Thursday, July 31, 2008

This is Infinite Undiscovery's Boxart!

Yes, no "is this...?" question this time. Straight from tri-Ace and Square Enix's official Infinite Undiscovery blog, you are looking at the real deal. ...At least in Japan.

There is currently no word on if this will be the official boxart for North American and European markets, but we hope it's something along these lines. Because let's face it, the current placeholder NA boxart is laaaaym.

Infinite Undiscovery will be released on Xbox 360 worldwide during the first week of September, 2008.

My 10 Favorite PS2 RPGs

So, today is my sister's birthday. I got her a PS2 last year, but she still doesn't have many games for it. For her birthday she asked me to recommend a few that she could choose from. I made up a fairly comprehensive list of 10 RPGs that I feel are truly the cream of the crop of the PS2 to date (so it doesn't include Persona 4, Ar Tonelico II, or Kuzunoha Raidou vs. The King of Abbadon for obvious reasons), and I decided I would post them here for anyone else who would like to see them.

You'll note that my list may differ from your own, especially considering I haven't included any Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts titles. This is completely on purpose, as I feel the following 10 games easily offer much more compelling experiences than either of the previously mentioned series. You are of course free to name your own favorites in the comments below, but please bear in mind that flaming, trolling, or spamming will ensure your comment goes straight to the garbage bin.

Without further ado, here are my ten favorite RPGs on the PS2 (in no particular order):

Tales of the Abyss

The story of young noble, Luke von Fabre, who lost his memory due to a kidnapping by his country’s rival kingdom 7 years ago, and has since been confined to the royal complex. During an attempted assassination on his sword teacher, he is mysteriously thrown to a far away location in enemy territory with the cool but beautiful assassin, Tear Grants. As Tear attempts to return him to his manor, Luke discovers that all in the world is not as it seemed…

ToA is an action RPG with an involving story, deep but accessible battle system, and interesting relationships. It boasts over 60 hours of playtime, tons of optional quests and extra content, and an expansive world to explore. It is often cited as the best game in the Tales of series to date, and the spiritual predecessor to the upcoming Xbox 360 game Tales of Vesperia. Quite possibly my favorite game on PS2.



Tales of Legendia

Unlike most RPGs that have you traveling all around the world, trying to save it from an evil power, Tales of Legendia takes place entirely on an enormous ancient boat known as the Legacy. Senel Coolidge, a young marine, sails to the Legacy in hopes of protecting his younger sister Shirley, but she is kidnapped almost immediately upon landing. Blind to the plights of others around him, Senel rushes off to save Shirley, entirely unaware of greater powers at work on the ship…

ToL, like ToA, has a very accessible real time battle system, though is much simpler. Though the game is often touted as a “love it or hate it” experience, the game’s cast is generally considered one of the best, and the different take on JRPG storytelling is refreshing and often laugh-out-loud funny. A definite recommendation.



Star Ocean 3: ‘Til the End of Time

Set in the distant future, Star Ocean 3 tells the tale of Fayt Linegod, a college student vacationing on a resort planet with his family and his childhood friend, Sophia. When the resort is attacked by a mysterious alien army, Fayt narrowly escapes with Sophia, separated from their parents. Marooned on a distant, undeveloped planet, Fayt’s journey takes him across the stars, and brings him face to face with a secret hidden within his own identity.

Another action RPG, SO3 features deep customization, various character recruitment options, and the ability to interact with other party members in order to change how they feel about each other. While possibly not as accessible as Tales of, Star Ocean 3 is an exciting experience that will challenge your perceptions of “what is real.”



Persona 3

The story of a young transfer student to a new high school, the hero of the story is almost instantly thrown into the dark truth of a “hidden” hour in the day, where most humans are basically frozen in time, and demons prowl the streets. The few that remain awake during this “Dark Hour” are either preyed upon by the Shadows, or will awaken to an inner power known as “Persona” in order to combat them.

P3 features a turn-based battle style, where knowing your enemy and playing to their weaknesses become the key to victory. However, the game’s main draw is arguably the ability for the hero to establish and nourish his ties with others around him, Persona-user or otherwise, (known as his “Social Links”). Learning to balance school, relationships, and saving the world is actually a lot more fun that you might think. The game grants the player roughly one year of school activities and dungeon exploration, all tied to a greater evil that lies where no one expected. For turn-based battles, P3 is probably the best RPG in the current PS2 library.



Ar Tonelico: Melody of Elemia

Taking place in a destroyed world, the hero, Lyner Barsett, an elite knight from the upper levels of the tower of Ar tonelico, crashes into the lower levels during a mission to eradicate the viruses that plague the world. His encounter with Reyvateils, women with the abilities of song magic, leads this young warrior into a complex plot of power, greed, and subjugation.

Ar Tonelico is a turn-based game with the importance set on front row fighters protecting your party’s Reyvateils as they sing. The game also features a “dive” system, which allows Lyner to dive into the Reivateyl’s subconscious, learning more about them on a personal level, and raising their abilities in battle. The game features a very emotionally-engaging story, and will change based on Lyner’s decisions regarding the Reyvateils. Possibly the best sleeper RPG of 2007.



Okami

Taking the role of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, the player awakens from a deep sleep to find that ancient Japan is now shrouded in darkness and devoid of life. Using magical Celestial Brush strokes, Amaterasu takes upon herself the quest of ridding the world of its demons, and restoring the gods to their rightful positions.

Featuring a Zelda-esque take on role-playing, Okami features innovative puzzle solving and intuitive real time battle controls. “Magic” is available using the Celestial Brush, a system that allows the player to paint directly onto the world. The game also features a very unique artistic look reminiscent of traditional Japanese painting. A very big recommendation for a very underappreciated game.



