The X Button
Crime Scene, Part Fun

by Todd Ciolek,
Hey, would you like a remastered version of Final Fantasy XII? I sure would! Maybe it's not your thing, but Final Fantasy XII is up there with Tactics and VI among my favorite parts of the whole Final Fantasy buffet. Sure, XII feels a little incomplete due to director Yasumi Matsuno leaving the project about two-thirds of the way through, but it's an elegant, subtly appealing adventure with plenty of gorgeous scenery to explore. An HD upscaling wouldn't overhaul the storyline, but it would give Square a chance to release the technically improved version of the game in North America. And maybe they'd throw in an extra quest where we meet Balthier's long-lost wife or something. That'd be fun.

At this writing, the only word of Square Enix reviving Final Fantasy XII came from composer Arnie Roth, who mentioned a “remake” of the game during a Final Fantasy Distant Worlds Concert in Pittsburgh. Roth later clarified that he used the term in error, but fans nonetheless made much of the fact that he specified the word “remake” being wrong. So it's still possible that a remastered HD edition of the game is coming. It logically follows the similarly prettied-up Final Fantasy X and X-2 HD Remaster, and it'd reintroduce a game that's only available on the PlayStation 2 right now.

Of course, it's also possible that no such remaster is in the works and that Square Enix will just leave Final Fantasy XII to sit on the shelf next to Samurai Legend Musashi and Code Age Commanders. That's why I still have my PlayStation 2 hooked up.

NEWS

RED ASH RESCUED, KICKSTARTER COLLAPSES
Red Ash was in dire straits at this time last week. The Kickstarter, Keiji Inafune's attempt at a Mega Man Legends revival, stood at little over half of its $800,000 goal. Most said the funding wouldn't come through, and it didn't. The Kickstarter closed at a little over $519,000. But we'll still get the game. Last week, Fuze Entertainment, a Chinese “digital entertainment” company, saved the project and funded the Kickstarter's initial goal of The KalKanon Incident, in which the treasure-hunting team of Beck, Call, and Tyger raids a giant walking superweapon of ancient times. With Fuse backing the game, the producers shifted to funding the stretch goals with the Kickstarter donations: a challenge dungeon, a bonus village-repairing mode with heroine Call and her robot sidekick Gofer, and the option to play as Tyger. So we'll get none of those now that the Kickstarter fell short. I think $800,000 was a bit much for those extras, anyway.

It's a happy ending in headlines, but a good look at Fuze Entertainment makes one suspicious. The company's website is bare-bones and strewn with promises about a new game console. They even mock some existing systems—including the Xbox One that, along with the PC and PlayStation 4, will host Red Ash once it's done. Optimists can remember that Fuze isn't making the game. Inafune's Comcept is producing Red Ash and retaining the rights, while the development falls to the little-known studio Hyde. And while Fuze's website may look crude, the same can be said for the demo version of Red Ash that the Kickstarter offered.

The entire Kickstarter didn't go as smoothly as Mega Man Legends fans would've liked: it showed too little of the actual game, it offered too few rewards, and the sudden save from Fuze led some backers to pull or scale back their pledges. I actually did the latter and reduced my contribution once Fuze stepped into the fray. But I'm still behind it. I liked Mega Man Legends, and I want more games like it. And there's nothing more like it than Red Ash.

Meanwhile, Mighty No. 9, Inafune's successfully funded side-scrolling rebirth of regular Mega Man games, saw a delay until early next year. It's just not Beck and Call's week. Or year.

At least the other half of Red Ash, an anime short subtitled Magicicada, found success on Kickstarter without any last-minute benefactors. Of course, the short had a lower asking price and a pretty straightforward pitch: give the talented animators at Studio 4°C some money for a brief Red Ash cartoon. The rewards were similarly expensive and the funded short is only 12 minutes (not including extras), but it's on far safer ground than the Red Ash game.

