juu-ni-gatsu no juu-ichi-nichi

This Sunday past was a big day for many foreigners in Japan, myself included. We braved unfamiliar routes of public transit in the wee hours of the morning, to gather in cramped university rooms and test our skills. It was time for the Nihongo Nouryoku Shiken, or Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

The JLPT is the biggest and most respected gauge of Japanese ability I know, and is a requirement for pretty much any advanced work in Japanese. It used to also be a requirement for advanced study, but there's a separate, specialized test for that now. There are people who dedicate months of study just for this day. My mistake, which I realized a little too late, is that I studied the language, but not the test.

It's not that it was too difficult -- in fact, the Level 2 JLPT is right about the level I'm at. It was that there was a large gap between what I knew and could use, and what the test makers thought was necessary. Kanji for commonly used words were avoided in favor of hiragana, but words like "lava" we were required to know. I've played lots of games, and know that lava in Japanese is yougan, but until last Sunday I'd never even seen the kanji associated with that word used in any practical sense.

My biggest point of frustration was the reading section. In all but a few cases I had no problems reading the excerpts. Instead, I often found the wording of the answer choices to be more confusing. So, even though I probably could have translated half the test in an afternoon, I'm still not sure how well I did.

I was pleasantly surprised with the listening section, though. In the past, this has always been my worst area, so I came into it with a "glass half full" mindset. It was hard not to giggle at the excerpt of the children's story (complete with stereotypical little old man's voice) at one point. I heard not long after that the Level 1 listening test included something that was described as a "Gundam kinda action clip thing", but was later identified as coming from Evangelion.

It's going to be a long wait to see how I did. I'm just going to have to assume I'll be taking this again in July.

I saw this a few days back as I was walking past the local movie theater, and thought I would share. It's the flyer for the new Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva movie, which will start showing next weekend. I'm pretty sure we have some fans of the series in the audience, so this should be appreciated.

Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
5 Down from 3 Pokémon Heart Gold / Soul Silver Nintendo
6 Holding at 6 Inazuma Eleven 2 Fire/Blizzard Level Five
13 New Arrival! La Pucelle - Ragnarok Nippon Ichi
19 Down from 18 Dragon Quest IX - Defender of the Stars Square Enix
22 Down from 17 Final Fantasy Gaiden - Four Warriors of Light Square Enix
29 Down from 19 MegaMan Battle Network - Operation Shooting Star Capcom

Are you ready for a treasure hunt? Then Bandai-Namco has something for you in the upcoming Sgt. Frog RPG. Five days prior to the game's release on March 4th, there's to be a big SD Gundam / Keroro crossover event.

Amongst the plethora of promotional materials which will be sold or given away, there are approximately 300 passwords. If one can assemble the five correct passwords together in the game itself, then the player can unlock the secret of Captain Kebarow's secret pirate treasure and gain a special item with which to bash monsters. X marks the spot?

Source: Dengeki Online

As a follow up to last week's mention of the new Atlus title, Tokyo Exorcist, we have screens! Pretty much everything here was in the scans shown last time, but they should be easier to look at now. The visual adventure side of the game really shows through with these.

Source: Famitsu Online

In other news (since there wasn't much to talk about this week when I started typing), Bandai-Namco Games (or Namco-Bandai, whichever you prefer) announced a new Digimon title a few weeks back. The full title is Digimon Stories : Lost Evolution, and your guess is about as good as mine as to what the plot's going to be. I have vague memories of the television series running through my head, but then again I also have memories (slightly less vague, in fact) of the old Dragon Warrior cartoon and Cities of Gold from when I was in second grade. By the way, if anyone's looking to buy a Christmas or birthday present for me... *hint hint* Er, in any case, the game's nice, new, and barely informative website can be found here.

Does anyone out there recall a time when games had "boss keys"? I remember playing a lot of games like that back in the day, when most of my gaming was shareware off of old BBS's like Torii Station. The "boss key" was a sort of panic button that would pause the game and bring up an image (sometimes a fake desktop, sometimes a page of code) designed to make it look like you were working and not goofing off at your desk. They aren't as common these days, but there are times they come in handy.

Enter Queen's Blade - Spiral Chaos, an embarrassing game to be caught with at the wrong time, by any means. While it never has full nudity, if only by a technicality in some cases, there is far more skin and whatnot being shown than most would like to get caught with (be it by spouse, boss, or parent). Realizing this, the programmers have taken it upon themselves to include a boss key. Pressing START and SELECT at the same time will bring up a screenshot of perhaps the most generic-looking 8-bit RPG possible.

Source: Siliconera

The Etrian series has never been afraid of the unknown, as legions of brave dungeon-divers can attest. The third entry in the series, Visitors to the Sea of Stars, throws players into strange and uncharted waters as the adventure goes nautical. Of course, with the series' penchant for making the player do all the mapwork as he or she explores, these waters aren't going to be uncharted for very long.

What would be a new journey without new companions? The Princess class provides strong, morale-boosting support skills. The Phalanx is the new heavy class, with incredible defensive strength. The Monk does all the usual super martial arts stuff that we have come to expect. And then there's the Pirate and the Ninja. Add your own internet meme joke here.

Source: Famitsu Online

So what does everyone want for Christmas? Any odds and ends from the Land of the Rising Sun that interest you? Write in and tell us!

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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