Sunday, January 31, 2016

Zelda Tri-Force Keychain




At the same time I got Shampoo, I found a machine for the Zelda video games. 5 keychains in the series, including Link painted on a brick wall, a sword in a rock, two of the Tri-Force emblems, Zelda and Link. These are 300 yen apiece, and I only wanted one keychain to represent the set, preferably one of the two humanoids.



Unfortunately, I got the Tri-Force emblems. The character designs on Link and Zelda aren't that great, so I don't want to waste another 300 yen or more in trying again. I'll live with the keychain I got.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Chameleon DS comments


(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Kurukuru Chameleon, 2005, Star-Fish
"Kurukuru" in Japanese is a sound effect for a small, spinning object. The game came out in Japan originally in 2005, was ported to the Nintendo DS in 2006, and was released in the U.S. in 2007 under the title Chameleon: To Dye For (with really crappy cover art, if I may add). The GameFAQs stats indicate that there have been 31 registered users of the game, but very few of them rated the game play, perceived play level or identified how long they played it.



In the U.S., the game was $18 new; I got it used for 250 yen ($2.10 USD) just because I felt like expanding my collection. Chameleon builds on the match the colors/match the shapes concept first explored with Tetris, and expanded on by Puyo Puyo and just about every other table top-style game released ever since. It's 2-player, on a long rectangular field. You start out in opposite corners, and the hexes between you either have colored tiles, rocks or bombs. Rocks are barriers, and bombs cause the neighboring tiles to become unclaimed and turn random colors. The players take turns selecting one of four available colors from the menu palette. There are actually 6 colors, but the two used by the players in the previous turn are disabled for the next turn. Choosing the color of a neighboring set of tiles makes them part of your collection, and expands your influence in the map.


(Typical starting positions for all of the modes.)

You can choose to play as one of 4 chameleon girl characters, and you then go up against the other three in either Normal, Story or Continuous modes. Each girl has a special attack (turn one group of tiles to stone, turn one group of stones to active tiles, etc.), but otherwise there's no difference in strategies between them. The only real reason to pick one over the other is in story mode, to find out what the stories are. Then, there are three possible goals to each round. One goal is to capture 50% or more of the tiles before your opponent does. Next is to race to a flag in the center of the field. Third is to capture the "kings" (super tiles placed on the field in odd numbers; you have to get 6 tiles surrounding the edge of the king to claim it). There's no score to the games, either you win or you lose, and it doesn't matter how elegantly you capture tiles. Taking the full board one tile at a time, or racing up to the middle of the board and sealing off your half for 50 tiles in one stroke makes no difference in the long run. All that's important is that your strategy allows you to achieve the requirements for that game, or it doesn't.


(Capture the Kings round.)

The normal and story modes only have 9 or so rounds, and the last 3 are up against the story boss - Mama Chameleon. Defeat her and the game is finished for the character you chose. In continuous mode, you randomly face any one of the other three girls, or mama, and there's no upper limit on the number of rounds. However, if you go into options, you can set 1, best 2 of 3, or best 3 of 5 modes for the games to make things more challenging. The artwork and character designs are good, the game play is simple if occasionally frustrating, and I guess the music is ok (I kept it and the character voices turned off most of the time). The game AI is very rudimentary - I occasionally won simply because my opponent made bad choices. There's no real replay value though. After finishing all the different modes with each of the 4 girls, I got bored and put the game away, which represented maybe 6-8 hours of play time. The English cheats on GameFAQs say that you can unlock mama as a playable character if you finish the story mode with any of the girls, but I couldn't get that to work on my version. Sigh.


(Your character is happy if she wins.)

Summary: Chameleon is a simple matching game that you can either play against the computer or a friend, as one of 4 characters, up against the other three or boss mama, in either story, normal, or continuous modes, You can easily master most of the strategy in a few minutes, and beat every aspect of the game in a few hours. I only took 6-8 hours to explore everything. It stands up against most smartphone table-style games, but is recommended only if you can find it really cheap, used. (Comment: The Star Fish website shows the PSP version, which looks much more powerful than the DS port. If you have a PSP, that might be the better version of the game.)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Shampoo Figure




While the Capsule Cafe capsule ball dispenser shop in Tenmonkan has closed, there are still many places that have these machines. One place is just a couple blocks away at the other side of Street Car Street. I wanted to check out their selection, and noticed two machines that had things that I did want (rather than having things I'd get just to post photos of them to the blog because they're so weird). One of the two has figures from Ranma 1/2. The series includes both the male and female versions of Ranma, P-chan, Ranma's father in panda form and Shampoo. They're 300 yen apiece ($2.60 USD), and I only wanted one figure to represent the set. I'd settle for either female Ranma or Shampoo.



I got Shampoo on the first try, so I'm happy. She's about 2" tall, and is large enough that she was in two pieces in the capsule and needed to be assembled. This is another desktop accessories set, but Shampoo is just intended to be propped on the edge of a book, or table.



