There are a couple of games that I’ve been hoping will be localized for the West, and for one of them, that isn’t happening–Hironobu Sakaguchi‘s Last Story. I don’t play a lot of Japanese RPGs, but this one caught my attention, partly because I want to see if Sakaguchi’s return to game directing translates into a significant change in JRPGs. The combat system, particularly the gathering ability, sounds like a good update for the traditional group combat in JRPGs.
I know the story is that JRPGs don’t do well in the West anymore, but FF XIII still sold well in the Americas [2.24m versus 1.88m in Japan]. Instead, it might be a concession that the Wii has lost its audience for these types of game, even though I think Monster Hunter 3 shows that it’s still around.
The other game that I hope is localized is another Wii game for which I’ve seen little detailed information–Earth Seeker. Collection is clearly a part of it, which I hope means exploration, but the combat looks similar to Monster Hunter. But, given the premise and the fact gamers play the same female character, it seems to have a story.
Unfortunately, I now have zero hope that the West will see this game localized. Enjoy this clip, too.
I played Advanced Civilization with 6 friends for about 13 1/2 hours on Saturday, and it was blast, especially since I’ve not played an all-day board game in ages. It’s amazing how well Advanced Civilization stands up after all these years as an excellently balanced game. At one point, I had 3 calamities that threatened to wipe me out, but I was able to get back into the game and remain competitive. The nice thing, too, is that there was talk of starting up a D&D 4th edition campaign. [The computer game Advanced Civilization is available for download at abandonia, and it's a very near, if not exact, duplication of the board game, unlike, of course, Sid Meier's adaptation.]
In that game session, I talked to several friends are game developers, and they confirmed not only how steadily the game companies in Dallas have continued to wane but how the recent cuts across game companies is going to affect the games we see, though not until 2010, given development cycles. Plus, the necessary credit for producing AAA games isn’t there. One large publisher is even concerned about the lack of new releases for the fall. [Again, I'm amazed that there's not more interest in producing up-market games for the Wii because of its relatively cheap development costs.]
I had played through a bit of Zack & Wiki and then stopped to play other things. But I picked it up again on Friday, playing with the kids who were very helpful. Games like this are actually excellent multiplayer games, as even my wife sat down and tried to help with a couple. The reason is that the game, unlike RTS, RPG, and FPS games, doesn’t rely on controlling the character to have fun–a puzzle is a puzzle . . . as long as the gamer listens to others and respects their suggestions.
I picked up Skies of Arcadia in trade from Goozex, and I’m looking forward to playing it. Having fun with Chrono Trigger has made me eager to play through those RPGs that i really didn’t give time to before. I found that Skies was actually rather available in different game stores as a used game. This could be one of those games that would probably make a good suggestion for a game club such as Michael Abbot’s [which I keep meaning to join].
Playing games, especially board games, as a family can be tricky largely because my 6-year-old daughter is at a disadvantage. I recently ran across a very promising coop board game called Pandemic, in which all the players work together using the strengths of their roles to prevent the spread of a disease. Below is a video of the creator talking about the game’s design. [It's a little advanced for my daughter, but as a coop game, it's easy to help her along.] I like the fact that the game not only encourages but also requires lots of discussion, which is both good for the family and good to help teach the kids about strategic thinking.
Is it just me, or does the follow video clip from the Wii game Fragile has something of Spirited Away about it? Or a faint echo of it? It’s not the visuals but something of the basic plot, the odd characters, the placement of a child in a strange place. Maybe it’s the floating masks [also in Spirited Away].
I’ve not been a huge fan of Japanese RPGs, but this one is very intriguing, perhaps because I feel a little inundated in western RPGs at the moment. Exploratory RPGs are fun, but this jrpg has a story hook that’s better than what I’ve seen in a while.
Miyazaki’s storytelling is an interesting blend of very imaginative characters and situations with a kind of meandering, episodic technique, although never boring. [I was amazed when my kids loved Kiki's Delivery Service, which has no real overall plot.] I think his type of storytelling could possibly bridge western and Japanese RPGs, an RPG focused on story but allowing greater non-linearity.
Regardless, Fragile‘s developers have said that the game would take a good 30 hours to complete. I certainly hope this one comes to the west. It would be a great departure from Fallout 3, Fable 2, and Mass Effect.