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Another month, another column. This roughly-every-four-weeks update schedule seems to be working out, since we have plenty of material to cover right now. On the other hand, finding a topic to fit in this top section is as annoying as ever. What one thing could sum up a month's worth of experience?



I guess this will just have to do. My wife and I got rid of our old washing machine this month. It was well past time, too. I had that old thing for almost seven years, starting from when I inherited it from a previous employee of my school — it came with the school-provided apartment, and who knows where it originally came from. When I moved out of that apartment years later, I just took it (and the stove, and the light fixtures, and the fridge...) with me. I have no idea exactly how old it was, but its manufacturer, NEC, completely stopped producing washing machines over a decade ago.

Anyhoo, it was making noises. Not the occasional, familiar "bump bump" variety, but something more akin to "skreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" Our new washing machine is also noisy, but at least it's not "Oh dear, it's gonna self-destruct!" noisy. Unfortunately it's also a little argumentative, and will beep like an R2 unit's idiot cousin if you try to rush it into action before the weight of laundry is carefully calculated for most efficient water use. While I appreciate the sentiment, I do wish it would get on with it.

And with that, I get on with it. Here's your column, folks.

On Saturday, February 15th, the following image appeared on Square Enix's Romancing SaGa homepage.


I had no idea what that mystery symbol might be, but I was very glad that it wasn't the GREE logo. Still, it was hard not to keep my hopes up during the four short days until the big reveal. Which was....


An announcement for a series of collaborative events with the Japanese prefecture of Saga, starting March 13th and ending March 16th. If you heard a strange whoomp about two weeks ago, that would be my expectations deflating faster than my last attempt at a soufflé. Still, it sounds interesting. Series illustrator Tomomi Kobayashi will have an art gallery, and the Saga Factory, official promoter of prefectural goods, will have a variety of collaborative foodstuffs and souvenirs as well as a gallery of Arita porcelain from Saga Prefecture. On the "Premium Night," March 16th, one hundred lucky members of the S-E official website will sit down to an interview with producer Akitoshi Kawazu, illustrator Tomomi Kobayashi, composer Kenji Itou, Saga governor Yasushi Furukawa, and Saga Factory project leader Dan Kaneko to discuss who-knows-what. The official website even teases that Mr. Itou might have a special live performance in store.


Sadly, the SaGa/Saga event will not take place in Saga Prefecture, but in the much more fashionable Roppongi Hills neighborhood of Tokyo instead. If it were actually in Saga, I could visit that weekend. It's practically next door to Kumamoto, in fact. Instead, I shall just have to wait and see if anything juicy gets a mention in two weeks. That, and I can enjoy the wonderfully retro SaGa website. Oh, the memories...

Source: Dengeki Online
2/17 ~ 2/23 2/10 ~ 2/16 2/3 ~ 2/9 1/27 ~ 2/2 Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
2 * * * New Arrival! Yakuza Ishin! Sega
3 * * * New Arrival! Yakuza Ishin! Sega
4 1 1 * New Arrival! Dragon Quest Monsters 2 Square Enix
6 3 5 6 Last seen at 9 Youkai Watch Level-5
13 10 10 10 Last seen at 5 Pokémon X/Y The Pokémon Co.
15 9 6 9 Last seen at 6 Puzzle & Dragons Z Gung-ho Entertainment
26 13 9 3 New Arrival! Diablo III Square Enix
30 20 23 20 Last seen at 14 Monster Hunter 4 Capcom
Off-list 6 * * New Arrival! Magi - The New World Bandai-Namco
Off-list 21 17 13 Last seen at 10 Legend of Zelda - A Link Between Worlds Nintendo
Off-list 22 28 25 Last seen at 20 Inazuma Eleven GO Galaxy: Big Bang / Supernova Level-5
Off-list 24 8 * New Arrival! Super Heroine Chronicle Bandai-Namco
Off-list 27 19 5 New Arrival! Disgaea 4 Return Nippon Ichi
Off-list 30 14 * New Arrival! Super Heroine Chronicle Bandai-Namco
Off-list - - 8 New Arrival! Toushin Toshi Imageepoch
Off-list - - 24 Last seen at 17 Final Fantasy X/X2 HD Square Enix
Off-list - - 28 Last seen at 19 Final Fantasy X/X2 HD Twin Pack Square Enix

Do you like pointy elf ears? I like pointy elf ears! Who doesn't like pointy elf ears? Not anyone who grew up watching anime in the 90s, that's for sure, and that would seem to include the character designer for Marvelous AQL's newest 3DS RPG, Kinki no Magna


Kinki isn't anything sexual, by the way. It's just an unfortunate coincidence that this is the pronunciation of the Japanese word for "forbidden." Compared to a lot of other games coming out recently, some of them in this very column, Magna actually looks pretty tame.



