February 4th, 2008

I must apologize for the lapse. A bad IRC connection the one week, and a bad cold-turned pneumonia the next, leaves Gaijin an unhappy boy. The only thing that could possibly make up for it would be some good, or at least interesting, news from the Far East. That said, we're putting this out Monday because 1) there's no way I'm tempting fate again by waiting till my next regularly (hah!) scheduled update, and 2) what with the Superbowl on Monday, and Mardi Gras and the primaries on Tuesday, perhaps no one will notice this one's three days late.

So now Japandemonium goes in search of answers to those mysterious questions in life. Such as, what new games are out there? What are they like? Why did anyone ever think natto would make a good food? And for heaven's sake, what is up with those Butt-Biting Bugs?

Yes, Butt-Biting Bugs, the newest fad in children's entertainment, as well as (aside from head colds) the current bane of my existence. This has to be one of the most annoying songs I have ever heard, combined with a rather disturbing video about a bug that encourages social interaction by biting people on the rear. Since I work with kids most of the time, it's become impossible to avoid this song. But why complain about it, when I can just spread the misery some more?

So cover your butts, endure the inanity, and let's move on to some bug-free entertainment.

Here's one for the "Only in Japan" file. PC Zeus, a Japanese online hardware site, is offering some of the swankest, most expensive computers for the nouveau riche I have ever heard of. We're not just talking raw power here, though the specs look pretty good (I think, from what I can understand). We're talking about platinum or gold coated PC cases, encrusted with diamonds. The computer with the platinum casing will set you back 80,000,000 yen, while in comparison the gold computer is a bargain at a measly 60,000,000. Don't bother with the dollar-to-yen conversion rates here, the answer is a foregone "you can't afford it."

OS CPU RAM Video Card Hard Drive DVD Drive Other
MS Windows Vista Ultimate Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 3.00 GHz 2048 MB (dual 1024 cards) VGA card 256MB GeForce 7200GS 1 Terabyte, 7200rpm Blu-Ray + HD DVD compatible Cordless laser mouse, Flex-scan 19" monitor

Source: PC Zeus

Again, a multiple-week Dengeki update. Partly this is because of last week's personal problems, and partly it's because it took this long for Dengeki to realize their report schedule had fallen behind by almost a week over the holidays, and so apparently did an extra update. And so, without further ado, your weekly Dengeki:

Position Last Week Week Before Title Publisher Platform
7 New Arrival! New Arrival Yggdra Union Sting
16 8 4 Final Fantasy IV Square Enix
17 11 7 Dragon Quest IV Square Enix
29 14 11 Rune Factory Marvelous
34 22 15 Star Ocean 1 - First Departure Square Enix
35 41 33 Yuusha no kuse ni namaikida SCE
40 24 14 Super Robot Taisen OG Gaiden Banpresto
47 43 29 Tales of Innocence Bandai
Off-list (for now) 46 52 Pokémon Diamond Nintendo

Last time, Macstorm asked me what upcoming games were on my shopping list, and I gave a half-hearted answer. Then I actually went looking to see what was coming up, and I found this offering from the folks who brought us the Summon Night series. Now normally, I am not the biggest fan of tactical simulation games, especially since my attempt to plow through three Nippon-Ichi titles in a row, but this game strikes me as being really, really different somehow. Let's take a look, shall we?

These three are the main characters: Daisy, Orphen, and Harsh. Yes, the loli-goth with the pom-pom hairstyle is named Daisy. Your choice of main character apparently affects the direction the story goes from the beginning. Each of them has two or three other characters in their party, according to the game's home page, though how that works, I do not yet know. It is apparent you can include enemy monsters in your party, though

Here are a few of the party members identified on the website:

And a sampler of screens taken from Dengeki and Famitsu.

In the story, the kingdom of Bardamian is being overrun by hordes of chimeric "majin," a word which in Japanese can mean "demon god" or "demon/magic person", depending on the kanji. In this game, the programmers wrote in their own special kanji symbol incorporating both meanings. This is a pretty odd thing to do, but I'm sure there's a point to be made there. The majin themselves are grotesques -- weird fusions of animals and men who just look wrong, with names like Luna Belator, Ek Aranea, Hasturnis, and Gortoas.

Back to the kingdom. The king, keeping in pace with the genre, has fallen ill, and the security of the kingdom itself has become unstable. His daughter has been the target of several attacks so far which, despite the best attempts of her bodyguards, have come dangerously close to success.

