February 19th, 2008
Sumomo mo momo

Here's one for the tongue-twister fans: "Sumomo mo momo, momo mo momo, sumomo mo momo mo momo no uchi," which (more-or-less) translates as "Plums and peaches are both kinds of peaches; plums and peaches are in the peach family." But while the little Japanese sumomo plums are nice, the real star of the season is its close cousin, the ume plum.

Anyone who has eaten much authentic Japanese food has probably tried to eat an ume-boshi at some point, and probably had an unpleasant surprise when they bit into the salty little thing. Ume plums are best known for being salt-pickled and served with rice, and are definitely an acquired taste.

When the ume trees bloom, though, that's a different story. Ume are one of the first flowers to appear every year in most of Japan, and are considered the harbingers of spring. Long story short, last weekend turned out to be a very nice time to go see some:

And now on with the column!

This scan (or photo, rather) has some interesting info in it, though the picture quality makes it hard to read at times. A lot of it is just basic plot description about Rosa and Cecil's son, Theodore, and his goal of commanding the last of the Red Wing airships. All of the characters from the original game seem to be playable at some point, though one wonders how old man Cid is getting along these days. It's hinted in the magazine that some major ability changes have been made here and there, such as Rosa's Prayer ability getting an upgrade.

As for new information, there's a teaser for a new character in the lower-right corner, but who that might be is anyone's guess. The only definite new character aside from Theodore who is visible in the print is called The Stranger (nazo no otoko, or strange man), and he appears in some of the screen shots in the upper left section of the print. From the screens, he looks to be a swordsman, following the Magic Knight / Sorceror job class from Final Fantasy V. His known abilities include Cross Slash and Holy Sword.

I'm getting curious as to how this game is going to play out. For now, it's looking pretty good.

Source: NeoGAF Forums

I think this is a first, in my tenure as Japandemonium dude: for the first time in a long time, the number of Sony-based console RPGs outnumbers the DS RPGs on the Top 50 list. After a few months of near-total domination by Nintendo's handheld in the RPG market, it may be that the market is turning in Sony's favor, at least for a while. Or it could just be blipping -- early sales inflation caused by a devoted core of fans, with a steady (and sometimes dramatic) drop in sales after the first couple weeks. Yggdra Union is looking like a good example of this, at the moment. Its first week of sales put it at #7 on the board, then the next week it was down to #32. It's currently at #44 on the Top 50, and I doubt it'll be on the list at all next week.

Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
7 Down from 3 Tales of Destiny - Director's Cut Bandai-Namco
16 Down from 6 Disgaea 3 Nippon Ichi
19 Up from 23 Final Fantasy IV Square Enix
23 Up from 27 Dragon Quest IV Square Enix
36 New Arrival Coded Soul SCE
44 Down from 32 Yggdra Union Sting

Here we have a few more screens for the Summon Night DS game. Seeing as it's a remake of an original PlayStation tactical title, some resemblance to Final Fantasy Tactics in the actual gameplay is to be expected. In some of the other screens, we can see the conversation choice screen, which presumably has the power to alter parts of the storyline according to the choices made. Finally, we get a look at the Summons Interaction mini-game, which the player can use to improve their rapport with the main character's current familiar.

And to follow up, we also have this nice gift for those who order a copy in advance: a short animation DVD based on the game.

Source: Game Watch

Devil Summoner - Soul Hackers was possibly the best Shin Megami Tensei spinoff game that we never got in America, and it's nice to see that the game's odd blend of demonology and cyberpunk is getting its own side-story on the mobile phone. This iteration is a strategy game using the series' traditional roster of demons, with battles taking place in the not-so-virtual cyber-city of the original game.

Source: Dengeki Online

As I was being pulled through the local Youme Town shopping center last weekend, I happened to see this little game in one corner. It looks similar to the card-based arcade games that have been discussed in previous columns, but with a few new items I thought were interesting.

The game is played with plastic tokens, about the size of pogs, which the player receives when they put coins in the machine. Only one is received per game, but the player can use up to three, if they have them. Each token represents a Pokémon, complete with hit points and a limited moveset. You can place them as you please on the game's interface board, choosing offensive or defensive positions. The Pokémon will apparently use different moves depending on position. There's still a bit of the rock-paper-scissors play to it, but the game genre has moved a bit beyond that, it seems.

We'll just have to see how this catches on.

The Japanese company Alter, purveyors of anime and game characters in fine PVC plastic, have a few new models that might pique an RPGamer's fancy. Persona 3 had its share of cute girls, and for about US $60 each, two of them are (or will be) available to the discerning super-fan willing to import them. Aigis is currently available via Amazon or the Alter website, while the Mitsuru figure will be available in June of 2008.

Source: Dengeki Online
Ramble on, please


Okay, I'm going to try to make this one quick since I just ramble WAY too much in my letter to QnA. Yesterday as I was being sleepy and bored, the words "doa o shimarimasu" popped into my head. I can remember the way the train announcer said it too. I couldn't remember whether that is the doors are going to close or the doors are going to open, so I pulled out my dictionary and found that shimaru is close. The reason I'm writing is that I can't remember what the appropriate word for open is in the context of sliding train/subway doors. There were too many entries in my dictionary so I'm not sure what's right.

Incidently, my subconscious must be focused on Japan 24/7 lately because I wasn't even thinking about anything Japan or Japanese related when I suddenly thought of riding the train in Tokyo. Maybe its because I might be going to Japan next summer. That would be awesome. In the meantime, I'll just study Japanese a lot. Classes ended for me yesterday and I only have one final (for Psychology class) on Friday so I just sat in my room and studied Japanese today. I was able to write 64 kanji off the top of my head today, so I'm happy.

Ja ne,



Well, the best version of "to open" to use would probably be aku. Akeru, the other version of the verb, means "I open the door." There's also hiraku, which shares some meaning with akeru, but also can mean to unfold something. For that matter... Well, hate to be a teacher, but the phrase you're remembering is "doa ga shimarimasu." Japanese is odd this way, but there's always a difference made between the transitive (needs a direct object) and intransitive (doesn't need one) versions of verbs. For "to close," the two versions are shimeru and shimaru. "Doa wo shimeru" would mean "I close the door," while "Doa ga shimaru" would mean "The door closes." Akeru and aku are another pair. With a bit of practice, it's pretty easy to pick out the pairs. Verbs ending in -maru or -meru often have counterparts like that, while other verbs will change their ending to -su for transitive forms, like "to return" (kaeru, kaesu). Some, like aku/akeru and kesu/kieru (to put out, erase, extinguish) will have internal spelling changes too. You'll learn all of these in Japanese 200, I'm sure.

Keep up the studying, and sorry it took so long to answer this one!

Well, things are busy as ever, with school projects, public holidays, and Valentine's Day making for a hectic week. I'm all V-ed out, personally, but if anyone really wants to know more about Japan's take on the holiday, feel free to drop me a line.

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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