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These days, to any fan of Japanese games, it might seem that whether or not games get localized is completely up to a completely random shaking of a toy 8-Ball by localization companies. It can be tortuous at times, considering how much information flows between the continents thanks to the internet, to see the bounty of games that our friends back East seem to get that will never see an English release for. Indeed, sometimes the only options seem to be to either learn Japanese, or to have the patience and poise of the Buddha himself.

There are as many reasons for a lack of localization as there are unlocalized games out there; most of the times the games are too “Japanese” and any market in the west would be too niche and limited in scope to make the investment worthwhile. There are a number of notable examples of games that haven’t been localized, some condemned to never see western shores, and some with nothing but a gigantic question mark for their localization status. Some of the most exceptional games are listed therein, and as mentioned before, an 8 ball has been consulted about the chances of each game getting localized.

  1. Mother 3

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Developed by: HAL Laboratory.          Original Release Date: April 20, 2006.

Platform: Game Boy Advance.            Genre: Role Playing Game.

Mother 3’s lack of localization is one of the most baffling in the industry. Nintendo generally has a good record of publishing their first party franchises worldwide, but Mother 3 has yet to see an official English release. The absence of Mother 3 is more puzzling due to the fact that the franchise, known as EarthBound in the West, enjoyed a tremendous resurgence in terms of popularity with two of their main characters featuring in the Smash Brothers games. Lucas and Ness are fan favorites in Nintendo’s multi-IP brawler.

Mother 3 follows the same formula as EarthBound, an incredibly charming and quirky game with lovable characters and a fairly imaginative plot. The game has few faults, and none of these are major or even significant. Critics of the game mostly focus on the lack of gameplay improvements from the previous game, but that really doesn’t detract from the fact that Mother 3 is a fantastic RPG that is a must-play for any Nintendo fan.

Listen: Mother 3 OST – F-F-Fire!

Thanks in no small part due to Lucas’s appearance in Super Smash Brothers Brawl, fans have been clamoring for at least a Virtual Console release of this cult GBA classic. Nintendo has been quiet so far, but with the recent release of EarthBound Origins, the previously unlocalized first game in the series, the future isn’t nearly as grim as you think.

8-Ball Localization Forecast: Outlook good.

  1. Ciel nosurge

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Developed by: GUST.                         Original Release Date: April 26, 2012.

Platform: PlayStation Vita.                  Genre: Simulation.

I briefly talked about Ciel nosurge in a previous article, and the main reason this oddball of a game is listed is mostly because of the topic of said article, Ciel’s sequel, Ar nosurge. Both Ciel and Ar nosurge belong to the Surge Concerto series, and the way things stand right now in the west, the story of the Surge Concerto is woefully incomplete. For a series that focuses greatly on emotional storytelling and character development, the fact that half of the pie is missing doesn’t do these games any good. References to Ciel are lost in Ar, and it’s impossible to get the “ultimate” ending in the localized version of Ar, due to it requiring a data transfer from Ciel in order to be unlocked.

Being perfectly honest though, Ciel is not a game that could easily be localized. The scope of the script is massive, there’s  thousands of lines with voiced dialogue and tens of thousands without. Not to mention, that the gameplay for Ciel isn’t exactly something that would’ve appealed to broad western audiences. Simply put, the game is like a highly complex and very immersive Tamagotchi. The heroine of the game, Ionasal Kkll Preciel, has lost her memories and it’s up to the player to coax them back by performing various tasks such as talking with Ionasal, “diving” into her subconscious, and creating fairies known as Sharl by scanning barcodes with the PS Vita’s camera. The game is extremely “smart”, and the longer it’s played the more Ionasal’s daily routine matches up with the player’s. This makes it easier to accomplish the goals of the game. Afterwards, save data can be transferred to the PS Vita or PS3 version of Ar nosurge to unlock additional content and the “ultimate” ending.

Listen: Ciel nosurge OST – Neptlude (Class::NEPTLUDE=>extends.TX_CLUSTERS/.)

Unfortunately, Ciel’s lack of western draw ultimately condemned it. As Tecmo Koei has pretty much said that the game will remain a Japanese only release for the foreseeable future. Alas, the wonderful story of the Surge Concerto will remain halfway done in the western world. And the world is perhaps a bit darker because of it.

8-Ball Localization Forecast: Very doubtful.

  1. Legend of the Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter and Third Chapter

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Developed by: Falcom.                       Original Release Date: June 28, 2007.

Platform: Windows PC, PSP, PSV.     Genre: Role Playing Game.

It’s downright unfortunate what has been happening to the Legend of the Heroes: Trails in the Sky series in the west. The first part of Trails in the Sky was released stateside back in March 2011 by XSEED Games, a whole 5 years after its original release in Japan. In 2011, the PSP was already in its death throes as a platform in North America, and it came to no surprise to anyone that Trails in the Sky had a fairly poor performance in terms of sales. Nevertheless, the game was something special despite its age. Trails in the Sky had lovable characters, a very interesting setting, layers of complexity in its innocuous looking battle system, and a promise of things to come. Trails in the Sky was nothing but a fantastic prelude to the next two episodes in the series which garnered even more praise and near universal acclaim in Japan. XSEED Games promised that the localization for the second game would be forthcoming relatively shortly after the first one… but it’s been almost six years, and we’ve yet to see a release for it.

Listen: Trails in the Sky SC OST – Silver Will

Now, this isn’t to say that XSEED Games is to blame for this debacle. XSEED has been in the forefront of Japanese game localization ever since they started as a company and they deserve the utmost respect. Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter has a massive script and there’s a monstrous amount of dialogue, menus, battle scenes, etcetera to translate. Considering how the first game wasn’t exactly flying off the shelves, XSEED wasn’t able to put as many resources into translating the sequel as they would’ve liked to. And so we wait.

8-Ball Localization Forecast: Signs point to yes.

  1. Fatal Frame 4: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse

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Developed by: Grasshopper Mfr.        Original Release Date: July 31, 2008.

Platform: Nintendo Wii.                       Genre: Survival Horror.

The Fatal Frame series is close to many a horror fan’s heart. The pulse pounding suspense, the relative weakness of the protagonists, the encroaching terror of the supernatural all create an experience that’s uncomfortably hard to describe. Fatal Frame enjoyed moderate success in the west, with critics praising its unique mechanics and intensely creepy atmosphere. There were three games released for the PlayStation 2, but as survival horror declined as a genre, so did the sales for Fatal Frame in the west. Once Tecmo decided to jump platforms from Sony’s Playstation brand to Nintendo’s Wii system for Fatal Frame 4, the game was not released in North America.