BUSTER BROS. RETURNS SOMEHOW
I wouldn't put Buster Bros. among Capcom's most cherished arcade works. It's a fun series where two kids clear single-screen stages of apparently deadly balloons, but it was never a phenomenon like Street Fighter II or as prone to attracting fan cults like Darkstalkers, Strider, or even my dear Cyberbots and Armored Warriors. Yet Buster Bros. will not be forgotten in this modern era. DotEmu and Pastagames plan a revival that reflects the European name for the series. So it shall be called Pang Adventures.

Pang Adventures has little to show beyond the above title screen, but it at least reflects the original's core idea of kid heroes zapping balloons with their harpoon guns. Heck, the guy on the left even looks a little like Takahashi Meijin, or Master Higgins, from the Adventure Island games!

This Buster Bros. relaunch apparently came through Mitchell Corporation, which offered a bunch of older titles for licensing last year. Someone took them up on Buster Bros., so I hope a remake of Osman isn't out of the question.

KONAMI CIRCLES SEVERAL DRAINS AT ONCE, MOMOTARO SWIMS
Konami isn't doing well. The publisher slowed development on traditional video games in favor of health clubs, pachislot attractions, and mobile titles. And now the Nikkei reports that the company is a gloomy fading empire. Employees are forbidden internet access, time cards are strictly monitored, and game developers are reduced to playing security guards and janitorial roles. All of this follows Konami's disbanding of Kojima Productions (now known merely as the company's eighth production department), rumors of Hideo Kojima himself leaving, and the actual departure of producer Akari Uchida, who oversaw the company's generally successful LovePlus virtual-girlfriend games. He also directed both Rumble Roses titles, so I doubt we'll see Konami make any more of those. The saga of schoolgirl rocker Candy Cane will go tragically unfinished.

But there's an upside. A Konami that doesn't care about video games is a Konami that's more likely to sell them to other companies. That's what happened recently with the Momotaro Dentetsu series of train sim and board game hybrids. While it's largely unknown (and unreleased) in North America, the line is reliably popular in Japan and was a staple of Hudson Soft's catalog for years. Konami swallowed up Hudson in 2011, but they did little to maintain the Momotaro Dentetsu games (or any other Hudson property), and series creator Akira Sakuma left Konami last month.

That's where Nintendo stepped in, bought Momotaro Dentetsu, and announced a new game in the line. It's good news, and not just for fans of the series. Hudson's old catalog had many enjoyable sights, from Bomberman to Tengai Makyo, and it's plausible that Nintendo could acquire them as well. And while I'd give the next Momotaro Dentetsu slim odds of being localized, Nintendo does take the occasional chance on bringing long-running Japanese series like Fortune Street to North America.

IMPORT ROUNDUP: JULY

THE GREAT ACE ATTORNEY: THE ADVENTURES OF RYUNOSUKE NARUHODO
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
AKA: Dai Gyakuten Saiban: Naruhodo Ryunosuke no Boken

It's widely speculated that Shu Takumi, the creator of the Ace Attorney series, is a little tired of protagonist Phoenix Wright's contemporary adventures. Wright's had a long career defending and investigating all sorts of weird characters, but Takumi pulled him out of his modern-day Japan Los Angeles trappings and tossed him into a medieval-fantasy pocket dimension in Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright. Takumi's The Great Ace Attorney goes even farther. Phoenix isn't even the star anymore. We're now in Meiji-era Japan, and our hero is Ryunosuke Naruhodo, ancestor of Phoenix (who was Ryuichi Naruhodo in the original Japanese games). For the game's first case, Ryunosuke finds himself accused of murder and represents himself, learning the ins and outs of the game's slightly skewed justice system.

