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The X Button
Winds of Hate

by Todd Ciolek,

There'll be no X Button next week, because I want to mill around with thousands of other geeks at the San Diego Comic Con. Look for coverage of the various game-related panels there, many of which are being held by Capcom.

In fact, Capcom might reveal two new games at the show. Keiji Inafune, of Mega Man and Dead Rising fame, already promised to bring up a new title at his Thursday panel, and it could be anything from Mega Man Legends 3 to that long-demanded Legendary Wings sequel. Or something that doesn't have Legend in its title.

Meanwhile, Street Fighter IV producer Yoshinori Ono will host a panel of his own, and he's strongly hinted that he'll mention a new game. The smart money's on a new Darkstalkers, as Ono's wanted to make one for a while, but Capcom vs. SNK 3and the now-rumored Namco vs. Capcom are also contenders. Or Ono could surprise everyone and announce a new Rival Schools, Cyberbots, Tech Romancer, or Star Gladiator. So if you're a long-rooted fan of fighting games, pay attention to Ono's panel this Saturday around noon, and be the first to hear about him unveiling a brand-new Cadillacs and Dinosaurs game. Hey, it's Comic-Con.


Niche Japanese RPGs are doing surprisingly well here in North America, but there's one section of the market that's largely ignored by publishers over here: indie games, or “doujin” games if you want to get all Japanese-game-geek about it. Carpe Fulgur is a newcomer to the world of translating games, and they're taking on that indie scene with a cute little RPG-simulation called Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale.

It may be an indie PC title from 2007, but EasyGameStation's Recettear could pass for an official release in Japan's world of lighthearted, graphically basic RPGs. The game finds a girl named Recette Lemongrass struggling to manage a shop after her jerkbag father runs off and leaves her saddled with debts. With the help of her fairy sidekick Tear (get it?), Recette fusses over displaying items, cleaning up, and keeping the store's mood upbeat and welcoming.

In order to actually acquire things to sell, filthy capitalist Recette hires local adventurers and joins them in scouring local labyrinths. Here's where the dungeon-hack RPG emerges, as the characters trek through levels filled with monsters, traps, and assorted valuables. The roster of dungeon explorers starts with a neophyte swordsman named Louie and a hard-drinking thief named Charme, but, as the game's Japanese trailer suggests, Recette acquires more exploitable proletariat help with her ever-expanding shop.

Then again, if she doesn't turn a profit and pay her bills, Recette ends up homeless and presumably dies from exposure or malnutrition. That's life in the free market of Recettear. Its balance of shop-tending and dungeon-crawling is engaging, and despite the character art and the game's unrated status, Carpe Fulgur assures players that it's entirely innocent.

Carpe Fulgur already has a demo available at the game's website, along with a detailed Q&A page. They seem quite realistic in their goal of selling a game that they admit will invariably be pirated, and I can only hope that enough people actually buy this thing to keep Carpe afloat. EasyGameStation has a number of other interesting titles in their catalog, and among them is Duo Princess, an unlicensed sequel to Square's Threads of Fate. That one probably won't make it over for obvious reasons, but there's a wealth of promising games in Japan's indie circuit. Recettear is merely scratching the surface.

Rumors and leaks revealed the price of Microsoft's motion-sensing Kinect peripheral a while ago, but now it's official: the sensor bar is $149.99, it's out August 3, and it comes with Kinect Adventures. Microsoft also has a $299.99 system bundle that includes a 4GB-drive Xbox 360, a standard controller, and the Kinect thing. And Kinect Adventures, of course.

Unsubtly inspired by the success of Wii Sports as a pack-in, Kinect Adventures has twenty or so mini-games that show off the Kinect device's sensing capabilities, which, Microsoft has emphasized, track the motions of the player's entire body without the need for remote controllers. The challenges in Kinect Adventures include various obstacle courses, raft-rowing, and a Breakout-style wallball game. It'll serve as a good showcase for the device, even if other games will doubtless use Kinect in more interesting ways.

