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Gaming Import Overview for April 11, 2007

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OPM Feeling a Little Blu

While the U.S.’s Official Playstation Magazine stopped its presses at the beginning of the year, the U.K. is receiving the announcement, they can expect Blu-ray cover mounts beginning in June.

Issue number seven of OPM, which goes on sale June 1, comes packed with the first playable Blu-ray disc featuring demos of SCEE and third-party titles. The specific contents of the medium have yet to be announced.

Published by Future in the U.K., the company intends to support multimedia content and “unique user-generated content.” Official game and movie trailers pumped out in Hi-Definition capability are also promised to be featured on the future discs.

"We are delighted that Official PlayStation Magazine will deliver to its readers a monthly playable disc, and the world's first cover mounted Blu-ray disc,” commented OPM Publisher Matt Pierce. “Future has worked closely with Sony since 1995 to offer playable demo discs for Playstation, Playstation 2 and Playstation Portable and we will be working hard to ensure gamers get the very best content for their PS3 as well"

Avid Playstation 3 owners in the U.K. will be able to snag the disc off shelves for the price of 5.99 €.

Nintendo Supports U.S. on Piracy Effort

Do you think game piracy isn’t a big deal? Nintendo does and it has commended the strong support it has received from the United States government in response to rabid piracy in China.

The company estimates more than 7.7 million counterfeit video game products from more than 300 Chinese factories or retailers have been seized from the country in the past four years. In response, the U.S.’s trade representative is seeking formal consultations with China regarding its failure to meet obligations of the enforcement of copyright and intellectual property protection set forth by the World Trade Organization.

Since many Chinese piracy outfits keep low numbers of stock and no records of sale, only one prosecution has been carried out, according to Nintendo, and many producers of the material continue to do so even after confiscations. This year, Nintendo has forwarded evidence regarding piracy in China, Hong Kong, Brazil, Mexico and Paraguay. In 2006 alone, the company is estimating a worldwide loss of $762 million due to pirated products.

To help those who don’t follow the industry worldwide, I’ll try to help you understand the situation before you say “Wah, wah! Nintendo just recorded it’s biggest year ever, cry me a river!”:

For those of us in the United States, piracy tends to bring up the thought of people downloading and sharing ISO files and burning them to a disc, but overseas piracy takes a different angle as well. Companies have notoriously hacked and ported ROMs of video games into cartridges they commonly sell on the market.

I have encountered a number of pirated Game Boy Color carts (featuring ROMs of licensed work) in pawnshops and popular hacks such as the NES’s Somario (where Mario was transposed into the original Sonic the Hedgehog title) appear regularly online. Many of the ROM collection carts are deceptive to customers anyway, as a cart that claims, let’s say, 36 games on one cartridge, is usually just 12 different games reproduced exactly the same three times each.

Many people may not realize this, but in many smaller countries overseas, pirated products can be more common in public than licensed products. I have a good friend who vacationed in the Philippines last year and he made note of the large number of pirated products blatantly displayed for sale in stores and malls. He also noted many of the arcade machines he saw were home console games doctored inside of a cabinet.

This included a Dance Dance Revolution machine that was gutted and contained a Playstation One (at that time last summer, he said the Playstation One became more affordable and was a huge deal over there with games such as Crash Bandicoot just now becoming more popular) and the title Dance Dance Revolution Konamix. He noted the pad was one of the most unsafe playing surfaces he’s ever seen (he owns and operates arcades for a living and visits other locations frequently). Get this – the playing surface was two Playstation One console pads stuffed underneath the arcade sheet metal with no Plexiglas covering up the panels. When you stepped onto a panel, your foot sunk into the pad.

Through all the piracy, Nintendo isn’t the only entity affected, though. Nintendo states more than 100 other companies who independently create, license, market and sell Nintendo products.

Tan Announced as Miss MaxGames

Deborah Tan of Puchong was crowned Miss MaxGames and walked away with a Playstation 3 after topping 14 other contestants at the Hotlink Games and Anime Festival in Sungai Wang Plaza, Singapore, China.

