Hello, Japanese gaming fans! Welcome back to JPgamer, USgamer's weekly roundup of news, topics and discussion points surrounding games from the East.
First up: a quick note regarding Hatsune Miku Project Diva F, which we talked about last week. I am now in possession of my own copy, so will be spending some time with it over the next few days in order to form some of my own opinions, then you can expect a full article to complement our review early next week. As someone who does not have more than a passing familiarity with the Miku phenomenon, but whose thoughts on "otaku games" are well-documented, I've been more than a little bit curious to try this -- not just because of the discussion and debate over our review, either; I've always been a huge fan of music games, and it's nice to play one that doesn't involve plastic instruments.
I'll save my detailed thoughts for the article next week, but early impressions are quite positive, and I'm already fairly convinced that this is a package designed not for a general audience, but rather specifically for fans. I have nothing against this, personally, and in fact I often find that publishers and developers who have a laser-sharp focus on the specific sorts of people they want to court with their games tend to make better products on the whole -- games that, if you're part of that audience, feel like they're "for you" rather than focus-grouped.
But enough of that until next week. Today, the main thing I'd like to share with you is a bit about a company doing great and important work with the localization and distribution of Japanese doujin titles for PC -- essentially, the Eastern equivalent of our indie games.
Spotlight on Nyu Media
Nyu Media's mission is, in its own words, "to contribute to the standing, competitiveness and development of Japanese independent video games on the world stage." It's a noble goal, but a challenging one: bringing Japanese games over to the West isn't simply a matter of working out distribution agreements; there's a lot of localization to go into the games themselves, combined with features that Western gamers have come to expect such as Steamworks support for achievements, online leaderboards and cloud saving.
The company has partnered with a number of different doujin circles over the years, but I became aware of them following the release of Cherry Tree High Comedy Club. This game was originally the work of one-man development team 773 (aka "nanami") plus a few contributors. I was immediately smitten with it thanks to the fact it bears more than a passing resemblance in gameplay terms to Persona 3 and 4 -- two of my favorite games of all time -- minus the whole "fighting shadows and saving the world" thing. For me, the most interesting things about the Persona games were always the parts where you were just going about your life, hanging out with school friends and trying not to flunk your exams, and Cherry Tree High Comedy Club was a game that focused exclusively on that aspect of things.
Nyu Media's mission is "to contribute to the standing, competitiveness and development of Japanese independent video games on the world stage."
Cherry Tree High Comedy Club, it turned out, was one of Nyu Media's more ambitious projects, and one for which they had to recruit some external support from an outfit known as Tezuka Productions -- the same team who worked on the Ace Attorney series' English versions. Tezuka Productions specializes in true localizations rather than straight-up literal translations -- this is something that the team at Nyu felt was important to Cherry Tree High in particular, as much of the game is reliant on comedic timing. Consequently, while the basic plot and structure was kept the same, the whole thing was significantly "Westernized" as part of the localization process -- character names were changed, cultural references and idioms were tweaked to be more relevant to Western audiences, and one character was changed from Canadian to Swedish in order to make her more obviously "foreign" to the player character.
For those who aren't so much about the talking, however, Nyu Media has a selection of other titles sure to appeal, too. Fairy Bloom Freesia and Ether Vapor Remaster -- two titles from renowned doujin circle Edelweiss -- provide some graphically impressive platform brawling and fast-action arcade shooting respectively, while the eXceed Collection from Tennen-Sozai is a well-regarded trilogy of bullet hell shooters with astonishingly good soundtracks. If you enjoy swearing, you may wish to try out Xtal Sword's "trapformer" Eryi's Action, and more recently, the impossible-to-pronounce arena-based hack-and-slash Croixleur from Souvenir Circ made it through Valve's Greenlight program, so expect that on Steam soon.
Perhaps most notable of Nyu Media's projects, however, is Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm. Lest you're unfamiliar with this particular game, it's a fighting game made as something of a pet project by a number of ex-SNK developers over the last six years. Recently, it enjoyed a successful crowdfunding drive via Indiegogo, which has allowed Nyu Media to fund a full localization of the game, including contributions from prominent members of the fighting game community for English language versions of the game's color commentary system. The new version will also include expanded content over and above the game's existing incarnation, and it looks set to be a game well worth paying attention to if you're a fan of SNK-style fighting games.
Nyu Media is far from the only company bringing the highly creative games of the doujin scene to Western audiences, but it's certainly one of the most noteworthy and successful. The team claims to have more English language doujin titles on Steam than any other localization company, for example, and this is a very positive thing for getting these games -- all of which are very high quality -- seen by a wider audience outside of those who already follow the doujin scene.
