The X Button
by Todd Ciolek,
We begin this column with sad news: Takeshi Miyaji of GameArts and G-Mode passed away at the age of 45.
Devoted to using new technology in games, Miyaji helped craft many impressive titles. He began his career at GameArts in the late 1980s, and his early work ranges from the NES action-RPG Faria to the Genesis side-scroller Alisia Dragoon and the PC RPG Zeliard. Miyaji's biggest titles came in the 1990s, when he worked on Silpheed and Lunar: The Silver Star, two games that helped American Sega CD owners stem the system's tide of terrible full-motion video titles. After helming the impressive 3-D mech sim Gungriffon on the Saturn, Miyaji turned to the Grandia series, co-directing the original game and producing the second.
In recent years Miyaji served as CEO of the mobile games developer G-Mode, while his brother Yoichi Miyaji was (and still is) the CEO of Game Arts. It's a shame to lose a talented producer so young.
MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 3, STREET FIGHTER X TEKKEN GET NEW FACES
I covered most of the news about Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in my Comic-Con posts, so here's a recap: it has 12 new characters, it's out in November, and it's a full-blown release instead of a download.
Protests naturally arose from those who paid full price for Marvel vs. Capcom 3 just five months ago, as they've now got to decide if it's worth buying the update just to get Strider Hiryu, Phoenix Wright, Firebrand, Dead Rising's Frank West, Resident Evil 3's Nemesis, and Devil May Cry's Vergil on the Capcom side. The Marvel camp has some curious selections. Ghost Rider, Hawkeye, Nova, and Doctor Strange are understandable. Iron First and Rocket Raccoon really aren't.
The entire roster for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 already leaked, but Street Fighter X Tekken, Capcom's other major upcoming fighter, continues to dole out character additions slowly. Comic-Con saw the announcement of Steve Fox and Yoshimitsu from Tekken, while the Street Fighter side gained Dhalsim and, surprisingly, Final Fight's Poison. A recent video also suggests that Kuma and Ibuki will be added, but Dan and Anna were officially shot down. Juri's also not too likely, going by producer Yoshinori Ono's Twitter feed.
Poison is the most interesting of the new additions, and not just because she's never before been playable in a Street Fighter game. Her backstory's the source of much contention, as Capcom's said that she's really a he—or rather, Ono stated that Poison's a post-op transsexual in America and a pre-op cross-dresser in Japan. The final ruling on Poison's sex may be up to a vote among the fans, according to a Twitter post by Capcom's Seth Killian. If so, I hope there's an option to simply let the mystery lie. It doesn't matter as far as the game goes, and it makes Poison more memorable a character than the generic biker-dominatrix she otherwise resembles.
KOF XIII COMES WITH NEW CHARACTERS, SOME SOUNDTRACKS
Perhaps the biggest complaint about The King of Fighters XIII is that it's too familiar. While the characters are redrawn in sharp 2-D, they're all from previous parts of the series, and nearly every new King of Fighters game introduces a fresh contender or two. This may no longer be a problem. Rising Star Games put together a new trailer to hype the European release of The King of Fighters XIII. It promises over 30 playable characters, and, according to Siliconera, five entrants never before seen in a King of Fighters game.
The math behind this puzzles me, but one of those all-new characters is apparently Saiki, a slightly different version of the game's mid-boss. If he looks a lot like Ash Crimson, there's a reason for that, and it ties into the way The King of Fighters XIII concludes the storyline from the eleventh The King of Fighters.
Who are the other allegedly new characters? Does the alternate version of Iori count, even though he's a downloadable bonus? And what about all of the characters seen in screenshots of the game's story mode? Does the one above mean that Vanessa, Blue Mary, and Ramon are all playable? There are no answers yet, only the news that preordering the game gets you a four-disc soundtrack. Atlus plans an October 25 release date for North America.
