It's four weeks till the World Cup in Brazil, and the Japanese team support systems are swinging into gear. Anywhere you go, it's not hard to find some decoration, limited edition item, or advertisement in support of Japan's national team, Samurai Blue. Even a simple trip to the corner store can net you all manner of patriotic soccer paraphrenelia.
The Family Mart franchise, for example, is dressing all its owners, managers, and employees at its stores in new temporary outfits based on Samurai Blue's uniform. There's also the usual lucky dip attraction, wherein for 600 yen one has the chance to win any of the prizes on the shelf. My thanks to Mr. Hayashi, who was nice enough to let me take photos (yet again).
Not surprisingly, Hello Kitty finds a way into the spotlight, but I'm surprised they didn't find a way to get Hatune Miku in there as well. The vocaloid has a long history with Family Mart by this point.
Coca-Cola's got the weirdest thing going on, though. Every single bottle of Coke currently being delivered to stores across Japan has a name on it, with the message "Let's play soccer with :name:!" and a code to use on CocaCola.jp. If you go to the site, you can sign up to have your own name printed on a bottle label, along with a code specific to you. Every time someone enters that code into Coca-Cola's site, you apparently advance in some sort of social networking game. I'm not really sure exactly how it all works, only that I've seen a lot of people carefully going over bottles recently looking for good names. Kinda weird.
Whoops! When I was putting together last month's column, I completely forgot that I had some scanned items to share with you all. The name of the game is Lost Dimension, by Furyuu. The company is best known in the West for its Unchained Blades series, but it's also the publisher behind Tsukumonogatari and Exstetra. Anyway, here are the scans.
So, what's it about? The first page has a bit in English (such as it is — this is a Japanese publication, after all): "11 psychics with MATERIA venture into a mysterious tower to stop 'THE END': an agent of the apocalypse."
I could critique the style for a while longer, but this snippet does give all the pertinent details of the plot. There's a maniac out there calling himself The End who has unleashed an unprecedented and indiscriminate wave of terrorist violence upon the world. Set on a near-future Earth that's already been half reduced to rubble, the game starts with The End being perilously close to his goal of making his favored moniker a reality for all. From somewhere beyond normal space and time, a strange edifice called the Pillar has appeared, the inside of which is warped enough to make M.C. Escher want to take a good lie-down (or perhaps sideways). I'm not sure if there's just the one pillar, or if there are multiple monuments in multiple cities. From the scans, we know for sure that New York City is playing host to one, however.
Standing against The End is an anti-terrorism unit formed specifically to brave the space oddities of the Pillar and put an end to The End. The one point that its members have in common is that they all have psychic abilities. Well, that and they're all curiously young for a mission like this, but that's JRPGs for you. The name of the group is S.E.A.L.E.D., but I don't have a clue what the acronym might stand for. Quite possibly it doesn't mean anything, since I also note that in katakana it is functionally identical to SHIELD.
In any case, it looks weird, both in plot and in atmosphere. There's apparently a traitor in their midst, a fact which the devs aren't hiding at all. The combat isn't Furyu's usual 1st-person dungeon-crawling, but exactly what it is still remains to be seen. Some of the screenshots make it almost look like it's squad-based tactical. Lost Dimension is due out on August 7th for the PS3 and Vita, so we should be seeing more soon.
Let's congratulate Child of Light for being (to the best of my knowledge) the first download-exclusive title to make this sales rankings list, as well as the first game I've ever seen listed on Famitsu's site as having "Etc." as a primary console. Sure, it didn't last long, but getting #9 in the first week isn't too shabby.
Back at the very start of May, Compile Heart put up a teaser video for the next title in the Galapagos Project, which is aimed at providing more uniquely Japanese style RPGs. That first video didn't say much. In fact, all it said was "We have a game. No, it's not Fairy Fencer F 2. No, it's not another Mugen Souls game." Then it said to come back next week to see what the new title really was. So, one week later...
... we have a video that looks decidedly grim and dark for a Compile Heart outing. This is a company known for light-hearted romps through moé-land, which becomes abundantly apparent about forty-five seconds into the teaser, when we see the heroines for the first time.
Um... yeah. What we have here appears to be a mashup of the usual CH niche RPG style, a soupçon of Idol Master, and a heaping helping of mahou shojo anime tropes. The title of the game, as well as the name of the idol group, is Omega Quintet. Let us note that the omega in question is not the usual uppercase Ω, but rather the lowercase letter, flanked by two asterisks: *ω*. The only time I have ever seen this combination before now was as the emoji for "cute kitty face" in a cell phone message.
