otsuka news: everybody loves akio otsuka: episode four (on final fantasy xii) (CONTAINS SPOILER MAYBE)

he's so . . . fuzzy! . . . i mean -- tough!! Hello my gorgeouses!! I’m here to report to you that insertcredit.com’s absolute favorite voice actor in the whole wide world, Akio Otsuka, whose credits include hero Solid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid series, the cursed tough-guy doctor Blackjack in the movie adaptations of Osamu Tezuka’s Blackjack manga, the cyborg cop Batou in the “Ghost in the Shell” movies and television show, a flamboyant rock-and-roll father in Square-Enix’s game Heavy Metal Thunder, and Steven Segal in the dubbed versions of any Steven Segal movie showing on late night Japanese television, is now immortalized in the Final Fantasy series — yes, he plays the voice of Basch, a grizzled, bearded, fuzzy tough guy knight of the kingdom of Dalmasca. If the game’s utterly, bizarrely, viscerally confusing introduction sequence is any indication, he might be a traitor, though he probably has good reasons for whatever he’s doing. I mean, he has to — he’s voiced by Akio Otsuka.

As always, Otsuka’s inimitable voice brings instant-classic depth to the role. However, unlike his recent many typecasted excursions as either tree-wielding murder-fighter Musashibou Benkei in any game about the Yoshitsune legend or a big angry warrior monk (who, as in the case of Tales of Rebirth isn’t even a human — he’s this big black panther thing), the character of Basch is elaborately layered and complex. It’s very interesting to see Otsuka play this kind of anti-hero. He doesn’t even put on his overly deep tough guy voice — yes, we are able to hear Otsuka acting in his real voice for the first time in, well, since his appearance on Hideo Kojima’s podcast (where he only did it for a few seconds, anyway — the rest of the time he was putting on the radio voice). Here, we can hear Otsuka acting out material of actual depth and personality. Previously, his performances have consisted of what could very well be a “this is a man reading a telephone book” monotone, with occasional shouting. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a lovely monotone, and a gorgeous shout. Though hey, Final Fantasy XII gives him a whole lot more to do, and so gets a big thumbs up.

His performance as Basch might be his best yet, and I think he’s my new favorite Final Fantasy character ever. I mean, look at him? He’s also 36 years old, which makes him the oldest guy in the game. He is, of course, the character who, like Final Fantasy X‘s Auron, is calculated with the real female audience in mind, you know, the kind of audience who is bored by heroes who don’t wear shirts. So let’s celebrate as soon as possible by making fan-shrines to Basch. The first person to construct one with up to five index pages, a fanfic (1,200 words or more; can be based on screenshots alone), and some fanart will get a free Final Fantasy XII Potion sent from Japan, and included in insertcredit.com’s blowout Final Fantasy XII coverage, which will be promptly posted at some point in fall 2008.

At any rate, this update exists to tell you that Akio Otsuka is indeed alive within Final Fantasy XII, which is a lovely and enlightening videogame with or without him. The reason I took the time to write this at all is because Square-Enix does not put Akio Otsuka’s name — or the names of any of the game’s actors — into the game’s instruction manual. They don’t even list the game’s staff in the manual! Why not? As of this writing, Square-Enix and Namco are the only two Japanese videogame companies who, as a rule, never put a game’s staff credits into an instruction manual. They’re sure to have all the proper dates after the copyright symbol in the legal information on the back of the box, though! I guess that tells you what’s most important to them — numbers and copyrights, not the people who actually make the game. At least Namco lists the voice actors. In other words, come on Squeenix: be nice to your talent, and maybe they’ll stop running away from you. It was hell finding out that this is actually Akio Otsuka. Goodnight.

News: Gamengai

gamengai_01.jpgThose of you into import retrogaming have to know Japanese Gaming, one of the biggest and oldest sites dealing with the subject. It has moved, and has also changed its name to Gamengai and has gotten a nice visual retooling. The full content is still there, though. Don’t miss the flyer and translation sections.

News: Art of Fighting – Ryuuko no Ken Gaiden on PS2

tenchijin_02.jpgIt’s not exactly hot news – we have been quite sure it would be included in Ryuuko no Ken ~Ten Chi Jin~ since it was announced last summer – but today the game cover has been revealed thanks to Rakuten and with it, the official confirmation for the compilation’s content – Ryuuko no Ken, Ryuuko no Ken 2 and Art of Fighting: Ryuuko no Ken Gaiden (the very first game from the team which would develope the Gekka no Kenshi series and Garou, as well as the first and only game from SNK to use motion capture techniques for the sprites’ animation). Ryuuko no Ken ~Ten Chi Jin~ will be the Vol. 4 in the Neo-Geo Online Collection and is supposedly appearing on May 11th. Sadly, it may imply that the games will be partial emulations a la SNK-P, with no place for a proper on-screen presentation and total speed/control accuracy. The cover is nice, at least.

Video: Rumble Roses XX

Nice bactracian.
Konami released a new promotional video of their first Xbox 360 game, Rumble Roses XX, to be released in Japan at the end of the month. You can either download the high-quality version or this one for smaller connections, via their website.