Check out Nyu Media's website for full details on their games.
Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax
Rice Digital reports that Sega has teamed up with light novel publisher Dengeki Bunko to put together a fighting game in celebration of the latter's 20th anniversary. Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax, as the game is called, will seemingly feature content from both Sega and Dengeki Bunko properties. Asuna from Sword Art Online puts in an appearance, for example, and eagle-eyed observers seem to think that one of the backgrounds is from Sega's own Valkyria Chronicles -- a game that Jeremy named one of his three favorite PS3 games of all time. That also looks like Leafa tag-teaming with Asuna by the energy bars, so it looks like secondary characters will be getting involved as well as protagonists.
Not a lot is known about the game at present, but more information is supposed to be forthcoming at Dengeki's fall festival on October 6. What characters would you like to see in such a crossover?
A New Ar Tonelico?!
Well, not quite. (Sadface; I love Ar Tonelico.) Sort of, though; Siliconera reported yesterday that Gust was working on a new game called Ar no Surge that would apparently be a cross between Ar Tonelico and the more recent Vita title Ciel no Surge.
Unlike Ciel no Surge, which was a life simulation that took place in the same universe as Ar Tonelico, Ar no Surge is a more traditional role-playing game that includes a number of influences from past Ar Tonelico games -- most notably the use of a female character using song magic from the back row of battle while the protagonist protects her from the front line. Battles will apparently make use of a combination of turn-based and action-based elements -- perhaps something along the lines of Ar Tonelico 2's excellent battle system? -- and, this being a Gust game, you can also count on there being a deep crafting system involved along the way somewhere.
Ar no Surge is a more traditional RPG than Ciel no Surge, and includes influences from past Ar Tonelico games.
The story apparently revolves around the protagonist Delta and his humanoid weapon partner Acies (a Reyvateil, perhaps?), and gameplay will involve switching back and forth between them. While it doesn't sound as if the game features the "Dive" system from past Ar Tonelico games, there is apparently a mechanic called the "Genometric System" that lets you power up characters. Whether this still involves jumping into their subconscious to help them overcome their own insecurities remains to be seen.
Ar no Surge is set to hit PS3 on January 30 of next year. There's no news of a localization as yet, but Gust's parent company Tecmo Koei has had a reasonably good track record of bringing Gust's other titles -- i.e. the Atelier series -- to the West recently, so we may yet see this in English.
Final Dragon Fanservice Quest XIV
Those who have played Square Enix's relaunched MMO Final Fantasy XIV will know that it's already rammed to the rafters with Final Fantasy series fanservice ranging from Magitek Armor (FFVI) to the little dotty lines that mark zone boundaries (FFXII). In the coming months, Square Enix will be celebrating with a bunch of content in the game that celebrates several things: the 11th anniversary of FFXIV's MMO predecessor FFXI; the first anniversary of Dragon Quest X in Japan, and the successful relaunch of FFXIV into A Realm Reborn. Expect confrontations with a giant Shantotto...
...and with golems from Dragon Quest. There will also be teeny-tiny Minion versions of both Shantotto and the golems to collect and faithfully follow you around on your adventures.
(Apologies about the poor resolution -- Square Enix seemed to think the best way to show off this new content would be with tiny low-res images.)
There's no word on when we can expect this content to be added in as yet; the official dev blog simply says to watch out for more information soon.
Nep-Nep Reborn Again
A significant proportion of the world seems to hate the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, but I adore it. As such, should Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth -- a remake of the first game -- ever make it to Western Vitas, I will most certainly be purchasing and playing it. Likewise, should the newly announced Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 2 -- a Vita remake of the already infinitely superior Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 -- make the jump to Western shores, I will also be purchasing and playing it. Regardless of whether or not they ever make it over here, however, they're both in development, with Re;Birth 1 set to hit Japanese Vitas at the end of October -- perhaps a handheld version of the again-superior Victory won't be far off, either?
Gematsu reports that aside from Re;Birth 2, which was officially announced at TGS, Compile Heart has also begun development on Chou Megami Shinkou Noire Gekishin Black Heart (literally Hyper Goddess Faith Noire Fierce God Black Heart -- catchy) and that new information expected this November. Not much is known about this particular game at present, save for the fact it stars PlayStation personification Noire, aka Black Heart, rather than Neptune or her sister Nepgear.
That's your lot for today, then. As ever, discussion is very welcome, so feel free to make use of the comments and notes to do just that. Don't forget to check out our recent coverage from TGS, watch out for my thoughts on Project Diva F early next week, and I'll see you the same time next Wednesday for another installment of JPgamer. Mata ne!