This Wednesday past was a public holiday, but I didn't get much rest. It also happened to be the day of my school's happyoukai, or Family Show. Happyoukai is a major part of the school year for most kindergartens and elementary schools in the country. Similar to Sports Day, it's a time to show what the students can do, usually with song and dance numbers or small skits. All the parents cram into an auditorium, and watch the kids cavort on stage.
So how did my group do? Better than last year, so I'm happy for that. Granted, this year's performance was a small disaster, but compared to last year's unmitigated disaster, I shall take satisfaction where I can.
Anyway, I'm tired, so I'll keep this part short this week. On with the column!
For a while now, Famitsu Weekly has been running a weekly column on video game advertising of yesteryear. Each week is a different game, with various propaganda and posters to look at. This past week was the classic Famicom title Mother. It looked interesting, so I thought I would share:
Some demons are loose, and they're up to no good. Who ya gonna call? COSPLAYERS!
That would not be nearly so bizarre a statement if it weren't true, but yes, Ninja Studio and D3 Publishers have seen fit to grace the gaming world with Tactics Layer - Chronicle of Ritinagart, where the only people who can save the fantasy world from total destruction are a bunch of teenybopper costume-fanatics from Shibuya. While other tactical games have class systems that make some sort of sense in a medieval fantasy setting, Tactics Layer puts a whole new meaning on the expression "The clothes make the man." Or in this case, the girl. Characters must change outfits in order to gain access to new or different skills, and in keeping with the wide variety of costume fetishes in Japan, an equally wide selection of clothing is available here. Teen Idol, Policewoman, Stewardess, Geisha, Lace Queen, Schoolgirl Uniform, Nurse, Princess, Doctor, Nun -- all these and more are available, though what use they might be in battle I have no idea. It's just that sort of game.
The story is as follows: Once upon a time, there was a beautiful little paradise called Ritinagart, where everything was sunshine and kittens. Then one day, the wicked demon lord Garasha and his five generals invaded from a neighboring dimension, and things weren't very nice after that. Being a peaceful, happy little realm, there were few competent warriors to be had. Help was needed, but from where? A girl named Risa (first character picture above) was sent to a completely different dimension (Tokyo) to recruit. What she got was a silent protagonist and a gaggle of overly fashion-conscious high school students. It has yet to be seen if this makes any difference in the current war effort, but at least they're photogenic.
And finally, there's a lot of sketchy concept art to see, but I got tired from coding all the other image links. If you're interested, you can check that one out for yourself.
Okay, here is a title I'm not quite sure about. It's listed as a simulation RPG in the magazine, but on the internet, it's mentioned several times as action-adventure. Moreover, this game and its predecessor apparently have different production companies -- though in all likelihood, this is just because Gung-Ho Works bought out the original company. In any case, Japandemonium now presents Ecolis II - Island Floating on the Blue Sea.
Set 10 years after the first Ecolis title, this game follows the adventures of Doribou as he works to find the Mountain God's Egg and return his big brother Dorian (hero of the previous game) back to normal. To do so, he'll have to travel the high seas, recruit large numbers of cute, fluffy animals, and eventually take on the voracious Shell-Beast and the wicked Pussycat Pirates. The game's major premise is ecological, so part of what Doribou does regularly is clean up junk or eliminate pollution sources. As he collects usable bits of junk, he can build new Eco-mecha -- cute, monocular robots which have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Ecolis has many of the gameplay characteristics of a real-time strategy game, and resembles Pikmin, at least from what I can see in these scans. Cute little sidekicks are directed with the stylus to attack, defend, pick up trash, or just run around in circles. The floating island of the title is Chisai-jima, which Doribou can customize to his heart's content, changing elevations, buildings, and defences to ward off the pirates. With Chisai-jima, Doribou can travel to the other islands of the Mana Archipelago, and eventually find the Egg. Good luck, little guy.
On the subject of floating islands, there's an all-new, original mobile phone called Fly-Height Cloudia. While not much has been said on the game's story, it seems to involve a generic Empire bent on conquering a sky-borne realm, as well as dead people mysteriously returning to life. Battlewise, it looks a lot like one of the SNES-period Final Fantasy games. Just see for yourself:
Since this isn't available for Yahoo! Softbank phones, I probably won't ever get a chance to play this one. I'm not sure if my phone's up to the challenge, either. Still, there has been precedent for cell-phone games jumping to more accessible platforms. Maybe this one will make the cut.
