There's a chain of used bookstores in Japan known as Book-Off. I regularly frequent two of them in Kumamoto, mainly out of curiosity. Being strictly second-hand stores, their selection can vary widely. I've found some bizarre and obscure titles therein, as well as some real prizes -- like this one.
This copy of Kyushu no Mukashibanashi was bound with the traditional Japanese string method, and cost me all of 105 yen (about 90 cents). Its title means "Tales of Kyushu," and it was apparently some sort of grade school primer when my girlfriend was little. In it are fairy tales and legends from all seven of the island's prefectures. I haven't had a chance to read the whole thing, but here's one story from Fukuoka that I liked.
A long, long time ago, in a small village at the base of Mt. Hiko, there lived a brother and a sister. Their mother had died of illness, and their father was bedridden as well, so they had no money for even a handful of rice. Their uncle was very wealthy, but he was also a very greedy man who made the brother and sister work long hours for just a little food.
One day, the brother was sent into the woods to collect firewood. For his lunch, he took with him a single ball of mochi wrapped in a leaf. After many hours of gathering, he'd stopped to rest and eat, when suddenly an old man passed by. This old man was thin as a stick, and wore a threadbare cloak with dirty old sandals. The brother felt so sorry that he offered the old man his only piece of mochi.
The old man ate it in one bite, and then presented the brother with the dirty old sandals. "These are magic sandals," he explained. "Hop once and spin around, and a golden coin will appear. But be careful! For each coin you receive, you will become just a little smaller.
The brother thanked him and took the sandals home. That night, he and his sister took turns hopping and spinning, until they had enough money to take care of themselves. They had each shrunk two inches, so they agreed not to use the sandals anymore.
Soon after, their uncle couldn't help but notice that they had money for food, and a few days later he asked his niece about it. She was so happy now that she told him all about the magic sandals. That night, the greedy uncle snuck into their house and took the sandals. He went home and began to dance. With each hop and turn another gold coin jingled beneath his feet. He was so happy that the pile of gold was growing that he didn't stop until he was barely three inches tall.
His niece and nephew found him several days later, crushed and buried under a mountain of coins. They buried him in the flower garden, and no one really missed him after that.
Okay, I'll admit that I elaborated on the ending just a little. Japanese tales tend to end a little abruptly for my taste.
Bandai-Namco's got a completely different sort of tale available at the end of next month. The annual event "Tales of Festival" will show in theaters across Japan. Here are some images from last year's festivities:
A complete list of locations (and ticket purchases) can be found here (Japanese), but I won't bother listing them all in the column. The only one I care about is the theater at Hikari-no-Mori Youme Town shopping center, Kumamoto City. That's within two miles of my girlfriend's apartment. I really should attend, if only to hold me over till Tales of the Abyss finally arrives in stores (June 30th).
It's the end of the month, and time for Hiroyuki Maeda's Lovely Lady Lab! Here are the next three featured ladies.
On the left is Platinum the Trinity, from BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II. In the middle and sporting an eyepatch, we have Nagisa, introduced as a new character in Phantasy Star Portable 2 Infinity. And on the right, there's Nanna, from the new action title El Shaddai. Now there's a game with some ... interesting art direction.
Now, on with the real news!
In Japan, junior high school lasts for three years. Bearing that in mind, one would think it difficult for Level-5 to extend its Inazuma Eleven series past the third installment, since the main character would have to graduate eventually. The dev team got around this by making the fourth game in the series, Inazuma Eleven GO! take place ten years after the events of IE3.
The story is only lightly mentioned in the scans, but the main character is Tenma Matsukaze. He's got more to work with, as the famous Denmon team now has enough regular players to field two teams from the start. A few characters from the original games have returned as well, namely the soccer coach and at least one other faculty member.
On the antagonist side, we have the Black Knights. No one's really sure what's up with them. They've been sent from some place called Fifth Sector, and have some connection to Denmon's newest student, a kid named Tsurugi. Beyond that, all is still a mystery.
For about a decade now, the Good Smile Company has been treating Japanese gaming enthusiasts with model after model of quality plastic figurines. One of their lines is Nendoroid (from the Japanese word nendo, meaning modeling clay) -- cutesy, chibi-proportioned likenesses of various video game and anime characters. Like so many things in Japanese pop culture, the Nendoroid is about to come around full circle.
