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Japandemonium R P G A M E R   -   J A P A N D E M O N I U M
Toaster Oven
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This weekend, I found out that Japanese toaster ovens can quickly become little boxes of death if you aren't careful. I went on a two week vegan fast where I had no meat, milk, eggs, or any other food coming from animals. That fast ended Sunday, which, to me, is kinda like Saturday for most people that read this. Anyway, I had some yummy yummy chicken to roast in said toaster oven, and it frequently would catch fire inside. Granted, the fires were merely oil fires and went out quickly, but I was scared every time I used it. And I used it all weekend, but I'm still alive and well. I am also quite full of very tasty dinner.

In other news, I went back to the toy store that I bought my PSP from to see if they had the two games I wanted. Sadly, they had neither, but they DID have three other things. One was Metal Gear Ac!d, another was a spare battery for the PSP, and the last was a brand new PSP. I explained that my PSP had a small problem, and that I'd like to exchange it. They agreed, and I went back to my apartment to get it. Upon returning to the store, they exchanged it with no questions asked, and I came back a happy customer. I went to test my PSP and eagerly awaited the results. I popped in Lumines and loaded up a game. I looked closely at the loading screen, and from the blackness, a light shone forth. Some would call this light "hope." I call it ANOTHER DURN DEAD PIXEL!!! This time, it was in the dead center of the screen. I was not amused.

I returned to the store and traded back to my original PSP because its dead pixel is in a more favorable location, but not before testing out Metal Gear Ac!d. The graphics are VERY pretty, and the game mechanics are pretty easy to pick up. The card based battle is kind of silly, but it makes it possible to have such a sweet looking game on the tiny PSP. The plot, well... I'm not too sure. Konami neglected to put furigana over the kanji, so I can only read about 20% of them. However, what I can gather is the reason it is named Ac!d is that the people who wrote the script were on some high powered blotter acid. I thought Metal Gear Solid 2 was a bit whacked, but this one is MUCH crazier. I simply have to play this game in English when it hits the States to see what in the heck is happening.

That said, let us go once more into the breach. I've got more questions to answer in my Culture Corner, and I've got some news on a Hello Kitty MMO?! Yeah. I was shocked too, but let's get this party started!

Dengeki Rankings 

This week, the mighty Dragon Quest VIII has fallen. Whether or not it is due to stores running out of copies or if the Japanese gamers are content stop at their tenth copy of the game remains to be seen. This week also saw the removal of just about every game that was on the chart except for games for the GBA. Every other PS2 RPG has been completely knocked off by newcomers like the six PSP and seven DS games. Despite this, Pokemon Emerald is holding strong to the charts. I'm not sure it will EVER be knocked off until there is a new game to replace it, which brings up the question, where are all the copies of it coming from? It's been on the carts for months now. Does "gotta catch 'em all" go for the game cartridges as well? It sure seems like it.

Position Title Publisher Platform
2 Dragon Quest VIII Square Enix
5 Rockman.EXE 5 Capcom
11 Pokemon Emerald Nintendo
19 Croquette: The Great Adventure Konami
28 Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories Square Enix
37 The Legend of Zelda the Minish Cap Nintendo

Hello Kitty Online Info 

Another Hello Kitty game is in the making, and this time, it's an MMO. Sanrio, the company behind Hello Kitty, and Typhoon games have teamed up to create this game for Hello Kitty's 30th Anniversary. Amazingly enough, they have combined Hello Kitty's world with RPG elements.

Hello Kitty Online World will take place in a world with three imaginary kingdoms. The thing that sets it apart from most other MMORPGs is that friendship and peaceful communication seems to be the most important part. Players will also be able to choose from one of 15 different occupations including teacher, doctor, actor, trader, and others. Also, players will be able to have up to three characters per account, each with a unique appearance, job, and personality. Then, the only thing left is to take these characters on jobs and missons to raise the capacity of their kingdom to help it develop, and by doing so, affect its fate.

