yayoi no muika

Today is the third Friday of Lent, and like every other Friday for the month of March I'm eating my lunch at one restaurant in particular: the sushi-tabehodai place. Or to put it in English, the all-you-can-eat sushi bar. For about ten dollars, you can eat as much as you want, but there are a few rules to observe. You only get one hour, and every plate after that costs a dollar-twenty. Very polite signs inform diners that they should only take one plate off the track at a time, so prevent people from hoarding up popular sushi. Anything left over is subject to wastage fees, and there is absolutely no option for doggy bags.

While a sushi bar is the obvious choice for a meatless Friday, I still have to pay attention to what I grab. There's a surprising number of items on the track that I shouldn't eat if I'm being serious about it, from the little plates of kara'age (Japanese style fried chicken) to the desserts to the actual non-seafood sushi.

Sushi doesn't actually mean "raw fish", which comes as a surprise to some foreigners when they first come to Japan. The word sushi is believed to have developed as a contraction of sumeshi, which means "sour rice". In olden days, sushi was a way to use up the old rice from the day before that had begun to go sour. Nowadays, the rice is fresh, but gets treated with a specific sort of vinegar to provide the right taste without worrying about health codes. Everything else — the fish, the wasabi, the pounded seaweed wrapping — is stuff that was added over the years. The oldest variety of sushi is probably chirashizushi, which is basically a small box of rice covered with shredded bits of shrimp, fish, crab meat, and scrambled egg along with salmon roe. It's still popular, and in fact most schools in the prefecture served it for lunch this past Tuesday because of the Doll Festival, for which it is considered a traditional foodstuff.

Getting back on topic, the fact that sushi is defined by the rice aspect and not the seafood is a big one. If you go to a place with an all-you-can-eat special, you have to eat the rice. If you pick the fish off the top and eat that, leaving the rice on the plate, you're going to be in trouble. Just don't be like this idiot. More to the point for me, the sushi chefs can put whatever they want on top of that rice and still call it sushi, be it the traditional scrambled egg, slices of vienna sausage, small hamburger patties, tempura-fried eggplant (or pumpkin, or mushroom...), European style smoked raw ham, or even slices of whale (which, while seafood, still violates the whole point of meatless Fridays).

Wow, that's a bit more about my Friday dining habits than I'd planned on writing. Let's get on with the show.

Our first game of the column comes from Experience, which by this point has an interesting resume built up out of a love for the first-person dungeon crawl style pioneered by the Wizardry series. The big news here is that the studio's newest project, Ray Gigant, is being produced in cooperation with Bandai-Namco.

Sometime in the vaguely futuristic year of 20XX, every major city on Earth is attacked by strange extraterrestrial organisms called Gigants. The armies of the world struggled to force back the onslaught and destroy the tumorous Megalocytes that spawn them, but to largely no avail. But then the Tokyo Megalocyte is blasted out of existence by a hitherto unknown power, which seems to be channeled through a young Japanese man. Unfortunately, this same power goes on to destroy half of Tokyo, so it's a two-edged sword. Still, it's the best chance the Earth has of ending the Gigant menace. Let's hope the cure isn't worse than the disease.

These are the three main characters. On the left is Ichiya Amakaze, the young man who forced half of his home city to relocate. Next is Kyle Griffin, a young man from Britain with a similar power to Ichiya, though without the destruction of London. The girl is Nil Fenias, who is protecting the many isles of the Caribbean Sea from Gigant incursions. These three are not necessarily working together, as there's one piece of game art that clearly shows Ichiya and Kyle at each other's throats. Instead, each one appears to be the head of their own anti-Gigant strike force, and their eventual goals may end up at cross purposes.

We don't know how much the three scenarios will be different, but we do know that Ichiya has at least two party members unique to him: Mana and Kazuomi. They're old friends of his, and I'm pretty sure they're also the ones who hid him after that whole "nuke Tokyo" incident.

As for the Gigants, they come in myriad varieties, all of which predictably bear some strange resemblance to creatures from mythology. There are dragons, demons, and everything in-between, and they come in all sizes. The question is, as always, why here and why now? Fans of the PS Vita will have the chance to find out later this year.

Source: Dengeki Online
2/23 ~ 3/1 2/16 ~ 2/22 2/9 ~ 2/15 2/1 ~ 2/8 Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
1 * * * New Arrival! Dragon Quest Heroes: The Dark Dragon and the Castle of Yggdrasil Square Enix
2 * * * New Arrival! Dragon Quest Heroes: The Dark Dragon and the Castle of Yggdrasil Square Enix
3 2 1 * New Arrival! Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D Nintendo
4 1 * * New Arrival! God Eater 2: Rage Burst Bandai-Namco
5 5 4 3 Last seen at 4 Youkai Watch 2: Shin'Uchi Level-5
8 9 10 5 Last seen at 7 Pokémon Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire The Pokémon Co.
13 3 * * New Arrival! God Eater 2: Rage Burst Bandai-Namco
15 14 12 12 Last seen at 11 Monster Hunter 4G Capcom
20 19 19 16 Last seen at 15 Youkai Watch 2 Level-5
27 22 14 6 Last seen at 5 Far Cry 4 Ubisoft
29 26 22 9 New Arrival! Dark Souls II - Scholar of the First Sin From Software
30 27 24 13 Last seen at 3 Tales of Zestiria Bandai-Namco
Off-list 23 16 8 Last seen at 2 Far Cry 4 Ubisoft
Off-list Off 18 * New Arrival! Lords of the Fallen Ubisoft
Off-list Off 21 4 New Arrival! Lost Heroes 2 Bandai-Namco
Off-list Off 25 10 Last seen at 1 Devil Survivor 2: Break Record Atlus
Off-list Off Off 20 New Arrival! Persona 4: The Golden Atlus
Off-list Off Off 27 Last seen at 28 Ken no Machi no Ihoujin Experience
Off-list Off Off 29 Last seen at 27 Final Fantasy Explorers Square Enix

I'm giving serious thought to switching back to the Dengeki sales rankings from next month. I started using the Famitsu rankings years ago because Dengeki switched over to a Top 10-only format, but that seems to have changed, and the new Famitsu website layout is constantly giving me headaches. And since the Dengeki list is now available as a Top 50, I can also winnow down the number of "Off-list" games at the bottom.

