Another week, another column, but what to write about this time? This week's typhoon was something of a non-event in this part of the country, and anything else is either not very interesting or too personal to discuss in an open forum. On the walk to work, I happened upon this little lady, though.
From what I can find out in a quick internet search, she's most likely a member of genus Hierodula, or the Giant Asian Mantises. At an estimate, she's about 4 inches long, but still not the longest I've ever met. I wasn't about to bother her too much by measuring her, though. Back in August, I ran into another specimen which decided to actively stalk my be-sandaled toes, following them around as I shuffled out of its way.
While the European name of mantis is derived from a Greek word meaning priest or fortuneteller (because of the "praying" posture of their claws), the Japanese word kamakiri is much more to the point and appropriate. It means "scythe-cutter," if one goes by the phonetics. The actual kanji involved were probably assigned that pronunciation by grand fiat (otherwise known as ateji).
Whenever I happen upon a really big one, a 5 inch mini-super-predator, it's easy to see why mantises make such good monster templates. If ever a mantis were enlarged to approximately human size, I'd be fearing for my life. "Scythe-cutter" isn't just a pretty name, after all.
Now, on with the column!
Are you ready to rock the house? A selection of Japanese artists have been brought together to produce an arrangement compilation of pretty much whatever Square-Enix music they liked. The ten tracks on the CD are mostly pulled from Final Fantasy, but that's not the entirety of the playlist. Love SQ will be out in stores November 25th, for 2100 yen.
||Final Fantasy III
||DE DE MOUSE
||Chrono Trigger Theme & Corridor of Time
||To Far-Off Times
||Frog's Theme & Victory Music
||Final Fantasy series
||Legend of Mana
And no, I'm not sure who any of the artists are, either. A few names ring a bell, maybe something to do with DJs and club remixes? I can't be sure right now, since there aren't any sample tracks on the website.
As I was flipping through last week's Famitsu, I came across an article for the latest game in the Power Pro-kun series. This isn't exactly a rare event, as this series of baseball video games has had about as many releases over the years as Madden Football. In fact, this one is numbered 12th in the portable version of the series. What made me stop and read it again was the little informational blurblet below the title. The one that said, quite clearly, "Action RPG".
Yeah, I'm not really sure what's going on here, since for the most part this iteration of the series doesn't look any different from any of its predecessors. There are character stats present, but those are standard for the series. The only real hints that something else is going on here are, first, the article subtitle which reads "An Accursed Baseball Game?", and, second, a section of the stat screens which reads makyuu, or "mageball", ranking.
I hope they give us more to work on soon, because I'm just feeling confoozed here.
Lord of Vermilion II is really having fun with the crossover material. We mentioned most of it a few weeks back, but here they are with more!
Not surprisingly, it's more Final Fantasy IV material, this time featuring the Four Fiends/Generals/Kings of the Elements (whatever you feel like calling them). The fiendish foursome have never looked so good.
You've had a few busy months exploring dungeons, and you're in need of a vacation. But where to go? The tropics seem like a good choice, but as one wanderer can attest, sometimes there's no rest for the adventurous.
After a hard-fought victory against the Monster of Moonshade Village (cf. Shiren GB), everyone's favorite wanderer and his weaselly sidekick hit the high seas. Faster than the speed of plot, a passing typhoon swamps his boat, and two very wet heroes find themselves on the shores of Kahitan Island. They're immediately mistaken for monsters and are sentenced to burn. Only one villager, the girl Kamina, speaks up for Shiren, and for that she gets to take his place in jail. Unless Shiren can retrieve a mystic jewel called the Jaguar's Eye, she's never getting out of there alive.
All the Shiren games follow the same sort of pattern, so what makes Shiren 4 for the DS stand out? The Famitsu article mentions a few things in particular. First, exploration is governed by a day/night cycle, which affects both visibility and monster strength. Rarer monsters appear at night, and it'll take more effort than usual just to put a dent in them.
Next, various aspects of the dungeons change as Shiren does his thing. Floors collapse and spiky barricades pop up as traps lurk underfoot.
Finally, there's the problem of auras. Random monsters may hide special strengths, which are revealed in super-saiyan-esque displays of light. Adventurers and tourists are advised to proceed with caution.
So, interested in a three-hour tour?
No doubt some in the audience have probably heard of the Fate series, or recognize some of the characters from manga or Japanophile websites. The series is a major success for Type-Moon, having shed its eroge origins to go on to adventure and fighting game sequels, manga, and anime adaptations. Considering the style and themes of the series, it's surprising it took them this long to make an RPG of it.
Coming soon to a PSP near you is Fate/EXTRA, which seems to follow the basic plot of the Holy Grail War as told in previous iterations of the series. At least, all the characters mentioned by name in the scans appear on the Fate/stay night wiki page. The Famitsu article is mostly explaining the Master/Servant plot concept, where the named characters each summon a particular "Heroic Spirit" whose name is derived from their attack style, and who do not always see eye-to-eye with the summoning Master. The dungeon-RPG aspects of the game are yet to be seen.
In this endeavor, Type-Moon has joined forces with imageepoch and Marvelous Entertainment. The game's producer, Kazuya Niinou, worked on Etrian Odyssey and 7th Dragon, while the director, Shuuetsu Kadowaki, was on the dev team for Blue Dragon and Luminous Arc 2. It's scheduled for release on the PSP next March.
As I said in the intro, this week's typhoon was something of a non-event in Kumamoto. Not that didn't stop everyone from worrying. It ended up being all bluster and a little drizzle here in the city, though. Boring.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,