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Dengeki Rankings I Japandemonium Redesign I Spectral Souls II Info I Uematsu Making Sweet Music I New Atelier Title Coming I Ys Figure Set Coming in March I Culture Corner: Ask Sensei I Sayonara
JAPANDEMONIUM
Japandemonium 2.0 January 24, 2005


Konichiwa

Today is my first chance to use my brand new layout. I've been looking forward to it all week, and even though I am at my week's end, I'm still happy. My week will end as well as possible.

The only real news I have is that I have yet another PSP. I took my PSP back to the store and told them that my PSP had a few problems. It had dust under the screen, it had a dead pixel, and one of the buttons didn't work very well. All of these were true, but only the last one mattered. Sony has stated that having dust under the screen and dead pixels is 'normal.' But buttons that only work half the time is in fact a problem. They took my PSP, and they said they would send it to Sony. I should expect a new one in one to two months. They said they were unable to do an exchange, but they were able to do a refund. So, I got back in line and bought a new PSP. Seems kinda silly, but that's how these things work. The new PSP IS better than my last one, but it still has a dead pixel. I'm willing to live with it. It's so small you honestly can't tell it's there when playing. I still feel a little cheated that I pay the roughly 200 US and I get a machine with a 'normal' dead pixel, but there's not much I can do. I remember my first PS2 as being flawed as well. Such is life for the Sony lovers out there.

But let's get this new party started!



 Dengeki Rankings

There's not a lot of change this week. no new RPGs on the chart this week, but we did lose a couple. This week also marks the first significant slip in the position of Pokemon Emerald. I'm a bit shocked. I am also shocked to see that the top spot was taken by Mario Party Advance. It's a one-player game which, to me, defeats the purpose of the Mario Party series. Go figure.

Also, since I like to give some stats as to how the PSP is doing against the DS, I thought I'd expand it this week. Despite the dead pixels, I'm happy to see another contestant in the handheld market, so I continue to cheer on the PSP. Of course, this does NOT mean that I am not cheering on the DS. I wish both to do well. But for those interested, the chart breaks down as follows:

  • PS2 23 games including the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 9th, and 10th spots.
  • PSP 9 games including the 7th and 8th spots.
  • GBA 9 games including the top spot.
  • DS 5 games including the 4th and 6th spots.
  • GC 4 games
  • Not surprisingly, the PS2 is cleaning house, but it looks like the PSP is doing better than a lot of people have been giving it credit for. I think it's better for gamers to have choices. If the console market can sustain three systems, then I don't think Nintendo should have a lock on the handheld market either. Having another company to compete against makes both sides have to step up quality of their system. I am VERY interested in the US launch of the PSP.

    But that said, let's see some numbers, shall we?

    Position Title Publisher Platform
    5 Itadaki Street Special Square Enix
    11 Dragon Quest VIII Square Enix
    13 Tales of the World: Narikiri Dungeon 3 Namco
    14 Rockman.EXE 5 Capcom
    16 Tales of Rebirth Namco
    21 Pokemon Emerald Nintendo
    32 Gagharv Trilogy Bandai
    45 Digimon World X Bandai


    Source: Dengeki Online



     Japandemonium Redesign
    Japandemonium

    For just six million yen, Japandemonium has been rebuilt stronger, faster, and just better all the way around. I would like to personally thank Jeff Walker, whom some of you may know as CainEJW. He is the man largely, if not totally responsible for the site redesign, and he created this design for Japandemonium that I am using. I am very appreciative, and I wish to give him all the credit I can for his hard work. Thanks again!


     Spectral Souls II Info

    One of my fellow staffers sent me a link about Spectral Souls II being delayed a week, so I figured I'd take a deeper look into it. Upon looking into the official site, I found all kinds of goodies for this game that is slated for release on the 27th of January.

    The story is set in an alternate dimension called "Neverland." In this world, humans, beastmen, faeries, and demons live together in the same world, but it's not a happy world where everyone gets along. Humans and demons, the two largest populations, have been fighting for centuries for the right to rule the world.

    For a long time, the demons were winning the wars, but at some point long into their reign, the Imperial army starts destroying human villages. Naturally, a resistance movement springs up naming itself after the last human empire, Shimba.