IREM PULLS PSN SUPPORT, IS NOT WELL
Irem isn't in a good place right now. The company canceled its two major titles, Steambot Chronicles 2 and Disaster Report 4, after the earthquake earlier this year. Then Kazuma Kujo, director of R-Type Final and Steambot Chronicles, left the company. Now Irem's dropping a bunch of PlayStation Network games on August 11. For North American PSN users, Irem will pull the two R-Type Tactics titles, Hammerin' Hero, and Steambot Chronicles: Battle Tournament for the PSP, as well as R-Types and R-Type Delta from the PSone archives. The same titles will be yanked from the Japanese PSN, as will Carton-Kun, both Sengoku Esatsu Yugi Hototogisu games, Narisokonai Eiyuutan: Story of the Sun and Moon, Gussun Paradise, and the Irem Arcade Classics anthology. Spelunker HD isn't on the list of departing games, but I wouldn't wait to pick it up.
Irem's also closing most of their establishments on PlayStation Home, and only the lounges for their recent Dokidoki Suikoden and Pachipara games will remain open. It's a sad sight, as Irem supported Home quite a bit. Irem hasn't mentioned the fate of its Xbox Live offerings, but the above advice still applies: if you ever wanted R-Type Dimensions, now's the time.
Irem's current gameplan leans on the one sector they haven't abandoned: pachislot. Their entire upcoming schedule consists of Pachipara 3D for the Nintendo 3DS. Irem's made decent money in the pachinko field, and their Pachipara titles outnumber the rest of their series put together. Old game companies never die. They just make games that you don't care about.
IN BRIEF: NINTENDO 3DS DROPS IN PRICE, INAFUNE'S NEW GAME
Nintendo took a drastic step in promoting the 3DS by dropping the system's price: on August 12, the handheld goes from $249.99 to $169.99. While the 3DS hasn't caught on quite as well as the Wii or the original DS, this price drop hardly signals another Virtual Boy calamity: the 3DS has sold about 800,000 units in North America so far, and Nintendo clearly wants to reach one million. For the 800,000 who already own the system, there's a special offer for 10 downloable NES games and another 10 GameBoy Advance games in the system's eShop.
Many Capcom fans are watching the now-independent Keiji Inafune, who created Mega Man and oversaw many other successes for the company. He's currently working on his first title since quitting Capcom, and it's a social-media cell-phone game called The Island of Dr. Momo. The antithesis of maniacal Mega Man villain Dr. Wily, Momo is a scientist who combines various animals in an attempt to make the cutest creature ever (depending on her methods, she might not be so unlike Wily). The game's scheduled for a Japanese release on the iOS platform and Android this fall.
IMPORT ROUNDUP: JULY
The premise of Ohanaya-San Monogatari is thin: you're running a flower shop and managing everything from the sales floor to the arrangements of bouquets. But such are DS games for younger players, and Ohanaya-San is unique in its goals. During this career in floral studies, the game's giant-eyed heroine finds customers to please and some handsome young men to work besides at the shop. Did we mention this is a game for younger female players? Well, it is.
To its credit, Ohanaya-San isn't just a series of petal-snipping mini-games played with the DS stylus. Players also converse with other characters, map out the sales floor, and take on side-scrolling stages now and then. Still, it's really all about the floral trade, and it'll likely resonate only with those fascinated enough to note the game's directory of over 500 different types of flowers.
Import Barrier: The game's young demographic ensures something easy, but you'll miss the specifics of mini-games (and the flower guide) if you're not up on your Japanese.
Coming Here: Only if Majesco buys it and turns it into Florist Mama. Which isn't all that far-fetched.
TO HEART 2: DUNGEON TRAVELERS
The To Heart series stretches way back into the 1990s, when dating simulators were mostly a niche and it was preposterous to think that they'd one day take over half the anime industry. How wrong we were. As a pioneer of that age, To Heart endures so well that Aquaplus crafted a dungeon hack as a spin-off. The uninventively titled Dungeon Travelers sends To Heart 2's coterie of anime girls to a fantasy realm where they raid underground ruins and take on various ravening monsters…many of whom are also anime girls.
The meat of Dungeon Travelers is much like other Wizardry-style RPGs, with a first-person viewpoint guiding players through labyrinths and turn-based battles. An auto-map feature makes the game far easier than some modern dungeon hacks, though the enemies are a fairly demanding and randomly appearing bunch. The game's cutesy heroines are all capable of changing classes, and the available jobs include fighters, various mages, samurai, magical snipers, and (of course) maids. Considering the game's roots, it'd be quite the surprise if Dungeon Travelers had no extensive conversations—and it does, long stretches of dialogue where the game's hero talks with the heroines, recruits them, and perhaps gets a glimpse of them in compromising poses. Yes, To Heart's been around long enough to know what fans want. Then again, the game might unexpectedly appeal to people who hate To Heart 2, since characters in dungeon hacks tend to die a lot.
