The X Button
Seventh Saga

by Todd Ciolek, May 1st 2013

Let's look in on SNK. They haven't done much in the way of new games, and that's part of the plan. For the past year or so, SNK's focused on their history, reissuing Neo Geo titles for modern platforms and even approving a new platform just for old games. So it comes as no surprise that the recently announced The King of Fighters X Fatal Fury isn't some glorious fighting-game comeback. It's a card-battle game for smartphones.

The game has a hundred cards inspired by the Fatal Fury series and The King of Fighters (which are sorta the same franchise, anyway), and that means SNK can include plenty of obscure characters. The official website already shows Alice Chrysler as well as Diana, who may be the most prominent King of Fighters character never actually made playable. It seems a slight offering compared to the heights of SNK's popularity, but it also hearkens back to those enjoyable Card Fighters Clash games on the Neo Geo Pocket Color and DS. And let's face it. With no The King of Fighters XIV in sight, this is probably the closest we'll get to a new fighter this year.

SNK also has a new Art of Fighting slot machine, and the company's classic releases are still coming out for the Virtual Console, though it's a shame to see The Last Blade 2 once again censored for these shores. There's also Tommo's Neo Geo X portable. It's getting another round of old Neo Geo games (including my favorite, Mark of the Wolves), and the system was briefly discounted at Best Buy and some other retailers. Once again, though, it's nothing new.

NEWS

CLASS OF HEROES 2 FINALLY FOR SALE, MINUS THE INTRO FOR NOW
It was hard to watch Gaijinworks and Monkey Paw's Class of Heroes 2 Kickstater fail last year, but the game didn't stay down for long. The organizers called for pledges to buy a simple physical UMD version, and that was a success. The game, a dungeon hack not too different from Wizardry is now available to order through the Gaijinworks website. We're not getting an inflatable sword or character standees, but I don't Class of Heroes 2 is the sort of game to inspire extensive merchandise, anyway.

There's one other thing we're not getting, at least not at first. Gaijinworks delayed Class of Heroes 2 for a few weeks due to a licensing problem with the game's opening song. Though an English version was already recorded in Working Designs fashion, legal issues arose, and the physical UMD version of the game won't have the song or the accompanying animated intro. It's not completely lost, though; according to Gaijinworks leader (and former Working Designs head) Victor Ireland, the opening will be re-appended to the PLAYSTATION Network version and made available to download once the rights are cleared. Since the physical copy includes a download code for the game, no one's left wanting.

This leaves Class of Heroes 2 with a special place among PSP games. It won't be the last title released on the system in North America (Aksys' Sweet Fuse is courting that spot right now), but it may be the rarest as far as the UMD version goes. Gaijinworks plans only 2700 copies to match the pledges, and there'll be no reprints once they're gone. Of course, the digital version will be available for $24.99, but there are many RPG fans still swayed by material goods.

GUILD 02 GAMES COMING HERE, PROBABLY REAAAAAL SOON
The original Guild 01 was an intriguing collection of smaller-scale games, and Level-5 was rather nice to bring three of them over here, even if we missed Rental Bukiya de Omasse. They're doing the same with Guild 02 on the eShop, and this time there's no odd game left out.

Of the creators involved this time around, Keiji Inafune is the best-known in North America thanks to a career that extends from CAPCOM's early Megaman titles to his recent Soul Sacrifice and the above-mentioned Sweet Fuse. His contribution, Bugs vs Tanks!, is an action game that finds a tank battalion transported from the fields of World War II to a micro-sized battlefield, There they take on various insects and other now-intimidating garden invertebrates.

Fewer Western players will recognize Kaz Ayabe, but he's esteemed in Japan for the laid-back summertime charms of the Boku no Natsuyasumi games. His Guild 02 title, Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale draws on a similar halcyon theme. The simulation game finds a young boy dealing with creatures from 1970s Japanese TV as they appear in real life one summer. It's the first of Ayabe's titles to see an international release, and that alone is good news.

The last of the Guild 02 games comes from designer Kazuya Asano and writer Takemaru Abiko. The two previously collaborated on Chunsoft's sound novel Kamaitachi no Yoru, and their new project is a plot-driven horror title called Starship Damrey. The player's avatar is pulled from a cryogenic slumber aboard a ship in deep space, and from there everything must be figured out. The game has no irksome tutorials to explain things, and the protagonist lacks any memories to provide backstory. It's all up to the player. As it should be.

The three games are without release dates at this writing, but I suspect we'll see them before the end of the summer. It'd be entirely fitting for Bugs vs. Tanks and Attack of the Friday Monsters!, after all. Starship Damrey doesn't quite fit into the season, but there's no inappropriate time of the year for perplexing space terror.

SHANTAE CLEARED FOR ESHOP LAUNCH THIS SUMMER
You know what else is well-suited to the summertime? A cute, colorful, and technically impressive title from the last days of the Game Boy Color. I speak of Shantae. WayForward's side-scrolling game and its half-genie star earned a DSI/iOS sequel called Shantae: Risky's Revenge (with another sequel on the way), but the original was never ported from the Game Boy Color. In fact, people are still paying over $400 for a complete-in-box copy.

Soon we'll have a nice and just-as-legal alternative to owning the first Shantae game. Nintendo Power alluded to the title arriving on the 3DS Virtual Console last year, and now everything's apparently sewn up for Shantae to appear in June or July. It's a highly charming game about a genie (well, half-genie) and her shape-shifting, nicely animated race to defeat a villainous pirate queen. And unless they end up charging a hundred bucks for the eShop version, it'll be the best way to enjoy Shantae.

