This Monday past was a very special day for many young Japanese women. It was Seijin no Hi, or Coming of Age Day. The Japanese age of majority is 20, and on Seijin no Hi all women who turned 20 in the previous year get to dress up in kimono and get special treatment everywhere. My girlfriend thinks it's mean towards girls who can't necessarily afford a kimono (they can easily cost more than $1000) or who feel forced to rent one just for the day.
While I'm not sure how much I agree there, getting into a kimono is a trial in itself. A traditional dress kimono with all the fixings can take as much as two hours to put on, and the services of a professional are usually required. There's even a training and licensing board for kimono dressers, who can make a tidy sum this time of year.
A normal Japanese woman will only wear a kimono four times in her life: twice for Shichi-go-san, once for her wedding day, and once more for Coming of Age Day. Considering how much of a chore the things can be, I understand that completely.
New Year's is definitely the biggest event of the Japanese calendar, and one way people celebrate is by sending each other cards. Lots of cards. The convenience stores sell special, blank, pre-paid postcards designed to go through printers, so people can mass-produce their own. The postboxes, whose two slots are usually marked "NORMAL SIZE / DOMESTIC" and "OVERSIZED / INTERNAT'L / OTHER," have their labels changed to "CARDS" and "EVERYTHING ELSE" for the month of December. Cards are often delivered in bundles of twenty or more.
Companies do not exclude themselves from the tradition. Even I received a few cards from my TV and phone networks. In the latest issue of Famitsu, several game companies send their best wishes as well:
So, which companies do we have? On page 1, there's Irem Soft alongside Idea Factory and Compile Heart (who sent a nice card featuring the cast of Cross Edge). On page 2, there's Acquire (featuring Dungeons & Dams), Atlus (promoting Devil Survivor), MTO, Electronic Arts, Capcom, and Gung-Ho Works (with a Ragnarok Online DS card).
Page 3 has best wishes from Koei, Konami, CyberFront, Success, and Square Enix (with two cards, one for Crystal Chronicles - Echoes of Time and one for Star Ocean 4). Page 4 features a bunch of developers who didn't bother to put RPGs in their cards: Spike, Sega, SCE, Takara Tomy, THQ, and D3Publishers.
There's more RPG love on page 5, with Tecmo (Wind of Nostalgio), Nippon Ichi (Phantom Brave Wii), Falcom (Zwei!!), Hudson, and Bandai Namco. The last three RPGs shown are Pokémon and Fallout 3 on page 6, and the new Harvest Moon game on page 7 (Nintendo's Pokémon Company, Bethesda, and Marvelous Entertainment, respectively). The Fallout 3 card is entertaining in a strange way.
In any case, all of the above companies would like to wish you a happy new year.
Need more cute witches in your life? Marvelous, the company behind the Luminous Arc series, is expanding the breadth of their operation to the cellphone networks with Luminous Arc - Dream Cure. The story is a spin-off of LA2, featuring a character named Theo in his own original adventure. While we might wish for a more robust platform, I'm sure there are plenty of young men over here who are pleased to hear there'll be more witches to ogle.
For those with different tastes, Shiren the Wanderer finds himself reborn for the cellphone as well, in Shiren the Wanderer - Platinum 2. Aside from a special mention of magic pots and giant enemies, there doesn't seem to be much to say about this one. It's a Shiren game, and probably plays like every other game in the series, except it's on DoCoMo phones now.
It's been a a while since we've seen anything of Dungeons & Dams, a new RPG from Acquire, soon for the DS. Here's a recap: Shion, son of the town's resident hero, has a plan to build a reservoir with which to harness the power of the Water God and flood all the monsters out of the local dungeon. He just needs to buy time in order to get the dam built. Here's a cast list:
Here's Shion, his egotistical sister Fia, and their dad Gauche. The sisters are Eluka (the dozy one) and Elua (the hyper one). In the first scans and the New Year's card from Acquire, it's obvious Elua has a crush on Shion. Joining the main characters are a wide range of people who have come to town to make their fortunes. We've already seen the basic classes: Warrior, Striker, Wizard, Healer, Thief, Archer, Porter, Crafter, and Scholar.
In addition, there are one or two advanced classes for each basic class. Warriors can be promoted to Heavy Knight or Samurai. Strikers become Spearmaidens. Wizards can advance to Bomb Mages or Enchanters, while Healers get a choice between Shieldmaiden or Boosters. Thieves and Archers, like the Strikers, only have one advanced class, it seems -- Kunoichi (ninja) and Gunslingers, respectively. Porters can go uptown and become Traders, or get down in the dirt as Explorers. Crafters can specialize as either Builders or Chefs. Finally, Scholars can put their knowledge to good use as either Miners or Cannon Masters.
And in closing, we have some screens to give us some idea how this game works.
Another game we haven't heard about in a while is Mimana Iar Chronicle, coming next month from Gung-ho Works. In fact, this game hasn't done more than show up on the radar since last July. Now, at least, we have pictures.
Our protagonists are Clayce and Sefy, an unlikely duo who are searching for legendary Mage Stones. Joining them in the adventure are, in order: Melrose the magic fetishist, Tinon the warrior maiden, Clayce's stepsister Balty, the magician Eidal and his servant Feide, and the black knight Ares.
Given the predominance of cute young girls, it's probably safe to assume that social scenarios play a large part in the game's story. So much so that half of the game screens we have to show you today are from animated cutscenes. At least we can see some of the battle system as well.
Well, this one has already been posted on the site, but I'm still going to mention it here. SaGa 2 - Hihou Densetsu (better known as Final Fantasy Legend II) is being remade for the DS, and shall be on shelves sometime later this year. I believe I have a new Number 1 - Must Buy item. I already own the original in two languages, but just from the single scan available, I can see that this new version will be worth it.
The SaGa series has seen a few remakes done in the past. Both Makaitoshi SaGa and Romancing SaGa were remade for the WonderSwan, with nice new graphics and a little extra content, but not much else. Then RS was remade again for the PlayStation 2, and the result was something that went far beyond the usual concept of "remake" and went more into "total renovation" of every aspect of the game. SaGa 2's remake seems to be more in that vein. Just how much so remains to be seen. All the major character types are shown in the middle: Humans, Espers (Mutants), Robots, and a variety of Monsters. What's got me puzzled is the three women floating in the background. I can make a guess as to one of them, but I have no idea who the other two might be. In other words, there's certainly going to be more story added to this game. And considering the limitations on memory for GameBoy cartridges 20 years ago, anything that adds to the original game's minimalistic story will be an improvement.
Brr! January is usually the coldest month for southern Japan, and I'm feeling it in my toes now. I'm currently burning spam emails to keep them warm. Real letters would be much appreciated as well.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,