Dengeki Ratings I Final Fantasy VII Before Crisis Gets Weaponized I Online Gamers Get a Taste of Persona 3 I Valkyrie Profile Arranged Album I Two For One on Short Stories I Xenosaga Pied Piper Info I Dragon Quest Monsters Going Mobile Again I Ys II Goes Mobile I Culture Corner I Sayonara
DoCoMo 902i June 1, 2006


Another week has passed, and this one is chock full of news. I want to apologize for last week's lack of news, there just wasn't much of anything that fell under my column's scope of coverage. Let's all cross our fingers and hope that last week was an anomaly that never happens again.

In gaming news, I am now playing Blade Dancer. I found a mysterious review copy in my swag bag from E3, and I'm rather glad I did. I've just gotten far enough that I have all four characters, so I think I'm able to give a pretty good impression of the game. I am enjoying the game a fair bit, but not everything is perfect. For starters, weapons eventually break. While this adds to the realism, I wish I didn't have to keep an inventory full of items to make new weapons. Also, the game's equivalent of magic points is shared between the party and the enemies. It can be annoying to be trying to cast a spell and have the enemy party drain the MP bar. The game is also largely a leveling grind.

But enough of the negatives. Let's talk about what makes it good. First and foremost, the localization is well on par with NISA's high standards, and the voice acting is top notch. Enemies are visible on the overworld map, and it is possible to see what you'll fight before you fight it. This helps avoid fights you can't win yet, and it allows you to skip past 'easy' fights. And the fact that enemies share your magic points DOES add a certain element of excitement to battle. Having to hope you get to use your abilities first keeps you on your toes, but that's a good thing. As mentioned before, there is a lot of leveling required, so you'll be in combat a lot. So far, the game is looking to be at least a three out of five, and it's looking to possibly be a four. The fact that load time is minimal doesn't hurt the score one bit, either.

For now, I suppose that's all I can say. You can look forward to my review when Blade Dancer becomes available next month.

As for this week's title, the DoCoMo 902i is the latest and greatest cellular phone on the Japanese market right now. While I'm sure Vodaphone and AU would contest that fact, if I lived in Japan and were buying a phone, I'd be getting a shiny new 902i. And when I did, I'd be able to play most of the games in this week's column.

So let's get this mobile party started!

 Dengeki Rankings

This week's chart is hardly a surprise. Most of the chart is left over from last week, and the game at the top has earned its position at the top soundly. Considering The New Super Mario Bros. sold over 900,000 copies in four days, I'm not shocked to see it leading the pack. The question is, will it have the staying power of the 'old' Super Mario Bros., which led the chart for three straight weeks despite being 20 years old.

As for RPGs, we have a few new faces and a few familiar ones too. Though it's not an RPG, Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy in Itadaki Street Portable makes the list due to its pedigree. The game is born of two of the greatest RPG franchises in the market, and it's a shame it will never see the light of day in the US. I've played way too much Mario Party to scoff at party games.

Let's see those numbers, shall we?

Position Title Publisher Platform
4 Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy in Itadaki Street Special Portable Square Enix
12 .hack//GU Vol 1 Namco Bandai
13 Pokémon Ranger Nintendo
19 Magna Carta Portable Banpresto
20 Dragon Quest: Young Yangus and the Mysterious Dungeon Square Enix
22 Mother 3 Nintendo
42 Final Fantasy XII Square Enix
46 .hack// Vol 1 x Vol 2 [PS2 the Best] Namco Bandai

Source: Dengeki Online

 Final Fantasy VII Before Crisis Gets Weaponized
Final Fantasy VII: Before Crisis

The main story for Final Fantasy VII: Before Crisis may have ended, but Square Enix isn't ready to let the game fall by the wayside. A new mission has just gone live called "WEAPON Mode." It uses the "iArea" location system that DoCoMo 900i phones and above can use to link up with other players to take out a WEAPON that just so happens to be sitting somewhere in Japan. Once linked up, players can use their phones to run "Weapon Radar" to track down and then defeat the monster.

As usual, the monthly fee for this is 525 yen. It is uncertain if the WEAPON will decide to move to America when the game launches on this half of the world sometime in the near future.

Source: Famitsu

 Online Gamers Get a Taste of Persona 3
Persona 3

Atlus is giving gamers a taste of Persona 3 in the form of a free mini-game called The Night Before on the Japanese website starting June 1. In it, players can explore the night-time "Shadow Time" world.

Atlus has plans to update the game sometime in the middle of June and the actual game is set for Japanese release on July 13 for the standard 7140 yen. While the game has been announced for a North American localization, no date has been announced, but it does not seem that it will see this half of the world anytime soon. Atlus has already announced its 2006 lineup, and Persona 3 did not make the list.

Source: Famitsu

 Valkyrie Profile Arranged Album
Valkyrie Profile

With recent release Valkyrie Profile Lenneth, Square Enix is re-releasing the arranged soundtrack for the original Valkyrie Profile with new cover art. The collection hit store shelves on May 31, and assuming you have 2520 yen to spare, you can add it to your collection.