IMPORT ROUNDUP: APRIL

7TH DRAGON 2020 II
Developer: Imageepoch/Sega
Publisher: Sega
Platform: Sony PSP

The title of 7th Dragon 2020 II may seem needlessly complex, but it's not hard to understand the arrangement of the series. The original 7th Dragon is a dungeon hack in a medieval-fantasy setting, and the sequel, 7th Dragon 2020, is set in a future Tokyo overrun by dragons and flowers. So 7th Dragon 2020 II returns to the same futuristic stage for another round of florally infused monster-hunting.

As with its predecessor, 7th Dragon 2020 II relies on customized characters that the player picks out of various classes, but there's a storyline involving established cast members. Most of them work for the anti-dragon groups Murakumo and SECT11, and all of them are represented as big-headed munchkins in gameplay and as more realistic portraits during conversations. Their various jobs also reflect the same technologically advanced tone of the previous game. Hackers, Samurai, Destroyers, Psychics, and Tricksters are joined by the new Idols, who enhance party members' stats and hurl attacks made of melodic chart-toppers. The battle system is once again turned-based and driven by ostentatious attacks well beyond what you'd expect from warriors whose heads dwarf the remainders of their bodies. And since this is Tokyo, all of the dungeons are based around Roppongi, Ikebukuro, and other districts of the city. Except they're full of evil flowers.

Import Barrier: The game's menus and skill systems are all in Japanese, so it presents a bit of a problem for those who can't parse kanji—or at least use a helpful guide like the one fans made for the first 7th Dragon.

Chances of a Domestic Release: Minimal. Several unlikely PSP games were picked up by domestic publishers this year, but no 7th Dragon game is among them. Like Valkyria Chronicles 3 and other later Sega highlights of the PSP, this one seems bound to stay in Japan.

Does it have Hatsune Miku? The green-haired Vocaloid icon appeared in 7th Dragon 2020, and she's back in the sequel. The player's chosen party of dragon-slayers rescues Miku during one mission, and there's an option to hear an in-game soundtrack performed entirely by her.

CALADRIUS
Developer: Moss
Publisher: Moss
Platform: Xbox 360

Why is that young woman's dress torn on the cover of Caladrius? Well, the whole idea of damaged clothing is familiar to video games, but the recent Senran Kagura series brought it to the fore with a cast of ninja heroines and their lack of durable garments. Moss, the developer of recent Raiden games, wanted a piece of this exploitation. But how might they put it in a shooter, where characters are at best small, undetailed figures floating around the screen? The answer: get Suzuhito Yasuda (Devil Survivor, Yozakura Quartet) to provide artwork of young women, plus a few male characters, with their clothing compromised. The vertical shooter stages of Caladrius are bordered by portraits of a ship's pilot and a level boss, and players can occasionally let fly with a special attack that shreds the enemy's clothes. The pilots are by no means immune to this practice, and the heroines as well as the lone hero lose clothes if they're damaged.

Such humiliation may be the prime selling point of Caladrius, sad to say, but there is indeed a shooter beneath all of it. The game's a 2-D title built from 3-D materials, and the scenery's all rather nice as these things go. Each playable pilot has three different elemental attacks, and they correspond to different buttons and power meters. Weapons die down if they're used too long without a break, but relying on the default straightforward fire builds them back up. Managing the arsenal's energy readings makes for some strategic play, and the various armaments can be upgraded between stages. There's also a hidden stage and one extra playable character to unlock, with the latter tying into the mythological origins of the game's title. It's not a particularly long game, but shooter fans are used to milking titles like this for all of their score-dependent value.

Import Barrier: The game's weapon system isn't too hard to grasp, and there's not much to miss in the storyline. It's all rather light stuff even if one ignores the clothing obliteration. The game appears to be region-locked, though.

Chances of a Domestic Release: Not good, but there's a chance for a soft XBox Live release or a localization courtesy of Rising Star Games USA.

Does it have Hatsune Miku? No, and Miku's handlers probably wouldn't want her in this. She has an image to uphold.

TOMODACHI COLLECTION: NEW LIFE
Developer: Nintendo SPD Group 1
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Wii owners likely remember that moment when they opened up their Mii channel and saw a bunch of little customized effigies of their friends and favorite fictional characters…milling around and not really doing much. Someone at Nintendo noticed this as well, and the DS game Tomodachi Collection emerged to give those Miis something to do even when the player's not watching. The 3DS sequel, New Life, further explores the idea of Mii avatars leading lives of their own. The game unites all of the player's available Mii's on an island apartment complex, where the big-headed Lilliputians make friends or fight depending on what their creator-endowed personalities dictate.

There's also an element of social-adventure in the game, as the various Mii acquaintances often have problems that the player must solve, and mini-games pop up to strengthen these neighborly bonds. Of course, the most intriguing events tend to happen when the Miis aren't directly under the player's control. When two Miis grow close enough, they might fall in love, marry, and have little Miis. The various Miis can be made in-game or acquired through online servers and QR codes. Owners of the original Tomodachi Collection can import Miis as well.

Import Barrier: The inner workings of a Mii's social life require some Japanese knowledge, and the game is just as region-locked as any 3DS title.

Chances of a Domestic Release: Nintendo seems surprisingly reluctant to release any Tomodachi Collection games over here. despite the rampant success of The Sims. The DS original stayed in Japan, and there's no word of New Life coming here.

Does it have Hatsune Miku? Technically it doesn't, but there's nothing to stop you from making a Miku-like Mii.

NEXT WEEK'S NON-RELEASES

Well, it's a pretty empty lineup next week. Perhaps some Virtual Console release or PLAYSTATION Network title will pop up later on, as they are wont to do. Perhaps they'll fix that bug holding back the Live version of Monaco: What's Yours is Mine and shove it out the door. For now, however, there's not much on the horizon.


Todd Ciolek occasionally updates his website, and you can follow him on Twitter if ya want.


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