After that opener, The Great Ace Attorney jumps into its real story. Ryunosuke and his assistant Susato are on a steamer to London, and along the way they land in the thick of a mystery involving Sherlock Holmes himself…and an introduction to the game's investigative methods. Despite its prologue in Japan, The Great Ace Attorney spends most of its case time in England with the informal group of Ryunosuke, Susato, Holmes, and a ten-year-old doctor named Iris Watson. One case might deal with a murder in the middle of a carriage ride, another one with an eccentric Japanese student and his pet cat, and they soon run up against the imposing prosecutor Barok van Zieks. The Great Ace Attorney strings along cases with more obvious literary links than previous games, though it also feels like the start of a new Ace Attorney series. There's the strong promise of a sequel even when the last case is over.

The Great Ace Attorney follows legal sparring along the same lines as previous Phoenix Wright adventures: poke around crime scenes for clues, then use the resulting evidence in rapid courtroom cross-examinations. This time, Ryunosuke works alongside Sherlock during the investigations, bouncing ideas off the esteemed detective and even picking up on details he might've missed. The trials allow for more direct confrontations. As in Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright, a defense attorney can cross-examine multiple witnesses at once. What's more, Ryunosuke can work on individual members of the jury, testing their opinions until they toss their flaming knives onto the correct side of the courtroom scale. That's how the British legal system works, even today.

Import Barrier: There's a lot of dialogue, and it's rarely in English beyond the occasional interjections from swan-hatted Jezail Brett. And that stings a bit because…

Domestic Release: Capcom hasn't announced any localization for The Great Ace Attorney. There's always a chance, of course, and perhaps Nintendo could lend a hand. Yes, we're hoping for Nintendo intercession a lot this week.

Best Name: Egg Benedict, a suspicious customer at a pawnshop.

LANGRISSER RE: INCARNATION TENSEI
Developer: Career Soft
Publisher: Masaya
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
AKA: Langrisser Re: Incarnation Reincarnation (really)

A brief history of Langrisser follows. Masaya started the series back in 1991, introducing players to massive strategic battles full of tiny soldiers, side-view skirmishes, and the lush, suggestive illustrations of Satoshi Urushihara. These were the hallmarks of Langrisser as it wandered across 16-bit systems, checked in with the swiftly doomed PC-FX, strode through the Saturn and PlayStation era, and eventually came to a mediocre end with Langrisser Millennium on the Dreamcast. You couldn't see much of Langrisser in North America unless you picked up the original on the Genesis (under the name Warsong) or imported the later games, but the series gave way to Masaya's Growlanser titles. And more of those came here.

Well, Langrisser is back. Re: Incarnation (it's half a pun, I guess) sets out in a world besieged by flooding, and its protagonist, Ares, is a young hero seeking a magic sword named Excalibur. He's also seeking a loved one who disappeared years ago, in case the clichés weren't layered on thick enough already. Along the way, he'll meet doughty knights, obnoxious rebels, buxom tactical maids, and a new incarnation of Jessica, a recurring celestial avatar in the Langrisser games. Urushihara's art is nowhere to be found, but Hiroshi Kaieda retains the tradition of heroes who sport generous forelocks and heroines who wear next to nothing, right down to female knights in armor and string bikini bottoms. That practice seems a lot creepier when it's applied to younger female characters, however, and Re: Incarnation has several of those.

In gameplay, Langrisser Re: Incarnation retains the overhead-view battles of previous games, and it'll look familiar to any fan of the Fire Emblem series. Characters position themselves on grids and attack in ridiculous-looking scenes of huge-headed figures flailing at each other. At least you can turn off those interludes and streamline the conflict. The game's story also branches out as the player leans toward one of three factions: the Brightness hagiocracy, the imperial military, and the disgruntled misfits of the Darkness cadre. Choosing sides is always an interesting touch, but it's easy to see that this new Langrisser is no Tactics Ogre or even Fire Emblem: Fates.

Import Barrier: The battles follow the usual rules of a strategic RPG, so they're not hard to understand. The dialogue remains in Japanese, though. Oh, and the 3DS has a regional lockout to challenge you.

Domestic Release: No news yet, but even with its suggestive designs, Langrisser Re: Incarnation isn't out of bounds for some North American publishers.