    The player starts off in a village so small it's not even on the map, and begins a battle that comes to be known "The Seven Years War."

    Spectral Soul II is a strategic RPG that uses a battle system called "Shift Time Battle." Essentially, players can control turn order. Players build up "Active Points" as they do anything other than move. If a character doesn't use all their active points, they can save the remainder so that their turn comes up faster.

    Various skills are available including "Charge" and "Hold." Charging allows the player to create a combo with two or more characters, and Holding lets one character pull off a chained attack by themself. Each character has their own special skill, and if you use some in combinations, you can create even bigger skills, resulting in hundred hit combos or more. It is also possible to combine weapons and items to create bigger and better ones as well

    Those wishing to pick up Spectral Souls II will have to decide between the regular version or a special edition. The special edition will have a DVD, an art book, and a series of cards. The standard edition will retail for 7,140 yen with the special edition selling for 9,240 yen. It's looking like a pretty cool game, so you might want to keep an eye on it. For now, you can watch the trailer for the game that can be found here.


     Uematsu Making Sweet Music
    Square Enix

    Nobuo Uematsu's band, The Black Mages, had a second live concert in Kawasaki on January 22nd for many cheering fans. The concert was a promo event for their new album, Black Mages: The Skies Above, and they performed all 12 tracks from the new CD. Fellow employee Kenji Ito opened for them with some pieces from Romancing Saga: Minstrel Song as well as some older SaGa tunes. This marks the second live performance by Uematsu's group with the first being in April of last year in Shibuya.

    In other Uematsu news, even though he is not still with Square Enix, he is still working with them. Uematsu is working with the above mentioned Kenji Ito to do the music for the upcoming "Egg-Head Heroes 4: The Seven Egg-Heads." Uematsu and Ito are working under the name "Nobuo Uematsu and the Egg-Head Mages." Uematsu even makes a cameo in the game.


    Source: Impress



     New Atelier Title Coming

    Japanese company Gust, makers of the Atelier series, have announced that they are going to continue the series with the upcoming Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana 2. This game is set slightly earlier than the first Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana. This time around, two heroes, a boy and a girl, will be in the spotlight instead of the one girl protagonist that the first game had. The basic gameplay will remain the same, but there will be a greater variety of alchemical abilties than previously before.


    Source: Famitsu |



     Ys Figure Set Coming in March

    Falcom and Atlier-sai are teaming up to release set of figured based on the Ys games. There will be seven figures in all, and each will retail for a very reasonable 525 yen each. The characters will be, Adol, the hero of the series; Leah and Fina from Ys I; Lilia from Ys II; Oruha and Aisha from Ys VI; and a secret character that hasn't been revealed yet.

    The figures will stand between 4.7 and 5.1 inches tall, and be sure to click on the pictures. The thumbnails do not give justice to the full-sized pictures of these beautifully colored figures.

    Source: Famitsu



      Culture Corner: Ask Sensei

    This week, I've got plenty of questions, including one that just BARELY made it in on time. As I've said before, I'll do my darndest to answer all questions that are emailed to me or left for me in the forums. In the case of questions left in the forums, assume that those questions will receive an answer either personally or in the column even if I don't specifically say so. Should I miss a question, just email it to me, and it'll appear in the next week's column with my apologies.

    That said, let's get started!



    From the Forums


    How much Japanese -must- you know in order to participate in these teaching programs? I mean, I know you need to know a good amount so that you can actually live there without having an interpreter around, but strictly in the teaching department, it there a proficienty requirement? (I'm assuming there is, I just want confirmation)

    XeroZohar


    Sensei

    To get hired, no Japanese is required. It is a plus, but neither JET nor the Eikaiwa require any Japanese skills. There are a few GEOS teachers that I've seen that spoke no Japanese at all, but most of us knew some. As for me, I thought I knew a lot more than I did, but more on that later...

    How much is needed? As much as possible really, but in a pinch, a phrase book can save most people. It won't help you to get ADSL in your apartment, but you can figure your way out. When all else fails, the locals that speak ANY English at all will try to help you as much they can. The Japanese are a helpful bunch.


