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Japan Service: What’s New This Week in Japanese Gaming

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Posted on February 12, 2014 AT 05:43pm

Welcome, everyone, to Japan Service—a new column here on EGM where I’ll be taking a look at some of my favorite finds when it comes to news, announcements, or interesting tidbits from the world of Japanese gaming.

Throughout my years of playing video games, I’ve long had a love for the weird and wonderful creations of those talented developers living on the other side of the Pacific ocean from me. While the Japanese industry has changed quite a bit over the years—and not always in a good way—it’s still a source for some of the most interesting, creative, or downright bizarre experiences you can have with our favorite form of digital entertainment.

The rules for what I’ll be covering in Japan Service are simple: it has to be developed in Japan*, it has to be based around or focused on a title or franchise of Japanese origin, and/or it has to be something that wouldn’t be big enough for us to write a dedicated news posting to it.

* I reserve the right to be a liar and break this rule at times in order to talk about other Asian-developed games.

 

Aksys acts as surrogate parent to give XBlaze Code

a Western birth

Remember when visual novels were those weird Japanese games that never came out in English—because, I mean, who would want to play that stuff?!

Thankfully, we gamers voted with our wallets, put our money where our mouths are, wrote checks our butts could cash, and whatever other saying you want to insert here. It seems there is obviously a market for them such games over here, because new titles are being released or announced on a regular basis at this point.

Speaking of which, don’t forget that Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc came out yesterday! And yours truly reviewed it!

We’re not here to talk about the past, though—it’s all about the future baby! And that future now has a nice blue tint to it like you see in all of those fancy action-packed moving pictures, because Aksys has unveiled that they’re going to be releasing XBlaze Code: Embryo in English on the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita.

What in the world is that? Well, let me just “borrow” the words of Aksys Games editor Mike Engler to explain!

“Taking place almost two centuries before the events of BlazBlue, XBlaze tells the story of Touya Kagari, a mostly unremarkable high school sophomore with a remarkable past, and his transformation from a typical teenager into the target of secret organizations, renegade mages, homicidal maniacs, and curry-obsessed co-workers. And though XBlaze touches on the origins of some of the more important elements of the BlazBlue mythos (The Azure, Black Beast, and Takamagahara spring immediately to mind), its story stands on its own as an epic tale of disparate groups all fighting for control of the power responsible for the creation of the universe.”

XBlaze—not to be confused with XBlaze420X, that stupid kid who keeps team killing me in Call of Duty: Ghosts—sports some nifty features to set it apart from other visual novels. The animation level, camera angles, musical cues, and overall style of dialog scenes feel less like static images, and more like something you’d find in your favorite TV animes. XBlaze also has the “TOi System”, which causes different storyline paths to open up depending on what additional narrative elements you choose to explore and/or read throughout the game.

And—because them Aksys folks be cray—XBlaze Code: Embryo will not only be coming out digitally for the PS3 and Vita, but also in physical form. (I’ll need to get a copy to put on my shelf next to the retail PS3 release of Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi once that hits.) When will it be coming out? This year! At some point!

If you’d like to get a taste of what waits for you in XBlaze, YouTube member GeiruW2 posted AN HOUR PLUS WORTH OF GAMEPLAY in video form (below). Look, I’m not recommending you watch all of that, especially if you don’t want to spoil anything. Just, you know, jump around. Jump around.

 

Kick la Kick(starter): Blackmore

Blackmore. A new 2.5D steampunk adventure game set in an alternate-universe version of Victorian-era London. Emma Blackmore—the young daughter of the late Lord Simon Blackmore—teams up with her friend Descartes—a robot resembling a young boy build by her father—in order to solve a series of unspeakable crimes terrorizing their city.

…wait, hold on. What is this doing in Japan Service? This doesn’t sound like something that belongs in here.

Ah! Let me swoop in and tell you, dear reader, why you’re wrong!

Blackmore is a new project from iQiOi, a Kamakura-based company headed up by Jeremy Blaustein. If you’re now saying that you’ve never heard of Jeremy, then for shame, as he is a legendary localizer who has been responsible for bringing us quality English versions of games such as Snatcher, Metal Gear Solid, Valkyrie Profile, Suikoden 2, the Silent Hill series, and more.

While he’s long helped bring other people’s games to players around the world, now he’s pursuing a dream so many of us have: making them himself. In order to do so, he’s tapping some equally well known talent (from his days at Konami and otherwise), such as artist Satoshi Yoshioka, composer Motoaki Furukawa, and voice actor David Hayter. Yes, Mr. Solid Snake himself.

Blackmore is a Japanese adventure game that takes the best of the classic adventure genre, including awesome Japanese art, clever puzzles and great storytelling and combines them into an all-new game in a rich, immersive isometric environment that will keep players on the edge of their seats,” the Kickstarter page reads. “In Blackmore, the main character, Emma, along with Descartes, will be moving from area to area searching for clues, asking questions and solving puzzles via a mouse-click menu system. All of this will be presented within a gorgeously drawn isometric 2.5D environment.”

There’s far more details about Blackmore, its characters, and the hopes of the development team on said Kickstarter page (which you can real by clicking here). If all goes well, PC and Mac versions should be hitting Steam and other “DRM-free digital download distribution methods” come spring 2015. (Though “Home consoles are also a high priority” if ports can be afforded via stretch goals.)

 

Who put chocolate in my Pile Banger?!

What better way to say “I love you” then with a gift of chocolate nostalgia on Valentine’s Day? That’s what Square Enix of Japan is thinking (and hoping you think), as the company will be offering up a special set of Final Fantasy VII chocolates at Artnia, their official shop in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo.

For those of you who who write letters to Square Enix every day begging for an HD version of Cloud, Tifa, Yuffie, and the rest of the crew, what’s pictured above will need no introduction. For those who thought that Final Fantasy VII was a good game, but, you know, not all that or anything, the five chocolates that come in the box are meant to represent Materia—the magical items that give people in FFVII‘s world their special abilities.

If you want a box of Artnia Final Fantasy VII Materia chocolates, it’ll only cost you 3,000 yen (roughly $30). Well, that, and the cost of a plane ticket, a few train rides, some meals, and possibly a night at a hotel or two.

 

Coming Soon

  • 03.?? – Project Diva f (Vita)
  • 03.04 – Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden 3 (360, PS3)
  • 03.25 – The Witch and the Hundred Knight (PS3)
  • 04.15 – Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars (Vita, 3DS)
  • Spring – Monster Monpiece (Vita)
  • Spring – Wonder Momo (PC, Android)
  • ??.?? – XBlaze Code: Embryo

 

Eric L. Patterson, Executive Editor
Eric L. Patterson got his start via self-publishing game-related fanzines in junior high, and now has one goal in life: making sure EGM has as much coverage of niche Japanese games as he can convince them to fit in. Eric’s also active in the gaming community on a personal level, being an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming and consumer rights. Stalk him on Twitter: @pikoeri. Meet the rest of the crew.

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