ichigatsu no ni-juu-kyuu-nichi
Kaze wo hiichau

It seems that I spoke a bit prematurely last week. After a brief flirtation with temperatures in the mid-50s, the mercury dropped back to the thirties with amazing speed. It's quite frosty in the mornings nowadays, which helps explain how I ended up with a cold this weekend.

Normally I don't worry too much about minor respiratory infections, but my girlfriend is convinced that even a little cold might kill a person if they do not immediately see a doctor for it. And since my bout of pneumonia two years back (due to me not wearing a warm enough coat back then) she's been very strict on me doing that. So on Monday I got to visit the local ear-nose-throat doctor for a 5 minute, sixty dollar (before insurance) check up, in which it was ascertained that I had no fever and no other symptoms at that time aside from a bad cough. The bit of wheezing I'd heard the night before, which was the only reason I agreed to see a doctor in the first place, turned out to be a touch of asthma and not bronchitis. Nevertheless, I walked out of there with prescriptions for no fewer than seven drugs, five of which were "just in case". By the end of the day, I was feeling well enough that those five all got shelved for future emergencies, so I'm just on antibiotics right now.

And in the end, I came away with the impression that I'd have been just as well off with ibuprofen and cough syrup. Sasuga nihon...

On with the column!

Hiroyuki Maeda's art feature in Famitsu Weekly, the Lovely Lady Lab, seems to have become a regular feature in the magazine. Since so many of his ladies are pulled from RPGs, I've decided to just start including them in the last update of each month. This month, we have three to present.

Most likely everyone in the audience will recognize Lightning and Aeris(th), though some might quibble over the spelling of the latter. The lady in the middle is Amane, a character design from the new MMORPG Tenchi Tairan ("Rebellion in Heaven and Earth"). She's actually intended as a New Year's illustration, but I forgot to add her into the big update at the start of the month.

Source: Famitsu Weekly
Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
1 Last seen at 1 Kingdom Hearts - Birth by Sleep Square Enix
8 Last seen at 5 Legend of Zelda - Spirit Tracks Nintendo
10 Last seen at 6 Pokémon Heart Gold / Soul Silver Nintendo
12 Last seen at 8 Final Fantasy XIII Square Enix
13 Last seen at 10 Phantasy Star Portable 2 Sega
19 Last seen at 14 Inazuma Eleven 2 Fire/Blizzard Level Five
24 Last seen at 22 Poké-Park Wii -- Pikachu's Big Adventure Nintendo
28 Last seen at 26 Power Pro-kun Pocket 12 Konami

One thing that should always be taken as a given with the folks at Nippon Ichi Software is that somehow, some way, they will find a way to fit in characters from previous titles into a new game.

What you see above is a sample image of a "Secret Mission Card" to be included with the soundtrack for Absolute Hero Makeover. Just like it sounds, it allows the player to access a special mission in the game. Once cleared, the player gains the right to cosplay his or her characters as Laharl, Etna, or Flonne.

Could be fun, I suppose.

Source: Famitsu Online

Once upon a time, there was a young alchemist named Judith Volltone who lived in a small forest village with her pet parrot. She always worked hard to live up to the example set by her alchemist ancestors. One day, she is asked to create a special item called the Dragon's Hourglass. Things... don't quite go as planned, as shown by the massive explosion in the opening credits of the game. When she comes to, her house is in shambles and her village is just not there anymore. Not long after she finds that she's somehow missing about two centuries of history as well. Now she's stuck in the Kingdom of Gramnad, circa 864, with no friends, few resources, and a loan shark who's more than happy to set up a shop for her... as long as she pays him back.

Why the story? Well, Gust has recently announced that Atelier Judie - Alchemist of Gramnad is being remade for the Playstation Portable.

Since I've played the game, I might as well add my two cents in here. There are quite a few things that make Judie different from games both before and after it in the series. One example is that every single sample of every single ingredient item in the game has its own specific attributes which can be added to other items. A lot of these attributes are just junk, some are even negative, and most of them can affect an item's sales price. The way things are set up, Judie can only keep a total of about 300 items, so hoarding isn't very effective here either. In fact, a lot of items actually go bad if you keep them around too long.

About the biggest difference I can think of for this game, however, is the fact that there's no actual time limit in effect. Judie's not going to stop until she can finish that damn hourglass and (hopefully) use it to return to her own time. Calendrical dates are not used to show when requests are due -- instead, it's given in terms like "Tuesday, three weeks from now". As well, Judie is able to sell everything and move shop to another town whenever she wants, though it's too expensive to do often.

Aside from searching for or making new items, there's a lot for Judie to do. There are plenty of people to interact with, a regular festival at the capitol for her to compete in, and a huge, twisty set of ruins for her to explore (and possibly blow up). All in all, a fun time to be had.

And as I look through the screenshots, I notice that the mysterious girl from Gust's New Year's card appears all over. Since I definitely don't remember her being in the game, it would seem Gust is adding a bit more to the story for the PSP release.

We also have some art here, featuring a map of Gramnad, a scenic splash page, and portraits for Judie and her new best friend Rastel.

It's nice to see this game getting a bigger audience. It was a fun one to play, and certainly a change of pace from the usual Atelier style. Maybe it'll even make it overseas. There's no telling these days.

