Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, to the one and only column about Japanese video games, 2D girlfriends and insane serial killer rabbits! The Nintendo 3DS sees a positively massive list of high profile releases this week, while the other systems sit this one out. Tons of different genres get representation, so I'm sure there'll be something for everyone!
For our gem of the week, we'll be taking a look at a relatively recent 3DS title from last year, filled with breasts, swords and ridiculously short skirts. I'm sure you've already guessed what I'm talking about, but it's not about the answer, friends. It's about the journey to reach the answer!
Follow me after the break as I explore the inner workings of a 2D high school girl's heart. Or something.
Releases for the week of February 12-18:
New Love Plus (Nintendo 3DS)
Oh Shit. That's right, ladies and gentlemen. This week sees the release of the newest, bestest, most excellent-est (new word) entry in the blockbuster franchise, Love Plus. I know we all spend a lot of time joking about this series and pitying the people who get some caught up in the games that they completely leave society behind. Hell, it's easy to point and laugh. But that's not what this is all about. Underneath all the creepiness inherent in its fans, Love Plus is actually a damn good game. Taking much from its spiritual precursor Tokimeki Memorial, the Love Plus games emulate actually dating a girl. This means making good use of your time and energy by figuring out which activities to do and when to do them. Where Love Plus took things further was in the way the true game started only after the girl confesses her love for you. Utilizing real-time functionality, you effectively 'date' your girl of choice, picking days and times at which you'll go out together, eat lunch or even just have a chat. In many ways the Love Plus franchise is a simulation lover's dream; all the elements are right there.
If the review from Famitsu is to be taken seriously, it looks like New Love Plus adds a lot of functionality to an already packed game. Honestly, if you have an interest in dating sims (not visual novels), you should probably try this game. Don't let the creepy otaku scare you off. Importing is definitely your only option for this one though. Don't expect these games to ever make their way over the pond in any official capacity.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (Nintendo 3DS)
The big 3DS titles keep on rolling in. Despite its ridiculous name, Theatrhythm is looking to be one hell of a music game. Packing over 70(!) classic Final Fantasy songs onto a small cart, this rhythm title utilizes RPG trappings for all of its major game-play. You have boss battles, random encounters and even a level up system for each of your party members. I was at first pretty skeptical given that you can find decent music games on iOS devices for significantly cheaper, but looking at that massive song list made me a convert. Additionally, the game will be seeing some 50+ DLC songs, meaning you're not likely to run out of things to do anytime soon. I'd be annoyed with the dearth of DLC if there content in-game was lacking, but seeing as that's not the case, I'm not worried.
The only thing to really be concerned about is the high price tag. In what can only be referred to as 'Square Enix Tax', the game is actually significantly more expensive than the average Japanese 3DS title. This hasn't yet been announced for an English language release, but I can't see it being too far off. Then again, if you have a Japanese 3DS, it's not like you can play a western release anyway.
Tekken 3D Prime Edition (Nintendo 3DS)
I like Tekken. I'm also awful at Tekken. 3D fighters have always been the bane of my existence; as soon as I touch the fight stick, any talent I have in 2D fighting games is violently ripped away from me and I revert to a larval form on the ground.
Ok, maybe that's pushing it a little bit, but the point is that I enjoy playing Tekken despite my awfulness at it. I was moderately excited for the 3DS entry, but recent details have come to light that temper my expectations quite a bit. Apparently Prime Edition lacks an arcade mode, any kind of story content and is relatively barebones. The online seems to be functional, which is a plus, but for 3DS owners who like solitary experiences there doesn't seem to be much there to hold you. This is a shame considering the rest of the fighting games on the system have been relatively feature-rich experiences. Prime Edition comes with a 3D version of Tekken Blood Vengeance, which is certainly a plus, but it doesn't fix the lack of game content. Be warned; if you purchase the English language release, Blood Vengeance only comes with its spectacularly awful English dub.
Personally, this is the biggest release of the week in my eyes. Sequel to the DS visual novel Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, Good People Die is releasing simultaneously on the Nintendo 3DS and the Playstation Vita. I've actually already picked up a copy for the Vita and have been putting it through its paces these past couple of days. Early verdict: it's really, really good. The crisp visuals really pop on the Vita's screen, and the voice acting is a massive improvement over the lack of in the previous game. I don't want to spoil any story details here, but Good People Die is just as crazy as its precursor, so worry not.