Nintendo of America and Tecmo seem to have had communication issues over the game, as Tecmo had stated that NoA were the publishers for Fatal Frame 4 outside of Japan, but Reggie Fils-Aime stated in an interview with “MTV Multiplayer” that “[Nintendo of America is] not the publisher of that title in the Americas. So I can’t comment on it…”

Listen: Fatal Frame 4 OST – Tsukimori Song ~ Piano

Horror fans were deprived of the pleasure of playing Fatal Frame 4, be it by corporate shenanigans or another ulterior motive. The game will most likely never see an official localization effort, but not everything is lost, as the sequel to Fatal Frame 4 has been confirmed for a worldwide release this October. Fans of the franchise will finally be able to fight evil spirits with the Camera Obscura one more time on the Wii U.

8-Ball Localization Forecast: My reply is no.

  1. God Eater 2

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Developed by: Shift, Namco-Bandai.  Original Release Date: November 14, 2013.

Platform: PlayStation 4, PSV.             Genre: Action Role Playing Game.

Namco-Bandai’s God Eater is an absolute phenomenon in Japan; there’s statues of the giant enemy monsters scattered throughout Akihabara, an anime series by legendary animation studio ufotable, more merchandise than you can shake a stick at, and of course, the games themselves and their many expansions and spinoffs. All of this makes it perplexing that Namco-Bandai’s only effort to bring God Eater to the west was with the localization of the very first game. Admittedly, the game did not do the greatest in terms of sales due to it being released for the PSP way past the prime of the device. Regardless of poor sales, God Eater gathered a tremendous cult following in the west.

The series is fantastic in nearly every aspect; it integrated the meticulous and pattern-based combat of Monster Hunter while making it extremely fast paced, along with having an interesting and original story with memorable characters. Composer Go Shiina of Tales of Legendia, Tekken 6, and Ace Combat fame was in charge of the scores throughout the series, and it shows on the excellent soundtrack that is present in every single game; featuring big names such as Donna Burke, and May J.

Listen: God Eater 2 OST – God and Man

So far, Namco-Bandai has been completely silent about God Eater 2 and the remake of the first game coming to the English speaking world. There hasn’t even been a peep coming from them in the matter, and considering their previous track record with some games, that’s not particularly encouraging. But not localizing a franchise as popular as God Eater seems to be a blunder of terrifying proportions that one can only hope Namco-Bandai doesn’t make.

8-Ball Localization Forecast: Reply hazy try again.

——————–

Playing video games since he has a conscious memory, Bernard has fond memories of the Super Nintendo and the 16 bit MIDI symphonies emanating from it. Since then, he has acquired fairly atypical tastes in games and game music. Nowadays, you can find him dodging bullets and bobbing his head to the music in the Touhou Project, or fighting against gigantic monsters in Monster Hunter, God Eater, or Toukiden. Deep down, he believes portable consoles are king, long live the PS Vita and 3DS!

It has been roughly a month since the momentous end of Comiket 88. The event happened during the weekend starting on August 14th, 2015, and it gave us a glimpse into the grassroots dōjinshi movement in Japan. Most importantly perhaps, Comiket 88 marked the release of the fifteenth installment of the Touhou series: Touhou Kanjuden (Ultramarine Orb Tale): Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom. I have talked about the Touhou series before, and it’s my sincerest hope that the reader will forgive me for repeating myself so soon; but having only recently finished the main scenario of Lunatic Kingdom in its entirety, there’s this feeling that the game demands to be looked at in a very careful and meticulous way.

As mentioned before, the Touhou series are a franchise comprised for the most part of shoot ‘em up games. Touhou is famed for being the work of a single man named Jun’ya Ōta, also known as ZUN. Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom is no exception; every single line of code, pixel, musical note, etcetera were created by ZUN himself, which makes Lunatic Kingdom maybe a bit more impressive overall. As a friendly reminder, this review contains spoilers, as it encompasses the almost the entire game. Sparse as the story in the Touhou mainline games may be, the reader has been warned. Special thanks go to Pazzy, for providing the gameplay screen captures.

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The cover art for Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom.

At the start of Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom: our two perennial women of the hour, Reimu Hakurei and Marisa Kirisame, are joined by up-and-coming nouveau-protagonist Sanae Kochiya from Mountain of Faith, the tenth Touhou game; and by Reisen Udongein Inaba, stage 5 boss from Touhou 8: Imperishable Night, who makes her debut as a playable character in Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom. This unlikely quartet of heroines discover that a strange extraterrestrial probe has crashed into a nearby mountain in the land of Gensokyo. Suspecting a possible invasion from powerful beings that dwell in the moon, known as “Lunarians”, the girls go investigate this incident. And in this ominous tone, the game starts.

As usual, the player has to pick one of the four protagonists mentioned above. Each one of the girls has different bullet patterns and bomb properties that might make the game easier or harder depending on preference. Sanae is generally considered the “easier” way to beat the game, while the rest are roughly equal in terms of difficulty, with Marisa slightly edging everyone out in terms of challenge. After that, you are given another selection between “Pointdevice Mode” and “Legacy Mode”. Legacy mode functions similarly to the previous Touhou games, where you have a limited amount of lives and there is no way to save your progress other than finishing the stage you’re playing. Pointdevice mode removes lives entirely from the equation, instead opting for adding chapter checkpoints throughout the stages. When hit by an enemy in Pointdevice mode, the player is returned to the latest checkpoint, and the game resumes as normal. This was a much debated addition, as Pointdevice mode supports the suspension of play sessions, and allows you to continue right where you left off the last time you closed the game in frustration due to being stuck in a particularly tricky part.

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The cast of playable characters. From left to right: Reimu Hakurei, Marisa Kirisame, Sanae Kochiya, and Reisen Udongein Inaba.

Finally, after much ado, you’re placed at the start of stage 1. There’s a beautiful background of greenlands and a forest, along with a charming, extremely energetic tune called That Unforgettable Greenery of Connection which completes the setting marvelously. Typical for a stage 1 theme, That Unforgettable Greenery of Connection, is incredibly upbeat, and ignites these feelings of adventure and wanderlust inside the player. ZUN’s trademark trumpets roar stridently and powerfully in the refrain of the song, following the playful beat of the drums and snares. The stage is as short as the song itself, but regardless of length, you’ll soon find yourself bobbing your head to the quirky melody.

