November 30th, 2007
Mou Sukoshi

Hello all, and welcome to this week's Japandemonium column. My apologies for last week, but the holiday weekend was a busy one. That's the Culture Day weekend, by the way. However, since most of our audience spent the weekend celebrating themselves into triptophan-induced semi-comatose states, I doubt anyone really noticed. So, what did we miss?

Square Enix, having previously brought its considerable marketing skills to the fore with the release of Potion (tm) in stores last month, has decided that there is more cash to be milked from this cow yet. It's the same questionably-flavored energy soda as before, in new collectible packaging, and featuring some extra swag as well. Let's take a look:

I apologize for the image quality. My little cellphone camera just couldn't handle the extra layer of plastic packaging that well, at least not while also straining the limits of its internal memory storage. To help make up for it, I also found a nice picture from Dengeki that shows the actual figurines included in each set. I didn't get one myself, because I have more important things to spend 980 yen on this year. Thankfully, the nice ladies at Family Mart were willing to let me take pictures again.

Source: Dengeki Online

A huge number of games were scheduled to come out on November 22nd, one day ahead of the Culture Day weekend. Out of all of these, eight were RPGs, for a wide variety of systems. So let's see how the sales went for their first week, hm?

Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
1 New Release! Dragon Quest IV Square Enix
4 New Release! Final Fantasy XI - Wings of the Goddess Square Enix
7 New Release! Dinosaur King - The Seven Fragments Sega
8 New Release! Mega Man Star Force 2 - Berserk x Dinosaur Capcom
9 New Release! Mega Man Star Force 2 - Berserk x Shinobi Capcom
22 New Release! Final Fantasy XI - Wings of the Goddess Square Enix
25 Down from 9 Final Fantasy Tactics A2 - The Sealed Grimoire Square Enix
27 Down from 22 Pokemon Dungeon: Time Explorers Nintendo
33 Down from 26 Pokemon Dungeon: Darkness Explorers Nintendo
47 New Release! Final Fantasy XI - Vana'diel Collection (2007 Edition) Square Enix

Whew, that's a big change on the ratings board. Granted, several of the games on the list are parts of functionally identical sets, but even so, that's a lot of product moving around. It's even pushed Pokemon Diamond/Pearl off the board entirely, though that's a pair which are bound to make a comeback yet again.

For those of us who need a little sweet angel loving on those long commutes, Nippon Ichi Software has brought a solution: Mugen Keitai Disgaea Flonne-hen (Endless Terrain Disgaea, the Book of Flonne).

Perhaps thankfully, this is not a tactical game. With the limits imposed by the hardware, that sort of game would be really annoying to play. Instead, we have a very Japanese gaming experience, known as a sugoroku. Since I doubt that makes sense to anyone, let me find an example... Does anyone remember the board-game style side quests in Dragon Warrior III? You rolled the dice, and advanced your character along the board, where he or she had to interact with whatever else was on their panel. This is what The Book of Flonne is, a sugoroku.

From what it looks like, Flonne, the ditzy-but-lovable angel from Disgaea, has been transformed into a Prinny by her arch-rival Etna, and now has to chase the little devil ever-deeper into the forests of the Underworld. Her only way of fighting back involves magic cards, selected by the player for her use.

Source: Dengeki Online

Collectable Card Games (CCGs) have been a facet of the gaming microcosm for many years now, so it's not surprising that the game companies have been busy integrating the physical aspect of card collecting in real life with a more virtual game experience. Over the last few years, E-reader games like Mushi King and Oshare Majou have become the most popular arcade machines for the elementary school set, with their simple gameplay and colorful collector's cards.

More recently, there's been some move into the adult market. One major example is virtual sports games, where the player lays out cards representing athletes onto an E-reader table, which translates the encoded data on the cards into game action. Another version, based off the Chinese Romance of the Three Kingdoms, pits players against each other in simulated wars, with cards representing resources and groups of soldiers.

Now, Square Enix has taken this approach in a new direction. Lord of Vermilion, an arcade, electronic, CCG role-playing game will be released in game centers around Japan next week.

Behold, the next step towards making Yu-Gi-Oh CCG technology a reality.

First, we have some screens of the action a player's card-handling skills can evoke, as well as a look at the status screen, where equipment cards can be added to the player avatar.

Next, we have some lovely concept art. Long-time fans of the Final Fantasy franchise should recognize the handiwork of Yoshitaka Amano.

And last, we have a pair of the monster cards themselves.

Source: Dengeki Online

We have a few items of mentionable swag lined up for you today. For the Pokemaniacs, we have this lovely new figurine from the Kaiyoudo Company. It's a limited edition, and will be available at pretty much anywhere Pokémon figurines are sold in Japan, from December 7th to the 31st.

For our listening pleasure, we have the official soundtrack to Final Fantasy Tactics A2:

To cap things off, we have a nice gift for those folks in Japan who reserved a copy of Disgaea 3:

Source: Dengeki Online

Well, it's been a busy week or two. I've wined and dined the girlfriend for her birthday, went birdwatching, and endured the perils of the shopping malls. There have been some surprises, like when my favorite Family Mart employees gave me a 60-year-old Japanese 10-sen coin (out of circulation since 1947). All in all, it's been fun. I just hope I get something to put in the letter section next week!

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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