I must admit that I expected Mega Man Universe to be a swiftly forgotten side project when word of it first leaked. But it's a major title for Capcom, if the game's first promotional video is any indication. It shows no gameplay, but it promises good things, including the chance for Mega Man characters to pull off moves stolen from Street Fighter II's Ryu (which would make sense if you played the Mega Man X games) and Arthur from Ghosts 'N Goblins. My favorite part of the trailer, of course, is the ending.

Think Bleach: Heat the Soul 7 is going to be just another PSP-based Bleach fighter? Well, it probably is, but it's doing two important things. It'll have a wireless four-player mode just like those awesome Bleach fighters that Treasure made for the DS, and it'll have 84 playable characters. To date, no Heat the Soul games have been released in North America, but I have no doubt that some Bleach fans will import the seventh one when it lands on September 2.

Some shooter fans weren't too pleased when Cave, one of Japan's biggest developers of old-fashioned 2-D shoot-'em-ups, released an iPhone version of ESPgaluda II. Shooter fans like their games served in arcades or as enhanced console titles, after all. Well, Cave is making a new DoDonPachi now, and it's on the iPhone. Cave's video announcement shows next to nothing of the new game (and it amusingly pretends that the original DonPachi doesn't exist), but DoDonPachi has always been Cave's most predictable series in terms of appearances. It's usually about high-tech jets gunning through fields of equally high-tech foes and heavy storms of bullets, with perhaps some cutesy anime girls thrown in to pilot those jet fighters. That's all I'm willing to predict until Cave shows more of DoDonPachi Resurrection this summer.


Developer: Success/Ninja Studio
Publisher: Graffiti Entertainment
Platform: Nintendo DS
Players: 1-2
MSRP: $19.99

In lieu of a standard review of Ninja Studio's Windy X Windam, this column presents a hypothetical transcription of a conversation that I believe must have taken place in the offices of the game's publisher.

So you've got an idea for a game, is that it? I'm listening.

Well, it's a fighting game. It's called Windy X Windam, and it's…

On the DS. We'll make it for the DS.

I was actually thinking we could make it for…uh, maybe the PSP. Or it could be a downloadable title for…

No. The DS. We have to. Too expensive for anything else. DS is perfect. We can make it look like a game from 1994 and no one will care. God, I love that thing.

But the DS really isn't a good place for a fighting game. I mean, it has two screens on top of each other, and a typical fighting game has a lot of horizontal movement, where characters go back and forth.

Well, make it so the fights are two screens high, then. Maybe the characters can jump or fly. You tell me.

They can jump high and dash through the air?

Sure, why not? It's your game. Who's in it?

Well, I wanted to go against the usual stereotypes and…

Kid with a sword. There's your hero. And there's a big guy, a girl with huge boobs, and a girl with smaller boobs and a bow and arrow.

But every fighting game has those.

Every successful fighting game, you mean. What, you want this to be weird, like that Guilty Gear thing? That was big, wasn't it? Fine, put in a vampire guy, another guy who's basically a crazy blob with a mask, and a boy who looks like a girl nun. Yeah, that's the ticket. He wears hot pants and a tie with no shirt. And his stage is a nursery full of giant toys.

That's creepy.

It's moe is what it is.

What's moe?

Hell if I know, but every game's got it nowadays. You know what else this game needs? Crossover characters. Who's the biggest guest star we can throw in without having to pay anyone?

Well, there's Izuna.


She was in two of her own dungeon-hack games and Rondo of Swords. You know, she's a lazy, spunky ninja-girl with pink hair and goggles that look like cat ears.

Yeah, I remember her. She has a huge rack, doesn't she?

Well, I suppose. Some of the humor in the games is…

She's in. Put in her friend, too.


Yeah, the one with the smaller rack. The moe crowd loves that.

Why don't we just make a fighting game with the rest of the Izuna characters? They're more entertaining than….uh, kid with a sword.

Pfft. Look at every game on the racks at Sofmap. There's either a kid with a sword or a third-grade girl with giant watery fried-egg eyes. This game needs both of 'em.

Well, as for the storyline…

I'm way ahead of you: there's a big tournament, and all of these fighters are part of it. Yeah. They're fighting for different reasons, and they all talk before each match.

Maybe we should write a script.

Nah, just have a few lines before each match. Keep it short and simple. Don't want to confuse anyone. And I want only two attack buttons in this. None of that six-button Street Fighter crap.

