Here's a cultural conundrum for you all. Despite generations of conditioning to trust in the experts in any given situation in life, the Japanese market for do-it-yourself supplies has taken off like the metaphorical rocket in recent years. Just in Kumamoto there are two large DIY stores offering a range of home improvement materiel for amateurs.
The business partner for my school, Leonardo, is into DIY in a big way. While his daughters were in kindergarten, he was directly responsible for half of the improvements that went into the school's playground — though he often drove the Japanese staff members to distraction in the process.
Recently we've been taking steps to improve my own classroom. Even though it's inside a public community center, some parts haven't been kept up properly. In particular, the bars on my balcony area are all rusty and haven't seen a fresh coat of paint in the last decade. So we spent about three hours Friday evening of last week fixing that. The second coat went a bit faster on Monday.
Anyway, that's what's keeping me busy lately. How are you all doing?
Masou Kijin is an odd duck series. The first original title in a series famed for its derivation from acclaimed mecha anime, its existence proved the robustness of the SRW game model could carry its own story. While The Lord of Elemental preceded the Original Generation games by several years, it eventually got grandfathered into that sub-series when it got its DS makeover three years back. Then Masou Kijin II: Revelation of Evil God arrived last year to cement that position. Now, a new chapter in the magical mecha saga draws near.
Masou Kijin III: Pride of Justice is a joint project for the PS3 and PS Vita, so there won't be as much hassle for importers this time around. As for the story, the article implies that it's a new adventure for the main cast, but doesn't really go into details. Same as with most SRW promotions, the media we've seen so far is all about showcasing the giant robots.
Also, Bandai-Namco will be giving out special product download codes for this game. The first such code will allow the player to use the version of the Valcyone mecha that's found in the animated series Super Robot Wars Original Generation: The Inspector.
The game is expected to go on sale for both systems on August 22nd. Super Robot fans, mark your calendars.
Once upon a time there was a group of islands, far out to sea. Their isolation gave rise to much innovation as the local species competed for survival. Observations on the islands gave the world insight into the realm of biology, and later economics as well. The islands lent their name to an economic theory, which in turn became the namesake of a game studio — Galapagos. And now, we can see the first rara avis to emerge from it.
Fairy Fencer F is one of those games that puts the important plot elements right in the title. Long, long ago the Goddess and the Devil waged a war for all of creation. To aid them, they both created semi-divine spirits called Fairies, which they then bound into powerful weapons known as Furies. In the end, neither side won; both Goddess and Devil were locked away in a place separate from reality. In the world they left behind, the Furies remained in the hands of humans, to be used in petty wars and disputes. Those who wielded the Furies became known as Fencers.
On the left is Tiara, a young lady Fencer of mysterious origins. She's out to gather the remaining Furies and free the Goddess from durance vile. Next to her is Fang, the third F in the title. He thought that he was just helping out a girl in need, and now he finds himself bound to a Fury and sworn to fight the good fight. The third main character is Alyn, who is the human incarnation of the Fairy in Fang's sword. Years of use as a blunt instrument has dulled her powers of recall, but not her wits.
The battle system is being described as an evolution of the one found in the Neptune series, which could be good if they get it to work. As the player fights and earns Weapon Points, the Furies can be upgraded and new skills can be unlocked. The Famitsu article hints at a good deal of customization in the process.
Fairy Fencer F will be available for the PlayStation 3 sometime later this year. At a guess, I'd say probably October.
Tears to Tiara is one of those games that I've been interested in a while, but never picked up. I really should try the PS3 version sometime. It was originally a PC title by a dev studio called Leaf, and was published by AquaPlus. Set in an alternative version of Europe, it followed the travails of a quasi-Celtic tribe as they fought to escape the reach of the Holy Empire. About a month ago, AquaPlus announced that a new game was in the works: Tears to Tiara 2: Descendant of the Overlord.
