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Unfathomable Horrors

by Todd Ciolek,

The most important thing this week is not a Lufia 2 remake or new Sakura Wars stuff. It's that someone in Guam officially married one of the entirely fictional girls from Konami's Love Plus, a DS dating simulator. The game's already made news in Japan for driving some men to ignore their real wives and girlfriends, but this is…well, it's something. The word is that the happy couple held a reception in Japan, and that said reception was broadcast on Nico Nico Douga. Someone even posted images of the event in the comments here, in case you want to see a grown man kiss a DS system in a bridal dress.

We all knew this was coming when Japanese nerds started petitioning the government to led them wed virtual girls, a proposal that should've been greenlit just to see otaku duel to the death for the hands of Miku Hatsune and Haruhi Suzumiya. But it's taken an open-minded Guam hotel chapel to join a man and a DS-based woman in some mockery of matrimony. This raises all sorts of questions. Who officiated this ceremony? Is the now-married Love Plus girlfriend off-limits to other players? Is the world just a little more insane now?

One thing's for sure: I'm now a little more suspicious of Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love, with its dating-sim elements and strategy-RPG battles. If you ever see me cradling a Wii in a chapel and exchanging vows with an on-screen Gemini Sunrise, you can go ahead and murder me.


The Lufia series has needed a reboot for years. The first two games were mostly deserving cult classics of the Super NES era, but a coldly received Game Boy Color game and a lousy Game Boy Advance game deadened the franchise's once-novel appeal. The original two Lufia games pulled an interesting narrative trick for their day: the first starts off by showing the unfortunate fates of a hero named Maxim and his compatriots, and the second game tells Maxim's story in its entirety. Strangely enough, it's the second game, the one with its ending already spoiled for fans, that proves more interesting. And so it's Lufia 2 that'll be remade for the DS.

And this sucker is getting remade. I almost didn't recognize it as Lufia at first, considering how it's now an action-RPG with a direct battle interface. The story's been rewritten, the characters were redesigned, and it looks nothing like the 2-D game we once knew. The screenshots suggest that the characters can still use various items to work through dungeon puzzles, and that was a big part of Lufia 2's drawl. As for the cast and setting, they've apparently gone from a largely medieval-fantasy world to one of those mismatched steampunk-knight motifs that anime series are so fond of employing.

Here's a comparison between the original 1995 art of the game's hero, Maxim, and the remake.

And here's the heroine, Selan, or Selena as she's apparently called. The game also has normally proportioned characters instead of the big-headed kids that so many DS-based RPGs show off, so that's something. It's being made by Neverland Company, the developer behind the first three Lufia games, and even their original writer/director, Masahide Miyata, is returning to the project.

This new Lufia comes out this February in Japan, where it will be known as Estpolis: The Lands Cursed by the Gods. I expect a U.S. publisher to grab it shortly, and I expect the game's destructive godlike villains to curse the heroes as “You little hoochees!”

No More Heroes remained a Wii exclusive for almost two years, denying Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 faithful the chance to argue over whether the game was brilliant comedy or one huge joke on the game industry. They'll get that chance next February, when No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise comes to both systems. The original game, a tale of one dimwit otaku's rise through the ranks of deadly assassins, loses its Wii-based motion controls in the trip, but it gains higher-resolution visuals. Oh, and a mode where all of the female characters are wearing less.

Strangely, Heroes' Paradise will be censored on the PlayStation 3 in Japan, but not the Xbox 360. Stranger still, it won't be published by Ubisoft in North America. Maybe the Wii version didn't sell well enough for them. Maybe they just decided they hated it.

Meanwhile, No More Heroes 2 remains on track for this January, with hero Travis Touchdown returning to face more assassins, insane fans, and perhaps less tedious mini-games. It arrives in North America as a Wii exclusive. For now.

In news that's not really news, NIS America sent out some English screenshots for Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love, which is what we'll all be calling Sakura Wars V in North America. The new screens show the player's avatar, a Naval ensign named Shinjiro Taiga.

Much like Ichiro Oogami, main character of the first four Sakura Wars games, Taiga's personality is blankly earnest and determined largely by just how the player behaves.

Far more screens show Gemini Sunrise, the sword-wielding Texan and ostensible star of this particular Sakura Wars. She's a member of the New York-based Star Division that Shinjiro joins, and she's his most obvious potential girlfriend. She also wears a Zorro-like mask and rides her horse around the city while slicing demon-mecha in half. I don't think I can do anything but love this game.

Gemini is also quick to violently remind Shinjiro that she's Not That Kind of Girl. Then again, I have a hard time imagining Shinjiro being That Kind of Guy, since Sakura Wars games rarely push a PG rating in terms of romance.