    I thought I was wrong once, but I was only mistaken


    Just a few quick things on the JET Programme from someone who's currently part of it:

    JETs do not necessarily (and the large majority do not) get the same breaks as the students. During breaks we are required to go to either our base school or board of education and do work there. Typically "doing work" involves just sitting around because there's nothing to do. There are town eikaiwas and usually a good deal of random tasks to do, though. JETs DO, however, receive paid vacation that can be taken whenever. My town in Ibaraki-ken gives me 20 days per year that I can use when I choose. The only stipulation is that it not be during some critical period where I'm really needed for oral testing or something like that.

    As for my question, I'm curious to know what you see in the PSP over the DS. Sure, the technology is astounding (I'm still floored by how good the screens look since I first saw the thing at TGS 2004), but I just don't see the allure outside of that. Perhaps it's just me, but I'd like a little more than ports of PS2 games and remakes of extremely old Falcom rpgs. At least the DS is getting things like Xenosaga, Baten Kaitos, and Megami Tensei (though frankly I'm most excited about Animal Crossing and a version of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles that doesn't require EXTRA hardware to play).

    The other thing that strikes me over here in Japan is just how little interest my students have shown in the PSP. Half of my kids said they wanted a DS for Christmas but today was the first time anyone mentioned that they were interested in a PSP. The magazines may be beside themselves with excitement for the PSP, but my middle schoolers certainly aren't. How about where you are?

    -Talbyn


    Sensei

    Looks like I was a bit wrong on my assessment of the JET Programme. Thanks for the correction. I was only going off what I've gathered from the local ALT, but my Eikaiwa info is a bit more accurate.

    As for the PSP, I see a lot in it. It's got a beautiful screen and it's far more powerful than the DS. I've never said that I play only RPGs, and in fact, none of the four PSP games I own are RPGs. I play a varied mix of games, and I think the PSP will do nicely for what I play.

    Then, you have to consider the fact that Sony has some strong connections to a lot of gaming companies, especially companies I like. Take for instance Namco. We'll never see a Tekken game on the GC, but I'd gladly snap up a Tekken for the PSP. There are also games like Metal Gear Solid that are likely to pop on the system, and there's Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core. If you look, there are a fair number of RPGs coming out for it along with a lot of other good stuff.

    As for your students not talking about it, well... it's not really marketed at them. It's a bit expensive for a student to buy. Me? I make more than enough cash to afford it, so I did. Now that I have it, I want it to do well. I also own a DS, a GBA, 2 PS2s and 2 GCs. I want each and every one of those systems to do well.

    Thanks again for the correction. I'm sure many people will be interested in that information.


    Pocky!


    Have you tried the chocolate/caramel Decorer Pocky yet? Oddly, it tastes distinctly mocha-esque, but it's super tasty and the coating is rather thick for Pocky and similar products. Just like a decoration cake on a stick!

    -Kalmar


    Sensei

    Yup! I've also tried the Strawberry Decorer Pocky and the Chocolate Covered Banana Decorer Pocky as well. They are all quite tasty. Basically, I've tried just about every flavor of pocky I can get my hands on, and they've all been tasty, but out of the Decorer Pocky, the caramel gets my vote hands down. It's yummy stuff!


    Four-Legged Friends


    Dear Jordan,

    After reading a letter on animals in one of your previous columns, I thought of this question. If someone that owns a pet is moving to Japan, does the pet have to go into quarentine? I recently moved to Hawai'i, in which you have to quarentine a pet for a least 3 months when you arrive. So, I was just curious if it's like that in Japan

    Thanks in advanced!

    -Nohea


    Sensei

    I'm not 100% sure on this, but my guess is that the answer is yes. Japan is pretty strict about what comes into or out of their country. They are also pretty strict on things being clean. You might need to look into it further, but my advice is to leave your little friend at home unless you are 110% sure that you can take it with you.


    Lots of Questions


    Hi, I just recently discovered this site and your column, and I'm very impressed with them both. Unfortunately that also means I have a lot of questions:S

    To start I'd like to ask if Japanese society is as strict as I've heard; for example, are there really people who become shut-ins because of ostracisation or stress? Next, is the sushi better there? Third, from what I've understood you need to have a degree of some kind to be able to teach English there (or ten years' experience in a trade), is that a hard and fast rule? Also, I'd like to mention that I'm trying to learn the language myself and I've found quite a few useful resources I thought might help others: I managed to find a downloadable copy of the Pimsleur's speak and understand Japanese dialogue lessons (in mp3 format), and I find they're pretty good at teaching you the basics of grammar, etiquette and pronounciation. For the more advanced there is an online program called Kanji game (google Kanji game, it's the first link) where it teaches you new kanji and their English and Japanese definitions/pronounciations in a fairly accessible manner.

