It's not often these days that I get two columns out in a single month, but it's either now or much, much later. But what shall I put in this conveniently empty space at the top? I haven't been up to anything interesting lately, and all my topical stuff is happening in the next two weeks. The only thing worth mentioning is gaming-related. Against my better judgment, I checked out the new browser game from Square Enix, Imperial SaGa.
Just as expected, it's a huge mishmash of the Romancing SaGa games, like a Tales of the World rendition of the series without even the attempt at explaining how all these characters are interacting. The player's green-haired assistant isn't even from a Romancing SaGa game; that's Asellus, from SaGa Frontier, for some strange reason. She's the only PlayStation-exclusive character to appear, though the game does make use of musical tracks from both SaGa Frontier and Romancing SaGa Minstrel Song.
So, what's the story? Non-cohesive, that's what. There's some mention of ancient deities of evil, similar to the origins of the evil trinity in Romancing SaGa, but then there are the Seven Heroes (RS2) and the Four Noble Devils (RS3) thrown in for foul measure. Plot may never be the strongest point of the series, but this game takes it to the nadir.
This is a game that exists solely for the nostalgia, and so it dishes it out in great amounts. The battle system is a truncated version of the one that made Romancing SaGa 2 great, allowing characters to spark new attacks on rare occasion in the middle of battle, though they can only have three attacks or spells active on any one mission. The addition of a combo system and the ability to switch formations in the heat of combat makes it actually superior to its origins in some ways. On the other hand, the player is stuck with watching the party trundle along specific paths, choosing who goes which way when the path splits, and hoping that the heroes are strong enough to take down the monsters.
Characters are gained through three sorts of gatcha system. The player stocks up Fame as missions are completed, and this acts as a currency to attract potential party members in grand battles-royale. Coins are earned by acing missions, and can be used as awards to entice warriors into competitions of speed and endurance. Finally, there are special tickets earned for various reasons (like logging in on the anniversary of SaGa Frontier's release, July 11) that can be redeemed for a chance at really high-quality characters. Everyone is represented both by improved sprites based on RS2's graphics and by character art on cards. Some of these cards are definitely the work of Tomomi Kobayashi, artist to the main series, while others are wildly different in style. They don't always jive so well together.
Still, it was fun revisiting some old enemies from those games. All of the Seven Heroes were available as side quests, though I forgot to take a pictures of Noel or Subier, apparently. The Four Noble Devils are part of the main quest line, though Bune is the only one I've run into so far. Avnas and Forneus have been mentioned, though.
Imperial SaGa has been a fun diversion, but it's just a pale imitation of what made its predecessors great. I really hope the still-nebulous SaGa 2015 turns out to be more creative than this.
Many, many years ago in Japandemonium, we reported on an odd little cell phone title with an interesting premise. After defeating the Dark Lord in an epic battle, the Hero soon also expires. A friendly angel has pity on him, and affords him just five more days to tour the land, see how things are going, and perhaps right a few more wrongs. In the end, however...
... the game's title comes true. It even rates the player by how many people attend the funeral, how many cry, and who gives the eulogy. Designed with Tokyo commuters in mind, this phone game didn't take long to play through, but had an incredible amount of replay value, since there was no way that one could see everything on a single pass.
But wait. This game stopped distribution on the phone networks in 2012. Why are we talking about it now? Well, that's because like all good heroes, this is a game that shall never truly die. It won't even fade away. In fact, it's getting a really snazzy remake on the PS Vita, due out early next year, courtesy of a deal with Nippon-Ichi.
My, what a difference a new platform makes. The core concepts seem to be intact, though I'd bet the game's been altered in terms of length for each playthrough. Something interesting to note is how time takes its toll on the Hero. With so short a timeframe to work with, the player is understandably tempted to forego rest in order to do as much as possible, but the longer the Hero goes without a break, the more sharply his stats take a nosedive. It's possible to get them all the way down to 1, in fact.
While I don't have a Vita, I am seriously intrigued by this. The original version was an odd enough duck, but this sounds like it's well worth a gander. The current release date for Yuusha Shisu (HERO MUST DIE) is February 25, 2016, and perhaps I shall see it at TGS this year.
We've had one browser game, and one former cell phone game so far, so let's try for a hat trick, shall we? This next title is an upcoming 3DS-downloadable game called Monokage Quest. While monokage is a not-so-common word for "shadow", its use in this game would be better rendered as "incognito". The tagline here is, "If you're too obvious, you die." It's the video game equivalent to the Japanese aphorism, "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down."
While many RPG heroes are all about the fame and honor, this particular protagonist has a problem. He has apparently been cursed so that he will take damage, or even die, if someone notices him doing something. It could be defeating a monster; it could be opening a treasure chest. If someone else sees him in the act, then he's done for.
Now, all is not lost for our intrepid incognito. He has some skills to help him get by. One of these is called "the push" in the game's debug blog. This ability allows him to somehow switch places with another person on screen, or perhaps will them to move a certain way, so that their line of sight does not include whatever he needs to do. Presumably there will be other tricks up his sleeve.
Unfortunately, there's not much else to say about this one at the moment. Hopefully we'll hear more about it in months to come.
It wouldn't be a real update without another Compile Heart game, I suppose. This time around, we have Hypercombative Neptunia vs. the Sega Hard Girls, a crossover with an anime series that might as well be canon with it, so similar are the themes involved. The main heroine of the story is IF, who has noticed that something strange is happening in the great library of Gemindustri. Entire books are slowly going blank, and the history that was supposed to be contained within them has disappeared as well. With the help of a typical plot-amnesiac girl named Segami Hatsumi, she sets out to find the reason behind the erasures, and sort out the true history of Gemindustri in the process.
IF, Neptune, and Segami are the obvious ones in that middle picture, but who are the rest? Those are characters from the Sega Hard Girls series, including Dreamcast, Game Gear, Saturn, and Mega Drive. It's likely the rest of the SH cast will be showing up eventually; there was a heck of a lot of Sega hardware, after all.
Hypercombative Neptunia vs. the Sega Hard Girls is due out on the PS Vita sometime in the near-ish future, but Compile Heart hasn't given any clear dates.
Death and maidens seem to be the two themes for this column. We even have two different games with the word shisu (DIE!) in the title. MeiQ no Shita ni Shisu (Death Under the Labyrinth), also known as the "boob story", has a few new screenshots to show us, mostly involving the powerful combat robots who are partnered to the buxom protagonists in their assault on the Towers of the Divine. While no details have been given on the subject of where these Guardians come from, they're definitely more useful than a padded bra in battle.
MeiQ no Shita ni Shisu (Death Under the Labyrinth) is due out in stores on October 8th of this year, and is yet another PS Vita game for this column's tally.
|Luminous Arc Infinity
|Super Robot Wars BX
|Yoru no Nai Kuni
||Gust / Koei-Tecmo
|Dragon Quest VIII - Journey of the Cursed King
A Short Question from Facebook
I have an unrelated question. How easy is it to communicate in romaji?
-- Cousin Will
Everyone in this country studies romaji from about fourth grade onwards (separate from actual English instruction, often). Most if not all public signs are written with romaji subtitles. With a bit of effort, it's doable for basic stuff, but anything that relies on more context is going to be increasingly difficult. There are way too many potential homophones within the kanji writing system. Best example I have is the names of two neighboring sections of Kumamoto, both of which are pronounced Ezu but which actually have different spellings in katakana (one spelled with a su, and the other with a tsu).
Non-chan and I are off to Hawaii for a family reunion and my parents' fortieth wedding anniversary. Pardon me for not being available for the next week or so.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,