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The X Button
Fight Test

by Todd Ciolek,

I'm not going to say that the recent Tokyo Game Show itself was disappointing, because, unlike our own Evan Miller, I wasn't actually there. For those of us following along at home, however, this TGS was marked largely by developers showing games we'd already heard about one way or another. It's enough to make you wonder if Keiji Inafune is right in saying that the Japanese gaming industry is doomed.

Of course, he can't be right, because Sony and Fumito Ueda are still making The Last Guardian. A trailer of the game's giant baby griffin scratching itself was the highlight of the show, as far as I'm concerned.


Capcom inadvertently overshadowed its other Tokyo Game Show news when producer Keiji Inafune (Mega Man, Dead Rising) described his opinion of the expo with “When I looked around at all the different games…I said 'Man, Japan is over. We're doomed.'” Perhaps someone's just a little jaded about not being allowed to make Mega Man Legends 3, but this year's Tokyo Game Show was indeed a little light on shocking announcements. Still, Capcom had trailers of its most promising games, including a new Okamidenclip. It looks even more adorable than before. Meanwhile, a Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars sample showed off Dead Rising's Frank West, though he doesn't say “I've covered wars, you know.” at every opportunity. Which he should.

Capcom's biggest news emerged shortly after the show. Super Street Fighter IV, an enhanced version of the recent Street Fighter IV, was mentioned before, but Capcom finally unveiled the game and its roster additions.

One of the two officially confirmed new characters is Super Street Fighter II's T. Hawk, who I don't remember anyone actually liking back in the day.

The other is a completely original taekwondo fighter named Juri, and she sports Hot Topic attire and a glinting eye. Dee Jay, also of Super Street Fighter II, can be seen in footage from Super Street Fighter IV, and rumors suggest that seven other fighters will join: Makoto, Dudley, Cody, Adon, Ibuki, Guy, and a new character named Hakan. Then again, Capcom's official announcement mentions only eight new cast members in total, so perhaps two of those names will be bumped. Please don't drop Ibuki or Dudley.

Naturally, Capcom isn't going to give these fighters away as a download. You'll have to buy Super Street Fighter IV as a separate game, and it won't be compatible with the original Street Fighter IV in its online versus mode. At least it won't cost $60, according to producer Yoshinori Ono.

Square will surely pelt the Japanese public with more Final Fantasy XIII trailers before the game's December 17 release, but the Tokyo Game Show was probably the last time the company could roll out new footage at a major industry event. And so the TGS trailer showed several new sides of the game, starting with Serah, the younger sister of heroine Lightning. Several scenes show her being romanced by rebel leader Snow and, it's clear that she will live a long, full life free of any and all tragedy. Yes, sir. Another new character featured: a middle-aged man who's the yet-to-be-named father of the game's youngest playable character, Hope. Also nameless and briefly shown is a striking woman (left) from the same cursed l'Cie social caste as many of the heroes. Too bad she'll probably be a villain or a throwaway supporting player. Final Fantasy XIII is still on track for a December 17 release in Japan, where you can get a special-edition 250GB PS3 Slim to go with your copy.

Square's other Final Fantasy titles earned space at the show, with the recently announced Final Fantasy Gaiden: 4 Warriors of Light strutting its modern take on the simpler mechanics of the first few Final Fantasies. The online RPG Final Fantasy XIV is also looking sharp, though the gameplay details remain occluded. Other titles were more sparing in their appearances: Parasite Eve: The 3rd Birthday, Final Fantasy Agito XIII, and Final Fantasy Versus XIII were all shown in limited, largely uninformative videos. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, the ten-years-prior PSP prequel to the first Kingdom Hearts, was on hand as a playable demo, showing off a world based on Lilo and Stitch, which is still a terribly underrated Disney film.

Shooter fans were no doubt delighted when Cave announced Xbox 360 versions of the previously arcade-only Mushihime-sama Futari and ESPgaluda II, though some griped that the games were unlikely to leave Japan. Well, they're still not leaving Japan, and that's not so bad, because Mushihime-sama Futari will be region-free. As long as you're willing to pay import prices, you can buy the Japanese version of the game (available in regular and soon-to-be-rare, soundtrack-equipped limited editions) and run it on your North American Xbox 360, all without having to buy a Japanese system or register a Japanese Xbox Live tag. Thank you, Cave.

Of course, this puts me in a bind, as I really like ESPgaluda II and didn't care for the first Mushihime-sama. Should I pay $75 for Futari, a game I'm not likely to enjoy much, just so Cave's made happy and more inclined to release ESPgaluda II the same way?

BlazBlue saw its first arcade release almost a year ago, which makes it about due for an upgrade with gameplay tweaks and a few new characters. BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, already on location test in Japan, adjusts some of the original roster's attacks and, more importantly, adds two new combatants. Well, they're “new” in the sense that they're playable now, but both were prominently featured in the game's story mode. The first, Tsubaki, was a classmate of Noel and Jin, and she spent most of her story-mode appearances tracking both of them. For Continuum Shift, she's wearing a suit of impressive valkyrie-like armor.