It's a classic case of boy meets girl-in-a-box. The hero's a young man named Lux who's just trying to make ends meet at his family's inn. Unfortunately, the place hasn't had any guests in half-past forever, so he's turned his hand to crystal mining. After getting chased down a far tunnel by some monsters, he stumbles upon Charlotte, the perky-eared, pink-haired girl in the opening artwork. A victim of plot-induced amnesia, she can't remember much of anything, but she calls herself a spirit being, and she certainly knows how to kick butt. She's also fixated on Lux like a baby duckling, much to his chagrin. Not long after, two more spirit beings, Beatrix and Diana, also end up as permanent residents under his roof.

This story's giving me flashbacks to Saber Marionette, honestly.



So what's a struggling publican to do, when three exotic beauties unilaterally decide to move in? Put them in maid costumes and set them to work, apparently. While they're not always good at it — Charlotte in particular is banned from entering the kitchen — business does perk up a lot when they're around.







Just to be clear, however: this is an RPG of the action-tactical variety. Battles are based around something called the Connect Lead Time system, which means that during the player's turn, the characters can move and attack freely. At least, I think that's what I'm reading. I definitely want to see this one in action first.

Kinki no Magna is being developed by the same guys who made Rune Factory, so that may give some clue as to gameplay. It's due out sometime this year, and according to the article it's at least 50% complete so it might actually arrive in time for Christmas. Anyone want a harem comedy RPG in their stocking?

Source: 4Gamer

I must compliment the House of Kemco for upping their game over the years. Having played one or two of their cell phone titles, I can say that the various dev studios published under their aegis have had their hearts in the right place, even when they're making iffy design decisions. In this day and age, it's always nice to see someone trying to produce a real RPG on the iWhatevers that isn't at least in part a microtransaction cash-grab.

Which brings us to Asdivine Hearts, developed by Exe-Create, published by Kemco, and by all appearances a traditional party-based RPG. It even has a traditionally clichéed story featuring a pair of orphans, Sol and Stella, who come across a strange animal in the forest one day. This two-tailed wonder is Leon, a wildcat kit who was accidentally made the living avatar of the Great Light Spirit. Just from that, it's obvious that something is rotten in the state of Fantasyland, and it's up to Sol and his three potential girlfriends to sort things out and set them right.

Yup, this is the second harem plot of the column. I'm on a roll here, aren't I?

Source: Kemco HP

Changing the subject while keeping the cuteness, Nintendo's announced the next of its maboroshi (trans: "really rare thing that everyone thinks isn't real but actually it is") pokémon, Diancie.


Also known as the Jewel Pokémon, Diancie is a Rock/Fairy type as well as an apparent portmanteau of diamond and banshee. She's to star in the next big Pokémon movie, Dianshee and the Cocoon of Destruction, which will arrive in theaters on July 19th, just like clockwork. I'm still not sure if I'll see it, but I could use the geek cred with my more pokémaniacal students. Having sixteen EX cards isn't going to cut it for much longer.

Source: Famitsu Online

When last we looked at Cho-Megami Shinkou Noir: Gekigami Black Heart (Hyper Goddess Belief System Noir: Super Divine Black Heart), what we knew could mostly be summed up with "Compile Heart does a Neptune tactical game." At least now, we have some better screens to look at.










Being set in a video game meta-universe, Noir has its fair share of diverse locations for battle. The most interesting quirk of the game shown so far is that many battlefields include free objects that can be manipulated to advance the cause. One example shown is a type of block that characters can lift to form bridges that other characters can use to reach new parts of the map. Presumably there are other interesting applications for this. Of course, as a Neptune spin-off, the most interesting things are the characters. While the main Neptune games included the anthropomorphized versions of game consoles and development studios, Noir lends its humanizing touch to whole genres. Anyone care to guess?







OK, here are the details! Lee Fei in her Chinese kung-fu dress obviously represents the fighting genre. Ein Aru looks like a Lightning clone, and stands in for the AAA RPGs while the cutesy Restoa is all about the niche RPG genre. Saori, all cute and wholesome in her pseudo-school uniform, is definitely from the love sim genre, and sporty Win is, well, sports. Finally, the oddball Lady Whack is here to represent the entirety of the "retro" game style. As far as Compile Heart designs go, these are pretty tame, but as a matter of course the game includes cut-scene images that range from "saccharine sweet" to "moé-tastic" all the way to "masturbatory yuri fantasy." No, I'm not including those here. Go google them if you have to.







