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.
If you’re a longtime fan of Japanese shoot ’em ups—or shmups, depending on who you are and what circles you run in, or schmups, if you want to bug the crap out of those fans—you’ve no doubt held great concern in your heart for the developer known as Cave over the course of recent years. It seems like every few months a new story filled with doom and gloom comes out about them, and every time their name appears in a headline, you wonder if it’s going to be that story. (The same fear you feel any time Abe Vigoda’s name suddenly pops up on the internet.)
While it isn’t yet time to break out the Cave eulogy we’ve got ready to go at a moment’s notice just yet, I wish this was one of those times when the news is happy and uneventful. I suppose it is the reporting of a death in a way—just of the company’s English-language social media presence, instead of the company itself.
I was quite happy to see Cave launch its Western-focused Twitter account back in May of 2011, but what once began now comes to an end. Here’s how said account broke the news:
“Hello this is Masa-King from CAVE WORLD. I have a very important announcement. I know it’s sudden, but CAVE World (EN) twitter account will be shut down on Feb 28, 2014. The latest information will be made by cavegames on twitter in Japanese. I apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your many years of support.”
Cave has seemingly struggled for years trying to figure out how to connect with its Western fans. Just on the Xbox 360 alone, its games were region locked, then they weren’t, then publishing deals were attempted, but unfortunately Akai Katana totally bombed, and a plan to bring their games to players outside of Japan directly via digital download was tried with Deathsmiles 2, but no further attempts were then made.
Funny enough, it seems the best way for Western fans to gain access to Cave’s games has been via iOS—but even that has seen a company fraught with confusion over issues such as pricing.
From nothing more than a personal perspective, I think Cave is just having a harder and harder struggle in figuring out their role in the modern games market. It, like a number of other Japanese media companies, must now survive by charging high prices for niche releases to a small selection of consumers, and hope that said consumers will be there every time. I mean, Cave’s platform of choice (willing or not) for the last generation was the Xbox 360—a platform that did terribly in its home country of Japan, and a platform that wasn’t seen as the “Japanese gamer’s platform of choice” in other territories.
…maybe Cave needs to give a stronger look to what fellow Japanese developer Treasure is doing. According to Famitsu (and reported by Siliconera), the house of the Radiant Silvergun is thinking about following up the release of Ikagura on Steam with a new, original IP for PC. To be clear, the game won’t necessarily be a shmup—Treasure chief director Atsutomo Nakagawa hinted to Famitsu that a side-scrolling action project might be a good choice—but the dev seems pretty positive on the idea of the PC being a smart platform for them.
Why? Treasure president Masato Maegawa explained that, as a small company, it can be hard to make games for all gaming hardware, and it seems that their PC efforts, so far, have worked out well.
I’m no PC gamer—sitting at a desk to play games is my idea of torture, and I’ll be damned if I put some big ugly box next to my television—but the platform just makes sense to me for companies like Treasure and Cave. Of course, the concern becomes digital distribution, something that hasn’t penetrated the Japanese consumer base as much as it has in other countries. And yet, digital distribution has becoming a much more realistic means of game dissemination in Japan in recent years—and if Japanese gamers are willing to buy Xbox 360s just for one company’s products, I’m certain they’d be willing to work out the strange and mysterious world of making purchases over the internet.
In case you missed it, in the later months of 2013, Gust announced Ar Nosurge, a new PlayStation 3 RPG that bridges the worlds of two of their other franchises, Ar Tonelico and Surge Concerto. This week, a fabulous new gameplay video showing off actual portions of the game hit the internet. (Somebody should tell Gust that game trailers aren’t supposed to actually show the game.)
To bring you quickly up to speed—well, and bring me quickly up to speed, since I’m not too familiar with the games—Ar Nosurge takes place after Ciel Nosurge but before Ar Tonelico. While it’s said that the stories won’t be directly inter-connected, there will be some specific ties—such as familiar Tonelico face Shurelia being part of the Ar Nosurge cast. Gameplay will be split between three major segments—field, town, and battle—and the latter of those three, battles, looks to be an evolution from those featured in Ar Tonelico 2.
Really, though, video can no doubt do a better job than I of telling you what you can expect from Ar Nosurge. Thus, the embedding of the 11 minutes of gameplay you see above!
Ar Nosurge was originally scheduled for a late January 2014 release, but now will officially be hitting in Japan on March 6th from Tecmo Koei. No Western release has been announced at this time, but I expect it’ll be coming.
Fukubukuro: a “Japanese New Year’s Day custom where merchants make grab bags filled with unknown random contents and sell them for a substantial discount, usually 50% or more off the list price of the items contained within.” In this case, it’s the section where I have things to talk about that are too short to make into their own segments.
Remember two weeks ago when I talked about the tease of a new Wonder Momo game? (What do you mean “no”? Use the archive link below to go get caught up then!)
Well, it now turns out that the project is being worked on by none other than WayForward, the two-dimensional technicians responsible for games such as Shantae, DuckTales Remastered, and Mighty Switch Force.
So when I was saying that I was worried about how this would turn out? I’m a lot less worried now! Well, except for the details of the game’s release: this Spring on PC and Android. I’d love it to be on consoles, but after just pestering Cave to go PC, I can’t fault them for that one. Android though? Does that mean Android-powered consoles like the Ouya? Because if it means Android mobile devices, why that and no iOS?
Has to be Android-powered consoles, right?
And, finally, good news for all you Project Diva fans out there. When Sega of America was first teasing that they might bring their music/rhythm franchise based around Hatsune Miku and friends to the West, they did so by having the Vita release—Project Diva f—on display at E3. Then, mysteriously, they later announced the PS3 edition for English release—with the Vita version nowhere in sight.
Now, however, SOA has announced that Project Diva f will indeed come to North American Vita owners this March, exclusively as a digital download via PSN. Of course, March is also when Japan gets Project Diva F 2nd for PS3 and Vita, but later is better than never, right?
(The above photo comes from the official ShiftyLook Twitter account.)
- 02.07 – Bravely Default (3DS)
- 02.11 – Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (360, PS3)
- 02.11 – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (Vita)
- 02.11 – Toukiden: The Age of Demons (Vita)
- 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)