Normally I don't feel the need to prove my geek-cred. I write for a video game website and own a collection of games spanning six languages. I am the very model of a modern major game-ophile. But every once in a while I feel the need to push the envelope, to be geekier than usual.
Veni, vidi, collegi. I came, I saw, I collected. And even though I haven't followed the anime exploits of Ash Ketchum and company for nigh on nine years now, I have to say that Zorroark - Champion of Illusions was a blast to watch. I wasn't even embarrassed to be an adult male catching the noon showing by himself. The other two guys in the audience were in the same boat. That's the collectible keychain I'm holding in the picture, if you can't tell.
While I'd love to recap the entire story for you all, I'm sure someone out there would get mad at me for spoiling it. I'm happy to say that I was able to understand every single line in the film, though, even the parts with vocabulary like "Book of Prophecies" or "temporal vortex," so my Japanese listening comprehension has definitely improved. Also, if Zorroark is half as bad-ass in Pokémon Black & White as she is in the movie, then I am so going to reserve a spot for her in my champion party.
Unfortunately, none of the other new Pokémon were revealed in the movie itself. The two B & W legendaries were shown in the trailer at the end of the movie, as was Chirami the Chinchilla Pokémon (I think... the picture I have and what I remember seeing don't quite match up 100%). Before the movie started there was a bit of publicity for B & W as well, where one could see a few more of the previously announced new varmints (specifically Shimama and Megroco) as well as the local friend-finding, video-chat features, and the newly implemented 3-on-3 battles. The graphical updates were nice too.
As it stands, I've seen four Pokémon movies in the theater, three of those around the turn of the millennium. I have also seen only four Ghibli movies in the theater, which is a darn shame. I plan on putting Ghibli ahead in the ranks later this summer, maybe even next week. It's a good summer for movies.
Scizzor, Celebi, Raikou. To date, I've obtained three different Pokémon related to the current movie. That's more than enough, right? Nintendo and McDonald's don't seem to think so. Starting this past Wednesday, they've made yet another critter available via the McDS connection. This time, it's small, cute, and yellow.
Straight from the anime, Ash Ketchum's Pikachu is now available to hordes of eager elementary schoolers across Japan. Sporting all the moves shown in the movie (Volt Tackle, Iron Tail, Quick Attack, and Thunderbolt), Pikachu comes with his own Light Ball equipped as well. He's available via McDS from July 15th to August 10th.
And in other Pokémon news, Nintendo has a treat in store for kids around Japan. The Pokésearcher BW tour begins August 7th. Large buses will tour all over the country, allowing sneak peaks of the upcoming title's legendary Pokémon, the Isshu region, new game mechanics, and even more as-yet-unseen critters. It's free to all comers, but large crowds are to be expected. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be any stops scheduled near my city. There are only three stops for all of Kyushu, in fact -- all in Fukuoka Prefecture, and on days that wouldn't be possible for me even if I did feel like spending fifty bucks just to travel up there and see it. Shikata nai tsutai.
I went into the big Tsutaya media store downtown this Monday, looking to reserve my copy of Super Dimensional Game Neptune, only to meet with slight disappointment. The game's release date, previously set for July 29th, has been pushed back to the 19th of August. On the one hand, that's twenty days more to wait, on the other it's twenty more days to finish Taisho Mononoke Ibunroku and maybe even get through Ningyo no Rakuin or The AIRS (two of the games on my PSX to-play list).
Oh, and they also had a free hand-out full of Neptune goodness.
While all the characters shown have been seen before in Japandemonium, many of the scenes presented are new. Also, several more Segans have been confirmed as being summonable in the game, including Space Harrier, Altered Beast, and Doki Doki Penguin Land. Also, it confirms that the player can import images from the PS3's harddrive and map them to new attack summons. This feature extends to Neptune's appearance as well. Aside from the usual costume customization and equipment upgrades, the player can import small pictures to use as emblems. Emblems can be pasted onto Neptune's outfit in her transformed state, specifically right over her butt.
Compile Heart truly does know how to please its fanbase...
In the same free hand-out, Compile Heart showcased their other big upcoming title, Record of the Agarest War 2. It looks very pretty, but it's not quite clear what improvements have been made, if any, over its predecessors. It does seem to have lost the SRPG elements, though.
That's not really the point of these scans, though. The Agarest series is all about romancing the ladies, and now we can see a bit more of the second generation.
