Japandemonium - Bitchin' Camaro

Hello everyone, and welcome to this week's (actually, technically it's last week's) Japandemonium. The holiday season is nearly upon us, and stores are starting to get that filled-to-the-brim look again. Unfortunately, there's only so much time in the day, so a lot of deserving titles are going to be overlooked. Maybe it's a good thing that so many games have been pushed back recently. Enough waffling, let's get to the business at hand.

Take a good look, ladies and gentlement, since it seldom looks as sorry as this. Dengeki released their sales figures for the week ending October 12th, and all's quiet on the RPG front. Last week's top game, Tengai Makyou 2: Manjimaru, slipped a couple notches to find itself languishing in third position with reasonably good second week sales of around 30,000 units. The only other RPG to crack the top 20 was Square Enix's Drag-On Dragoon, which finds itself just shy of a quarter million in sales. We're in for another couple quiet weeks after this, followed by an opening of the floodgates that will see the PSone Front Mission remake, Front Mission 1st, From's first-person RPG Shadow Tower Abyss and many others hit stores.

Pos. Title Publisher Plat. Sales Total
3 Tengai Makyou II: Manjimaru Hudson 29,475 120,752
7 Drag-On Dragoon Square Enix 11,259 224,679

With the current dearth of game releases, it's no surprise that the editors of Weekly Famitsu haven't had too many RPGs to keep them busy over the last while. That trend continues in the latest issue, although it does have coverage of two upcoming games. Square Enix's re-release of Front Mission (released in Japan in 1995 for the Super Famicom) in the form of Front Mission 1st for the aging PSone pulled in respectable numbers from the review squad but failed to bring home any hardware. Not so for From Software's first-person RPG Shadow Tower Abyss, which fenagled a Silver Award out of Japan's most popular magazine. The individual editor scores for the reviews are reproduced below.

Title Publisher Plat. Scores
Front Mission 1st Square Enix 8, 7, 7, 6 - 28/32
Shadow Tower Abyss From Software 8, 8, 7, 7 - 30/32 (Silver Award)

Square Enix and Digicube announced on Friday that they will be teaming up once again to offer gamers a preorder incentive. This time, the two companies will be giving plush slime keychain to those that preorder the popular Dragon Quest character's debut adventure, Slime Morimori Dragon Quest. Preorders are being accepted right now, with the game scheduled for release on November 14th. The inclusion of the slime plush might help ease the pain induced by the 5,800 ¥ ($53) price sticker. There are a limited number of these little tchotchkes, so those of you aching for one are advised to get in touch with a DIgicube affiliate or importer as soon as possible. The images below are courtesy of Impress Game Watch.

Slime Morimori Dragon Quest Slime Morimori Dragon Quest

On Monday, Gust, publisher of the Atelier series, revealed a new soundtrack for Atelier Elie. Titled "Atelier Elie Unknown Origin," the two-disc set will contain 28 songs taken from and inspired by the popular game. In addition, there will be three more songs, including a jazz version of the opening theme done by jazz artist Mami Horie. The soundtrack's 12-page, full color booklet will contain a comic featuring the Atelier gang done by Yoshihiko Ochi. This soundtrack can be purchased directly from Salburg's site, and skeptics can find a handful of sample tracks there too. The soundtrack hits stores on November 11th, for 2,800 ¥ ($26). Images below are courtesy of Impress Game Watch.

Atelier Elie CD Atelier Elie CD Atelier Elie CD

The beauty of a persistent online world is that it provides a location for all manner of virtual celebrations. Case in point: Square Enix announced on Monday that it will be hosting a Halloween event at the end of the month in Vana'diel, homeworld for MMORPG Final Fantasy XI. Between October 31st and November 3rd, gamers will be able to partake in the tricking and/or treating shenanigans associated with the pagan holiday in the three main towns of Bastuuk, Windhurst, and San d'Oria. NPCs in these towns will fully play the part, dressing up and handing out goodies to players. With the launch of Final Fantasy XI in North America later this month, this marks the first such event that will host players from outside of Japan.

Regular readers of Japandemonium will remember "The Black Mages," a CD released at the beginning of the year that features Nobuo Uematsu and his band performing heavy metal remixes of Final Fantasy battle theme music. Uematsu also performed two live shows based on the CD back in April that were very well received. Uematsu announced last week that his band will be gettting together again for another performance later this year. The free show will be taking place at Uematsu's alma mater, Kanagawa University in Yokohama. The gig is slated for 4:30 PM on November 3rd. If the success of the previous shows is anything to go by, any of you planning on attending are advised to get there early, since the venue's capacity is almost sure to be exceeded by the mullet-wearing lovers of Uematsu's side-project. If any of you are going to the show, please get in touch with me beforehand.

In other Uematsu news, Square Enix announced this week that tickets for the previously announced "Tour de Japon" orchestral tour will be going on sale on November 21st. All in all, seven shows are being planned for six different venues around Japan, with tickets running 5,500 ¥ ($50) a piece. The tour, which will run from March 12th to April 16th, is scheduled to feature performances of Final Fantasy songs by a full orchestra under the direction of Uematsu himself. For full details, check out this posting at Uematsu's home page.

As was reported earlier this week, Square Enix is gearing up for the Japanese release of Star Ocean 3: Director's Cut for the PlayStation 2. To fan the flames, the company unveiled the official web site for the new edition of the game. The Flash-heavy site features information on all the features anounced earlier and some artwork of the new character costumes (each of the characters now have three costumes). Interestingly, the new additions to this new version require that the game now ships on two DVDs. The site also contains screenshots of the new three-player mode. You can check out the site right here.


That's all from me for this week. My apologies for the lateness of the column. Real life is encroaching on my free time. Who ever said that entering the real world was fun? In closing, I'm going to talk about characters in games, specifically all of us.

I've been playing quite a bit of Tiger Woods 2004 this week, and one very fun aspect of the game is the ability to create just about anybody you want using the GameFace character customization system. On the other hand we have Tony Hawk Underground, which will allow you to actually integrate your face (Activision is assuming you'll want your face) into the title. First you send off a photo to Activision, who will then wrap your visage around a wireframe and send it back to you so that you can play as whoever you want.

Games used to be all about escaping reality, but we're moving in a diametrically opposite direction. Pretty soon, you'll be fully able to live your life in a virtual world. I don't know about you, but the idea that you can go home and play yourself riding a skateboard instead of just going outside to do the real thing is pretty weird. I realize that not everyone go outside for a skate, but if half the time people spent playing the game was actually used to learn how to do the real thing, they might just realize that the real thing is pretty damn fun. And that holds true for most virtualizations.

There seems to be a growing disjunction between gamers who want to escape reality, and those that want to ensconce themselves in it as much as possible without having to do the actual activity. Personally, I prefer the escapism, but it also seems clear to me that people like me are becoming the minority. What about you? I'd like to hear your opinion, either via e-mail or on the boards. Catch you all later this week, when I hope to get back on track.

Exeunt all

Missed an installment? Check out the archives.

Sources: [Impress Game Watch, Dengeki, Gamespot, 1Up, Gust, Quiter, Famitsu]

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by Alex Wollenschlaeger

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