Everyone knows about the Japanese fondness for bizarre, inappropriate use of the English language. It's the sort of thing that makes for good stories to tell back home. What makes it really humorous is the sheer amount of poor English to be found over here, but it's easy to overlook the bits of vocabulary Japanese has appropriated from other languages.
For example, in Japanese the words for allergy, energy, and germanium look almost exactly like you'd expect for foreign loan-words, except for the fact they're written with a hard G (arerugi, enerugi, etc.) because they were actually taken from German. More German words abound in science vocabulary, and occasionally in the pastry shops as well. Other common non-English loan-words include pan ("bread," from Portuguese) and noruma ("quota," from Russian). And of course there are tons of specific food names, but we're mostly looking at words that have entered general use.
Really, there's only one language that has received as much exposure and abuse in Japan as English, and that's French. Outside the general topic of named foodstuffs, there are a lot of loanwords from this language. The problem is, if there's one language less suited than English for writing in katakana, it's French. Who here has taken a French class at some point in their life? Anyone remember the weird vowel combinations? Most of these are next to impossible to render accurately into Japanese, and all the silent consonants are lost in translation as well, making it very difficult at times to recognize the original words as French.
These words tend to be pretty common, too. Travel agencies will advertise for gurume (gourmet) tours; small portions or versions of anything can be called puchi (petit); and many stores request that customers fill out an ankeeto (enquête, or questionnaire) from time to time. What really puts French up there next to English in terms of misuse is the frequency with which it is used for building and shop names. Every shopping center seems to have a patiseri (patisserie, or pastry shop). Touristy areas will have sarondote (salon de thé, or tea shop). Hair stylists might dub their establishment an atorie (atelier, or workshop) and give themselves exotic (and frequently misspelled) names in French. Apartment buildings might use names like Espoir (hope), Belle Vue (beautiful sight), or Vibrer (to vibrate, almost certainly a misspelling of the verb for to live).
Then there are the t-shirts. Just yesterday, I had two students (sisters) with t-shirts declaring them to be "happy little mermaids" in French. In a different lesson, another student's t-shirt said "It's good to be the queen," also in French. I've been seeing the language pop up on random clothing more and more in the past year or so, and people are always so surprised when I start laughing....
And the title of today's column? What do you think that one's supposed to be? I'll tell you later. It's column time now!
Nintendo is at it again with the special offers and downloadables. This time, they've got a new partner, the big M itself. Starting today (6/19) and continuing through to the 17th of July, fans will be able to get a taste of a new casual game, Pokémon Scramble, take a McDonald's quiz on their DS, and even download a special something onto their Diamond/Pearl/Platinum games:
Y'know, I haven't "been luvin' it" for going on ten months, but now I'm tempted to go out for a quarter-pounder next week...
Let us take another journey into the world of non-electronic Japanese RPGs. We've talked about the "table-talk" RPG genre before in Japandemonium, with Silver Rain as the example of a title derived from Western D&D style games that makes extensive use of illustrated cards and narrative bits to accompany gameplay. Then there's the Queen's Blade series, which is almost completely book-based in a co-op "Choose Your Own Adventure" sort of way. That one's got an actual video game tactical adaptation now. Today we're looking at something a little older, though.
The appropriately named Sword World is one of the oldest titles in the table-talk genre, getting its start in 1989. It was based around a set of play-books and their accompanying check sheets and dice. The game has a translated wiki article which gives some better detail on the setting and some of the mechanics. It also gave me some idea as to how massive this game's impact was on its genre and fantasy anime in general. The famous series Record of the Lodoss War was originally a novelized replay of a Sword World gaming session, apparently.
Anyway, Sword World 2.0 hit stores last year, and now is moving in a new, portable direction.
Famitsu doesn't seem to know what to make of this game, and has it listed as "Etc." for a genre, but it looks to follow as closely as possible to the format set by the original version. There's a lot of narrative text, simulated dice rolls, and the fundamentals of a combat system. I'm kind of curious to see how well it plays, actually.
But that's not all! The Premium Box (every game has one these days, it seems) includes the customized dice from the game, a tactical-RPG style map of Terastia (the game's main setting), and I think also a special edition copy of the original game book in the series. It's all in stores August 27th.
Normally, I avoid commenting on Super Robot Wars games, mainly because I really wouldn't know where to begin. There have been so many remakes and ports that I'm not sure how many of the forty-plus games I've found listed for the series are original, and how many are re-released versions. It doesn't help that I rarely recognize enough of the series' source material to make commentary. "Oh look! It's (random mecha name) from (incredibly obscure anime)!" So today, we have a sort-a special guest commentary.
Gaijin & JuMeSyn Talk SRW
[11:11] gaijinmonogatari: Have you heard about the SRW game for the Wii?
[11:11] JuMeSyn: A little bit.
[11:12] JuMeSyn: Not much, other than it exists and is going to incorporate at least 15 anime into its character and robot use.
[11:12] gaijinmonogatari: Let's see, the list is...
[11:12] gaijinmonogatari: Mazinger-Z
[11:12] gaijinmonogatari: Great Mazinger
[11:12] gaijinmonogatari: Beast God Liger (Zoids?)
[11:13] gaijinmonogatari: New Getter-Robo
[11:13] gaijinmonogatari: Sengoku Dark God Gou-Shogun
[11:13] gaijinmonogatari: NG Knight Ramune & 40
[11:14] gaijinmonogatari: Galaxy Wind Buraiga
[11:14] gaijinmonogatari: (I have no idea what most of these are, btw)
[11:14] gaijinmonogatari: The Invincible Raijin-Oh
[11:14] JuMeSyn: Same here - I feel bad about not watching many mecha anime.