It’s over too soon though, and the boss of the first stage appears. Her name is Seiran and she’s a Lunarian; a creature from the moon, specifically a moon rabbit. Our heroines question Seiran’s motives for coming to Earth, and the only thing she reveals is that she’s with the Lunarian Military Infiltrators. Seiran works alone and she’s tough as nails, wielding her fearsome mochi mallet as a form of intimidation. As the conversation between Seiran and our heroine winds down, her theme begins playing and battle begins. The Rabbit has Landed is the name of Seiran’s song, a reference to the phrase uttered by Neil Armstrong when he landed on the moon in the Apollo 11 mission: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”. Clever references aside, the piece is fantastic, it exudes a cool confidence and has a certain frisky tone that is generally present in stage 1 boss themes. The fight in itself is fairly straightforward, but by no means easy. There are no remarkable patterns to see here, nor does Seiran have a gimmick like some Touhou bosses seem to have at times. It’s pure concentration and pattern memorization cranked up to eleven in the higher difficulty levels. Seiran doesn’t give you a whole lot of room with “easy” bullet patterns, also called “Spell Cards”, a staple of the series at large.

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“This is Seiran. I’ve made contact with a belligerent earthling.”

For veterans of the series, the first thing you may have noticed is that if you selected Pointdevice mode, the game is significantly harder than its predecessors. You may not have to worry about lives, but the game is not a downhill cruise down leisure lane. ZUN himself has stated that he implemented Pointdevice mode as a way of making the game as challenging as it could be, and he delivers fully and convincingly. This is where some people might find fault with Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom, as the game sometimes feels as if it is now to be an exercise in frustrating trial-and-error gameplay, much like Super Meat Boy and the Souls series among others.

Once Seiran is defeated, she reveals the fact that she’s part of an invasion force sent to Earth from the moon, and points our heroines towards one of her superiors. And so stage 2 begins, the scenery changes to a blood red moon reflected over a dark body of water, and before long the name of the theme for stage 2 makes perfect sense. The Lake Reflects the Pure Moonlight is a much more serious piece when compared to the previous theme, the intro gives off this feeling of pure determination and unflappable resolve. The instruments may remind you of a fanfare, the brass is incredibly pronounced and there’s an almost royal tinge to the notes in this stage 2 theme. The tempo increases as the stage progresses, highlighting the large amount of bullets being sent your way. And just as the notes of the song are about to hit a crescendo, you get a hint of what you’re about to face as the boss appears throughout the stage to remind you of her presence until it’s time to face her.

Ringo is the name of the boss of stage 2, and she awaits at the end of the stage when the heroines finally manage to defeat her minions. After a short conversation, Ringo reveals she is in charge of “Information Management”, which is a way of saying she’s a spy for the Lunarian Military. The moon is no longer only visible on the surface of the lake, and is clearly and prominently displayed above the horizon. Ringo’s theme, Pumpkin of September, begins playing, and Ringo begins her attack. There’s a bit of an interesting contrast between The Lake Reflects the Pure Moonlight and Pumpkin of September, while both are much more refined and less exuberant than their stage 1 counterparts, Pumpkin of September feels much more delicate during the intro, the piano notes to begin the song give it an unearthly inkling. The fight against Ringo gives the feeling to be orchestrated against her theme song, as the tempo seems to increase whenever she launches a barrage of bullets your way, and goes back to the piano riff whenever there’s a lull in Ringo’s attack. Pumpkin of September is a excellently characterized song, because through it we can see that Ringo is more of a thinker as opposed to a fighter. If one listens closely, you can feel the doubt plastered all over the song and during the battle. It’s very likely that Ringo ponders whether invading Earth is the right thing to do. This hesitation is what ends up being Ringo’s downfall, our heroines defeat her, and she tells them that the shortest way to the root of the problem is through the Dream World. Our heroines are going to the moon to try to end this invasion once and for all, but first, they’re gonna need to have a nightmare.

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The red circles are bullets from the enemy, homing into the player to attempt to score a hit.

Stage 3 is a major thematic disconnect from the rest of the game so far. Since our heroines are walking the path to the moon through the World of Dreams itself, dream-like scenery is to be expected, but it’s jarring all the same. The background of the stage is a strange square grid of contrasting colors: red on black, and pink on blue for the most part. The curiously named theme, The Mysterious Shrine Maiden Flying Through Space, is a delight to listen to. The bright piano melodies, along with the synthesized drums come together extremely well in a most ZUN fashion, and create a beautiful harmony with the rest of the instruments used in the song. As the stage progresses, you’re assaulted by beautiful patterns of bullets that form stars and flowers. The background evolves to show the shadows of cranes taking flight, much like our heroines flying through dreams to get to their destination. Throughout the stage, the “manager” of the World of Dreams, and boss of stage 3, appears every so often to shoot bullets at you. However, she doesn’t fully reveal herself until the moon shows up in the background, gigantic, looming and ominous.

About as foreboding as the moon on the background is the stage’s boss, Doremy Sweet. As soon as Doremy introduces herself as the overlord of the Dream World, the music changes from the relatively placid stage song to her incredibly agitating theme, Eternal Spring Dream. From listening to Doremy’s theme, you can feel as if it’s almost a warning of what is to come. A sense of apprehension and dread hangs heavy in the air as she launches her opening salvos at you. Doremy has a set of beautiful bullet patterns, complemented perfectly by Eternal Spring Dream, making this particular boss fight the high point of the game thus far. The absurdly frantic pace that Doremy sets with her attacks is unrivaled in terms of stage 3 bosses in the entire franchise. The stage 3 boss one of the most difficult fights in the game overall to go in blind, as some of her patterns need either a ridiculous amount of brainpower to read properly, or knowledge from previous failures.

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Doremy Sweet really doesn’t like trespassers coming into the World of Dreams.

Eventually, Doremy relents, and lets our heroines through to the passage that leads to the moon, but not without a warning that the difficulties to come might be the most trying yet. On that note, our heroines arrive at the Lunarian capital, only to find it completely abandoned, seeming even frozen both in time and temperature. The song for this stage is called The Frozen Capital of Eternity, explaining perhaps in part the appearance of the Lunarian city. At first, the theme paints a picture of a perfect calm atmosphere, a peace that lasts forever if you will. But lunacy begins to take hold little by little, it creeps into the notes of the theme and the pace picks up as more and more enemies appear on screen and begin to attack our heroines. Stage 4 may be considered a lull in the game, or perhaps the calm before the storm, as it has a much more laid-back aura than the stage that came before it and will come after it. The euphonious brass that makes its appearance early in the song is noticeably more muted and subtle than the usual ZUN fare, until the trumpets explode into a blaring refrain that highlights the aforementioned lunacy and the boss appears.

