Thursday, November 30, 2006

Final Fantasy VI

Originally released in 1994 for the Super Famicom, Square updates Final Fantasy VI with a new dungeon, new character classes, eight new spells, and a bestiary. The visuals don't look any different from the SFC original although the music suffers a bit in the translation. Upon starting the game, players may opt to view the in-game text in kanji or hiragana. The unlockable bestiary that was introduced in the GBA FFV remake is retained in FFVI. In standard old school FF convention, battles are fought side by side with the party on the right and enemies arrayed on the left.

Futari wa Puricure: Splash Star

Mai Mishou and Saki Hyuuga are junior high school students at Yunagi Middle School and appear to be normal girls. They're not. They are the mega-mighty duo who loudly proclaim "Futari wa Puricure" which translates to "We are Pretty Cure," which means they fearlessly battle the forces of darkness. In their superhero alter egos, Mai transforms into Cure Egret and Saki shifts into Cure Bloom.
To attract the audience of Puricure, Bandai releases a collection of over 40 mini-games where the heroines, rodent-like aliens, and characters of Pretty Cure act out in stylus tapping action. The games make use of the shifting transformations of the two heroines and portray the characters in mundane as well as exotic exercises. «NCS Game Notes»

Kokoro ni Shimiru

Mitsuo Aida was a poet and calligrapher who's works focused on emotions, feelings, and the meaning of humanity. In one of Aida's poems, he wrote, "Meeting someone can change your entire life; May you have a good meeting" which reflected on the ability of one person to affect another person's destiny. Mitsuo Aida's works touched millions of people in Japan as well as others who were fortunate enough to come in contact with his words.
Ertain's Kokoro ni Shimiru collects the poems of Mitsuo Aida and uses them in calligraphy lessons where players trace out words with the NDS stylus. By skillful application of virtual ink, entire phrases are written out and dabbed on the touch screen. «NCS Game Notes»

Tank Beat

Milestone, the publisher of Chaos Field and Rajirugi, tries their hand at a different kind of shooter. In Tank Beat, players take indirect control of a Panzer which rolls by obediently following stylus swishes on a map. The NDS touch screen shows an overhead view of the terrain and players may guide the tank to a destination by simply drawing a line from point A to point B. While en route, enemies may be shot at by holding the L-trigger to go into attack mode and then tapping the targets on the map to fire destructive volleys. When the tank is mobile, it is depicted on the touch screen with a lighted arc in front of it which shows the firing radius of the tank. The game is mission based with stages featuring objectives that must be fulfilled before the player can proceed further. «NCS Game Notes»

Zoids Battle Colosseum

Based on the Zoids Card Colosseum arcade game which was built on Taito Type X hardware, Zoids Battle Colosseum on the NDS attempts a faithful conversion and succeeds for the most part. Players take control of a blue-haired lad and a Zoids mecha which attacks by way of janken (rocks-scissors-paper) selections which are triggered by stylus taps. During a battle, players trade janken moves with an opponent - for example, if you tap on the hammer icon and the opponent chooses scissors, your Zoids wins the match and is shown barreling into the enemy or firing a missile attack which damages the enemy. This goes on until one Zoids loses all of its HP. A supporting cast of characters add interactive foil to the adventure and the battles run hot and heavy after the first match. «NCS Game-Notes»

Kamen Rider Kabuto

After a meteorite devastates Shibuya and levels it entirely, a young woman named Hiyori Kusakabe begins her story. Along with the meteorite that fell, alien creatures known as Worms perpetrate and propagate. In the first episode of the television series, protagonist Tendou Souji is walking on wooden shoes and carrying a bowl of tofu in water when he makes a grand pronouncement about the meaning of his name and grandma's wisdom. Since birth, Tendo was destined to become a Rider and he works towards that end by destroying alien Worms and protecting a young woman named Hiyori Kusakabe from danger.

Tendou's alter-ego is Kamen Rider Kabuto and he teams up with Kamen Rider Gatack to defend the planet from the assault of the alien Worms. The PS2 game follows the story and major battles of the television series closely. This is in evidence upon starting the game which recounts the events of the first episode of KRK where a squad of Zectroopers battle a group of Worms in an underground garage. The first level of the game puts the player in control of one member of the Zectroopers while the others are controlled by the COM. For a while, they'll just stand around but after a few seconds, they get down to business. «NCS Game Notes»

King of Fighters Neowave [Best]

From Atomiswave coin-op hardware to humble home console, Playmore's latest game in the ever evolving (and sometimes devolving) King of Fighters franchise reaches the PS2 in fine shape. All 43 fighters from the arcade version are present along with five secret characters exclusive to the PS2 and Xbox home conversions. The PS2 version of the game also adds the ability to edit the default colors for each combatant.