Last week, Famitsu released the Top 30 sales data for the DS and PSP, for all games released between the first of January and the thirty-first of December, 2008. These are all the RPGs on those two lists:
||Dragon Quest V
||Pokémon Ranger - Shadows of Almia
||Chrono Trigger DS
||Fire Emblem DS
||Bokura wa Kaseki Horidar
||Tales of Hearts (both versions)
||Mega Man Star Force 3
||Harvest Moon - Sun and Friends
||Etrian Odyssey II
||Valkyrie Profile - Covenant of the Plume
||Dissidia Final Fantasy
||Phantasy Star Portable
||Super Robot Wars A Portable
||Yuusha no kuse ni namaikida or2
||Star Ocean 2 - Second Evolution
||Valhalla Knights 2
||Tales of Rebirth
||Legend of Heroes - Sora no Kiseki the 3rd
||Class of Heroes
The much-awaited DS installment of the Dragon Quest series, Dragon Quest IX: Defender of the Stars has seen a sudden delay in production, with the previous release date of March 26th pushed back to July 11th. This comes as a big shock to the game store down the road from my school, which has proudly displayed its intention of opening at 7 AM on the 26th for some weeks now.
"Developmental issues" with the software were cited as the source of the delay, but no further details are available.
I don't know if this question has already been answered before, but I'm gonna ask it anyway. If I were to travel to Japan just for pleasure, would you suggest places to visit? I would like to see both the modern, Times Square-like part and the old traditional countryside; also visting museums and historical sites too. Is watching a sumo match affordable for tourists?
Well, it depends on how much time you want to spend on trains. Tokyo and Kyoto are must-sees, of course, but the Nagasaki Memorial is very good, as are Kumamoto Castle and the Aso Caldera (all in Kyushu). Really, wherever you go in Japan, you're bound to find someplace small and interesting. Figure up how much time you can spend, pick a few areas, and see what's out there.
And sumo is quite affordable and accessible, during the major tournaments. There are six of those a year, in different cities. Again, plan out your schedule in advance, and perhaps you'll be able to get to one. Each tournament takes place over a span of fifteen days, so it's not as hard as it sounds.
Also how, um, fluent in Japanese should I be to take care of basic needs, or do people over there speak some English? I have been to Greece and Italy and people there speak some English, or at least try. Are there any dictionary/handbooks you would recommend for a non-Japanese speaker? Any other advice you could give will be appreciated. Congratulations on your fine column. Keep it up!
P.S.: Have you played Final Fantasy Dissidia? How is it? Is it like Kingdom Hearts or more like Crisis Core?
Get yourself a basic phrasebook (available in the travel section of any major bookstore), and memorize a few key expressions and questions. Just because everyone in this country studies English does not mean anyone here can necessarily communicate in English. Most signs are bilingual in English and most hotels and major train stations will have at least one truly fluent employee on hand, but the farther away you get from the big city, the less likely you'll find that level of support. Also, keep a card with all the major locations you wish to visit written out in Japanese and English, just to be safe.
As for Dissidia, I don't have a PSP, so that answers that. For a good review of the game, you might check here on the boards. Anyway, thanks for writing in, ROG!
Figuring it out
I'm not sure if you are into video game figures, but I don't know anyone else to ask this. A figure of Yukiko Amagi from Persona 4 was reported to have been released by the company Alter. I had it preordered on hobbyfan.com but just received an email notifying me of its cancellation. I've checked other sites and they all still have it listed, though of course by now they're all sold out. I'm just trying to figure out if it's really been cancelled or not? I figured if you are into video game figures you might have seen this. Thanks for the help.
Well, I almost gave up on finding this one, but I eventually got the right page. The Atlus D shop has it as well. Neither page says anything about cancellations, and there are very happy comments on the Atlus D page dating up to this week. If there's any problems, it seems they're on the importers' side.
Tomorrow is the big V-Day, so I've got to run! Any romantic questions for next week's Culture Corner would be welcome.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,