The X Button
The Last Record Chronicles

by Todd Ciolek, Nov 11th 2009

Welcome to another edition of The X Button's 2010 preview, in which I try to pare down the PlayStation 3 exclusives and make my readers argue with each other. And when it comes to that, I'm both proud of and disappointed in all of you.

Nothing sparks game-geek arguments like system wars, and I was hoping that last column's Wii coverage would set our forums aflame with spite and insults. And that really didn't happen. There were civil disagreements at worst. So what's wrong with all of you? Aren't you hopelessly loyal to one of the three current game systems? Don't you hate the Wii or the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3? Why can't you be more like the rest of the Internet and squabble over video games at every opportunity? Well, I'm glad you don't. Mostly glad.

NEWS

BLAZBLUE LANDS ON PSP, LOOKS…DIFFERENT
Arc System Works wastes no time in broadening BlazBlue. There's already an expansion in arcades, and the original game is lined up for a PSP port in Japan next year. While the PSP might not be able to handle the “high-resolution graphics” (I love that phrase! Sounds like something from a Sega Genesis box!) of the BlazBlue we saw on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, I'm sure that Arc System Works can put together something impressive.

Oh. Well, perhaps that's just a low-quality screenshot. Perhaps all of these are. Or perhaps there'll be something extra to make BlazBlue Portable more appealing, just like PSP versions of Guilty Gear piggybacked onto the brawler Guilty Gear Judgment. Of course, Judgment was mediocre, and the BlazBlue fans will probably reject Portable if it's anything less than precise in gameplay.

EVE BURST ERROR ANNOUNCED FOR PSP
Eve Burst Error actually came out for North American computers waaaaay back in the late 1990s, courtesy of Himeya Soft. I avoided it because I was busy playing lousy RPGs. And because it looked like porn. Which it was to a mild extent, according to some websites that I don't completely believe. Still, Eve Burst Error has a dynamic interesting among visual novels, as the player flips between controlling a detective named Kojiro (identified as the player-insertion character by his eyes-hiding hairstyle) and a secret agent named Marina. Whatever they did must've been popular in some circles, because Kadokawa is not only porting Eve Burst Error to the Japanese PSP. They're also redrawing most of the art for it. Here's what the game looked like in the 1990s.

Well, the 1990s are long over, and Kadokawa's remaking Eve Burst Error to reflect modern anime stylings. Here's the all-new Marina and Kojiro, the latter of whom now has visible eyes.

This site has a longer comparison of how all of the characters change their looks for the PSP port of Eve Burst Error. Even if you don't care about the game in the slightest, it's a telling glimpse of the difference between two eras of exploitive Japanese games.

IN BRIEF: SQUARE ENIX ANNOUNCES FFXIII ANNOUNCEMENT, TOSHINDEN HAS VOICE ACTING
We still don't know when Final Fantasy XIII is coming to North America, but we will by the end of the week. Through some quickly decoded anagram, Square Enix revealed that the game's ship date will be known by November 13, this Friday. If this news dealt with any other game, I'd ignore it, but it's Final Fantasy XIII.

In the continuing saga of Tōshinden's inevitable failure, Tomy's now promoting the game with a trailer highlighting the game's voice acting and its special bonus drama CD. Watch for your favorites, who will at least get a paycheck out of this mess. If this news dealt with any other game, I'd ignore it, but this Wii-based rebirth of Tōshinden really draws my pity coverage.

THE PLAYSTATION 3 IN 2010

Continuing this column's coverage of 2010's most interesting titles for the discerning, anime-watching misfit, we now turn to the PlayStation 3 exclusives coming next year. If there are fewer entries here than there were for the Wii feature last week, that's because the Wii is a superior system and we are completely biased in its favor.

