The X Button
Creature Features

by Todd Ciolek, Aug 6th 2014

The X Button will take a vacation next week, but I'll find time to judge all of the entries for the current contest. You have until the end of next Thursday to get in your submissions and win a copy of One Piece: Unlimited World Red for the 3DS!

Your task: describe just how you'd censor an anime series for the kid-friendly airwaves. Here's a rundown of the rules.

-Your entry should deal with an anime film, TV show, or direct-to-video series that's never been edited for TV before. It's fine if you pick something that was previously dubbed and released here, but it should be never-before-sanitized territory. Put on your best sanctimonious, think-of-the-children attitude and slice apart some undeserving anime creation! Make it as ridiculous a choice as you like!

-Your entry can take on any written form you want: a studio pitch, a list of excised content, a letter from an officious and cynical executive, or a semaphore description. Whatever it is, it should be between 300 and 500 words.

-Entries are due to me (toddciolek at gmail.com) by midnight EST on Thursday, August 14. Or thereabouts. I won't throw out anything that comes in a little later.

I have three copies of One Piece: Unlimited World Red to give away, and they're all for the 3DS. If you really want the Vita version, however, you can mention that in your entry. I'll see what I can do. And have fun shredding up cartoons!

NEWS

RESIDENT EVIL REMAKE REMADE AS A REVISION
CAPCOM sure liked the GameCube. Or perhaps it was just the Resident Evil series that liked it. Or perhaps it was just Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami, who gave that little system as much Resident Evil as it could take. This meant that Xbox and PlayStation 2 owners missed out on CAPCOM's extensive remake of the original Resident Evil, which turned the PlayStation original into a sharp modern adventure. Twelve years after the remake's arrival, CAPCOM decided to bring a shined-up version of it to the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

Strange as it may sound, I never pounced on the remake as I did other Resident Evils. For me, the original Resident Evil's crudity was part of the appeal: the rustling polygon zombies, the blocky Hand Gun Bullets, and the spurts of blood-colored pixels all combined nicely with the laughable voice acting and cheap scares. The REmake, as some call it, just felt too polished, too modern. Will I change my mind when CAPCOM's newest version arrives as a digital release next year? Eh, probably.

CHARACTER CROSSOVER UPDATE: BAD GUYS, MYSTERY WOMEN, AND FROGS
Ganondorf, Ghirahim, and Zant will be playable characters in Hyrule Warriors. Margaret will be playable in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. But these are minor revelations compared to the big character-cameo news of the week: the hero prince from The Frog for Whom the Bell Tolls will be an assist trophy in Super Smash Bros.

The Frog for Whom the Bell Tolls is an underrated delight for the Game Boy. It's an action-RPG all about a prince who can turn into a frog and a snake, and its hybrid of overhead exploration and side-view scenes laid the blueprint for the excellent The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. It's a shame that Nintendo never released the game in English, leaving fan-translators to the task. At least the new Super Smash Bros. will have the Prince of Sable aiding players in his human, frog, and serpent forms.

With that out of the way, we can turn to the new Hyrule Warriors additions. Tecmo KOEI and Nintendo's fusion of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors will have three bosses on hand as selectable characters: Ganon's been the chief antagonist of the series in one form or another, of course, while the lesser-known Ghirahim hails from Skyward Sword and Zant is the sub-villain in Twilight Princess.

This brings the Hyrule Warriors roster well past impressive. Not counting these bosses, players can control Link, Impa, Goron leader Darunia, Zora princess Ruto, bug-collector Agitha, a Midna and wolf-Link team, original character Lana, and Zelda in both her princess armor and Sheik getup. Tingle remains absent, however.

As for Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, it'll have Margaret among its newly playable characters later this fall. Atlus and Arc System Works have not revealed anything about her attacks and possible redesign. Perhaps she'll go one better than Mitsuru and use an otherworldly limo to actually attack in the midst of battle.

AN EARLY VERSION OF STRIDER IS AMONG THE TOUGHEST GROUP OF PROTOTYPES
The Japanese version of Strider remains a mystery of the NES era, which historians roughly chart from 1985 to 1992. CAPCOM envisioned Strider as a multi-pronged assault of a manga, an NES/Famicom game, and a big arcade spectacle. The arcade game showed up everywhere, the manga only came out in Japan (and only lasted one volume), and the home console game arrived nowhere except North America, even though it was based heavily on the manga. Why did it never show up in Japan, where it was developed and promoted with a theme-song cassette, no less? A newly publicized prototype of the Famicom version of Strider doesn't answer that question, but it's a highly interesting find for fans.

