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JAPANDEMONIUM
 
juugatsu no ni-juu-go nichi
Kouin ya no gotoshi
Okage-sama desu!

"Time flies like an arrow," or so the Japanese say. I would have to agree with them. It hardly feels like a year has passed since I first looked at the hiring notice for Japandemonium and thought, "Heck, why not?" It didn't matter that I had next to no experience with HTML, I just needed something to do. And so, from the contents of my cell phone's memory, some old swag articles from Dengeki, and one letter I'd nagged out of a family member, my first JP column was born. Since then, we've done a total of 28 columns, covered (or at least mentioned) one-hundred four games spanning somewhere between eight and twenty systems (depending on how you count them), answered thirty-nine letters (including three from staff, two from a MySpace friend, one from the aforementioned relative, but not including the April Fools' letter), discussed seven cultural events, fifteen foods and drinks, and who knows how much else. My knowledge of HTML has gone up about 1000%, and my reading ability in Japanese has had a boost as well.

Let's hope the next year is just as fun. Now on to the column!

(For those who feel like checking everything, yes, my first column was November 2nd, 2007, but the first real draft was dated October 26th. There were minor delays involved.)

"A penny saved is a penny earned," as Ben Franklin once wrote. It was true then, and it's true now. However, I strongly doubt old Ben could have envisaged the twists that the Takara Tomy toy company has added to the adage: ".. and then use the penny to blow something up!"

Yes, save your pennies for a good cause, like defeating the forces of evil. With Takara Tomy's newest interactive piggy bank, Bank Quest™, it is up to you to finance your hero as he takes on the evil numismatic warlock Count Waldollar and his servants. 10 yen will get you a hero's outfit, 600 will get you that Gemini Shield, but if you want that Sword of Legend you'll need almost 3000 yen in the bank. That's not counting all the other items, spells, and skills you'll need to survive. The Count's no pushover, after all, and neither are his generals, the Nine Coins.





At long last, penny-picking feels like it has some meaning.

Source: Famitsu Weekly
10/13 ~ 10/19 10/6 ~ 10/12 Previously Title Publisher Platform
2 2 Down from 1 Pokémon Platinum Nintendo
3 NEW! NEW! Yuusha no kusa ni namaikida or2 SCE
5 NEW! NEW! Culdecept DS Sega
10 5 Down from 3 Super Robot Taisen Z Bandai Namco
14 12 Up from 18 Inazuma Eleven Level 5
22 11 Down from 7 World Destruction Sega
27 16 Down from 19 Dragon Quest V - Hand of the Heavenly Bride Square Enix
37 26 Down from 23 Eternal Sonata Bandai Namco
42 23 Down from 16 Cross Edge Compile Heart
46 45 N/A Tales of the Abyss PS2 - The Best Bandai Namco
47 37 Down from 28 Mana Khemia - the Alchemists of Al-Rhevis (Portable) Gust
48 41 Down from 39 Tales of Vesperia Bandai Namco
Off-list 39 Down from 36 Fire Emblem DS Nintendo
Off-list 50 Down from 42 Phantasy Star Portable Sega

"Prinny brethren, throw off your chains! For too long prinnykind has sat at the bottom of the infernal totem pole, the butt of all demonkind's jokes. Too long have we served as punching bags, impromptu explosives, and subjects of crazed Canuck cuisine. Let us rise up, and show our oppressors that we're mad as heck, and we're not going to take it anymore! .... Oh! Mistress Etna! Your box of sweets? No, I didn't.. OW! OW! OWWWWwwwww.....!"

Throughout Underworld history, prinnies have always been revolting, but now they're rebelling against the status quo -- or at least one is, sorta, kinda, while searching for the boss's sweets. In Prinny!, or, "Um, I'm the Hero Now!?", Nippon-Ichi is letting the underdog take center stage, as he jumps, twirls, and bumps his way through level after level, of underworld denizens, all ready to put him in his place. But can he survive the wrath of Mistress Etna, should the search for sweets prove fruitless? That's what PSP owners across Japan get to find out next month.

For more fun, check out the game's home page. The third link on the left should take you to the gameplay movies.