Odin Sphere

Every tale has another side to it, and Odin Sphere examines one story from five different perspectives. Gwendolyn, a princess valkyrie in Odin’s army; Cornelius, a prince of a distant country betrayed and turned into a beast; Mercedes, the newly crowned Queen of the Fairies; Oswald, the demon knight; and Velvet, the forsaken princess. Each one of these characters is inevitably connected with each other, and their quests will eventually see the destruction of their own world.

Odin Sphere is unique blend of 2D side-scrolling with action role-playing. Each character controls differently, and learning to use each according to his or her strengths is challenging and rewarding. The story is illustrated in some of the most beautiful hand-drawn 2D ever seen in video games, and weaves a tale few can forget. A very enthusiastic recommendation.



Digital Devil Saga 2

Having been freed from a prison of constant war known as the Junkyard, Serph, the leader of a battle detail formerly known as the Embryon, seeks out his former companions and the mysterious girl Sera as he tries to unravel the mystery of the Solar Pollution and the Avatar Tuners.

Though technically the direct sequel to Digital Devil Saga, DDS2 is very much a complete experience on its own. The game features a turn-based battle system that requires the player to consider his enemies’ weaknesses and his party’s strengths. The game is quite dark, but is a very involving experience. Perhaps a little too difficult for newcomers to the series, but still an enthusiastic recommendation.



Grandia 3

Yuki always dreamed of flight, and he and his friend Rotts have spent every spare moment designing and building airplanes. However, when they finally get it right, Yuki crashes his plane and gets involved in the escape of a mysterious young woman called Alfina. His journey with her forces him to search for his own reasons for fighting, and challenges him to fly higher than he ever dreamt before.

The latest game in the fan-favorite Grandia series, G3 features a unique blend of real time action and turn based commands. The game’s story is a bit shallow occasionally, but overall presents an inspiring, exciting experience that any gamer can find something to like about. A definite recommendation to anyone who likes RPGs, but is not sure how “hardcore” they are.



So, there they are. I regret that a few quality titles didn't quite make the list (Rogue Galaxy, Valkyrie Profile 2, Xenosaga, Radiata Stories, etc.), but I guess that's how these things go.

Summoning Devils to Save the World: Totally Not a Paradox

So by now you all know that Atlus' teased game is a PS2 action-RPG, Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidou vs. The King of Abbadon. You also know that the game is the direct sequel to 2006's Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidou vs. The Soulless Army. Well, I've taken upon myself the daunting task of translating the entire 6 page behemoth of an article, and am bringing you the details of the game right here.

First off, as any avid MegaTen fan will have already noticed, is the return of Kazuma Kaneko as the game's character designer and art director. Having been MIA on Atlus' two previous MegaTen games (Persona 3 and Persona 4), we now know what he's been up to (or at least some of what he's been up to). He takes a moment in the article to emphasize the inclusion of more demons to befriend and talk about a much bigger game world for Raidou to explore this time around, with an ever-deepening plot that will take him to various places outside of the Capital.

Next, the game's director, Kazuyuki Yamai, chimes in to assure players that DS2 (as I will call the game from here on out) will feature a darker world than its predecessor, and more depth in the story and gameplay. He mentions, however, that the game is still very accessible to newcomers, so no one should feel left out.

DS2 features many of the same characters from the previous game, including Raidou Kuzunoha the Fourteenth as the game's silent protagonist. It also heralds the return of his familiar Gouto, his "boss" at the detective agency, Shouhei Narumi, and the slightly ditzy, but ever resourceful "ace" reporter, Kichou "Tae" Asakura.

Set during the 20th year of the Taishou era (which doesn't actually exist, in case you wanted to know. The Taishou era lasted only 14 years. If it did, that would make it roughly 1931.) in a small, behind-the-times kind of backwater village called Kanson (also likely a fictitious place). The Narumi Detective Agency (which Raidou works for) receives a missing persons case, and Raidou, Narumi, Tae, and Gouto all make the trip to investigate. During the investigation, Raidou learns of a new disaster threatening to befall the Capital...

Battles in DS2 will work similarly to Soulless Army, functioning completely in real time. However, some changes over DS1 include the ability to summon two demons at once, the ability to steal MAG (the substance used to summon) from enemies when their weakness is exploited, and the return of the much-clamored- or Demon Negotiation (where the player is forced to convince the demon to help him or her out). Additionally, Raidou will himself be able to make use of special moves in coordination with his summoned demons (which is a nice addition considering how little Raidou could do in DS1). Finally, the player will be able to tweak his or her demon's AI, telling them when they should heal, how they should attack, and so on (which really should have been a standard feature in DS1, imo).

There will also be a few extra additions to the battle system, including the ability to spam your special skills after continually exploiting an enemy's weakness. This suggests that the combat will be much more challenging in DS2. (This is probably a good thing, as most fans agree that DS1 was just too damn easy.)

Demon Negotiation is back in full swing, and looks very much like Demon Negotiation in many of the other MegaTen iterations: answer questions or make comments, and based on each demon's personality, they may agree to help you out in some way (joining you being only one of many possibilities), they may get scared and run away, or you might piss them off, making them attack you (usually stronger than they would have been normally).

In terms of non-battle gameplay, Raidou will be expected to find clues and solve puzzles just as before. Cases will be solved through listening to information provided by townsfolk and demons alike, searching for clues, and sending your demons out to investigate areas Raidou cannot access. This sounds all very Soulless Army-ish, so here's hoping there aren't as many pointless fetch quests...