Sagume Kishin is the name of the boss of stage 4, and at first this mysterious character does not say much, only admitting that she’s in charge of the invasion forces sent to Earth. Our heroines decide that the only way to make the boss talk is to defeat her, and as such begin to fight her in earnest. Anyone who has played the previous entry in the series, Touhou 14: Double Dealing Character, will perhaps raise an eyebrow to the familiar sounding tune that begins to play. The Wheel of Fortune Turning Over, this game’s stage 4 boss theme sounds intriguingly similar in both composition and tempo to Reverse Ideology, the stage 5 boss theme of Seija Kijin from Double Dealing Character. However, while Seija resorted to a plethora of cheap tricks and infuriating gimmicks, such as reversing your controls so that left is right and right is left; Sagume seems to be a fair bit more restrained in that aspect. Not to say that Sagume is an easy boss, on the contrary, she’s very difficult to defeat and resorts to her own brand of underhandedness. During one of the phases of the fight, Sagume sends a barrage of homing enemies towards the player, and destroying them creates an unmoving obstacle bullet that will not disappear until the phase is over, potentially caging the player into an incredibly small space if caution is not exercised. The Wheel of Fortune Turning Over fits Sagume’s trickster paradigm perfectly as the song has this certain level of flimflam configuration to it; this, along with the fact that Sagume has some strange gimmicks that she uses against the heroines, gives you the feeling that the boss of stage 4 isn’t really taking the fight seriously, but is instead testing the player for her own purposes.

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The start of Stage 4. The Lunar capital sits frozen on the background.

As the fight with Sagume winds down, she reveals the reason why the invasion of the Earth was orchestrated by the Lunarians, and why she speaks so little. For the latter, Sagume is a divine being with the power of changing the world with her words, she has little control over this strange power and anything she says for the most part ends up getting reversed. For the former, the moon is under attack from a force that renders the Lunarians unable to counterattack, so as a backup plan, Sagume had decided to “purify” Earth so that the Lunarians would be able to migrate there if their enemies were successful in capturing and destroying their capital. However, Sagume realizes that our heroines are strong enough that they could help save the Lunarian capital from the invaders and as such makes a deal to call off the invasion of Earth so long as the Earthling girls help her attacking the enemy’s home base in the Sea of Tranquility. In an ironic twist of fate, Sagume reverses the fate of the lunar capital by enrolling the aid of the people sent from Earth to stop her.

 

With renewed determination, Reimu and the others head towards the Sea of Tranquility. And so stage 5 begins. Right at the start of the stage, a character clad in an all-too-familiar stars and stripes pattern speaks and whips the enemy troops, mainly composed of fairies, into a lunatic frenzy. The game’s climax is rapidly approaching and the stage music Faraway Voyage of 380,000 Kilometers reflects this in an amazingly appropriate way. There’s a sense of chaotic hysteria behind the song in the stage. And as you progress through the waves of enemies in front of the desolate moonscape background, you get the sensation that you’re in the middle of a tumultuous battlefield. The infamous lasers of Touhou 12: Undefined Fantastic Object, are back with a vengeance, these red, white, and blue beams of power are a challenge to dodge without cornering yourself into an inescapable situation. Regardless if you’re playing on Pointdevice or Legacy mode, Stage 5 is where most every player will die repeatedly in increasingly inflaming and baffling ways. Among all this madness, the boss’s stage finally appears. What happens next, nobody could have ever predicted, and the fanbase was out-of-sorts for a good while after.

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An adorable machine of murder.

 

Her name is Clownpiece, a fairy from hell; she’s clad in a star-spangled outfit, much like the flag of the United States of America. The fight with Clownpiece takes place on the area around the Sea of Tranquility, so it comes to reason that Old Glory was found somewhere in her jaunts across the lunar surface, a souvenir left over from one of the many Apollo missions to the moon. This eccentric character is the captain of the fairies causing so much chaos and destruction in the moon’s surface, and it’s our heroine’s job to stop her once and for all. At first Clownpiece seems to be scatterbrained and ditzy, but once her theme, Pierrot of the Star-Spangled Banner begins playing it becomes clear that she’s an incredibly dangerous opponent. The song’s intro is overwhelmingly sinister, and quickly takes on a melody that on the exterior appears playful and merry, but if you listen closely you can feel the balefulness creeping beneath the surface. Pierrot of the Star-Spangled Banner stomps, stings and rings along a forbidding gothic road that few songs in the Touhou series dare to tread. The song is an absolute masterpiece in terms how it fits Clownpiece’s character, because as challenging as the game has been so far, everything pales in comparison to the spectacle you’re about to behold. Yes, the boss fight with Clownpiece is hard; unfairly so, frustratingly so, and terrifyingly so. Her bullet patterns require pin-point accuracy and near-photographic memory to avoid getting hit. She uses a great deal of treacherous patterns to blindside the player, often creating situations near impossible to escape without using a bomb or getting hit. Her leitmotif persists through the boss battle, as she uses star-shaped projectiles to flood the battlefield while lasers representing the stripes cut the space available to maneuver to a fraction of the screen. At some point in the fight she even throws a trio of gigantic moon-shaped projectiles that spit out more bullets as they traverse the screen. All in all, Clonwpiece is one of the biggest challenges to ever exist in the franchise, and it requires all of the player’s skill and patience to succeed, and defeat her.

Now, the reason why much of the fanbase was astounded by Clownpiece was because it seemed that ZUN was finally acknowledging his western fans by giving them a nod with her design. ZUN had always being somewhat of an iconoclast, retelling and reshaping histories and legends from East Asian lore to suit the purposes of his games; now that the Apollo Missions and the Stars and Stripes were heavily referenced in Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom, many western fans were thrilled. To add to this, Clownpiece’s appearance came shortly on the heels of the announcement that Touhou 14: Double Dealing Character would be available through a western publisher as a downloadable game. For the first time ever, a Touhou game would be obtainable in an official and sanctioned-by-ZUN manner in the west. Before, fans would have to resort to importing physical copies of the game from Japan, buying memberships to Japanese doujin distribution websites; or in the worst case scenario, Piracy. It’s obvious then, considering all these factors, why Clownpiece is such a beloved character regardless of the interminable frustration and absurd challenge her stage and boss battle present.

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Stripes of destruction. Dodging this is a lot more difficult than it seems to be from a still image.

To get back on track, after Clownpiece is defeated, our heroines interrogate her and find out there’s a mastermind behind the fairies’ invasion of the Moon. After being pointed in the right direction, the girls continue on and the final stage of the main game begins. The background changes to a placid sea, with a few waves rippling through its surface, as our heroines have arrived in the Sea of Tranquility proper. But the song playing is, for lack of a better word, disparaging. The Sea Where One’s Home Planet Reflects, is an extremely calm, relaxing melody. After the crucible the player was subject to on the previous stage, this change of pace is a bit startling to say the least. Even the enemies seem to be a bit more lax, being disappointingly straightforward in their attempts to destroy the player. Honestly speaking, the stage is a bit of a letdown overall. As maddening as stage 5 was, it was exhilarating at the same time, and if the energy level had been kept up for stage 6, it would’ve conjured the perfect storm to finish the game in the highest note possible.

