The X Button
A Little Soul

by Todd Ciolek, Aug 29th 2012

Class of Heroes 2 was the subject of an ill-fated Kickstarter earlier this year. MonkeyPaw Games and Victor Ireland's Gaijinworks pitched a deluxe localization of the PSP and PlayStation 3 game, complete with an embossed box, a soundtrack, and character standees to accompany the PSP edition. The Kickstarter fell over $400,000 short of its goal, shutting down plans for an elaborate release of the game. Yet this hasn't killed it entirely, as Gaijinworks and MonkeyPaw are at work on a digital version of Class of Heroes 2.

The original Class of Heroes made little impact when Atlus brought it here in 2009, but Ireland steadily assures dungeon-hack fans that the sequel is far better in terms of pacing and gameplay. These early translated screenshots make it clear that Class of Heroes 2 has one thing its predecessor never did: an irreverent script that recalls the localization style of Ireland's Working Designs.

And that makes a difference. Class of Heroes 2 won't have English voice acting or a punching puppet, but it'll keep an important tradition alive—the tradition of not taking RPGs too seriously.

NEWS

SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI IV TRAILER CROSSES TWO DIFFERENT WORLDS
Funny thing about the Shin Megami Tensei IV trailer. See, most RPGs take place in some medieval-fantasy setting. It's a big cliché of the genre. Shin Megami Tensei games, on the other hand, are usually set anywhere but fantasy realms; they occur in modern Japan, near-future Japan, or perhaps in Antarctica. So what's the most interesting thing about the Shin Megami Tensei IV so far? It's set partly in some medieval realm.

We say “partly” because the trailer begins with scenes of castles and countryside, including this shot of three uniformed people overlooking a city.

Then we see a robed figure who wears a glowing device and looks a lot like the heroine from The Legend of Korra. That wrist machine is very likely a COMP, a portable computer that enables digital demon-summoning.

And then we're in the modern era (or possibly the future thereof), with the Korra lookalike and the three observers staring out across a city. Other snippets of footage suggest that the game's a third-person RPG, and that the two worlds are somehow connected by the player's avatar.

What else do we know about Shin Megami Tensei IV? Well, the 3DS game's director is Kazuyuki Yamai, who oversaw the enhanced edition of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne (which was basically Shin Megami Tensei III). Eiji Ishida (of the Devil Summoner games) is the art director, and Satoshi Ooyama (Catherine, Strange Journey) is the main programmer. The voice cast includes Hiroshi Kamiya, Miyuki Sawashiro, Yuko Kaida, Katsuyuki Konishi, Kazuya Nakai, Jouji Nakata, Marina Inoue, Atsuko Tanaka, Kazuhiro Yamaji, Junpei Morita, Houchu Ohtsuka, and Hozumi Gôda. It's out next year in Japan, and I doubt Atlus will deny it a U.S. release.

CORPSE PARTY 2 GOES TO THE HOSPITAL, BUT NOT TO THE U.S. JUST YET
The original Corpse Party was an unexpected success on several fronts. A humble Japanese PC release from 1996, it managed to scare numerous players while using big-headed characters and graphics no more complex than a 16-bit RPG. Since then, the haunted-school horror story has been ported and revamped for the PC, the iPhone, and the PSP. It's also expanded with a sequel entitled Book of Shadows and most recently a comical spin-off called (no kidding) Corpse Party the Anthology: Sachiko's Game of Love – Hysterical Birthday 2U. For those who prefer Corpse Party without such frippery, the next game in the series, Corpse Party 2: Dead Patient, returns to undiluted horror.

Dead Patient finds teenager Ayame awakening in a seemingly abandoned hospital. Without any memories in her head, she makes her way through disordered, poorly lit hallways, finding a few allies in her gloomy new surroundings. It's the work of the original game's developers at Team GrisGris, now renamed Grindhouse, and it's due out for Japanese PCs in the winter. There's no sign of an English release yet, but XSEED Games localized the PSP version of Corpse Party last year. Fans can go politely bother them.

THE WORLDS ENDS WITH AN IPAD PORT
Remember the website that was apparently teasing some new incarnation of Square's The World Ends With You? Well, the news is out, and so is the game. That's where disappointment kicks in: it's just an iPhone and iPad version of the Shibuya-based RPG, released on the DS back in 2008.