ATELIER RORONA
Developer: Gust
Japanese Publisher: Gust
American Publisher: NIS America
Coming: Summer 2010

It's no longer novel to see Gust's Atelier games here in North America, as we've already been through several Atelier Iris titles on the PS2 and the recent Atelier Annie on DS. Yet Rorona stands out by moving the series into 3-D, and not half-bad 3-D at that. Of course, this is a franchise long defined by simple, flat sprites and micromanaging item creation, and Rorona doesn't leave all of that behind.

So, despite its pretty new look, Rorona still has many of the staples of its series: turn-based battles, precious little-girl characters, and tasks that involve hunting down ingredients and creating new items. Gust also sticks to somewhat static conversation scenes to convey much of the story, though they're all fully voiced. And that's always a plus to anime fans.

THE LAST GUARDIAN
Developer: Sony
Japanese Publisher: Sony
American Publisher: Sony
Coming: By the end of 2010, if we're lucky

Fumito Ueda's future is bright in the game industry, where anyone who doesn't admit to being moved by Ico and Shadow of the Colossus is savagely beaten and ostracized. So Ueda's next game, The Last Guardian, has few devoted critics. Ueda once again plays thing simple, putting players in control of a small boy with basic motor skills, some sprinting abilities, and a giant baby griffin for a pet. Said griffin isn't directly at the player's command, so it falls to the boy to coax the creature around by riding it, distracting it, entertaining it, and somehow getting it to solve puzzles.

Like Ueda's previous games, The Last Guardian is stunning in its fairly realistic depictions of ancient ruins, all without overblown anime exaggeration or pink-haired superheroines or whatever. The gameplay itself may be The Last Guardian's greatest hurdle, of course. Ueda's past games were deliberately awkward in control, and directing a giant monster-kitten might be even more frustrating. We'll risk it.

THE LAST REBELLION
Developer: Hit Maker
Japanese Publisher: NIS
American Publisher: NIS America
Coming: Summer 2010

The Last Rebellion is Nippon Ichi Software's strongest attempt yet to break away from the cutesy strategy-RPGs of the Disgaea series. Developed by Hit Maker and stocked with relatively mature-looking characters (next to the Disgaea munchkins, anyway), The Last Rebellion is an action-RPG that takes unexpected inspiration from one of the best of its genre: Yasumi Matsuno's Vagrant Story. Like that PlayStation classic, Last Rebellion lets players directly control characters in the field and target enemies piece by piece. Battles follow turns, but hacking away at a particular part of an enemy has distinct tactical advantages.

Players control two blade-wielding characters: the red-haired Nine Asfel, and the blonde, magic-wielding Aisha Romandine. The two seem to share one body, as you can switch between them at any time, and they're wrapped up in some elaborate plot involving ancient gods and the usual J-RPG chatter. In testament to the still-limited budgets of NIS and Hit Maker, much of The Last Rebellion's dialogue is conveyed through character cutouts and spoken dialogue, though the game's art has a strangely pastel-like look.

RECORD OF AGAREST WAR
Developer: Idea Factory
Japanese Publisher: Idea Factory
American Publisher: Aksys Games
Coming: First-Quarter 2010

One look at Agarest's might-get-you-fired official website should confirm that it's one of those games. In addition to that memorable shot of a female character eating a huge, glistening sausage, there are numerous scenes of other women devouring suggestively sloppy foods, getting dressed, or lounging around in hot springs. It's all part of the game's romantic element, in which the player dates several girls, including elves and fox-eared folk, and eventually marries one, producing an heir to serve a mysterious goddess. It's like Phantasy Star III and Dragon Quest V, only with more anime women messily eating ice cream and blushing in wedding dresses.

And there's a strategy-RPG within this. Similar to Idea Factory's Spectral franchise, Agarest plays out in grids and allows multiple characters to rack up damaging combos during battle. The game still uses average-looking character sprites, perhaps disappointing for something that was a full-fledged PlayStation 3 game in Japan and Europe. In North America, however, it'll be a PlayStation Network download.