Thankfully, the calm doesn’t last for long, stage 6 ends as the final boss of the game appears lamenting the fact that our heroines have been able to overcome every obstacle placed in front of them. Unexpectedly, the ringleader of the invasion admits defeat almost immediately after the girls begin talking to her, saying how she did not account for an Earthling potentially saving the Lunar capital. Regardless of that, the woman reveals her name is Junko, and that even though her will to fight the Lunarians has more or less disappeared, she will show our heroines what she’s made of. From her pre-fight speech, we can glimpse that Junko has a terrible grudge against the goddess of the Lunarians, a mysterious character only known as Chang’e. If Junko is to be believed, Chang’e’s husband is responsible for the death of Junko’s child. As such, Junko used her powers as a divine spirit to purify her very own essence until nothing of her remained but pure spite and an overwhelming desire for revenge. Pure Furies ~ Whereabouts of the Heart is Junko’s theme, and it depicts her vindictive nature in an astonishingly accurate way. Junko is out to kill you, there is absolutely no question about it. While most Touhou characters fight each other in a good-natured way, generally rooted in a set of rules to avoid dealing permanent harm to their counterparts; Junko gives no quarter at all, made evident by the names of her spells such as “Lilies of Murderous Intent”, and “Pristine Danmaku for Killing a Person”. Pure Furies fills you with awe as you attempt to avoid Junko’s simple yet precise attacks. ZUN wanted to give the player the unmistakable feeling that you were fighting a final boss, and accomplished it perfectly. Junko may not be as tough, or underhanded as Clownpiece was, but the atmosphere of the fight definitively gives the “final boss” feeling, in addition to making you feel as if the heroines are fighting for their lives. The battle is long and drawn out, Junko seems to refuse to surrender to lowly earthlings. But in the end, something’s gotta give, and the girls defeat Junko and she disappears, bringing the main scenario of Touhou 15: Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom to a close.

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There is nowhere to hide when Junko wants your blood.

As the game ends, however, it seems that the invasion of Earth by the Lunarians has not stopped; Sagume Kishin is unable to do anything as someone is pulling the strings from behind the scenes and is forcing the Lunarians to continue their encroachment upon Earth’s lands. It is then, that the Extra scenario is unlocked, a story best left for another time.

Overall, Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom is a great game. It has its flaws admittedly, as ZUN tried to experiment with Pointdevice mode and some parts of the game were beyond difficult, even for veterans of the series used to some of the more challenging facets of the franchise. The trial-and-error mechanics of “Torturedevice mode” as some fans called it, were at times too much and not rewarding enough. The atmosphere of the game is amazing though. ZUN’s talent as a composer shines throughout the game and some pieces like Pierrot of the Star Spangled Banner and Eternal Spring Dream are among the best in the series. Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom is definitively one of the hardest if not THE hardest game in the series, and finally finishing it, despite its shortcomings, is one of the most rewarding experiences this year in video games. It’s definitively recommended for anyone looking for a challenge, or any fan of shoot’em ups. If the genre of the game is not something that appeals to you, consider giving the soundtrack a listen or two; maybe, just maybe, ZUN’s music will win you over as it has done so with thousands, maybe even millions of people around the globe.

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Playing video games since he has a conscious memory, Bernard has fond memories of the Super Nintendo and the 16 bit MIDI symphonies emanating from it. Since then, he has acquired fairly atypical tastes in games and game music. Nowadays, you can find him dodging bullets and bobbing his head to the music in the Touhou Project, or fighting against gigantic monsters in Monster Hunter, God Eater, or Toukiden. Deep down, he believes portable consoles are king, long live the PS Vita and 3DS!

 

Last week, while the eyes of the world were busy ogling Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, NIS America quietly released the latest installment of the Danganronpa series, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls. Now, many might not be familiar with just exactly what this curiously titled series of games actually are; but if you don’t, you’re seriously missing out. There are three games in the series, and they are known in the west as follows: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, and the aforementioned Another Episode.

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The box art for Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls.

The first two games follow a peculiar formula: A group of high-school students are trapped in a particular place (a school in the first game, an island in the second.), and they are forced to kill each other until the last person stands, much like in Battle Royale the cult classic book by Koushun Takami. However, a set of rules are in place to prevent wanton carnage. Every time that someone in the school or island is murdered a trial is held, if the culprit is caught, he or she is summarily executed. But should the culprit get away with it, and someone innocent is found guilty, everyone else dies and the culprit gets to go free. Another Episode is a spinoff that has very different gameplay, but today, we will be focusing on the first two games for the most part.

Listen: Danganronpa OST – Discussion -HOPE VS DESPAIR-

There’s a few different facets of gameplay to the main two Danganronpa entries. For the most part, the games “play” much like a hybrid of a visual novel and a point-and-click adventure game, you look around the game world and meet the characters, “socialize” with them, and gather useful items. Then the inevitable happens, a murder happens and sends shockwaves through our colorful cast of characters, and as the protagonist, it’s up to you to solve the mystery and find the culprit. After gathering evidence, the game turns into a set of mini-games set in the mock-courtroom of either the school or the island. The minigames range from finding contradictions in statements made by witnesses by shooting said statements with a “truth bullet”, to hilarious and literal “leaps” of logic in a snowboard-like game, all of which are set to an astounding soundtrack.

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The cast of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.

Masafumi Takada is the genius behind the OST for every Danganronpa game. Although you might not know him by name, Takada was the composer for classics such as Killer 7, God Hand and No More Heroes. In the Danganronpa series, Takada really shows his wide array of talents as a composer. Considering the gameplay itself is sparse, there was a need to create a powerful soundtrack that kept the players suckered in the whirlwind of despair that Danganronpa creates, and it was accomplished beautifully. The tunes in the soundtrack consist of a chilling fusion of sounds: suspenseful electronic melodies that set the murder-mystery atmosphere, techno-like beats of immense energy and power to accompany the mock trial frenzy, jazzy rock themes that are meant to relax before a big moment takes you unawares, and sorrowful piano melodies that embody the feelings of loss and despair that are so prevalent throughout the game as the characters learn to deal and cope with their situation.