Source: Dengeki Online

For about four months now, Last Ranker has been a big blank spot on our list of upcoming PSP titles. Aside from a few screenshots back in September, we've received exactly zilch pertaining to this game. Capcom wouldn't even tell anyone the names of the main characters. Well, now we know.

Our first character is Zig, a wanderer from the kingdom of Cantalera. In order to escape the prospects of an unchanging, pointless future, he has decided to prove his strength in the great warrior rankings of Bazalta. The heroine of the game is Len. As well as being a warrior in the Bazaltan rankings, she's the heiress to the lost kingdom of Salvatore and fights to revive the memories of her once-great homeland. The last character, Faz, seems to fit into the "Once friends, now enemies" role in his relationship with Zig.

That's about all we know of the story at this time, but it's still better than nothing. In the Japanese text, the word "strength" gets bandied about with some pretty strong emphasis, and the use of a ranking system as a plot element could suggest some interesting options for co-op or competitive play modes. We'll just have to see.

Source: Famitsu Online

It figures. Not long after posting the last column, I get on Dengeki and find yet more Dragon Quest alcohol-related goodness, plus the entire menu to boot. So for a second week we get a look at Luida's Bar, its friendly staff, and the delicious items found therein. For the most part, the alcoholic drinks take their names from attack spells, the non-alcoholic from healing spells and items, and the food is named for various monsters, important items, or characters from Dragon Quest VI or IX.

Luida's Bar is situated in Tokyo's Roppongi Ward, on the first floor of the Karaoke Pasera Roppongi building. It's open from 2 PM to 11 PM on weekdays, 12 PM to 11 PM on weekends. Last call is 10:30 PM.

Menu item Price    
Alcoholic beverages        
Panic Ionazun 750 yen
Begirama Tequila 750 yen
Sexy Beam 800 yen
Passion Melazoma 750 yen
Hyado Cool 750 yen
Palpunte Vodka 800 yen
Tankard of Ale 600 yen
Non-alcoholic beverages        
Hoimi Tea 500 yen
Behoimi Chai 500 yen
Kiari Green Tea 500 yen
World Tree Drops 500 yen
Elf Medicine 500 yen
Food Menu        
Great Dragon Jerky 650 yen
Dragon Ham 650 yen
Luida's Pumpkin and Strength Seed Salad 750 yen
Mystery Seed Assortment 500 yen
Smoked Mimic Tongue 650 yen
Bombcrag Meatball 700 yen
Dragontail Soup 750 yen
Grilled Chimera Wing 800 yen
Giant's Club 850 yen
Nene's Lunch Plate 800 yen
Hassan & Ryan's Rice Ball Plate 600 yen
Fishbell's Famous Seafood Chow Mein 850 yen
Slime Meat Dumpling 350 yen
Fungus' Sweet Breath Pasta 900 yen
Emblem of Loto Cookies 550 yen
Goddess Fruit on Vanilla Ice Cream 650 yen

Source: Dengeki Online

And to finish up with just a little more DQ, a new, live-action television ad for Dragon Quest VI is on the air as we speak. I haven't actually caught one as it was playing, but Youtube is a wonderful resource in times like these. Dengeki also has these screenshots available:

I do like the gal they picked for Barbara, but I'm not sure why they're speaking Castillian Spanish there.

Source: Dengeki Online
This is a Letter Title

Hello Gaijin,

I'm sure you've had a question like this before... but I'll ask anyway.

I was planning on take a trip to Japan with a couple of friends around mid August for a few weeks. I was wondering, do you have any any suggestions for a guide book or website where I can try to map out some places to visit?

I wanted to experience as much as possible, both old and new of Japan.

Also, what would be the best form of lodging? I've read about minshuku, ryokan, and dorms. What would you suggest if we just need something cheap, nothing fancy? If you know one with a website to make reservations, that would be awesome.

And is it possible to get subway passes that lasts for weeks?

I'd appreciate any help or advice.

Thank you!



Yay, a letter!

I notice you didn't say where in Japan you're going, but with a couple of weeks to work with... To start, here's a list of festivals and goings-on in Japan for the month of August. I can't testify to the experience for most of these, and I know that they can't all be worth a visit, but it's something to start with. Check up on a few that sound interesting and see if they're interesting enough to add to the itinerary. If you were coming mid-July, I'd definitely recommend the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival. As it is, if you come in the middle of O-Bon season (August 15th, plus the entire week around it) expect to have a lot of trouble getting lodging in some areas, not to mention some of the heaviest train traffic of the year.

As for lodgings, a lot depends on how long you wanted to stay in one place. There are "gaijin houses" which are basically just short-term rentable apartments for foreign visitors. The rent's a bit steep though, to make up for the lack of key money requirement. Ryokan are nice, but they're also rather high-end, and can run up to several hundred dollars a night for the really nice ones. Minshuku and hostels are generally the most accessible and best value, though if you want to go really cheap, it's possible to get lodging at some Buddhist temples for practically nothing.

Most regional train companies offer prepaid fare cards. In Tokyo, the one to get is the Suica card, which can be used for all the various trains and subways (minus the Shinkansen). It's also accepted as an alternative for other regional prepaid cards from Hokkaido to Fukuoka, making it a very useful item to get if you're planning on doing a lot of subway traffic in the big cities.

And that's a wrap! This week's column was a bit longer than I thought it would be, what with a few last-minute additions (not to mention the menu). And I haven't even checked the latest copy of Famitsu yet! Who knows what the future may hold? Apart from Judie, I guess?

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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