Sorry for the lack of column last week, everyone. It was a busy time, what with all the planning for my week of Christmas lessons and all. It took me three stores to find the right sort of red socks to make a good Christmas stocking, for example. And my plans for a snowflake craft activity nearly fell through when I found out that no one carried regular round coffee filters anymore. Grease-trap paper intended for tempura worked just as well, thankfully. I also had to wrap up a bunch of knick-knacks and small collectible toys to use in case someone forgot to bring a gift for the gift exchange (only necessary on three or four occasions). I finally got a Christmas carol CD put together as well, though I never could find an MP3 for the simpler version of "O Tannenbaum" that I'd been teaching my little ones.
Last weekend was even busier than that, however. On Saturday, Nozomi and I braved the befogged mountain passes around Aso to meet the family for the first time. It turned out quite well, if I do say so myself. Her mother served up a wonderful feast for us, her sister and nephew sat in, and her dad was much more positive than we'd expected. We also visited her little sister where she worked, at a cafe in Kurokawa. That evening, we got back to Kumamoto just in time to catch the late showing of The Hobbit. The theater had special couch seats for couples, which we gladly paid a few extra bucks for.
Anyway, what I'm saying is that last week was really busy. With all the preparation behind me, this week was a cinch. I hope you all enjoy this month's singular column, and have a merry Christmas!
After my rather busy weekend, I checked into my RPGamer mail account to find a new item awaiting me. Sen no Kiseki, the latest from Falcom's Legend of Heroes series, was so new that I had to wait a while longer for screenshots to show up on Dengeki, and for a while I could only guess at the meaning behind the name. Single syllables in Japanese can be assigned to a multitude of kanji — almost nineteen pages of them in my online lookup index — including symbols for "attentive," "glandular," "cork," "vivid," "immortal," "rotation," "selection," "boastful usurpation," and two different symbols meaning "thousand." Given the usual wordcount for an LoH title, I was expecting either of those last two kanji. Instead, the sen in Sen no Kiseki is this:
This is the kanji for "flash" or "brandish." It is incorporated into the names of several powerful sword moves in unrelated RPG series that I have played as well as one possible (and poetic) word for "flash of lightning." What it might mean in this context is yet to be seen. But enough of the etymology lesson. Here are some art and screenshots.
Sen no Kiseki is confirmed as taking place in the same world as previous Kiseki titles (excluding Nayuta), and more specifically it is set on the continent of Zemuria. Any real story detail beyond that is as yet unknown. This game is getting a dual release on the Vita and PS3, and the Dengeki article mentions several ways it's a technical improvement over previous titles. These include improvements to the battle system, a greater amount of voice acting both in conversation and while walking around town, and a 360° camera for the player to control.
Both versions are expected to be on shelves in 2013, though no firmer dates have been set. We'll be keeping an eye out for more news.
It's time for more Shining fun! First, here's a video for you all to enjoy.
It's got a good deal of gameplay material packed in there, introducing the playable characters, the isle of Arcadia, and the mysterious Nephilim (plural) that attack when the moon turns red. The video also introduces a few new villains.
One Piece called, they want their B-listers back. While they're all pirates, it's not clear if these three are working together. They certainly don't have much in common esthetically. Velvet the Leopardess (her favorite nickname) is attacking Arcadia specifically for the ancient technology that litters the island. Bacchus the dwarven viking is just after treasure, however. Levin, soi-disant Prince of the Seas, is looking to claim the island as a personal fiefdom. Whether there will be honor amongst thieves remains to be seen.
And then there's this lady. Viola (sounds like "violet" or "violent" -- both appropriate) has come to the island with one mission: to hunt down an angel. Questions abound around her. Who is she? Where does she come from? How can she heft that huge scythe? Most importantly, how does her outfit stay up in the middle of battle? A lady of mystery is she.
Shining Ark is still due out in stores on February 28th.
There are some things in Japan that are as sure as death and taxes, and one of those things is Super Robot Wars. It is pretty much a given that there will be at least one iteration of the series on any gaming platform, console or portable, found in Japan. That said, we have a new one coming up.
So, we know that it'll be on the 3DS and that it will be on sale March 13th. Any other pertinent information we need? Oh yeah, the series.