Hello Kitty has a HUGE following here in Japan with almost every one of my girl students, from elementary all the way up to housewives and older, having something Hello Kitty. I went to the onsen that I live next to last week, and three out of four pairs of womens' shoes were Hello Kitty. Kitty-chan may be the only character in Japan that is more well-known than Pikachu. She really is that much of a cultural icon.

At this time, no announcements have been made about bringing the game to the US, but Hello Kitty Online World will contain English language support for communication. At this time, no information about how much Enlish will actually be in the game has been announced. This is one game worth keeping an eye on.

Final Fantasy 7 Before Crisis Chapter 5 

Square Enix The fifth chapter of Final Fantasy 7: Before Crisis has been announced for gamers lucky enough to have an i900 series DoCoMo phone. This newest installment is the first to have Cloud show up, but he's not yet the Buster Sword wielding member of Avalanche we all know and love. At this time, he's merely a Shinra trooper. Fans wishing to continue in the game will have to pay another 525 yen to keep going.

Itadaki Street Special Being Released This Week 

Square Enix

With the upcoming release of Itadaki Street Special coming soon, Square Enix has released the official box art for the game. The newly released back cover provides the surprise that Sephiroth will be joining the large cast of characters in the game.

Itadaki Street is a long running series by Enix that features board game play. The newest installment of the series will feature maps and songs from several Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy games. Itadaki Street Special is slated for release on December 22 for a price of 7,120 yen.

For more info, click here for the game's official site.

More Tantra Info 

As previously reported, Tantra is a fantasy MMO based loosely on Hindu mythology. Long thought sealed away, the dark god Mala has begun to influence the high plains of Mandala again, in nasty ways. A bleak power, called "Mala's Blood" has recently started welling up from the dark places in the Earth and is spreading all across the plains. Any plant or animal it touches becomes warped into a vicious monster. Given how fast "Mala's Blood" spread, humanity quickly found itself backed into a few walled towns. As a player, it's your job to find a way to stem the flood and prevent a full resurrection of Mala.

Upon starting, you get to choose to be a part of 1 of 8 tribes, each of which has strong leanings towards a particular class type. The Rakshasa are fast rogue/archer types. Asura are the assassins and spies. Naga are the muscle-bound heavy warriors guys, and the Kimnara are the weapons-specialist girls. The Yaksa tribe claims the monk class, while the Gandharva are the clerics. Deva mages tattoo their magic, called "mantras" onto their skin, but the Garuda choose to use items to control their magics. Once you choose a tribe, you can then mix and match five different facial types with five different hairstyles to create a visually unique avatar for yourself. If you pick the right tribe, you can even give them cat-ears.

Besides just gaining levels, you can also gain rank. Which rank depends on which tribe you chose. But regardless of tribe, your rank gives you more bonuses when you level up like greater HP and status resistances.

Tantra is mostly a game focused on fighting Mala's Blood monsters, but if you really want to, you can fight Player/player battles on a specific map after you've reached Lv 20. Just be careful about it, since defeating another player character means you pick up Karma Points. Too many of those do nasty things, like stop automatic HP regen, making you drop items if you fall in battle, and even negating any damage you do to Mala's Blood monsters. Fortunately, you can get rid of Karma points. They drop naturally over long periods of time, but you can burn them off them faster by beating Mala's Blood monsters.

Reach level 30 and you can dedicate yourself to one of three religions: Brahma's, Vishna's or Shiva's. That'll gain you higher caste and special skills. Just be careful when choosing, since it's really difficult and time consuming to change it. Another good thing about picking a religion is it allows you to create or join "Ashrams". An Ashram is kind of like a party, just better. There are quests for Ashrams only, as well as an ashram-only chat.

Tantra is looking like it will be a fun game when it is released. Any fans of MMOs should definitely keep an eye out on it. So far, there are no announcements for Tantra being released in the states, but if it is, you'll be able to read about it here first.

