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

Posted on March 26, 2014 AT 06:47pm

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.

Half-Minute Hero II Marvelous-ly teased for Steam

Marvelous’ Half-Minute Hero was an awesome game. When I played it back on the PSP in October of 2009 (thanks to its North America release), it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with its quirkiness.

As the hero, you had to save the world from a menagerie of evildoers—each of whom, unfortunately, threatened to end the world in thirty seconds. Thankfully, the beautiful Time Goddess was happy to set the clock back, giving you more time to accomplish your goal. Unfortunately, the Time Goddess’ money obsession meant that she’s only help you out if the price was right.

With a crazy premise, fast-action gameplay, charming retro graphics, and a fantastic sense of humor, Half-Minute Hero was an example of the niche Japanese games that made me adore my PSP. When the sequel hit Japan in 2011, I was hopeful that it’d come over as well. Sadly, the first game just didn’t do well for XSEED—the failure of both that and Retro Game Challenge is something I’ll never forgive our market for—so it seemed that said sequel would never see English release.

…until now! The official Half-Minute Hero Facebook page has suddenly come to life with Half-Minute Hero II teases, including both the video you see above, and a hint at a Steam release date. In the image, it’s clear that the “Date to Release on Steam” is at some point next month (April 2014), but the exact date and time remain a mystery.

Given that I’m not a PC person, Steam isn’t the place I’d like to play Half-Minute Hero II. At the same time, I understand that the greater good trumps my personal wants—and having the game finally come out in English is what’s most important. So, thank you Marvelous for finally making that happen.

And, if you haven’t played the original Half-Minute Hero on PSP, Xbox Live Arcade, or Steam, go fix that!


Dancing King (of Fighters)

Looking through trademarks can be a lot of fun, as they often provide an early look into what games will be coming along in the future, or what projects a particular developer or publisher are considering.

This time around, we look at two trademark filings from SNK Playmore, submitted on February 21st of this year. Those two trademarks? “The Rhythm of Fighters” and “Metal Slug Defense”.

Man, both of these get my imagination flowing!

I mean, for the first, how could I not be excited? The only way to interpret a name like The Rhythm of Fighters is as some crazy music/rhythm game starring familiar fan favorites from SNK’s most popular fighting franchise (Farley Flavors would be proud of this sentence). Pushing buttons in proper rhythmic timing as Kyo Kusanagi, Mai Shiranui, or Terry Bogard shake their rumps onscreen, while Athena Asamiya—in full J-pop idol mode—sings the chorus? Hells yeah.

If that sounds crazy, don’t forget that this is the company that gave us KOF Sky Stage, a top-down shooter where King of Fighters characters literally fly through the air, avoiding waves of enemy bullets as the shoot their own character-specific projectiles. So, yeah.

What about the other one, Metal Slug Defense? I’m less confident in trying to determine that one, but my first guess would be a grid-based military strategy game—something along the lines of Nintendo’s Advance Wars or the old TurboGrafx hit Military Madness. Or, maybe it’ll be a Tower Defense-style game? That wouldn’t be nearly as exciting, but could still hold some potential to be good.

Sadly, for now, we know little more than those two names. Both trademarks as noted as being for “computer game software, and other,” but that gives no real hint as to where either of these projects will end up (if they even come to fruition).

Just, please, don’t let these be throw-away mobile free-to-play titles—or, worse, pachislot machines.


What in the name of?!

If there’s one thing you can always count of from Japan’s gaming scene, it’s releases with names that confuse, baffle, or amuse us Westerners.

For our second installment, we return to the company that launched us—Nippon Ichi—with their upcoming Vita release htol#NiQ.

What’s that, you say? Why did I let my cat walk across the keyboard, and not fix his paw-powered nonsense? It’s no mistake baby! Also known as Firefly’s Diary, htol#NiQ is another piece of proof that Japanese developers are officially and truly insane when it comes to naming their games. Greek letters, random punctuation marks, 10-word-long English subtitles, nonsensical connections of adjectives, I’ve seen it all, but htol#NiQ just may take the cake. This isn’t a name—it’s a double dog dare to consumers who have lived comforted, sheltered lives, where all one had to do to obtain a game was walk into a retail store and ask for it by name.

Those days are over, pal, and you’d better get used to it!

To be fair, htol#NiQ sounds interesting and looks totes adorbes. The character in the screenshot above is Mion, a young girl that you—as a firefly—must help escape from the ruins she has mysteriously woken up in.

Chance of Western localization: Pretty good, I’d say.


Coming Soon

  • 04.01 - Ragnarok Odyssey ACE
  • 04.15 – Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars (Vita, 3DS)
  • 04.22 – Demon Gaze (Vita)
  • 04.29 – Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle (PS3)
  • 04.30 – Steins;Gate (PC)
  • 04.?? – Half-Minute Hero II (PC)
  • 06.24 - XBlaze Code: Embryo (PS3, Vita)
  • Spring – Monster Monpiece (Vita)
  • Spring – Wonder Momo (PC, Android)
  • Summer – Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed (Vita)
  • Summer - Hyper Dimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 (Vita)
  • Fall - Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (PS3, Xbox 360)
  • Fall – Persona Q: Shadows of the Labyrinth (3DS)
  • Fall – Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (Vita)
  • 2015 – Persona 5 (PS3)
  • 2015 – Persona 4: Dancing All Night (Vita)


Eric L. Patterson, Executive Editor
Eric L. Patterson got started 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 can realistically be crammed 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 Eric on Twitter: @Eric_EGM. Meet the rest of the crew.

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