Welcome to Go West!, ladies and gentlemen, the weekly column in which I attempt to retain my sanity while talking about Japanese games!
It's hard to believe this thing has been around for 24 weeks already. It's also kind of cool that the 24th 'episode' falls on the same week that I turned 24. Maybe it was fated?
Anyhow, this week we have a pretty big pile of PSP releases, many of which use marriage as a gameplay element. Huzzah!
Follow me after the break as I marvel at the sheer quantity of Idea Factory games on display.
Imports for the week of July 15-22:
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch [All in One Edition]
Publisher: Level 5
Online Price: 4,200 Yen ($52.90)
I've spoken about my experiences with Ni no Kuni in the past, but I want to reiterate that this game is absolutely beautiful. The Studio Ghibli animated sequences are gorgeous and the overall visual design of the game is some of the best I've seen this generation. The game starts off almost painfully easy, but after around the ten hour mark it really ramps up the difficulty. You folks are in for a treat when this releases out west.
You're especially lucky that you'll be getting an English dub, because the Japanese audio was awful, unfortunately. Level 5 went ahead and brought in live action actors who clearly didn't seem to understand that there is a difference between standard acting and voice acting. It was undoubtedly frustrating to be presented with such a charming story only to find characters grating on your nerves because of flat delivery.
This All in One Edition is essentially just a cheaper release of the game with all the free DLC packed in and an extra easy mode. I'd say hold off on importing this one. There's really no advantage if you do.
Sangoku Hime: Senkou no Taika - Akatsuki no Haryuu
Publisher: System Soft
Online Price: 6,740 Yen ($84.90)
Oh hey, another game about the Three Kingdoms only with sexy anime girls instead of scary Chinese warlords! I've totally never seen that before.
Honestly, I don't know anybody who buys these games. Copies of this sort of stuff are normally sold out the day of release, though that's likely only because stores will get a grand total of one copy of the game.
From what I can tell this is a pretty standard tactics game in which you command your moe-blob troops and send them into battle. There's probably a story or something, but one look at the above image tells me everything I need to know.
There's undoubtedly a high language barrier here, so import only if you're a dedicated fan of this kind of thing.
Rune Factory 4
Publisher: Marvelous Entertainment
Online Price: 5,000 Yen ($62.90)
Rune Factory, I've spent years watching you from afar, always curious but hesitant to say hello. Your incredibly cute visual style and light action rpg elements have always appealed to me, but I've never been able to work up the courage to just give you a try. All that changes this week! I have purchased you and am ready to see why people seem to dig you so much.
I've heard good things about this franchise but have just never had time to give it a genuine shot. I picked this one up yesterday but I've only played for about an hour through the intro. So far it's actually pretty funny, but I'm a little disappointed that the visuals aren't as good as they could be. It doesn't necessarily bother me, but it definitely seems like the developers didn't want to deal with it. The 3D is also quite weak so I've just left it off.
This is most definitely going west at some point, so I'd recommend holding off. The game barely has any voiced dialogue, so I can see it being difficult for importers.
Digimon World Re:Digitize
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Online Price: 5,000 Yen ($62.90)
I was definitely always more of a Digimon kid than I was a Pokemon kid. I remember the original Digimon anime series blowing my mind when I was younger; the idea of a serial animated show was just way too cool. I also recall picking up the original Digimon World for the PSX and pretty much hating it. I have absolutely no memory of why that was the case though.
I'm admittedly very curious about Re:Digitize for a variety of reasons. The game itself looks fun, with a unique real time battle system and some cool customization options. I'm also attracted to the character designs, handled by the easily recognizable Suzuhito Yasuda. Reviews have been relatively positive about Re:Digitize thus far, but I think I'm going to hold off for a while. I've already got way too much on my plate.
Import if you're a diehard Digimon fan, but beware of massive chunks of text.
Airu De Puzzle
Online Price: 3,090 Yen ($38.90)
Like Monster Hunter? Like falling block puzzle games? Enjoy cats?
Aire De Puzzle is clearly for you.
Publisher: Idea Factory
Online Price: 5,750 Yen ($72.40)
This game makes me sad on so many levels. Not because of the content, but because it was originally a Gree social game for Japanese cell phones. Some of you may not realize this, but platforms like Gree and Mobage are very quickly taking over the Japanese gaming industry over here, so it's a little bit depressing to see one of their many games get ported to a console.
Otherwise, Kimikare is a pretty typical otome game. Its notoriety comes from the fact that it was really popular on cell phones. Apparently this port also has a new ending prepared, but I doubt any of you care about that. Ladies and gentlemen, if you're into otome games, there are plenty of other better options out there, for much cheaper no less.
Don't waste your money here.
New Class of Heroes: Chrono Academy
Online Price: 5,550 Yen ($69.90)
The next entry in Acquire's sort-of-popular-but-not-really series of dungeon crawlers, Chrono Academy is a more traditional RPG. Abandoning the first person labyrinths of the previous entries, New Class of Heroes has a battle system that most RPG fans are probably relatively familiar with; a turn based system with all your characters visible onscreen.
There's apparently more of a story this time too, though I can't bring myself to care all that much. Acquire's Class of Heroes franchise has never been particularly good and I don't see this new one changing anything. Its scores have also been pretty 'meh' so far as well, so I'd recommend on holding off for the eventual price drop.
Agarest Senki Mariage
Publisher: Idea Factory
Online Price: 5,950 Yen ($74.90)
The latest game in Idea Factory's Agarest Senki RPG franchise, Mariage (that's how it's spelled) looks to be taking a more traditional route than its precursors. The battle system is more traditional, but you still have bonuses associated with the relationships you form with your party members. Stripping them down also increases certain parameters because, well, why not?
Like in the other games, there is a generational system here in which you'll be able to have a male or female child, who will then become the second main character of the story years later. Expect lots of fanservice, breasts and harem hijinks because that's just the type of game this is.
I would say don't ever expect this to go west, but you never know these days. Aksys Games has been pretty consistent with localizing this franchise.
Idea Factory is totally holding things down this week, with not one but three PSP titles. Their final one this time around is an otome game that takes place during the Sengoku Era of Japan. This differentiates it quite a bit from their other samurai franchise, Hakuoki. I honestly don't know much about this one, but if it's anything like their other samurai narratives, it's probably a rather dark tale with only a minor focus on the romance. I can dig that.
I would however suggest that you brace yourself for yet another personality-less female protagonist who's only good for being a blank slate. Idea Factory seems to have a lot of trouble with that kind of thing.
Import only if you're Japanese is up to par.
[And that's all for this week folks! Week twenty-five promises lots of big titles, so expect so major hands-on impressions coming soon. In the meantime, be sure to check out the Red Sun Gamer Podcast, in which me and three other gentlemen in Japan talk about Japanese games, Japanese life and all sorts of good stuff. See you all next week!]
[*].disqus.comto your security software's whitelist.