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

Posted on April 2, 2014 AT 07:12pm

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.

Your friends—gotta collect ‘em all!

As a game market, Japan can be pretty weird when looked at with the eyes of a Westerner. Especially for us Americans, we just sort of expect that anything we might like, other people will like too. Okay, sure, sometimes things are heavy in the American flags and bald eagles and apple pie and all of that, but heck, even then we still have no hesitation in sharing such overflowing examples of Americana with them foreign peoples. (I mean, look at G.I. Joe—name change or not, we still convinced people around the world to buy toys and watch cartoons and see movies about how the U.S. military must continually rescue the world from evil.)

In Japan, however, it’s still quite normal for many forms of entertainment—especially videogames—to explicitly target a Japanese audience with no expectation that anyone else could ever enjoy (or understand) the product. Plenty of “by Japan, for Japan” games get released ever year, but it’s especially interesting to see such games come from Nintendo.

Because, I mean, if there’s any company that you’d expect to focus on making games for as large of an audience as possible, it’s the house of Mario. And yet, there have been numerous titles from the Kyoto-based developer that never get released in the West–or, at least, here in the States, but that’s a bitch-fest I’ll save for another time.

A great example of that is their 3DS release Tomodachi Collection. What is Tomodachi Collection? Well, let me let Nintendo explain!

Welcome to “Tomodachi Collection” for Nintendo 3DS — a living world in your pocket, made of people you know!

“Tomodachi Collection” is unlike any videogame you have ever played, where you decide who should be part o your game. Will it be your best friends? Your parents? Your crush? Or maybe your favourite actor? You get to choose who lives in this vibrant community!

Create a Mii character or each person you want in the game. Pick a voice and personality, and watch your Mii character come to life. Sometimes they will act astonishingly close to real life, yet other times they will behave in completely unexpected ways. Regardless, you’ll find it hard not to laugh!

Take care of your Mii characters and understand their needs. You will receive many different rewards that you can spend on customising your community even further. And, as the game progresses, unique relationships will form — your Mii characters could fight over the most trivial things, become best pals, or even fall in love!

Can you imagine…
… your mum dancing to a techno song?
… your secret crush asking you out on a date?
… your favourite star becoming best friends with you?

Almost anything is possible in “Tomodachi Collection” — a vibrant world full of friends that fits in your pocket.

Tomodachi Collection seems like one of those weird, unusual, bizarre yet trademark Nintendo experiences that can end up being completely engrossing and enjoyable. (See: Animal Crossing.) Unfortunately, it also seemed like a game that would be an absolute nightmare to localize, as many of the its situations and settings are specifically Japanese. From what I understand, it does a lot with dynamic text, and then has that text spoken via voice synthesis. (Which, due to the way the Japanese language is structured, is far easier to do compared to English.)

Last month, while talking to the Wall Street Journal about the difficulty of decided what to localize and what wouldn’t make sense, Nintendo president Satoru Iwara casually revealed that Tomodachi Collection would be coming our way in the future. The above text explaining the game, however, comes from a new source that just popped up this week: an online survey from Nintendo of Europe that asks participants different questions to find out what they think of the core concepts of Tomodachi Collection, if it sounds fun, if they would consider purchasing it, and so on. The survey was noted by a number of people around the internet, and handheld-dedicated website Tiny Cartridge notes that a person by the name of VogellmKafig has posted screen caps of the survey to Imgur. (Viewable here.)

The most interesting part? The survey showed off English-language screenshots of Tomodachi Collection, something we’d never seen up until now.

At this point, it seems that we’re absolutely getting the game here in the West—but when we do, what will it be called? While talking to the Wall Street Journal, Iwata referred to it as “Friend Collection”. Given that “friend” is a direct translation of the Japanese word “tomodachi”, however, that may simply have been to explain the foreign word in the game’s title. All I know is that I don’t expect “tomodachi” to be anywhere near the game’s name, as keeping foreign words in English game titles isn’t something Nintendo has ever been known for.


Shin Megami Tensei: Digital DownloadableS 

This week brought us something special, at least so far as I’m concerned: the release of the Atlus PS2 release Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha and the Soulless Army as a digital download via PSN.

Now, this isn’t the first MegaTen game to hit the PS2 Classics collection—that honor goes to Persona 3 FES—but it’s important for a few reasons.

First, FES made sense given the popularity of Persona here in the States, and the push Atlus USA has made in getting all of the Persona titles up for digital purchase. The first Raidou game, however, is a far nichier title, one that a lot of players easily could have missed out on. Soulless Army and its sequel—Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon—were an interesting offshoot compared to what Atlus usually crafts as part of the MegaTen franchise. (For those who know the games, they felt very similar (for me) to the departure Square took at the time with their pair of Parasite Eve releases.) As opposed to your typical RPG or SRPG fair, Raidou’s adventures are much more a mix of action, adventure, and then some RPG elements. If you’ve never played them, I’d really recommend King Abaddon if you’re only going to play one—it was a much more polished experience after Atlus got its feet wet in attempting its predecessor. Still, Soulless Army is definitely worth playing, so if you’ve got the time and the money, I’d recommend doing so.