No shocking secrets or drastic changes wait in this never-released Japanese version of Strider. In contrast to the recent Monster Party prototype, this early Strider's bosses, storyline, and visual stylings are pretty much what you'll see in the NES game that many of us puzzled our way through back around 1989. Most of the differences come in minor stage layouts, enemy colors, and the occasional new obstacle. For example, there's a wall to be slashed away in the first stage! Was this judged too extreme for American players?

In all seriousness, this Famicom edition of Strider has plenty of variations and goof-ups for the sharp-eyed player. The game's opening has on-screen lyrics for its theme song, as opposed to stopping with a mere blurb about instigations and explosions. The data files and bosses show up in slightly different order. Egypt is somehow located in Suriname or French Guiana. Strider Hiryu's not-quite-girlfriend Sheena doesn't appear on-screen, since her sprite apparently wasn't finalized yet. And if you make it to the final stage, you'll meet a fireball-throwing ninja boss who was completely removed from the NES version. It's also a much tougher game in some places, due to Hiryu having fewer life points to lose.

If it doesn't answer the big question about Strider, this proto at least reveals something new. For a while, the standing theory was that our buggy, frequently awkward NES version of Strider was a rough cut that CAPCOM pushed out while working on the Japanese version. Yet the differences between the two games suggest that the NES Strider is as near to final as the game ever got.

That aside, I always enjoy seeing old CAPCOM relics brought to light. Now, someone get out there and find the lost NES versions of Black Tiger and The Speed Rumbler.

IMPORT ROUNDUP: JULY

CORPSE PARTY: BLOOD DRIVE
Developer: Team GrisGris/5pb.
Publisher: Mages
Platform: PS Vita

That's not a printing error on the cover of Corpse Party: Blood Drive. It's just another disconcerting flourish in Corpse Party's ongoing tale of hauntings, curses, and gruesome fates befalling high-school kids.

Not to be confused with the recent Corpse Party 2: Dead Patient, Blood Drive aims to wrap up the original game's storyline. Ayumi Shinozaki went through all sorts of typical horror-flick tragedy and ghastly possession during the original game and Book of Shadows, but she survived nonetheless. A bunch of her companions didn't, and that drives a guilt-laden Ayumi back into dark places. Lured by the promise of resurrecting her deceased friends (which couldn't possibly end badly), Ayumi treads into a mysterious, cordoned-off house (which also couldn't possibly end badly). Things inevitably turn nightmarish, and a bunch of other Corpse Convention survivors are drawn into the carnage in spite of Ayumi's best efforts to go in solo.

Previous Corpse Get-Together games did their best to build suspense from what looked like an old-school RPG, right down to the pixel-made graphics and big-headed characters. It could be quite spooky at times, and Blood Drive tries the same thing with 3-D character models. They're still exaggerated with large heads and eyes, though, and the halfway cute characters sometimes clash with the bloodied walls and ominous score. The gameplay relies mostly on conversations and item-gathering, not unlike prior Corpse Soirees, and it's the overall morbid tone that's meant to hold things together. It's creepy in both horror-film ways and more grotesque extremes. In fact, some of the artwork looks like the sort of thing you might've seen in the 1990s at those mom-and-pop rental stores that didn't bother sorting the anime porn out from the Macross Plus and Bubblegum Crisis tapes.

Import Barrier: There's a good amount of dialogue, though fans of previous Corpse Shindigs might be able to follow the story well enough.

Chances of a Domestic Release: No word at this point, but XSEED Games seems interested.

Bonus Stuff: The special edition includes “Pin Jack” figurines with detachable heads. Yes, you decapitate the toys and mount them in your smartphone port. Fitting.

TOKYO NEW WORLD RECORD: OPERATION ABYSS
Developer: Experience/Cyber Front
Publisher: Mages
Platform: PS Vita

Tokyo New World Record: Operation Abyss almost died on the operating table. It began as a collaboration between publisher CyberFront and dungeon-hack-maker Experience Inc., but CyberFront went through a management shift and a rapid dissolution. Some of their projects, including a Japanese release of Saint's Row IV, were canceled, but Tokyo New World Record: Operation Abyss endured. The 5pb./Mages collective took over publishing, and Experience Inc. finished up the game.

Operation Abyss falls in line with Experience's own Demon Gaze, which NIS America released here this April. Tokyo is besieged by monsters in Operation Abyss, and the player's among the rare creature-hunters who can use Blood Codes. These codes use the DNA of historical figures to turn ordinary explorers into traditional RPG character classes. Paladins bear some of Joan of Arc's essence, samurai are based on Miyamoto Musashi, ruthless emperor Genghis Khan inspires the archer class, and so forth. What about healers? They're rooted in the genetic makeup of social reformist and noted white mage Florence Nightingale.