The 20-year-old Tan, part of the MaxGirls All-Star Team along with The Jenni, Kammy Aw and Chrysalis Chae, have also been awarded a MaxGames ambassador contract for the year. The contest pitted 15 female contestants from across the country on stage in mobile phone tournaments based on the games Antopia and The Duel Online.

The mobile phone industry is a multi-billion dollar facet overseas and is quickly becoming wildly popular among Malaysian mobile users. Companies such as MaxGames, which offers subscription-based gaming and services, are looking to expand in territory as a revenue steam of nearly $57 billion dollars is predicted by Juniper Research for the mobile gaming market in the next six years.

“Malaysia’s mobile gaming industry is still at its infancy stage compared to Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan,” said Maxis Head of Games and Entertainment Kee Saik Meng. “Nevertheless, it is growing by leaps and bounds, in line with the ongoing transition from 2.5G (generation) to 3G and the growing profile of young and trendy subscribers between the ages of 18 and 30, who are more receptive to innovative products and services.”

For more information, visit the Miss MaxGames Web page.

PS2 to Get Beaned

Mr. Bean is ready to hit video gaming alongside the silver screen, with Blast!’s recent announcement.

The decorated film, television and animated star in the U.K. will be featured in his own Playstation 2 game hot off the heels of his Mr. Bean’s Holiday theatrical release. The game will feature three-dimensional levels filled with “tricky traps and problem solving” while on a quest to find his missing Teddy. Mr. Bean’s girlfriend Irma Gobb will also be featured in the title.

Through Film Audience Research studies, a majority of surveyed children watch the show regularly and are fans of Mr. Bean. Thus, the game will be developed with younger gamers in mind.

Japanese Console Releases for Thursday, April 12:

The likelihood of domestic release rating is strictly the opinion of the author.

Jissen Pachi-Slot Hisshouhou! Mister Magic Neo – Sega – Playstation 2

Typical Japanese slots/gambling title featuring a magician theme and a network ranking system.

Likelihood of Domestic Release:

Simple 2000 Series Vol. 116: The Neko-Mura no Ninnin Pagu Daikan no Akugyou Sanmai – D3 Publisher – Playstation 2

A new entry into the obviously long line of casual titles published by D3 in Japan.

The game seems to take place in what the title suggests, a neko-mura, or “cat village.” Oddly enough, the screen captures almost look Pikimin-esque, with a number of other cats that can be grouped together to tackle huge foes that resemble Japanese oni, or “demons.”

Some of the captures even have the kitties carrying different types of items around en mass, akin to the aforementioned Nintendo title. The felines are cute for sure, but there’s something about a group of cats manning a gigantic cannon that tells me they have a serious problem to fix.

The game actually looks like it could be decent and it would serve as a Playstation alternative to the nicely done Pikimin series.

Likelihood of Domestic Release:

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Nijuu Spy – Ubisoft – Playstation 2

A brand new Splinter Cell title exclusive to Japan that takes place in the year 2025 starring a clone of Sam Fisher after the original died in a conflict during the Great Ninja War of 2019.

Nah, just kidding. This is a Japanese port of the Double Agent title released in the U.S. late last year.

Likelihood of Domestic Release:

Grim Grimoire – Nippon Ichi Software (NIS) – Playstation 2

In NIS-fashion, Grim Grimoire is another real-time fantasy strategy RPG for the Playstation 2. Judging from the main character’s pointy hat, broom and massive book in hand, magic seems to be the main force behind the title’s game play. Spell types are labeled glamour, alchemy, sorcery and necromancy and using casting circles, familiars can be summoned to do battle or mine crystals.

Developed by Vanilla Ware, Grim Grimoire has already been announced for a North American release by NIS America with a tentative release of June. Much like other Japanese RPGs, the title is looking to feature some quality artwork and I’m adding it to my list of games to keep an eye on.

Likelihood of Domestic Release:

Chicken Little: Uchuu Saikyou no Team – Disney Interactive Studios – Nintendo DS

Already released in the U.S. as Disney’s Chicken Little: Ace in Action.

Likelihood of Domestic Release:

Little Mermaid: Ariel no Umi no Takaramono – Disney Interactive Studios – Nintendo DS

Yet another Disney title already released in the U.S., this one under the title Disney’s The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.