The game promises to feature many new characters that will take an active role in the ever deepening mystery. Of particular mention in this article are three people who are apparently foreigners to Japan. One, a strange woman with pale blue eyes, encounters Raidou and Narumi just outside of a deep forest, telling them that she has been waiting for them in order to offer a warning... Another is an old man with long white hair who speaks with English mixed into his Japanese. The third is a young man with blonde hair who continually crosses paths with Raidou, offering mysterious and deep words for our heroes.

For those who played DS1, you will probably remember the "dark" version of many of the places you visited. These were basically the same locales, but full of demons instead of people. In DS2, instead of visiting this Dark Realm, you will be exploring demon-filled dungeons.

Another interesting point about DS2 is the existance of different endings. Depending on your actions throughout the game, your route to the ending, and indeed what ending you get, will change. This is fairly common in most MegaTen games (like Chaos vs. Law in Nocturne), but was not present in DS1. It is unclear at this time exactly what choices you will make that will affect the outcome, but rest assured that they are in there.

Finally, the article shows off the Black Masks. Wearing black masks (duh), carrying strange lanterns, and wielding katanas, the Black Masks are somehow involved in the mystery surrounding Kanson. We don't yet know what their objective is, but we do know that they are very keen on preventing Raidou from advancing in his investigation. Possibly acting as their leader, there is one man among them who wears a red mask and keeps a pet(?) bug, also wearing a mask. Oooo.

(Phew) Long article was long. You can check out the scans throughout the article courtesy of Gamekyo.

Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidou vs. The King of Abbadon will be available on PlayStation 2 in Japan on October 23, 2008. No word yet on a North American version.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Don't Go AWAY

If you're anything like me, you've played Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey, and are thinking to yourself, "Self, it sure would be nice to get my hands on some more Mistwalker goodness." Well, though we might be waiting a while for Blue Dragon Plus and ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat (God only knows when Nintendo will finally get around to announcing a release date for that), Mistwalker's third DS RPG, AWAY: Shuffle Dungeon, is already confirmed for North American release this October, and it actually looks pretty sweet.

A (relatively) recent Famitsu article goes into some details about the game, and I figured I might as well share them with you, loyal Sword Machine reader. ;)

For those not up to speed on AWAY, here's the run-down: our young and conveniently-named hero, Sword, was hanging out one day, chatting it up with his friend Aneira, when suddenly, there was a bright light, and Sword almost got dragged away by the mysterious AWAY. (Yes, convenient naming schemes permeate this game, just go with it.) Luckily, Aneira pulled him out, but was unfortunately dragged in instead. When Sword gets a hold of himself, he notices that not only Aneira, but his entire village has mysteriously vanished along with the light. So, of course, he sets off for the dungeon that is said to be connected with AWAY...

During his adventures into the dungeon, Sword will rescue various villagers, returning them to the village, and giving him access to more items, weapons, equipment, and skills. The article lists three different shop owners that will need saving before Sword can get his shop on with their various wares. Bukki (a play on the Japanese word for weapon) is the weapons shop owner, and will be able to sell you new arms for your quest. Bohguu (again, a play on the word for equipment) is your friendly neighborhood armorsmith. Finally, Weldan (probably a play on the Japaneseification of the words "well done") is your man for item upgrades and customization.

Throughout his adventure, Sword will be able to find and use at least four different types of weapons: swords, spears, axes, and daggers (x2). Each weapon will work a little differently, and learning which to use when and on whom will become a key to Sword's victory. These weapons can be upgraded with Weldan, and it seems that there are certain weapons that have additional skills and attributes associated with them.

Finally, the article mentions some mysterious objects known as the Rainbow Strings, which are supposedly seven magical instruments that correspond to the seven colors of the rainbow. Each will be important in Sword's overall journey, and it seems like certain villagers will be required to play them.

The game's soundtrack composer, Nobuo Uematsu, was on hand with the article to talk about these seven instruments, claiming to have once seen the real-life versions of them in Transelvania. He explains that though he wanted to hear them played, he was told that they couldn't risk being broken. Luckily though, he says, they are all available in AWAY, and he hopes that players will enjoy their music.

For me, the parallels between this game and the SNES sleeper classic, SoulBlazer, are hard to miss. But that is certainly not a bad thing. And with Mistwalker's track record, and the charming nature of this game, I am very much anticipating this title.

Check out the scans of the articles below. (Thanks, RPGLand.)



AWAY: Shuffle Dungeon will be available on Nintendo DS from AQ Interactive in Japan on October 16, 2008, and sometime this fall in North America from Majesco.

MegaTen Announcement Comes Early, Is Another PS2 Game

Continued proof that countdowns to game announcements lead to disappointement, word broke this morning via some scans from the latest Weekly Famitsu that Atlus' mystery game is in fact another Kuzunoha Raidou game for the PlayStation 2. This isn't that big of a shocker, as many MegaTen fans predicted a new Kuzunoha Raidou game, due to the cat on the teaser's bright green eyes (a trademark of Raidou's "sidekick" familiar, Gouto). What is disappointing to me, is the target platform. More on that in a bit, but first, the release details are below:

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidou vs. The King of Abbadon is the latest game in the Shin Megami Tensei overarching series, the fifth game in the "Devil Summoner" subseries (I think), and the direct sequel to 2006's Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidou vs. The Soulless Army. The game will retail for PlayStation 2 in Japan on October 23, 2009 (just in time for Halloween).

Now, don't get me wrong here, I love my PS2, and games like P4 and AT2 are proof that there are still titles to be excited for on that platform. But frankly, I'm a little disappointed. I enjoy my HD gaming so much more these days, and I have less and less faith that PS2 games are going to make the jump to North America, that it's hard for me to really get worked up for this game. Especially since I consider the previous Kuzunoha Raidou game the weakest MegaTen game of the previous generation. Sure, it's a good game by its own standards, but compared to Nocturne, Digital Devil Saga, and Persona 3, it is noticibly lacking in many areas.