Ah, but what’s this? Hot on the heels of Soulless Army‘s release, an ESRB entry was found for a rating for Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 for the PlayStation 3. Given how often we’ve discovered upcoming game releases due to their ESRB ratings hitting the site, it sure looks like Persona 4 will soon be coming along for the digital ride. Of course, that brings us to an interesting question: why do we need the PS2 version of P4 to come back when we’ve got the admittedly superior Vita release, Persona 4 Golden? I mean, have you seen how gorgeous that game looks on that OLED screen?!

Well—as strange as the thought may be—not everyone has a Vita. So, there’s that. And then, if those rumors about PS2 support coming to the PS4 are true, and you will indeed be able to up-res games to make them looker prettier and new-ier, then why not have Persona 4 up and available? Then there’s by far the biggest reason: Tracey Rooney. With no offense intended toward Erin Fitzgerald—the actress who gave voice to Chie in P4G, Persona 4 Arena, and the Persona 4 anime’s English dub—Tracey’s Chie will, for me, forever sit as the one true voice of everyone’s favorite steak-lovin’ kung fu-watchin’ ass-kicken’ shadow hunter.

So what about other PS2 MegaTen releases like Nocturne or Digital Devil Saga? I wouldn’t fret too much, as I can’t see this being the end of Atlus USA’s efforts to bring their PS2 catalog back for fans to enjoy (and purchase) once again.


The demo of the game featuring the house in Fata Morgana

One of the things I love in life is non-English speakers speaking English.

For some, it’s a source of endless amusement, as they get to laugh at the mistakes of others who are attempting to speak or write outside of their mother tongue. As someone who knows exactly how it feels to be in situations where you’re trying to express yourself in a language you’re still learning, that’s not how I see it.

For me, it’s the honesty and earnestness that comes from such situations. When we’re conversing in our native language, it’s easy for us to embellish our thoughts, adding flowery prose or layering on needless complications in order to make whatever we’re talking about sound bigger, grander, more important.

When you aren’t fluent in a language, so much of that goes away. It is conversation stripped of the pretense and pageantry, leaving behind a purer, more sincere look at what the person most wanted to convey.

Where is all of this leading? It’s leading to the description of The House in Fata Morgana, as it reads on the English-language version of the website for indie Japanese developer Novectacle:

A Gothic suspense set in a cursed mansion.

“The House In Fatamorgana” is a full-length visual novel that deals with tragedy, human deeds and insanity. Since released in 2012, news of the game has been gradually spread by word of mouth, but now has gotten featured on various overseas media.

The further you go with the story the more unpredictable the story becomes, with beautiful artworks in a gothic heavy atmosphere, and with 65 tracks composed by 5 energetic composers to draw you into the game. We hope you’ll enjoy our 4 years of hard work and development.

No overly-produced PR-focused nonsense that’s trying to sell me on a game—just a simple, heartfelt attempt by a small game developer to introduce their project to an audience outside of their home territory.

And “heartfelt” certainly seems to be the keyword with Fata Morgana. Last summer, the folks at Playism talked about the game, and how the team at Novectacle was so determined to see it get an English-language port that they decided to dedicate 100% of the revenue from the Japanese Playism release of Fata Morgana to localization efforts.

Unfortunately, at the time, the Japanese sales weren’t going as well as hoped, and it looked like the game’s revenue wouldn’t be able to cover those hopes of an English version. Conversations between friends or notes posted on websites are a far distance away from game localizations, especially when you’re looking at a project filled with as much rich (and important) prose as something like Fata Morgana. (From what I understand from the website, the game has eight main endings, numerous other dead ends, and three million lines of text.)

Hope is not lost, however. Novectacle and Playism as still determined to bring Fata Morgana to us English speakers who love Japanese horror games, Japanese visual novels, or—even better—Japanese horror visual novels. Coming on the heels of the recent BitSummit event, Novectacle has put up a English-language trial version of Fata Morgana that can be downloaded for free from their website.

You can download that demo by clicking here, and then hitting the “Trial version” link about halfway down the page. The demo contains chapters 1 and 2 of the game, and while I’ve not yet tried it for myself, I hear those two chapters are pretty darn long for a demo. Novectacle also points out that the English text in this demo isn’t necessarily final, as the game’s translation is still a work in progress.

If you give The House in Fata Morgana a try and want to see more of the game, be sure to drop @novectacle and @PlayismEN a line.


Coming Soon

  • 04.04 - Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming (PC)
  • 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)
  • 05.11 - Kero Blaster (PC, iOS)
  • 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)
  • 2014 - Natural Doctrine (PS4, PS3, Vita)
  • 2015 – Persona 5 (PS3)
  • 2015 – Persona 4: Dancing All Night (Vita)


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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