KOF Neowave follows traditional KOF gameplay conventions where teams of three challengers bout it out against other teams. What isn't traditional KOF however is the control scheme which now uses 5 buttons instead of 4 - the fifth button is used to turn on "Heat Mode" which is essentially a berserker toggle which allows a fighter to impact more damage than normal on an opponent but also lowers defense and health. For gamers who are hankering for some versus action against a human player (but no one else is in the room), the network mode hooks fighters up for online bouts.

The Best version of King of Fighters Neowave is a lower-priced re-release of the game. Nothing's been changed except the game packaging insert.

Summon Night 4 + Bonus Book

Three years after Banpresto shipped Summon Night 3 to market, a new adventure begins which steers away from the background conventions of the earlier games. Instead of protagonists culled from the halls of learning, the hero (Rai) and heroine (Fay) in Summon Night 4 are innkeepers.
In NCS' game test this morning, we chose Rai and watched as the too-young-to-be-an-innkeeper hero greeted a couple of friends who called upon him. The three decide to take a short trek in the western part of their village. Underneath a shining moon and glittering stars, the trio witness a shooting star which crosses the heavens and lands with a tremendous thud. Running over to investigate, they discover a crater with a shining egg in the center of the blast radius. The party is fearful at first but they soon get over their emotions and stay around to watch the egg hatch into a gleaming baby dragon...
Summon Night 4 follows the strategy-RPG style of the early games where players guide a party of adventurers into battle against opposing parties. The first challenge occurs shortly after the baby dragon hatches and the controls are intuitive with simple commands for moving, attacking, using items, and guarding against enemy attackers. «NCS Game-Notes»

Tales of Destiny

A millennia ago, a comet devastated the world. From the ruins of a shattered planet, the survivors rebuilt and discovered a new source of energy in the comet known as Lens. With the new power, humanity was able to create a great sky city known as Dycroft. The inhabitants of the sky city became known as Aethereans who asserted rule over the planetsiders who were known as E'rthers. After many years of subjugation with a weapon called the Belcrant, scientists in Dycroft defected to the side of the E'rthers and developed a new weapon for them - the Swordian which were living swords capable of independent thought. Armed with the Swordians, the E'rthers were able to overthrow their overlords. After the great war, the Swordians were retired as their great power was no longer needed.

As the story begins, a lad named Stahn Aileron is hitching an unauthorized ride on a stone dragon-shaped ship called the Draconis. He's discovered on board and is mistakenly suspected as being after a special weapon on board. The crew corners him but before they can do much more, the Draconis is attacked by winged creatures who invade the ship and attack the agents on board. With the guards preoccupied, Stahn makes his escape. Later, when confronted by feral creatures, Stahn runs into a room and meets a sentient sword known as Dymlos. «NCS Game-Notes»

Makai Senki Disgaea Portable

From the publisher
Two years after the death of the devil king, the Netherworld became embroiled in chaos, full of devils that had designs on the throne of the devil king. Just woken from a deep slumber, Laharl did not even know of his father’s death, and had to join in the battle for the throne with his numerous subordinates.
Amongst them, there was the angel-in-training Flonne who once had her mind on assassinating the devil king, but was now exploring the devil nature and thus tagged along with Laharl, as well as the servant of the dead king, Etna, who seemed to have her own motives. The struggle to become the rightful successor to the throne started to expand from the Netherworld.

Makai Senki Disgaea Portable LE

The limited edition of Disgaea Portable includes a 2-disc soundtrack which collects a total of 40 tracks of music. For gamers who have already purchased the limited edition of Disgaea on the Playstation 2, it's the same CD set from before. The game and CD are packaged in a flip-top box which mimics the PS2 Disgaea LE packaging from a couple of years ago.

