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JPgamer: Record of Hatsune Miku War

In our inaugural roundup of all things Japanese gaming, we talk about our Hatsune Miku review, the arrival of Agarest on PC, new details on New Atelier Rorona and the explosive charms of Sweet Fuse. Join the conversation!

Article by Pete Davison, .

Hello, Japanese gaming fans. Welcome to the first installment of JPgamer, a weekly roundup of news, impressions, thoughts and opinions on the subject of Japanese games.

Here at USgamer, we know there's a significant proportion of the readership who are interested in the unique experiences Japanese games have to offer. This column is for you.

At the same time, there's also a proportion of USgamer's readership who have little love for Japanese games and would sometimes prefer it if there weren't quite so many of them on the front page. JPgamer, then, is an attempt to provide something that will hopefully make everyone happy -- fans of the quirky, colorful world of Japanese games can tune in at this time each week for a roundup of topics surrounding their favorite games -- particularly those topics that might not have made it to the front page -- while those who have no love for our Eastern friends' cultural output can safely skip past this column without guilt.

This isn't the only regular roundup column we'll be launching, either -- expect similar regular features from all of us on subjects including indie games and iOS games, among others, in the coming weeks. But for now, let's jump in to some discussion and, as ever, feel free to post your own thoughts in the comments and notes.

Let's Talk About That Hatsune Miku Review

Whew. This review by contributor Dustin Quillen upset a few of you, judging by the comments thread, and to be perfectly frank with you I can understand why, as reading it made me a little uncomfortable, too.

The subject of "otaku games" divides opinion significantly behind the scenes on the USgamer team. Both Cassandra and I are fans of this particular aspect of Japanese culture, while Jaz has little love for it. Jeremy, meanwhile, occupies a middle ground whereby he enjoys quintessentially Japanese role-playing games, but draws the line at content that makes him uncomfortable -- particularly material with implied (or, for that matter, explicit) sexuality that he doesn't feel is justified in a narrative context.

None of these opinions are "wrong" as such, and part of mature discussion and debate is acknowledging your views and tastes aren't necessarily the same as everyone else's. This, judging from the comments thread, is where some of you felt Dustin's review let you down a little. Let's highlight a few community comments and talk about them.

Part of mature discussion and debate is acknowledging your views and tastes aren't necessarily the same as everyone else's.

"'Awful?' D-don't you like me...?"

"I'm kind of biased because I'm a big fan of Miku and the Vita version of this game," admits chaosyoshimage (fantastic avatar, by the way!) "I obviously can't speak for the reviewer's tastes, but his insistence on how 'creepy' the whole thing is ad nauseum is really alienating especially considering the site has been very otaku game friendly in the past. It feels like I'm being insulted for liking this sort of thing and I feel the site is better than that. I've always hated 'nerds talking down to other nerds,' like there are sorts of nerddom that are more 'acceptable' than others."

Dustin responded that the things he said "sought to illustrate my point that objectionable content can be justified if a) it serves a purpose and b) the underlying material is worthwhile on its own. For me, personally, Hatsune Miku meets neither of these qualifications" -- key word, "personally." He also highlighted the fact that his comments were not intended as personal attacks, though some of you pointed out that they could be read that way. Chaosyoshimage responded by quite rightly pointing out that whether or not you find Hatsune Miku to be "objectionable content" is very much a subjective matter.

"If you're seriously using the word 'degenerate,' something is wrong," added brionfoulke91, referring to a line that we have since excised from the review. "I think you should appreciate the difference between 'this is not my cup of tea' and 'anyone who enjoys this tea is a bad person.'" This was the key point behind the Hidden Depths of Otaku Games piece from a couple of weeks ago, and something I personally agree with wholeheartedly. High five, brionfoulke91.

"I think you should appreciate the difference between 'this is not my cup of tea' and 'anyone who enjoys this tea is a bad person.'"

Community member brionfoulke91
It's not just about Miku.

Both Cassandra and I chatted with the rest of the team about our (and your) concerns surrounding this review. The choice of Dustin as a reviewer was due to his relatively neutral background as a fan of rhythm games in general, but also as someone unfamiliar with (and consequently unbiased towards or against) Miku, and was intended as a means of explaining what about the game might appeal -- or not, as the case may be -- to those outside of the core Vocaloid fandom. He went in with no real preconceptions as to what to expect and came out feeling uncomfortable. He's perfectly entitled to that reaction, of course, and I'm not going to try and make anyone like something they find distasteful, but we do acknowledge the tone of the review made some of you uncomfortable, so for that we can only apologize.