About the gameplay…

What? It's a fighting game. Two clods hit each other until one falls over. Beautiful.

Maybe the characters could change outfits when they do their special attacks. Maybe we could pull off something like Treasure's Bleach fighters. You know, where four people can fight at once.

Whatever. When can you finish this?

Uh, we've never really made a fighting game before, outside of a few ports. We'll need to test out a game engine with a combo system and implement the mid-air moves. I was thinking…

Let's say the start of next month.

We can't put together a good game by then! Especially not one with, you know, aerial fighting and dashing. It'll be a mess! The controls will be terrible and the computer-controlled opponents will be pushovers. We won't have time to put in a four-player mode or any interesting options.

So? It'll have that ninja girl, Titsy McHooterhams or whatever her name is. Just show her cleavage. All over the place.

Her outfit really doesn't…

No, no. She's gotta show it off. All the time, every time. And make sure the characters are big enough to show that.

But what if they crowd the screen and make the game even more awkward?

Big deal. Oh, and don't make that ninja girl playable from the start. Make the suckers finish the game to unlock her. And make them finish it again to unlock her friend. You like that? It's your game, after all.

That doesn't sound very fun.

Like they care? Most of them will buy it, watch Jiggles Boobington jump around a little, and then sell it back to the store before the price drops. Welcome to Japan's game industry, kid.

Do you think we could release this overseas? Some people liked what Atlus did with the Izuna games.

Atlus? Eh, I hope they don't pick it up. We want a smaller American company that slips this out the door without anyone noticing.

What?! Why?

So all the collector types will think it's going to be rare. C'mon, why else would anyone buy it?

Because it has…I mean…oh.



Developer: Imageepoch
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Players: 1
MSRP: $39.99

Arc Rise Fantasia has fairly good credentials, we must admit. It's directed by Hiroyuki Kanemaru, who's worked on RPGs since the 16-bit era, with his most prominent contributions made to Namco's Tales of Symphonia. It's also sporting character art by Kenichi Yoshida, who many anime fans will recognize from Eureka Seven and Overman King Gainer. And it's the first major console RPG from imageepoch, the developer of DS-based RPGs like Luminous Arc, 7th Dragon, and Sands of Destruction. Openly appealing to old-fashioned RPG templates, Fantasia starts with a grumbling mercenary kid named L'Arc Bright Lagoon fighting a flock of dragons and not coming out of it well. He's saved by the Mysterious Powers of a sweetly clueless girl named Ryfia, and the two of them are soon launched into conspiracies and conflict, some of which involve the Meridian Empire's use of a seemingly limitless power source. The battle system also reflects a traditional menu-driven approach instead of the up-close combat of the Tales series, though it's governed by fast-paced turns and team-up attacks. Unfortunately, the early press about Arc Rise Fantasia's U.S. release has centered on the voice acting, and…well, it's not good. But that's another staple of old RPGs: sitting through a lousy dub. Besides, early impressions might be irrelevant, as some people are reporting that the game's already out in stores.
Get Excited If: You want Wii RPGs so badly you even played Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga.

Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Aksys Games
Platform: PlayStation 3/Xbox 360
Players: 1-2
MSRP: $39.99

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift fits conveniently next to Super Street Fighter IV, as they're both upgrades to last year's biggest fighting games. Yet Continuum Shift limits itself to four new characters at first: there's the overcoat-wearing, sword-wielding Tsubaki Yayoi, the besuited Hazama, and two new robot girls named Λ-11 and μ-12. The game's engine also saw some refinements, including new rules about guard-breaking, blocking, and Astral Heat moves. The truly interesting (and controversial) angle comes with the game's extra three characters, all of whom will become available for download a week or so after the game's release. The tonfa-wielding squirrel-girl Makoto, the werewolf butler Valkenhayn, and the magical-girl Platina the Trinity will all cost about eight bucks apiece, judging by the Japanese version. Of course, you don't have to buy them, and you can just enjoy the energetic, bizarre anime excess of BlazBlue without squirrel tails or butlers.
Get Excited If: You've already picked out the squirrel girl as your new main. Or if you understand what “main” means in fighting-game parlance.

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