As most of the site regulars are now aware, we've had the forums back online for about a week now. This happened concurrently with some changes to the FTP server that kept me from updating last week (or at least provided a handy excuse not to). My apologies. Fortunately, due to an odd bit of scheduling that would take too long to explain properly, I had a few days off in the middle of the week this week. I had plenty of time to finish up the column, do a podcast on the final two SaGa games on the PS2, fart around a bit, and do whatever. It didn't take long before I was pretty much bored out of my skull. It was Wednesday evening, right about the time I was researching incredibly obscure Roman deities on Wiki, that I decided I needed to get out of the apartment. So the next day I hopped on a train and took it to the very end of the line, just to see what was there. What was there, was Misumi.
To be honest, the first few times I saw Misumi written out in kanji, I couldn't figure out how to say it right. It looks like it should be pronounced sankaku, or "triangle," and that's actually what it means in normal Japanese. I never could find out why it was called that, though. It used to be an independent township, but about seven years back it was merged together with several other small communities in its vicinity to form Uki City. Note that the Japanese definition of city is based on population statistics instead of community identification. Counties, towns, and cities are organized in odd ways over here.
So what's there to see in Misumi? Not a whole lot. The closest beach is about six kilometers away. I tried to go there, but I would have had to hike down a major thoroughfare that lacked any sort of pedestrian walking zone for much of that distance, and I didn't feel like pushing my luck. Possibly it lies closer to one of the other stations on the line, but I wasn't going to explore that much with the weather being the way it was on Thursday.
Really, the main reason to go to Misumi is to catch the ferry to Kami-Amakusa Island. Misumi is the westernmost point on that section of the coast, and the Amakusa island chain is just a short boat ride away. It's a place to go through, but not to visit on its own.
It was nice to get out and explore, though. While I doubt I'll ever be taking that particular train line ever again, at least now I know what's actually there. And who knows what I might find the next time I get the itch to wander?
Famitsu's ongoing series of pinups, the Lovely Lady Lab, has been really sparse these past few months. This current page appeared in an issue in the middle of May, over a month since the previous installment, and no sign of another to follow it. Let's just enjoy what we have.
What we have, however, are two ladies from a Hello Kitty puzzle game. Yeah, I'm not really getting it either. Charlotte and Kanon here are featured in Hello Kitty to isshou ni Block Crush V, which appears to be a Brickbreaker/Arkanoid variant for the Vita.
I hope that Hiroyuki Maeda gets into gear again soon. I'd love to see his take on some of the heroines who I know are appearing in games this summer.
Once again, we bring news of new characters in Atelier Ayesha. I'll just bundle them together this time.
Along the top there is Marion Quin. At age 22 and 150 centimeters in height, she's currently the shortest of the game's adult characters. Don't let her petiteness fool you. She's come a long way to explore and record the ruins of the Sunset Lands, and anyone who gets in her way is going to get their ears blown off by the force of her invective.
The guy on the bottom is Harry Olson, who runs one of the largest stores in the town of Filtzburg. He is an endless font of knowledge on the topic of the ancient ruins and their technology, but it's never obvious how much of his self-taught information is true, false, or made up on the fly.
There were also a lot of event screens to go with this update, and they've all been uploaded to the gamepage already. However, the following videos include the majority of them, and even throw in music and voice acting. Ocelot managed to scoop me on both of these (you owe me a letter, Oce!), but just in case you haven't seen them yet, here they are. Enjoy.
It's time for another Project X (Cross) Zone character infusion, so here we go!
In order: Valkyrie (Valkyrie no Bouken), Bruno Delinger / John McClane (Dynamite Deka / Die Hard Arcade), Erika Fontaine and Gemini Sunrise (Sakura Taisen), Morrigan Aynsland (Darkstalkers), Harken Browning and Kaguya Nanbu (SRTOG: Endless Frontier), and finally Chun-li (Street Fighter).
This game uses something called the Cross Active Battle system, showing once again that Bandai-Namco likes putting new names on things to make them seem cooler. Battles begin with a transition onto a combat field, and the cursor pad and A button are used to make different party members attack in combination. Well-timed support attacks can trigger "cross hits" that make it easier to set off big combos. Enemies can be thrown into the air, increasing the likelihood of landing criticals. Finally, back row characters can be called in to pummel the enemy with extra hits. It sort of sounds like a variation on the Endless Frontier battle system. In fact, looking at the video below (battles start at the 1:00 mark), it looks a lot like EF.
