articles without having to scan through each update. I also want to work on a new layout for the column, as all this grey is starting to drive me mad. This is going to have to wait a month or so, though, since I'm in the midst of finishing up with university and readying my life for a trans-Atlantic move. What I would like from you are suggestions and comments. What would you like to see added to the column, and what should go? Should I quit adding commentaries, or do you want more? Am I missing some things completely? I'd appreciate any feedback you have. You can either e-mail me, or you can post something on the message board. And now I must flee. Until next week, take it easy.

Exeunt all

Missed an installment? Check out the archives.

Sources: [Impress Game Watch, Dengeki, Square Enix, Sonic Team, Tokyo Game Show, Famitsu]

·Discuss this story in the RPGamer forums 

by Alex Wollenschlaeger

<- Back