Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the one and only Go West!, the weekly videogame column in which you watch Elliot struggle to keep his sanity as he dives deep into the heart of Japanese games.
This week we have a lot of ground to cover, with a whopping 13 titles making an appearance after the break. I know what some of you are probably thinking: "Idea Factory has released their entire catalogue to the PSP this week." But alas, that is not yet the case. Instead we have quite a few big releases across consoles, supplemented by the usual otomege and galge offerings. Something for everybody!
So grab a snack and follow me after the break as I make robot warriors and force them to practice alchemy in an MMO while romancing members of the Shinsengumi via a complicated board game.
Releases for the week of June 24-30:
Atelier Ayesha ~Koukon no Daichi no Renkinjutsu~
I've been meaning to jump into Gust's Atelier series at one point, but it's been difficult over the past few years with the recently concluded trilogy of games. With Ayesha, I'm thinking of finally taking the dive now that I don't have to worry about character continuity. If reviews and early impressions are to be believed, Atelier Ayesha is looking to be a fantastic new entry in the franchise, with the lovable characters and beautiful visuals that series fans have come to expect.
I love the idea of a more laid back, cheerful kind of Japanese RPG that doesn't put its focus on some gigantic, world changing narrative. I love character focused media, so I'm thinking this might scratch that itch. The standard version of Ayesha is a little bit pricey, so I might hold off for the time being. As it stands though, this one is definitely on my short list.
Considering the last three Atelier games have gone west, non-Japanese speakers should hold off. From what I gather these titles have a lot of text and dialogue, so you'll want to be able to keep track of what's going on.
.hack Sekai no Mukou ni + Versus Hybrid Pack
Despite having spent absurd amounts of money on the .hack franchise during its initial run, I still find the initial concept to be fascinating; a corrupt MMORPG that can kill you if you die in-game. As I've said before, I've never played anything past the first four games, so a lot of the later twists and plot points are completely lost on me. I've been meaning to get around to it but you know, life, writing and other things kind of get in the way.
This hybrid pack packages the recent CG .hack feature film together with a brand new .hack Versus 3D fighting game from Cyber Connect2. If this is anything like previous hybrid packs, I wouldn't expect serious amounts of death from the game, but it's still a cool deal considering media here in Japan can get pretty expensive. I've yet to see Sekai no Mukou ni, but I've heard it's a fun couple of hours for .hack fans. I'll hopefully be picking this up at some point.
I'm really not sure if Bandai Namco has any intent of bringing this over. They've been pretty good about this franchise (save for .hack Link), but you never know these days. Import if you don't like waiting for confirmations. The Versus game has a story mode so expect the language barrier to be a bit of an issue. The movie also goes without saying.
Robotics;Notes is the one game out of this entire list that I've picked up this week. The next game in 5pb's 'science adventure' series (Steins;Gate, Chaos;Head), Robotics;Notes follows a group of high school students trying to make a real-life giant robot. I've only played the first couple of hours thus far, but the two primary characters, Kaito Yashio and Akiho Senomiya, are incredibly charming and easy to like. In a fun twist on the norm, the female character is the one who's really into robots and trying to make a real one. Kaito is more or less just along for the ride at first, being more of a fan of fighting games than anything else.
Much like Steins;Gate, I'm expecting something of a slow burn leading into a more serious, drama packed storyline. I haven't met any of the secondary cast properly, but the game does give you a small peak at the cast's chemistry at the very beginning of the game. There's also a very cool moment within the opening seconds of Robotics;Notes that will no doubt put a smile on Steins;Gate fans.
I wouldn't expect this to head west anytime soon. It's not impossible, but I don't predict an English language release until well after Steins;Gate gets some kind of official debut. Import only if you have advanced Japanese skills.
Hakuoki: Reimeiroku Nagorigusa
Oh hey Idea Factory! Fancy seeing you here this week. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were hanging around just to give me some kind of pillar for the column! You sly dog you!
But wait, this week you're bringing us a brand new PS3 Hakuoki game? I can dig that.
A quick glance at the official site for the game reveals a true sequel in the franchise, with all of the main cast making a return including main character Chizuru Yukimura. I've read that Chizuru wasn't exactly a spectacular character in Japanese, so I'm not really sure that her return is something to celebrate but you know, opinions and all that jazz.
I've still been waiting on hitting up the Aksys' localized PSP game in the hopes that Sony picks up the pace and makes it Vita compatible. If you're a fan of otome games or just very solid visual novels, we at Japanator highly suggest you check it out.
As for this new PS3 game? Keep your fingers crossed that somebody eventually picks it up. Feel free to import if you have confidence in your Japanese.
Zero: Shinku no Chou
Also known as Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly out west, Zero: Shiku no Chou is a remake of a PS2 game from 2003. This Wii update improves the character models and overall graphics, adds an over the shoulder camera and the ability to use a flashlight using the Wiimote. The FMV sequences have been redone, there are new areas and they've even added a brand new two player mode which is a first for the franchise.
The Fatal Frame series is scary as hell. If you're lamenting the death of Silent Hill as a quality horror series, Fatal Frame is fortunately still going strong and I'd advise you to find a way to play these games. It's a shame that Nintendo seems content with letting the series stay in Japan at this point, but such is the state of Japanese gaming. At least folks in Europe are getting some love.
I'd recommend hacking your Wii's and importing the European version when it eventually releases. Show your support for quality horror titles!
You'd be forgiven for thinking that Culdcept is a traditional RPG after looking at the above screenshot. In reality, it's a cross between a card and a board game, and a well-loved niche title over here in Japan. These games aren't massive sellers, but they have their fans. I've personally never played a Culdcept title before, so I'm probably the least qualified person to talk about this game.
I've heard very few negative thinks about the series so I'd imagine this will probably live up to the standards set by previous games. No word on whether this is getting localized, but it might be worth holding off given how text heavy it looks to be.
Detective Jake Hunter: Rondo of Revenge
I never played the first Jake Hunter game back on the DS, but I've heard some fairly positive things about it. It's an old school adventure game in the same kind of style as Ace Attorney only instead of playing a lawyer, you're playing as a proper detective. I know the first game has a small but devoted following, which is a shame considering I really don't know if this is going to make it out west.
Hopefully Aksys picks this one up too; they've been doing a really good job at grabbing niche Japanese titles and they did publish the first game to boot.
Unless you're fluent in Japanese, I'd suggest taking a wait and see approach.
Generation of Chaos 6
Idea Factory just can't stay away from me can they? I'm sure of they were an actual single person, they'd have confessed to me by now. The question is, am I really looking for that kind of relationship?
But I digress. Generation of Chaos 6 is the...er... sixth entry in the GoC series, which has seen some limited exposure in the west during the early PSP heydays. That was a rough time, when owners of said console were starved for good RPG's. Funny how things ended up by the end of the system's life though.
I've never played a Generation of Chaos before, but they're strategy RPGs. I'd honestly suggest picking up a known quantity like something from Dept. Heaven or any of the dozens of great SRPG's for the PSP.
Non-Japanese speakers beware; this genre is typically filled with lots of stats that will be a pain in the ass to read through without the appropriate language skill.