Likelihood of Domestic Release:

Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: MiniMini Daikoushin! – Nintendo – Nintendo DS

Mario’s spin on a Lemming’s type game was released in the U.S. under the March of the Minis title way back in September.

Likelihood of Domestic Release:

Gyakuten Saiban 4 – Capcom – Nintendo DS

April 11, 2007 Import Overview Pick of the Week

Ah, yes, Gyakuten Saiban finally makes its “built exclusively for the Nintendo DS” debut. Parts one and two, while available in ported DS form, were originally released on the Game Boy Advance, along with a third title yet to be ported. Gyakuten Saiban 4 is what we Americans call Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney … except part four subtracts Phoenix Wright from the equation.

Good old Phoenix is known as Ryuuchi Naruhodoh in the Gyakuten Saiban series and the newest installment takes place seven years after the events that occur in Gyakuten Saiban 3. What doesn’t change is the classic Capcom courtroom simulation as Housuke Odoroki steps up to fill the shoes of Naruhodoh through gathering evidence, sweeping crime scenes and talking to witnesses.

While Phoenix Wright 2 introduced the psyche lock system to us, Odoroki can use an ability that focuses on nervous habits of witnesses that allow him to see through lies or disguised emotions. Odoroki is tagged along by a magician named Minuki while he battles his prosecuting rival – his own brother.

Gyakuten Saiban 4 will be coming in a limited edition package in Japan, costing a meaty $130 if imported online. Packaged in a nifty box that resembles a briefcase, contents include Gyakuten Saiban 4 (duh), a pair of red headphones bearing the game’s logo in white (a pre-order bonus that is included only as supplies last), a Gyakuten Saiban encyclopedia and a Gyakuten Saiban animation DVD. The game’s official Web site offers a playable Flash teaser for those who can understand Japanese.

It is important to note while the other Gyakuten Saiban games have featured a selectable English language feature, Gyakuten Saiban 4 is strictly Japanese only. It will play perfectly in a Nintendo DS of a different format, but all text will be in Japanese. Capcom has been teasing gamers outside of Japan with the release of Phoenix Wright 3 and as long as the interest holds up, it’s likely we will be able to see the trials of Housuke Odoroki (who would be obviously renamed) stateside. I, for one, want this game now.

Likelihood of Domestic Release:

Taitsu-Kun: Joushi ga Ikari ni Kuisawayaka Manners – Success – Nintendo DS

Yet another game based on etiquette? It’s like game developers think Japanese people are rude or socially unaccepted or something.

Some of the screen captures show some interesting items such as using the touch screen to properly eat a steak dinner in public. Statistics are tracked in five different areas based on performance and it seems that improper actions are rewarded with hilarious animations of a yellow-suited mascot getting the crap kicked out of him – my favorite being the woman in a mini-skirt putting him in a painful arm bar, which I couldn’t resist posting here.

Once again, it seems a “game” of proper manners could use some use in the United States, but I don’t think we’ll see this one on our shelves.

Likelihood of Domestic Release:

Kakikomi Shiki “Hannya Shinkyou” Renshuu Chou DS – IE Institute – Nintendo DS

Another edutainment title produced for the DS. I came up dry with info on this one.

Likelihood of Domestic Release:

Watashi no Relaxuma – Rocket Company – Nintendo DS

I can gather the game is about a bear, but he seems to … sit around in different rooms and to further complicate matters, the game’s official site has a stylus poking him in … places. Is that supposed to be scratching his butt? Other screens show voice recognition will play a role in the title as well.

This title looks like what Animal Crossing would be if it took place in a single house. There’s options to decorate the bear in customizable shirts (or you can leave him bare – get it? A bare bear! Ha ha ha!). He also has a number of other animal friends to associate with and it appears there are some mini-games included as well.

The star of the game is also featured in the kuma (“bear”) DS holder, which is probably a pre-order bonus or purchasable swag to accompany the title. It looks fuzzy and cute.

Given the natural appeal animal simulation titles have had on the system, I wouldn’t say the title would never come to the U.S. In fact, I would love to have that DS holder. So, please, someone pick up the rights to this so I can carry my DS around inside of a bear’s head!

Likelihood of Domestic Release:

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