The monster-wrecked streets and skyscrapers of Tokyo unfold as blocky dungeon crawls, and players pace around, get into first-person battles, and try to survive long enough to discover new areas or return to home base. It's all very much like Demon Gaze, even in the buxom designs for the female character archetypes. There's a vague story unfolding here as well; your crewmates include both ditzy teenagers and suspicious business leaders who know more than they're letting on, and a ghostly woman leads you on your travels. Trust her, I say.

Import Barrier: The Vita's region-free and dungeon-hacking ain't so hard once you figure out the menus, but character customization might present more of a challenge.

Chances of a Domestic Release: Not so bad, considering that Demon Gaze made it here. No one's bit just yet, however.

Bonus Stuff: The special edition comes with assorted DLC and an artbook, or rather a “visual fan book” for all you visual fans out there.

YO-KAI WATCH 2
Developer: Level-5
Publisher: Level-5
Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Level-5 had some failures to their name. The visual novel Time Travellers bombed, the PlayStation 2 RPG Rogue Galaxy didn't quite sell up to expectations, and even Gundam AGE, which Level-5 president Akihiro Hino co-authored, had its broadcast cut short. Yet Level-5 has plenty of successes. Yōkai Watch is one of them. It's done very well across anime, manga, toys, and, of course, video games.

The original Yōkai Watch is a crafty and shameless revisiting of the Pokémon ideal, plus a little bit of Gegege no Kitarō. While on a forest bug-hunt one day, protagonists Keita and Fumika discover a race of creatures called Yo-Kai, and they include friendly ones as well as malevolent spirits. Players tame Yo-Kai by luring them with specific foods and defeating them in battle, after which they can raise them and call upon them in combat. They'll also evolve into new forms, just like that classic trend-setting franchise, Digimon.

Yōkai Watch 2 sends its hero and heroine back in time, searching for the origins of the Yōkai Watch device in ye olden age of the twentieth century. Those origins concern a young man named Keizo and his pet feline Yo-Kai, one of many new creatures for kids to ensnare across the game's two different versions. Yes, there are two editions of Yōkai Watch 2: Head and Founder. It's a tradition.

Import Barrier: That mean ol' 3DS region-lock makes this one unplayable on American systems. If you can get around that, it's not too tough to figure out. But…

Chances of a Domestic Release: Yōkai Watch seems on the verge of a U.S. release. Level-5 applied for a trademark here, and Denstu Entertainment USA is sniffing around for someone to bring the series over here.

Bonus Stuff: Each edition of Yōkai Watch 2 has a limited-run version with its own Z Medal. The Founder set has the Nyaiiin medal, while the Head one has a Komanyachi medal. Buy 'em both, kids!

ALSO AVAILABLE
Ecole and French-Bread's new fighter, the magnificently named Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late, arrived on the PlayStation 3. Arc System Works will have a U.S. version out next year, and we should have a full import review before long!

Super Sonico is a virtual idol much in the manner of Hatsune Miku, though Sonico has pink hair, a modeling career, perpetually attached headphones, and far less restraint in her character design and marketing. That's won her fans, of course, and those fans can indulge themselves with imageepoch's SoniPro for the 3DS. It's an idol-raising simulation where the pneumatic Sonico sings, tries on different outfits, and contends with an all-new rival named Starlight Bellstar. Just so we're clear, neither of these characters has anything to do with Sonic the Hedgehog.

Each month brings a bunch of “otome” dating sims, and this time around we have Re: Vice[d] on the Vita, followed by Enkeltbillet and Majo Ou on the PSP. The standout, at least in time period, is Petit Reve's Sayaka Buccaneers, a Vita visual novel all about pirates. It's based on a series of drama CDs, and it stars an assortment of handsome swashbucklers who presumably avoid the rampant debaucheries one could expect from real-world pirates.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

AKIBA'S TRIP: UNDEAD & UNDRESSED
Developer: Acquire
Publisher: XSEED Games
Platform: PlayStation 3, PS Vita
Release Date: August 12
Working Title: Man-Children of the Night
MSRP: $39.99

I will assume that everyone gets the pun in the title of Akiba's Trip. If not, just soak in the cover, disheveled maid and all. That'll make it clear.

Akiba's Trip is all about the expanse of Akihabara: the electronics stores, the maid cafes, the anime stores, the manga shops, and the range of geeks and uninterested passersby who wander its streets. Yet that broad citizenry masks a secret: some of them are vampires. The player's avatar learns this when he goes hunting exclusive action figures and ends up at the mercy of inhuman bloodsuckers. He's rescued by a pale, parasol-wielding young woman who initiates him into a cadre of vampire-hunters, dedicated with varying ferocity to wiping out the undead menace.

And how does the player identify and destroy those vampires? By attacking them, yanking off their clothes, and letting the scourging rays of the sun go to work. It's a silly idea at first, but there's a salacious tone to it—a lot of the suspected vampires are women, and the alleged hero forcibly tears their clothes away. XSEED and Access tried to even the score by exploiting male and female bosses equally, but I'm not sure if that works. I talked enough about this last week, I think.