The first Tiara game was set on an island that more-or-less corresponded to Ireland. This time around, the action takes place in a province of the Holy Empire called Hispania. The guy up above, Hamil, is the titular descendant. His ancestors were kings of Hispania in the days before the Imperial conquest, but like the rest of the province his family has been reduced to poverty. Then a girl entered the picture. Tart (also seen above) isn't your average maiden. She claims to be a warrior goddess, though her name is hardly fit to strike terror into the hearts of men. In any case, she has decided that now is the time for the people of Hispania to throw off the yoke of the oppressors, and for that she needs Hamil. Whether he wants to or not, he's in for a wild ride.
Tears to Tiara: Descendant of the Overlord will hit the shelves on October 24th of this year.
Did you notice that your last review was #50? You're a Platinum reviewer now - congrats on that!
Looking at 4 weeks' worth of Famitsu rankings at once, I'm surprised so many of those games fell off at the end of April. I would have expected more of them to have Monster Hunter's longevity. Is it typical in Japan for games to fall off quickly, or was the last week of April a major release week due to the upcoming holidays?
It seems like in the US the same games stay on top for weeks if not months. Right now, SimCity is the #2 bestselling PC game on Amazon, which blows my mind since it still sells for $60 and doesn't work.
Thanks! I haven't been keeping count, so I didn't realize I was anywhere close to Platinum yet.
So yes, the last week of April is a major release period because of the upcoming Golden Week holiday in May. That tends to bump a lot of stuff off the list that might have held on longer otherwise. Also, most games in Japan sell the majority of their copies in the first few weeks anyway. Anyone who's interested in a particular title will likely have a reserved copy, and unless the game has a strong multiplayer aspect (like Monster Hunter, Pokémon, Inazuma Eleven, or Mario), then the weekly sales will drop pretty fast. Most games drop off within a month, and the really niche titles may come and go before you even realize they've made the sales rankings. And occasionally a title might suddenly reappear on the list once the flood of holiday titles has subsided. There are even multiple examples of that to be seen in the last two weeks' worth of rankings.
Finally, I think it's safe to say that the Japanese and American game markets don't really have a lot in common at times.
Saving Throw vs. Procrastination
I've been meaning to e-mail you and ask you the following question for a long time (ever since I saw that you occasionally answer questions in your column) and I keep putting it off.
What is the acceptance of achievement/trophy systems like in Japan?
I'm a bit of an achievement/trophy nut myself and definitely find myself going out of my way and playing games longer than I should just to attain them. And honestly, I always assumed (due to the amount of monotonous grinding in JRPGs mostly) that Japanese gaming culture would be all about getting achievements and trophies.
Other than that, well. Your column is awesome, I super enjoy reading it, you are amazing, etc. etc. etc.
Honestly, I'm not as in tune with that aspect of Japanese gaming culture as I would like. Most of the gamers I know over here are still in grade school, so the usual time restrictions apply. Still, I would imagine that trophies are a big part of some gamers' lives in Japan. The entire achievement system must exist for a reason, and I've even seen it appear in DS games like Kurikin and Pokémon White 2/Black 2, to various levels of success. I'm just not much of an achievement person, though.
Thanks for writing in. Glad you enjoy the column!
I think it's very nice of you to give that dead woman another chance, sir!
Well sir, just in case you're in desperate need of culture corner material to fill out a column, I'm ready to give some.
Yeah! It's been too long, man. Bring it on.
Recently I watched a fair film (Penny Serenade) that brought several subjects to mind. Sometime in the mid-30s Cary Grant's character is able to go to Japan and purchase a two-story house with garden, a bridged pond, and two adult servant employees. The price tag: 2000 yen. I realize the yen's value has altered considerably over the years, but was that at all possible back then? And how much would it cost to acquire something like that now?
Well, during the Second World War, the Japanese government managed to send its economy into a nosedive through excessive war spending, to the degree that I believe there were separate currencies in use for the home islands and the colonial properties being used as a defensive measure, and the military demanded the creation of a third currency because the soldiers refused to be payed in worthless cash. Prior to the hostilities, the yen was about on parity with the US dollar, while during the post-war reconstruction the yen was finally pegged at 360Y to the dollar. That's where it stayed until 1971, when it was finally freed to follow the forces of the exchange markets. So, in regards to your question, could US$2000 have bought the same services in that era? Probably yes.
