sanrinbou, kisaragi no nijuugonichi

We're almost through with winter here in Hi-no-kuni, and so we must say goodbye to some little friends who've been passing the time in the area. This time of year, half-slices of orange stuck on tree branches become a common sight, and there are plenty of birds who take advantage of it.

There are plenty of migratory birds passing through the country during the winter, but these two are new to me. They normally live in central Honshu or parts farther north, but they will winter throughout Kyushu. I'd never seen either before last Christmas.

The greyish one with the fat yellow beak is called an ikaru, or Japanese grosbeak. A huge flock of these guys took a liking to the trees along the north end of Lake Ezu, about five minutes from my apartment, so I saw them regularly every day for over a month.

The little green one I only saw twice. The first time I only got a glimpse, and misidentified it. The second time, there were about seven or eight flitting about near my school. I got a good enough look that I could write a good description down. With a grade-school bird guide, I was finally able to identify it as a mahiwa, or Eurasian siskin.

Cute little guys, aren't they? I'm sorry to see them go.

It's the last update of the month, and that means it's time once again for Hiroyuki Maeda's Lovely Lady Lab! Two weeks back we got the lovely lasses of Amagami sweetly presenting sweets for St. Valentine's Day. Today's ladies are a bit more mature, if you get my drift.

Aya Gozen hails from the Samurai Warriors series, specifically Sengoku Musou 3 Z, which has yet to leave Japan. Gozen isn't her last name, by the way. It's a title of rank. Back in the feudal days a person might have several names based on ancestry, clan affiliation, station in life, and rank within the hierarchy. That's part of what makes The Tale of Genji so difficult to translate properly.

And now we have a double-header. From the newly released action-adventure title Catherine, here are Catherine and Katherine. If you think that's confusing, imagine how the Japanese gamers are feeling. There's no difference between C and K in Japanese writing. Anyway, of all the pinups that Maeda has done, I think this has to be the only one where he may have toned it down a little.

Source: Famitsu Weekly
2/7 ~ 2/13 1/31 ~ 2/6 Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
2 * New Arrival! Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology 3 Bandai-Namco
3 4 Last seen at 6 Monster Hunter Portable 3rd Capcom
9 3 New Arrival! White Knight Chronicles: Dogma Wars SCE
12 11 Last seen at 12 Pokémon Black/White Nintendo
14 7 Last seen at 1 The Last Story Nintendo
20 8 Last seen at 2 Valkyria Chronicles III Sega
22 22 Last seen at 21 Inazuma Eleven 3 - The Ogre Level-5
25 10 Last seen at 7 Dragon Age: Origins Spike
26 17 Last seen at 15 Ninokuni - The Mage of Darkness Level-5
27 * New Arrival! Students of Round Experience
Off-list 16 Last seen at 9 Kingdom Hearts - Birth By Sleep Final Mix Square Enix
Off-list 19 New Arrival! Atelier Violet - Alchemist of Gramnad 2 PSP Gust

The 3DS has seen a lot of sequels and remakes announced prior to its official launch this week, but here's an original title to add to the list: Unchain Blades Rexx. Yes, the doubled X is intentional.

Once upon an aeon, the goddess Klunea created a world just for monsters. Big ones, small ones, all sorts of monsters. There was just one, simple rule above all others: Don't piss off the Goddess. The young king of the Dragons, Fang, was never good at following the rules though. In a classic example of hubris, he set himself against Klunea, challenging her might. And with an Olympian level of flair, she swatted him down. Once he regained consciousness, he found that things weren't quite the same as he remembered. Instead of being red, scaly, and powerful, he was pink, squishy, and tasty with ketchup.

In other words, Fang is a human, the lowest creature on the food chain. That hasn't improved his attitude any. The folks at FuRyuu describe him as a "kono ore-sama" character (a reference to his personal pronoun choice). Think Laharl from Disgaea. His character designer is the guy who did Shining Force EXA (for the PS2).

The main reason I mention the character designs is because few major characters in this game seem to share a common artist. The two ladies above were both designed by the guy who did the IdolM@ster series, for example. Diana is the princess of the Phoenixes and she loves dragons, literally and intimately. She figures that if Fang can somehow get reborn as a dragon, so can she. The other girl is Nico, of the Ninetails clan. The only interesting thing mentioned in her profile is that she's a major tomboy.

