mutsuki no juurokunichi
Shi Sha Go Nyuu
Akemashite Omedetou!

It's a new year and a new animal. For those of you out there who do not subscribe to the Chinese lunisolar calendar, it is now the Year of the Sheep. Baaaah. Of course, a new year also means it's birthday time for me (last Friday, in fact). My in-laws gifted me earlier in December with sixteen pairs of socks, a bushel of apples, and (a little closer to the actual day) a package of frozen crab legs. These have all been properly appreciated.

According to my wonderful wife Nozomi, I also graduate to a new demographic stereotype this year. Japan has some ridiculously specific labels concerning age, work, or social graces. None of them are really official, but they percolate through the public consciousness nonetheless. Up until two weeks ago, I could describe myself as arasa, short for "around thirty" in katakana, and in a year's time I could regretfully be assigned the designation arafo ("around thirty"). For now, however, I'm on the cusp of things, which is given the weird-sounding term of shi sha go nyuu. Honestly, that sounds more like Chinese to me, but oh well. Most Japanese consistently under-guess my age anyway, now that I shaved that beard off, and it's not like any of these terms ever get much use outside of women's magazines.

So, what brave new titles await us this year?

If you paid attention to the latest Nintendo Direct, you've heard that Puzzle & Dragons Z is coming to North America, along with its Mario-themed expansion. What you probably haven't heard is that Rocket Company, the studio that makes the Medabots games, has its own oddball clone of a match-three puzzle RPG in the works. This one features an even stranger choice of star.

First, some explication is in order. Nearly every prefecture, city, township (and even a few neighborhoods) in Japan possesses a mascot character. Some, like Kumamoto's Kumamon, are almost as ubiquitous as Kitty-chan. For virtual presence Funasshi (mascot of Funabashi in Chiba Pref.) is leading by a little. He regularly appears on daytime television, has cameos in various popular mobile games, and soon he'll star in Funasshi vs. Dragons. This is Funasshi, by the way.

He's a happy-go-lucky, anthropomorphic pear. No, I do not understand this either, but he's going on his own little adventure and it's up to the player to help him survive. In what's become standard for puzzle RPGs, matching the magic gems allows Funasshi to power up and overcome the different obstacles in his path.

Rocket Company expects to have this one in stores on March 26th.

Source: Famitsu Online
12/22 ~ 12/28 12/15 ~ 12/21 12/8 ~ 12/14 12/1 ~ 12/7 Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
1 1 1 * New Arrival! Yokai Watch 2: Shin'Uchi Level-5
2 3 2 2 Last seen at 1 Pokémon Alpha Sapphire / Omega Ruby The Pokémon Co.
5 2 * * New Arrival! Final Fantasy Explorers Square Enix
6 9 8 9 Last seen at 6 Monster Hunter 4G Capcom
8 8 7 6 Last seen at 6 Yokai Watch 2 Level-5
17 * * * New Arrival! Shadow of Mordor Warner Entertainment Japan
21 30 ? ? It's baaaaaack... Taiko no Tatsujin: Don & Katsu's Excellent Adventure Bandai-Namco
27 19 5 * New Arrival! Shining Resonance Sega
Off 11 * * New Arrival! Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 3 V Century Compile Heart
Off Off 18 11 Last seen at 2 Phantasy Star Nova Sega
Off Off Off 20 Last seen at 4 Etrian Odyssey Untold 2: The Knight of Fafnir Atlus
Off Off Off 25 Last seen at 8 Dragon Age: Inquisition Electronic Arts Japan
Off Off Off 28 Last seen at 14 Dragon Age: Inquisition Electronic Arts Japan
Off Off Off 30 New Arrival! Borderlands 2 2K Games

There is a dungeon at the heart of Tokyo, a labyrinthine abyss haunted by wandering souls in search of release from its stygian depths. We're not talking about a game just yet; this place is real. It is the Shinjuku Underground, a vast network of tunnels and passageways connecting buildings, markets, and some of the busiest transportation hubs on the planet. It is proverbially difficult to navigate, and now it has come to the 3DS.

Shinjuku Dungeon, originally for the iWhatevers, made its 3DS debut on Wednesday, January 7th, on the 3DS download store. It's an action RPG in the top-down Zelda style, and it's all about its own source material. Every section of the game's hefty dungeon space is lifted directly from the Shinjuku Underground floorplan, including such details as pillar placement and moving walkways. Let's assume that all the monsters are mere artistic license.


Back in December, Square Enix executive producer Akitoshi Kawazu sat down with a bunch of other folks and reminisced on that perennial oddball of S-E franchises, SaGa. It was a fairly long retrospective, going over all the varied entries of the series, from the original GameBoy title to the justly maligned GREE game. At the very end, fans were treated to this:

Much like the case of the famous Mark Twain, rumors of this series' death have been greatly exaggerated. The as-yet untitled next installment will be released sometime in 2015 for the PS Vita.

Unfortunately, that is all we know, and it's been about a month since the original announcement. I'd be more excited, but Furyu's announcement of the SaGa-ish Legend of Legacy back in October sort of stole the thunder here. Between the prospects of a vague future project on a handheld I don't own, and the imminent release of a game so similar to the classic SaGa experience, I know which has me more excited. The fact that Furyu's made a good follow-through, while S-E has only re-released that same bit of art (once, in one of three Famitsu issues), makes me worried about this new SaGa. If Kawazu wants to get us excited about this (and as this series is his baby, I assume he does), then one nice bit of Tomomi Kobayashi art isn't going to cut it.

I'm still hoping that it will all turn out awesome, of course, but it'll need to be super-spectacularly awesome to make me sacrifice enough of my monthly budget and free time to allow the purchase of yet another gaming platform and its library of interesting games. In any case, we'll be sure to bring you any more information on "SaGa 2015" as soon as S-E deigns to actually share it with the world.

Source: Famitsu Online

Square Enix wasn't the only company with a big announcement in late December. Falcom Japan had its own news to share. Ever heard of Xanadu? It's an old, old Falcom title from back in the day, an apparently excellent fantasy action RPG that was well received for its time, whose only connection to this article is its name. This new game certainly doesn't seem to be related to it in any other way.

Tokyo Xanadu is billed as an "urban mythology" action RPG as well as a completely new IP for the company, but beyond that we've got nothing. The game's official website is still in teaser mode, with a "more to come" sign at the bottom. It sure does look interesting, however.

Title Publisher Release Date Platform
Tales of Zestiria Bandai-Namco 1.22.15
Ken no Machi no Ihoujin - The Black Palace Experience 1.22.15
Atelier Escha & Logy - Alchemists of the Dusk Sky Plus Gust 1.22.15
Legend of Legacy Furyu 1.22.15
Okami (PS3 the Best) Capcom 1.29.15
3rd Super Robot Wars Z - Time Prison Chapter (PS3 the Best) Bandai-Namco 1.29.15
Devil Survivor 2: Break Record Atlus 1.29.15
Source: Dengeki Online

Happy New Year to everyone!

And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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