Power Stone Portable

From the publisher
Power Stone is an outrageous beat-'em-up style game where players go head to head against an opponent in best of three round match ups. Arcade mode allows a single character to put their skills to the test against a lineup of computer controlled opponents. Unlimited continues are available and successfully defeating all enemies will unlock a variety of bonus features in the "Power Stone Collection" including weapons, characters, galleries, additional modes and more. In Versus mode, two players pick their character of choice and battle it out. The PSP system edition includes an improved user interface which features a new, easy to see health meter as well as a radar to represent the location of the power stones more intuitively. As an added bonus, the four additional characters from Power Stone 2 have been made available for Power Stone, bringing the total to 15 playable characters.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Disgaea: Hour of Darkness - Reissue

Atlus' USA reproduction of Disgaea is now in stock and all preorders are shipping today. The game packaging looks exactly like the original release and there's no obtrusive "Greatest Hits" or other markings to designate the game as the second printing. Tracking numbers will be updated after 6PM EST today and are normally activated after 8PM EST.

Borne from the fiery loins of the devil, the main character of Makai Senki Disgaea is literally a lil' devil. When old Beezlebub croaks, the path of ascension is unclear and Satan's spawn Laharl must prove himself by taking on all rivals and pretenders to the throne.

Designed similarly to games such as Final Fantasy Tactics, Ogre Battle, and Hoshigami, characters battle in 3-D isometric tactical theaters. Conventional weaponry as well as magical spells may be used in the course of war and two comrades watch your back - a wispy devil girl named Etna (complete with forked tail) and a demon penguin named Plinian (aka Prinny) join your party at the outset of the game. Additional soldiers and fighters may be created with Nippon Ichi's Free Character Creation System.

Wii Japanese Console Update

Japanese distributors received their shipments and deliveries of the Wii console overnight. However, it was a non-event because no games were delivered with the consoles. At the very least, our vendors were able to stare at the Wii boxes for 3.80 seconds before tedium set in. The launch games are being delivered tonight in Japan and NCS will arrange to have the first batches of shipments sent. Based on overnight shipping times from Japan to the USA, NCS expects to process and ship all re-confirmed preorders on Friday (November 30).

Similar to the USA situation, supplies of Wii accessories in Japan are dismal and our vendors have not received any extra nunchuks or the component video cables yet. We'll continue to check for available stock but please note that supplies may not be available until the second week of December. We'll monitor the official launch in Japan over the weekend and post a full update on Monday.

Import Misroute, General Updates

Import, Interrupted
A largish shipment of new Japanese import software that was scheduled to arrive this morning appears to have been misrouted. It's been a year since something like this has happened so we're not too disappointed but it is inconvenient since there's another large shipment scheduled to arrive tomorrow. If the misroute is re-routed properly later today, we'll update our website but as of this morning, we expect every new Japanese import to arrive on Thursday morning.

Aquapict Delayed
The highly desired Aquapict product from Bandai has been delayed from November 30 to January 25, 2007. Apparently, the jellyfish aren't ready for primetime yet. NCS will keep all preorders on file and an email update has been sent to customers to notify everyone of the delay.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mizuho Kazami 1/7 PVC Figure

Please teacher, cover yourself up before the students get even more distracted and restless than they already are. Mizuho Kazami is a red-headed alien creature (note to self: alien girls always have pink or red hair) who arrives on Earth to learn and to teach. Under the guise of a high school teacher, Mizuho's surveillance of the planet is going swimmingly until her cover is blown by one of her students. To keep her secret from getting out, Mizuho does the logical thing and marries her pupil...

Good Smile Company releases a 1/7 scale Mizuho Kazami figure where the buxom educator lounges on a chair in a lime green bikini. She holds a drink in her right hand while her right leg is hiked up on the seat in dainty fashion. Good Smile could have sculpted a lewdly positioned leg but they went with dainty and tasteful. Kazami measures 170mm or 6.69" tall and is made of PVC plastic which seemingly glows with Mizuho's inner effervescence. Or something like that.

The full name for this product is: Onegai Teacher: Mizuho Kazami 1/7 PVC Figure. Pricing is set at US$68 and all orders will ship today.

New Super Mario Bros Solar-Powered Toad

The sun provides the energy for the process of photosynthesis which ultimately provides the food supply for much of the planet's inhabitants. But we're not interested in that. No, all we care about is making sure the sun hits the solar panel on the Mr. Toad toy to make it rock to and fro. Mr. Toad measures 12cm or 4.72" tall from the base to the top of the mushroom cap. Preorders ship in April 2007.

Super Mario Bros Hat

Have you ever looked at Mario or Luigi and muttered to yourself, "Man, what I wouldn't give to dress up like a comical plumber" or "Mario is dating way above his station. I aspire to be like Mario."