The hero of the first generation, Weiss, and his three romantic prospects have already appeared on the site, as have the two main heroines, Fiona and Eva. The second generation is new, though. Schweiss, the man of many possible hereditary hairstyles, has his own set of potential romantic choices. There's the vaguely Celto-Nordic Jumil, the vaguely Shintoist Lyra-rua, and the Tifa-lookalike Vanessa.
Really, we all know what the draw of this series is supposed to be.
This Wednesday ended on a down note for me. I had my very last bottle of Asahi Green Cola, because all my local stores had run out for the summer. So what am I supposed to drink now? Game companies in Japan are happy to oblige. Summer's the time of oddball drinks, as this country has proven time and again. This week, Square-Enix makes another contribution to the oddness.
These little drinks are a bit on the expensive side at almost three dollars apiece, but they're so cute! The blue one is a saidaa drink (sort of fruity lemon-lime) while the red one is a tropical fruit nectar. They're a promotional item for the new Dragon Quest Battle Road Victory game on the Wii.
Our other beverage of the day is an energy drink. These space-age gelatin and drink packs are popular in busy Japan, and one company has decided to join forces with Level-5 for some good image branding. Inazuma Eleven 3 is going to be the big game for the DS this summer, with only Pokémon Black & White as serious competition. That's a lot of thirsty little elementary schoolers to pander to.
Cospa, fine producer of resin models, has revealed its newest set of high end figurines -- the "Ex_resinya" series. For their inaugural release, they've chosen a fan favorite from 2007.
The Ex_resinya Aigis model doesn't come cheap, however. The quoted price is 16,800 yen, or about US $190. It's the most expensive of the models shown, but then again the others aren't popular video game characters who might attract the attention of many western gamers. Still, anyone who's interested should check out the Amazon.jp listing, maybe get a discount, and plan how to save up the cash between now and September 25th, when the figures officially go on sale.
There's one more thing for collector's to look forward to in September. Capcom's online store, unimaginatively named e-Capcom, will have new models of the goddess Amaterasu, the heroine of Okami, by the end of that month. At 15,540 yen, it's not much cheaper than the Aigis model, but there's always a market I guess.
Mana Sodium Glutamate
Yo Gaijin-san (it's my 3rd letter to the column, so I must be permitted with a less formal greeting).
Go right on ahead. I'm not a stickler for formality here.
Reading your column on Mabo Dofu reminds me a lot of some food questions I wanna ask. Not necessarily game-related this week, bear with me.
As I live in the tottemo atsui no kuni (ed. "really hot country") Singapore, I find that a lot of the food here uses MSG (Monosodium glutamate) to enhance the food's flavour. Now growing up, I've been told heaps that this MSG is bad for your health. It's tasty, but bad. There's even some (not sure if proven yet) rumours that it causes an eventual and rapid balding of your head.
Then I discover that Japanese are one of the prominent distributors of MSG. Ajinomoto, anyone? And yet they have the longest lifespan among Asians. Do they distribute outside but not let their locals eat it?
Everything I've been able to find on the subject says that MSG is harmless for most people when used reasonably. Several of the studies cited at the bottom involve Japanese who regularly used MSG in their food. I'm not sure what the normal level of MSG is in my diet, but it's certainly there to some extent. I'm also definitely not going bald.
Oh and when I went to Japan, I discovered that their Ramens is quite salty, and most of their desserts are slightly sweeter for my taste. Too much of everything isn't good, or so I've been told.
But the Japanese still have the highest Hit Points.
Yeah, ramen can get pretty salty. Is there a Singapore version that's less salty? Also, have you ever tried Ajisen Ramen? I think there's a branch of that restaurant franchise in your city. Japanese sweets are still not as sugary as American candy, though. More sugary than any form of traditional eastern Asian sweets, but less than American.
Tonikaku, JLPT 2 shiken ganbatte (ed. "Good luck on the JLPT"). Let us know how you fare.
Thanks! I'm pretty sure I aced the listening section, but the reading and grammar section... I can't say anything for sure on that one. It's all about the niggly little bits of grammar, some of which are a bit esoteric even for native Japanese. The difference in difficulty between the two parts was rather startling, actually. I'll just have to wait till September to see how well (or how badly) I fared.
We're into the worst of rainy season down here. There will be a day or two of sunshine and high temperatures, and then three to five days of nothing but walls of rain. It should probably clear up by the end of the month, but until then I have a very not-fun walk to work every day.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,