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JAPANDEMONIUM
 
juugatsu no san-juu-nichi
Saabisu
Konnichiwa

Not so long ago, my girlfriend and I went to see a movie, My Sister's Keeper, in the theater. Knowing their audience well, the theater staff had a nice present ready for anyone who bought tickets for it -- a themed box of tissues. Now that's what I call service, or rather, saabisu.

The concept of saabisu is a bit removed from the meaning of the word "service" as it's used in English. If I had to pick a translation, I'd be more inclined to use the word "lagniappe" (but then again, I doubt most of my readers would ever have heard of that word, either). "A little something extra" or "a little special treatment" would fit the bill as well.

Basically, saabisu encompasses all the little free stuff that businesses, especially restaurants, give out because they love their customers so much. Free drink with a lunch set? Saabisu. Free box of tissues to go with a sad movie? Saabisu. Coupons for free side dishes? Saabisu. Free CDs, both musical and dramatic, that come free with various video game purchases? Saabisu. At this point I have so many free drink coupons for a certain local restaurant that I'm tempted to make a collage out of them.

A lot of saabisu is institutional, things that the company has decided, but not all of it. There have been times I've gotten free drinks, or miso soup, or a bowl of biwa, just because I was a regular patron of various local restaurants. The waiters at the tempura near my apartment still remember that I order my regular dish "hold the peppers." The last time I had to replace my official enkan stamp, I received a rather nice case to go with it. I think it was because they were a little embarrassed to have to charge me so much for a custom job. And as I've mentioned before, the ladies at the local convenience store save any odd coins they find, just for me.

Now, I just checked my calendar and realized that this week is my second anniversary as Japandemonium guy. In honor of the occasion, here's a treat. A few weeks back, I mentioned the Lovely Lady Lab, an ongoing feature in Famitsu Weekly, along with a picture of Sakura from the Sakura Taisen series. Because I love you guys so much, I went and tracked down the other installments of the column for your visual titillation.





And while I'm at it, here are a few more nice artsy pages from various issues of Famitsu.






And the final promotional two-page spread for SaGa II.



Saabisu with a smile....

Hooray for Taiko no Tatsujin! It's the fun arcade beatmania game I just love to play! Once a week, at least! Who doesn't love whacking big drums with sticks in time to various J-pop tunes? Not I! The arcade version is in its 12th edition, and the Wii and DS versions have made huge successes in sales. The series also has a long history of getting tunes from other popular game series licensed to play on their machines. I'm a particular fan of the Super Mario Bros. Medley.







Dragon Quest returns once again to the licensed tune lineup. Previously, a medley based on Rocket Slime was available as well. The fun's not just with the music, of course. All the cute dancing slimes and whatnot definitely enhance the experience. This is all for the Wii version, by the way. I'm hoping it will come to the arcade version soon.

Source: Dengeki Online
Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
1 Holding at 1 Pokémon Heart Gold / Soul Silver Nintendo
3 Up from 4 Inazuma Eleven 2 Fire/Blizzard Level Five
6 New Arrival Okami Capcom
14 Down from 10 Dragon Quest IX - Defender of the Stars Square Enix
15 Down from 3 Shin Megami Tensei - Strange Journey Atlus
22 Down from 17 Tales of Vesperia Bandai-Namco
27 Down from 16 Blue Dragon - Awakened Shadow Bandai-Namco

As it turns out, there are worse things than being governed by a tyrannical Dark Lord. Assuming he's not a blood-thirsty monster hellbent on devouring the world, your average prince of darkness tends to be pretty well organized, and the continent of Neverland has survived almost a millenium of Lord Janus's reign of peace-through-terror.

And then someone had to go and kill the guy. While this may sound like a good idea, worthy of an epic game title in and of itself, reality (even game reality) doesn't always follow storybook conventions.

Le roi est mort. Que les guerres de succession commencent!


Idea Factory welcomes you back to Neverland with Spectral Force Legacy - Itsuka kono te kegareru toki ni ("A Time to Dirty One's Hands"). On a continent split into forty warring states, the player must choose one of four nations to lead to domination in the brave new world of chaos. Anyone who's familiar with the Spectral Force series probably knows all of the following characters already (since they seem to appear in every single installment of the series), but for the sake of completion, here they are.




The redhead girl is Hiro, the half-human daughter of Lord Janus. While she's fully possessed of her father's fiery magical heritage her human side makes her more empathetic towards others, and she has the support of many loyal followers. The blond guy is King Orochimaru of Muromachi, the "Oriental Dragon" as he is called. A habitual drinker, womanizer, and gambler, he's still a powerful force on the battlefield. The third person up there is the young hero Shiform, who helped cause this mess in the first place when his band of warriors managed to defeat Janus. At one time he possessed a sword skill of amazing power, but apparently lost it sometime in the recent past.



