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Nippon Line 08/12

8 Dec 2008  by   Paul Younger
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Welcome back to the Nippon Line – mostly straight to the point, but a bit squiggly in the middle. Along the locus this week: the return of the demo disc, Final Fantasy Potion on sale in Japan’s convenience stores, and new deets on DQIX and Star Ocean 4. Get!   

PS3 demo discs due

Remember demo discs? During the 1990s these optical discs full of game fragments were everywhere. On the fronts of magazines (remember those?), included with new consoles as tasters, in cereal packets (possibly)… yep, everywhere. Of course there isn’t much need for demo discs now that we can download everything from PSN and XBLA – or in the case of PC games, direct from developers’ websites – but Japan is still a bit backward in some senses. The ‘demo discs are viable’ sense, for one.

As of December 18th, Sony Japan will begin bundling a Special Demo Disc with every PS3 console sold in this part of the world. The disc – available in two colour-coded versions, Red and White – will feature playable versions of games such as Naruto Narultimate Storm, The Last Guy, Resident Evil 5, Tales Of Valkyria and Metal Gear Solid 4. The discs will also be packed with video footage of eight other PS3 games, including a preview of Level-5’s White Knight Chronicles, which will be released in Japan on December 25th.

The big question here is: Why offer a demo disc, when all of its content is (or will be) available for download from PSN anyway? Is this some crumby kind of incentive to dupe people into buying a console they otherwise might um and ah about picking up? Probably, yes.

Dissidia Final Fantasy PotionI’m not really a fan of Final Fantasy, but if I was of that persuasion I’d be spending all of my loose change on Square Enix’ latest cash-in FF gimmick: the Dissidia Final Fantasy Potion. This Suntory-manufactured soft drink will be available in Japan’s conbinis as of tomorrow, at 200yen for a 350ml can.

Never one to do things the easy/small-scale way, Square Enix has decided to present 16 different can designs, each featuring Yoshitaka Amano’s artwork for one of the fighters in Dissidia: Final Fantasy (a PSP FF spin-off that will be released in Japan next week). Some FF enthusiasts will inevitably attempt to collect the whole lot, shelling out 3200yen to their grateful friends at Square Enix, and will then never open the cans for reasons that only collectors can appreciate. Frankly, I’d rather spend that 3200yen on cans of beer. Mmm, beer…

Dragon Quest IX details

It’s only three months away now and will undoubtedly be the most successful third-party DS game yet, which explains why we’re now at last getting some solid Dragon Quest IX details from Square Enix. The latest issue of Weekly Famitsu highlights the game’s new character customisation options. Players will have 10 faces to choose from as well as 10 haircuts and options in areas such as skin colour, height, eye colour and, um, gender. For some reason, though, all of the character variations seem to be wearing ponchos. Maybe there’s a ‘fashion sense: ON/OFF’ option somewhere in the game’s menus that could be exploited to remedy the poncho situation…

Star Ocean 4 approachesDragon Quest IX is due on the DS in March, but just as significant (for the Xbox 360-owning population in Japan) is the impending arrival of Star Ocean 4, which debuts here on February 19th. It’s looking like a big-budget production and its suggested retail price seems to confirm my suspicion that Square Enix has spent a fortune to get SO4 looking so damn hot: fancy paying 8950yen for a new RPG? At current rates, that’s the equivalent of £64!

Still, the £64 question should be: What new features do you get for your money? And the answer, quite reassuringly, is: Interchangeable characters during battle scenes, meaning you can take control of a team of four best suited to the fight ahead, substituting reserve party members for anyone who is not pulling their weight. Best of all, you can do this without ducking out of or pausing the action. Real-time, like. February can’t arrive soon enough.   

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