When breaking down Mario's apparel into pieces, there are four primary components as follows:

1) The dumpy hat
2) The cornpone overalls
3) Brown shoes
4) Mickey Mouse gloves

To help Mario aspirants, Banpresto gives cosplayers one of the four Mario defining pieces of clothing - the dumpy hat in Mario red or Luigi green.

The Mario Hat measures 35cm or 13.77" across which makes it oversized and exaggerated. When wearing it on the street, tilt it rakishly to the side and draw stares as well as quizzical glares. The kind where the person's face looks dumb and dumbfounded at the same time. Pricing is set at US$29 per hat and preorders are scheduled to ship in mid-late April 2007.

Masterpiece MP-05 Megatron

Japanese suppliers have started preorders for Takara's Masterpiece MP-05 Megatron in the past couple of days. Retail pricing is set at JPY10,000 or US$105 from NCS. A couple of Japanese toy distributors added the following stipulation to their preorder solicitation:

As you know, there is a Law for the toy gun in USA. Due to the Toy / Imitation Gun Laws, it is illegal for any business or individual to import the MP-05 Megatron because it does not have a blaze orange safety tip on the end of the barrel.

We will modified the Megatron. We will glued a orange tip to the exterior surface of the barrel, covering the circumference of the barrel from the muzzle end for a depth of at least 6 millimeters according to the Toy / Imitation Gun Law.

Since different suppliers sent the same exact text, we're guessing they got it from a single source. Other than the Namco Guncons we imported a few years ago, NCS hasn't dealt with toy guns in any other capacity so we looked up the "Imitation Weapon Safety Act" which states the following:

Certain Replica, Toy and Imitation Guns Restricted.
It shall be unlawful for any person to sell, offer to sell, possess either concealed or unconcealed, use, attempt to use or give away, any replica, toy or imitation gun which substantially duplicates or can reasonably be perceived to be an actual gun, including, but not limited to, toy guns that have been altered to look like actual guns, unless:

(a) (i) the entire exterior surface of such replica, toy or imitation gun is colored white, bright red, bright orange, bright yellow, bright green, bright blue, bright pink or bright purple, either singly or as the predominant color in combination with other colors in any pattern;
(ii) such replica, toy or imitation gun is constructed entirely of transparent or translucent materials which permits unmistakable observation of the replica, imitation or toy gun's complete contents; and

(b) the barrel of such replica, toy or imitation gun -- other than the barrel of any such replica, toy or imitation gun that is a water gun -- is closed with the same material of which the replica, toy or imitation gun is made for a distance of not less than one-half inch from the front end of said barrel;

Due to the law, NCS will only import the vendor modified version of the Masterpiece MP-05 Megatron. It's unclear if the glue they're using will create a super-strong bond with the gun but we're guessing they'll be using the Japanese equivalent of Elmer's and not Super Glue. The vendor modifications will also potentially leave unsightly fingerprints, smudges, and smears on the toy. Sadly, with the current U.S. law in place, there isn't a workaround unless Takara takes the initiative and manufactures the toy with the orange safety tip already on the production mold which is still a possibility.
Preorders are welcome to ship in mid-late March 2007.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Koyori 1/4 Scale Complete Figure

Voluptuous to a fault and yet athletic and taut, Koyori races around the battlefields of Sengoku Ace with guns blazing. Metonymic pun intended. When not conquering legions of Sengoku-era soldiers with blistering streams of ofuda, the affable Miko lounges at home with her instruments of destruction peppered strategically over parts of her body. Koyori's other weapon of choice, the haraegushi, is held above her head with both hands.

Koyori wears aviator goggles atop her head while perfectly arranged strands of blue tresses stray downwards. The interpretation of Koyori's face in this particular sculpt is robust with our favorite Sengoku-era maiden looking slightly chubbier and perhaps healthier than her Sengoku Cannon turn. Her familiar teardrop-shaped necklace finds a comfortable resting place as it dangles below her chin. Koyori's clothing consists of a pair of tabi socks and a kimono which appears ready to be shucked entirely. Her red hakama is gone with the wind for this particular sculpture. Measurements of the figure are 210mm × 230 × 250mm or 8.25 x 9.05 x 9.84" LWH.

KOS-MOS 1/8 Scale Completed Figure

When KOS-MOS isn't destroying Gnosis or protecting Shion Uzuki from danger, she poses like a covergirl for toy sculptors. First, there was the Mon-sieur Bome variation and now Alter's version as sculpted by Takahashi Tsuyoshi reaches market. After inspecting this new variant carefully, we can safely declare that Namco should have hired Alter to produce the KOS-MOS figure that was bundled inside the limited edition of Xenosaga Ep. II. If they had made that decision, the aftermarket price for the limited edition of the game would be outrageously higher than where it is now.

