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JPgamer: The Third Wave

This week in our roundup of all things Japanese, we discuss Nyu Media's "third wave" of doujin titles for PC, a great value bundle of Japanese indie games, some new footage from the Atelier Rorona remake, Tales of Smartphones... plus pigeons and ponies.

Hello again, Japanese gaming fans, and welcome to JPgamer, USgamer's regular round-up of news, topics and discussion points surrounding games from and inspired by our friends in the East.

A few weeks back, you may recall that we shone the spotlight on doujin games publisher Nyu Media, a company that specializes in localizing, publishing and distributing independently developed Japanese games in the West. Since its inception, Nyu Media has brought us a variety of interesting games, ranging from the Persona-inspired Cherry Tree High Comedy Club to the frantic bullet hell shooters of the eXceed series, the platform brawling of Fairy Bloom Freesia and the arena-based hack-and-slash fun of Croixleur.

Earlier this week, Nyu Media announced its "third wave" new Winter-Spring lineup of games, consisting of five new titles. Well, all right, four new games and one significantly updated one, if we're being honest.

The team at Nyu Media seems particularly excited at the prospect of three new games from doujin circle Astro Port, the developers behind the top-notch shooter Satazius. The first of these, known as Armed Seven (above), launched today as part of a new Groupees bundle -- more on that in a moment -- and looks to be a thoroughly enjoyable old-school horizontal scroller with mechs, multi-drectional shooting and a whole host of weapons with which to deal death. Watch out for a review of that soon.

Also from Astro Port is Super-Charged Robot Vulkaiser which, as you might expect, is a giant robot-themed anime-style shooter. Expect lots of people shouting "Go! Go! Vulkaiser!" along with some challenging bullet patterns to navigate your way through.

Finally from Astro Port comes Gigantic Army, a "gritty robot action shooter" that looks vaguely Metal Slug-ish. Taking on the role of the GMR-34 Saladin, you'll make use of seven weapons, a shield and dash function on your quest to blow everything up as efficiently as possible. Nyu Media's publishing of Gigantic Army will mark the first appearance of the game in English.

Also coming in Nyu's Winter-Spring lineup is the highly anticipated fighting game Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm, the subject of a successful crowdfunding campaign a month or two back. The follow-up to the original Yatagarasu, Attack on Cataclysm is the work of a number of ex-SNK/King of Fighters developers, with the new version featuring 11 playable characters, GGPO netcode and English language dynamic commentary from fighting game community icons Jchensor, UltraDavid and Maximilian. If you're a fan of 2D fighters, you'll want to keep an eye on this one -- it has the potential to be a big deal on the fighting game tournament circuit.

The final new release in Nyu's Winter-Spring lineup is Croixleur: Steam Edition. Croixleur has been available for some time already, but the new Steam version adds more than just achievements, leaderboards and trading cards; it also incorporates new story content, new collectible weapons, a new challenge mode, new cutscenes and a full voiceover for the previously text-only story sequences. Those who already own a copy of Croixleur in its non-Steam incarnation will automatically receive a Steam key so they can take advantage of the new features for free.

It looks to be a good time for fans of doujin games, then, and Nyu Media certainly appears dedicated to its mission of bringing the best of independent Japanese games to the West.

Let's Build Another Doujin Bundle!

Speaking of which, if you've been looking to expand your collection of doujin games, you could do far worse than check out the new Groupees bundle -- the rather literally named Let's Build a Doujin Bundle 2.

Like its now-expired predecessor, Let's Build a Doujin Bundle 2 allows you to construct your own pay-what-you-want bundle using any of the available games, with the minimum price increasing as you add more titles. You can pick up a single game for a minimum price of $0.75; taking all seven will set you back a minimum of $4.29, though of course you can pay more if you wish. You can also gift the bundle, and optionally set aside 20% of your payment for the charitable organization Mercy Corps Japan, set up to help out those who suffered losses during the March 2011 tsunami.

Like the previous Let's Build a Doujin Bundle package, Let's Build a Doujin Bundle 2 has an interestingly diverse range of titles on offer, with an emphasis on shooters. On the shmup front, the bundle offers the second and third games in the eXceed series of danmaku shooters, along with the vertical danmaku shmup HellSinker, the newly released Armed Seven from Nyu Media, and the RayStorm-inspired Kamui from the Tale of ALLTYNEX series. Visual novel fans, meanwhile, are catered to with the mysterious Higurashi When They Cry and the pigeon dating sim (yes, really) Hatoful Boyfriend.

Here's the third eXceed game.

As with past Groupees bundles, there are a number of unlockable extras that become available as more people purchase the package. So far, passing the 1,000 bundles sold milestone has unlocked the eXceed 2nd original soundtrack album, and at the time of writing the counter is closing in on the next checkpoint. At 2,500 bundles sold, everyone who purchased a copy of the bundle will receive a copy of Princess' Edge - Dragonstone, a Golden Axe-style brawler in which the titular princess must battle her way through hordes of enemies to prevent the awakening of an evil dragon. The other four bonuses are yet to be revealed, depending on how many bundles are sold in total.