Listen: Danganronpa OST – Discussion -HEAT UP-

The cast of the games is always unique and interesting, with perhaps the exception of the (mostly) plain-joe protagonists. There’s the gung-ho macho motorcycle gangster, along with the freakishly buff ogre-like strongwoman in the first game, just to name some. Because of their eccentricities, the characters in the Danganronpa games are very unique and a fair bit of them will resonate with the player one way or the other. This gives the games a very strong emotional impact, as a great deal of the characters in the game end up murdered, or dead one way or the other. Which brings me to probably the most recognizable face of the franchise, Monokuma the bear. This strange looking, monochrome mascot is the main antagonist of the series, one of the major plot points is to try and find out just who controls it, and what exactly this person is planning to do with the students trapped in the school or island.

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Anyone could be a murderer. The cast of Danganronpa 2 looks suspiciously at each other.

Monokuma is a brilliant antagonist, a toyish figurehead of despair that talks and act in such a chipper and almost child-like way. The contrast of his “puhuhuhu” laughter with the evil, sadistic way in which he treats the students is about as jarring a juxtaposition as the black and white tones of his skin. Monokuma steals the show pretty much every time he’s on the screen, and the punishments that he doles out to the murderers when they are caught by their fellow students are nothing short of tremendous masterpieces of creative cruelty.

Listen: Danganronpa 2 OST – Ikoroshia

Danganronpa, much like Monokuma himself, is not shy about what it sets out to do. The theme and atmosphere in the games are brutal, almost unforgivingly so. At times, the series is torturous to play; despair, being the central adversary of the franchise, coats pretty much every single game. Every murder, every trial, every stage of the game makes the characters and the players feel a certain amount of despair that’s just about enough to bring them to the brink of oblivion. Even so, Danganronpa makes something abundantly clear, Hope is stronger than Despair. What makes the game feel so satisfying in the end is that glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. This is good for a couple reasons: not only does this give our beloved characters something to believe in, but is an ideology that perhaps the world at large could really get behind. Even in a world as black and cold as Danganronpa’s, hope survives, and that is enough to shine a light on the darkness of the human condition.

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The evil sadistic mastermind himself, Monokuma.

In a set of games as story heavy as Danganronpa, it really is difficult to make an assessment of the story without revealing details that may potentially ruin the experience for a potential player. But overall, they are excellent games that immerse you in a way few games can. The visual novel-esque gameplay of the first two games may be a turn-off for some, but if you can get past the austereness of it all, you will be rewarded by one of the best and most creative stories in modern gaming. It’s definitively recommended, although it would be best to start from the beginning with Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, as both Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair and Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls will not make a lick of sense.

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Playing video games since he has a conscious memory, Bernard has fond memories of the Super Nintendo and the 16 bit MIDI symphonies emanating from it. Since then, he has acquired fairly atypical tastes in games and game music. Nowadays, you can find him dodging bullets and bobbing his head to the music in the Touhou Project, or fighting against gigantic monsters in Monster Hunter, God Eater, or Toukiden. Deep down, he believes portable consoles are king, long live the PS Vita and 3DS!

A few weeks ago, Arc System Works announced that the newest installment of the BlazBlue series, Central Fiction, was in development. People unfamiliar with the franchise might look at the art-style and character design and dismiss the franchise as yet another Japanese flight of fancy. At a glance BlazBlue does seem like a cacophony of anime cliches from the mid 2000s, but that really doesn’t tell you the whole story. BlazBlue is an incredibly in-depth fighter, with a great number of nuanced mechanics and a high execution barrier. Sickeningly fast paced, exhilarating to both watch and play, it’s really little wonder that BlazBlue is one of the kings of arcades in Japan.

 

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Newcomers Naoto and Hibiki (Mid left and right) join old schoolers Ragna and Noel (Far left and right) in Central Fiction.

Admittedly, the franchise does not have the same high-class pedigree some other fighting games do: Street Fighter, for example, has been around since 1987; Namco’s tekken since 1994; and even BlazBlue’s older heavier cousin, Guilty Gear, has rocked arcade cabinets since 1998. In contrast, BlazBlue’s first release, Calamity Trigger, came out a scant 7 years ago in 2008. The game was originally intended to be a spiritual successor to Guilty Gear, since the franchise had been in limbo for a while and Arcsys wanted to inject new life into the fighting game genre. It was a long shot, since Guilty Gear was one of the golden children of the Japanese fighting game community. But somehow, all the right pieces were in place; Calamity Trigger had the vision of director Toshimichi Mori injected into it, as well as the incredible talent as a composer of Daisuke Ishiwatari, mastermind behind the Guilty Gear series. Ishiwatari was a particularly critical piece, because you really only need to listen to the soundtrack of the Guilty Gear series to know that this man knows rock the same way a geologist does.

 

Listen: Noel Vermillion’s Theme – Bullet Dance

 

The soundtrack in Calamity Trigger was no less remarkable than Guilty Gear’s. Ishiwatari had poured his soul into the music in the game, and the result was a penetrating, mind blowing variety of sensational songs that gave you the sense that the world was crashing around your ears. In the devil-may-care style that perhaps only Japanese composers can successfully deliver, Ishiwatari went from the hard-rock tones of Rebellion, to the post-industrial bass of MOTOR HEAD, effortlessly and flawlessly giving depth to every dramatis personae in the game. Fans were drawn to BlazBlue due to the characters, which in contrast to good old Ryu or Ken, seemed to grow throughout the story of the game and with every iteration afterwards. While perhaps a bit cliched at first, every character in BlazBlue was unique both in gameplay and drama. For example: You had the gruff protagonist, Ragna the Bloodedge that, while his name may sound like the try-hard attempt of a teenage kid to sound badass, is just really a guy with a heart of gold, tremendously bad luck and penchant for catastrophe.

 

Listen: Nu-13’s Theme – Awakening the Chaos

 

And so it seemed that BlazBlue had managed to recapture some of the magic that Guilty Gear had originally possessed, thanks in no small measure to Ishiwatari’s brilliance. But Calamity Trigger wasn’t exactly a competitive masterpiece. The game was poorly balanced, felt sluggish at times, and the UI was an eyesore for the most part. Some fans also felt that the story, while good for a fighting game, was over-the-top convoluted and difficult to follow at times. However, the game was a resounding commercial success, and the seed had been planted for the continued survival of the series. Eventually, the game made it to the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 in 2009, increasing the popularity of the franchise even further, and making it accessible to fans worldwide.

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The cast of Calamity Trigger.