Majin Kaiser SKL
Dennou Senki Virtual-On Force
Macross F: Utsuwari no Utahime / Sayonara no Tsubasa
SD Gundam Sengokuden: Brave Battle Warriors
Mobile Suit Gundam 00 - A Wakening of Trailblazer
Gundam Seed Destiny
The Wings of Rean
Aura Battle Dunbine
Fafner in the Azure & Fafner: Heaven and Earth
Linebarrels of Iron
Ninja Senshi Tobikage
And that, as they say, is that. Anyone who would like to discuss the series represented above may write into the Culture Corner. I'm going to take a nap now.
Four years ago, Bandai-Namco made a bold experiment in game marketing. The company released two versions of the handheld title Tales of Hearts: one with CG movie sequences and the other with anime movie sequences. The intent was to see which style the gaming public favored, and the results were overwhelmingly in favor of the anime style. Thus it comes as no surprise that the remade edition, Tales of Hearts R, should also be heavy on the anime cut-scenes. Apparently ten more major scenes have been added just for this version. Here are a few screens.
While we're at it, here are a few screenshots of actual gameplay to go with it.
Tales of Hearts R arrives on the PS Vita on March 7, 2013.
1) Tom's questions last week piqued my curiosity. How are the mobile phones there different from other countries? What OS do they use? What kind of Apps do they have? I heard they have their own marketplace for apps, but are these shared between different brands of phones, or do they only work on specific phones?
Are you talking about cell phones, or smartphones? For smartphones, the basic choices are iOS and Android, same as the rest of the planet. For the keitai (Japanese cell phones), I'm not so sure what they run on. There seems to be a variety of operating systems used, even within a single carrier's stock. In general, the major providers all maintain separate app libraries, which is why it took so long for me to be able to play The After Years; Softbank phones got that one almost a year later than the DoCoMo and AU phones. Only this past year has there been talk of standardization across providers, and that was mainly to ensure that all mail emoticon codes would be usable between different makes of phone.
2) Two things that just about everyone have where I live are cellphones and pets. What's the outlook for the latter in Japan? If there is one thing that I don't see much in popular media coming out of Japan, it's pets (compared to other stories anyway). I see the anime stereotypes of rich people keeping humongous European dogs, and that there are loads of cats on the streets in smaller towns. But seriously, how is it in real life?
Thanks for yet another great column. Hope to read more soon.
For the majority of us living in apartments, pets are but a dream. There are very few apartment buildings that allow pets, though that doesn't stop some people. Also, the prices charged in pet stores are absurdly high. Small dogs, like chihuahuas and dachshunds, are very popular now, as are pomeranians, poodles, and corgis. Shiba-ken are pretty much the national canine at this point.
Stray cats are pretty common, and I wish I could say they were treated better. I've talked aboutcat shelters and cafes in Japan before, and I really have to admire Satoshi, proprietor of the KagoNyan Cat Cafe in Kumamoto, for his work in finding homes for all the kittens he takes in.
Pets are still considered a luxury in this country, most of the time. Many people are hesitant to get one because of the imagined costs, or because they feel like the animal would tie them to their home and make it impossible for them to take long vacations. Pet-sitters and kennels aren't very common around here yet, unfortunately.
Thanks for the letter, nya!
Congratulations on your engagement! Your nuptial announcement in last
week's column made me wonder: How common are interracial marriages in
Japan? What is the general attitude toward them? I have heard that
the Japanese view themselves very differently from foreigners; does
that result in reactions like what might be seen in some places in the
U.S. South, where such unions might still raise eyebrows?
Foreign/Japanese couples aren't as rare as they used to be. When Nozomi and I went to Fukuoka last month, we saw a few dozen mixed families over the course of one day. Even many of the smaller mountain communities have local sons or daughters who married internationally. There was even a minor social commotion a few years back when the heir to the Tokugawa family married a Vietnamese woman. Usually, foreign husbands and wives are welcomed by their Japanese in-laws, though. There were never any anti-miscegenation laws in Japan like there were in the US, and with a few major exceptions (marriage to Koreans during the occupation and post-war periods, marriage to American soldiers post-war or in Okinawa) there's usually no real stigma attached. While it's true that foreigners tend to have a very different mindset about all facets of life, those Japanese who do get into a foreign relationship and make it work tend to be a bit different from the norm as well.