Our next heroine is Little Snow, a young mystic of a small northern kingdom who found herself suddenly crowned queen when the previous sovereign disappeared. It's possible that she is in love with our final character of the day, Jadou. This might be problematic, since Jadou (aka the Beast of Hell) apparently has a thing against most of the human population of the continent. He's also the son of Janus, and definitely has issues with his late father and sister. I think the term "star-crossed" is going to be the definition of this relationship.






Mobile phone gaming isn't something that many in the audience are interested in, so I've just gathered several items to present together rather than making lots of little updates.


First we have another look at Ninokuni - Hotroit Stories, the likely "other platform" for this IP. It's not much we haven't seen before, but I don't remember having such a good look at the battle system. It's going to be available sometime soon over Level-5's ROID network, but I wouldn't put it past Level-5 to bring this to a different downloadable service sometime in the future.


Also on ROID, we have Crusade Record of the Elemental War, a strategy RPG in a fairly orthodox style. The plot appears to be a straightforward light-vs.-darkness affair, though Zignosystem Japan does tout the event scenes.


And for one last mention of ROID, we have Regalo Verde, a promising looking traditional RPG from Amazing Games. The graphics are touted as high quality, and from the looks of the screenshots involved, that might be warranted. At the least, they look much better than I've come to expect from most cell phone games.


For the last item, we step away from the ROID-fest and check out Gameloft's newest, Monster Chronicle 2 - The Mysterious Mecha Empire, a fairly blatant Pokémon ripoff with even cuter little critters than normal. The most interesting thing of note is the promise of inter-player dueling via the cellphone networks.

So why mention mobile phone games at all? Because sometimes they're so popular, they get the treatment that the next item of mention this week is going to get. Read on.

Source: Famitsu Weekly

This next title has been kept separate from the mobile phone section for only one reason -- it's not a phone game anymore. Stress on the anymore. Hills and River Remain is one of the growing number of popular phone apps gaining a more critically legitimate existence on established systems. In this case, it's the DSi download network.


Hills and River Remain is a title from Square Enix, heavy on the strategy. There's a story mode, though to what degree it's involved in the actual gameplay I have no idea. The main pull for this one seems to be the real-time pace and the networking capabilities, which are expected to be expanded a bit once the game becomes available for Nintendo Wi-Fi.









Source: Famitsu Online

Not surprisingly, Square Enix has another game on the horizon, and it is cutesy. I haven't had much to say about Cross Treasures until recently, mostly because of a lack of materials. Up until just this week, all news and pictures were to be found solely in the pages of V-Jump magazine, which few local stores carry, and is a bit more expensive than my regular Famitsu purchase in any case. So, here's the official JP first look at Cross Treasures.


Cross Treasures is a game based on the concepts of "Everyone can play" and "Everyone can connect." Predictably enough, it's a Wi-Fi based dungeon crawl, set on a largely customizable south seas island. One of the major draws of the game, as mentioned by the developers, would be the ability to reshape the island and invite people over to play through the player's reworked levels.




The story, from what is know of it, is pretty sparce. The nameless little south seas island has become the first stop of an invading netherworld army. Princess Sasha has been kidnapped, and the King has put out the call for willing and able adventurers to come and save the day.









So if you're in the mood for a light, family-friendly dungeon smackdown, then hope that this one comes across the Pacific.













Learning Curve

Hey there,

So I recently move to Japan and am teaching english in a couple of elementary schools in Ibaraki. I'm really interested in sharpening my Japanese language skills while I'm here, and I was wondering if you could recommend a good way to learn Kanji. I have no problem with hiragana and katakana, but kanji still remains a major difficulty for me. I've seen a few DS games in stores that teach kanji, but I am not sure how effective they would be. Since I gather you've been living here quite some time, do you have any suggestions on how I might go about learning kanji?

Anyway, I enjoy your updates. Keep em' coming.

Thanks,

Brandon

Gaijin

Well, Tadashii Kanji Kakitori-kun comes highly recommended by several foreigners of my acquaintance. I've never used it myself, though. Back when I was starting in Japan, I'd keep a notebook with me much of the time, and just copy down any combination of kanji I thought worth noticing, along with the context I saw it in and what I thought it might mean. Then I'd score myself on how accurate the guesses were. I picked up a lot of weird symbols that way, like half the kanji for specific species of fish. Nowadays, when I need to check stuff for meaning or pronunciation I usually use this site, since it lets me look things up by radical as well.

Almost a month after the fact, Gaijin notices that he accidentally left this part blank, and nearly dies of embarrassment. He also wonders why no one bothered to mention it.

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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