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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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PlayStation 3
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February 09, 2010
Star Ocean: The Last Hope

Star Ocean 2: Second Evolution

Star Ocean: First Departure

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time

Star Ocean: The Last Hope International
White Knight Chronicles
 Written by Adam Woolcott  on February 01, 2010

Special: When it rains, it pours

Since the launch of the PlayStation 3, Japanese RPG fans have bemoaned the lack of their favorite genre on the machine. Sure, sometimes publishers throw the PS3 a bone ? ports of 360 JRPGs like Enchanted Arms and Eternal Sonata come to mind, along with a few exclusive RPGs that are even more specialized in being Strategy RPGs. Otherwise, PS3 fans had to either play the Xbox 360's larger but still small selection, or keep playing PS2, which even in 2010 will get another game in the genre. Thankfully, with Final Fantasy XIII looming, the tides are beginning to shift a bit, especially here in February - before FFXIII hits our shores. With three Japanese role-playing games coming in the shortest month of the year ? two of them exclusive to PS3 ? JRPG fans who own a PS3 will be swimming in the genre for the first time ever. The best part is, all of them offer something different, enough that all three might be worth checking out for their unique take on role-playing. The old adage is coming to mind: good things indeed come to those who wait.

White Knight Chronicles ? February 2, 2010
Level 5's latest RPG was announced at TGS 2006 and released in Japan in December of 2008. We in the west are finally getting it right as February kicks off. Despite the tardiness, White Knight Chronicles will be the most complete version of the game, and the extra time in localizing and bringing over some new content not in the original Japanese release is making for a more well-rounded experience. White Knight is unique in that it's both a lengthy offline, single-player game, as well as a Phantasy Star Online-esque online game where you can team up with friends and go after completely different quests and find items unique to the online mode. It's also unique in that you aren't the main character of the story ? instead, you are something of a background figure, albeit one that you can create and customize to your liking, which might make up for the whole ?tagging along? thing. In the story, your friend Edward finds out he can transform into the White Knight, and along with other friends go out questing to, well you know, save the world and stuff.

However, your character isn't stuck in the single-player world. They also can be taken online, where very different quests and items appear ? items that you can bring with you back to the story mode. Also cross-compatible is the Georama mode, that lets you build a town offline, stock it with vendors and people who you coerce into moving there, and ultimately take it online for other players to visit, even if you're not playing. The so-called ?International? edition also features dozens of brand new quests not found in the Japanese version, quests you can handle with friends or sometimes take on by yourself. This version also brings in voice chat, so get your bluetooth headsets ready to better communicate with your friends and teammates. The combat engine is, on the surface, similar to Final Fantasy XII, but with even more customization and combat techniques, it sets itself apart. WKC can be seen as the ?trigger? to a pair of very busy months for PlayStation 3 ? but with a lengthy quest and tons of multiplayer action, the game might last well beyond those busy days ahead.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope International - February 9, 2010
Star Ocean: The Last Hope released in February 2009 on Xbox 360 to lukewarm reviews and even more lukewarm sales, which is probably why we are discussing the PS3 port. Though the fourth Star Ocean game, The Last Hope isn't a sequel to the top-selling Star Ocean 3, but instead a reboot of the entire series...probably due to the infamous plot twist in 3, a twist that ruined the game for a great many. After the devastation of World War III, the newly formed Earth Federation decides it's time to go into space, and your main characters Edge and Reimi lead one ship into the great beyond, where of course things go bad. If you're a Star Ocean junkie, the game goes out to explain many of the things that were in place during the first few games, making it a reboot and a prequel. The ?International? in the title mostly means new stuff; the PS3 version will allow for the Japanese language track and the ability to switch battle portraits to the anime styled ones from the Japanese release. Also included are a couple new characters and added events to lengthen an already massive game.

The battle system doesn't go far from the one presented in Star Ocean 3, using real-time battles alongside AI teammates that you can switch between and use exclusively if you choose. The new thing is an in-depth counter system that lets you dodge an enemy attack and return the assault immediately, leaving them open for even more damage. Add on a ton of battle trophies to earn with each character and I can see the die-hards spending hours and hours trying to get them all. Tack on post-game dungeons, a ton of secret events that shape the ending you receive, and another in-depth invention system to get the best weapons, and like previous games in the series, fans can get enough replay value to last years. Like White Knight, if Star Ocean: The Last Hope tickles you in the right way, it could last well beyond February and past the release of Final Fantasy.

Last Rebellion ? February 23, 2010
There's a good chance you might not have even heard of Last Rebellion, and that wouldn't come as a surprise...since it just came out in Japan at the end of January. Disgaea publisher NIS America is bringing this Hit Maker title over, and though it's a dark horse, it looks to bring some interesting concepts to the table ? it has to, considering the games that release before and after it. While it will not be as popular as either of the first two games, it should carve a niche for those JRPG fans who like to dig a little deeper than the so-called ?mainstream? fare from Sony and Square-Enix. Last Rebellion doesn't feature a full party or a large cast of characters, instead featuring just two playable characters ? a swordsman named Nine, and a female ?sealer? named Aisha, who work in tandem. The game features an open-world type of exploration, though battles will play out in the traditional turn-based format, though with a twist.

That twist is how the two characters function together in battle. Both characters take up one single turn, so you have to think about how to attack ? use Nine for the physical attacking, and Aisha for sealing them. The game features a limb-targeting mechanic a la Fallout 3; aiming at the legs for instance will make it difficult for enemies to run or dodge attacks. It's a neat idea, and hopefully it plays out well to set it apart from other turn-based RPGs out there. The story is mostly familiar fare of evil rising and the wise-cracking, sometimes mean main character and the kind female lead out to stop them, but the sandbox-like mechanic and different take on battles could make the generic plot concept blend into the background. Maybe. While the first two games here are known quantities, Last Rebellion could end up being a dud, but it also could be a sleeper hit for those looking for a traditional Japanese RPG with a touch of originality to help it along.

The battles only get tougher from here...
February 2010 is definitely a ?storm before the storm? in the Japanese RPG world. Final Fantasy XIII, controversial as it might end up, will thunderously slam into March, and the PS3 will get a frequent stream of the genre from here on out. Resonance of Fate is coming in the spring, 3D Dot Heroes, though more of an action-RPG, will be here in May. Atelier Rorona is set for summer, and Ar tonelico III, recently released in Japan, will be here at some point. And maybe Namco will hear the pleas of PS3 fans and bring the Japanese port of Tales of Vesperia over to make it even better. Perhaps the internal teams at Atlus will even finally make the move to a high-definition console this year with a Shin Megami Tensei game. While it's doubtful we'll ever see the constant barrarge of JRPGs on consoles with the domination of DS and PSP in Japan, console RPGs are not dead; they're just taking a lower profile in our new gaming world of shooters and sandbox games. If February is anything to go by, there's always going to be enough Japanese RPGs to go around.

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