Source: GameWatch

The world of Oz was full of witches, especially if one read past the first book of the series. The movie, however, only mentions three, one posthumously, and never says a word about the Good Witch of the South. Now RIZ-ZOAWD, the intrepid new interpretation of Oz, has gone and made a 180°ree; turn on the subject of witches, making the population of Oz more colorful, if that's even possible.




While the original four witches of Oz took their titles from the points of the compass, these new characters possess a seasonal theme. Flora, the pink loli-goth girl, is the Spring Witch. Deene -- with the fan, bikini, and not much else on -- is the Summer Witch. Horin, the Autumn Witch, hides a love for gothic horror tropes behind a sweet face. The hooded horde of kittycats serve as their eyes and ears, and may help Dorothy from time to time. While there's no mention of a Winter Witch, I think it's safe to assume she's both Western and Wicked.

Source: Famitsu Weekly

It's been a while since we saw anything on Blazer Drive, so here are some new screenshots, courtesy of Dengeki. First, however, a recap is in order.

Blazer Drive is set in a near-future ward of Tokyo which has been bought outright by the Next Corporation to serve as its headquarters and testing ground for technology -- namely the mystickers. These mystic seals can be applied to any flat surface, and have a number of practical applications, like heating coffee pots. Practicality is not on most people's minds, however. The game's story is full of gang warfare, with rival groups going at it for control of rare and powerful mystickers. At the forefront are a subset of the population known as Blazers who have a particular aptitude for the new technology. Slap a mysticker on their forearm, and they can make it do things it was never intended to do. In a Manichaean fashion, the Blazers are divided into two groups. The Guardians are made up of the sort of well-meaning juvenile delinquents whom no parent would entrust with the car keys. The Trivals are the kinds of juvies whom no one would trust with anything, ever, much less the power to blow up small tanks.

Anyway, here are the pictures!

















Source: Dengeki Online

From the folks who brought us Etrian Odyssey comes a new dungeon RPG for the DS, almost appropriately entitled The Seventh Dragon. I say "almost" because I think someone mixed up the English cardinal and ordinal numbers (happens all the time over here), and decided to add that "th" for appearances. There are in fact seven dragons involved in the story, but I don't see any special notes on which one happens to be number seven.

Let's get to the story, though. Over the last few centuries, the world of Eden has been the stage for a war of extermination, humans versus dragons. Right now, the dragons are definitely winning, and as their territory spreads, so do the frawaro -- strange, glowing flowers which are dangerous to human health. Only one nation still stands against the threat, and that is the kingdom of Kazan. King Agoht of Kazan has put out a call for all warriors still alive, and is committing all his kingdom's resources towards funding them. It's that, or wait for the inevitable. There's no mention of a protagonist as yet, so I'm assuming this game borrows EO's guild system.

The plot seems set up for a war of reconquest, and the map on the second scan would seem to confirm that. On the map, every section of the continent except for Kazan is covered in small red pixels, which mark the spread of the deadly frawaro blooms. Until those flowers are eliminated, the area cannot be resettled. Until the regional dragon is killed, they'll grow back over time.





Now let's look at some of the pretty pictures. The art and designs in The Seventh Dragon are the work of a new guy on the scene who goes by the moniker of Mota. Whoever he is, he certainly likes the chibi look. For the record, chibi is an informal word for small in Japanese, as well as a body form in manga and anime characterized by insanely disproportionate head sizes -- also known as SD, or super-deformed. It's normally used for emotive of comedic effect, though there are entire series based off of this style. However normal a character may look on the status screen or in conversation, in battle they're a pint-sized bobblehead doll of fury.

For more information on how the game plays, check out the impression on RPGamer.

Source: Famitsu Weekly

Here's a short update on Gust's upcoming DS game, Atelier Annie. While the new scans don't give us much more than we had before in terms of gameplay, we do get to meet five new characters. Starting from the left, we've got Gilbert the famous adventurer, Jeria the knight, Kyle the engineer, Beau the rookie, and Fizz the waitress. Pretty much a typical Atelier lineup, from the look of things. Judging from the screenshots, character interaction scenes look a bit more dynamic than in the previous DS incarnation of the series, which is a welcome change for this Atelier fan.



