The X Button
Swinging Safari

by Todd Ciolek, Jul 3rd 2013

Last month marked my five-year anniversary of writing The X Button, and that means it's time for a contest. I'll wrap it around something that many of us are curious about: Persona 5. Atlus hasn't said much about the game, though it reportedly started development almost two years ago. So it falls to us to imagine it.

What do you want to see in Persona 5? Sum up your ideas in a short essay and send it to me (toddciolek at gmail.com). Your suggestions can be humorous, straight-faced, insane, or built from really obscure references. Try to keep them printable, though I suppose this is the Shin Megami Tensei series we're talking about here.

The first-place essayist gets a prize package featuring the Persona 3 Official Design Works artbook, two Naruto Shinobi Relations figures, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn for the DS, and a few extras. One such extra is a little Hitman guy who glares angrily at everything he sees. He comes in handy when you want to express an opinion through toys.

Two second-place winners each get a copy of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. And there's even a prize for last place.

Yes, the absolute worst entry in terms of taste, logic, and creativity will win this sealed copy of Kung Food for the Atari Lynx. Just to make sure I don't hurt anyone's feelings, only submissions with “Worst Entry” in the subject line will be eligible for this delightful piece of Atari history.

A few other rules: essays should be at least 50 words and no more than 200, and all entries are due before the end of Wednesday, July 17, Eastern Standard Time. The main contest is limited to one entry person, but you can enter to win Kung Food as many times as you like (in the unlikely event that the same person wins both contests, he or she will have to choose one). I'd also like it if industry folks and professional writers abstained from entering, but I'm not going to background-check every entrant.

NEWS

DRESS UP LIGHTNING LIKE CLOUD, PLAY PRETEND
It's well-documented that Final Fantasy geeks really, really want a fancy modern remake of Final Fantasy VII, being that the original game is both popular and kinda primitive-looking by modern standards. Square Enix still isn't remodeling Final Fantasy VII, but those rapacious fans can pretend they're controlling Cloud Strife in a modern Final Fantasy. Among the costumes available in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is a replica of Cloud's Soldier uniform.

The Final Fantasy VII tribute isn't the only outfit on hand, as the game also features Yuna's garb from Final Fantasy X, a catgirl getup from Final Fantasy XIV, a formal dress, seven different samurai outfits (very funny), and, well, many other clothes. Square Enix promises around 100 costumes for the heroine, and most of them will boost her stats in some minor way. None of these sartorial options appears to make Lightning happy, though. That's just how she is.

Square Enix also released some new screenshots of the game's North American version, which is still a good ways off from its February release date. The latest images also show Hope, one of Final Fantasy XIII's more irritating characters, and reveal that players don't have to talk to him if they don't feel like it.

YATAGARASU LOOKING FOR MORE CHARACTERS
Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm is particularly impressive for what's technically an “indie” fighter. Made by several former staffers from SNK's The King of Fighters series, Yatagarasu has a sharp look that recalls the high-end animation of Street Fighter III as much as it does SNK craftsmanship. It's already out on the PC, and there's a 3DS version somewhere in the pipeline, but the developers recently went to Indiegogo with a pitch for expanding the game.

What will that $68,000 entail? Some game balancing, new voiceovers, an English localization, more storylines, better online support, and, most intriguingly, new characters. Theatrical fighter Kotaro and math-obsessed ninja Azure come with the funding goal, and more characters will be added if the campaign gets enough cash. The donation page shows these possible new faces, including the stretchy-limbed Qadl, British spy Aja Salisbury, and the crazed amnesiac Chiriakuta. Much like the current Yatagarasu roster, the new additions aren't all that original (stretching limbs? CAPCOM did that twice), but hey, fighting games are built on stereotypes.