Anyone who keeps track of my game reviews (and surely there's someone out there who does... pretty please?) should know how big a fan I am of the Metal Max games. To date, there is only one iteration of the series on consoles that I have not played, and that's only because I no longer have a Super Famicom (that, and it's a remake). Eventually I'll get around to finishing Metal Saga on the PS2, or maybe even check out the mobile spinoff game that my old phone still seems able to access even though it's been eight years or so since it was made. Yes, the series has had an odd, broad history that spans three consoles, three portable systems, the cell phone market, and three different publishers. Even so, the item of discussion for today is a bit of an odd duck.

Last November, the game publishing company Success announced that Metal Saga: Kouya no Hakobune (The Ark of the Wastes) was in development for iOS and Android. What's interesting here is that Success no longer owns Crea-Tech, the development company for the Metal Max series, but it does seem to still own the Metal Saga trademark. I'm not sure how this is possible, and I'm not sure how Success can really base anything off of the two games of the series that were published under its banner. Metal Saga for the PS2 had plenty of enemies and characters distinctive enough to the series that they might be under trademark, not to mention the backstory it took from previous games, and Metal Saga: Season of Steel on the DS actually was a direct sequel to the original Metal Max. Since Success has zero rights to any of the original background material, it's going to be interesting to see what the developers come up with. I do note that on the game's main image graphic the familiar gun-toting form of Pochi the Battle Dog can be seen. He's also to be found on the teaser site if you scroll down a bit.

Seriously, I know Japanese copyright and trademark laws are pretty lax in some areas when compared to the States, but how is this game even possible?

Source: Famitsu Online

There are days when I despair that Square Enix has given up on the SaGa series. Then there are days when I despair that Square Enix hasn't given up on it completely. Case in point:

Even as the next major release in the series remains officially unnamed, S-E has announced it is bringing the SaGa brand to PCs as a browser game. Imperial SaGa at least has a name, though the rest of the details are still skimpy. The game's teaser site plays music that's very similar to the Romancing SaGa battle themes, and the text on the upper right side says "Adel the demigod. Which shall he choose, the darkness or the light?"

Since this is all we have on the game so far, I'm going to have to reserve judgment. The infographic on the site says that it's supposed to be a single-player RPG, not multiplayer at all, but I don't trust them to not stick intrusive microtransaction scams into it. Oh well, we shall find out later in the year, I suppose.

Source: Dengeki Online

It seems as if the 3DS is getting more popular with the niche RPG development studios once again. A few months back we looked at the Choco-Dog RPG, a game thoroughly designed with little girls in mind, and today's title is targeting that same demographic.

The name of the game is Minarai Majou to Moko-Moko Furenzu, or "The Apprentice Witch and Her Fluffy Friends," and it's being produced by Nippon Columbia, the exact same company that did Choco-Dog RPG. Apparently Nippon Columbia is expanding its horizons while staying firmly within its elementary schoolgirl fanbase.

The little blonde witch of the title is Moko, one of several students to the great teacher Michiru (the redhead up above). Their funny little world of Yumentopia has a Moppet problem. These cute little plushy monsters are all over, and it's a daily battle just dealing with them. Moko and her classmates Shizuku, Nene, Rin, and Kaede are studying to become Moppet-Masters, and it's up to our heroine to lead her plushy forces through pastel dungeons in search of fun and adventure.

I'm not sure if there's any part of this game that cannot be considered a risk factor for diabetes. It's simply that saccharine sweet. It certainly does look perfect for little girls, though. I'm only sorry that this is likely to remain in Japan, because I don't doubt my niece in America would love it to death. It's the stuffed animal equivalent to Pokémon that we never knew we needed.

Minarai Majou to Moko-Moko Furenzu is due out on April 23, 2015. I'm curious to see what Nippon Columbia decides to push out next.

Source: 4Gamer
Title Publisher Release Date Platform
Legend of Heroes: Sen no Kiseki (PS3/Vita the Best) Falcom 3.5.15
Etrian Mystery Dungeon Atlus 3.5.15
Yakuza 0: Chikai no Bashou Sega 3.12.15
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Bandai-Namco 3.12.15
Dragon Quest VII: Eden no Senshi-tachi (Ultimate Hits) Square Enix 3.12.15
Dragon Quest Monsters: Terry's Wonderland Square Enix 3.12.15
Dragon Quest Monsters 2: Iru & Ruka's Mysterious Key Square Enix 3.12.15
Final Fantasy Type 0 HD Square Enix 3.19.15
Phantasy Star Online 2: Episode 3 Deluxe Package Sega 3.19.15
Muramasa: The Demon Blade (DLC-inclusive edition) Marvelous 3.19.15
Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers (Ultimate Hits) Atlus 3.19.15
Bloodborne SCE 3.26.15
Disgaea 5 Nippon Ichi 3.26.15
Sword Art Online: Lost Song Bandai-Namco 3.26.15
New Atelier Rorona 3DS Gust 3.26.15
Theatrhythm Dragon Quest Square Enix 3.26.15
Funasshi vs. Dragons Rocket Company 3.26.15
Source: Dengeki Online

One fringe benefit of the pre-Easter season is that I have no trouble losing weight. Two kilos down, three to go! Catholic diet for the win!

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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