Last time we looked at Hyperdimension Neptunia V, we saw the 80s alternate versions of three goddesses. It stands to reason that Nep-Nep has her own doppelganger running about. As to be expected, she is saccharinely cute. Meet Pururut. Hopefully the localizers find a way to improve that name.
Adorable as she is, Puru-Puru has a dark side. In this case, that manifests itself in her Goddess Mode. Normally it's pretty easy to see the connection between the mortal and divine forms of the console characters, but here...
The Iris Heart Goddess does NOT look like her alter ego at all, does she? Thankfully she still seems to be friendly, in a slightly menacing, dom manner. Still, it's an odd game where a major heroine looks more threatening than several of the villains.
Of course Arfoire has to be in there, in her 1980s Gamindustri version. The robot thing is Copyliace, a construct made of every known form of copyright-breaking tool. The thing it hates above all is a ROM cartridge it cannot copy. The mousy monster is Warechu, formally an adorable mascot character and now an expert in cracking passwords so that he can always play for free. The pink mecha-armor is Anonedeath, a soi-disant stylish transvestite (though how that works for cyborgs is hard to say). He's a master hacker. The girl in lavender and grey is actually the leader of this oddball assortment, Rei Kiseijyo. Though no kanji are given for her name, it might possibly translate as "Ready-made Girl Model 0." Make of that what you will. The middle-aged man is Akudaijin, which I think is supposed to mean "The Bad Prime Minister." He sort of looks the part, at least. His real name and identity are unknown. Finally, there's the cute little pink girl, Abunesu, whose name is probably derived from the Japanese word for "dangerous." She is a self-styled protector of children, so I'm not quite sure what she's doing with the rest of this crew. Perhaps she's working against Gamindustri's goddesses and their proclivity for violent video games? We shall have to see.
There are many more screens to be found here. Neptunia V is still scheduled for release at the end of August.
Whoever he is, the guy who makes development decisions at Starfish Entertainment must really be a fan of the old Wizardry series. Starfish's tribute to that RPG classic, the Elminage series, has had its first three games ported to several platforms already. An official spinoff (Elminage Gothic) was released in May, and now another off-brand Elminage game has just been announced.
The official title for this one is Elminage Ibun: Amanomihashira, but that's a bit of a mouthful. The ibun part means "a strange tale," but the last part is a bit harder to say, since it's all in katakana. At a best guess, it takes an alternative pronunciation of the kanji for "heaven" as well as an alternative version of the honorific prefix. So, I think the English version of the title would be Elminage Strange Tales: The Pillar of Heaven, and I'm sticking with it.
Unlike the other games in the series, this one borrows definite anime tropes from the start. The main characters are two Japanese high-schoolers dragged into a strange world full of monsters. In another odd change, the art style is quite different, at least for monsters. All the enemies appear in a watercolor style reminescent of old ukiyoe paintings, and they all come from Japanese folklore. They're a mixed bunch, to say the least. There's a recruitment element as well, as the player can convince monsters to join up as shikigami or familiars that fight beside the human combatants.
Elminage Strange Tales: The Pillar of Heaven is due out at the end of August.
It's been about a year since Unchained Blades REXX appeared for the 3DS. Pretty soon it's going to be available in English-speaking climes, sans the REXX in the title. In the land of the rising sun, FuRyu Corporation is moving on with Unchained Blades EXXIV (no, I really don't know what that last part is supposed to mean, but that's the official spelling).
The story is as follows. One thousand years ago a palace fell from the heavens. Rumors began to circulate that inside the palace lived a goddess with the power to grant wishes, and for many years people have challenged its mysteries in search of miracles. One of these searchers is Ryuuga, a young man living under the curse of the Ring of Ouroboros. He is the last of his clan, the Dragons of Ouroboros, who were prophecied to be the destroyers of the world. He is apparently fighting this destiny (and those who would prevent it with bloody violence) as hard as he can. Together with the mystic White Priestess Sofia and the strong-willed Black Swordswoman Hilda, he may just manage it yet.
