At a special event held in San Francisco last night, localization and publishing company NIS America announced a roster of new titles that’ll be coming our way over the course of this year.
First up was two announcements that show the growing support for the PC platform from both NIS America and its parent company, Nippon Ichi Software: PC ports of previously Vita-only releases htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary in March, and Criminal Girls: Invite Only in April. At the event, NIS America also talked a bit about the upcoming Disgaea PC, and stressed that they were working closely with Nippon Ichi to make sure the game was handled properly on the platform.
The first of the new game announcements took me by surprise: Touhou: Genso Rondo, based on the legendary Touhou Project series of Japanese indie “bullet hell” shooters.
Created by a man known only as ZUN, the various Touhou Project games have become cult classics not only in Japan but also abroad, and the characters from those games have been featured in a wide array of both official and unofficial secondary merchandise, such as manga, novels, music, and more.
The problem, over time, has been the seeming reluctance of ZUN to hand his games off to outside publishers in order to let them see Western release. (The exacts behind his reasoning aren’t something I know offhand, as it’s a topic I’m nowhere near as versed in as I should be.) So, seeing a Touhou game pop up at NIS America’s event last night was a pretty big deal.
Except, there’s a catch: Touhou: Genso Rondo isn’t an official part of the Touhou Project line of games, but instead is an unofficial-but-approved side “doujin” game developed by another studio, CUBETYPE. As opposed to the usual bullet hell style of the Touhou Project games, Genso Rondo is more of an arena-style 2D battle shooter, a genre that’s become popular over the years in Japan. Here, two players battle it out using characters from Touhou Project, each of which bring with them trademark attacks and projectile patters from their bullet hell origins. There are some special moves that temporarily throw the game into a top down-style challenge mode reminiscent of the main Touhou games, but think of Genso Rondo as more of a fighter than a shooter.
Touhou: Genso Rondo seems like an interesting title, and I’m glad that NIS America is bringing it over—if for no other reason than to help increase awareness for all things Touhou Project. Still, it’s hard not to see the game as a reminder that we’re not getting the real chapters of the series for the most part, beyond a few surprises like Playism’s release of Touhou Kishinjou ~ Double Dealing Character.
Touhou: Genso Rondo is coming to PlayStation 4 this summer.
Next up was the game I’d been hoping would be revealed at the event: Yomawari: Night Alone.
After a young girl loses her dog Poro, her sister goes missing while trying to find Poro, leaving the girl alone to brave her neighborhood at night in search of the two. Unfortunately—as I can attest to having lived there myself—Japanese neighborhoods can be a little freaky at night, but our heroine’s search is made worse by the fact that restless spirits actually do lie waiting for her in the shadows.
I’ve had my eye on Yomawari for some time now for a number of reasons. First, it’s exclusive to Sony’s handheld, and that always lights a fire in my Vita-obsessed heart. Second, it’s horror—also a love of mine—and specifically Japanese horror. It’s also got a gorgeous graphical and visual style, reminding me in some ways of the care and artistry that went into htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary. (I’m not sure that they’re made by the same team within Nippon Ichi, but I would not at all be surprised to find out that’s the case.)
Getting my hands on the game for a bit, it’s hard to fully know how things will play out the deeper you get into the girl’s adventure. After being traumatized by a particular scene, I was left to wander the streets of her neighborhood, exploring around and finding various items to pick up or hiding spots to keep track of. I got a bit of a taste of the storyline, then suddenly I was being chased by a gigantic spider-like spirit. After running away for a bit, I chose to hide in a bush by the side of the road—a choice that proved deadly for me. Everything that happened, though, left me wanting to play more, and gave me the feeling that Yomawari could end up being unlike a lot of other games out there in similar genres.
Yomawari: Night Alone is coming exclusively to the PlayStation Vita in late 2016.
Finally, we got an official announcement of the Western release of Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness, a reveal that would have been way more surprising had it not been spoiled for me earlier in the day.
Based on the Psycho-Pass anime, Mandatory Happiness is a visual novel/Japanese adventure game that takes places during the first season of the show. I know absolutely nothing about the anime, so instead of pretending like I do, here’s what NIS America’s press release has to say:
In the near future, advanced technological developments have allowed one’s mental state and disposition to be quantified and profiled.
For the public’s welfare, all emotions and thoughts are documented and managed by the Sibyl System. This system measures the quality of each person’s life by what is know as the Psycho-Pass, a reading of an individual’s mind. Broken down into two main components, the Psycho-Pass is the system’s omniscient eyes of justice. One of these components is the Hue, which is a visual representation of the Psycho-Pass that conveys a person’s stress level. The other is the Crime Coefficient, which is a numerical value that represents a person’s criminal capacity. This number determines whether an individual requires enforcement by the detectives of the Public Safety Bureau. Detectives are divided into two groups: Enforcers, who are tasked with the investigation of crimes and the apprehension of criminals, and Inspectors, who are charges with managing the Enforcers.
The player can choose between two new detectives assigned to the Criminal Investigation Department’s Division 1: Nadeshiko Kugatachi, a calm and serious Inspector whose memories were wiped, and Takuma Tsurugi, a hot-headed Enforcer who is searching for his missing childhood friend.
Now, seriously, all of that is just a big block of random words so far as my head is concerned at this point. However, I adore Japanese visual novels, and I always expect them to have horribly complicated plots anyhow, so I’m absolutely ready to give Mandatory Happiness a go—and hope it can help me make sense of Psycho-Pass in the process.
One of the most intriguing elements to Mandatory Happiness is its release platforms. Originally, the game was Xbox One exclusive in Japan—a bizarre choice given the console’s lack of popularity in the country, but not unusual when looking at developer 5pb/MAGES’ strange love affair with Xbox platforms. Then, ports were announced for the PlayStation 4 and Vita, and now, NIS America is bringing it to our shores for PS4, Vita and PC—everything but the Xbox One.
Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness hits for those platforms this Fall.