Here's a topic I was planning on discussing earlier in the month, before life got in the way: Hina dolls. March is the month of the Hina-matsuri, or Princess Doll Festival, here in Japan. So what are hina dolls? The traditional style of hina involves a mock-up of the ancient Imperial court, with the Emperor and Empress top-center and surrounded by their attendants, but a large number of variations on this theme can be found. The tradition originated in the Heian Period (about a thousand years ago), when it was believed that dolls like these could be used to attract and encapsulate malicious spirits, ensuring that the daughters of the household would grow up in good fortune like the Empress. Nowadays they are held as good luck charms in the hopes that one's daughters will be successful and find good husbands. While the usual date for festivities is on the 3rd, the Shimotori Shopping Arcade has a goodly number of displays set up for the entire month of March.
Now, one with the column!
Do we have any monster hunters in the audience? Capcom and Mitsui Greenland Theme Park in Kysuhu have teamed up to make a special attraction based around the Monster Hunter franchise. It's complete with life-sized figurines of the game's kitty-cat mascots and large replicas of various monsters from the game. The only one for which we can supply a picture is of the dragon Rioleus (or at least its head) as a giant inflatable model. As well, there will of course be time-attack tournaments to see who can take out the target monster (a Babaconga) the fastest. The attraction opened last Saturday and shuts down after April 11th, so hurry on over if you want a piece of the action. And then come over to my place for drinks. I live about an hour or two from this park. Too bad I'm not that interested in the game itself.
In the world of Summon Night Granthese, nightmares have a way of becoming real. From time to time the hero or heroine will stumble upon the resting place of a Nightmare, a powerful boss born of the darkness. Here are a few reference pics:
Once the Nightmare form of a boss has been defeated, a more powerful version materializes in the real world. Once that one is taken out, an even stronger form can be fought as well. Of course, it's not that easy. Nightmares must be fought one-on-one, with no items or summoning magic used, making them much more difficult than most battles.
Monsters aren't the only things to be found. Scattered across the world are gallery items, bonus collectables that can be viewed from the game menu. It includes background art, Tutorial materials, and character portraits.
As well, over the course of their adventures the Hero and Heroine can enter into some interesting conversations with their travel companions whenever they stop for the night. The player will have to choose which characters to talk with, and it's likely these nighttime events will have some impact on the story, which implies a different experience for each play through the game.
Finally, like a great many games before it, Summon Night Granthese contains a bonus dungeon. In order to find it, the player will have to take clues left on roadsigns by the Wildcat Gang and put the pieces together on their own. Of course, once found the hidden dungeon is full of special goodies and nasty monsters. Hopefully it's worth the effort.
And now that's over. This is the last time Granthese will be in Japandemonium, as it went on sale last week. Whether it really is the last real RPG on the Playstation 2 has yet to be seen, but if so, at least it's a nice looking one.
As far as game developers go, Falcom has never been the biggest fish in the pond. If one measures success by a company's fanbase, however, Falcom is a clear winner. With titles like Ys, Zwei, and Legend of Heroes (with its spinoff Sora no Kiseki), Falcom has attracted a solid group of die-hard fans, and now it's time to pay back the favor.
Here is Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki - Alternative Saga for the PSP. Following in the footsteps of games like Tales of Versus and Dissidia: Final Fantasy, Falcom has created a co-op battle royale action game using characters from two of its most popular series. The base system used for combat has been described as an improved version of that used in Ys SEVEN.
Finally, there are plans to release a drama CD with every copy of the game's initial release. I hope this is of sufficient interest for any Falcom fans in the audience.
Level-5's Akihiro Hino enjoys stringing the fans along. In a recent Twitter post, he had the following to say (translated):
"We are planning to announce a new title in April. While we have other titles that have been announced but not released yet, worry not, as this is a game from a different dev group and will not interfere with other releases. We think this new announcement will be of great interest to all. Talk to you later."
Of course, there's no inkling as to what he's talking about here, only that it will be a separate title not related to White Knight Chronicles, Ushiro, Inazuma Eleven 3, or Ninokuni.
We'll just have to wait and see...
Has it warmed up again since you wrote the last column? I have a fairly random question. How are the numbers pronounced in the Final Fantasy game titles in Japanese? Would FFXIII be fainaru fantajii juusan? Or would it be a katakana version of the English "thirteen"? Also what about games like FFX and FFX-2? Does FFX ever get reffered to by the letter X rather than the number ten? Is there a special word for the 2 in FFX-2? Speaking of Final Fantasy, did you like FFXIII? I only just started playing it, but I like it so far.
Thanks for reading my letter,
Oddly enough, between the time I finished the column Friday morning and posted it Friday night, the temperature had risen about 15 degrees Fahrenheit. It actually got up to about 70 degrees on Sunday, but took another mid-week dip down to the 50s since then. Everyone's hoping things will settle down a bit after the equinox.
From my experience, Japanese tend to pronounce Roman numerals as if they were English. For a more specific answer, I actually went to the game store last weekend and asked the guy behind the counter how one should pronounce Final Fantasy X-2, and he said that it was definitely "Ten-Two".
As for Final Fantasy XIII, I enjoyed it immensely. Yes, it has its faults, but it's a rare game that doesn't. I also appreciate a good challenge, which the final chapter of the game provides in spades. I was literally jumping up and down with the controller in my hands when I realized the final boss was about to croak, and the adrenaline rush didn't wear off for several hours afterwards. Very satisfying.
Thanks for writing!
The Anti-Fan Mail
The SaGa series is expletive deleted and deserves to remain in Japan. That is all.
-The Man With no Name
My, what a well thought out and earnest opinion. I can only assume that some time in the past you were soured on this series somehow. Perhaps it was SaGa Frontier, which -- despite having approximately 20% of its material removed due to disk space issues -- provided some excellent challenges. Or was it SaGa Frontier 2, with its highly linear historical style of gameplay and gorgeous watercolor graphics? Maybe Unlimited Saga... okay, I must admit that one is an acquired taste even for die-hard SaGa fans.
What of the Final Fantasy Legend games, those nostalgic pillars of the original Game Boy's RPG library? They're SaGa games, too. How about the remake, Romancing SaGa Minstrel Song, which improved so much in its transfer of platforms that it deserves to be listed as a separate title in its own right?
I know you can't be basing your opinion on Romancing SaGa 2 or Romancing SaGa 3, however. They're the only games in the series never to see a Western release, after all, and RS2 hasn't even got a decent ROM translation patch. Surely you wouldn't diss an entire series based on a single game which you wouldn't be able to read even if you did find a copy of it, a game that is considered one of the best in its series, not to mention one of the best titles in the entire RPG library on the Super Famicom.
Would you do something like that, Mr. Man with No... oh wait, according to the ID marker on your GMail account, you do have a name -- Troll Fag. While I doubt this is the name your mother gave you, it seems an appropriate enough moniker.
So, Mr. Troll Fag, thank you for reading Japandemonium and for caring enough to write such a reasoned and thoughtful piece of correspondence for the Culture Corner. If by any chance you happen to crawl out from your dank little hole under the bridge and wish to enlighten us all about how awful our beloved pet series are, I hope you put as much consideration into that letter as you have this one.
I have a post-graduation party to attend Friday night, so I'm updating a day early. Next week I'll be in Kyoto, hanging out with my best bud the Journeyman, so I won't be updating at all. See you all in two or three weeks!
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,