Yes, they're making a video game featuring them. Nendoroid Generations appears to be an RPG in the gakuenmono (school-sim) sub-genre, taking place in and around Nendo High School. There's a calendar system, a Dance Mode, and of course battles to be fought and won.
The story? There's not enough in the Famitsu article to say, but it notes that the game is set in an alternate reality where Nendoroid dolls are animated and possess volition. Here's the breakdown of who's been included:
From Black Rock Shooter: BRS, Dead Master, and Black Gold Saw.
From FATE/stay night: Saber, Rider, and Rin Tosaka.
From Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha the MOVIE 1st: Nanoha Takamachi and Fate Testarossa.
From The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: Haruhi Suzumiya, Mikuru Asahina, and Yuki Nagato.
So about the only conclusion we can make here is that the story is going to be some loose contrivance meant solely as an excuse to keep this wide variety of oddball characters together and focused. This being a fan-targeted title, it won't even have to be a good story.
As mentioned once or twice in past columns, Patapon's third installment fancies itself something of an RPG. Considering some of the arguments made in favor of covering the series on this site, that wouldn't be much of a stretch. The big Japanese news sites have been covering this title in bits and pieces for a few months now, but as the game is in stores as of today, last week's Famitsu included a digest version.
To sum up, the player has a choice of twenty-one Hero classes, while the enemy includes seven Dark Hero characters and a variety of oversized bosses. To assist, the Patapon clan is also able to summon guardian deities to lay the smack-down on the bad guys.
You know, not long ago I was beginning to wonder if the DS RPG mills were running down. The list for that platform on our Upcoming Games page has certainly slimmed down a lot, as more Japan-only games have been moved to the appropriate link pages. With the advent of the 3DS, I really wasn't expecting many, or any, new Japanese titles for its predecessor to show up after Devil Survivor 2 was announced. Well, some guys at Atlus (the ones behind Etrian Odyssey) and some guys at Gust (the meisters of Atelier) have come together to give the DS at least one last swansong title before the end of the summer. Meet Nora.
Nora is a doukokujutsushi. Don't ask for an English translation; there isn't one. It's a complete mish-mash of symbols with nuances that don't really translate well. Dou would mean something like "guidance." Jutsushi would mean "master of the art." It's koku that provides the problems, as it carries several different meanings, like "engrave," "cut fine," and "time." All three apply here. Nora can apparently manipulate time to improve, refine, or otherwise renew materials in order to make better items. How this differs from alchemy is not quite apparent, but the distinction is apparently there. Let's call her a Mementalist. That's at least as legitimate a word in English as the original is in Japanese (i.e. not very).
Nora's the one on the left. The kid in the middle, Lutz, is a wannabe adventurer seeking fame as a witch-hunter. This leads to problems, as we'll see in a moment. The cute little thing on the right is Keke, a member of the Tikku Tribe and Nora's regular sidekick.
The story is more than a little reminiscent of Atelier titles. Nora is a young Mementalist-in-training who has left home as a journeyman. For the next three years she must ply her craft in a different land, gaining the experience she needs to become a true mistress of her craft. Unfortunately, her choice of destination leaves something to be desired. The little village of Tempelina looks peaceful enough, but legend says that a witch named Vera lives in the misty woods nearby. No one's sure if Vera's really out there, and the rumormill has churned out enough stories to put everyone on edge. And then this teenage girl with magic powers shows up and sets up shop in the middle of town? Yeah, this is going to end well....
To prove her bona fides and her master's certification, Nora has to take jobs from the townsfolk. In a style somewhere between Etrian and Atelier, she must also go dungeon-diving to find the materials she needs to get on with her work. Through diligence and hard work, just maybe she'll be able to convince everyone she's not a Bad Witch.
Nora and the Engraving Studio - Witch of the Misty Woods is due out in stores July 21st.
Way back in June, we reported on a title called Earth Seeker. It was listed as an Action/Adventure title then, but obviously it appears close enough to the RPG genre gestalt that we've decided to cover it on this site officially. Its release date was recently pushed back to June 23rd, which gives us time to share some nice screens and art.
Whatever and however this game turns out to be, it looks to be an interesting ride. Famitsu has been running a short manga series about this game for a while now as a form of advertising. Makes me wish I had a Wii, almost.
Next week is Golden Week, and I'm going to be really, really busy with spring cleaning (among other things). Odds are that there will be no column next week. I hope to see you all again on the 13th!
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,