More First Day Sales Info 

Tales of Rebirth Once again, I have first day sales info for some new releases. This time I even have a PSP game in my list of numbers. Tales of Rebirth sold a hefty 324,000 units and Legend of Heroes Gagharv Trilogy: Shiroki Majo sold 16,000 units which can be turned into deadly weapons just by twisting the PSP! Sadly, my PSP lacks the ability to launch UMDs like throwing stars, but maybe I don't have the touch just yet. I'll just have to keep trying!

Culture Corner: Ask Sensei 

This week, I have some questions from readers that were emailed to me and a couple questions made in the #questions channel on IRC chat. It's always interesting to me to see what kinds of questions will be asked, but I'll do my darndest to answer just about any and every question. Feel free to ask any questions related to the culture or my living experiences in Japan. I'd love to answer them all. Let's get to it!

Do the Japanese get American movies, and does the general population speak English?

Edmundo

For the first question, yes. We do get American movies with Japanese sub-titles that are less than perfect. I read some of them while watching I, Robot, and I found them to be off a bit... But I enjoyed the movie in my native language all the same. Of course, there are also Japanese movies as well, but I'd say it's around 75/25 English/Japanese.

As for the second question, the truth is no. Most Japanese know a decent amount of English but they can't speak it to save their lives. The Japanese educational system puts almost ALL influence on grammar and writing. They can read English, but they do not understand slang at all. Hence all the funny stuff on such websites as www.engrish.com. Even in my apartment, I can find Engrish. Take for instance my bathroom scale. For whatever reason, it has a Halloween theme on it and the words, "Tonight we have a monster's party. Come enjoy with us!" on it. This is among the smaller mistakes I see just about everywhere.

The truth is, the lack of Japanese people to speak English is the reason I am employed. I teach English at an Eikaiwa, or English conversation school. We offer students English lessons for money that focus mainly on speaking skills. They already have grammar, although we teach that with every lesson as well.

I've also always wondered why there are a lot of English signs and/or writing in Japanese stuff. Considering how different the languages are and all.

Matt1plus1

While somewhat answered in the previous question, the answer is yes. To Japanese people, English is "cool." Even when they don't have a CLUE what it says, they still think it's just the neatest thing to have something in English on their stuff. But then again, we're not that different. Americans buy stuff with Japanese or Chinese writing on it because it's "cool" too. In fact, while at an anime con, I saw a t-shirt for sale that said, "Americans are stupid. They'll buy anything." written in Japanese at one of the booths. Sure enough, the next day, I saw people wearing it. My guess is they didn't have a clue what it read.

As you mentioned in your column about differing morals between the US & Japan, do you find the Japanese are more open minded to differing lifestyles than the average American?

I don't know about Japan, but I do know that here in the US, a lot of people say they're open minded, but aren't really when confronted with it.

Enjoy your holidays & your PSP!

Jbumi

That's an interesting question, but a tough one to answer. From our point of view, they are more open minded on many things, but from their point of view they probably aren't. Many things aren't a matter of 'open minded' or not; it's just the way things are done. Take for instance bath houses. Many Americans would flip out if they had to walk around among other people bathing, yet the Japanese love this. It's just something that is radically different yet completely socially acceptable here.

But in most things, the Japanese way of life is quite rigid, much more than in America. Social positions and customs are clear-cut and well understood. The reason I wear a suit to work everday is because I'm expected to in order to establish myself as a member of that social group. I also cannot have any visible piercings (not that I have any anyway) or have my clothing and hair be too 'extreme.' I am expected to dress the part I play. Such is the case for just about everything in Japan. You dress and act according to status.

How easy is it to find older games and game systems; do you have to go to specialty stores akin to Gamestop, or would the equivalent of Target have a similar selection to our specialty stores? How common-place are video game related manga or art books like Perfect Works: The Real Thing? Are they sold in all stores, generally?

Justin Gilbert

It's not too hard really. There are used game stores all over the place. I've seen games as old as an original Final Fantasy 5 cartridge for sale. But, in general, it's not hard at all to get Dreamcast or N64 games. A trip to one of the local Game CD and Book stores will provide me with a wide selection at decent prices.