Import Barrier: There's no region lock on the PSP, but you'll need passing knowledge of Japanese to upgrade characters and navigate discussions.
Coming Here: Never. This would be a tough sell even if the PSP were hale and healthy in the North American market. Which it isn't.
Unchainblades Rexx is a casualty of the war between good ideas and dull pandering that's currently raging in Japan's game industry. The game's a dungeon-crawler set inside giant lumbering stone titans, and the cast of characters is refreshing in concept. The antihero of it all is Fang, a dragon cursed with human form by a well-meaning goddess. On his bitter journey through the mortal realm, Fang meets a phoenix princess, a grim reaper, a medusa-like sorceress, a fox spirit, a marriage-fleeing golem prince, and other semi-human allies. The game's combat follows the rules of dungeon hackery, but it allows for a lot of recruited allies. Each of the player's four party members can “unchain” up to four enemies, leaving the group with a nice little private army of formerly hostile monsters.
And now for the bad part: Unchainblades Rexx is in the grip of lousy RPG and anime clichés. For all of their inhuman origins, the characters resemble standard-issue anime heroines (except for the golem). The worst is the gorgon-inspired Lapis, a painfully shy girl who wears little more than a bikini and two token hair-snakes. At least each cast member was designed by a different artist, ranging from old names to modern trend-followers: Bastard!! creator Kazushi Hagiwara drew the dragon-cursing goddess Crunea and Toshiyuki Kubooka drew the fox-girl Nico, while Dream C Club's Haruyuki Morisawa drew the phoenix Tiana. It's odd that these selling-point characters go largely unseen during actual gameplay, but those are the rules of dungeon hacks. It's also a shame that Rexx's intriguing concepts are so routine in execution. But hey, those are the rules of today's games.
Import Barrier: It's a Japanese-heavy RPG, so keep that in mind before importing. The PSP version is, of course, region-free, but the 3DS one is locked and runs only on Japanese handheld.
Coming Here: The PSP version? Nope. The 3DS version? Possibly. Furyu hasn't made much of a name for itself, but Rexx was created by staffers from the familiar RPG series Lunar and Grandia. Some U.S. publisher might grab it just to test out the malnourished 3DS market.
Queen's Gate: Spiral Chaos for the PSP shouldn't merit coverage here, as it's another game in the Queen's Blade line of exploitation. Yet Queen's Gate is at least notable for bringing in familiar heroines to shame in its side-view strategy-RPG battles. Along with the usual women warriors, Queen's Gate features Mai Shiranui from The King of Fighters; Dizzy from Guilty Gear; Lili from Tekken, Ivy from Soul Calibur; Kasumi from Dead or Alive; the eponymous Wonder Momo from the Namco arcade game; and Cham-Cham, Iroha, and Mina from Samurai Shodown. They all serve the same prurient purposes as the other characters of Queen's Blade, so even desperate Guilty Gear fans should think twice about importing Queen's Gate.
NEXT LAST WEEK'S RELEASES
CHANTELISE: A TALE OF TWO SISTERS
Next week has no particularly interesting releases, so here's something that slipped out while I was away: Chantelise: A Tale of Two Sisters. Carpe Fulgur turned heads last year with their localization of Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale, a charming hybrid of action-RPG and sales management. This year, Carpe has another title from indie developer EasyGameStation. Chantelise finds Chante, a headstrong young woman, transformed into a tiny fairy by some forest witch's curse. Chante sets out to turn herself back, and her sister Elise shoulders a lot of the quest: Elise treks through the forest and hacks through monsters while Chante flutters nearby and casts spells. The game offers a robust selection of dungeons and bosses (plus a fishing mini-game), and Elise and Chante's partnership allows players to learn new spells while upgrading attacks. Chantelise dates back to 2006, however, so it lacks the shop-running demands of its descendant Recettear. That aside, anyone who enjoyed Recettear will find much of the same style in Chantelise's characters and Carpe Fulgur's translation.
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