The original version of The World Ends With You was inventive in its tale of a gloomy teenager lost in a deadly existential game in the busy streets of Tokyo. The battle system controlled two characters at the same time, one on each screen of the DS. The iOS version scales the combat down to one screen that holds both characters, and it also adds more songs, a new card-fusion system, wireless Tin Pin Slammer versus battles, and some hi-res art. It's out right now on the iPhone for $18 or the iPad for $20.

IMPORT ROUNDUP: AUGUST

AQUAPAZZA: AQUAPLUS DREAM MATCH
Developer: Examu
Publisher: AQUAPLUS
Platform: PlayStation 3

Aquapazza firmly plants its feet in a new trend: crossover fighting games that gather up characters from various visual novels and dating sims. So far this whole idea has brought about things like Twinkle Queen, but Aquapazza has a more established pedigree courtesy of Arcana Heart developer Examu. It draws in characters from various AQUAPLUS and Leaf titles. Utawarerumono contributes Hakuro, Touka, Oboro, and Karura. From Tears to Tiara, we have Riannon, Morgan, and Arawn. The long-running To Heart franchise offers Tamaki, Manaka, Multi, Konomi, and, in her valkyrie-ish Dungeon Travelers getup, Sasara. Kizuato puts up a single contender in Chizuru Kashiwagi, so good for her. Mind you, these are only the directly playable characters. There's a lineup of over a dozen partner characters who can be called upon the midst of battle, and they represent even more franchises, including Comic Party, Routes, and White Album.

All of the characters' good-natured roughhousing fits in the boundaries of a typical four-button fighter: three attacks of ascending power are available, while the fourth button summons your chosen partner. Aquapazza builds on this base with guard-breaking techniques, moves that auto-block during certain frames of animation, and ways to damage an opponent trying to recover from a knock-down. There's also the “Active Emotion System,” which gives aggressive players a boost in attack strength, while defensive strategies are punished. Also key is one's choice of a partner in arms; most of them launch unique strikes at your opponents, but a few will boost the Active Emotion gauge or make it easier to perform combos. Aquapazza's made the rounds in Japanese arcades, and the PlayStation 3 version added a few characters (and, of course, a special edition with plenty of anime-girl merchandise). It's aimed at the fan who's intimately familiar with To Heart or Tears to Tiara, but the underlying gameplay might give Aquapazza a push among the fighting-game throngs.

Import Barrier: The PlayStation 3 is region-free, so no worries there.

Chances of a Domestic Release: Not so good. The anime versions of Utawarerumono, To Heart, and Comic Party were released domestically during the Great American Anime Bubble, but that won't help Aquapazza in the present day.

DEVIL SUMMONER: SOUL HACKERS
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Platform: Nintendo 3DS

I find the cover of Soul Hackers intriguing. Originally released for the PlayStation and Saturn, Soul Hackers is a spin-off of the demon-heavy Shin Megami Tensei franchise, and it's full of strange ideas. You're a seemingly normal computer jockey in a cyberpunk-ish future, but a turn in a new online game leaves you carrying the souls of recently deceased demon-hunters. Meanwhile, your best friend Hitomi has her own identity crisis, as she's periodically controlled by a demon called Nemissa. The two (or three) of you soon join up with a team of hackers called the Spookies, who go about summoning monsters, unraveling conspiracies, and using hi-tech pistol COMPs called GUMPs. Yet it's white-haired Nemissa who gets the cover shot for Soul Hackers, and perhaps her outfit isn't the only reason. Despite the obvious duality of their roles, she and Hitomi are one of Shin Megami Tensei's most interesting cases of human-demon symbiosis.

Box-art ruminations aside, Soul Hackers remains a dungeon-crawler from 1997, with a first-person view, some rather basic graphics, and a menu-based battle system. The 3DS version adds quite a bit, though: full voice acting, lots of new animation, 30 extra demons to summon in combat, and a new devil that grows by grabbing friend tags through the system's StreetPass feature. Finishing the central game unlocks a new bonus dungeon featuring other Devil Summoner protagonists, including Raidou Kuzunoha and the original Devil Summoner's hero (who looks darned close to an anime Leisure Suit Larry). Players can also adjust the game's difficulty in the midst of dungeon forays, just in case their StreetPass-raised pet hasn't made enough friends to hold its own.