Now, I suppose, I should address the inevitable questions regarding this game:

Will it be good?
Of course. Not as good as P4 imo, but good nonetheless.

Will it make it to North America?
Most likely.

When?
My guess would be Q1 2009 (February-ish).

How will it play?
Just like Kuzunoha Raidou vs. The Soulless Army. It is clearly running on the exact same engine as its predecessor (which is probably a big reason it is on PS2).

Will I buy it?
You bet your ass I will.

Will I be happy about it?
Yes and no. Happy for more MegaTen, unhappy for no 7th gen.

Is this the game we expected?
No, the help-wanted ad specifically mentions development on hardware like Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (doesn't necessarily mean it will be on one or both of those platforms, just that programming is for those kind of engines. It could be an HD PC game. We just don't know). That announcement is apparently further off.

When will that game be announced?
I have no idea. Atlus seems to like to announce their games fairly close to the release dates (a smart tactic, in my opinion). My guess is the game will come out sometime mid to late 2009, so don't hold your breath for an announcement any time before May. (But, of course, anything could happen, and we could get an announcement at TGS. Just don't expect one.)

Remember that the above are nothing more than my opinions on the game based on my own experience, and my predictions should be taken as educated speculation, not fact.

Now, perhaps you think that Kuzunoha Raidou vs. The Soulless Army was the best MegaTen iteration of this or any other generation, and there can never be enough Kuzunoha Raidou. I can respect that opinion. And if that's the case, then I hope Kuzunoha Raidou vs. The King of Abaddon is everything you hope it to be. I'm not trying to hate on this game or its announcement in any way. I'm just a little disappointed.

There were, of course, scans provided with this announcement, and I will include them and a translated summary in a subsequent post (probably later today).

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Is This Tales of Vesperia's Boxart?

In what appears to be the second entry into today's "Is This (insert game here)'s Boxart?" mini-series, I give you a possible North American boxart sample for Tales of Vesperia, courtesy of Walmart.com.

Even though the game is hitting Japanese 360s next week, and follows up on our shores in less than a month, Namco Bandai North America is extremely tight-lipped on the game. Even their official website shows basically nothing.

We currently have no way of knowing if the above truly is the final draft of the North American box or not, but our guess is that it is. Why Walmart.com has a picture of it and no other online retailer? No idea. But I just don't believe that there is someone over at Walmart.com with enough talent in photoshop and interest in this game to whip something like this up just for kicks and giggles.

After Soul Calibur IV releases worldwide this week, perhaps we will finally get those Namdai peoples talking. Until then, gaze at the above picture and dream of what could be.

Me? I don't mind it (it's much better than ToA's abomination), but I'd still prefer the Japanese box on this one. What about you?

Is This Black Sigil's Boxart?

So, I hate to toy with your emotions on this one, but the little 2D RPG known as Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled (perhaps familiar to some as Project Exile) seems to have gotten some box art (shown via GoNintendo). We aren't sure if this is official or not, as Studio Archcraft is notoriously inconsistant with their own website updates, and their publisher, Graffiti Entertainment, isn't much better.

Black Sigil, an indie RPG from a startup studio in Canada, has been looking to fill a nostalgic hole in 16-bit RPG fans' hearts for quite some time now, but has unfortunately been set upon by delay after delay. The game is still rumored to be retailing this September, but we would advise you not to hold your breath for it.

If this is indeed the official boxart (as we would like to believe), then that September release date sure sounds promising. Even though I keep telling myself that this game won't ever be released, and that I should just stop hoping for it, everytime I see those SNES-esque graphics, I just can't seem to help myself...

What's your take? Is Black Sigil worth the wait, or is it nothing more than nostalgic vaporware?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Buy ToV, Get Stuff

So, as you probably know, I'm already completely whipped over the upcoming Tales of Vesperia for Xbox 360. Well, apparently so is Japan.

Not only is there an already sold out (at least at Play Asia and Amazon.co.jp) Japan-only Premium Xbox 360 x Tales of Vesperia bundle, plus a special DVD with every pre-order, and a special meet-the-cast event, but there is also a sweepstakes with the game, with 2,003 prizes.

If you live in Japan and are planning on picking up (or have already pre-ordered) Tales of Vesperia, all you have to do is fill out a little survey included in the game package and send it out with a 50 yen stamp stuck on it and you could win some stuff. Admittedly, this stuff would probably only appeal to you if you were an exteremly hardcore Tales of fan, but it's still stuff nonethelss.

There are 3 "A" prizes which consist of a set of 6 recording scripts for the game, signed by the game's voice cast.

There are 1,000 "B" prizes which consist of a set of 8 B4-size, full-color ToV character posters.

Finally, there are 1,000 "C" prizes which consist of a set of 'Faceplate Seals.' (Basically stickers.)

Some of these prizes may be something of an eyebrow-raiser to many North American gamers, but hardcore fans of the series (especially in Japan) would be stoked to get most of these prizes (I can't say the stickers really look that great, but I guess free is free).

Since I don't live in Japan anymore, and will be getting the NA version of the game (I don't have a JP 360 at the moment), I am obviously out of luck on this contest. And let's face it, we'll be lucky if we get any kind of pre-order bonus at all in North America.

You can take a look at the prizes and read the details of the contest (you'll need to be Japanese-enabled) right here.

RPGs of the Week: Japan has more RPGs than You Edition

I wasn't fully aware of just how many RPGs come out in Japan compared to North America until I started the RPGs of the Week feature. Sure, I figured they inevitably got more than us, but I never would have thought it was this much more!

