Beckon

Ys VII trailer!

Just in time for my panel!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWyjCE4Pe-Y

Screenshots don't do this game justice. Seeing this trailer honestly makes it look like it could easily be the *BEST* *GAME* *EVER*. (: Seriously. Watch this trailer. I dare you not to be awestruck by its glory. (:

EDIT: Higher-quality trailer here:

http://www.4gamer.net/games/044/G004486/20090716007/

And downloadable higher-quality trailer here (Hooray for "view page source"! Heheheheh):

http://stream.4gamer.net/2009d/20090716_YsSEVEN_promo.mp4

-Tom
Beckon

Penn and Teller on video game violence

If you haven't seen this already, you really need to. It's a brilliant episode that's not only funny, but also very poignant, raising a lot of really good points and putting the whole question of how much children are affected by video game violence into perspective.

http://wickedthought.livejournal.com/897504.html

Beware, though, there's a LOT of swearing. Watch with headphones, or it's NSFW, and/or not safe for any family-friendly setting. (:

-Tom
Beckon

Zwei II video extravaganza!! (:

So I went a little nuts with recording video of my favorite scenes from Zwei II, then actually SUBTITLING some of it, in preparation for my Falcom panel at Otakon this month... and figured I'd share here, where maybe one or two of you will care and actually bother watching these videos. ;)

For the subtitled videos, just turn on closed captioning by clicking the little icon on the bottom-right of the video window, then clicking the "CC" until it turns red.

- Prologue (subtitled!)
- Gameplay in Oldium Temple, with crazy staircase miniboss
- One of Gallandou's infamous exercises (subtitled!)
- Important story scene featuring zombified villagers (subtitled!) (minor spoilers!)
- Gameplay in final dungeon, showing off the Glide Gear
- Boss battle: Montblanc (flying cat) and some mud zombies (subtitled!)
- Boss battle: Galgallion (big rock dude on snowy mountain)
- Boss battle: Dark Zahar (fighting in moon gravity, with a surprise at the end!)

I think this assortment of videos does a rather nice job of showing off how awesome Zwei II is. (:

-Tom
Beckon

You know what? I'm going to do exactly that!

So as I'm sure some of you know, and others of you DON'T know (since it's not quite reached international news status just yet!), there's been quite a controversy as of late surrounding Japanese "eroge", or "erotic games". Namely, thanks to all the pinko puritans in the U.S., Japan is being forced to censor themselves now!

The long and the short of it is, there was a huge controversy on the American Amazon Marketplace surrounding a seller who had imported and attempted to peddle a Japanese eroge titled "Rapelay". Yes, its name is apparently apt, as it's reputed to be a (not especially horrific compared to other eroge) rape/incest simulation game (which is also apparently not all that good, even within that rather shady subgenre).

Yes, yes, we all know that's horrible... but it's legal in Japan, and it's all done with animated characters, so no one was actually harmed in its making, and Amazon Marketplace has MUCH, MUCH WORSE MATERIAL still being sold. Probably because of the blatant name, however, Amazon received numerous complaints, and ultimately deemed Rapelay unfit for sale... so the game was removed.

Well, this kind of blew up into a huge controversy, with American women's rights groups essentially attacking Japan's porn industry and demanding that something be done about these tasteless (yet entirely harmless) games. And to everyone's surprise, Japan actually DID do something about it... the diet conducted talks with the eroge industry, and the eroge industry elected to censor itself.

Now, the fact that the eroge industry is censoring itself, rather than BEING censored, is very cool... but it's not exactly a unanimous decision, and many more reputable eroge companies (the ones who create deep story-driven romance games that happen to involve and graphically depict consensual and meaningful sex, rather than straight-up rape simulators) are basically being forced to limit their content to an almost absurd degree, lest it be rejected from store shelves.

And when I say absurd degree, I'm talking this:

http://kotaku.com/5301890/laundry-list-of-banned-erotic-game-words

Some of those are understandable, but group sex? Pregnancy? Bondage? Impregnation? Those aren't exactly damaging concepts. Hell, the latter is kind of necessary for the continuation of the human species. (:

Anyway, this brings me to the point of this post. One of the MOST reputable eroge developers, Minori - creators of the "ef" games, and renown for their artistic and emotionally gripping tales of love and circumstance, with unmatchably gorgeous character and background art contributed by anime art legend Makoto Shinkai, the man behind Voices of a Distant Star, The Place Promised In Our Early Days, and 5 Centimeters Per Second - has decided to take a stand.