Import Barrier: Japanese 3DS are still region-locked, and Soul Hackers is a text-heavy game besides.

Chances of a Domestic Release: There's a fair chance that Atlus will release it over here. They're already choked with Shin Megami Tensei games, though, and the dated core of Soul Hackers puts it well behind its more recent relatives.

DRAGON QUEST X: THE FIVE AWAKENING RACES: ONLINE
Developer: Armor Project
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Nintendo Wii

Ah, there was quite the commotion when Dragon Quest X was announced. Dragon Quest IX had prepared us for the presence of online RPGs in Japan's most popular RPG series, but some people were unprepared for the news that Dragon Quest X would be an online RPG on the Wii. Yes, the Wii, which still has the lowest online presence of the three major consoles. But Dragon Quest X had no problem selling 400,000 copies in its launch week, even boosting Wii system sales in the process. And most players had no problem with the game's paid subscriptions, either, though Square Enix set aside a two-hour block of each day wherein players can enjoy the game for free. It's called “Kids' Time,” but there's nothing to stop adults from jumping in. Well, aside from the Kids' Time chunks being in the after-school hours of 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 1 to 3 p.m. on weekends.

Dragon Quest X's five titular races fill the usual roles of dwarves, elves, and ogres, plus the catlike Pukuripo and the fin-eared Weddies. Players start the game as a simple human, however, and they'll change to another breed once they enter the game's full multiplayer storyline (hence the “awakening” of the five races). These are Dragon Quest races, too, so they're all designed with Akira Toriyama's usual cartoonish appeal, and the base classes available to them include the warrior, the mage, the monk, the thief, the martial-arts expert, and the minstrel. The skills from these rudimentary jobs can be combined to make new professions, however. This allows all sorts of specializations when players form four-character parties and take part in real-time battles and exploration. The group has to choose a leader to direct the game's story, though, and that'll make for some delightful debate among the party.

Import Barrier: Considering that Dragon Quest X's online infrastructure doesn't yet exist in North America, you won't get far by playing this here.

Chances of a Domestic Release: It's a toss-up for the Wii version of the game, as Nintendo's remained silent about bringing it to America. Yet there's a Wii U edition in the future, and it seems much more likely to come here.

NEXT THIS WEEK'S RELEASES

FINAL FANTASY DIMENSIONS
Developer: Matrix Software
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: iOS Platforms (worldwide)
MSRP: $28.99 (or $2.99-$3.99 per episode)

Next week is devoid of notable releases, but there's a groundbreaking game headed our way this Friday. Why is Final Fantasy Dimensions groundbreaking? Well, it's the first time Square's had the temerity to charge almost thirty bucks for an iPhone title. That aside, Dimensions is also notable as a game deliberately aimed at the more nostalgic of Final Fantasy nerds, the ones who pine for the franchise's 16-bit days. Like most of the games prior to Final Fantasy VI, crystals are the driving force behind the story here, and they draw together two disparate groups: the Warriors of Light and the Warriors of Darkness. The Light half is led by a kid named Sol and the Dark contingent gets a leader named Nacht, but the characters aren't so Manichean; for example, the Dark group includes two of Sol's childhood friends. Along with these eight leads, there's a lineup of rotating allies to fill slots in the five-character party. They include a dragoon, a bard, an android, a dancer, a one-armed ninja, a dwarf, and a drunkard. Old-school RPGs always needed more alcoholism.

Dimensions uses the same basic, polished-looking sprite art seen in Square's Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, and it adopts a “Job” system reminiscent of Final Fantasy III and V. It covers all the usual suspects in Final Fantasy professions: warriors, monks, thieves, summoners, and three different colors of mage. However, some jobs are exclusive to one side of the dualistic cast. Only warriors of Light can become dragoons, memorists, bards, knights, or elite cat-eared white mages called “devouts,” and only Dark warriors can be rangers, dancers, ninja, dark knights, or high-level black magi. It's a return to the old-school Final Fantasy style that some praise almost a bit too readily, and let's be honest: the price isn't that bad compared to what you'd spend on a new Final Fantasy back in 1993.


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