News: The other Atari

atariinc.jpgPoking around Natsume‘s website, I noticed something very curious – an Atari logo I didn’t recognize. Perhaps it’s common knowledge to some, but until it became independent in 2002, this Atari was Natsume’s pachinko branch company. I believe the company name was actually taken in 2002, and amazingly, in the English introduction page, only the Go reference is made – nothing is said about the existing years and years of Atari as a game brand. Here’s a bit of it (unedited): “When naming our new company, we desire to maintain these objectives. We also thought of a Japanese word, “atari”, used in the expression such as: A World of Hit business is counted by “How much you earn if you hit atari”; Pachinko is a game to aim “atari”; and thus in such a world by working hard We want to come up with big atari (big hit) machine!!. So, summing all up, we decided a company name, “Atari Inc.”

The company seems to do some things aside from pachinko as well, like digital gambling games and business consultation. There’s really not that much to say other than the fact that it exists, and it boggles my mind. Certainly there are two Climax game companies, but two Ataris is too much.

News: Fon Fun and the stolen Arc System logo

arcvfonfun.jpgI discovered Fon Fun just recently, as they released a DS adventure/mystery game with some decent art, called Riku and Johan. With my discovery, I noticed the company’s logo. It struck my as oddly familiar. Fon Fun’s logo is basically Arc System Works’ logo minus the dots, and minus actually spelling anything. But they sure are similar, eh? Down to the reversed colors, and all. Add that to the fact that the game’s movie credits a company called WillArk, and you’ve got a fishy scenario! Fon Fun’s corporate profile reveals no connection between the two companies though, so either somebody’s trying to steal a logo, or it’s just a very odd coincidence (and some bad marketing).

News: Decent game music roundup

otoshikeiji.jpgBrowsing around, I came across a few games whose most redeeming quality was decent, but not amazing music on their respective webpages. This is largely for folks who remember/like old anime and things of that nature…they’re largely interesting for nostalgaic value. Others need not apply! The first game is Drastic Killer, a PS2 boys love adventure game from Namco Bandai. The music here is very lounge-y, kind of like a light Masafumi Takada song from Flower, Sun, and Rain, or possibly The Silver Case bonus tracks. Don’t watch the video though, it’s got a sub-par boy band on it. Incidentally, why do adventure games always have the best names?

Next there’s Otoshi Keiji (Detective Otoshi) for DS. Check the video page for the music. Watch out for horrifying art! I look at that and think…did I draw that? The music here is basically old Japanese detective game funk. I can’t think of a better way to describe it – it’s a subset of the genre of 70s/80s detective anime music genre. Those who’ve seen these kinds of things will hear what I mean. Otoshi Keiji is by Success and Beyond Interactive, a company that also made that rarest of things; a Japan-only Xbox game. That game is called Muzzle Flash – a third-person shooter of epic proportions. Check out a video here and marvel at why it was never localized. Beyond Interactive is located in Yokohama in the Wizard building. No kidding!

The last game is the adventure title Kenpuuchou, a tiny DS game which inexplicably credits Marvelous, Skywalker, Asmik-Ace, and Natsume. Give the music a minute and you’ll see why I chose it. It’s not amazing, but it’s epic and ridiculous and fun. So there you go!

News: Tir Na Nog

tirnanog.jpgJust to prove that Japan makes really ugly and uninspired games too, witness Tir Na Nog, a PS2 and PSP port of a PC game from SystemSoft Alpha. It’s got CG graphics from the early 90s, and bland, cheapo synth music to go with it. Check the system page for screens. There’s different music on each page, too! Obviously this has some sort of tiny following somewhere (likely Japanese Diablo fans), since they made 3 of these on the PC. But man! I’m mostly just amazed it got made at all. It’s coming in July for 6,800 yen (PS2) and 4,800 yen (PSP). Good luck guys!