WHITE KNIGHT CHRONICLES
Developer: Level-5
Japanese Publisher: Sony
American Publisher: Sony
Coming: February 2010

The North American edition of White Knight Chronicles lags behind its Japanese version, which came out in late 2008 and already has a sequel on the way. Still, this is Sony's first big Final Fantasy-esque RPG for the PlayStation 3, and, much like the publisher's big-budget Rogue Galaxy of the last generation, it was developed by the workhorses at Level-5. White Knight Chronicles puts its budget to good visual use, with huge enemies and an equally large mechanized knight for the game's hero to control. Battles are all generated without any annoying breaks or turns, and party members can team up for combo attacks, as is the trend in modern RPGs.

The characters of White Knight Chronicles don't really break any stereotypes, ranging from the heroic kid to a captured princess to the heroic kid's girl-next-door friend and a bunch of supporting warriors. At least the opening has a princess getting abducted by an evil company called The Wizard, as opposed to yet another dark empire or aspiring overlord. I'm sure it'll turn out to be nothing particularly creative, though it's hard to deny that Level-5's aiming for the cinematic and stuffing White Knight Chronicles with pretty cutscenes and vibrant, psuedo-Celtic pop songs.

THE GREAT UNKNOWNS
While Final Fantasy XIII will undoubtedly be one of the PlayStation 3's biggest titles in 2010, it's also scheduled to show up on the Xbox 360 further in the future. But hey, Versus XIII, the second part of Square Enix's loosely linked Final Fantasy XIII project, is still loyal to the PlayStation 3. Unfortunately, the smart money says it won't be out in 2010, at least not in North America. Much of the game is still under wraps, though it might come closer to a modern setting than any previous Final Fantasy. In a city not terribly dissimilar from New York, rival crime families and politicians squabble over some crystal's power, with dour, silver-haired Noctis Lucis Caelum and determined blonde Stella Nox Fleuret sorting things out with their weapon-summoning powers.

Meanwhile, Square Enix and Cavia's Nier Replicant is technically a PlayStation 3 exclusive, as its counterpart Nier Gestalt is showing up on the Xbox 360. The two games are action-driven spectacles, though the characters differ: in Replicant, the title hero Nier is young and out to rescue his sister Yonah, while he's older and trying to save his daughter (also named Yonah) in Gestalt. There are more important things afoot, however, because the official word from Square Enix is that Nier's sidekick Kaine, who resembles the typical underdressed action-heroine, is a hermaphrodite (their wording). Both Niers have unspecified 2010 release dates, and it's not yet clear if they'll launch first in America or Japan.

Ar Tonelico III isn't yet confirmed for North America, but, well, c'mon. Even though NIS America's localization of Ar Tonelico II was quite rough, the series is still the exact thing that countless fans want: an RPG with a marginally unique combat system and a cast of outfit-changing heroines to be courted by the player. Ar Tonelico III, like Atelier Rorona, also puts a new 3-D face on what was previously a 2-D series, so it'll look only one generation behind on the PlayStation 3. It's due out in January in Japan, with a NISA release likely before 2010 ends.

Lastly, there's Sega's Yakuza 4, returning mobster Kazuma Kiryu to the streets of Kamurocho for more brawling, hostess-dating, and mini-game-playing. For the latest Yakuza, however, Sega's adding three other playable characters: a slimy police detective, a con man making his way up from the gutter, and a yakuza hitman freshly broken out of jail. Each of them gets a full-fledged story on par with Kiryu's, though it's all played out in distinct chapters rather than player-controlled plots. Yakuza 4 also has a nebulous release date in Japan, and considering how long it took to get Sega to kinda-sorta admit that they just might let someone release Yakuza 3 in North America, don't count on seeing Yakuza 4 over here any time soon.