She's very well-designed and fabricated for the price.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

500 Yen Prefecture Coins






Well, I guess we're coming down to the wire now, regarding the 47 Prefecture 500-yen Coins collection. Wakayama, Osaka, Nagasaki and Chiba came out on the 20th, but it took a few days for them to reach Kagoshima. The series started running, at 2-4 coins every 6 months or so, back in 2008. I didn't start collecting them until 2012, meaning I missed the first 19, and then Kagoshima sold out right away and I couldn't find anyone else I know in Japan to buy it for me elsewhere. But, I have the other 25 coins from 2012 to 2016, and there are only 2 left on the schedule - Fukushima (which had been ravaged by the big earthquake and reactor meltdown in 2011) and the 23 Tokyo Wards region. The Japan Mint site doesn't have a fixed release date yet, but the last 2 coins are tentatively set to come out in July.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Scrap




I was in Tenpara, a multi-floor building that has a movie theater complex on the 3-5th floors, and I noticed display copies of Scrap magazine on a table next to the escalators. The cover is telling people to visit Osaka.





All the ads seem to be for real-time escape games produced by Scrap company, under the "realdgame.jp" web banner. Not all of the games have an anime-based theme, but most of the artwork on the pages here are for shows like Conan, Lupin III, One Piece, Evangelion and the like.









I'd seen an ad for an escape game in Kagoshima back in August, but it was pretty price, at $30 for one try. These things seem to be very popular, but I'm not going to spend that kind of money just to see what it's like (unless I can find someone that can read and write Japanese to go with me).

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Marugoto Fair Jan. 23


Saturday and Sunday

("Aku-ne. Delicious-ne, Beautiful scenery-ne". An ad for the city of Akune.)

I mentioned last week that there weren't that many more events coming up in the near future, but that there would be another local products fair, or something, at Amu Plaza from the 22nd to the 24th. Friday's event just consisted of some booths selling food stuffs, and I pretty much ignored that. My schedule for Saturday initially was for classes from 4:30 to 8:30 PM, which would have been good for me because I'd have a couple hours mid-day to check out the event. Unfortunately, two of the students asked to move things around and suddenly it was 1-3 PM, 4:30-5:30 and 7:30-8:30. This destroyed any chances of seeing anything during the day, because it takes almost 30 minutes to get from the school to the main train station. On the other hand, the grocery store near the apartment has a 10% discount on milk on Saturdays, and I prefer to go there before work to buy milk for the week, bring it back home and then heading out for the school. I ended up waking up at 10:30 AM, giving me a few extra minutes during the milk run to run up to Amu Plaza to find out what the live performances schedule was.



It was a nice day, with temps in the 50's. The event itself had a slightly different billing than before. The last two weekends were "All-Kagoshima Products Fairs", while this one is "Northern Satsuma Products and Tourism Exhibit". So, there were a few foamhead mascots promoting towns in the area this time.


(Ak-kun, the Akune mascot.)


(The mascot for the Kanoya city rose gardens.)


(Guree-bu, plus the events stage.)

What was disappointing was that the exhibit started at 10:30 AM with a taiko drum group, which I missed, and was then followed by mostly simple advertising for the shops and tour agencies there. The only thing other than the taiko group I'd have any interest in at all was a masked hero stage play featuring a character called "Shou Senshi Velter" (Rice Pot Fighter Velter). Velter apparently started representing Kagoshima in 2007, but the last mention of him on the net was in 2014. This is probably a mascot combat stage fight, and it might be fun to record and put on youtube. It was scheduled for 2:30 on Saturday, in the middle of one of my classes, and at 3 PM on Sunday, when I'd be free to come watch it. Unfortunately, and as you should already know from the last two blog entries, Kagoshima was hit by a major snowstorm that shut the city down and caused the Northern Satsuma Exhibit to be cancelled for Sunday. Sigh. So, I spent part of Sunday afternoon looking at winter coats in the Daiei department store (everything was too small for me), wandering Tenmonkan looking at snow lumps and trying to find places that were open, and then drinking coffee at a Tully's shop for an hour. The rest of the day, I stayed home and worked at keeping warm (the apartments here have no insulation).

Snow Day 3


Ok, time to wrap this up. Tuesday, there was still some snow remaining on the ground and on rooftops, but the city was more or less back to normal. The above photo is of Hirata Park, which is a few blocks from the apartment. As you can see, most of the snow had been used for making snow lumps.



Example lump one.



Snow lump two has spawned snow lump three. It's the Attack of the Snow Goons!



I had to go in to work at the school at 5:30 PM on Tuesday, but the student called to cancel just as I walked in the door, so I headed over to Maruya Gardens to do some reading in the Junkudo bookstore. Along the way, the sunset caught my eye. No one else around me paid any attention to it. Fortunately, there was a break in traffic so I could go out to the middle of the street for a couple photos.



