The X Button
Remnants of the Day

by Todd Ciolek, Aug 8th 2012

I'll open this column with a history lesson courtesy of reader Ryan Koonce. He supplied these scans from two separate issues of Nintendo Power, and they're both amusing snapshots of how Nintendo's magazine approached the largely foreign realm of anime in the mid-1990s.

The first comes from an “Only in Japan” feature in the January 1994 issue of Nintendo Power. The piece highlights all sorts of Famicom and Super Famicom games that didn't come to North America, and it's fairly informative for its day. The games covered include a U.S. President Election simulator, visual novels, Mother, Fire Emblem, and the three then-missing Final Fantasies (with the cruel promise that Final Fantasy V was “coming here as Final Fantasy III late in '94”). Yet Nintendo Power made the same mistake that a number of parents made several years later, when Dragon Ball Z charmed the children of America.

Yes, Nintendo Power spelled it Dragon Ballz. As someone who once had to edit a magazine full of easily misprinted anime titles, I can sympathize with the staffer who didn't understand why the “Z” was separate (even though EGM and other mags had mentioned the show for years). And to their credit, Nintendo Power gets most of the other titles right, including Momotaro Dentetsu.

Ryan's second scan was part of a similar feature in the July 1995 issue of Nintendo Power. The magazine's RPG-centric Epic Center section devoted several pages to notable Japanese games that would probably never come West, including Wonder Project J, Front Mission, and Ladystalker. Once again, an anime title resulted in some odd phrasing.

Nintendo Power needed to explain Super Robot Wars and the whole mecha phenomenon to its audience of mainstream and possibly younger readers, as there weren't many anime-robot shows airing in America at the time. The writer invokes a rather apt analogy using Superman and Spider-Man to explain the crossover angle of a Super Robot Wars game. The odd thing is that the article doesn't mention Gundam or any other popular Japanese robot series by name, and the use of a capitalized “Super Robots” makes it sound like a single show. Oh well. Discussing Gundam would've been a horrible tease for kids who wouldn't see it on television for another five years.

NEWS

BLAZBLUE: CHRONO PHATASMA IS NOT JUST ANOTHER UPGRADE, HONEST
Blazblue's been through more than its share of upgrades since the original hit in 2009. First there was the sorta-sequel Blazblue: Continuum Shift, then Continuum Shift II, and then Continuum Shift Extend. But now Arc System Works has apparently given the series a genuine sequel in Chrono Phantasma. Of course, it's only a sequel in the modest fighting-game sense, so this doesn't mean a massively overhauled title with an entirely different style and half the roster replaced. It means new costumes, new moves, new animation, and three new characters. Let's meet them.

On the left is Amane Nishiki, a willowy type who using his flowing sashes and scarves in combat. Like Guilty Gear's Bridget, Amane was mistaken for a woman in earlier reports. For those insecure about gender archetypes in their fighting games, the other new additions are the fire-fisted mercenary woman Bullet (center) and a blue-haired man named Azrael, who also appears to be a hand-to-hand fighter. Returning characters have new animations, and some have changed their costumes: Noel's now wearing even less of a regulation police outfit, and Tsubaki appears to have gone over to some manner of dark side.

In gameplay, Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma gets rid of the Gold Burst technique from previous games, replacing it with the Overdrive attack. Activated by slamming all four attack buttons at once, Overdrives stop the in-game timer and give different attributes to each character: Jin has more chances to freeze his opponents, Taokaka multiplies her hits, Bullet's attacks are automatically powered-up, and so on. Naturally, there's another round of extra moves and minor changes for the existing characters, and Shoryuken.com has a detailed report here. Chrono Phantasma is currently on location test in Japan, and Arc plans a wider release by the end of the year.

DIMPS REVIVES THE RUMBLE FISH 2, AND I THINK I KNOW WHY
I will always remember The Rumble Fish 2 for its special status at the Chinatown Fair arcade. It wasn't the best fighting game in the place, but it was the only fighting game that wasn't made available on a home console in due time. The Rumble Fish 2 remains obscure today, so it was a surprise at first when the game's developer, Dimps, announced that a newly revamped version of The Rumble Fish 2 is headed for Japanese arcades. Yet it all makes sense. Dimps co-developed Street Fighter IV, Sonic Rush, and a lot of other games for a lot of other companies, but they don't have very many properties of their own. Acquiring The Rumble Fish 2 from Sammy was most likely the cheapest way to seize some of their older work.