Source: Famitsu Weekly

If you're a heavy gamer, odds are you don't get out and about nearly as much as you shold. Walking is that thing your main character does on the worldmap -- often in circles, since we know how much that ticks off the monsters.

Well, one game company, at least, is thinking about the health of its consumer base. Bandai-Namco has an odd little pair of items coming out this holiday season -- pedometer-based RPGs. Yes, this is portable gaming at its finest. The two games, based off the anime series Space Battle Ship Yamato and 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother, count the steps as the player walks, and converts that information into experience and gold which the player can then use to help further the cause, as well as opening up new locations along the routes the games' stories take.

It should be said that they picked some very good titles to adapt to this. Both series are about long, epic journeys, and you need something with a lot of travel if you're planning a game around a 90-day walking regimen.




From time out of mind, people have told tales of mysterious lands just over the horizon, of realms full of mystery and wonder, monsters and treasure. In the world of Destiny Links, that island is Ameijia (or perhaps, Amazia). This mythic isle is said to be the resting place of ancient sciences and bizarre monsters -- and it was rediscovered just recently. Now, the rush is on. Citizens of the kingdom have formed exploration societies, the better to support each other and survive against the strange denizens of the island, and perhaps find something worth the effort.



In this game, the character has the choice of four protagonists, each with his or her own strengths. The scrawny street urchin is fast and deft at stealing. The wandering minstrel has a way with people, which makes him good with negotiations. The alchemist may be frail of body, but she's good at her craft. The mechanic is out to make a name for herself, putting her skills to use while milking money from the situation. The player will have a wide variety of weapons and musical instruments to equip, with the added fun that your characters can apparently dual-wield.

In Destiny Links, wi-fi plays a major support role. Players have the option of downloading character data from other players over the Wi-Fi network, and using those characters as support NPCs, as well uploading data on their own characters for other people to use. There's also an option for local wireless play between friends. In either case, there's a maximum of three other players involved.

Japanese gamers get a chance to support each other this winter, but hopefully this one will be US-bound soon as well.

Source: Famitsu Weekly
Summer Fun

We survived Obon holiday travel! It was very hectic! We didn't always get a seat. Once we got stuck in the smoking car for almost 2 hours. We were lucky we had a seat... many people had to stand. One train on our way back to Tokyo to catch our plane, we had to stand for 2 hours with all of our luggage in the lavatory compartment between the train cars. One train we actually got to sit on the floor in the compartment between train cars! Lucky us!

Gaijin

Good to hear! To refresh everyone's memory, SMB wrote in to the May 30th column. But yeah, I've had to do the "between the cars" thing myself a time or two. Insane.

As for Miyajima, the island was packed for the festival. I had visited there once before and the island was so sleepy and peaceful. But a famous fireworks festival happens during Obon, so the place was packed. The evening of the fireworks show there is not a viewing seat to be had. I really can't recommend the fireworks display, though. Here in America you get a 20-25 minute display packed with big bangs and ooohs and ahhs. But for the Miyajima fireworks festival, you got 1-2 minutes of fireworks and 10 minutes of wait time in between. Space over 1 hour. Verrryyyy slowwwwww.

Gaijin

About that time in August, I was watching a fireworks display in Kumamoto's Kawashiri Town. The experience was about the same. Lots of fireworks, but the timing and planning were almost non-existent. So any pyrotechnicians reading this, please, please come over here and teach the locals how to do a proper show!

So yeah, I can't really recommend visiting Japan during the hottest, busiest time of year, but we got to meet some great people and have many good memories. Thanks for all of your help!

SMB

Gaijin

Glad you survived! Honestly, if you hadn't mentioned you'd already gotten hostel accomodations, I wouldn't have recommended anything for O-bon. Lodging tends to be the hardest part of a trip during that time, though, as long as you don't terribly mind not having a train seat. Live the adventure!

Hisashiburi

Hi, I'm not really sure if this counts as a Japandemonium question or not but, I was wondering what it's like to be a video game translator? It's kinda related because of translating from Japanese to English, but if it's not really a Japandemonium question then feel free to skip that question and answer this one: I've heard that in Japan school is rather stressful and competetive. Is this true of all schools generally? Are there private schools that are run differently? What about special education kids? Do special education schools/classrooms exist in Japan? I get the feeling that if I was born in Japan I probably would have failed out of school by now. Or is the whole Japanese schools are hard thing a stereotype? Well, I should probably get back to gaming (or homework *shudder*) now.

