Akihabara Shopping: Cool Releases In Japan 21-27 November 2011 – Valkyria Edition

Akihabara Shopping: Cool Releases In Japan 21-27 November 2011 – Valkyria Edition

Welcome to the sixth “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, consoles and accessories that will be released in Japan next week, as there’s a whole lot, as always. I’ll try to select the most interesting and quirky for your reading and viewing pleasure. This week is another rather big one in Japan (at least for the fans of a couple prominent Japanese franchises). Head past the cut to discover why.

First of all. I’m not really ignoring Zelda. Well… actually yes, I’m ignoring it. It released in the West today and the site is already oversaturated with it due to the recent injection of Nintendo fanboys (and fangirls) between the staff, so there’s really no reason to waste space with fairy boys and their silly green hats here, moreover there are other games out this week in Japan that I consider way more interesting.

The first and foremost of those games is Valkyria Chronicles III EXTRA EDITION (戦場のヴァルキュリア3 EXTRA EDITION), the new edition of the third chapter of the Valkyria Chronicles saga, that many (me included) label as the best of one of the best RPG series to grace the PS3 and then the PSP.

If you don’t know what the Valkyria Chronicles series is about, then I can assume you didn’t play any of its games. If that’s the case, you’re doing yourself an atrocious disfavor. The first two games have been released in English (the first on PS3 and the second on PSP) and are really between the best RPGs this generation. They are available cheaply by now, and every gamer worth his salt should play them.

The series is set in an alternate Europe (named Europa. Imaginative, isn’t it?), during the Second European War, a conflict between superpowers that risks to swallow the small but rich and independent Principality of Gallia. The style of the games is extremely peculiar due to this setting, that can be identified as a mix of real Wold War I, World War II and Fantasy.

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Valkyria Chronicles III showcases the fight of the Gallian Army Squad 422 and its soldiers. The squad is labeled “Nameless”, because it’s a penal unit for convicted soldiers and criminals, and its members have their name stricken from military records and are referred as with numbers. Due to its nature, the “Nameless” unit is sent on the most dangerous missions, and their existence is often denied by the military high command.

The plot is extremely deep, probably one of the best I’ve seen in the history of gaming, and there’s space for a lot of romance as well (and you probably noticed that romance is something I definitely appreciate in this age of bald space marines and silly shooters) . The rich cast, the beautiful voice acting, the great animated cutscenes and the fun tactical gameplay bowered by the BLITZ system definitely raise the quality well over most of the best productions (not to mention the hundreds of hours of gameplay).

Unfortunately the game hasn’t been announced for a Western release yet, but Sega told us that there’s still hope, and if you want to help this happen (and you should), you can support the Gallian Liberation Front that’s vouching for the localization and sign their online petition (that recently lost more than 1,300 signatures due to a mishap of Petition Online during the transition to the new services, so it can use your help now more than ever).

The EXTRA EDITION will be released on PSP on the 23rd and will include the original game, three new scenarios and the four DLC packages. Incidentally, SEGA THE BEST version of Valkyria Chronicles II will be released on the cheap on the same day.  You can check the beautiful trailer of the EXTRA EDITION below.

The second game of this week’s episode will definitely prove familiar to the most dedicated Anime and Manga fans: Saint Seiya Senki (聖闘士星矢戦記 ) will be released for the PS3 on the 23rd.

Saint Seiya is one of the most  prestigious manga and anime series ever published in Japan. Originally drawn by Masami Kurumada, what really turned it into one of the most successful sagas of all times were the three TV series, enriched by the character design of the legendary artist Shingo Araki that made the rougher original style by Kurumada a tad more palatable to all audiences. It’s extremely popular in many European countries, where it’s been localized during the early golden age of Anime, while the first American localization (dubbed Knights of the Zodiac) only came in 2003 and was marred by a horrible adaptation that included many cuts and edits that would warrant a public whipping for everyone involved.

Saint Seiya Senki is a beat ’em up based mostly on the first anime series: the reincarnation of the goddess Athena, Saori Kido, has been wounded by the Phantom Arrow of the Silver Saint Sagitta Ptolemy and her life will be forfeit in 12 hours if the five Bronze Saints (Seiya, Shiryu, Hyoga, Ikki and Shun) won’t manage to pass through the 12 temples of the great Sanctuary of Athena, each guarded by a Gold Saint.

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While the plot is fairly simple, it’s based on an extremely rich lore that basically enchanted a large number of youngsters belonging to my generation during the nineties. I could easily say that many actually grown up with this series, me included.

The game itself is enriched by the ability to play basically every prominent character of the Sanctuary series, including the gold saints, and by a quite interesting co-op mode. Luckily for us it has already been announced for an European release next year (with the title Saint Seiya: Sanctuary Battle) and, while no North American release has been announced yet, it’ll be region free like all PS3 games, so it can easily be imported.

You can watch one of the trailers below, and if you ever pick up this game without having read the manga or watched the series, let me solve a riddle that’ll probably puzzle you: Yes. Shun is a guy.

The third game today is an odd one, at least for this column. I normally don’t cover many Wii games, and even less rhythm games: Taiko No Tatsujin Wii Ketteiban (太鼓の達人Wii 決定版: Taiko Drum Master Wii Definitive) will be released for the Wii on the 23rd (yes, in Japan they really love to release games in large batches on the same day, as you may have noticed by reading this column).

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The “Definitive” part of the title isn’t there for nothing. This version of the popular drumming franchise includes 100 songs from basically every genre, ranging from J-pop to Anime songs and even the some tracks from the most popular Nintendo franchises, like Mario and Pokémon.

This is actually one of the cases in which that excruciating Wiimote/nunchuck combo proves really effective, and the four players mode looks really fun. You can check one of the trailers below, if you can stand the typical squeaky voices that characterize the franchise.

As usual the last item for this week isn’t a game, but something that Dragon Quest fans will find equally cool: The Dragon Quest Slime Speaker Tower.

This lovely looking (I have no idea of how it sounds, be warned) speaker set made by Hori and designed for the Nintendo 3DS can be arranged in tower position or in a line. Of course they’re not just compatible with the 3DS, but with any device that supports a 3.5mm audio jack. They aren’t very portable, but even if they were, would you really walk around Tokyo with them?

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This was the last one for this week. Do come back next week to see what your friendly neighborhood Japanophile will dig up from Akihabara. Tanoshimi ni!