Here is some fun triva: as you can see here, one of the commentators is named Scott. As Brandon and Tim could tell you, there’s little doubt this person is none other than Scott Dolph, Hideo Kojima’s dreaded bodyguard/translator for a couple of years (mostly during the promotion of MGS2). We know this because, for interviews at last TGS, Dolph was the appointed translator for Akari Uchida, producer of the game (and of the TokiMemo Girl’s Side series). During the interview, Dolph revealed he was a huge wrestling fan, to the point of being close friends with the team behind the Fire Pro Wrestling series (even getting special thanks in the credits!).

News: Falcom’s newsletter #95

This screen is taken from the PC version.
Falcom’s news has been rather uninspiring for the last few weeks, but Sora no Kiseki SC was released last thursday and the publisher is finally moving on to other projects. Japanese message boards are responding much more positively to their latest RPG than to last autumn’s Xanadu Next, but their next title will not be for Windows, as they usually do. As some of you might have learned via Dengeki Online a few days ago, Falcom will instead port (and publish themselves) their action-adventure game Gurumin on PSP.

This is the first time in years that Falcom has ported one of their games on a console – they usually rely on deals with other publishers (such as Hudson, Taito, Epoch, Koei, Tonkin House, Sega or Konami depending on the years and systems). As we mentioned a few times in these columns, Bandai was taking care of porting Falcom’s Eiyuu Densetsu Gagharv Trilogy on PSP. Falcom must have been allured by Bandai’s success with Gagharv Trilogy – Shiroki Majou, which sold more than a 100,000 copies (the two following ports did not repeat such figures). And they must have picked Gurumin because it was done in a 3D style which is close to PSP standards, and also one of the few games they were sure no other publisher would request the rights. Using one of their more popular brands (such as Ys or Eiyuu Densetsu) might have compromised future deals with other companies. Or at least that is the best explanation I can give for Falcom reviving one of its weakest efforts in recent years. Gurumin’s PSP release is scheduled for next summer.

In other news, Falcom soundtracks are now available for download on iTunes Music Store, obviously in the soundtrack section, and there are a bunch of seasonal wallpapers to download as always. On the other hand, Falcom remains worryingly silent about MMV’s Ys Strategy on DS, to be released on March 23rd. Considering how their newsletter never forgot to mention Bandai’s progress with the Gagharv Trilogy, it doesn’t bode well for this one…

Art: Controller: Artists Crack the Game Code

2006_03_10_tony.jpg
Controller: Artists Crack the Game Code is an exhibition running until March 25th at the InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre (9 Ossington Ave.) in Toronto. Showcasing the works of artists currently working in the field of video game modification, artists include Myfawny Ashmore, RSG (Alexander Galloway), and Anita Fontaine and Yumi-co. As I expect the average reader won’t be able to take the trip out to Toronto to see what is basically a small room featuring five art installations, I’m including links so you can experience the installations online, albeit in a cut down form, should you so wish.


Prize Budget for Boys’ Calderoids, a fusion of the art of Alexander Calder and Asteroids is given a nice summary on GameSetWatch, that and Prize Budget for Boys’ companion work, PacMondrain (a fusion of Pacman and the works of Piet Mondrian, duh), available to play (experience?) online, Calderoids here and PacMondrain here.

You can view clips of RSG’s Tony Hawks Underground 2 glitch installation Prepared Playstation on Alexander Galloway’s homepage, though the piece itself is actually a live installation of three glitching Playstations.

Videos of Myfawny Ashmore’s Mario Trilogy (intriguingly also being played this month at Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square) in which all level architecture and enemies are removed from levels of the original Super Mario Bros. can be seen here, though the pieces themselves are in playable form at the exhibition.

CuteXdoom.jpg
Anita Fontaine and Yumi-co’s CuteXdoom, an Unreal Tournament mod exploring modern cultures’ addiction to cuteness, and can be downloaded at their homepage with a quicktime video also available for those who either don’t have the game, or don’t want to mess up their installation of UT2003 (which the mod appears to do).

And finally, clips of Tasman Richardson’s Atari glitch videos Apollo Shrapnel Part 1 and Restless < Wrath can be found mixed in with the rest of her work at her website, a direct link for Apollo Shrapnel Part 1 here and for Restless < Wrath here, each with a nice description.