Succinctly then, Alter's rendition of KOS-MOS is exquisite. Measuring 21cm or 8.26" tall, the translucent blue-haired android features soft lines, the right curves, and a risqué pose that allows for viewing parts of KOS-MOS' front and back at the same time. The paint is applied cleanly and free of chips or cracks. We also observed KOS-MOS' garter to make sure it was free of imperfections as well as her fingers... which are individually sculpted and discernible from each other. As an added bonus, KOS-MOS' neatly painted fingernails are colored the same hue as her flailing hair.

Wii Japanese Console Update

With the Wii launching in Japan this coming Saturday, NCS queried a number of our distributors this past weekend for updates. Although there doesn't appear to be any shortage of the Japanese Wii based on the numbers of units we're being offered (about 350 consoles will be available to NCS as of this coming Friday), prices are nevertheless going up.

Wii Price $395
NCS originally started preorders for the Wii at US$295 but that won't cover the current price of the unit that is being offered. Then there's the overnight shipping costs from Japan which is roughly $50 each. Based on these two variables, NCS is adjusting pricing for the Japanese Wii to US$395. We'll contact customers on our preorder list today to reconfirm.

NCS Calls for Restraint
We consider the price too high and NCS encourages our customers to wait about 2 weeks for the prices to drop to "normal" levels. There isn't any shortage of Wii stock in the Japanese distribution channel and the higher pricing is the usual launch hysteria and histrionics that has become part and parcel of the business we're in.

Wii Reiterations
There is no shortage of Wii consoles in Japan. The current offer price of US$395 is a temporary gouge from suppliers. NCS advises customers to wait it out for ~2 weeks upon which time prices should drop lower.

Bomberman Bakudan Strap

Bomberman has long toiled under Hudson's yoke, appearing in numerous maze-bombing games and other video gaming adjuncts of the original franchise. It all started in 1985 when Hudson introduced gamers to a bomb laying warrior who planted explosives to derail maze-roaming creatures in hot pursuit. From those humble beginnings, Hudson built an enduring franchise which has since branched off into Bomberman racing, mini-game collections, tactical strategy, and adventuring.

When April 2007 rolls around, the exploitation of Bomberman is complete with the Bomberman Bakudan straps. Four varieties are on offer:

Red Bomber | Blue Bomber | Black Bomber | White Bomber

Each Bomber is trailed by a quartet of bombs with lit fuses. The tops of the bombers' heads are also linked to a cellphone strap. Pricing is set at US$4.25 each and preorders are scheduled to ship in mid-late April 2007.

Import Release Outlook

PS2 Tales of Destiny leads preorders for the week followed by PS2 Summon Night 4 and PSP Makai Senki Disgaea Portable. X360 Super Robot Wars XO isn't doing as well as we originally expected.
GBA Final Fantasy VI Advance Square
NDS Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash Star Bandai
Kokoro ni Shimiru Ertain
Tank Beat Milestone
Yu-Gi-Oh GX Spirit Summoner Konami
Zoids Battle Colosseum Tomy
PS2 Digimon Savers: Another Mission Namco
Homura BEST Taito
Kamen Rider Kabuto Namco
Summon Night 4 Banpresto
Tales of Destiny Namco
PSP Bleach Heat the Soul 2 BEST SCE
Makai Senki Disgaea Portable Nippon Ichi
Makai Senki Disgaea Portable Limited Edition Nippon Ichi
Power Stone Portable Capcom
X360 Super Robot Wars XO Banpresto

Domestic Release Outlook

When publishers try to appeal to a preteen demographic, it's important that a word be pluralized with a "z" instead of an "s" to be cool. With that in mind, "Catz," "Hamsterz," and "Horsez" ship to market this week.
GBA Rayman Raving Rabbids Ubisoft
NDS Catz Ubisoft
Hamsterz Life Ubisoft
Xiaolin Showdown Konami
PS2 Brave: Search for Spirit Dancer Southpeak
Horsez Ubisoft
Mercury Meltdown Remix Ignition
PSP Metal Slug Anthology SNK
Online Chess Kingdoms Konami
Sims 2 Pets EA
Wii Metal Slug Anthology SNK
Open Season Ubisoft
Rapala Tournament Fishing Activision
Splinter Cell Double Agent Ubisoft