Actually, that's not all we can do. Here's what we are going to do. Our review policy prevents us from re-scoring the game once we've posted our initial review for it, but part of what we do here at USgamer is consider our articles as starting points for discussion rather than the definitive word on the matter. To that end, as soon as my own copy of the game arrives -- I'm still waiting on it at the time of writing -- I'll be playing it a bunch myself, and I'll provide my own fresh take on it as a standalone article. Sound good?

All right, let's move on to other matters.

A New Generation of Agarest Players

I have the whole Agarest: Generations of War/Record of Agarest War (the title varies depending on where you got the game from, for some reason) series sitting on my shelf mocking me from amid the rest of my own personal pile of JRPG shame, but I'm yet to even boot any of them up. (I'm fully intending to, mind, just at a time when it's a bit quieter!)

For those unfamiliar with the series, the Agarest games are a series of tactical role-playing games from Idea Factory, Compile Heart and Red Entertainment. Their main distinguishing feature from their rivals is the "generations" system. Here, the protagonist for each generation may pursue one of several female characters in dating sim-style gameplay between battles, with the next generation's protagonist being determined by who their parents are and what their stats were. It's an interesting mechanic that adds some replay value to the game as a whole.

Subtle as ever.

There were rumblings about a PC release of the first game in the series a little while back when someone found mention of it in Steam's files, but it wasn't until this week that its existence was actually confirmed beyond all doubt. See? Proof.

The PC version is brought to us by Ghostlight, which is a name you might not know in the States. Ghostlight has a long history with Agarest and with JRPGs in general, though, since they're the company who has brought a significant number of them to Europe, particularly where developers and publishers like Atlus and Aksys, the latter of whom published Agarest in the States, don't have a prominent European presence.

The game releases officially in two weeks' time, but you can preorder it now. By doing so, you'll get 20% off the normal price along with seven free DLC packs that you'll otherwise have to purchase separately.

Totori and Meruru Go Overtime with Rorona

I only started playing Atelier Rorona recently, but my desire to go any further was somewhat stymied by the announcement of the upcoming New Atelier Rorona, which adds a bunch of new content and improves the graphics so that the 3D models aren't quite so dissonant with their 2D art. It's for this reason I've also held off purchasing the Vita versions of Atelier Totori and Meruru which, by all accounts from people I trust, appear to be very, very good indeed.

"I SAID: 'I'M IN NEW ATELIER RORONA!'"

Siliconera reports that not only will Totori and Meruru be making cameo appearances in the main campaign of New Atelier Rorona, but that there will also be an "overtime" scenario in which future incarnations of both Totori and Meruru get stuck in the past, and Rorona must help them return to their own time. The new content will include new event images, a new dungeon and additional voiceovers. It also looks like Totori will have access to a "medical dress" costume, though it looks more like an Alice in Wonderland outfit than anything else. Either way, it's very cute.

Boom! Shake, Shake the, err, PSP

Aksys released Sweet Fuse: At Your Side recently, and I reviewed it here. It's entirely possible that you missed it amid the recent flurry of GTA V content, however, hence the link here.

This is a safe place, Meoshi.

Short version: Sweet Fuse is very much worth your time if you're a visual novel fan, even if your tastes have typically erred more towards the "bishoujo game" end of the spectrum. Playing a game like this from the perspective of a female protagonist is an interesting experience, and the romance subplots very much take a backseat to a surprisingly compelling narrative.

For those unfamiliar with the game, you take on the role of Keiji Inafune's niece Saki as she works together with six very diverse men in an attempt to thwart the machinations of the dastardly Count Hogstein, who is attempting to destroy Inafune's game-inspired theme park. As ridiculous as the premise is, the story actually turns out to be surprisingly interesting, and structured in such a manner that you really need to play through all the possible routes to completely understand what's going on.

What I've Been Playing

I'm still playing both Final Fantasy XIV and Tales of Xillia well after reviewing them both, so both of them must be doing something right somewhere. Xillia in particular is becoming one of those games I'm starting to get worryingly obsessive over seeing everything it has to offer -- thankfully, a second runthrough isn't all that cumbersome due to the ability to unlock massive experience point boosts and other benefits in New Game Plus. Think I may have left it a bit late for that "eat 800 meals" trophy though.

If you haven't played Xillia yet, you're missing out on one of the best JRPGs in recent memory -- and, for those who worry about such things, one in which the "creep factor" is minimal.

As for Final Fantasy XIV, I haven't quite hit the level cap yet, and the going's got a little slow. The high-level content is also very challenging, which is good to see -- some players had been complaining that the early game is too easy. Dungeons such as the Sunken Temple of Qarn and solo instances such as a fight against Siren's minions ratchet up the challenge factor significantly, though, so don't count on an easy ride all the way through the game.