This is pretty much what it looked like. And, that's all about snow. Until the next blizzard.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Snow Day 2




The temps dropped below freezing Sunday night, so the snow was still on the ground Monday morning. A few companies remained closed for the day (including Lotteria in Tenmonkan), while others opened 2-3 hours late. The city buses began running at 1 PM, while the street cars were in full operation by mid-afternoon. I had a class near City Hall at 3 PM, and since the sky was still mostly clear, I headed down to Dolphin Port afterward to get photos of the volcano.



Some of the snow looked dirty, so I assume the volcano chuffed once or twice at some point. There was almost no snow in the flat open park area on my side of the port, because someone had come in and made a whole bunch of big snow lumps. That, and the sun was melting off anything not protected by the shade.



By the time the sun went down, all of the main streets were snow-free, but still wet. They also were starting to look pock-marked because of all the buses and big trucks with unnecessary chains on the tires. The side streets were maybe 40% slush covered. Air temps hovered just above freezing, with a predicted overnight low of 26 F and heavy cloud cover again.



Three people at a neighboring apartment building decided to take the "Frozen" idea one step farther along, printing the facial features on paper and cutting them out with a scissors.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snowstorm Jan. 24




A cold front swept south over the entire country last night, and Kagoshima had snow all day. Last year, the total snowfall in the city consisted of one single light dusting that melted before hitting the ground. Today, maybe 1" to 2" total.



It looks nice, but the streets and sidewalks were mostly slushy. Many of the cars on the streets had chains on the tires (no idea where the chains came from, since there's never been any need for them in past years...)





The air did have a bit of a bite to it, although the temps stayed above freezing during the day. The side streets were getting a little crusty as the sun started going down at 4 PM. The weather forecast for the night was a low of 28 F. (As of Tuesday morning my time, the snow is still on the ground and hasn't started melting off yet.)





Half the city shut down. The Marugoto Fair in front of Amu Plaza got cancelled, and Amu Plaza itself closed at 2:30 PM. Maruya Gardens, Yamakataya, and several other large shopping areas never even opened this morning, as far as I can tell. Other places were closing by mid-afternoon or early evening. In a way it made sense because many shop staff can't afford cars and only get around on scooters or bicycles, and expecting them to go home at night in the slush would be a bit much. But still, there were a lot of customers out and about, including Chinese tourists suddenly having no place to spend their money.





Most people in Kagoshima have no practice making snowmen (called "yuki daruma") so most of what they did make ranged more around "lumps with twigs"). These, though, were located in front of a hair stylist's parlor.





This one was kind of funny. This is a Tully's coffee shop in Tenmonkan, and they're pretty far back away from the street. But they were also shutting up early, at 3 PM, I guess mainly for a lack of customers. But, they did have their own little snowman in front of the shop doors.



It might be more charitable to call it a snow bird, with coffee beans for eyes.
Update: Tuesday morning, many shops were opening 2-3 hours later than normal, and street car service from south Kagoshima to Tenmonkan was expected to resume around noon, maybe. The main streets were all clear because the cars cleared the snow off by friction, but the side streets and sidewalks were still covered with 1-2 inches of crusty slush. Temps were expected to range from a high of 36 to a low of 24 F.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sakurajima Snowcap




A few days ago, we got a mix of rain with falling temperatures. This is the most snow I've seen on Sakurajima so far. Well, had seen. It snowed overnight last night, and the entire city has a light blanket now. I haven't been outside yet, so I don't have new pictures to add today. I'll do that later. But, I expect that Sakurajima is completely white now.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Kirin Star Wars




Kirin can coffee tied in with the latest Star Wars movie to produce character profile cans. The profiles read like D&D character cards... The coffee tastes like burned dish water.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hamburg-ya




The capsule ball dispensers continue to get weirder and weirder. This time we have "Hamburger Shop", with a young woman that likes dressing up as fast food. These are cell phone straps, and are about 1" tall.



Onee-san (Older Sister) Profile:
"Born in the countryside in the Tohoku region. She studied small and medium-size business general affairs for 3 years before coming to Tokyo to continue with her education. She then found employment there. She's fit in so well that she's become a "city girl". She's been able to slowly put money away into savings. At the moment, rather than looking for a boyfriend, she prefers trying out new restaurants and searching for delicious food. Her main focus is on trying to decide which food shop to visit next."

Profile for Toshinao Aoki, Onee-san artist
"Has worked on the "Ugougo Ruuga", "Mushimaru Q" and Okaasan to Ishou" (With Mama) children's TV anime series as a character designer, as well as on the game animation for "Yuru Yuru Theater." More recently, he's focused solely on drawing manga. "Rail of Life" is on sale and has received high praise! He's also drawn the illustrations for the book tie-in to the morning TV drama "Ama-chan"."