Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the 40th edition of Go West!, the weekly column about Japanese video games and self inflicted mental pain.
I'd like to tell you that for this joyous milestone, there are dozens of Japanese games to chat about. Unfortunately, that'd be a big fat lie. In terms of big, noteworthy releases, we got a grand total of two of them.
This would be a tragedy, if it weren't for the fact that one of the new releases is so monumental, it completely makes up for the lack of other games.
Let's get started, shall we?
Releases for the week of February 3 - 9:
Dragon Quest VII: Warriors of Eden
Online Price: 6,553 Yen ($72.90)
This is it. This is the big one. I can't even begin to describe how excited I am to see what the sales numbers are going to be like come Wednesday.
Dragon Quest is a colossal force here in Japan. It's a franchise that in one way or another, nearly everybody in the country is familiar with on some level. I have coworkers who don't play video games anymore, but when you bring up Dragon Quest, they get nostalgic and start rambling about their childhood memories.
This past year saw the release of Dragon Quest X, the first online-only entry in the series. As such, the number of copies sold has been significantly lower than any other numbered game in the franchise. This much was to be expected though; Final Fantasy XI didn't immediately sell millions at launch either. That being said, there was a huge number of Dragon Quest fans who ultimately didn't play DQX due to its online nature.
Enter Dragon Quest VII for the Nintendo 3DS.
A complete 3D remake of the original Playstation game, DQVII for the 3DS might as well be a brand new numbered entry in the franchise. The original release is known for being one of the ugliest games in the series, but Square Enix's work on this remake completely wipes those memories away. This is a great looking game that does a fantastic job of recreating Akira Toriyama's vibrant and weird artwork. No, Dragon Quest VII doesn't look as amazing as VIII on the Playstation 2 did, but it's easily the best looking numbered game on a handheld. There are some nagging issues here and there; when traversing the open fields connecting areas, there's quite a bit of popup. At the end of the day though, these minor grievances do little to impact the enjoyability of Dragon Quest VII.
Perhaps the biggest change, at least in my mind, is the brand new orchestrated soundtrack. That's right, the entire OST has been remade using a full orchestra, which brings a weighty feel to the dramatic and often times emotional story. This might not seem like such a big deal, but trust me when I say it might be hard to go back to non-orchestral DQ soundtracks after this.
I'm only four hours in, but I've already hooked. This is one of the only Dragon Quest games I haven't played, so I'm really excited to get to experience this new version for the first time. Eric is also playing the game right now, so keep your eyes open for some more coverage as we get further into the story.
I'd suggest holding off on an import unless you can read Japanese. However, if you're looking for a game to help you study, this might be a good option: every kanji character has furigana above it, much like Level 5's offerings. For everybody else? Hang tight. My brain will explode if SE and Nintendo pass on this.
Bandai Namco Games
Online Price: 6,373 Yen ($70.90)
Have you ever wanted a game in which you could play as Gundams, Kamen Riders and Ultramen from all over? Heroes VS has you covered.
Bringing characters from all three franchises together for a huge crossover, Heroes VS is an action RPG with a heavy focus on give and take. By stealing your opponents SP, you're able to inflict HP damage on them. By building up your SP by stealing your opponents, you become able to use final attacks that end the battle in your favor. Interestingly enough, combat also seems to make use of different collectable cards that inflict certain effects.
The story is told from two different perspectives: Team Justice (good guys), and Team Vice (baddies). There is no traditional exploration, as all movement takes place on what looks like a map used for a board game. It seems like the main focus is on fanservice delivered through the crazy combat.
I would imagine if you're a big fan of these properties, this is the sort of thing that excites you. I've always been a massive Kamen Rider and Ultraman fan, but crossover media has never really done much to get me hyped. That being said, those of you with an interest might want to look into this one. Just be careful of the rather high language barrier.
[And that's all for this edition of Go West!. The next couple of weeks are looking equally as devoid of new games, so I apologize in advance for the somewhat barren wasteland this has become. March is shaping up to be a warzone, so maybe I should just consider this the calm before the storm. Until next time peeps!]