...That being said, I'm not sure I would want half of the RPGs that they get. Some of them look pretty laym.

Anyways, my inferiority complex aside, here are all the RPGs shipping across the 3 main regions this week (July 28 - August 1, 2008):

North America
Fate: Undiscovered Realms - WildTangent, Encore Software - PC
Legend: Hand of God - Master Creating, ValuSoft - PC
Spectral Force 3 - IdeaFactory, Atlus - Xbox 360

Japan
Dokapon Journey! Nakayoku Kenka Shite - Sting - Nintendo DS
Dokapon Kingdom - Sting - Nintendo Wii
Ginga Ojousama Densetsu Collection (PC Engine Best Collection) - Hudson - PSP
Phantasy Star Portable - Alfa System, Sega - PSP
Tengai Makyou Collection - Hudson - PSP
Tengai Makyou: Dai 4 no Mokushiroku - Hudson - PSP

Europe
Growlanser: Heritage of War - Career Soft, Rising Star - PlayStation 2

I'll be picking up Spectral Force 3 for my 360, and possibly looking into a few of the portable Japanese games, (besides inevitably getting Soul Calibur IV ;P)

Anything looking good to you this week?

Atlus and NIS Reprint a Few Games that You Might Have Missed

Okay, so this is probably old news for most of you, but since Ar Tonelico II just got announced, I thought I'd put a plug in this morning in case anyone who reads this blog didn't know this yet.

A few relatively rare PS2 RPGs recently got the reprint treatment and are going for pretty reasonable prices at various spots on the internet.

The games in question are Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, Digital Devil Saga, and NIS America's Ar Tonelico: Melody of Elemia, and Disgaea: Hour of Darkness.

Disgaea has already seen a few reprints before, and besides the existing PSP port, it is also on its way to DS this September, so we're pretty confident that you'll be able to get yourself a copy of it somewhere if you really want to play it.

The other three games, however, all saw very limited printings, and people who didn't pre-order them probably had some trouble tracking down copies. (I personally paid $100 on eBay to nab my copy of Digital Devils Saga a couple of years ago. Luckily, I pre-ordered Ar Tonelico, and was able to find Nocturne for a reasonable price.)

Each game is available on Play Asia for a measly $44.90. Additionally, Ar Tonelico is also available via Rosenqueen for $19.99.

Note that none of these reprints come with the same premium boxsets, etc. that came with the first printings, but honestly, they are still very much worth their prices.

So, anyone miss out on these games and planning on picking up a reprint?

NIS America gives you Ar Tonelico II for Christmas

So, you thought Square Enix giving you Chrono Trigger for your DS, and Atlus giving you Persona 4 for your PS2 were pretty good Christmas presents, right? Well, NIS America is getting in on the festivities and offering JRPG fans yet another game for their holiday playtime: Ar Tonelico II.

Yes, the game hinted at by RPGFan, and heavily rumored by RPGLand has indeed come to fruition. This announcement has been a while coming, and I know that a lot of Gust fans (myself included) have started to get worried that it wouldn't happen.

But via OPM this month, At Tonelico II has been confirmed for North American release this December, courtesy of NIS America. There is currently no press release from NIS, but we expect to see one by the end of the week.

Having loved the first Ar Tonelico to death, I'm very excited get my hands on the sequel. I don't know, there's just something I find very charming about Gust's titles, and Ar Tonelico definitely takes the good things that Gust has done with the Atelier series and applied it in a way that is both familiar and completely new at the same time.

So, anyone else as stoked for this game as I am?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Final Fantasy XIII is also going to PC. I thought you knew that?

So, I've seen this around the internet a little bit, but most people have kind of missed or totally ignored the fact that Final Fantasy XIII isn't "betraying" the PS3 just once, but twice!

Yes, Final Fantasy XIII was officially announced to be heading to PC, on top of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. In fact, it seems that the game was announced for PC during Square Enix's press conference at E3. I guess people (myself included) were more caught up with the other announcement that they didn't quite catch this one.

So, to sum up, even if you don't own a PS3 or 360, you'll still be able to get your hands on FFXIII (provided you have a PC that can run it). Good news for those who have yet to make the jump to 7th generation hardware, but for some reason have high-end PCs.

Still no word on when Final Fantasy XIII will launch, but I have my money on 2010. Earliest.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Valkyries to Alight on DS this October

According to the official website for Valkyrie Profile: Toga wo Seou Mono (The Accused One), the game will be hitting Japanese DSes on October 2nd, 2008.

Toga wo Seou Mono marks tri-Ace's first Nintendo DS project, and their first original release for a handheld system. The story follows the young warrior Wylfred as he seeks revenge on the valkyries for the death of his family, which he blames on them.

Currently no word has been given regarding a North American or European release.

Infinite Possibilities Undiscovered!

Two new characters and a few new tidbits have been released regarding tri-Ace and Square Enix's upcoming Xbox 360 RPG, Infinite Undiscovery, courtesy last week's Famitsu.

First up, the characters.

Subaru (age: unknown) is the ruler of the Queendom of Halgeetah. A long time acquaintance of Sigmund's, she instantly takes to Capell with a very motherly attitude. She seems to support the Liberation Forces. It is unknown if she will join in combat.

Toma (15) is a Haineyl who serves the royal house of Halgeetah, known as a Shadow. He is a childhood friend of Sigmund's, and thus one of the few people that know his past. He carries himself in a confident and dignified manner, but can also be quite naive to the world around him. He appears to fight with a katana.