 

Arc System Works saw that they had a gold mine in their hands, and worked tirelessly to keep BlazBlue fresh and exciting. ArcSys adopted a near yearly release schedule for every version of the game, always improving over the previous release one way or the other. Some fans found this objectionable, but regardless of that, by August 2012, the franchise had sold over 1.6 million copies of both Calamity Trigger, and the three versions of Continuum Shift (Original, 2, and Extend). Then, in November 2012, after extensive testing and fine tuning, BlazBlue finally hit its full stride with the release of Chronophantasma. Boasting the largest roster of the series to date, as well as revamped mechanics and a much faster game pace than its predecessors, Chronophantasma was a runaway hit in Japan, quickly becoming the most played game in arcades nationwide during the first few months of its lifespan. The game’s popularity increased even more when it was released for consoles a year later, in October 2013, going as far as being featured in EVO, the premier fighting game tournament in the United States. (The finals were one of the most exciting events of the year, and showcased an amazing set of skills from both combatants. Highly recommended.)

 

Listen: BlazBlue Chronophantasma OST – Theme of the Six Heroes

 

It is now, then, that the fanbase waits with bated breath for the release of Central Fiction. It’s a game that certainly can’t be missed if one is a fan of fighting games. It promises to be faster, bigger, better, and grander. And considering how far we’ve come since Calamity Trigger, it’s a sure bet that Arc System Works will deliver. In the meanwhile, one can always find a willing sparring partner online with the current iteration of the series Chronophantasma Extend. The wheel of fate is turning!

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——————–

Playing video games since he has a conscious memory, Bernard has fond memories of the Super Nintendo and the 16 bit MIDI symphonies emanating from it. Since then, he has acquired fairly atypical tastes in games and game music. Nowadays, you can find him dodging bullets and bobbing his head to the music in the Touhou Project, or fighting against gigantic monsters in Monster Hunter, God Eater, or Toukiden. Deep down, he believes portable consoles are king, long live the PS Vita and 3DS!

 

Grief brings us together, it’s part of the human condition and what makes us the creatures we are. Sadness is no stranger to video games either, the many flavors of sorrow have painted a picture of dejection on screens almost since games first became a storytelling medium. The entirety of the Shin Megami Tensei series and its spinoffs, a few of the Final Fantasy games, Metal Gear Solid, and the Silent Hill series are all perfect examples of the different shades of misery that developers have employed to give their games that extra punch, that permanence in the mind of people who play them by associating the games with a heartache leaves an impression on all but the most stoic people.

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“I won’t scatter your sorrow to the heartless sea, I will always be with you.”

One might remember the Ar tonelico games, the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 RPG series that, while no stranger to despondency, wasn’t particularly acclaimed or even well known in the west as the games previously mentioned. The Ar tonelico series was, however, fairly unique in the way dealt with concepts that few games had dared to explore to such a deep extent back then. Morality, the power of bonds, the schisms between different cultures and societies, psychological voyages to deep within the minds of our protagonists that change the way the see their world, an absolutely biblical amount of side materials that explained the universe of EXA_PICO, and a veritably gripping story were all elements that felt right at home in Ar tonelico. It was then, once NIS America localized the games, that Ar tonelico gained a fiercely loyal and extremely dedicated niche following in the west.

The developing team at GUST had been silent about the Ar tonelico series since the game on PS3 had, for lack of a better term, completely flopped. But they broke the drought and the skies opened in 2012 in Japan with the release of Ciel nosurge. Ciel nosurge was an odd game, and perhaps its oddness is a story for another day, but to make a long story short: The game was not a continuation of the Ar tonelico series, as it took place before the events of any of Ar tonelico games. However, Ciel nosurge does take place in the same universe as Ar tonelico, it deals with a fair amount of the same elements and greatly expands on the mythos and history of the series. Considering how it was a “life-sim” (think perhaps a Tamagotchi with RPG elements), the west never saw Ciel nosurge. But not all hope was lost for fans of the EXA_PICO universe. Soon after the release of Ciel nosurge was finalized GUST announced that they were working on a sequel to the game that would be a bit more traditional in terms of a Role Playing Game.

Listen: Ciel Nosurge’s OST – Ra Ciel Fusor

And then there was Ar nosurge. The game was released stateside fairly quietly in September 2014 for the PS3, it wasn’t advertised very much, if at all. Ar nosurge was not your standard JRPG from the seventh generation, compared to games such as Xenoblade, Ni No Kuni, the Final Fantasy 13 trilogy and the dozens more that saw English releases during the lifespan of the Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The closest comparison that comes to mind is Atlus’s masterful Persona 3 and 4 games from the PS2, seeing how both are immersive, text heavy RPGs that focus on character development.

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Ar nosurge’s male protagonists, Delta and Earthes.

Ar nosurge begins with an incredible opening, a tinge of malevolent tribalism in its notes. You can feel almost as if you’re being captured or drawn into this world that, according to EXA_PICO lore, lies beyond the Seventh Dimension.

Listen: Ar nosurge’s Opening – To The Songless Hill: Harmonics Pre=Ciel

The setting of the game is not as straightforward as one might think. We learn from the first pair of protagonists, rowdy Delta Lantanoil and his partner tomboyish Casty Rianoit, that the game takes place in the Soreil, a massive colony ship in the middle of an interstellar voyage searching for a new planet that its residents may call home. However, all is not well in town, as strange creatures known as the Sharl have attacked residents in the Soreil for unknown reasons. It is then, that the player’s adventure in the world of Ar nosurge begins, as Delta and Casty search for a lost friend in the vastness of the seemingly hostile and unforgiving Soreil.

The combat is fairly simple, nothing really to write home about and standard JRPG fare for the 7th generation of consoles. You have a limited amount of attacks, that once exhausted will prompt the enemy to take their “turn” and attack in return. If you have successfully destroyed all enemies marked by an exclamation mark, you will gain an extra turn and an extra set of attacks, thus making it possible to destroy the enemy without taking any damage. Once the player is well acquainted with the gameplay, the game becomes a relaxed, downhill coast.

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Ar nosurge in action, note the buttons corresponding to each attack on the lower right side of the screen.

However, one of the most remarkable and intense things about Ar nosurge is the absolutely beautiful soundtrack. The excellent song during the opening draws a picture that the rest of the game flawlessly colors in with a stunning plethora of emotional shades: a sensual passion, a deep and intimate heartache, the hooks of despair that sink into the flesh and rip through skin and tendon alike, a cold melancholy that gives you gooseflesh and runs shivers down your spine, and a pure fury that glows white hot and pristine like the beat of thunder.

Listen: Judgement in the Soreil – yal fii-ne noh-iar.