Sadly, these screenshots don't have the same down-home twang as NIS America's amazing English trailer, but I'm confident that the actors involved will pick up the slack. I'm still waiting for the game's official website to be rewritten in an excitable country-Western patois.

What new characters have now joined Super Street Fighter IV? In the latest round, none. They're all recurring fighters: Guy and Cody come from Final Fight, and Adon's from the original Street Fighter and the Alpha games. They're not the most boring choices possible in Street Fighter history, but they're close. Cody's also wearing his 1920s prison uniform from the Alpha series, even though it always looked sorta stupid.


Publisher: Hudson Soft
Platform: Wii
Players: 1

Perhaps three games don't constitute a trend, but Juon: The Grudge, the still-not-released-in-America Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, and Calling have made the Wii prime ground for J-horror games. A pastiche of clichés from that particular genre, Calling presents lead characters sucked into horrific environments by an evil website. The game uses the Wii remote as a flashlight and cell phone (among other things), piping ominous conversations through the device's speaker. Like Juon: The Grudge, Calling opts for weapons rooted in the real world, or at least in a country where automatic shotguns and grenades aren't found in every locked desk. One can only hope it'll score higher with players than Ju-On's haunted-house simulator did. Import Barrier: With the spoken dialogue and text in Japanese, Calling presents a challenge for English-only players. And there's another reason not to import it… Chances for a Domestic Release: Damn good, since Hudson's planning to release it here early next year. HEXYZ FORCE
Developer: Sting
Publisher: Sting
Platform: PSP
Players: 1

It's safe to say that Sting has a cult following by this point, built on anime-infused strategy-RPGs like Yggdra Union and Knights in the Nightmare. Sting's latest, Hexyz Force isn't quite as battle-heavy as its previous titles, because it leans more toward traditional RPG mechanics and more intrusive anime cutscenes. While the cast is seemingly filled with stereotypes, players at least get their choice of which stereotypes to control. In a medieval fantasy world where half the planet has no sunlight, the well-lit side is represented by shrine priestess Cecilia and her cohorts, while the dark side's avatar, a swords-user named Revenant, has his own group of slightly less pleasant allies. Players can follow either character's story, and the resulting epic changes depending on who does what when. Both paths feature all sorts of RPG battles, with turn-based moves and a power meter than builds to unleash powerful attacks. Standard fare, but Sting's known for hiding complex mechanics in cute guises.
Import Barrier: It's an RPG, and that means you'll need Japanese language skills to enjoy the game to the fullest.
Chances for a Domestic Release: No announcements yet, but try and tell us that this doesn't have “Atlus release” written all over it.

Developer: Sting
Publisher: Enterbrain
Platform: DS
Players: 1

The RPG Tsukuru series stretches way back to the Super Famicom, and it's even made its way to North America on occasion. The DS version has the same rudimentary customization methods for games, from the storyline to the monster designs to the battle mechanics. One can't really turn the game's combat system into an action-oriented melee masterpiece, but the game still offers a lot of options. It also offers the DS stylus, which alone makes RPG design much easier, and it's similarly easy to share creations online through the Japanese DSi service. If past RPG-making games are any indication, most of those creations will be awkwardly scripted sequels to Final Fantasy games, but at least RPG Tsukuru gives you the chance to make something new.
Import Barrier: Playing a Japanese RPG is hard enough without knowing the language. Designing one is even harder. Also, the game's DSi features won't work on American DS titles.
Chances for a Domestic Release: Somewhat likely, though the game's sitting at the back of the queue when it comes to prospects for Atlus, XSEED, and Ignition.


Publisher: CAPCOM
Platform: Wii
Players: 1
MSRP: $29.99

I previously described Code Veronica as the least-remembered part of the Resident Evil franchise, but there's an argument to be made for Zero. It's a mostly disposable prequel to the original Resident Evil, and it stars that game's most annoying character: chirpy medic sidekick Rebecca Chambers. Zero details just how she ended up stuck at a mansion in the middle of zombie-infested mountains, and her journey there involves a train full of hideous creatures and an ex-military prisoner named Billy Coen. Players freely switch between the two characters while exploring the train and an Umbrella corporation research center. In comparison to Resident Evil 4 or 5, Zero's controls are a bit stiff, following the same system that many complained about in the first three Resident Evils. It's also pretty much the GameCube version, with the usual added support for the Wii remote. But it's a Resident Evil game, and that's rarely a complete waste.
Get Excited If: You'd buy Rebecca Chambers body-pillow covers if CAPCOM let you.

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