The package is a pretty great deal -- particularly if you're a fan of Japanese shmups -- so be sure to give it a bit of thought if you're looking for something new to play. You've got just under 12 days to make your mind up at the time of writing, so head on over to Groupees' site for more information or if you're ready to pick up a package.

Time to Enrol in Starswirl Academy

Do you like ponies? Regardless of your answer to the previous question -- and, for that matter, what you might think of people who responded "yes" to it -- do you like visual novels? Then you may well be interested in the new fan-developed visual novel Starswirl Academy.

In Starswirl Academy, you take on the role of the ever-present transfer student visual novel protagonist as you enrol at the titular school. Floating through life without any real direction, you decide it's time to figure out what your talents are and who you really are with the help of your new classmates.

Said classmates are all based on characters from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, but the developers are keen to note that the game is intended to be enjoyed by both pony fans and non-fans alike. The characters themselves aren't ponies; they're humans with anime-style appearances and personalities inspired by the Friendship is Magic cast, and in an amusing nod to fans of the show, the protagonist character is Tom.

Each of the main six cast members will have their own unique story route, and there will be both all-ages and mature versions of the game available -- expect the equivalent of T-rated content in the all-ages version and NSFW content in the mature version. The developers do, however, point out that the game is not a dating sim or H-game; while there will be dating and romance elements, the focus is more on the characters and the overall story -- think titles like Katawa Shoujo or Kira Kira, both of which include mature content as part of a wider story.

The game is written using an enhanced version of the popular Ren'Py visual novel engine, which means we can expect PC, Mac and Linux releases, with a possible Android port to follow; iOS players are out of luck, sadly. There's no release date set for the game as yet, but you can follow development process on the developer's site as well as try out an early 30-40 minute demo.

Here's Some New Atelier Rorona Videos

The upcoming new version of Gust's enjoyable crafting strategy/sim/role-playing game Atelier Rorona is looking better and better with each new update we see. Here's two new videos for your delectation, beginning with a peek at the new battle system:

This video shows off the new character models particularly nicely. We've already seen how much closer Rorona's 3D model looks to her original 2D artwork in previous screenshots and videos, but this video also shows how much better both Cordelia and Sterk look; in the PS3 original, Sterk in particular looked about ten years younger in his 3D model incarnation than when he appeared as a 2D sprite.

The second video, meanwhile, gives us a peek at the revamped crafting system. Rather than simply reskinning Rorona's original crafting mechanics, New Atelier Rorona's crafting system is more closely based on that seen in the recent Atelier Meruru Plus for Vita, which should help the whole series to feel somewhat more consistent over its three installments. Fans of the original will, however, be pleased to note that the catchy music appears to be unchanged.

New Atelier Rorona is out on November 21 in Japan for both PS3 and Vita. No news on a Western release as yet -- let's keep our fingers crossed.

And Here's Some New Tales Videos

The Tales team is certainly keeping busy at present, and not just on consoles. Two new smartphone Tales games were announced recently, and Namco Bandai's released debut trailers for them both.

The Tales of Link trailer (above) unfortunately doesn't tell us a great deal about the game, but the fact it's a full-on animated sequence suggests that we can probably expect something akin to a full-on Tales game -- though whether people will take to it on smartphone platforms as much as on consoles or dedicated handhelds remains to be seen. Smartphone gaming remains popular in Japan, so it's possible; should this title ever make it West, however, it might meet with a bit more resistance from those who feel "traditional" JRPGs like the Tales series belong on dedicated gaming systems -- at least if comments on last week's Dragon Quest news were anything to go by!

Tales of Bibliotheca's trailer, meanwhile, appears to consist entirely of in-game footage, and in the process manages to create one of the most boring trailers ever made. Rather than being a full-on Tales game, Tales of Bibliotheca is described by Gematsu as a "scenario collection app that lets you experience Tales series stories," with the first (free) chapter based on Tales of Vesperia.

Each of the 12 chapters, sold either separately for 170 yen (about $1.72) or all together for 1,700 yen (about $17.20) will include a summary of a game's plot, dialogue sequences from famous scenes, illustrations and original battle sequences, along with the original voice acting. Curiously, it seems you'll also be able to collect your favorite voices and listen to them whenever you like, making the whole package something of a "Best of Tales" app rather than a fully-fledged game in its own right.

Whether or not we'll see these games in the West remains to be seen.


That's your lot for this week, then. As always, discussion is very welcome in the comments and notes, and we'll be back once again next week with more news from Japanese and Japan-inspired games. Mata ne!

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

Tags: Article atelierrorona doujin gust japan JPgamer mylittlepony nyumedia smartphone starswirlacademy tales

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