Ar nosurge’s soundtrack truly runs the gamut. The track linked above, “yal fii-ne noh-iar” is one of the pivotal moments early in the game, just after the second set of protagonists, robotic knight Earthes and the innocent maiden Ionasal, are introduced. The momentous crescendo in the song ties into the end of the first “phase” of the game. It is after this introductory part that the story begins to hit you with tragedy after tragedy. The game overall is extremely text heavy, and the player is expected to do a lot of reading to fully understand just what is going on, but the plot and the characters are engrossing enough that it doesn’t seem to be an issue. With time, one begins to think of the characters in the game as old friends, and care about their ultimate fates in or out of the Soreil.

Not everything is gloom though. Another great thing about Ar nosurge is how it still manages to have excellent moments of comic relief every so often; usually in the “Synthesis” screen, where the player creates useful pieces of equipment and items to help throughout the journey to save the Soreil.

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Don’t ask what Silent Green is made out of.

Without spoiling much more of the story, let it be said that Ar nosurge is not a perfect game, far from it. It clearly suffers from budget problems, as some enemies and NPCs are recycled throughout the whole game. It also has some pacing problems, as the game instills upon you a sense of urgency to finish the main task while at the same time punishing you for not taking it leisurely and crafting the best equipment before continuing. That is not to say that these faults make the game unplayable, or even bad. Ar nosurge is a complete experience, the amazing soundtrack, the touching story, and the surprises along the way make this game a must get for anyone who enjoys Japanese RPGs.

Listen: Ar nosurge’s third battle theme – Tsukuyomi.

Verdict: Recommended for JRPG fans, someone looking for more action or not wanting to invest 50 hours of their life towards a game might want to look elsewhere.

 

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——————–

Playing video games since he has a conscious memory, Bernard has fond memories of the Super Nintendo and the 16 bit MIDI symphonies emanating from it. Since then, he has acquired fairly atypical tastes in games and game music. Nowadays, you can find him dodging bullets and bobbing his head to the music in the Touhou Project, or fighting against gigantic monsters in Monster Hunter, God Eater, or Toukiden. Deep down, he believes portable consoles are king, long live the PS Vita and 3DS!

 

You could be easily forgiven for not knowing who Jun’ya Ota is, he is a reserved Japanese man with little interest for being in the spotlight. It would be, maybe, less forgivable to not know his Magnum Opus; a humble shooting game series that started back in 1996 with a delightfully recherché title: Highly Responsive to Prayers. Jun’ya Ota, the man, is also known as ZUN, and his brainchild is known as the Touhou Project.

Picture this: Japan circa 1996. There existed, in those golden years, a burgeoning market of independent games mainly focused and centered around NEC’s PC-9801 platform. Among these games was a barely remarkable Arkanoid-esque game called Tōhō Reiiden with the English subtitle (as it was chic to do back then in Japan) Highly Responsive to Prayers. While this game might have been ordinary, the people around it most definitely not. Amusement Makers was the name that the developers of Highly Responsive to Prayers had chosen for themselves. Rookies without exception, these young students of Tokyo Denki University were connected by dreams, wires, and pixels to their idols; the biggest names of the time such as Hironobu Sakaguchi, Masaya Hashimoto, Hideo Kojima. Names that upstarts like Amusement Makers could only look up to in bewilderment and admiration as they toiled away in their old PC-98s, trying to make something out of nothing.

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The box-art of Highly Responsive to Prayers.

 

A couple of years, four releases later, and a shift in genre later; after failing to reach the heights of their heroes, Amusement Makers split off, each one of them went their own way. Some created other games, dismissing their previous work as childish and immature; some pursued a “respectable” career after graduating; others just simply sank into the day to day life of Japanese urban ideologies. Perhaps knowing he was sitting on a mine of gold, perhaps out of pure stubbornness, perhaps out of an obdurate sense of duty towards the franchise he helped create, one man decided to stick with what by now was known as the Touhou Project.

The year was 2002. Jun’ya Ota, by now a veteran of five games and completely immersed in his ZUN persona, decided to go it alone. Leaving the obsolete PC-98 behind, he decided to test himself and make a completely new game from scratch, by himself, assuming the roles of artist, composer, programmer, director, and many others too mundane to mention. And out of nowhere, magic. The Sixth Touhou game, known as Embodiment of Scarlet Devil in the West was a runaway hit, beyond ZUN or anyone’s wildest expectations. The game had the blood and tears of a man who refused to leave his franchise to die. The game had a sense of humor that made the corners of the mouth twitch often. The game had a hell of a kick and was bitterly unforgiving. And perhaps most importantly, the game had soul.

Stage 2 Boss – Cirno’s Theme: Beloved Tomboyish Girl

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Screenshot of Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, it’s about as hard as it looks, very.

Embodiment of Scarlet Devil was remarkable in many ways, but people were quick to notice just how much the music spoke to them. ZUN had somehow managed to leave behind the FM Synthesizer of previous games and make a grandiose, bold statement. Themes such as Beloved Tomboyish Girl, Septette for the Dead Princess, Shanghai Teahouse ~ Chinese Tea, and U.N. Owen Was Her? have been constantly remixed, rearranged, orchestrated, vocalized, and even performed live countless amounts of times since they found their way into our eardrums in 2002. It was impressive, in several baffling levels, how a man with absolutely no formal musical training had been able to create melodies that inspired so many different feelings in so many different people.

Final Boss – Remilia’s Theme: Septette for the Dead Princess

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It was then, in 2002, that the Touhou Project had really begun. Purists could argue and throw tantrums about how the previous five games are ignored or brushed aside. But in 2002, the ZUN era had commenced, and it had sparked such a massive movement that it’s actually just a tad bit difficult to swallow. A short 13 years later, 8 more mainline Touhou Project games had been created by ZUN, a veritable one-man-army by now. Countless fan games spanning every genre imaginable (yes, every genre, this is not hyperbole), a dozen official spinoffs, two gigantic yearly conventions in both sides of the Pacific Ocean (Touhou-con for the West, Reitaisai for the East), a massive media franchise with hundreds of official and unofficial books and manga, and even an entry to the Guinness Book of World Records as the “Most Prolific Fan-Made Shooter Series” make the Touhou Project special to millions worldwide. Because Touhou, in the end, is all about how it provides something for everyone. And believe that, if nothing else, this will not be the last you will hear of it.

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Playing video games since he has a conscious memory, Bernard has fond memories of the Super Nintendo and the 16 bit MIDI symphonies emanating from it. Since then, he has acquired fairly atypical tastes in games and game music. Nowadays, you can find him dodging bullets and bobbing his head to the music in the Touhou Project, or fighting against gigantic monsters in Monster Hunter, God Eater, or Toukiden. Deep down, he believes portable consoles are king, long live the PS Vita and 3DS!

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