uzuki no hatsuka

There's a natural progression in the scenery of Japan, one that plays itself out over the course of the year. In late February or early March the plum trees blossom, only to give way to the cherry trees in late March or early April. By now, the majority of cherry trees in Hi-no-kuni have bloomed out, a few latecomer varietals notwithstanding. It is time to move on. It is time for the hanamizuki.

While not as famous or as romanticized as the plum and cherry, the flowering dogwood is still a popular tree in Japan. I took this picture on my way to work this week, but I could have gotten a photo of any of a hundred more such trees lining the bypass. White and pink seem to be the only two colors these trees have, and the petals are rather tough and leaflike. Still, they make a morning walk to work that much more pleasant.

Now, on to the column!

4/2 ~ 4/8 3/26 ~ 4/1 Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
1 * New Arrival! Super Robot Wars Z-2: World Re-Creation Chapter Bandai-Namco
2 1 New Arrival! Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance Square Enix
6 7 Last seen at 6 Monster Hunter 3G Capcom
8 5 Last seen at 3 Pokémon Conquest Pokémon
10 6 Last seen at 2 Yakuza New Story: Black Panther 2 Sega
13 15 Last seen at 15 Harvest Moon: Land of Origin Marvelous AQL
19 28 Last seen at 28 Monster Hunter Portable 3rd (PSP The Best) Capcom
26 29 Last seen at 21 Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Square Enix
28 17 Last seen at 8 Shining Blade Sega
Off-list 20 New Arrival! New Little King's Story Konami

Here's a new game that's taking the 3 in 3DS rather literally. Known only as Project X Zone (the X is pronounced "Cross"), this sounds like it should be a placeholder title than the actual thing. Three different game companies are contributing characters for this massive crossover extravaganza. Here's the lineup:

The Capcom Crew

Our first round of contestants include Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine (Resident Evil), X and Zero (Mega Man X), Dmitri (Darkstalkers), Ryu and Ken (Street Fighter, and Dante (Devil May Cry).

The Sega Squad

From Sega we get Kurt Irving and Liera Marcellis (Valkyria Chronicles 3), Ichirou and Sakura (Sakura Taisen), Akira Yuuki and Pai Chan (Virtua Fighter), Toma and Cyrille (Shining Force EXA), and Ulala from Space Channel 5. Groovy.

The Bamco Brigade

Finally, we come to Bandai-Namco. As the technical hosts for today's proceedings, the Bamco Brigade should have some interesting members, wouldn't you think? So we get Yuri and Estelle (Tales of Vesperia), Jin Kazama and Ling Xiaoyu (Tekken), Kite and Black Rose (.hack), KOS-MOS and T-elos (Xenosaga), and Sanger Somvold (Super Robot Wars Original Generations).

Project X (Cross) Zone is due out sometime this year for the 3DS, but the exact date is still unknown.

Source: Famitsu Online

Stories in Gust titles are often very focused on the individual characters, and Atelier Ayesha is no different. Today we get to look at the first two recruitable characters revealed for this beautiful game.

Regina Catiss (Curtis?), age 23, is the only girl in a household full of brothers, and it shows. As hard-headed as she is hard-working, Regina is a professional digger and treasure hunter who scours the ancient ruins looking for materials to sell. She's known Ayesha for years, and they often end up searching the same ruins, albeit for different reasons.

The other character is Keithgrif Hazeldyne (spelling is mostly guesswork), age 45. He's an alchemist from a foreign land who has come to examine the ancient ruins. What reasons he may have to do so are anybody's guess.

The synthesis system in Ayesha has undergone some evolutions of its own, it would seem. There is some sort of point system in effect, influenced by the type and quality of ingredients, that may unlock further attributes and abilities in synthesized items. I'm interested to see how this works in practice.

Atelier Ayesha arrives in stores on the last Thursday of June (the 28th).

Source: Famitsu Online

For the longest time, the only detail we knew about Nayuta no Kiseki was the title, which seemed to pin it to Falcom's long-running spinoff of the Legend of Heroes series. As it turns out, that's not quite accurate. Nayuta takes a lot of inspiration from the other Kiseki games, but in actuality it's its own experience. For one, it's an action RPG. For two, it apparently has no direct links with Trails in the Sky or any other game with the Kiseki moniker. The one thing it does have, however, is water. Lots of it.

Nayuta is the name of the protagonist, so let's talk about him. He's just a kid living in a port city by the sea. The thing is, the sea doesn't end. Nayuta's home is but one isle floating in the middle of the Sea of Scientia, a body of water peppered by strange ruins and shifting locales. And as far as one can see, there's water. Everybody tells Nayuta the same thing, that there is nothing past the horizon, that the ocean (and thus the world) is flat. Those who live on the Remnant Isle are taught this from an early age, but Nayuta's not buying it. As he studies at the academy at Saints-Elysées, he wonders about the mysteries of the world and other things that people seem to take for granted. His most prized possession is a sextant left behind by his father (who presumably disappeared into the sunset one day, searching for the what may be beyond the horizon). His best friends are Signa Alhazen of the Saints-Elysées Guard and Noë, she of the funky gear head-adornments.

From time to time strange objects fall into the Sea of Scientia. These crystals, called Star Fragments, have a curious quality in that by gazing into them one can see a fabulous realm. No one knows if this place is real, or just an illusion. They call it "Lost Heaven." I have a feeling Nayuta and his friends will be finding out just how real an illusory realm can be...

And if you'd like to see it in action, here's a short video put on Youtube just today by Nihon Falcom.

Nayuta no Kiseki is due out July 23rd of this year for the PSP.

Source: Famitsu Online

Pokémon Black 2/ White 2 is something of a puzzle. It's the first direct sequel in the main series that takes place within the same region as its predecessor. We're not talking about an alternative third version like Crystal, Emerald, or Platinum, either -- this one starts a full three years after the events of Pokémon Black/White the First. Just look at the Unova Region now:

Not to be facetious or anything, but I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to look like that. And these two aren't supposed to look like this:

Perhaps they should have called it Pokémon Frost/Hail instead... In any case, something is definitely not right in the world, and it's probably the fault of that Ice/Dragon type, Kyurem, who forms the third point in the Tao Dragon triad (and figures prominently in the upcoming summer movie feature). So who are our intrepid young trainers this time around?

Hmm... Okay, I usually alternate boy/girl in my Pokémon games, but for this one I think I'll break the pattern and just go with the heroine option again. Seriously, I didn't realize that the boy option was in fact a boy until I saw the next picture. Of course, they won't be alone in their adventure.

The dark, angry-looking kid is the game's requisite Rival character. The rather pale gentleman next to him is Akuroma, or more like Achroma (roughly: "colorless"), a researcher who wishes to unlock the mysteries of Pokémon power. The other two are both Gym leaders. Their names are Homika and Shisui, but obviously that'll change once this game is localized. They use poison and water pokémon, respectively.

Pokémon Black 2/ White 2 is still on track for release on the last Saturday of June (the 23rd), which makes it very likely that the events of the movie (coming out about two weeks later) will have a great deal to do with the game.

Source: Famitsu Online

There's no Culture Corner today, but feel free to check out this week's Q&A column!

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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