At which point Daisy comes into the picture. With a horned wolf as her mentor and confidante, and a book large enough to count as a bludgeon-type weapon in its own right, this odd little loli-goth looks like she can actually do something against the majin menace. How? We shall have to see.

From what I've been able to find, this game has a rather nice soundtrack, and the makings for an interesting story. I would recommend checking out the game's site, if only to see the opening video. The site menu is easily usable as well, though everything else there is in Japanese.

Source: Dengeki Online Source: Poison Pink HP

With fair certainty, I can say this is the one that no one saw coming. Final Fantasy IV was a great game on several consoles, and one thing that it can not be said to have lacked was a solid ending that seemed to settle things quite nicely. So why a sequel? I have no answer for you, and I have little to offer in details for the story, either, I am sorry to say.

This is what I do know: that about 15 or so years after the events in FFIV, things are going pretty well for the former heroes. The kingdoms of Damcyan and Eblana have been rebuilt, and the kingdom of Baron is prospering under the rule of King Cecil. Then something happens to the moon. That's what I can get out of a screenshot, but that alone can tell us a lot. Anyone who's played through to the end of FFIV should remember the importance the moon held in the storyline.

This time around, the hero of the story is Theodore, son of Cecil, who has apparently been training to follow in his father's footsteps as an airship commander. No news on other characters, however that one picture barred with SAMPLE over it (which means it's downloadable to your phone as a wallpaper) shows someone who looks much like Rydia standing next to Theodore.

This looks like one I might download anyway, if only for the nostalgic early-SNES graphics, and a morbid curiosity as to why Cecil is getting a faceful of Megaflare from Bahamut in that third screenshot. Square Enix does have a few games available for cellphones in the United States, so there's always a chance they'll bring it across sometime.

Source: Dengeki Online

This nifty little game is my other choice for the current "Must Buy" list, for when I finally make it through Final Fantasy IV on the DS.. There doesn't seem to be much story to this one, apart from "save the kingdom from the dire hole in the ground," but from the screens and video I have seen, there doesn't have to be. This really looks like the kind of solid action title we've been waiting for since half-past forever, and much more of a spiritual successor to Secret of Mana than that game's more recent sequels. Due to the various snafus of the last two weeks, Neist beat me to the punch on screenshots, but I thought I'd pull out a few new pictures. The boss picture I thought was particularly tasty, and the rest make for a nice garnish.

As you can see from the pics, the top screen is for action, while the bottom is for item organization and skill management. For anyone interested in seeing more of the game in action, there's a nice video clip Source: Dengeki Online

Welcome Back


I'm glad to see that you're back. Given the large sales numbers of games and hardware mentioned in the column, I wonder what percentage of people in Japan own a game system? I wonder how that number compares to the U.S.? I also wonder if Tales of Innocence will make it to the U.S.? Me being a foolish person, I bought the game despite not being proficient in Japanese...yet. I'm going to go back to Japan this summer to, hopefully, learn a lot.

Speaking of being in Japan, you mentioned that you have students. You probably mentioned this already but, does that mean you're an English teacher? If so, what's that like? I'm not so sure I would ever make a good English teacher because while I can speak correctly, I don't actually know the rules of English grammar. I only learned by people correcting me, not by memorizing sentence patterns.

As usual, I've rambled on long enough...



It's nice to be back. While I can't really give any accurate numbers, I can state that the Nintendo DS seems to be the "got to have" item in the upper elementary and junior high school set. In warm weather, you can see groups of 3rd and 4th graders sitting in apartment building stairwells and other open areas, playing Mario Kart or Pokémon on a regular basis.

As I've said, don't play the game for the understanding, at least not the first time around. Focus on building up the vocabulary, and work on your understanding of the "katakana English" which gaming Japanese is stuffed with. So, when you play the game through a second time, you'll understand more just from experience, and enjoy it more from the beginning.

Most foreign teachers in Japan teach conversational English, so an in-depth knowledge of English grammar isn't all that necessary to teach over here. Trust me, Japanese middle- and high school students get far too much drilling in advanced grammar via cram schools already. And not even regularly used grammar, but also archaic and poetic forms that you'd never need in reasonable use. But to answer your main question there, yes, I am an English teacher over here. My students range from age 2 to 11. Some of the little ones can be surprisingly enthusiastic about it, too.

I'm feeling much better now, so I'll be pulling out some more stuff for a short column this Friday, hopefully. The Japanese holy day of Setsubun was this past weekend, so I'll be writing a little about that as well. Feel free to write in if you have any questions about Japan -- the language, the life, the little perqs or peeves that foreigners get over here. I'll be here.

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari
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