The other five major characters known so far all have different artists. Lapis is a young Medusa with terrible luck in love. Her artist also did Sora no Otoshimono. Sylvie is a Shinigami in search of her brother (by the artist of Mahoutsukai ni taisetsu no koto). Hector is a Golem prince who has run away from home to escape upcoming nuptials involving his 100 fiancées. His artist was behind the character designs of the Summon Knight series. From the artist from Hexyz Force we have Marie, who is actually a young Mandragora plant. Finally, there's Klunea herself, with her character design by the artist of Bastard!!.

Those who would demand boons from the Goddess must first pass her tests. These tests come in the form of the Titans, living dungeons that wander the land. Inside each Titan lies an ordeal, as well as copious amounts of toxic miasma. Adventurers who tarry too long in the innards of the Titan risk succumbing to this miasma and transforming into mindless abominations. The titan pictured above is called Dalith and is specifically described as being humanoid in shape. This implies that other Titans might not be. Fang and up to three companions of choice must explore the depths of these living dungeons. Along the way, there's also the chance to use the Unchain system to pressgang weaker enemies into Fang's service, giving him a handy support crew of generic monsters.

Unchain Blades Rexx is arriving in June for 3DS and PSP. Hopefully I'll have a chance to get my hands on a 3DS before then.

Source: Dengeki Online

While checking out the latest doujin news this month, I came across this video. It's not for an RPG, but for an "Escape the Room" puzzle/adventure game instead. It looks pretty good, so I thought I'd share. The game's name is Mayonaka Mayoi ga, or "Lost in the Dead of Night." I think the title sounds better in Japanese, but that's just me.

More pertinent to the column is what I found in the links after the video ended. I've only been keeping track of the doujin scene for a few months, and there are plenty of interesting things out there that I could only wish I had found back when they were new. Here's one now.

About a year and a half ago, Lucky Star - Miko Miko Kagamin became available for indie game enthusiasts across Japan. It's a side-scrolling action-RPG starring characters from the Lucky Star anime, but set in the old feudal period of Japan, complete with every youkai in my Japanese monster dictionary for good measure.

The game itself is by a group called ChinchillaSoft, and it's not the only project in their resume. I'll be showing more from this group in the future, as they have a unique sense of humor. Here's how Kagamin looks in action, by the way.

Source: DoujinGame

Tomorrow's the big day for many gamers in Japan. On February 26th, the 3DS rolls out in stores across the country. So many people attempted to pre-order one that the big Tsutaya downtown was forced to choose customers by lottery. Today, the latest issue of Famitsu Weekly showcased all the various titles to arrive on the platform in the next few months, including a few games of interest to this column. A few we already knew, like Ocarina of Time, Unchain Blades Rexx, Mega Man Legends 3, Devil Survivor Overclock, Paper Mario, and Fantasy Life. For a few games, all we knew was a name, like Inazuma Eleven GO or Level-5's Time Travellers (the genre of which we are still not sure on).

There were quite a few titles listed as simply "proposed" or "to be announced," however. Acquire apparently is considering a 3DS installment of the Class of Heroes series, for example. Rocket Company has a Medabots game planned for this year, and there might be a new Chocobo Racing title as well. Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, Shin Megami Tensei, Etrian Odyssey, Harvest Moon, and Persona all had a mention, though more as speculation than anything else.

Finally, there are two mystery titles. From Hudson, there's Omega Five, which may be an RPG or may be something else. Alpha Unit, best known in Japan for their social games, also has a 3DS title in the works. In the article, it's listed simply as "SRPG." At least there's no doubt about its genre.

The future looks busy for Japandemonium, at least as far as this system goes.

Source: Famitsu Weekly

The world is going to end. You have only 24 hours left. What do you do? If you're the hero, you go and save the world. If you're an average joe, we have a slightly safer proposition for your final hours.

Imageepoch is now offering an early purchase bonus for Final Promise Story, due out April 28th. The usual art book is offered, in this case the "Book of Secret." Along with that Imageepoch is also giving out preview disks for their next title, Black Rock Shooter. On it are supposedly new gameplay videos, art, and a 360-degree rotatable model image of the three principal characters.

Something for gamers over here to look forward to, no?

Source: Dengeki Online

It's warm. Warm! Temperatures have risen between twenty and thirty degrees since the last update, and the plum trees are in bloom. Time to retire my heavy coat for the year.

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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