As for your second question, yeah, it's not too hard to find that stuff. I've not looked for Xenogears Perfect Works, but I could probably find it if I looked hard enough. Books are NOT in short supply here. There are many book shops, and any of the aforementioned Game CD and Book shops will have a gaming section.

Konichiwa and all that,

Everything I know about Japan I learned from anime and manga. Taking that into consideration, do I know anything about what Japan is REALLY like?

How different would you say that Japan really is from how it portrays itself in its TV, movies, and popular literature? Obviously the real Japan is not full of mecha and beautiful space women, but how does the real Japan compare to the more realistic, modern-day anime and manga?

Finally, most importantly, and the question I expect will never see the light of day in Japandemonium, do the schoolgirls really dress and look like that? If so, how does anyone get any learning done?



Nick "kweee" Ferris

Actually, it is amazing how well Japan is actually portrayed in anime and manga. I never noticed most of this stuff until I lived here. Everything from the toilets with the water faucet on top (I think it's to wash your hands) to the round lights everywhere. Anime catches many of the subtle facets of Japanese life very well. You even see people dressed up in yukata or kimono from time to time. I saw three high school girls taking Print Club pictures dressed in REALLY pretty and bright kimono. And yes, Print Club IS all the rage.

And not surprisingly, someone asked me about the school girls. The answer is pretty much, yes they do. Depending on where you live, they don't all wear sailor fuku, but they do all have uniforms that I've seen in one anime or another. There are a couple basic types. And yes, the skirts CAN be as short as you see in anime. I was shocked when I went to Matsuyama, the prefectural capital of Ehime. The high school girls there had to wear really short skirts. Then, when I went to Osaka, the skirts were even shorter, so short that I saw a flash of white from the corner of my eye as a girl bent over to pick up her bag. It seems that the more populous the city, the shorter the skirts.

But this seems to be something that is just Japanese. Everyone, from little girls to fully grown women wear pleated mini-skirts and long socks. It is just the style here. They must not mind much if people can see their underwear, because it has to happen on a regular basis. And while not asked, the same applies to boys. Elementary boys wear shorts so short I'd call them hotpants. I feel VERY sorry for these poor boys as they walk to school. I'm wearing jeans with two shirts and a jacket, and I'm still cold. Those poor boys must be freezing.

Dear Jordan:

Thanks for writing this column, and keep it up! I was wondering if you are fluent in Japanese. It must be hard to communicate with others if you aren't, plus reading kanji is a pain in the rear. And if you are, was it hard to learn to write, speak and/or understand spoken Japanese? You must be, since you play lots of games.

Enjoy the PSP,

Gamer-Otaku
I WISH I were fluent. I can speak a little, but my reading is only so-so. I can hack my way through just about anything IF they give me furigana. (kana over the kanji) Without that, I'm pretty much hurting. I can only read around 500 kanji at best. I'd need 2000 to be fluent. But I learn new kanji and words everyday. I'm learning a ton by living here. Maybe in a couple years, I will be fluent. I can hope anyway....

The Final Grumble 

Whew! What a long column. I wanted to make sure that everyone has plenty to read because it might be a bit before Japandemomium updates again. Christmas is in over a week, and I'm going home for the holidays. I'll try to throw SOMETHING on here, but I make no promises for updates. Maybe something small before I head out. Yeah... maybe...

I'll be sure to keep everyone up to date about new PSP games as I play them and if I am able to turn my PSP into a UMD launching machine. Personally, I just want a machine without dead pixels.... At any rate, it's getting late in Niihama, so I'll leave it at this.

Anyway, shoot me some emails for my Culture Corner: Ask Sensei, or leave me a question via IRC in #questions. So far, I've been answering every question I've received. This means that if you send me a question, there's a durn good chance you'll see it on the site.

Catch you on the flip,

-Jordan "I was raised by a cup of coffee" Jackson

Twas the pride of the past columns!

Lovely In-House Translator
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