Bye for now, Annalou

Gaijin

Well, I think it would depend on the sort of special education is required. I know that they have classes for students with major disabilities up through junior high, as well as classes for students with learning disabilities.

The fun thing about school in Japan is that it's only mandatory through the ninth grade. High school is optional in Japan, but over 90% of all students enter it anyway, because it's the only hope they have of getting a chance at getting a good job. High school is supposed to prepare for college, but there are problems involved. In order to enter a university in Japan, you need to pass the entrance exam. We're not talking about the SAT or ACT here -- each university has their own specific version that a prospective student will have to take. Each version is weighted towards both the university's core areas of study and the level of student they wish to attract. Unfortunately, the materials covered in some tests are actually more than what is taught in Japanese high schools. In order to succeed, several hours of extracurricular study (through tutors or cram schools) are required every day. I figured it up with a student once, and we found that she was spending almost 80 hours a week in some sort of study-related activity. This doesn't include the need to commute. Since high schools are not regional, a student may choose to attend a prestigious school as much as an hour's ride away on the train. I've known people who had a three hour daily commute to and from school, on top of everything else.

So yes, Japanese school can be very difficult, if you want to shoot for the top. As for translation jobs, I only have some amateur experience in that area, and I can say that it really depends on the game, and how the text is packaged, and how specialized the dialogue is. In some simpler games, most everybody sounds the same anyway (think Pokémon). In others, each and every character has a specific speech pattern which sets the apart, and helps reveal aspects of their personality (think Persona). Obviously, some games are more difficult to write for than others. I would think that a creative writing degree with a Japanese language background would be more useful than a straight degree in Japanese, personally.

Roses are Blue, Violets are Red, I like to Shoot Heroin Right Into My Head

Greetings once more Gaijin. The title is once more from that mysterious source, so don't go thinking I came up with a line like that on my own.

Gaijin

You know that title almost got this letter deleted before I had a chance to read it, right?

I'm curious about the animal life you encounter in Japan. More specifically, I'm curious as to what differentiates it from anywhere else in the world. Rather a broad question but I've been typing all day and my creativity with sentence structure is at a low ebb.

Gaijin

Hm, well... there's nothing really exotic here, per se... Much of the wildlife in Japan is also found in other areas of Asia, with some exceptions here and there in the smaller islands. Do the Japanese monkeys count?

Recent Japanese administrations have been making an effort to assert the country's influence in international affairs. How do the people you interact with view this alteration in policy?

This Ichiro Ozawa who leads the DPJ: does he command any genuine popular support, or does his party pick up votes solely by being against the LDP?

Gaijin

As in all politics, some people disapprove of the stick-waving and posturing, and others are all for it. As for Ozawa, I've seen him mentioned from time to time in the news, but the political scene is still dominated by love or hate of the LDP, not of him.

And now for a couple of questions that actually relate in a tengential fashion to the site we're on! How strong would you judge the classic gaming market to be in Japan? I ask this because games for consoles that have been deemed dead outside the country seem to keep being made. Also, what types of games or genres just don't seem to work for the general Japanese gaming populace? This could be only styles of RPG that attract disinterest or you can broaden the scope - whatever you're well-versed in. I hope to get the JET application in within the week. While finishing my own material doesn't take long, corraling references and making them be timely is not entirely up to my schedule.

JuMeSyn

Gaijin

This is Japan. There's a third-party developer licensed by Nintendo to sell new Famicoms (NES) in shiny new models. You have to go back to the SNES period before seeing a significant price drop for older games in some series. And what with the virtual console business and all, it should be pretty obvious that the Japanese like nostalgia and niche markets. Speaking of which, I don't think there's a single variety of video game that does not have a following in this country. There are some which simply aren't made well by domestic companies, but for those, the American game industry seems to provide.

Well, that ends our technically-one-year anniversary edition. My school's big Halloween student event is tomorrow, so time to prepare! That, and send in my absentee ballot for the election. Wouldn't want to forget that, either!

And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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