Let's introduce the principal cast, from left to right, top and bottom, with special mention to the various artists. Like in the first game, each character here has a different design artist.
Top row: Ryuuga (by Suzuhito Yasuda of Dulalala!); Sofia (by Haruyuki Morizawa of Lagrange: Flower of Rin-ne); Hilda (by Yuusuke Kozaki of Fire Emblem: Awakening); Dianae (by Kaito Shibano of Luminous Arc).
Bottom row: Zeke (by Kunihiko Tanaka of Xenogears, Xenosaga ep. I, etc.); Emil (by Kanako Iwasaki of Rune Factory and many a Falcom title); Mint (by KEI of Hatsune Miku); and Wraithred (by Katsumi Enami of Zero no Kiseki).
Connections to the first Unchained Blades game are tenuous but present. Dianae is the granddaughter of the first game's protagonist and Sofia may be the avatar of the goddess Klunei, but apart from that it seems that the game's starting with a clean slate.
The development team is an interesting combination as well. The director is Toshio Akashi of Lunar fame. The scenario writing is done by Takashi Hino, from Shining Force EXA. The main theme was done by Nobuo Uematsu (who doesn't really need annotations), but the main body of the background music is by the Earthbound Papas (ditto). This should be interesting.
Unchained Blades Exiv is due out this October for both PSP and 3DS.
Recently Fowl Sorcerous and I were making jokes about what would be in
Yakuza 5. He's been complaining that he wishes Haruka would "girl up"
and stop being a kidnapping victim. Turns out, she's now going to be a
playable character in the newest Yakuza game and she'll be pursuing
her dream of becoming a pop idol. What kind of combat skills do you
think a pop idol might have?
In a game like Yakuza? I'm not sure. That doesn't sound like it would mesh well with gritty crimeworld stuff. What immediately comes to mind is Ulala from Space Channel Five, so I think I'll go with flashy distractions and low-calibre handguns.
Also, do you feel sorry for the Dragon of
Dojima for having to take on the role of taxi driver to perhaps pay
for Haruka's dreams? I know I do.
Depends. Are we talking Scorsese's Taxi Driver, Besson's Taxi, or Taxi the TV series? The first gets you violence, the second gets you high-octane chase scenes, while the third... well, if they could manage to fit Christopher Lloyd into a Yakuza role, then I'd be amused at least.
Also, have you been playing anything fun worth discussing since last
time we spoke? And finally if you can find a copy of it in Japan, I
highly recommend reading Ernest Cline's "Ready Player One." I've been
reading it and loving it so damn hard that we may or may not see
something from me about it in the future.
Kittens and Puppies!
Well, the last week we spoke about the insane villains list for PAL Shinken Densetsu and how the plot really didn't do them justice. Seriously, how could the devs make a character like Madame Newton, who hangs upside down from a maniacally grinning antigravity apple, and then just leave her as a throwaway boss in a minor level? What a waste...
I'm currently finishing up a run through Unlimited Saga, and I might as well play another PS2 title before Ayesha arrives on my PS3. I'm thinking about doing Sagashi ni Ikouyo.
I'll keep an eye out for that book. Thanks for writing in!
A Very Thankful Letter
I want to say how grateful I am that you write the Japandemonium column. As a person who grew to be a Japanophile, the cultural flavour of your writing can really be savoured. Although I live in Scotland for most of my life, my exposure to anime and games comes from being of Chinese ethnicity in Hong Kong. I always take the time to read through your concientous offerings and the slice of life as a Gaijin in Japan. The weather in Scotland has turned strangely tropical and it reminds me of all the exotic fruits I miss, like lychees, the melons, guava, various types of pomelo, some of which even become translated into sweets and novel eats. I return to Hong Kong regularly to visit my aging parents but that's as close as I get to Japan, but Japanese goods are also very popular in Hong Kong for which I am thankful.
Thanks for all your hard work,
Wing Chiu aka Balance.
And thanks to you, too! Honestly, I still have no idea how many people read this column, so it's always nice to hear from a fan. I'll be sure to mention any odd snacks I see this summer, too.