See here for details:

http://kotaku.com/5302747/erotic-game-developer-explains-foreign-access-web-blocking

I respect Minori a great deal, and I respect them even more after reading this. Whether or not you like or approve of the full spectrum of eroge, there's no denying that this is a clear incursion of Japanese freedom of speech, and it's essentially OUR COUNTRY'S FAULT. Our puritanical do-gooders meddled in Japan's affairs, and got their way... and now, companies that seek to create legitimate artistic works of an erotic/adult nature are at risk of losing their livelihood as a result.

I doubt there's much good we can do at this point, but I wanted to support Minori in their efforts, as I truly do applaud what they're doing, and I hope that they're able to solicit enough support from fans to get this overturned, and return things to the status quo, before these anti-pornography measures are taken too far.

So yes... spread the word, write a letter or an email, or do whatever else you can. These are the kinds of minor injustices that can lead to much greater trouble, and these sorts of things need to be kept at bay while they're small, before they balloon into insane laws and unmitigated censorship.

And for those who are still not convinced that this is a battle worth fighting... I give you some sage advice from, of all people, respected comic book author and novelist Neil Gaiman:

http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2008/12/why-defend-freedom-of-icky-speech.html

So yes. Minori wants people to spread the word in their blogs? Well... I'm going to do exactly that.

Consider the word spread.

EDIT: Also, some interesting comments were posted about this issue over on the Ancient Land of Ys board, which I felt compelled to share here:

From SkyeWelse, re: confirmation from a Japanese person that games like these may actually be beneficial to Japanese society.Collapse )
And a really succinct poem from Varion, which rings extremely true.Collapse )

I dunno, I just thought these were particularly poignant comments, and thought I'd share.

-Tom
Beckon

We have a new contender for Best Website Ever.

"You like tall ladies? We got a tall lady. She can throw you up in the air like a baby and on your way back down swing a giant prop fork at you and knock you into next week. You love that."

http://www.somethingawful.com/d/news/exclusivus-invitation-elite.php?page=1

Read. Laugh. Cry.

Enjoy.

You know how I often accuse random/surreal humor works of "trying too hard"? Well, this is the sort of thing I'm comparing them to. This is random/surreal humor that is NOT trying too hard. This is like, randomness and surreality in perfect proportions.

It's brilliant. (:

-Tom
Beckon

A testament to Falcom's awesomeness!

I know, I know, I rave about Falcom all the time... but this is just too cool not to mention!

http://www.falcom.com/music_use/index.html

According to this page, Falcom is now allowing any song they've ever composed to be used on television, on the radio, or in any other commercial setting, without requiring any royalties or permission. All you have to do is clearly include the following information:

"Song Name / Album Name / Copyright (c) Nihon Falcom Corporation"

That's it! As long as you credit them, you're free to use their music wherever and however you want!

Apparently, the reason for this "experiment" is because the people at Falcom are proud of all 3,453 songs (!) they've produced that are currently available on CD, and they want it to reach a wider audience than just game music collectors and enthusiasts.

There are some exceptions, of course (i.e. no using their songs in your own video game, no distributing copyrighted CDs or music files, and no selling their songs for profit in any way), but they're totally OK with:

- TV commercials
- News programs, documentaries, variety shows, talk shows, home shopping shows, etc.
- Radio shows
- Websites and blogs (provided the material is streaming, and not accessible for dowenload)
- Performances during concerts and live shows (professional OR amateur, as long as it's free)
- Broadcast in any public facility
- Restaurants, convenience stores, department stores, etc.

And the list goes on!

I've honestly never known any other game company to do something like this, and frankly, I'm impressed. Falcom is basically opening their arms to the world, and giving us all a great big music-hug. ;)

-Tom
Beckon

Give this lady a recording contract, stat!

One of the board members on the Falcom message board I frequent linked to a few of these fan-made songs on YouTube, and I have to admit, I'm absolutely blown away by how good they are. This is just... some random girl who took video game songs, arranged them, wrote beautiful English lyrics for them, then played and sang them, and I swear, you'd think she does this for a living. It's some of the most heartfelt fan-made music I think I've ever heard, and she is CRAZY talented.

Don't believe me? Here she is both playing and singing the ending theme from Spirited Away. Which, if you've ever heard it, is NOT EASY TO SING WELL... but aside from having a non-Japanese accent (and not even a glaring one!), she's every bit as good as the original singer. Just listen!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRWvIlDxB7Q

And here are some of her original arrangements, complete with lyrics and an MP3 download link in the video details:

"Rose of May" (Beatrix's theme) from Final Fantasy IX:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNHtbw4Kyf0

"You're Not Alone!" from Final Fantasy IX:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmbgCBZ86z4

"Aerith's Theme" from Final Fantasy VII:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-as6Kbcj4c

... Heck, just go to her YouTube page, and listen to everything. It's all really, really good. (:

http://www.youtube.com/user/katethegreat19

EDIT: Wow, she makes AMVs, too... and they're ALSO awesome! (:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOAUEGgqsII

-Tom
Beckon

Requisite Falcom posting!