IMPORT ROUNDUP: JUNE

GUNDAM BREAKER
Developer: Crafts & Meister
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platform: PlayStation 3

The Gundam franchise is rarely uncoupled from merchandise. Even those tearful moments of space-opera melodrama usually unfold amid giant mecha ripe for model kits and action figures. And Gundam Breaker embraces this like few previous Gundam games have. The gameplay itself isn't too far from the recent Dynasty Warriors: Gundam games and those PlayStation 2 action titles, as players take their favored mobile suits and hack through a battalion of lesser machines, eventually reaching some relatively imposing boss. The difference? In Gundam Breaker, you're essentially playing with toy models, and highly customizable ones at that. The game grants players all sorts of familiar Gundam robots to control and cannibalize for their parts. Want a robot with Gundam Heavy Arms' legs, Noble Gundam's schoolgirl uniform, a Zaku head, and a camouflage paint job? Well, you can have one.

Aside from the extensive build-a-bot options, Gundam Breaker takes its toy-based origins well into the gameplay. Some of the levels are typical Gundam fare: space colonies, remote forest bases, asteroids, and so forth. But the game also breaks out toy-sized settings, so robots can battle on a roulette wheel or a store shelf, with Gundam toy boxes and ads in the background. This sense of scale even extends to the robots, and it's possible for a swarm of Lilliputian Gundams to take on the game's version of that life-size Gundam built in Odaiba. It's designed with multiplayer battles in mind, but the game also lets the solo player fight alongside simulated allies, and most of the virtual helpers are experienced types rather than newcomers who run in circles and then wander off because they forgot to feed the dog.

Import Barrier: The PS3 version is region-free, and an awful lot of Western Gundam fans imported it.

Chances of a Domestic Release: There's no word on a U.S. release, and there most likely won't be one unless Bandai mounts some huge Gundam renaissance on these shores.

Convenient Anime Tie-In: Does this coincide with the next big Gundam anime series, Gundam Build Fighters, which takes place in a future full of kids controlling customized Gundam models just as they might wield Pokémon or Beyblades? Why, yes. Yes, it does.

NINJA JAJAMARU-KUN: PRINCESS SAKURA AND THE SECRET DRAGON
Developer: Hamster
Publisher: Hamster
Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Ninja Jajamaru-Kun is one of the originals. He started off as the red-suited Ninja-Kun in a 1984 arcade game, and Jaleco, for want of a better mascot, turned him into their platforming star. Soon coming into his own as Jajamaru-kun, the ninja hero appeared in side-scrolling action games, RPGs, a Zelda-style adventure, and a 3-D platformer. Yet Jaleco and Jajamaru failed to evolve with the times, and both of them seemed relics by 2004, when Jaleco tried to revitalize the series with Jajamaru-kun Jr. for the Game Boy Advance. Even in these dark times, Jaleco didn't give up. The company announced a Jajamaru-kun game for the Nintendo DS in 2006, but little was seen of it before Jaleco exited the game industry a few years later. At this point, a company called Hamster entered the picture and acquired the rights to many Jaleco titles—and the rights to make a new Jajamaru game, it seems. That game is called Ninja Jajamaru-kun: Princess Sakura and the Secret Dragon, and it actually arrived on the 3DS.

Despite the shift in platform, the new Jajamaru-kun game is rooted in its DS origins and, indeed, the original Ninja-Kun titles. The game features both Jajamaru, still wearing red after all these years, and the fan-wielding Shizuha in a quest to rescue Princess Sakura (who may predate Princess Peach in the annals of kidnapped video-game royalty) from a gang of catfish criminals. The two ninja traverse side-view levels that sprawl in all directions and reveal bonus stages, and the pair attacks with traditional ninja arms and specialized magic. The heroic characters are kept small, but the enemies range from similarly diminutive ninja to giant tanks and fish. It's all rather Mario-ish in appeal, and that's a tradition of the series. Jajamaru's best Famicom game was nearly released in North America as Squashed, but Jaleco canceled it just before release, amid rumors that Nintendo thought the game too similar to Super Mario Bros. 3.