The word "Haineyl" refers to someone with a high rank in society as well as (or due to?) the greater power that they weild as compared to the "Komoneyl." They apparently are also able to bestow Lunagrams (the glyphs that appear on people's skin, granting them magical powers) onto others. (You can probably think of them as basically nobles and commoners. That seems to fit fairly well.)

It was also revealed in this article that Infinite Undiscovery will feature a "multiparty" system, allowing the player to divide his or her allies up between a possible 3 groups of 4 members each. Since Capell is the only "fully" playable character in IU, the party lead by him is known as the "main party" while the other two are classified as "sub parties." There will be times when all three parties will participate in the same mission, all being present on the battlefield.

That being said, it is apparently important to consider the personalities of each character that you put in each party, as they will act differently based on who they are working with and the personality of that party's leader. It also appears that characters' personalities may change once certain criteria are met...

The final bit of information presented in this article is regarding a phenomenon known as Lunar Rain. Lunar Rain is supposedly power from the moon falling down to the Earth, granting those who are touched by it better stamina and more power to their Lunagrams. Since the Sealed Army chained the moon, the Lunar Rain falls almost exclusively on the Halgeetah region. For some reason, Capell does not feel comfortable in the Lunar Rain...

Check out the scans of the article below.



Infinite Undiscovery will be available on Xbox 360 on September 2nd, 2008 in North America, September 5th, 2008 in Europe, and September 11th, 2008 in Japan from Square Enix.

Honestly, this game and Tales of Vesperia are looking both just incredible to me. Since they release only a week apart from each other, I'm having a hard time deciding which one I'll play first. (They are both day 1 buys for me.)

Heroes Need to Eat too! Cooking and Other Stuff in ToV

With the main characters and overarching plot showcased previously, the latest issue of Famitsu brings word of some of the more detailed points of Namco Bandai's upcoming Xbox 360 RPG Tales of Vesperia.

First off, those familiar with the Tales of series should be pleased to know that the ever-elusive Wonder Chef will be making an appearance in ToV. Having previously gone MIA in Tales of the Abyss and Tales of Innocence (I don't remember if he/she was in Tales of the Tempest), the Wonder Chef is back and as sneaky as ever. (The article shows him disguised as a fish in the marketplace.) As usual, players will be required to find the Wonder Chef by examining out-of-place objects with the hope that he will appear before them and offer a new recipe.

As with ToA before it, ToV's cooking system allows characters to become better at cooking the more they do it, and certain characters will think up variations on recipes that they have a lot of practice making. See? Eating is important too.

The second point the article mentions is the inclusion of various vehicles. Terca Lumires (the world ToV takes place in) is extremely vast, and the article states that just walking everywhere the party needs to go would be a little tough. A boat and an airship are both shown in the screens, but there are apparently more. (Sweet!)

Third up is the mention of strong, unique enemies, such as Nan and Tison (Tyson?) of the Hunters' Guild. (Those of you who have gone hands-on with the demo will probably reconize Nan's name.) As in ToA, these recurring enemies (will they always be enemies?) will also be able to pull off Overlimits and Burst Artes, and truly give your party a run for its money.

Also included in this section is the introduction of a new guild. Known as the Leviathan Claws, the members of this guild are assassins and arms dealers by trade, and seem decidedly more dangerous than even the Hunters' Guild. The leader (?) of the guild, Iegar (Jager?) appears to be a cold professional who will do anything to further his business. Two of his lackeys, Goash (the red-haired girl) and Dolowat (the blonde-ish girl) apparently always work as a pair, and even their Burst Artes are done together.

Fourth is an expansion on "attachments," a feature new to the Tales of series that allows players to tweak various aspects of the characters' appearances. These attachments are separate from the costumes (now a Tales of staple feature). Both attachments and costumes will be set from the character status screen under "Title" (just like ToS and ToA), and attachments will be set under "Attachment" on the same screen.

Finally, there is some information on the beginning of the story. Players who want to keep the story a surprise may want to skip the next paragraph. (In other words, THE NEXT PARAGRAPH CONTAINS SPOILERS. Okay?)

The story apparently begins with an accident occuring in the waterway blastia underneath the capital city Zarfius. Since the waterway is the main water supply for the people within the barrier city, all haste is made to repair the damage, and Yuri (a mercenary for hire) is enlisted to help. However, during the operation, things take a turn that he never expected, and he winds up meeting Estelle, a young noble who is apparently fleeing the castle for her own reasons. The article doesn't give any further details, but somehow the two end up working together and leave the city behind, but not before Estelle mysteriously brings a great tree, poisoned by magic, into bloom with her prayer. Just what power does Estelle have?

Tales of Vesperia will be available for Xbox 360 on August 7th, 2008 in Japan, and on August 26th, 2008 in North America from Namco Bandai Games. May I also add in a plug here that I really really want to get my hands on this game. One month to go!

Famitsu scans are included below.



As usual, note that my translations may differ from the final, official translation.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When Remnants Attack

Last week's Famitsu covered both of Square Enix's upcoming Xbox 360 RPGs, Infinite Undiscovery and The Last Remnant. (Yes, I'm playing catch up. It's all E3's fault, btw.)

The article focusing on The Last Remnant features two new enemies: Wagram and Jager. Wagram has been seen previously in some of the game's newer trailers, and is revealed to be a member of the mysterious organization that kidnapped Irina Sykes. He is apparently in a position of authority, and is the one who ordered Irina's abduction. Jager, like Wagram, is a higher-up in the organization, but is in charge of more dirty, hands-on work. He is strong and ruthless, but apparently no good around women.

It was also revealed that Remnants are not only objects, but some of them function like monsters, encountering the heroes on the battlefield. I kind of get the Shadow of the Colossus feel from these Remnants, and hopefully battles with them will be just as heartpounding.