[11:14] JuMeSyn: But to see everything SRT has used, you'd need MONTHS.
[11:15] gaijinmonogatari: Well, 8 of them are new to the series
[11:15] gaijinmonogatari: Energetic Explosion Ganbargar
[11:15] gaijinmonogatari: And I'm freely translating parts of these titles, so they're not all accurate
[11:16] gaijinmonogatari: Ardent Strongest Gouzaura
[11:16] gaijinmonogatari: Daitei-Oh (can't figure out the first part)
[11:16] JuMeSyn: Yep, I somehow doubted all of these had crossed the Pacific.
[11:17] gaijinmonogatari: Jet Stream! Iron Leaguer, Mobile Suit G Gundam
[11:17] gaijinmonogatari: Big-Type Lunight
[11:18] gaijinmonogatari: And that's the list
[11:18] JuMeSyn: What are the odds that a Gundam game would make the list?
[11:19] JuMeSyn: Gundam series, oops.
[11:19] gaijinmonogatari: somewhere around 105%
That's about all I have to say about Super Robot Wars - NEO, the latest iteration of the series, available for the Wii sometime later this year. I could try and make something of the story blurb in the article, but I can promise without even looking that it'll be weird, contrived, and very hard to understand without some knowledge of the series that are being used in the game. And no one really plays an SRW game for the story anyway. Here are the scans, for anyone who wants to see:
A title can tell a lot about the tone of a game. It can be silly, humorous, straightforward, meaningful, or completely nonsensical, but it really is the first impression that we can receive of a new game series. I'd like to give a hand to the mobile-phone game developer G-Mode for coming up with what has to be the most pithy, concise title I've ever seen:
Really, the title says it all, doesn't it? It grabs the attention, and makes one wonder "Why?" As it turns out, the Dark Lord is already dead before this game even starts, having been dealt a fatal blow approximately 10 minutes before the opening music plays. Unfortunately for the Hero, there are some annoying complications attached to this victory. Namely, he died. Thanks to a helpful angel, he's got a new lease on life for all of five days. Players have just five game-days to explore a post-Darkness world and see how things are improving (if they're improving at all). At the end of that time, the Hero's number is finally up, and the player can see how many people come to the funeral and cry.
Famitsu managed to have a sit-down with Shoji Masuda, head of the project, and heard some of the thinking that went into the making of this game. Apparently a lot of thought was put into irregular plot points, hence the "begin at the ending" approach. As well, since they knew they were developing this for cell phones, the Pyramid dev team intentionally made the game both short and full of material. Since most of their intended audience will be playing this on the bus or subway, it was designed so that a single playthrough could be done on a regular Tokyo commute. However, the more times one plays through it, the more material becomes available, it would seem. Certain events might not trigger the first time around, but possibly on the second, third, or fifth time through.
I can't imagine this approach working on anything but a cell phone, but it's made for an interesting read. Yuusha Shisu (Hero Must Die!) is available on all three major cell phone networks, though the "Director's Cut" version is only for DoCoMo.
Famitsu Weekly's regular "Chirashi Column" is always an interesting read. "Chirashi" is the Japanese word for advertising posters, pamphlets, flyers, and other random bits of paper that get scattered around. It's also a variety of sushi, but that's not what we're talking about here. The column in Famitsu is all about advertising done for famous series of the past, and on occasion that means an RPG title. The last time we had a chirashi item in Japandemonium was for Mother, a few months back. This time, we present Fire Emblem.
The scan on the left is the original promotional poster for Fire Emblem - Dragon of Darkness and Sword of Light, while on the right-hand scan we have some of the magazine ads for Fire Emblem Gaiden.
Great update this week. First off, I want to thank you for making an awesome Final Fantasy Legend 2/Saga 2 reference in your column (Mr. S!!!). It is one of my favorite games and I am eagerly anticipating the DS remake.
You and me both. I hope they keep his name as Mr. S in the (hopefully forthcoming) English translation.
I was wondering what your thoughts are on "Another Country" by Level 5. Is it for sure going to be an RPG? If so, any idea what kind of battle system it is going to have, if any at all? I find it curious that Level 5 went with an art style so reminiscent of the Mother series, though undoubtedly it has nothing to do with the games otherwise.
Well, in every Famitsu article on the game, it has always been listed as an RPG, without fail. The screenshots that we have usually have a "Magic" button marked in one corner, though we still don't know much about that either. I'm sure there will be many more magazine promotions in the future. Level 5 is good about that.
Finally, with Dragon Quest IX only a month away, are you starting to hear a lot of chatter regarding the game? If so, any idea what the general attitude is towards the game? Anticipation? Frustration over which console its going to be on? I know when I was in Tokyo back in January, I saw a lot of banners advertising the games (then planned) March release. Are you seeing any ads yet?
Looking forward to your next update.
You're talking as if they ever stopped advertising for this game. The posters changed when the release date was revised, but otherwise, it's been constant promotion in the games stores for the past six months. As for anticipation and frustration? This is a Dragon Quest game, on the single best-selling game platform in Japan. Anyone who wants it probably already has a DS. Of course, you could always ask these ladies what they think.
The mercury is on the rise, and it's only going to get hotter as we get into summer.
Also, oodooburu is the Japanese spelling of hors-d'œuvre. That one took me forever to figure out...
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,