Import Barrier:It's an easy game to understand, but that darn 3DS is still region-locked.

Chances of a Domestic Release: Minimal. Jajamaru hasn't seen a game localized since Maru's Mission back in 1990. That's a bit depressing for a guy who's been around since 1984.

Convenient Anime Tie-In: There's no record of a Jajamaru anime, despite his evident staying power during the 1980s and early 1990s.

SAYONARA, UMIHARA KAWASE
Developer: Agatsuma Entertainment
Publisher: Agatsuma Entertainment
Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Fans of the Umihara Kawase series need not worry. Despite the title, this probably won't be the end of the series. After all, Farewell Space Battleship Yamato didn't stop anyone from reviving that particular franchise, and Adieu Galaxy Express 999 wasn't the end of things, either. So you can be confident that there'll be another Umihara Kawase if this one does well enough. It's not a chart-buster, so to speak, but the series has a faithful following stretching back to the original Umihara Kawase on the Super Famicom. It's a bit like Bionic Commando minus the shooting…and all other violent elements, for that matter. The series finds a girl using a grappling fishing-line to get through some puzzling, side-scrolling levels full of slow-witted walking fish straight out of a Junji Ito nightmare. It's a game established by its physics, a game all about snagging the grapple-hook on a conveyor belt, swinging wildly on an elastic tether, and falling just short of that ledge.

Sayonara, Umihara Kawase brings back many of the original game's developers, and they recreate the game's side-view look with 3-D graphics. Both a kid version of heroine Umihara and her 20-year-old incarnation are on hand, and younger Umihara's friend Emiko grants a less challenging version of the game, with forgiving checkpoints and all. The fourth playable character is teenage future-cop Noko Yokoyama, who can slow down time as she swings about.

Import Barrier: Umihara Kawase is one of those games that can be learned entirely by playing it, which is a good thing. But the 3DS has a region lock, which is a bad thing.

Chances of a Domestic Release: Pretty good. Agatsuma made numerous statements about bringing the game to the U.S., and E3 scuttlebutt had it that the game was shown behind closed doors, kinda like XSEED did with Solatorobo one year. And with the rise of 3DS titles released as cheap downloads, Umihara Kawase has a bright future.

Convenient Anime Tie-In: None to speak of, but it takes little cynicism to see how Agatsuma's hoping that the game's new heroines bring the anime-fan appeal.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

METAL GEAR SOLID: THE LEGACY COLLECTION
Developer: Kojima Productions/Konami
Publisher: Konami
Platform: PlayStation 3
Release date: July 9
MSRP: $49.99

As the assiduous nerd I am, I must point out that Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection doesn't have every Metal Gear title. It has a lot of them, of course: the original MSX versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake; the HD revamps of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker; download codes for the PlayStation versions of Metal Gear Solid and the VR Missions pack; and those Ashley Wood comics that actually were released as a PSP title. So what's missing? Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and the two Metal Gear Ac!d games for the PSP, Metal Gear Solid: Ghost Babel for the Game Boy Color, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes for the GameCube, and a few other odds and ends. Still, you're getting a hefty chunk of Metal Gear with just about every important game.

This new collection doesn't add much to the original titles apart from a comprehensive booklet, but it's a convenient package for anyone who wants to run through the older Metal Gear titles. It's interesting to play through the series and note the many ways it changes. How the original Metal Gear Solid got the franchise's best localization script thanks to Jeremy Blaustein, who wasn't invited back to the series. How Metal Gear Solid 2 builds up to an insane attack on the fourth wall. How Metal Gear Solid 3 downplays that madness for a survivalist throwback. How Metal Gear Solid 4 tries to string it all together for what might've been (but wasn't) the end of the whole thing. The Legacy Collection may not have that Metal Gear Solid touch-screen shooter for the iPhone, but it has what matters.


Todd Ciolek occasionally updates his website, and you can follow him on Twitter. He should probably change his Twitter handle, but he hasn't.


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