Originally released in 2005, The Rumble Fish 2 and its predecessor are notable for using 3-D graphics to simulate a somewhat detailed 2-D game (a technique that Dimps put to greater use in Street Fighter IV), and all of the characters' clothes are torn as they're struck. The Rumble Fish fighting engine uses two gauges; the Offense one is stocked by the player attacking and, once filled, allows for unblockable special moves. The Defense gauge relies on the player blocking, and it unleashes guard-breaking moves at its fullest. As with a lot of lower-profile fighting games, the cast is a mostly generic assortment with one standout among the ninja and cyborgs and naughty nurses. That standout is Boyd, a portly old man in a button-down shirt. He's not promoted that much.

The newly revised arcade version of The Rumble Fish 2 will be distributed on the NESiCA X Live delivery system, and it'll have a new combo-oriented, move-canceling technique called Double Impact. Dimps is currently silent about any PLAYSTATION Network or XBox Live versions of the game.

JOJO'S BIZARRE ADVENTURE HD OUT SHORTLY, BIZARRELY
Since this news section's already full of fighting games, let's load it up further with JoJo's Bizarre Adventure HD Ver. It was strange to see CAPCOM announce this update of their 1998 fighter during Comic-Con. Not that it's bad game or that JoJo's is falling out of favor today. It's just that JoJo's Bizarre Adventure was never as popular a fighter as a certain CAPCOM title called Darkstalkers, and there's still no Darkstalkers HD.

Due out the week of August 19, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure HD Ver. features upscaled sprites and an online multiplayer matching system similar to Street Fighter IV's. More importantly, it's a maniacally faithful version of the combat in Hirohiko Araki's manga, where all sorts of stylishly attired men and women do battle with summoned alter-egos called Stands. Yes, it ties into both Namco Bandai's new JoJo's game and Atlus' new Persona fighter. Maybe that's why CAPCOM brought it back.

INTERVIEW: REMNANT KNIGHTS' BRENDON LINDSEY

Online RPGs are certainly accustomed to anime stylings. The two were frequently matched even before Ragnarok Online opened an immense door some ten years ago. Amid numerous games inviting players with free accounts, Remnant Knights now emerges on the PC with an elaborate stage and the backing of both Game Samba and FUNimation.

Remnant Knights drops players into a world under siege by extra-dimensional forces called Skalari, and two academies resist: the science-driven Dragon School and the more magically inclined Owl School. Upon choosing an allegiance, players select from different classes of gun-wielders, melee fighters, and magic users. Aside from the dungeons to explore and cartoonish creatures to slay, characters can fish, craft new items, invest in banks, and form clubs to foment player-versus-player battles and boiling hatred. For a better look at what this new online anime-RPG fusion has in store, we turned to Brendon Lindsey, who's both Game Samba's vice president of content and Remnant Knights' executive producer.

How did development on Remnant Knights get started? Was the game made with an international audience in mind?

Min Communications started the development of Remnant Knights back in 2009 and 2010. About a year in, though, we realized that the direction of the game was off, and that it needed to be drastically altered. So a year into its development, and when the original version was almost complete, the developers basically scrapped it and started revamping it into the version of Remnant Knights you see today, Heroes of Kasmari.

It's actually an oddball in terms of its audience. Like a lot of free-to-play games, the developer we're working with is based in Korea. However, we've worked really closely with them to optimize the game for Western players. We've even launched the game in the United States before any other territory in the world.

What sets Remnant Knights apart from the numerous other anime-themed online RPGs out there, such as Fiesta Online and Maple Story?

I think there are a few things. Probably one of the largest differences between Remnant Knights and other free-to-play anime themed games is that the grind is very, very minimal. In 60 to 80 hours, players can reach the max level and start doing all the max level player-versus-player, dungeons, guild activities, etc. So they don't need to spend months of their life grinding away killing the same thing over and over to get to the fun stuff; it's much more accessible.

In terms of features, one of the things we love about the game is that it caters to both fans of player-versus-environmen experiences, and PvP-oriented players. For PvE there's a ton of dungeons, especially new end game dungeons, to crawl through. And later on this year we'll be introducing raid dungeons and some more fun PvE content.

