Friday, October 10, 2003

10th October 2003

First of all, Famitsu is short for Famicom Tsushin. Famicom is, of course, the Japanese name for the NES, but it now means games in general. If someone says they like to play Famicom it doesn't necessarily mean they're an insane retro nut (although most game shops still carry NES games.) Tsushin means communication or publication. So basically it's the highly catchy "Weekly Games Magazine", with the abbreviation Famitsu being sort of like "GameMag".

(Hmm, the spell-checker suggests "Foamiest" for Famitsu.)

GameCube release dates...

Mario Kart DD (perspire) 7th Nov. (shall be buying)
Pokémon Colosseum 21st Nov. (shan't be buying)
Mario Party 5 28th Nov.
Donkey Conga 12th Dec.

(all except Donkey Conga priced 5800 yen (£31/$52)

Donkey Conga is a Parappa-type game, costs 6800 yen (£36/$61) and comes with a special Conga controller.

The Gamecube’s price has been cut to 14000 yen (£75/$126) (not sure what it was before), and the Enjoy Plus Pack, which at 19800 yen (£106/$178) previously contained the GC and Game Boy Player, now comes with a Memory Card 251.

Details of Final Fantasy 12, including the logo and new characters, will be revealed on the 19th Novemeber in Roppongi Hills shopping complex, Tokyo. See the homepage for more details (in Japanese...).

The next pair of Pokémon games, Pokémon Fire Red & Pokémon Leaf Green, will be sold with wireless communication adaptors to enable easier battling & trading between friends.

Kingdom Hearts II (PS2) and Kingdom Hearts: Chain Of Memories (GBA) announced by Square/Enix, the newly merged company.

GTA3 (the original) was released here on the 25th September, and has caused quite a stir from my extensive research (reading magazines in shops). This week's Famitsu contains an article entitled Western Games cause sensation in Japan?.

"A few years ago, games from foreign countries rarely became hits in Japan. The graphical style and game content [of those games] are different, and many people had a negative image when they heard the phrase "Western game"... the North American monster hit Grand Theft Auto III sold over 120,000 copies in its first week on sale in Japan. Have gamers started to recognise Western games [as enjoyable]?"

The article also reports that at the 2003 Tokyo Game Show, where the Japanese version of GTA3 made its debut, even with under-18s not allowed to play there was a one-hour wait for the playable demos on display.

Strangely, the PS2 EyeToy camera accesory was released in Europe before anywhere else in the world, and Famitsu includes it in a section on upcoming Western games to watch for, titled Not Yet Landed: Pay attention to these titles!. The other games mentioned are The Getaway (PS2), FIFA Total Football(PS2) and Tao Feng: Fist Of The Lotus (XBox).

The article compares the best-selling games to date on all three major systems in Japan and America. First, they comment that the most popular genres are Sports, Action & RPG in Japan, and Racing, Action and Sports in the US. Then, on to the numbers.

Super Mario Sunshine is the No.1 GC seller in America, with 992,703 copies sold, while Mario Party 4 is No. 1 in Japan with 677,890 copies. (Remember, this is all sales to date.) But Sunshine came 2nd in Japan with 677,440 copies, and Mario Party was 5th in America, with 502,058. Just to compare the numbers, the highest selling PS2 games (see table) sold 4,446,677 (US) and 1,115,707 (Japan).

I couldn't care less about the XBox so I'm not going to write all the numbers up, but the Japanese sales numbers are pitiful -- the top 5 to-date sales go from a "high" of 178,258 for the first placed game, Dead Or Alive 3, to 38,627 for Project Gotham at No.5. By comparison, the lowest of the other No.5s was US XBox Ghost Recon, which sold 377,349 copies -- twice as much as Japan's best-selling XBox game.

Top GC Sellers To Date

1. Super Mario Sunshine
2. Metroid Prime
3. Smash Bros DX
4. Sonic Adventure 2
5. Mario Party 4

1. Mario Party 4
2. Super Mario Sunshine
3. Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker*
4. Smash Bros DX
5. Animal Forest Plus**

* Zelda's Japanese subtitle is "The Wind Conductor". Zelda III was "Triforce Of The Gods".
**= Animal Crossing. Animal Forest was a Japan-only N64 title.