"Galapagos" is supposed to bring to mind the strange evolutionary forces made manifest in small, isolated pockets of existence, such as the insular nature of the Japanese gaming industry, which helped give rise to a Cambrian Explosion's worth of odd genres. Omega Quintet is a perfect title to produce under that banner, because I cannot imagine it happening in any other nation on earth.
Omega Quintet will be coming to the PlayStation 4 this September, making it Compile Heart's first release for that console.
Experience's Team Muramasa, the development studio which created Students of Round and Meirou X Blood, has a new game coming out next month. Ken no Machi no Ihoujin (Strangers in the City of Swords) is a dungeon-crawler RPG, much like its predecessors, with a focus on pleasing the more hardcore fans of that genre.
For the player's character, it all begins while on a long flight from somewhere to somewhere else. Strange creatures attack the airliner you're flying on, and when you wake up, you're in Escario, the City of Swords, where the shining butterflies dance. The stars are strange in the night sky, and few people in the city seem to be natives. Everyone is a stranger, and it's every man, woman, or otherkin for him/her/itself.
The player's character is a Chosen, one of the few who can pull power directly from the bloody remains of the monsters which infest the labyrinths of Escario. Every other character has a special skill dictated by their race, but the hero's skill is dictated by Fate herself. As per the course for a Team Muramasa title, there is an involved character creation system, though only five races to choose from. The usual Humans, Elves, and Dwarves all have their place, as do the more exotic Mygmy and Nei. From here, we go on to the choice of eight classes.
Unless there are some hidden special classes, then the choices are very traditional. Fighter, knight, samurai, wizard, cleric, ranger, ninja, and dancer/entertainer are all available, with each one bringing different options to the table. Most likely every single possible trick will be necessary to survive the depths. Enemies abound. Some are actual people, strangers like the player's party, who have chosen brigandry over adventure. Others may look like they're people, or perhaps once were people, but are actually special varieties of fiends known as Bloodlines. No matter how many times they are slain, the Bloodline monsters will always return. Only a Chosen can eliminate one of them for good, gaining special crystals in the process. Bloodline monsters vary considerably in appearance, including an almost human samurai, twin fairies, grand dragons, an alchemist in a combat mecha, a ghostly pirate ship, and a cute fluffy bunny of doom known as Le Roi Lapin.
The next big decision is who will get these crystals once the player has wrenched them from the bloody giblets of their former owners. There are three groups in Escario, ruled by the Phoenix of Light, the Dragon Oblis, and Oll Orma, Lord of Darkness (who was actually the villain in Students of Round). These divine entities are more than willing to accept mystic items from the player in exchange for divine boons for the Chosen to use in battle.
Ken no Machi no Ihoujin - Shiro no Oukyuu (Strangers in the City of Swords - The White Palace) will be available for Xbox 360 on June 5th, and for the PC on August 22nd. There's also a Vita version in the works, with the subtitle Kuro no Shinden (The Black Temple), but no date has been set for that.
It's story time! Just this past Thursday, Sega announced the next game in the Shining series, Shining Resonance.
On an ancient continent lies the blessed land of Alfheim. Ages ago, it was home to dragons, proud and boastful, but eventually destroyed for their power. Much time has passed since then, and the crystalized souls of those ancient wyrms have been scattered across the world. However, there is still one survivor of that era. His name is Ilburn the Gleaming, and now the ranks of the imperial dragonslayers move to end his existence and seize his soul.
In a reversal of roles, Ilburn is saved by a maiden fair, who reminds him of another young woman he knew, long ago in his youth. Leading a group called the Dragon's Players (seriously, there's no other possible translation for that kanji), the dragon and his maiden are off to... do something. The details are a bit hazy after that point. The interesting thing to note, however, is that Ilburn is definitely the protagonist of the story. While not technically unprecedented, I'm hard put to identify many RPGs where the hero is not even remotely humanoid.
In finest JRPG tradition, he still has a sword, at least. It may be pointing out of his forehead, but it's there. His partner in adventure is Sonia Blanche, the Lightning Princess of Astoria in her armored mini-skirt. The combat system is real-time, with the player taking control of one character and leaving the rest to AI. When Ilburn is in the lead, the Dragon's Players apparently provide supporting roles based on musical accompaniment, which helps explain the odd choice of name for the group. He's going to need all the support he can get, though, because the empire's dragonslayers have been busy with their recovered embers of dragonsoul, and their newest weapons, the draco ex machina, have all the strengths of Ilburn's long-lost brethren and none of the free will.
Shining Resonance is supposed to come out sometime this winter for the PS3, which is good news for importers. We'll be keeping an eye out for more info, because I'm sure there's more to be seen of the combat system.
In closing, I'd like to share a video. That Compile Heart game up above reminded me of a regular children's TV series over here called Yuugata Quintet.
Now if someone made a game about these guys, I'd be much surprised. And entertained.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,