Another year, another birthday for me! Last week I hit my third multiple of eleven, and I had the perfect person to spend it with. My lovely fiancée came down for most of the week to help me celebrate. We cooked dinner together four nights in a row, watched movies, went shopping, exchanged gifts, and generally had an awesome time.
I'd say more, but it's hard to top "best birthday in years" in so many words.
If you go to a Japanese arcade you'll likely find several kinds of games unknown to the US. One of these is the coin-drop game. Its main component is a wide aisle with drop-offs to the right and left. At the rear is a plate that rhythmically moves back and forth while at the front (towards the player) there are receptacles to collect the coins won during the game. The player controls the rate, and to a degree the location, at which the coins fall. The plate constantly pushes the coins forward, causing them to pile up and fall off the main aisle. Any that fall off the sides are considered lost, while those that make it to the player's end are tallied according to which box they fall into. It's sort of like an indoctrination machine for the next generation of pachinko addicts, as it usually targets children with candy or small toys as prizes.
When I was at TGS last year, I tried an iPad version of the coin-drop game, and it was fun for what it was worth (i.e. I didn't have to pay anything). I even won a real prize for my efforts. It took a surprising amount of strategy to get the coins to drop advantageously, and the digital nature of that version allowed the designers to add in all sorts of power-ups. So I wasn't surprised at all to see the logical evolution of digital coin-drop games into other genres appear on Japanese iWhatevers last month.
This is Dragon Coins, the world's first and so far only coin-drop RPG-ish combat game. Here, the coins drop into boxes allocated to party members, empowering their attacks against the enemy. There are many allies to recruit, though from what I can see it's likely that Sega is going the gachapon route with this and making them semi-random with micro-transactions. There may or may not be an actual story involved. The Dengeki article didn't say. Still, it looks like an interesting little time-waster.
Here in Japan, "cute girls" is practically genre in and of itself. There will always be a portion of the fanbase willing to shill out the big bucks for series with cute, sexy, or otherwise cheesecake-y characters, regardless of how the game actually plays. This does a lot to explain our next title.
Mugen Souls Z, because everyone knows that a Z makes any sequel better. MSZ is only loosely connected to the first game, being set on a completely different series of worlds and featuring a different protagonist, namely this girl.
This is Silma, a soi-disant Ultimate Deity. She's just woken up from a ridiculously long nap and doesn't recall much more than that. Despite the "ultimate" moniker, she's not the only one of her kind, it seems. Ages ago, the Ultimate Ultimate Deity created the Twelve Worlds, a series of planets based on the twelve signs of the zodiac. If I am reading the article correctly, it seems that each of these worlds was supposed to have its own Ultimate Deity, but the whereabouts of the rest are as yet unknown. Silma woke up because "something" else stirred the depths of reality, something that really shouldn't be doing anything. Silma isn't sure what this something is, but as an Ultimate Deity she knows that it's her job to do something about it, somehow. Finding the other UDs would probably be a good start...
These two are not UDs, but they're important to the story. On the left is Nao. She recently came to the realization that she was meant to be the great hero of the Twelve Worlds, but she's stuck on one point — she doesn't have a properly legendary weapon to go with the job. So she set out on a journey of self-armament, only to stumble across the sleeping Silma. The guy on the right is Ace. He's an Ultimate Deity Hunter. At least, that's what it seems like. It's hard to tell as he rarely says much. His vocabulary is apparently quite simple; his favorite word is "kill." In any case, this likely does not bode well for Silma.
Mugen Souls Z will be arriving sometime this year for the PS3, but there's no date more specific than "sometime this spring."
We've been hearing things about Nippon Ichi's Kami-sama to Unmei Kakumei Paradox for some time now, and it's obvious this game has all the necessary elements for an NIS title. Cutesy girls, check. Whacky plot, check. Flashy, over the top battle animations, check. I still feel like something important is missing though...