RELEASES FOR THE WEEK OF 11-15

KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT
Developer: Eighting
Publisher: D3
Platform: Wii/DS
Players: 1-2
MSRP: $29.99

If memory serves, this is the first Kamen Rider game to see a U.S. release since The Masked Rider: Kamen Rider ZO arrived on the Sega CD in 1994. I'd forgotten that there's a Kamen Rider series airing on American TV this year, and that it's actually called Kamen Rider, unlike the Saban-backed Masked Rider. It's popular enough to reel over games for the DS and Wii, and both revolve around similar mixes of genres. Players can take on punching-bag thugs in 3-D brawling missions, but there's also a versus mode pitting one of the show's 13 gimmick-driven characters against another, with their Advent Beasts and card-based powers. Yes, Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight incorporates card-collecting, just like any proper modern toy-promoting carnival of Japan-bred fantasy violence. The games were developed by Eighting, maker of the recent Tatsunoko vs. CAPCOM and many sturdy anime-based fighters, so perhaps there'll be something here for those who have no idea what a Kamen is.
Get Excited If: You know the names of any of those 13 Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight characters.

NARUTO SHIPPUDEN: CLASH OF NINJA REVOLUTION III
Developer: Eighting
Publisher: Tomy
Platform: Wii
Players: 1-4 (online)
MSRP: $39.99

Clash of Ninja Revolution 2 stood out from previous Naruto fighters by offering some new characters alongside the multiple versions of Naruto and Sasuke, and those characters weren't just one-offs. No, they're appearing in two Naruto games, as Clash of Ninja Revolution III returns the Anbu ninja Towa and Komachi along with antagonists Kagura and Bando. The third Clash of Ninja also bumps everything up into Naruto Shippūden style, with the game's story set in the middle of that Gaara-rescuing arc that so many Naruto Shippūden titles mine. More interesting is Revolution III's revamped battle system and online versus mode, which allows tag-team battles and a variety of other match-ups.
Get Excited If: You've been waiting to make an online jackass of yourself through the Naruto universe.

NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. WII
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Wii
Players: 1-4
MSRP: $49.99

In some ways, New Super Mario Bros. Wii is what several hundred dissatisfied Nintendo fans demanded for over a decade: a traditional, side-scrolling Mario game on a home console. In other ways, it's very different, since the game emphasizes multiplayer and lets four characters chase each other through 2-D Mario levels. New Super Mario Bros. Wii uses all of the familiar Mario power-ups from its DS cousin, while adding a propeller suit, a freezing-fireball flower (it makes sense), and the best Mario power-up of all, a penguin suit. The character selection is perhaps a bit disappointing, since you're got Mario, Luigi, and, well, two Toad characters. Princess Peach/Toadstool isn't playable, which kills the chances for a Super Mario Bros. 2 reunion. More controversial is Nintendo's introduction of a feature that can finish levels of the game for you, provided you fail at them eight times.
Get Excited If: You've wanted more two-player Mario games since the days of the NES.

RESIDENT EVIL: DARKSIDE CHRONICLES
Developer: CAPCOM
Publisher: CAPCOM
Platform: Wii
Players: 1-2
MSRP: $49.99

Remember when CAPCOM released Resident Evil: Survivor, a light-gun game for the PlayStation, in America and made it so you couldn't play it with an actual light gun? Boy, that was dumb. That's no longer a problem, not when the Wii remote lends itself so well to gun-like aiming, especially in its Zapper cradle. Darkside Chronicles uses that arrangement in its on-rails shooter recreation of various events from Resident Evil 2 (a.k.a. The Best One) and Resident Evil: Code Veronica (a.k.a. The One No One Remembers), shedding light on numerous sections of the story. It also bridges the gap to Resident Evil 4 (a.k.a. The Second-Best One) by elaborating on just why Leon and that Krauser guy hated each other. I doubt that anyone's so enamored of Resident Evil's storylines as to play this for the plot, but at least it's a (technically) new game instead of another Resident Evil port.
Get Excited If: You prefer House of the Dead to the usual Resident Evil tomfoolery.


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