The Last Remnant is set to release worldwide for Xbox 360 on November 20, 2008. No date for the PlayStation 3 or (recently announced) PC versions have been announced yet.

Thanks to RP
GLand for the scans.

Your Hero: Another Game You'll Probably Never Play

SNK Playmore has announced a new RPG for the Nintendo DS via the latest Famitsu. Titled Kimi no Yuusha (lit. 'Your Hero'), the game is said to be heavily inspired by visual novels.

For those who've never heard that term before, visual novels are a type of "game" popular in Japan that generally have very little to do with actual play mechanics. The games are more like stories told using still images, talking character art, static painted backgrounds, and voice-overs. They can generally be thought of as choose your own adventure books in completely visual and audio format. For those who have played Ar Tonelico, the "dive" sequences in the game are basically visual novels.

The influence of visual novels will be easily recognized by fans of Japanese RPGs, as many use varying amounts of visual novel style for character dialogue.

Kimi no Yuusha will apparently be even more visual novel-esque than most JRPGs, (which is probably a selling point in Japan) in that it seems like almost all of the storyline will be told through visual novel style storytelling, giving players only the ability to explore dungeons and fight battles in real time.

Still, relatively little can be gleaned from Famitsu scan, but just looking at what I can make out, the game seems much too Japanesey to ever find a home with a North American publisher. However, for those willing to brave the Japanese text and voices, the game is set to be released in Japan for Nintendo DS sometime this fall.

Atlus Has a New Moon Rising August 1st *UPDATED*

In the latest issue of Famitsu, Atlus Japan has placed a 2-page spread ad of... a cat!

Okay, so the cat is black and it is totally looking at the moon. And there's some text there too. Roughly translated it says "On the Day Yin and Yang are bound together, a new incident will be revealed." It also gives a URL ...which is conveniently obscured by the lighting on the photo of the page. =(

I think it says www.newmoon.co.jp. Which is, if you go there, a page that says "under construction" in Japanese. Looking at the HTML source code reveals... nothing! (I already checked.)

UPDATE: Thanks to some internet matlock at Gamekyo, the website has been revealed to actually be www.new-moon.tv, however, the end result is the same. The website is definitely made to look like the ad in the magazine, but only says that the site cannot be accessed at this time and to check back later (read: "under construction").

At the bottom of the ad it says that details will be revealed on August 1st, in this magazine (referring to Famitsu).

Is this the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 RPG in development? Or is it something... else?

We have no idea, but we think there will be a black cat in it. Somewhere. ...Yeah, pretty sure about that.

UPDATE 2: Atlus' new-moon.tv website has updated! It now features the same black cat, and a large purple countdown clock which is currently pointing to next Friday (as the ad mentions). In addition, if you sit and watch the clock for a little while, some of the numbers will sporatically be substituted for a sillhouette of a Megami Tensei demon. (In just the minute and a half I watched it, I could clearly identify Jack Frost, Lamia, Oni, and a few others.) There is little doubt now that the game is indeed a Megami Tensei title of some sort. Past that, though, we're still just guessing.

Check out the ad below.


P.S. If someone has/finds a better quality scan, please let me know in the comments so I can get that up. Thanks. ;)

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days gets a Website

A new Japanese website has just launched for the upcoming Nintendo DS iteration of the oddly popular Disney-meets-Final-Fantasy RPG series Kingdom Hearts.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (I can write it, but I'm not sure how to say it) was announced last year for Nintendo DS, alongside Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (for the PSP) and Kingdom Hearts Coded (for Japanese cell phones). Currently no word has been given about websites for the PSP or cell phone sites.

I don't really follow Kingdom Hearts, so I can't really tell you anything about it. But chances are, if you are hardcore for this series, you wouldn't want my noob-ish translations for it anyways. You can view the website for yourself here.

According to the website, the game has yet to receive a release date.

Monday, July 21, 2008

RPGs of the Week: Final Fantasy IV Again Edition

A couple of DS RPGs hitting both North America and Japan this week, as well as some console re-releases. Unfortunately, nothing for our European friends.

The following RPGs are all shipping this week (July 20-26, 2008) across the three major regions.

North America
Jade Empire (Xbox Originals) - BioWare, Microsoft - XBL
Final Fantasy IV - Matrix, Square Enix - Nintendo DS
Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns - Ninja Studio, Atlus - Nintendo DS

Japan
Steal Princess: Touzoku Oujo - Climax, Marvelous - Nintendo DS
Shin Bokujou Monogatari: Pure Innocent Life (Best Collection) - ArtePiazza, Marvelous - PlayStation 2
Eiyuu Densetsu: Sora no Kiseki 3rd - Falcom - PSP

Europe
(None)

Arguably the biggest release this week is the North American version of the DS Final Fantasy IV remake. I've already played though this game more times than I care to count, including this remake's Japanese version, so I'll be passing on it.

I might give Steal Princess a spin just to see what it's all about, but I'm really not interested in much this week.

What about you? Picking anything up this week?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sword Machine E3 RPG Predictions REVISITED

Well, it's finished. E3 is over and done with for another year.

A few companies surprised us (Microsoft with FFXIII and Capcom with their press conference about nothing), and some companies didn't (Sony with... uh... Resistance PSP?).

Some companies impressed us (Square Enix with big name titles hitting solidly every month from here on out) and some companies disappointed us (Nintendo with the "hardcore" announcement of Animal Crossing Wii).

With the show now just a lingering scent in the air, it's time for everyone's favorite E3 wrap-up: Rate the predictions!

Yes! Below I am personally going to go through each of Sword Machine's E3 predictions and score them. So get a pen and paper ready and keep score at home!

