Akihabara Shopping: Cool Releases In Japan 12-18 December 2011 – Vita Edition

on December 11, 2011 11:00 PM

Welcome to the ninth “episode” of Akihabara Shopping, the weekly column that will give you a small glimpse on the coolest games that will be released next week in Japan. Some of them may sooner or later see a western localization, while many will remain an exclusive luxury for importers and Japanophiles (even because games in Japan cost more or less twice as much as in the US). If you missed last week’s episode, you can check it out here.

Of course this column doesn’t cover all the games and accessories that will be released in Japan next week, as there’s a whole lot, this week even more than usual. Why? Because this week is Vita week, the week in which hundreds of thousands of Japanese gamers will get their greedy hands on Sony’s new technological marvel and will get to leave their fingerprints on that lovely bright screeen. This means that there will also be a metric ton of launch games that will debut with the console, so I’ll try to select the most interesting for your reading and viewing pleasure.

I don’t really think I need to write much of an introduction for the PS Vita. Unless you lived under a rock in the last year, you probably know quite a lot about this little lovely console. You can still read my hands-on preview, and I’m quite sure Alexa is going to write something more updated about it soon.

Turns out, though, that this isn’t just the week of the PS Vita, as another ten ton gorilla is gonna hit the Japanese shelves just before the Vita does: Final Fantasy XIII-2 (ファイナルファンタジーXIII-2 ) will be released on December the 15th for PS3 and Xbox 360.

Lightning disappeared after the events that led Vanille and Fang to save Cocoon from it’s distruction. Her sister Serah can’t believe that she sacrificed herself alongside the two, and Snow sets out to go find Lightning on her behalf, only to go missing himself.

As the village of New Bodhum is attacked by monsters, Serah is rescued by a young warrior named Noel, that seems to know Lightning and her whereabouts. The two set out on a journey through space and time to find the protagonist of Final Fantasy XIII, even if a lot more seems to be at stake.

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Final Fantasy XIII-2 has an uphill battle to fight, as it’s a sequel that many didn’t want of a game that many seem to hate with an almost irrational violence. It’s unlikely that a game like that would receive a sequel in the west, so many were surprised, and some outraged, when Square Enix revealed it’s development. But this is the Japanese way: When something doesn’t work, you don’t abandon it. You go back to the drawing board and fix the situation.

From what we’ve seen so far Final Fantasy XIII-2 (as well as version 2.0 of Final Fantasy XIV) is the perfect embodyment of that philosophy. Square Enix shed the Call of Duty inspiration (thank goodness) and went back to do what it does best: JRPGs.

Both Famitsu and Dengeki PlayStation gave it perfect scores before release, stressing the fact that all the problems from XIII are gone.

Is it true? Can we trust them? Considering what I’ve seen during the hands-on time I had with the game, I’m leaning towards the “yes” side of the question. We’ll see when it’ll be time for us to review it, but so far so good. You can check out one of the many trailers of the game below. On a side note, Lightning looks absolutely charming in her new armor.

 Let’s move ahead in time two days, and the Vita armageddon will begin. There will be twenty-six games and about a billion accessories all hitting the Japanese stores on the 17th, so I’ll have to be selective.

I was going to start with Army Corps of Hell, but I won’t, as Square Enix dropped on me a sizable batch of new screenshots right as I was writing this column. Since the game now has it’s own post right under this one, i’d rather replace it with another one by Square Enix: Lord of Apocalypse (ロード オブ アポカリプス), sequel of the arcade card game Lord of Vermillion and of Lord of Arcana on PSP.

The interesting thing about this Monster Hunter-ish JRPG is that it’s cross platform. It will be released at the same on the PS Vita and on it’s older sister, the PSP.

This creates a ton of confustion when I post screenshots and trailers, because everyone wonders if the assets come from the PSP version or the PS Vita one. The funny part is that I have no idea myself. I honestly don’t think Square Enix ever clarified that. The same goes for this post, mind you. We will all have to keep guessing.

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As mentioned above, the story is based on the same world of Lord of Vermillion and Lord of Arcana: on one of the countless planets created by the Arcana stones, Guren, the King brought an era of peace and prosperity after defeating the forces of evil that enslaved the land. But some time after that the land started losing it’s prosperity, causing many to fall prey of doubt and despair.

The main character, that can be both male and female, doesn’t have a name, and doesn’t remember anything of his past (very convenient, isn’t it?). He or she has an innate ability to feel the energies involved in the creation of a new world, and because of that he seems to be targeted by many that would like to acquire his abilities.

Following the trend created by Final Fantasy Type-0, Lord of Apocalypse has a rich set of features, adding to the basic story and the usual quests the ability to recruit and customize your mercenary army and to send them on missions to increase your power. It also supports full 4-players online gameplay. Oh, yeah. You also get to kill Cthulhu.

Check out a trailer just below.

 The second Vita game I’m going to introduce for the upcoming week is Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen (忍道2 散華, that can be translated as Shinobido 2: Tales of the Ninja), the sequel of the PSP Game Shinobido: Tales of the Ninja, that was released only in Japan and Europe.

The reason why I chose this game over others that will be released on the Vita as the same time. is that I didn’t play a great Ninja Stealth Action game since the times of the Tenchu series on the PS2, and this one is developed by that same team.

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The story revolves around Zen, a young ninja that happens to be betrayed by his companions during a period of civil unrest and left for dead, as it always seems to happen in Ninja-themed stories. Of course he doesn’t die at all  (another thing that always happens), and sets out to get his revenge.

The game features the full suite of the Ninja arsenal, including interesting perks like the ability to glide from high areas of the maps. There’s also a whole lot of red pain… ahem, I meant blood.

Check out the latest trailer below and join me in hoping that it won’t prove mediocre like Tenchu Z on the Xbox 360…

As always the last spot of the week is dedicated to hardware and accessories. I did check the billion of cases, sheets of protective film, straps and memory/game card holders for the vita, but honestly the only one that I really liked is this one produced by Sony itself.

Akihabara Shopping: Cool Releases In Japan 12-18 December 2011 - Vita EditionIt’s a bit on the costly side (about 4000 yen, or 50 dollars), but it’s in leather and the slight contrast between the black and the blue of the thread is just spot on. If you want to bring the Vita to the office, this is pretty much the case to go with.

To conclude, here’s a bonus. Do you remember about that lovely white limited edition PS3 bundled with Final Fantasy XIII? Square Enix and Sony did it again for Final Fantasy XIII-2, with the difference that the PS3 is now black, but it’s still absolutely lovely.

Akihabara Shopping: Cool Releases In Japan 12-18 December 2011 - Vita Edition

Don’t want to get a completely new PS3? Quite understandable. That’s why Hori created a licensed cover for the PS3 slim, featuring what’s probably my favorite illustration of Lightning overall. Isn’t it beautiful?

Akihabara Shopping: Cool Releases In Japan 12-18 December 2011 - Vita Edition

This was the last one for this week. Do come back in two weeks (as next week will be pretty barren after the Vita Armageddon, so this column will take a week a week off), to see what your friendly neighborhood Japanophile will dig up from Akihabara. Tanoshimi ni!

 /  Executive News Editor
Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.
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