Hyper Goddess Noir is due out on May 29th for the PS Vita.










Source: Dengeki Online

So, a ways up above this part, I said something about making RPGs that weren't microtransaction cash-grabs? Well, as I was typing a lot of this column up on Thursday, I found out what the latest cash-grab from Square Enix was, and it's something worth mentioning. It's also going to make some people rather unhappy, I'd imagine. I'll let the title graphic tell the story here.


Yup, we have a new Mana title, and it is free-to-play on the iWhatevers, with the ever-present specter of real-cash item purchases looming in the shadows. Let's look at the story précis:

Here is a world divided in twain. Above is the realm of Luster, where
the trees grow tall in eternal sunshine. Below is the realm of Darka, full of
gnarled roots and ancient secrets. From time immemorial the kings of these two
realms have faced each other in battle, continuing an ancient war. The Angel
folk say that the Demons, jealous of their loving light, desire to rule Luster
as their own. The Demons say that the Angels, fearful of their chthonic mysteries,
seek the destruction of Darka. Who is right, and who is wrong? No one can say
for sure. They are all too busy fighting to ask questions...

Which is why the questions are being left to Vahn and Leyn, a Demon and an Angel who were caught in a stray current of Mana and wafted away to the world of humans, which looks like it should be called Fa'Diel (still unconfirmed). Unfortunately, the flow of mana there is a lot less than they're used to, and neither can survive alone. Only by pooling their resources and combining their powers can they return to their homes and get back to the serious business of trying to kill each other again. Obviously they'll find ways to resolve their differences well before that, though, and meet a whole lot of familiar faces along the way.





Cooperation really is the key to battle here, as Vahn and Leyn tag-team the entire world over the course of their quest, with the player switching freely between the two of them during the single-player sections. The player can also choose between female versions of the protagonist, Aria and Iris (or Aliya and Ilith, if you prefer). There are real-time raid battles to be played with friends over the internet, including that battle with the Metal Haggar seen in one of those screenshots. Here, have a video and see for yourself.

Rise of Mana is coming very soon to iOS devices and sometime later this year to Android. Y'know, I'm kind of saddened that this game is consigned to the iWhatevers, because I would definitely like to try it on the 3DS. At least it's not a complete waste of space like some of S-E's other iWhatever library.

Source: Dengeki Online
Title Publisher Release Date Platform
Lord of the Rings: The War in the North (Warner Best) Warner Entertainment Japan 3.6.14
Ar no Surge Gust 3.6.14
Soul Sacrifice Delta SCE 3.6.14
Muramasa: Rebirth (PS Vita the Best) Marvelous AQL 3.6.14
Patapon 3 (PSP the Best) SCE 3.6.14
Ore no Shikabane wo Koeteyuke (Over My Dead Body) (PSP the Best) SCE 3.6.14
What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord? 2 (PSP the Best) SCE 3.6.14
What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord? in 3D(ungeon) (PSP the Best SCE 3.6.14
Dark Souls 2 From Software 3.13.14
Natural Doctrine Kadokawa Games 3.19.14
Hyperdimension Neptune RE:Birth 2 - Sisters Generation Compile Heart 3.20.14
Phantasy Star Online 2, ep. 2 (Deluxe Package) Sega 3.20.14
Hero Bank Sega 3.20.14
Game Center CX 3 Bandai-Namco 3.20.14
Atelier Ayesha Plus Gust 3.27.14
Source: Dengeki Online
Lol, whoops! A letter!

Hi! lolwhoops here. How's it going?

This isn't really related to the RPGamer site, but it does involve Japan and I thought I could ask you some questions. I have to do a research paper and presentation on a vacation destination for my communications class and I'm considering using Japan as the rather broad subject.

I was wondering if you could give me some information being someone who has obviously come from away to there and currently living there and such. I don't know if you can use this sort of thing in your article, but if you can then yay.

Basically looking for a few things:

*SNIP* (Put them in the reply --Gaijin)

I'm sure there's more to ask, but it's starting to feel like I'm gonna end up having you do a bunch of research for me. Really I just want the perspective from someone who is there, which is something I find hard to get by looking at most sites I've found. Any other info you can think of to add would be wonderful!

Gaijin

Yay! I have an excuse to try out the listing HTML codes! Luckily, since my parents visited last summer I can use their impressions to help with this.