Source: Famitsu

 Two For One on Short Stories
Spectral Force 3: Innocent Rage

Idea Factory has released a new trailer Spectral Force 3: Innocent Rage. The trailer is in Real Media format and can be found here.

Nintendo has opened a website for Magical Vacation 2. The game is currently set for a June 22 release for the standard 5040 yen.

Sources: Magic Box I Idea Factory Fan Club I Gamefront

 Xenosaga Pied Piper Info
Bandai Namco

Bandai Namco has announced the spinoff to its flagship Xenosaga series, titled Xenosaga: Pied Piper, will be seeing a bit more action. The game is set 100 years before the events of the PS2 games. The story focuses on "Ziggy" before he died and was reborn as a cyborg.

Fans wishing to play it will need a Vodaphone phone and an extra 315 yen per month when it goes live sometime in July.

Source: Famitsu

 Dragon Quest Monsters Going Mobile Again

Square Enix is releasing an updated version of the Dragon Quest Monsters cell phone game called Dragon Quest Monsters MOBILE. In it, players collect monsters with the aim of raising and breeding them to create the strongest possible monster. Players can also take their monsters on quests, have them battle other players' monsters, or even use them to carry mail.

The game is already live and can be downloaded for the standard fee of 525 yen per month assuming you have a DoCoMo 900i or above phone.

Source: Famitsu

 Ys II Goes Mobile
Nihon Falcom

Gamers with DoCoMo iMode capable cellphones that are feeling nostalgic for Ys II are in luck. The original game was released in 1988, but it has been revived as a port of the PC version under the monicker Ys II: Perfect Version. The game went live on May 22 and costs a one-time fee of 420 yen.

Source: Famitsu

  Culture Corner: Ask Sensei

I got three letters this week, and it's interesting that two of them were interested in bathing practices. As someone that has been to onsen more times than he can remember, that is a subject that I feel fully qualified to answer questions about. That said, let's get to those three letters!



Howslife? I don't really have much time. I kinda forgot to write one last night, so I hope this one isn't late. I had a short question about cosplay. How popular is it in Japan as opposed to Western countries? Is it anime conventions only that it happens, or are there way more occasions where there's matter of cosplay (like fan made or even professional movies, TV-shows with contests or something alike)? If you saw the anime Comic Party, there was this episode where the main character (forgot his name) entered this restaurant where all the waitresses where cosplaying a character - I don't know if this is Comic Party-only, or if that's a real thing that's going on. And if so, are there more examples you can give?

And how about cosplay clothes? I actually have no idea what the fans do - I remember that for the anime conventions that there are people who make their own, but I also know that they are sold. Are they sold in large quantities over there, or is it just a limited thing? Even though I can imagine that nobody walks around in a sorcerer-suit or a knights-armor on the streets (even though I'd like to see somebody do that!), I can imagine that people want to wear Squall's leather jacket and that it won't be that strange to wear one. I do know though, that accessories are being sold in larger quantities, like necklaces (the ones from the FF-series are easier to get), but is that a collector's thing only? As I'm now in my mid-twenties (like you), I can't imagine people from my age doing that stuff publicly, but I don't really know about teenagers or even kids.

Well anyway, thanks for answering another letter. See you next week!


PS. Yeah, I totally forgot that people's names always have something in the end

PS2. How much discount do you get at Best Buy, if I may ask?

"We all know that birds fly, but now can
you tell me where they are actually flying to??"


Cosplay is pretty popular in Japan, but it depends on where you are. In Shikoku, there was almost none, but in Tokyo, there was a lot more. Cosplay literally means Costume Role Play, but it has expanded to really mean wearing of almost any kind of costume. Of course, people dress up for conventions, same as they do in America, but if you were in Akihabara, you'd see stores that specialize in cosplay costumes. They range from anime costumes, to sexy nurse costumes, to most anything. Even wearing something like angel wings on your back would be cosplay to an extent. The one thing I will say, though, is when the Japanese really go for cosplay, they really go all out. Japanese costumes flat out rock the house. Though I can't say for sure how much is bought in stores and how much is made by hand.

As for the discount, I can't tell you exactly what it is. Best Buy considers that confidential information, and we're not allowed to disclose it. Rest assured it is quite good.

Thanks for the letter, and this is by far the shortest reply I've ever had for one of your letters. I'm tempted to ask who you are and what did you do with my regular letter-sender-in. ^_^ See you next week.


now, I'm sure this question has already been asked of you, but I'm just a little too lazy to look back through the archives to try and find the answer, so how about a nice refresher on bathing in Japan... My trip is still on schedule for next year some time... (I wish it were like now a vacation would be nice!) so I wanted to ask about traditional Japanese Baths/Onsen. As I do want to experience this unique tradition, but, I want to know how to go about it properly without looking like a fool. step-by-step kinda instruction would be great, but if that's too much, a general idea of how to go about it would be fine too. AND are the rules different for women? or do you have any idea...?