News: Greg deBeer game dialog interview

Greg deBeer isn’t a name you would know necessarily, but he’s in charge of english dialog for Sony, on both native and localized games. Some of Sony’s games have been getting better over time, in terms of their English voice acting, and this has been a subject of personal interest for me for quite a while, so the interview not only gave me a chance to voice my opinions on the matter, but also gave me a little more confidence that some people truly do care about what goes into these games. We discussed faked accents, using stars versus dedicated voice actors, and ultimately whether the main audience even cares. Worth checking out if you’ve ever grimaced at an English-language cutscene.

News: Sapphire, Kabuki Den on the PSP

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Amazingly, even though I’d seen the box art to the left several times already, I never looked all the way to the bottom of it. That’s the Yuna edition of the PC Engine Best Collection, and the last game on the disc is Sapphire, which commands rather high prices in used game shops. It’s probably worth getting just for that, though the Yuna adventure games are passable, I suppose. It comes out on July 31st for 2,940 yen with tax. The second game in the collection is Tengai Makyou, which contains Tengai Makyou Ziria, II, Kabuki Den, and Kabuki Ittouryoudan, the PCE Arcade Card-only fighting game, released in 1995. That game comes out the same day at the same price. You can preorder the Yuna one here, and Tengai Makyou here. Excellent collections, both.

News: Genmu no Tou to Tsurugi no Okite

Genmu no Tou to Tsurugi no Okite is a first-person dungeon game on the DS from Success, similar in concept to Etrian Odyssey, but with auto-mapping instead of making you do it yourself. It’s actually one of the most interesting-looking games I’ve found in a while. To start with, the art style is really neat. Developers often forget that these worlds are fake – they can use whatever colors they want, and don’t have to go for realism. That concept is fully realized here. Next, the music is really good, as you can hear here. There are arranged and “original” versions (hopefully selectable), and both of them are quite good. There’s also an “original” mode, which is the same game, just with black-and-white wireframes.

They’ve made an entire separate site just for that mode, with the same stuff the other site has, just in retro mode. There’s a button on the page you hit to switch, which is kind of brilliant. The reason I keep putting quotes around the word original, by the way, is because it doesn’t appear to be a remake of anything. It seems they just decided to make oldschool versions of everything. There’s also an adventure sheet to download for maps, and wallpaper that is very aware of what its audience will think is nice. They’re really hardcore about this, which is endearing. If you check the system section you can see plenty of movies of the game in action (once you’re in a section, click on the red tabs below). The battles, while static, have neat hit images and things. Check here at the bottom of the page for a promotional movie. Each dungeon has a different look and simple color scheme, and the retro mode actually moves faster. Check the dedicated PR site on Dengeki for more images.

There is a mini soundtrack CD, as well. The music was composed by Kenichi Arakawa, who hasn’t done much, but did a great job here. The game was just released on the 22nd, for 5,040 yen with tax. You can buy it at Play-Asia if it intrigues.

Of note: If you’re at all interested in the game, you can actually play a flash version of the game, which was created by Takagism, who made Crimson Room. Controls are arrow keys for movement, A to open things/action button, X to confirm things like attacks, B to cancel, and Y to toggle the map.

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I’ll leave you with the excellent game introduction text from the site:

What you see before you is, for all intents and purposes,

News: Spectral Force Genesis DS

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Spectral Force Genesis is the latest in the millions of Spectral Something games from Idea Factory – but this one looks pretty neat. If you poke around in the system section, you’ll see that troops are commanded and sent against the enemy in a very Dragon Force style. But since the stylus is there, you should be able to have much more control over what your units do. Check the movie section for more evidence. It’s different, but similar enough to be exciting. When you add to that the fact that several key folks from the Dragon Force team currently work with Idea Factory, it becomes all the more appealing.

The game comes out on the 19th of June for 5,040 yen (with tax) or 6,090 with tax for the limited version, which has a soundtrack CD. Check the sample in the ‘limited’ section to see why you’re better off with the cheaper version. I’m pretty sure this one will make it to the U.S. somehow.