Best Name: The hero's long-lost sister is named Licorice, but that's standard fantasy-anime silliness. I'll go with the bishop-general named Lugner Menteur. That's a name worthy of a Tales RPG.

TOTAL COUNTERATTACK WARS: METROPOLIS DEFENDERS
Developer: Acquire
Publisher: Acquire
Platform: PlayStation 3 / PS Vita
AKA: Zettai Geigeki Wars: Metropolis Defenders

It's hardly new that Metropolis Defenders lets players built and maintain a city. That was commonplace in video games as far back as the early 1990s, when SimCity reigned over middle-school computer labs and Super NES launch libraries. What's unique is the city's system of defense. For one thing, the metropolis actually transforms and rotates, like a giant tank or one of the traction cities from those partly fun, partly hackneyed Mortal Engines novels.

Interception City can't roam around and devour weaker urban realms, but it's heavily fortified against assaults. In a world that vaguely recalls the cartoonish militancy of Advance Wars, the human race faces a seemingly unstoppable threat from extradimensional monsters. Commanding the last known refuge of civilization, the player directs the city's defenses by placing and upgrading weapons and barriers, while getting little glimpses into the lives of the officials in charge of this delicate fortress.

When monsters arise and threaten the city, players revolve its perimeter to ward off threats and directly control some heavy weapons. After overseeing the upkeep of a city, it's satisfying to target attackers in the crosshairs and fire as they swarm the city. As the city successfully defeats its enemies, it expands and toughens up at the player's direction. While the upkeep of the city involves some spreadsheets and municipal guidelines, the battles come together with a colorful panache. It hardly hurts that the monster designs are the work of Gravity Rush artist Takeshi Oga.

Import Barrier: Some of the more intricate points of city defense require Japanese knowledge…or some patient trial-and-error.

Domestic Release: No one's picked up Metropolis Defenders just yet, but it's had a good share of attention in the English-speaking press. It's the sort of intriguing genre crossbreed that nicely rounds out a niche publisher's catalog.

Best Name: Lovelock, the artillery commander. I assume he's named after James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia Hypothesis. That would be strangely fitting.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

XBLAZE LOST: MEMORIES
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Aksys Games
Platform: PS Vita / PlayStation 3
Release Date: August 11
Squirrel Girl: Not Marvel, Perhaps Not Here
MSRP: $39.99

Setting off on your own, Xblaze? You started off as an off-shoot of BlazBlue, but now you have a sequel and you're all grown up. Xblaze Lost: Memories isn't really about the BlazBlue series proper, as you'll see little of the disdainful vampire heiresses or self-aggrandizing, nail-wielding ninja superheroes from the fighting games. Instead there's a lineup of magicians, warriors, and intrepid schoolkids hashing things out some 150 years before the events of BlazBlue. And Lost: Memories plunges right into it.

Xblaze Lost: Memories stars a young woman with a rotten family life wracked by her father's bizarre experiments. It's left her with an eyepatch as well as the same voice actress and hair color as BlazBlue's Konoe, but that's probably coincidental. After digging too deep into her own backstory, she awakens in a mysterious inter-dimensional realm, befriends an equally mysterious woman named Nobody, and takes on the moniker of “Me.” She's swiftly pushed into plotlines with characters from the original Xblaze Code: Embryo, often seeing events from the first game with a new viewpoint.

While Code: Embryo unfolded like a visual novel most of the time, Lost: Memories mixes other perspectives with its conversations and character portraits. The player guides “Me” through pixel dungeons from an overhead view. Here she evades traps and enemies while gathering Memory Fragments, which Nobody can change into more useful Memory Crystals that correspond to different characters. Before she'll do that, however, Nobody asks the player trivia questions while she and “Me” cavort in big-headed, ultra-flat form. It's still a visual novel much of the time, so players should prepare for a lot of talking—even inside the dungeons.


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


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