And for PvP, there are a number of fun modes. Marble Battle is available starting at level 10, which is a capture-and-hold team-based mode; Arena Battle is the new max level PvP mode, and it's a unique take on team-based combat, with a ranking system for players to compete in. Of course we also have a few guild-oriented modes: one PvP mode that lets guilds (called Clubs in the game) battle for control of an entire zone, and another that lets them compete in a PvE challenge.

The other cool thing is that players can not only level up in both, but they can earn points, gear, and even PvP-only crafting materials on the PvP side. So it might not be as hardcore as a game like Darkfall, but we've done our best to make sure people who ARE into the two different modes of MMO gameplay have plenty to do.

Remnant Knights is free to play, but what sort of extras must be purchased?

The things players buy are purely aesthetic, like costumes to change appearance, new hairstyles, different looking vehicles and mounts (all players get a free vehicle), pets, etc. We really pride ourselves in Remnant Knights by not giving a gameplay advantage, especially in PvP, to people who have money. There's one item that gives a special plus-percentage to hit, but that's completely disabled against other players, and it's really only useful for the hardest bosses in the game. Even all of the mount speeds are regulated in PvP areas, so that people with better mounts don't get an advantage.

How big a role do the rival academies have in Remnant Knights? How does this compare to the concept of rival factions in a game like World of Warcraft?

It's similar, but not as drastic. After all, rival schools or not, both groups still have the same goal in mind: defeating the Skalari to save their homes. The quests are different in some portions of the game depending on the school you belong to, but the main difference is seen in the PvP modes, and in social activities like joining Clubs. We look at it more like a real world school rivalry. Just because your academies are rivals, doesn't mean that you can't be friendly with students there. You're going to compete against them and talk all sorts of trash in head-to-head matches, but you're not going to punch them in the face if you run into them out in the real world.

How does Remnant Knights stack up in size to past Game Samba titles?

Remnant Knights is definitely our biggest title to date. We've considered it our flagship title since we started GameSamba, back in the early stages of Remnant Knights development.

Do you have a particular favorite among the various Remnant Knights classes?

Honestly, I do enjoy them all. Being able to build them in different ways and personalize the skills lets you adapt most classes to your playstyle. But my favorite to play is probably the Striker class, mainly because I love the combat and skill animations, and just the speed of the class.

Who's the artist behind the game's promotional art? Has he or she done any other work in comics, games, or animation?

We've used a few artists for the promotional, art but most of the art in our recent ads was created by Jotter Productions, under the direction of our creative director Michael Lau. Our main artist working on it is Michael Lau. They've worked on quite a few games, animations, and other projects before, but probably nothing that most people would have heard of. Their work on Remnant Knights and our upcoming game, JollyGrim, definitely makes for their biggest projects yet in the gaming sector.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

THE LAST STORY
Developer: Mistwalker/AQ Interactive/Nintendo
Publisher: XSEED Games
Platform: Nintendo Wii
MSRP: $49.99

It's easy to laugh at The Last Story's titular resemblance to Final Fantasy, as though it's some knock-off game poking from the two-dollar racks at Big Lots. The truth, of course, is that The Last Story is the work of Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and his Mistwalker studio, which previously tried to recapture that Final Fantasy appeal with Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon. Yet The Last Story isn't an imitation of past glories. While Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon stuck to the formula of turn-based, menu-driven battle system, The Last Story stakes out some new ground. It follows Zael, the leader of a mercenary band, and the battles reinforce teamwork and camaraderie and all that nonsense. Players can issue orders to AI-controlled party members, and The Last Story places an uncommonly heavy emphasis on character positioning and surroundings. Zael can draw foes away from his magic-using comrades, exploiting the range of spells and other attacks, and players can even hide behind walls and columns to snipe at enemies. There's even a multiplayer mode that emulates the deathmatches of first-person shooters.

The Last Story also avoids the gaudily elaborate scope so common to RPGs. Instead, it tells a focused story of the decidedly medieval-like Lazulis Island. There, Zael and his fellow soldiers-for-hire fall into the employ of the isle's nobles, and they're driven less by money than by Zael's friendship with a highborn, free-spirited woman named Calista. It's certainly different from the world-saving aims of similar RPGs, even if Sakaguchi's fondness for blatant mustache-twirling comes through in Calista's manipulative uncle Count Arganan. Sneeringly obvious villains and all, The Last Story's a standout among Japan's RPGs, and its title is best taken as a sign of the Wii's closing act. Unless someone brings over Pandora's Tower, there's not much else left for the system.


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