That's your lot for now, then. If there's anything you'd particularly like to hear more about in future installments of this column -- or any interesting Japanese gaming-related news you've come across yourself and would like to share -- feel free to post it in the comments and notes. Our aim is to build these round-up columns into your go-to places for discussion and news about your favorite types of games, so jump in any time if you've got something to say!

On that note, I'll see you at the same time next Wednesday. Mata ne!

JPgamer is USgamer's regular round-up of topics regarding Japanese games, published every Wednesday. You can read previous installments here.

This article may contain links to online retail stores. If you click on one and buy the product we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments 11

  • Avatar for Stealth20k #1 Stealth20k 3 years ago
    Honored to be the first commenter in a series of articles of something I love.

    Thoughts about future articles.

    1) Maybe a series spotlight? game spotlight? a Japanese game many people might not know about, but we can educate

    2) A story about how you came across a great Japanese game

    3) What japanese game are you most looking forward to?

    These are all weekly kinds of ideas.Edited September 2013 by Stealth20k
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  • Avatar for renatocosta90 #2 renatocosta90 3 years ago
    Hey, seeing you talking about FFXIV again led me to check up the online store again and BOOM, it's being sold again. Here we go, to the first MMO I've played since... Ragnarok Online back in god-knows-how-long-ago.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for cscaskie #3 cscaskie 3 years ago
    I'm really enjoying Xillia myself right now. The game is just so well designed. Positive feedback the whole way through. Always a new site to see or a fresh ability to try out. It's hard to put down. The shop upgrade system is the kind of thing that digs its claws deep into brain and won't let go. I haven't been this "all about" Tales game since Legendia on the PS2.Edited September 2013 by cscaskie
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  • Avatar for shogunknight #4 shogunknight 3 years ago
    Very impressed and grateful for this. Good responses like this is not a common thing in gaming sites these days. Well, we could talk about the future of Atlus with SegaEdited September 2013 by shogunknight
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  • Avatar for chaosyoshimage #5 chaosyoshimage 3 years ago
    Glad to see the Miku thing addressed. A lesser site would've just swept it under the rug and pretended those offended didn't matter. The fact that US Gamer isn't such a site is why there was outrage in the first place.

    Anyway, cool to see this feature. I just hope it doesn't lead to Japanese stuff getting segregated (Doubt it will).
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #6 brionfoulke91 3 years ago
    It's nice to see a gaming website that gives Japanese games their due. The problem I have with other websites is that *every* review of a Japanese game reads like the review of Project Diva you posted, with a slight air of contempt for the culture.

    Personally I prefer to read reviews from people who have experience with the genre in question. You get a lot more useful information that way since they have a basis for comparison.
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  • Avatar for xDQx #7 xDQx 3 years ago
    I just want to reiterate that my goal in writing that review was not to say anything (positive or negative) about people who might like Hatsune Miku. Believe it or not, I chose my words very carefully in hopes of avoiding such misinterpretations. Lot of good that did.

    While I regret that some took the article personally, I can't imagine changing much about what I wrote. The fact remains that Hatsune Miku left me feeling super uncomfortable. It would be disingenuous for me to say otherwise, and I wouldn't be doing my job if I ignored those feelings.

    That doesn't mean everyone has to feel the same way, though. I'm happy for anyone who enjoys Hatsune Miku without reservation -- I can't write from a perspective I don't share, however. All I can do is provide my honest reaction to the game.

    With that said, I'm looking forward to hearing what Pete thinks about it.
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  • Avatar for docexe #8 docexe 3 years ago
    @chaosyoshimage Technically, this would join the ranks of the “weekly classic” and “virtual spotlight” as another specialized column on the site. I like this approach honestly, it gives the site personality and allows it to tackle content and themes that other videogame sites usually don’t focus on.
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  • Avatar for limbeckd #9 limbeckd 3 years ago
    @renatocosta90 I was also thrilled to make that discovery yesterday. Not so thrilled by the lackluster download speed, or S-E's terrible website. But I did manage to get into the game!
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  • Avatar for renatocosta90 #10 renatocosta90 3 years ago
    @limbeckd I live in a rather... secluded space of the world, so my connection speeds usually don't go over 100KB/s. I left it on since yesterday night, after I bought it. Just checked, the download is about halfway done. Maybe saturday I'll be able to (hopefully) log in.
    Hit me with your char's name and server so we can noobwalk together in Eorzea
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  • Avatar for limbeckd #11 limbeckd 3 years ago
    @renatocosta90 I'm Jamm Sammich on Sargatanas. OMG, there is a lot of intro before you get to actually play. I've made it to level 5, and it's pretty fun. The FF fanfare when you level up is really nice.
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