Art: Death Crimson overkill controller

kyodaicrimson.jpg
An artist in Japan has taken it upon himself to create a gigantic ‘controller’ for Death Crimson, one of the worst games of all time (click the image for a larger pic). According to the workshop blog where I found it, the game got a score of 1.0909 out of 10, in the first week of user reviews in SegaSaturn Magazine, the lowest ever for the console. The enormous controller is hard to weild, but that doesn’t matter, as it’s impossible to survive in the game anyway. There’s a lightgun at the tip, so you could theoretically use it for other games – you could, that is, if they hadn’t glued the lid of the embedded saturn shut, so your choice is Death Crimson or nothing!

kyodaicrimson2.jpgThe horrible Death Crimson was later lauded as a cult classic, even getting a PS2 re-release, which sold out instantly, as the mmcafe notes. The game was made by Ecole, which if you remember, is also putting out Melty Blood AC for PS2. The Death Crimson art controller was created by Takamasa Sumi – you can see a flash movie of his work here, subbed in english. He seems to really like girls in gothic lolita maid outfits, and you can see one playing the game on the aforementioned blog entry. Also note the impossibly tiny TV. The exhibit was displayed at the third Fukuoka
Asian Art Triennale
, but has now moved to Darwen, Lancashire in the UK til early April. Go give it a look! Here’s the official site for the object, which he’s named ‘Kyodai Crimson’ – aka ‘huge crimson’. Also see this thing constructed for the PS2 version, and sold at Wonderfest. Thanks to Sweater Fish for the link!

News: Flight Plan’s secret project

dss_01.jpgWhile for some, Famitsu’s big revelation for this week is Persona 3 on PS2 (which is getting the 3D treatment, but at least has Soejima designs), we at IC find it much more interesting that there’s a tiny article related to a new Flight Plan game, also for the PS2. Under the tentative name of ‘DSS’, it seems the game is being produced outside of Banpresto’s domain, even if it is an SRPG which could very well be the next episode for Summon Night, if we look at its in-game graphics. Which leads us to wonder, what happened with Summon Night 4 and that announcement from December? Maybe Flight Plan broke its relationship with Banpresto and is using the existing material for a brand new game? Hum.

news: final fantasy xii rumblings: potion captured on video, perfect score from famitsu

'wwwwwww' is japanese internet-speak for 'OMG', only it's more versatile because you can just hold down the 'w' key as long as you want for emphasis -- that, and it doesn't STAND for anything; it just resembles a squiggle. kind of. Final Fantasy XII is released here in Japan next Thursday — on a Thursday, not a Saturday! In other words, Square-Enix is denying the game any Dragon Quest-like explosive selling power. Surely, though, it will sell at least 3 million copies (I’d say 2.5 million in a month — call it a hunch). The advertisements, et cetera, are out in full force. The game can be preordered at any convenience store in the county. The limited edition etched Final Fantasy XII black PSTwo is all preordered-out in Akihabara. Perhaps among Yasumi Matsuno’s many reasons for stomping off the project was the scary thought of some bumpkin on a farm getting the game at 7-Eleven, playing it for ten minutes, and then deeming it not as good as Final Fantasy X-2, and then just watching “Final Fantasy VII Advent Children” again instead.

I mention the above scenario because it’s likely to happen — if you look at this list of Famitsu readers’ top 100 games of all time, you’ll notice Final Fantasy X at #1, and Final Fantasy VI sitting just beneath Final Fantasy IX, which is rather shocking.

The most exciting bit of Final Fantasy XII promotion is the “Potion” drink being sold by Suntory Beverages. You can see the odd little commercial for it here. As you can see, it is clearly being marketed to “people who like this sort of thing.” And the people have responded in droves — witness this fan outpouring of contemplated idiocy (thanks to the Professor on the MMCafe BBS). Here you can see things like the Potion bottle being compared to a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka, or mixed with miso soup.

Me and my friend Matt went out and drank Potions last night. We made videos. In the videos, mostly I moan about how the Suntory Whiskey bottle is beautiful in its craftsmanship, and how the Potion bottle is lazy in design, and a mere cash-in. Why not make a good beverage? If you watch these videos, you’ll hear me thinking aloud (it’s a hobby): Why not just put Cherry Coke (or Cherry Pepsi, as Suntory owns the Pepsi name in Japan) into the bottle and call it a “Potion”? Does it matter if it’s good for you? I get more of an enthusiastic feeling after drinking a Coke, I swear.

Part One.
Part Two.

The verdict: it tastes like grape aftershave, something that might make someone in your office say “you smell vaguely and stupidly exotic today.” I guess it has minerals and stuff in it, anyway.

The Potion costs 200 yen. In the original Final Fantasy, a Potion was 60 Gil. This gives us our first-ever real-world exchange rate for classic Final Fantasy currency: .3 Gil to the yen. At the day’s exchange rate, this makes $1 US equivalent to 35.3124 Gil. This means that the Silver Sword we saved up 4,000 Gil to buy in 1987 is worth only approximately $113.27. I would assume the silver is not real.

Meanwhile, Final Fantasy XII has scored a perfect score of 40 — all four reviewers scoring it 10 out of 10 — from Japanese gaming bible Famitsu. It joins the club of five perfect-scoring games, one of which is a fighting game with a sequel that’s better (Soul Calibur), two of which are Zelda games (Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker), and two of which (Nintendogs and Vagrant Story) didn’t even make it onto Famitsu readers’ top 100 list.

insertcredit.com will review this game — guaranteed. What I’ve played so far of the finished version (burn the demo disc) is shockingly good. I won’t jinx it by saying too much before I play more.