Not long ago Shinzo Abe seems to have ruffled plenty of feathers by visiting the Yasukuni shrine, something that apparently prime ministers hadn't done after Koizumi. Now I think I have a fairly good idea why this inflames a lot of the neighboring countries, but does it have any real effect on people you talk to? Do the locals get puzzled about the virulent reactions elsewhere?
Considering how precarious the post of Prime Minister has been since Koizumi left, I'm not surprised that no one's made such a risky move in so long. Thing is, Japan still has that streak of reverence for warrior ancestors running wide through it, and a lot of the guys memorialized at Yasukuni really were working hard for what they believed to be the best interests of their Emperor and nation (which is a lot more than can be said for their Nazi counterparts). The fact that these "best interests" also led to major war crimes is what's got everyone in a fuss. Dig deep enough into any nation's history and you'll find similar patriots, however. I still wish that President Andrew Jackson had never gotten his face on the $20 bill, for example. Rat bastard certainly didn't deserve it.
Now, on the subject of modern-day jingoistic morons, Mayor Hashimoto of Osaka is up to his usual verbal diarrhea, and former Mayor Ishihara of Tokyo is right behind him. How they kept electing that man is beyond me.
Speaking of difficulties with other countries, it seems some hotheads in Japan are actually trying to land on these Senkaku islands that China also claims. Does this issue elicit any comments from people that you've heard?
Perennial feud, perennial annoyance. Those rocks are too strategic for anyone to want to let them go. The fishing and naval rights to that section of the ocean are at stake.
Once upon a time I heard speculation that video game renting is considerably more difficult to do in Japan than North America. Is this so, and how does the difference factor into people's play styles?
Difficult? No. Nigh impossible? Yes. Way back when before video games had their own specialized computers to play them on, video game rentals existed in Japan and digital rights protection hadn't even been thought of yet. So of course game piracy was rampant. Every nightmare scenario put up by the entertainment industry vis-à-vis piracy? The roots can be found in this time period. The government finally passed a law making it illegal to rent games without some very specific permissions given by the publishers and developers. To date, the only time a company allowed it was for a short period around the turn of the millennium when Sega allowed Tsutaya to rent out Dreamcasts.
Further attempts to use the same law to ban the secondhand sale of games has not been as successful, thank goodness. For laughs, Compile Heart immortalized several aspects of the period as villain characters in Hyperdimension Neptune Victory.
I've always wondered how long it took Japan to embrace the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when they were created by two Americans. Is there anything about that IP that seems unintentionally funny to the Japanese?
Well, it's just Mutant Turtles over here, and I really don't know how to answer that question. Enough time has passed that any impact that series had is well and gone, washed away by the perpetual flood of new series. According to Wiki, the first animated series was released in Japan as Idol Ninja Turtles for about a month and a half in 1991, and then as Mutant Turtles for two years, starting in 1993. The second animated series was on the air for about a year (2007-2008).
Lastly, I'm curious when the last time you went into an arcade and saw a new game was. I can't give an answer without thinking for a long time - it's been many years. There is an arcade somewhere around Hi-no-Kuni, right? It's not one of the exceptions to the rule that Japanese arcades are still going while they're being pulled off life support elsewhere?
Hm... these days, the only new games to be found in game centers are usually based around card combat. At the game centers for younger players, that usually means some form of Pokémon or other collectible franchise (MushiKing, Kyouryuu King, etc.). For older players, there are several big arcade strategy games (and even an RPG or two like Lord of Vermilion) that are based around a Yu-Gi-Oh-esque card interface. Other than that, it's mostly fighting games, shooting games, or physical interaction stuff like Taiko no Tatsujin or Dance Dance Revolution. Occasionally you can find a retro game machine over in the corner that has a selection of fifty or so old Namco titles. And then there are the gambling and pseudo-gambling machines, but I don't pay attention to those.
I delayed this column as much as I could to try and get more material, but there's a real dearth of Japan-only news items at the moment. Well, unless I wanted to dedicate the whole thing to iOS apps, but I wouldn't do that to you all (or myself). As it is, I accidentally got scooped on the Fairy Fencer F story before I got this out the door. C'est la vie.