Top PS2 Sellers To Date

1. GTA: Vice City
2. GTA3
3. Madden NFL Superbowl 2003
4. Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec
5. Medal Of Honour: Something or other*

1. World Soccer Winning Eleven 6**
2. Onimusha 2
3. Kingdom Hearts
4. Shin Sangoku Muso 2: Moshoden***
5. Tales Of Destiny 2

*Possibly Underground, but I don't know if there are any others since that, so can't be sure. The Japanese subtitle doesn't seem to match any of the English ones I can recall.
**Known in the west as ISS, but they don't linearly convert each Winning Eleven to an ISS.
***I'm sure you've heard of it. It's a wargame.

Next up is the Top 30 All-Formats chart. No. 1 is the aforementioned Shin Sangoku Muso 2: Moshoden. Just rolls off the tongue. No. 2 is Grand Theft Auto 3. The highest placed GC game is at No. 6 (you wouldn't know it, neither do I in fact, so I'll refrain from bothering to mention the title), and the highest GBA game is at No. 8 (ditto). The XBox is a no-show, but there's a Dreamcast game in at No. 13! A system that was pronounced dead a long time ago is currently more popular than XBox. That'll teach MicroShaft (see also: Micro$oft, Satan) to try and take over yet another market. (I'm now officially, as Digitiser might put it, a Mac zealot.)

Top 30 Breakdown: 17 PS2 games, 7 GBA, 5 GC and 1 Dreamcast.

Next is the Top 30 Most Wanted Games.

1. Dragon Quest VIII (PS2): after running almost parallel to Final Fantasy in sequel numbers for years, they seem to have fallen badly behind.
2. Biohazard 4 (GC): aka Resident Evil. Must be the only case where the Western name is more interesting and evocative than the Japanese one. Wario Ware Inc.: Mega MicroGame$, anyone?
3. Metal Gear Solid 3: The Snake Eater (PS2) Hmm. What eats snakes? Anyway, "Iii am Psycho Maaantiissss" etc.
4. Mother 3 (GC). Mother 2 was released in the West as Earthbound on the SNES. Mother 1+2, a compilation cart, was released on the GBA a while ago.
5. Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GC): I hope they keep the double exclamation marks in the English version.

And so forth. Notable titles include Pikmin 2 (GC), Biohazard: Outbreak (PS2), Mario Tennis GC (working title).

How often have you seen an article online or in a magazine noting what score Famitsu gave a game? Like when they give games surprisingly low marks, and when they gave their first ever perfect score to a game (Wind Waker, wasn't it?). Now you can see what the reviews look like courtesy of this blurry shot.

Cross Review Page

As you can see, each reviewer has a bit of space for comments on each game and their score is watermarked into the background of their paragraph. Although Western news sources tend to refer to the scores as being out of 40, it's actually four reviewers giving marks out of ten, and nowhere do they "officially" make these scores into an overall total. Also, there's one group of four reviewers for home consoles (literally "game machines that you leave where they are") and one for portables (GBA & WonderSwan).

There's also each person's pick of the week, some retrospectives (this issue has Pilotwings 64), and some reader ("user") reviews. Interestingly, the reader reviews seem to be a massive thing, as they give the average score out of ten, the total number of people who reviewed the game. They only actually print a summary of the general opinion of the game, and around 5 positive and 5 negative comments, not a whole review from someone. So it's more like Reader Ratings, I suppose.

For example, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (GC) was rated by 493 people, with an average score of 8.2. They break this down further into how many gave it 0-4, 5-7 and 8-10 points.

More interestingly, the real reviewers review Collect!! Made In Wario (GC). It's a multiplayer version of WarioWare, but it gets a lukewarm 7-7-7-6 (total 28/40). According to "Kamikaze Nagata", "The minigames are exactly the same as those on the GBA version, so experienced players [of that game] will be really disappointed."


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