    Lastly, are there any Japanese foods or drinks, obscure or otherwise, that you would highly recommend? I've tried Pocari Sweat (not bad), Pocky, Ramune, Mintia and various others which are now become bad habits, just looking for something new;) Thanks a lot,

    Elysse


    Sensei

    Whew! A lot of questions! Let's see... as for the shut-ins, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's probably not true. It's likely that there might be a couple, but then again, we probably have some back home too. I live in the country, so it's pretty relaxed here.

    As for the food, yeah, it does seem to be better here. At least Japanese food anyway. American food or pizza just ain't the same, but all your favorite Japanese dishes are quite tasty. Makes sense though.

    As for the degree, yes you do need it. The degree is required by the Japanese government in order to issue a visa. In fact, I had to ship my ORIGINAL diploma to Japan for them to inspect it. There's no getting around that one. Get at least a bachelors degree or stay on your side of the pond.

    As for the food, there's a lot, but it's mainly just variations of stuff you've mentioned. You'd be amazed at just how many flavors of pocky exist. I can think of at least twenty off the top of my head. Then, there's all kinds of drinks like Qoo. There's also Chu-Hi if you are 20 years or older. Basically, there's just a lot to try, so the best way is to just jump in and try stuff. Grab a new snack each time and try them all!

    And thanks for the info. I'm sure many a reader will appreciate your advice.


    An otaku with a social life?


    heya j,

    I'm rather obsessed with japan but it takes a little motivation for me to start reading... things, so i just started reading the column sadly. Forgive me if i'm repeating any questions in advance. Was just wondering who you hang out with in japan? how do you meet people etc. that kinda thing.

    One love keep up the good work jyaaaaaaa

    Jay Rob


    Sensei

    I meet people in one of three ways. First, I've gone out with my students. Before anyone says "That's wrong!" or "You have a fiancee!" I'll say that most of my students are adults, and GEOS encourages interaction outside of the classroom. Also, I've not 'dated' my students, only gone with them to do stuff. Although, other GEOS teachers have gone so far as to marry students, and it's perfectly legal. These are not high schoolers, and they are paying to come to GEOS. There are no such restrictions.

    My students and their friends is the main way I meet people. They take me someplace and introduce me to all their friends. Then, I meet friends of friends and network as such. It's a lot of fun really.

    The second source comes from other teachers within GEOS in my area. We get together at beer gardens, onsens, or other such places and just enjoy ourselves. We're all roughly the same age and speak the same language. And, it's fun to network and swap stories.

    The third source is the gaijin in my town. Many of them are from rival schools or are ALTs, but not every gaijin is a teacher. We tend to band together and hang out some too, mainly for the same reasons as the GEOS teachers hanging out. Language is a nice thing when we all speak it.

    Then, if you go out, I'm sure you can meet plenty of people just by going places. We gaijin tend to stick out like sore thumbs, so people talk to us just because we're gaijin. As for me, I spend a lot of my time in my apartment doing voice or video chat with my fiancee, so my going out has dropped off dramatically since I got internet. But I still go out every now and again.


    Nihongo ga wakarimasu ka?


    hi, i've been reading up about teaching english in japan, thanks to the japandemonium section in rpgamer. what i would like to know is, when you first set out to teach, what level was your japanese at. i am currently learning the basics by doing an evening college course, but i do not think this would be sufficent enough.

    thanks,

    Jon


    Sensei

    When I came over, I thought I knew a lot, but the truth is, I didn't know NEARLY as much as I thought. You're not going to like this answer, but it won't matter how much you know. You won't know enough. The basics will help, but you'll need more than a textbook will teach you. Surprising though it seems, people don't really talk like the textbooks I learned out of. You'll see when you get here...