Ys I & II Chronicles trailer was just released. Is it weird that I'm actually getting kind of excited for this game, despite having played Ys I three times and Ys II twice already? (: I dunno if it's the new music, or if this trailer is just REALLY WELL PUT-TOGETHER, but I actually think I may give this game a fourth/third go come this July. (:

Direct download (from this site)

YouTube link (click the HQ on the bottom-right for better-quality video and audio)

It's hard not to get into Ys. There's just something addictive about it!

And I love the way the trailer announces the preorder bonus. Hint: it's at the very end of the video. ;)

-Tom
Beckon

Tell Atlus you want it! Tell them you want it BAD!! ;)

... But seriously, tell Atlus U.S. you want Ys VII released in English! Apparently, they listen to fans who post in topics like this - that's how a lot of their more obscure releases came to be.

If not for yourself... then tell them FOR ME! Please? ;)

http://www.atlus.com/forum/showthread.php?t=3282

... And while you're at it, tell them you want Brandish: The Dark Revenant in English, too!

http://www.atlus.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2464

Whaddaya say? C'mon, be a sport! (:

-Tom
Beckon

Yuusha 30!

So I dunno if anyone's heard of this game yet or not, but Marvelous Entertainment's got a new PSP game in the works called "Yuusha 30" (Hero 30). It got a collective "huh?" from the internet when it was originally announced and billed as a "30-second RPG", with a lot of people fearing it would be a bad WarioWare clone of some sort... but I was intrigued.

And it seems I was right to be intrigued. There's a demo of the game on PSN right now, and hot damn does it ever rock. (:

I'm not even really sure how to adequately describe this game. Suffice it to say, it's really freaking unique, and in a VERY good way. It's more a puzzle game than an RPG, yet it's also kind of a hybrid of both... kinda... and it's got some of the most adrenaline-pumping gameplay I think I've ever experienced.

Basic premise is... there's an evil demon living in a castle, and he's chanting a spell that's going to end the world. And he's only 30 seconds away from completing it. You're a lone level 1 RPG hero who's just arrived by boat, and the Goddess of Time tells you about this, and asks you to stop him. The timer then starts, and you literally have 30 seconds.

Now, during this 30 seconds, you can enter castles and towns, which pause the timer (fortunately). You can also pray at statues of the Goddess of Time to turn back the clock and reset your 30-second timer... but it costs money, and every time you do it, it costs a little more the next time, making it so that eventually, you can't possibly make enough money to reset the timer within the 30 seconds you have - meaning you fail your mission.

And of course, before you're able to defeat the evil demon, you need to assemble a party of adventurers... which means doing dumb little quests to convince them you're worthy of joining (which, of course, take time)... and you need to level up, and get some money to buy better weapons and armor, too... and cross a bridge guarded by a mini-boss...

So yeah. The game is all about doing the most you possibly can in the least amount of time. And it pays to cut it close before praying at statues.

Now, here's the part I didn't mention. The whole game is presented in a faux 8-bit style. The characters, environments, enemies, etc. are all made up of ridiculously oversized "pixels", and have a maximum of 2 frames of animation. May sound like a lazy way to avoid creating detailed art, but it's actually really distinctive-looking, charming, and colorful, and fits the frenetic nature of the game perfectly. It actually looks really freaking good, in fact... much better than it has any right to. ;)

And the music, unlike the graphics, is not 8-bit at all... rather, it sounds like SNES- or early PS1-era music, but *really good* SNES- or early PS1-era music. And it's appropriately fast-paced. In other words, it totally rocks. (:

All in all, this game is really invigorating, and just plain FUN. And it's hard as hell, too! The demo comes with two stages, the first of which is just a really simple tutorial that I beat on my first try (BARELY), but the second is really, really intense, and I failed it my first time through. In it, you have two towns (and you have to get some medicine from an old guy in the second, and give it to an old guy in the first), two castles (yours, and the evil king's), swamps that slow you down, a one-room cave with high-level enemies and a treasure chest containing lots of money, and a bridge guarded by a dragon.

Freaking awesome game, and if it comes out in English (which it probably will, since it's a Marvelous title, and Marvelous now has that partnership with XSEED in North America), I highly recommend picking it up. I'm seriously loving it. (:

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7Jm4DaiNRk

Basic gameplay video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXxb1b9lKgA

Oh yes, and the demo only shows off ONE of the game's modes. Apparently, if you play as other characters, the gameplay is entirely different - it's an RTS as one character, a shooter as another, an action game as another, and - as seen above - a classic turn-based RPG as the other. I can't wait to play the full version!

-Tom