...Or don't. I'll write the score at the end of the post anyway. Whatever you like.

For your reference, the prediction (copied and pasted directly from the original article) will appear in italics, while my score will appear in bold, and my comments in normal print.

Shall we?

10 – Tales of Vesperia announced for mid-August 2008 release for Xbox 360 with playable demo. Also, English demo finally “released” on XBL.
TRUE. As suspected, ToV will hit North American retailers this August, and the demo is officially up. Get your pre-orders ready!

9 – Infinite Undiscovery and Last Remnant playable demos on 360, Last Remnant given firm release date
MOSTLY TRUE. Both games were there, and both were given firm release dates (in September and November, respectively). IU was playable, but unfortunately TLR wasn't. But still close enough that I'll give myself the point.

8 – No new RPGs announced for PS3
TRUE (much to the dismay of PS3 owners). In fact, not only did Sony not reveal any new RPGs for their console, they didn't even bother to show the ones they have already announced. (Okay, sorry. I meant "one". Go White Knight! You need to win it for Sony this generation!) Perhaps even worse, the only RPG they showed during their press conference, they screwed up on and showed on the wrong console, effectively dropping some affinity points with that publisher. Ouch.

7 – Sega, Square Enix, Natsume, Atlus, Namco Bandai, Konami, Capcom, XSEED, Aksys, and pretty well every other publisher you can think of announces billions of new DS games, including some RPGs.
FALSE. Well, to a degree. While it's true that there were more exclusive RPGs on DS than any other system, there were almost no new ones announced. So no point for this one. =(

6 – Soma Bringer announced for Q3/Q4 2008 for DS in NA
FALSE. What can I say? Nintendo didn't announce anything, nevermind an obscure action RPG for their handheld which sells a zillion units without additional marketing anyway. Forget the fact that its one of the best DS RPGs and developed by Monolith. No one cares. Everyone wants Wii Sports 2! Yeah!! (/sarcasm)

5 – Cry On shown and announced for Q4 2008 / Q1 2009 for Xbox 360
FALSE. Except for Majesco's surprise licence of AWAY, there was absolutely no Mistwalker presence at all for this show. Sad face is sad. =(

4 – Valkyria Chronicles to be ported to Xbox 360 for Q2 2009
FALSE. Sega didn't announce anything. Nor did they even show much of anything. I don't understand Sega.

3 – Blue Dragon 2 announced for simultaneous NA/JP release in early 2009
FALSE. As stated above, no Mistwalker. Fingers crossed for TGS?

2 – Fragile announced for Q4 2008 in NA
FALSE. Namco Bandai? Surprising people at E3? Yeah right. Never going to happen.

1 – Xenosaga IV announced for Xbox 360
FALSE. See above.

Final Score: 3/10

Well, there you have it.

E3 definitely had some big surprises this year, most notably, of course, being Final Fantasy XIII on Xbox 360 (I certainly never could have predicted that). Some other welcome surprises were AWAY coming to North America, some Star Ocean 4 gameplay, and... uh... 5 new Harvest Moon games?

So, how did your predictions do?

E3 2008: Microsoft Mistwalkerless Round-up

Well, here it is. The last big publisher that showed off RPGs at this year's E3. Check out the coverage below.

Fable II (Xbox 360)


Developed by Lionhead Studios
Published by Microsoft
Available October 2008


Too Human (Xbox 360)


Developed by Silicon Knights
Published by Microsoft
Available August 12, 2008

The above developer walkthrough for Fable II is only part 1 of 3. I thought it would give you a good feel for it, and if you were interested you could check the rest out on GameTrailers.

Again, my wariness with Western RPGs prevents me from being overly excited about either of these games, but who knows? Fable II definitely looks like it has potential, and Too Human might be alright for a hack-and-slash fest. Only time will tell.


But my big question for Microsoft is, where the hell is my Mistwalker?!

That is all.

E3 2008: Natsume Farm Round-up

Natsume knows which side its bread is buttered on, and that side is called Harvest Moon. Though they occasionally throw something else into the mix (read "River King"), Natsume pretty well exclusively releases Harvest Moon titles. Thus, it really shouldn't surprise anyone that their E3 presence in 2008 was completely about Harvest Moon.

Check out the coverage (that I neglected up til now) below.

Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility (Nintendo Wii)


Developed by Marvelous
Published by Natsume
Available August 26th, 2008 in North America


Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness (Nintendo DS)


Developed by Marvelous
Published by Natsume
Available August 26th, 2008 in North America


Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon (Nintendo DS)



Developed by Neverland
Published by Natsume
Available Fall 2008 in North America

E3 2008: Sega Western Round-up

Sega really didn't have much of an RPG presence at E3 this year. Despite their decidedly massive amount of JRPGs in development (World Destruction, Garnet Chronicle, Infinite Line, Valkyria Chronicles), they showed almost none of them. (Valkyria Chronicles got a 1/2 second of screen time at Sony's press conference under the wrong console. Sega was none to pleased about it either.)

What Sega did show were a couple of their upcoming Western-developed RPGs. Check out the round-up below.

Golden Axe: Beast Rider (Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)


Developed by Secret Level
Published by Sega
Available Fall 2008 in North America


Alpha Protocol (Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)



Developed by Bethesda Softworks
Published by Sega
TBA 2009

I'm still not sure how I feel about these games... They look decidedly average to me. But then, I'm not the biggest fan Western RPGs ever had. I liked Mass Effect though, so I'm trying to keep an open mind these days.

I find it extremely curious that VC and Sonic Chronicles received so little attention when both are very close to release over here (certainly closer than Alpha Protocol). Then again, I've never claimed to understand why Sega does the things it does.