Aside from the vampire hunts, Akiba's Trip builds a miniature mock-up of Akihabara. The hero meets up with his teammates, buys stuff for his seemingly shut-in little sister, collects all sorts of realistic merchandise at over 100 shops, and explores a half-satire, half-fulfillment of Akihabara geekery. He also outfits himself with fashionable attire (and cosplay outfits) while gathering various mundane weapons. Yes, it's the rare game where you can pound random strangers with a tennis racket because they might be vampires.

ALSO AVAILABLE:
Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited hits the Vita this week. It's the same goofball demonic strategy-RPG released on the PlayStation 3 back in 2011, but the Vita port has new scenarios, new dungeons, and all of the console version's extras. It's available in a regular release as well as a special edition with keychains, a microfiber cloth, and a tear-resistant poster. That's something I wish poster-makers would advertise more often.

RELEASES FOR THE WEEK OF 8-17

SWORD ART ONLINE: HOLLOW FRAGMENT
Developer: Bandai Namco Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PS Vita (Digital Only)
Release Date: August 19
Virtual Bigamy: Apparently legal
MSRP: TBA

Sword Art Online picks up where Bandai's .hack multimedia horde left off. Like .hack, Sword Art Online is all about a futuristic online RPG where the real world and a virtual gamespace clash to potentially deadly effect. Sword Art Online takes things a step further, though. Its hero, Kirito, is at the center of one huge game-player fantasy, complete with numerous virtual romances and vast conspiracies. Unlike .hack's simultaneous releases, Sword Art Online worked its way up, being first a light novel, then a bunch of manga, then an anime series, and then an actual game.

The fictional virtual-reality game of Sword Art Online is a huge multiplayer expanse, but Hollow Fragment really isn't. It has a local four-player mode, but much of the game is a single-player tale about Kirito finding his way through a mysterious new sector of his comfy online world. Gameplay follows the action-RPG approach of a current-day Phantasy Star, as Kirito can dodge, build up attack meters, and strike at enemies with moves helpfully mapped to the Vita's face buttons.

Kirito also joins up with various allies from prior Sword Art Online stories. In both battles and village tete-a-tetes, he can pair off with blacksmith Lisbeth, swordsman Klein, archer/gunner Sinon, beast-tamer Silica, sylph warrior Leafa, and Kirito's virtual wife, healer-fencer Asuna. Hollow Fragment adds two more partners and/or potential girlfriends. Purple-tressed Strea is a sword-wielder who wastes no time in smothering Kirito with affection, while a criminal-class Orange Player named Phillia is a bit less trusting of our hero. And she should be, considering his gadabout ways.

TALES OF XILLIA 2
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Platform: PlayStation 3
Release Date: August 19
Ludger: A Catholic saint, born in 742…
MSRP: $59.99 (regular release), $129.99 (special edition)

RPGs in the Tales series? Plenty o' those. Direct sequels? Not so many. We have Tales of Destiny 2, Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, and assorted follow-ups to the spin-offs Tales of the World and Narikiri Dungeon. Tales of Xillia 2 closely follows the original, opening about a year after Tales of Xillia wrapped up its two needlessly bifurcated plotlines. But it's not the same thing.

Discarding the dual-character approach of the first Xillia, the sequels puts players firmly in control of Ludger Kresnik, an aspiring chef hired by the Spirius Corporation to rescue a girl named Elle Mel Marta. An accident leaves Ludger in debt to the company, and he must pay it off while clearing his brother's name and looking after Elle (making her this generation's fourth or fifth heroine named some derivative of Ellen). Ludger also possesses a preternatural ability to affect alternate realities, and his decisions shift the storyline appropriately. Elle's technically not playable, but there's a round of new face as well as the Xillia characters. You'll see older versions of them, including doctor Jude Mathis, otherworldly warrior Milla Maxwell, butler Rowen Illbert, and that vicious little puppet-thing, Teepo.

A Tales game is nothing without its extravagantly named combat array, so Tales of Xillia 2 gets the Cross Dual Raid Linear Motion Battle System. It's a lot like the DR-LMBS from the first Xillia, wherein four characters jump into the fray. The player once again can switch between them, staging team-ups and switching straight-line paths in a 3-D field. Ludger has a wider array of attacks, however, as he can switch instantly between bladed weapons, firearms, and big ol' hammers in the middle of a fight.

For those with $130 to spend on RPG box sets, the Tales of Xillia 2 Collector's Edition includes a Ludger figure, a replica of Elle's watch, a little stuffed version of Elle's cat Rollo, a music CD, an artbook, and some DLC costumes. If nothing else, game-merch collectors can fit that Rollo toy right into a flock of Harvest Moon animals.


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


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