Something About Japan: the 3DS games coming Direct to the west

This week’s Nintendo Direct revealed the Western release of a number of hit Japanese games for 3DS, among them Square Enix’s Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, Level-5′s Professor Layton And The Azran Legacy and Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei IV.

Bravely Default will retain its bizarre name as it makes the localisation leap sometime this year. Released in Japan in October 2012, the RPG has sold over 300,000 copies and has been hailed by many as a return to form for Square Enix, with a turn-based combat system similar to Final Fantasy V, lots of voice acting, innovative community features and AR use, plus multiple endings.

Ahead of the game’s original release, producer Tomoya Asano spoke to Japanese site 4gamer about how StreetPass had been implemented to enhance gameplay.

“It uses three main elements of communication,” he said. “One is the reconstruction of your village. You can accelerate your progress in building item shops and so on by recruiting the characters of people you StreetPass with. It also enables you to buy stronger weapons (from these shops).”

He also detailed the Abilink system, whereby you can borrow job classes from your StreetPass buddies. “And the third element is that you can ‘summon’ friends to deliver a powerful blow,” he said.

The game also makes use of the 3DS’ AR functionality, with a nine-minute intro where characters prance about your living room. “There are a few other places where you can use AR,” said Asano, “but we’ve implemented it in such a way that you can still proceed if you’ve left your marker card at home.”

Just two weeks after Bravely Default: Flying Fairy was released in Japan, a PC-only sequel, Bravely Default: Praying Brage, was announced. Given that “brage” is a word sometimes used in connection with both pornography and violent attacks, let’s hope they change the name of that one if it also heads West.

Level-5 has said that Professor Layton And The Azran Legacy will be the puzzle-mad prof’s final outing. And in Japan, while the game sold 130,000 copies in its first week in February, there’s no denying that the series is losing its lustre – there was a time when Layton games would move 300,000 units in their first week. Famitsu gave Azran Legacy a score of 32/40, made up of four 8/10s in its cross-review.

Editor Atsuhiro Fujiwara had mixed feelings: “The voice-actor cast is lavish as always, and a lot of the puzzles have some nice bite to them,” he wrote. “However, some of them have some really confusing descriptive text to go with the package, which was annoying.”

Contributor Rolling Uchizawa commented that the new title lacked originality but that Level-5’s usual polish partly made up for it. “Nothing’s at all new about the play style, but the interface here, refined down to the last detail, is still great. It just feels fun to get to grips with.”

There’s still no word on a Western release for Layton’s other 2012 outing, in Professor Layton Vs Ace Attorney, nor for Level-5’s Layton-related iOS/Android spinoffs. The truly bizarre Nazo Toki Break Chocolates available at Japanese convenience stores, each packaged with a cryptic puzzle to solve over a snack, can stay where they are though – they’re disgusting.

Shin Megami Tensei IV (known in Japan as Megaten IV) has yet to be released in Japan – its 16 July release in the US will come less than two months after it hits Japanese shelves. (Nothing is scheduled yet for Europe.)

Dengeki Online has created a special Megaten IV news site, and this week it reported that Atlus will hold a live event on 27 and 28 April at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, just outside Tokyo, as part of Niconico Chokaigi. Atlus Live 2 Days will give fans their first hands-on with Megaten IV and also Devil Survivor 2 Break Record; there will also be a Megaten IV Q&A sessions with the developers, a talk panel featuring voice actors from DS2BR and a live performance. Punters who play Megaten IV will get not just the satisfaction of a peek at the game but also a Jack Frost phone strap.

Atlus is also holding other hands-on demo events in the run-up to Megaten IV’s release in Japan, clearly hoping to build up a solid word-of-mouth campaign. Given that one of these is an invite-only event where lottery winners can play the game for two hours, Atlus seems pretty confident in the game’s appeal – and coming off the success of Persona 4 Golden, described by us as Vita’s best game so far, it probably has every right to be.

Nintendo announced that it is bringing a few of its own games to Western shores, of course.

On 3DS, Animal Crossing: New Leaf has sat comfortably in the charts since its November release in Japan and has already sold 3.6 million copies. It will finally come to Europe on 14 June.

Game & Wario for Wii U has fared less impressively, only just grabbing the number ten spot on its 28 March release before dropping to No.17. Wii U continues to sell poorly in Japan, with fewer than 10,000 units in last week’s chart, falling behind 3DS LL, 3DS, Vita and PS3. North America will get Game & Wario on 23 June; Europe is still to be confirmed.

But the most interesting new game is not new at all. Released in 1994 in Japan as Mother 2: Gyiyg Strikes Back, cult SNES classic Earthbound got a US release a year later – but has never been available in Europe. It will hit Wii U Virtual Console in the EU later this year, so finally Europeans will get to see what all the fuss is about.