Important Importables: Vanillaware

March 20, 2010 - 2:00 am No Comments

Hot Japanese Imports: Vanillaware

Section: Exclusives, Originals, Features, Columns, Japanese Imports, Consoles, PS2, Wii, Consoles-Other, Handhelds, DS, PSP, Game-Companies, Developers, Publishers, Genres, 2D, Action, Adventure, Role-Playing, Strategy

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Princess Crown PSP

In this week’s Hot Japanese Imports, we’re going to look at one of my favorite Japanese video game developers, Vanillaware. The company may not be one of the most prolific developers out there, but they do make some of the most gorgeous video games available.

In a way, that works out better for us today! We’ll take a brief look at Vanillaware, and then another quick peek at all five games Vanillaware has created so far!


What’s Vanillaware?

In short, Vanillaware Ltd. is a Japanese video game developer that focuses on making high quality, artistic, 2D games.

Vanillaware’s games are quite distinctive, due to their visuals. They almost always have what appear to be hand-drawn, or painted, characters and backgrounds. Also, they often are genre bending, encorporating a number of different styles and traits from action, RPG, fighting and sometimes even strategy or simulation games.

The company hasn’t existed for too long as Vanillaware, but has been around in some form since around 1997, when the game Princess Crown was made for the Sega Saturn. Back then some of the founding members of Vanillaware worked for Atlus, and created the game. The developer originally was called Puraguru, but is now known as Vanillaware and has only developed games under that moniker.


Vanillaware’s games

Princess Crown (Sega Saturn, PSP)

Princess Crown is quite similar to Odin Sphere in terms of presentation, so this may all sound familiar. The opening segment has a little girl who grabs books, and then takes them to her grandmother to read the stories of Princess Gradriel, Edward, Portgus and Prosperina. The main story is that of Gradriel, the crown princess of a kingdom who heads out into the world to learn to be the proper queen and aid her kingdom. After you finish her storyline, the secondary characters’ stories pop up and can be played at your leisure.

Princess Crown was never released outside of Japan. However, there was a pretty complete English walkthrough created (check GameFaqs) and the PSP version is region-free and available in a best price edition. It’s a side-scrolling, action RPG, and if you’re familiar with Muramasa or Odin Sphere you’ll be fine.

GrimGrimoire (PS2)

GrimGrimoire is a magical, time traveling mystery game that’s reminiscent of the movie Groundhog Day. New magic student Lillet Blan comes to her new school and, five days after arriving, finds that everyone’s been killed by an evil force. Right before she’s defeated by this entity, she’s sent back in time to the day she arrived at the school. So now she must keep reliving those five days, each time around becoming a stronger magician and getting closer to preventing the disaster.

You can pick up GrimGrimoire and experience it for yourself, if you’d like. NIS released it in the US and Korea, and Koei released it in Europe and Australia. So as long as you have a PS2 and live in one of those regions, you can play. It’s a real time, strategic RPG.

Odin SphereOdin Sphere (PS2)

Odin Sphere is the tale of five intertwined characters, Gwendolyn the Valkyrie, Oswald the dark knight, Cornelius the pooka, Velvet the witch and Mercedes the fairy princess. All the stories lead up to the end of their world as they know it, and you can switch off between as you’d like. They’re all segmented into chapters of their own books, but the final book has all five characters as playable heroes and heroines. It’s largely inspired by fairy tales and mythology.

Like GrimGrimoire, Odin Sphere has received a worldwide release. Atlus brought it to Japan, North America and Korea, and Square Enix brought it to Europe and Australia. It’s very similar to Princess Crown in terms of gameplay, as its also a side-scrolling, action RPG.

Kumatanchi (DS)

Kumatanchi is essentially a pet simulator. You’re a zoo keeper who is taking care of Kuma-tan, a little bear girl, while her zoo is being fixed. It takes place in real time, and so for two weeks you have to watch over her and guide her using the touch screen. You can make money by taking pictures of her and having her perform successful shows, alter her environment, direct her to interact with her surroundings and watch as she talks with other

Kumatanchi hasn’t been released in English, but don’t despair. It’s a DS game, so it’s region-free, and import friendly since controls mainly rely on icons and images.

Muramasa The Demon Blade

Muramasa: The Demon Blade (Wii)

Muramasa: The Demon Blade is Vanillaware’s most recent release and follows the adventures of an amnesiac ninja named and a princess named Momohime who’s possessed by the swordsman named. Both characters are searching for the legendary Muramasa for their own means, and completing both stories unlocks additional endings.

As long as you live in Japan, North America, Europe or Australia, you can experience Muramasa: The Demon Blade for yourself. Marvelous released it in Japan, while Ignition took care of North America and Australia and Rising Star Games handled Europe. It’s an action RPG somewhat similar to Princess Crown and Odin Sphere, though there are fewer characters and more platforming elements.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Hot Japanese Imports looks at 10 of the weirdest Japanese DS boxarts.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Hot Japanese Imports reviewed Sakura Wars 3: Is Paris Burning? for the Dreamcast

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Full Story » | Written by Jenni Lada for Gamertell. | Comment on this Article »

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