Oh, right. It's not a true NIS game unless Asagi shows up at some point to steal the limelight. Not even a deity can stop her from realizing her dream of being a protagonist... maybe.
While KamiPara seems to be organized by chapter, there are also free dungeons to explore for treasure or experience. The hero can also be customized any which way, same as in NIS's previous title, ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman. Famitsu does leave us with a bit of a mystery, however. Who are these two supposed to be?
KamiPara will hit the shelves next Thursday, January 24th.
The Kids Are Alright
First a belated Happy New Year, and congrats on your engagement. Now, kids were brought up in a previous letter and that got me wondering if you were to have kids how would handle teaching them language? Would you try to teach it both English and Japanese? You speak only English, the wife only Japanese?
While Nozomi and I are not expecting to be in this situation for a long time to come, we have discussed it once or twice. Different families handle it in different ways. For example, one guy I know keeps his household mostly English-speaking. His daughters watch Disney, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network, and they get most of their Japanese practice from interactions with grandparents or outside activities. The transition into a Japanese elementary school was a little rough at first, but they seem to be doing quite well now. I was actually thinking of a rotating language schedule, having Japanese and English language days in the house. That way I'd be forced to practice as well. For the children, there are three English-language kindergartens in Kumamoto, two of which are run by people I used to work with. Suffice to say that there are plenty of options available, and we'll just have to see when the time comes.
A Frequently Recurring Question
I have a question regarding Japanese translation in the area of video games. Have you ever considered a career path in translation of any kind? I was just wanting to know how likely it would be to make a living in this particular field. More importantly, do you know the odds of being able to get a job translating (high entry little demand or vice versa)?
You're probably asking the wrong guy here. Most of the game translation companies are not actually based in Japan, from what I can tell. If I were to get a translating job in Kumamoto, it would probably be for signs, flyers, and manuals, and in fact I have been tempted to offer my services every time I see a museum exhibit with major grammatical errors in the English translation. Your best bet would be to look up the website for an actual translation company and see what is posted there. Thanks for writing in, though!
Outside of RPGs one of my main interest is sports and I'm curious how big a part they play in Japanese culture. As I understand the biggest team sports over there are football (I will allow the usage of the word 'soccer' :P) and baseball, right?
If you travel to Japan, you're going to have to get used to that usage, because that's the official Japanese word for the sport, too. Sakkaa is very popular (witness the success of Inazuma Eleven) but it still plays second fiddle to baseball. Over here, the regional high school baseball series get better television coverage than most minor league games do in the US.
Of particular interest to me is how widely my personal sport (i.e. the one I actually spend time training and playing in), field hockey, is played. Here it's a widely-played sport but without much outside coverage (likely because it is almost completely amateur, so there's not much money to gain from covering it), and one where the men's and women's games seem to have a more equal footing than most sports. Judging solely on the strength of the national teams, where the women seem to routinely qualify for major championships, would I be right in thinking the attitude is similar to the impression I get from the US, in that it is seen more as a women's sport than men's/equal?
I'm not really sure how popular field hockey is, but I did find that the Japan Hockey Association, dedicated to the field version and not the ice version, was founded in 1922. It likely has a strong presence as an intramural sport at universities. A lot of minor sports have made their homes in the halls of higher education. The first Japanese Olympic curling team, for example, was composed mostly of college students from various universities in northern Japan, where they had all played it as an intramural sport.
At the junior and senior high levels, most schools will have baseball and soccer teams, and they take their training really seriously. Coaches will usually require at least three evenings of practice a week, often more, which makes sports my #2 business competitor after cram schools. Once kids get up to fifth grade or so, it becomes really difficult to hold onto them simply because their schedules are so insane. Even the less competitive sports, like badminton or archery, will put severe limitations on the students' free time.
Thanks for writing in!
Nozomi is off to visit her host family in Florida this week, through the maelstrom of MLK weekend air traffic combined with whatever that Dreamliner nonsense is about. Last I heard, she was still stuck in Detroit after thirteen or so hours. Godspeed, lovely.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,