Based on your name, I will assume you are a man, so my experience will directly relate, but yes, it is the same for both genders. When you enter the bath house, first you go to the ticket vending machine. Depending on the onsen, it could be anywhere from 300 to 1000 yen or more. After paying for your bath, you'll enter a dressing room. Here you will disrobe and put your clothing in a locker. You'll take only your towel and your toiletries if you have any. It should be noted that your towel will be about one foot by thee foot. It's basically a long washcloth, and it is not used for drying at all. Once you enter the bath, you'll see a line shower stations on one wall. You should sit on the stool and completely wash your body before entering any of the tub-like baths. If you did not bring soap and shampoo, it is generally provided for you, and after you finish cleaning your body, you put your toiletries on a rack near the door. After you are squeaky clean, you are free to use any of the baths you see fit. There will generally be several tubs of different shapes and styles. For instance, one nice onsen had regular tubs of about eight sizes ranging from single person tubs to a bath that could seat around 100 people. There were also tubs with air jets like hot tubs, tubs of cold water, a bath made for walking and stretching muscles, baths with various bath powders in them, and both a steam and dry sauna. You can enjoy any of the baths in any order, but you'll find the Japanese generally hit the cold tub after anything hot. It's not easy at all to get used to jumping in ice cold water after being in a VERY hot bath (generally over 105 degrees F), but it really does feel good.

As for other rules, it is considered rude to let your towel touch the bath water, you should enter the baths in such a way as to not disturb other bathers. Also, most onsen do not allow people with tattoos; this is to keep out yakuza. In Niihama, the onsen I lived next to was the only bath in town that allowed tattoos, so it generally had at least one yakuza, sometimes as many as five. It should also be noted that few Japanese have tattoos unless they are yakuza.

I hope that was helpful to you. It can be a bit weird walking around a room full of naked men, but you really do get used to it after a while. I really wish we had onsen in America because they are that relaxing. I miss them a lot.

Thanks for writing in!


I'm not really one to write in very often, as you can tell by this being my second time doing so, but you asked for questions, so here ya go! I have a sort of follow-up question to last time, and another question I've thought of.

1. When I asked about onsen before, you mentioned how the onsen is supposed to be pure, and that your towel isn't supposed to touch the water. Well, if that's the case, why do they do it in anime like Love Hina and Tenchi? Is that just another thing to add to the list of things "not entirely realistic" about those shows?

2. The kanji 'alphabet' originates from Chinese, doesn't it? And, correct me if I'm wrong, but the Chinese language contains words that wouldn't really 'fit' into Japanese (e.g. any word ending with 'ng'), right? So, my question is... do kanji exist for such words? And if so, what happens to these kanji when they're brought over to Japan? Or, are these sort of kanji exclusive to Chinese, not used by Japan at all? That'd be my guess, but it's something I've been a bit curious about lately...


P.S. In regard to your quote at the end. Hmm, been playing Earthbound lately, have you? Fun game, I should do that again soon.


I think the bathing thing was covered pretty well in the letter above, but I will say that towels touch the water a fair bit. They're not supposed to, but they do. It probably happens a lot more so in women's baths, but in theory, you shouldn't be 'bathing' in the bath. It's merely for soaking. You should be clean before you enter the bath.

As for kanji, let's go back in time a long ways. About a 1000 years ago, everybody wrote in Chinese. It was THE language to write in, and only men knew how. Eventually, women simplified kanji and turned them into what is now known as Hiragana and Katakana. These simplified characters lost all meaning and became the syllables they represented, so in a way, they became like English letters. But men still used Chinese, and women eventually started to use it too. Of course, men also started using the simple characters the women were using in their poetry.

Flash forward to today. Kanji is still taken directly from Chinese, but the meanings are sometimes different. There are also at least two ways to read each kanji. One is the Chinese way, 'On-yomi', and the other is the Japanese 'Kun-yomi'. It should be noted that even though they have "Chinese" readings, they are not pronounced the same as in Chinese; Chinese is a tonal language whereas Japanese is flat.

As for numbers, there are roughly 2000 commonly used kanji, but Chinese has roughly 10,000 characters. Plus, Chinese comes in two forms, traditional and simplified. So there are many, many Chinese characters a Japanese cannot read. That said, the Japanese have developed a few kanji that are unique to Japanese, but these are modern words and are few and far between.

Oh, and I've not been playing Earthbound, though I wish I were. I've been in a mood for it.

I hope that answered your questions without putting you to sleep. Thanks for writing in, and don't be afraid to send in a third letter!


After last week's column, I'm glad to have one that is chock full of news. These take a bit more time than short ones, but I'd rather put out quality material. You readers deserve it.

Catch you on the flip,

Jordan "He's got huge, sharp... er... He can leap about. Look at the bones!" Jackson

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