    As for how much I knew? Umm... I could read 300-400 kanji and write around 200. My vocabulary was maybe 500-800 words, and I knew a bit of grammar. I'd been watching anime and understanding a lot with the subs on, so I figured I'd be fine. That was a gross overestimation of my skills.... My advice is to study as much as you can to prepare yourself to be shocked. You'll gradually pick it up though. I am.


    JUST in time


    Hi Jordan'! I've been reading your column for a few weeks now and I'm as hooked with it as you are with Pocky ^_^ I'm a girl gamer that loves rpg's, shoujo anime and coconut Pocky, among other Japanese confections. Ever since I discovered anime and rpg's I've been obsessed with visiting Japan so your culture corner has fired my curiosity for this peculiar country even more. I had heard about the English teaching programs in Japan before but I've never known anyone who's been to one, so you are the closest I've gotten to the country of the rising sun.

    Ok, so I'll get to the questions I have, there are quite a few of them actually >_< First of all, I'm an English teacher and I live in Puerto Rico, so I've been wondering if being an ESL teacher, and being bilingual (although no in Japanese) would help me get into one of these programs over other non teachers. Also, I was wondering, just how DO you get around in a country where I've read there are basically no signs that identify streets, etc! That kind of scares me a bit. I'm trying to teach myself some Japanese with some books so that when I do go to Japan I will at least be able to read signs and such. I wish I had someone to practice the spoken language though. If anyone reading this speaks Japanese let me know! Sorry to get sidetracked...Here's another question, this is kind of personal so feel free not to answer if you don't want to, but how long are you planning on staying there? Will you renew your contract? Also, have you been able to make any friends during your stay there? Locals or other gaijin (hope I got that right)? I think it might be hard to socialize when you aren't very familiar with the local customs and look completely different than everyone else. Last thing, I have a request for you. Do you think you could make a list of the best stores in Japan (or at least where you are) to find the best anime toys, rpg's, etc.? That would be really cool. Arigatou in advance ^0^! Hope you had a good weekend! Bye for now.

    -Heartly_unangel


    Sensei

    I think you'll find your teaching experience a major plus. GEOS says that they give special consideration to people with certifications, and teaching experience is a plus for any teaching job. You'll find a bit of a language barrier, but you'll be ok I think. It just takes getting used to.

    As for the signs... yeah... it's a bit scary at first. You'll have to just learn your way around. Since you won't have a car, you'll be on foot or on bike. Just explore what's around you, and make sure you remember some landmarks to get home. In my case, I used the really tall hotel near my apartment. Any navigation scheme in Japan will be based around landmarks, expecially convenience stores. They dot Japan, so you usually use them to mark turns and stuff. Again, it only takes practice to learn your way around your town/city.

    My current plan is to stay in Japan for another 18 months then to come home, get married, and settle down for a bit. I may come back to Jaapan later, but it's going to be a bit later in my life. As for friends, yup! I've met quite a few through other teachers or students. You'll find yourself making connections as soon as you step foot in Japan. That's how this place is. And, if you REALLY want to make connections, get a keitai (cell phone). EVERYONE has a cell phone here, and that's how people communicate. Text messaging is all the rage, and you'll see people text messaging everywhere they go. Not many people talk on phones because they are so darned expensive to use.

    As for the best stores for stuff, that's not gonna be easy to answer. It's going to vary from place to place. Your local shops will have the best deals, scope out your local CD GAME BOOK shops, because they tend to have better prices than most. Another good place is Jusco (kinda like the Japanese Wal-Mart.) Mine has a big kid's store called Kid's Kyowakoku that has decent prices on games and Gundam model kits. Anime is WAY too expensive for anyone used to American prices.

    Hope this helps. Feel free to shoot me another email if you have more questions or want me to go into greater depth. I could write entire columns on most questions I get, so my answers here tend to be kinda short in comparison to what I COULD write. I'd be more than happy to try to help you or anyone else out.



     Sayonara

    So, there's my new column. Feel free to give me feedback on the new layout. I'll pass all praise to Jeff, who deserves every bit of it.

    But, it's getting late, and I'm still recovering from my dinner getting knocked in my sink so I'm going to call it a night...

    Catch you on the flip
    -Jordan "Oodles of noodles down the drain!" Jackson




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