The other story-mode heavy bumped up to playable status is Hazama, the duplicitous agent who directed Noel on her mission and, well, screwed around with some other characters. He doesn't look too different compared to his previous appearances, though the idea of a government suit who swings around on mid-air chains is almost sedate by BlazBlue's standards.


Developer: Dream X Create/Tamsoft
Publisher: D3
Platform: Xbox 360
Players: 1

Unsatisfied with conventional games that let the player court schoolgirls or manage underage pop idols, Dream C Club ventures into the sad little world of hostess bars, where women pretend to like men who buy ridiculously overpriced drinks. The centerpiece of the game is a cabaret club staffed by ten girls of varying stereotypes, ranging from the conventional (Rui has pink hair! And huge breasts!) to the more fanciful (Airi appears to be a robot) but there's another side to it all. When not at the club, you take on various jobs in order to afford this costly sham of a lifestyle. This fuels more club visits, where the game's conversation system tracks your responses, a hostess's affection, and just how much alcohol you consume. Drink cautiously and talk smoothly, and your hostess might date you outside of the club. Or at least she'll sing a pop song while twirling around in her frilly pseudo-maid outfit. It's a cutesy, pandering version of the hostess clubs from Sega's Yakuza, though there are signs of Dream C Club's vague contempt for its players, especially when the game ends at least one subplot with a hostess turning you down. This may shatter those playing Dream C Club to assuage some crippling loneliness, though there'll be far less heartbreak among the fans who just want to see their chosen hostesses feign interest, sing, and wiggle around a lot. There's a lesson here somewhere.
Import Barrier: Most Japanese Xbox 360 titles are region-locked, and those interested will need a Japanese system and a Japanese Xbox Live account to fully play Dream C Club. Perhaps they should take on a bunch of part-time jobs to pay for all of that.
Chances for a Domestic Release: Don't even think about it.

Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platform: DSi
Players: 1-16 (in a wireless-mode mini-game)

Speaking of games that let players manage pop idols, the stunningly popular The Idolm@ster series has now arrived on the DSi. Previous games cast players in the roles of talent coaches who are either paternally supportive of their young charges or incredibly creepy toward them. Dearly Stars stages itself more from the perspective of the aspiring pop stars, specifically the trio of Eri Mizutani, Ai Hidaka, and Ryo Akizuki. Through static conversations, they train for stardom, go to auditions, and interact with the cast of previous Idolm@sters. Most of the attention surrounding Dearly Stars deals with the fact that Ryo, the chipper young woman on the far right, is actually a boy. I'd say that the developers are deliberately mocking their fan base, but the revelation about Ryo actually tripled the game's preorders in some channels. Perhaps it's like Bridget in Guilty Gear: a joke that turned out to be precisely what many fans wanted.
Import Barrier: Unlike just about every Japanese DS game, Dearly Stars is region-locked. Sort of. It won't play on North American DSi systems, but it'll run on regular DSes over here. So importers will miss out on the DSi-exclusive features, which involve the system's camera and those QR-code things that show up in Japanese advertising.
Chances for a Domestic Release: Slim to none.

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Platform: DS
Players: 1

Even with Dearly Stars and Dream C Club falling over themselves to cater to Japan's modern moe-geek subculture, Konami's Love Plus manages to stir up more controversy (or at least amusement). Love Plus seems like a regular dating sim, the kind that Konami's made since the days of Tokimeki Memorial, but this new DS game has the unique habit of tracking a relationship between player and virtual woman in real time. Using an internal clock, the game schedules dates and meet-ups with its cast of non-real female characters, who react unfavorably if the player ignores them. This in itself wouldn't be a groundbreaking idea, but Love Plus caught on among the most hilarious segment of Japan's game-playing public: the people who take their dating simulators on actual dates. What's more, some Japanese news stories mention women (real ones) who are upset over their husbands and boyfriends setting aside time for Love Plus flirting. Even if those stories come from Japan's tabloids, it's still enough to make Love Plus a talked-about game.
Import Barrier: Love Plus should work on a North American DS, but these here dating sims are heavy on the text. And that's all in Japanese.
Chances for a Domestic Release: As amusing as it would be to watch American men ignore wives and girlfriends for the sake of DS dates, that won't happen.

Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: DS
Players: 1

The original Nanashi no Game (“Nameless Game”) was an inventive genre hybrid in which players tracked down a haunted RPG by playing both the cursed old game and the larger, first-person game around it. The sequel, Nanashi no Game Me ("Nameless Game: THe Eye”) returns to the idea of an RPG that kills anyone who can't finish it within a set time (sound familiar?) and throws in a second challenge: a haunted action-platform game. When not exploring 3-D office buildings and spooky homes, players take part in an RPG not unlike Dragon Quest and a side-scrolling game similar to Super Mario Bros. (or maybe Spelunker), with lots of Ringu-like surprises popping up.
Import Barrier: It'll run on an North American DS, but you'll miss out on a lot of the subtle, text-driven suspense if you don't know Japanese.
Chances for a Domestic Release: Despite rumors of the first game getting a U.S. version, there's no official word on it or its sequel coming over.

Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platform: DS
Players: 1

Super Robot Gakuen is technically a spin-off of the Super Robot Wars series, but unlike Super Robot Taisen OG Saga Endless Frontier (or any of the Original Generation games), it's still stocked with familiar anime robots. The actual gameplay is reminiscent of an RPG, as the never-before-seen kid heroes wander a school and take on enemies with the help of virtual-reality mecha and card-based attacks. A lot of Super Robot Wars fans have shunned the game for its basic arrangements, though many might grab it just for the lineup of shows on display: Mazinkaiser, Kotetsushin Jeeg, Gaiking, Getter Robo: Armageddon, Fafner, Gun X Sword, both seasons of Godannar, Overman King Gainer, the three Full Metal Panic series, Hades Project Zeorymer, Dangaioh, Brain Powered, G Gundam, Gundam Wing Endless Waltz, various Mobile Suit Gundam SEED incarnations, Detonator Orgun, Virtual On Marz, Voltes V, Martian Successor Nadesico: The Prince of Darkness, Layzner, Beast King GoLion (that's Voltron, kids!), Zoids Genesis, Combattler V, and both GaoGaiGar and GaoGaiGar Final.
Import Barrier: Playable on a domestic DS, provided you know the rudimentary Japanese needed to work the battle system.
Chances for a Domestic Release: The same as the rest of the Super Robot Wars games that have scads of anime robots. In other words, not good.


Developer: Wayforward
Publisher: Majesco
Platform: Wii
Players: 1
MSRP: $39.99

A Boy and His Blob may well be the first game with a dedicated “hug” button, used when its scrawny kid hero needs to calm his amorphous friend's insecurities. That's one new touch in this remake of the 1989 NES game that hinged on a novel mechanic: feeding a blob various colored jellybeans causes him to change shape, becoming a ladder, a hole in the ground, an umbrella, and other implements. Only by using his various forms can the boy solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and otherwise progress to victory. The original was a crude-playing challenge from the creator of Pitfall, but the Wii remake is a smoother game from Wayforward (developer of Shantae and a bunch of other games that were not Shantae). There's a standard quest with 40 extra levels, plus a bunch of blob-altering jelly beans that weren't in the original. And good, wholesome blob-hugging.
Get Excited If: You spent many frustrated nights playing the original.

Developer: From Software
Publisher: Atlus
Platform: PlayStation 3
Players: 1-Many (online)
MSRP: $59.99

Demon's Souls may have a drab cover and a deliberately awkward title (wait, does one demon have multiple souls?), but From Software's grim dungeon hack might be the biggest sleeper hit of the year. It's already a raging cult success in Japan, and a lot of Western fans have plunged into the import. Set in the ruins of a kingdom destroyed by hell-sent creatures, Demon's Souls sends players on grueling runs through castles and labyrinths teeming with monsters. Death is quick and graphic, thanks to huge enemies, and the multiplayer mode allows adventurers to leave each other hints or view previous players' deaths by examining bloodstains on the ground. Teams of three to four players can explore the ruins of Boletaria together, though others can enter the game as rivals, and all of them can share details and advice through in-game profile pages. Harshly complicated and quite extensive, Demon's Souls is a far cry from player-friendly RPGs. And that's how some dungeon hackers like it.
Get Excited If: You can't respect a game unless it kills you in the first ten minutes.

Developer: Racjin
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platform: PSP
Players: 1-2
MSRP: $39.99

It's no longer news that Naruto Shippuden games are arriving here, though Akatsuki Rising is technically the first of them to hit the PSP. It's a brawler of sorts, with Naruto and 15 other characters pounding back multiple enemies in 3-D environments. Two ninja can support the player's chosen fighter, and there's a lineup of special attacks to work out with the game's relatively basic interface. The story mode apparently covers the “Gaara Retrieval” arc, which the publisher's copy also calls the “Kazekage Retrieval” arc for some reason. I imagine fans will be far more interested in just who's included in Akatsuki Rising. Well, it has Sakura, Kakashi, Rock, Guy, Itachi, Gaara, Temari, Kankuro, Neji, Deidara, Tenten, Kisame, and two forms of Sasori. Oh, and Naruto. Whoever he is.
Get Excited If: You are not amused by attempts at mocking Naruto's popularity.

Developer: Hit Maker
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: Nintendo DS
Players: 1
MSRP: $29.99

A Witch's Tale went through some changes after its announcement last year. The story of an ambitious young witch at a magical academy remains the same, but the game seems to have drifted from an action-RPG to a traditional one, with random battles fought through menus and turns and other time-honored techniques. The standard RPG mechanics arise as Liddell, the witch of the title, sets out to defeat a unhinged ancient witch and runs into all sorts of references from children's literature, including Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. A Witch's Tale retains its distinctive style, though, resembling some hybrid of The Nightmare Before Christmas and the usual NIS cute-culture look. Still, it was programmed by Hit Maker, a developer that hasn't done much beyond the mediocre PSP RPG Blade Dancer.
Get Excited If: You want a Dragon Quest with Disgaea's style.

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