There might be news coming soon that Aksys Games is going to be bringing this over in some form or another, so I'd hold off on importing until then. Given its text heavy nature, that's probably for the best anyway.
Amatsumi Sora ni! Kumo no Hatate ni (Playstation Portable)
Online Price: 5,640 yen ($71.99)
Oh snap! I can't believe tis is finally coming out! I've been waiting years for Amatsumi to see a release on the PSP so you can imagine I'm crazy excited for this one.
What's Amatsumi again?
Apparently, it's a port of an adult visual novel released on the PC in 2010. With a primary focus on romance, I have absolutely no idea what this game is about so I'm just going to make up a synopsis.
Joe Hibiki is a traveling mime having a hard time earning money to sustain his life style. On his way to the sprawling metropolis of New New Neo York City, he bumps into a girl named Pink Haired Eroge Character. Heading in the same direction as the mysterious girl, Joe decides they should travel together. A sprawling visual novel featuring a cast of 430 women (and two men) ready to be romanced, Amatsumi Sora ni! Kumo no Hatate ni features fun for the whole family.
As with all visual novels, import only if your Japanese is of a high level.
Overlooked gem of the week:
Senran Kagura: Shoujotachi no Shinei (Nintendo 3DS)
One thing I was never really clear on in regards to this section of the column is the quality it takes for a game to be an overlooked gem. Here at Japanator, we try to use the full breadth of the ten point scoring system. That means that if we give a title a six for example, we're saying that it's above average and entertaining, but not without flaws and certainly not the best on the market. The games I pick for this corner will only ever be a six and up on that scale. These are games that are anywhere from solid fun to excellent. From now on I'll be sure to better clarify where any individual gem falls on said scoring system.
Senran Kagura: Shoujotachi no Shinei for the Nintendo 3DS would likely fall on a seven.
A game featuring a bountiful amount of bouncing breasts, Senran Kagura is a fast paced 2.5D brawler that was released in Japan last year. Featuring a playable cast of five female ninjas you progress through missions via a central hub that the main characters relax at. You're able to customize each girl in different costumes and bikinis, and each outfit is fully destructible when in battle. There's a relatively lengthy visual novel element to the story mode, so there's definitely plenty of content in the game.
How does the actual game play though? Surprisingly well. Each girl wields a different weapon, allowing for different combo moves and special attacks. By playing a certain way, your character's fighting style will develop with a stronger focus on different abilities. The game contains a juggle system, allowing you to fling your enemies up into the air and toss them around the screen with great finesse. Plowing through ninjas is immensely satisfying, especially when you catch a large group of them in your attack. The screen can get pretty heavily populated as you get further in the game, making for some fun and hectic battles.
The problem is that while the system is in place for a deep and complex battle system, the elements aren't all there. At the end of the day this is a brawler, and like most brawlers, the fun of mashing a single button (most of the time) starts to wear out after the nth hour. Senran Kagura tries to battle this tedium by featuring a robust story mode with multiple perspectives and tons of branching missions. Let it be said; you're not going to play this game for the story, but it certainly doesn't hurt. It's fun, occasionally funny, and bathed in anime tropes and cliches. It's the equivalent of bubblegum in that it's tasty for a while, but eventually it ends and you move on to actually go and eat something.
The characters all sport attractive designs despite everyone having huge breasts. They're all based on some kind of fetish or another, but the game never really descends into being super creepy. It's all very trashy and the developers seem to embrace the tongue and cheek qualities of the game. Likewise, the actual character models are pretty great even if the animation is somewhat lacking at times. Because there's no real platforming, environments aren't exactly inspired. If nothing else, the game is definitely not ugly.
Musically the game actually faires pretty well with a variety of catchy tunes. Considering you spend the majority of the game kicking ass and taking names, you want something you can nod your head to as you slice down foes. Additionally, a majority of the game features full voice acting, which is always a huge plus in a title like this. The 3D is used rather sparingly in Senran Kagura. It's actually disabled during gameplay portions of the game and only kicks in when a character goes into their Hyper Battle mode.
Honestly I have no idea if this game stands any kind of chance of being released in the west. It's trashy fluff in the best way, but the focus on breasts and stripping the girls down is a pretty big hurdle to overcome for the average 3DS owner. Senran Kagura is not a great game, but it is a good one that I'm sure could find a small niche audience if given the chance. The actual combat is easy to figure out if you have no Japanese, but be weary of the visual novel elements.
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