  • Where are popular vacation destinations in Japan? Where would you go if you had vacation time?
  • There's a wide variety to be had, and the places favored by locals (i.e. theme parks) probably wouldn't be as interesting to foreigners. I recommend Kyoto over Tokyo (too crowded), and any region with good natural scenery and onsen. Honestly, there's enough that's different about Japan that most Americans could find someplace interesting at or near every major city in the country.
  • What things did you do to prepare to go to Japan? Any essential items? Vaccinations or anything else necessary?
  • No special vaccinations are necessary, nor do you need a tourist visa to enter the country. You get a limited stay (less than three months) tourist visa upon arrival. Otherwise, prepare as you would for a major vacation stateside.
  • Costs of activities at your chosen vacation spot(s)? costs of hotels (average)?
  • Prices vary a lot depending on the location, type of activity, and desired accomodations. It's generally not too hard to find a cheap hotel chain like Toyoko Inn or Kame-no-i in close proximity to the major train stations. Those usually run about $50 to $80 a night, depending on the room. You might be able to find hostels for less, and certainly can find deluxe hotels for a lot more. The major resort locations, like Yufuin, Kurokawa, or Huis Ten Bosch (all in Kyushu) have very convenient but rather expensive hotels nearby.
  • Things to avoid as a first timer in Japan?
  • Gorging yourself on delicious pastries or sushi? Other than that, know your destination and prepare for it.
  • Any safety concerns for foreign travelers?
  • Japan is actually a rather safe place to visit, the occasional typhoon, earthquake, or volcanic eruption notwithstanding. Simple travel precautions apply. If you're worried, be sure you know how to contact your closest consulate, and be sure to make photocopies of your passport just in case.
  • Is there a place to exchange for local currency? Would North American credit or debit cards work? (IE Visa/Mastercard)
  • There are currency exchanges in most major airports, and the exchange rates tend to be fair. Outside of that, many banks can handle currency exchange, though most businesses will not. If you want to use foreign credit cards, your best bet is to hit up Citibank, but that's not very convenient. Visa is supposedly usable, but in practice it may not be so easy. Personal checks are out of the question.
  • Common mistakes or troubles foreigners run into while vacationing?
  • When you cannot read most signs accurately, mistakes and trouble are sure to follow. Just be aware that most major public facilities will have English translations available — usually broken and often in fine print, but still available.
  • Banned or restricted items that you couldn't take into or out of the country?
  • Obviously, don't try to bring illegal drugs through customs. On that note, also be aware that the Japanese government considers all ephedra and pseudoephedrine based medicines to be illegal drugs. Many foreigners do manage to sneak a bottle or two of American cough syrup through, but be careful in any case. At worst, it'll just get confiscated, but it's annoying and a bit scary nonetheless. As for taking stuff out of the country, I have heard that it's much cheaper and less complicated to import a katana directly to the States than it is to go buy one in Japan and try to bring it home with you.
  • Costs of food/restaurants around tourist destinations?
  • Costs of souvenirs?
  • For food, if you're going to Tokyo Disney or a similar big name spot, expect the prices to jump. Otherwise, food tends to be pretty affordable. Most of the touristy spots are in the middle of actual neighborhoods, and it's always possible to walk a little off the beaten track and find a noodle restaurant with decent food for less than $5. The same goes for souvenirs. Theme parks will always be overpriced, but stuff from shrines or travel stations tends to be cheaper. Since the yen-to-dollar exchange rate tends to hover around 100:1, it's pretty easy to avoid sticker shocks.
  • Local delicacies you HAVE to try?
  • Now as for local delicacies, there are usually too many to name. Every single region of the country, and usually many individual towns within each region, will have some sort of meibutsu (local famous food) to try. Wherever you're planning on traveling, just google the place name and see what pops up.
  • Resources for lost tourists?
  • As I said above, most public locations will have some English explanation available, and often there will be at least one person nearby who thinks he can speak English. Whether or not any of it is useful will vary, obviously, but local officials and businesspeople do try and help. Just don't get overwhelmed by the foreignness of it all (tall order, I know), and you can figure out most anything. Oh, and always keep a card or something with the name and address of your hotel on it, just so you have something to show the taxi driver in the event you get really lost.
  • Times of the year to visit?
  • In general, avoid June/July because of the rainy season. August is also pretty awful in southern Japan if you don't like your summers to be sweltering. Japan is aligned fairly vertically, however, so the local climates can vary quite a lot from one end of the country to the other. Again, it all comes down to what you're coming to see. If you want to catch the Hokkaido snow festival or do some skiing, then obviously you'll want to arrive in February. If you want cherry blossoms, then you want early April. If you want to see a crazy festival or two, then summer is A-OK.
  • Whew, for someone who claims to not like writing long emails, that one was a doozy! Feel free to write more, *wink*

Well, that's a wrap. I'm going to go outside and enjoy the plum blossoms while they last.

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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