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Jon Brodkin writes "Few game series other than Final Fantasy have consistently provided epic adventures for 25 years—and perhaps no company outside of Nintendo capitalizes on its history like Square Enix. In its latest attempt to merge the best of past and present into one experience, Square Enix has produced the music game Theatrhythm Final Fantasy for the Nintendo 3DS. Joining Guitar Hero-style mechanics, 3D perspective, RPG-like character building and battling, and the rich music catalog of the Final Fantasy franchise, Theatrhythm is impressive, enjoyable, and one of the best examples of why it's worth owning a 3DS and that wacky stylus." Read below for the rest of Jon's review.


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Click here to read Pick the Best Japanese Role-Playing Game for Someone That Never Plays Them

In today's turn-based edition of Speak Up on Kotaku, commenter Monsieur.Froid admits that his Japanese role-playing game experience is limited to Final Fantasy XII. We cannot let that stand. Help him choose a more definitive JRPG to get him hooked on the genre. More »

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Continuing our coverage of the Nubuwo Debut Bundle initiative, we hear from composer Nobuo Uematsu of the Tokyo game sound studio Dog Ear Records.

While indie development is comparatively rare in Japan, prominent game composers are increasingly choosing similarly styled work environments through the formation of their own independent studios. For Uematsu, whose experience includes music for a dozen Final Fantasy titles, going freelance made room for establishing more personal projects.

Through Dog Ear Records, Uematsu focuses his attention on a mix of high profile projects like Piano Opera Final Fantasy IV/V/VI and his own more personally motivated albums, among them Octave Theory by Earthbound Papas. "Financially, we haven't had a big hit yet, or completely surpassed our monetary needs" he says of his studio. "On the other hand it's a very positive work environment."

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Dog Ear Records director Hiroki Ogawa with Uematsu

Other experienced game creators in Japan have balanced work on triple-A development with their own indie projects. Yo1 Komori of Heloli continued to freelance as a programmer while he made Xbox Live Indie shooter Prismatic Solid and puzzler Hacotama. The designer saw XBLIG as a venue for exercising skills outside of his more specialized work for game studios.

Collaborating with Heloli on both Xbox titles were SuperSweep musicians Shinji Hosoe and Ayako Saso. As with their music for the Ridge Racer series of games, the composers were credited as SamplingMasters on the end titles. During our interview with the sound creators last year, they emphasized such benefits as greater artistic freedom and the option to publish soundtracks on their own label as the major draw of joining an independent project.

Indie games in Japan can hardly be discussed without mentioning Cave Story creator Daisuke Amaya. Having established himself through the release of freeware titles like Ika-Chan, the designer is now focused on publishing original and remastered iOS titles. His first app for Studio Pixel is a remake of Azarashi for iPhone, which will precede an entirely new underwater adventure title called Rockfish.


Tony Dickinson's contest-winning arrangement of Earthbound Papas' "Metal Hypnotized," selected by Dog Ear Records staff

The Tokyo-based developers at Nigoro share a similar story to Studio Pixel. Having started out making free Flash games, their first commercial release launched last year in Japan. The remake of their archaeological platformer La-Mulana, an anagram of studio boss Naramura, rose to the top of the WiiWare charts upon its debut and is currently being ported to PC. English-language localization is planned as well, through publisher Nicalis, the company responsible for bringing Cave Story to 3DS.

These examples from Japan demonstrate that indie development has benefits for veteran creators, as well as those just starting out. For the experienced, establishing an indie studio can allow for new artistic challenges and the potential for more personal forms of creative expression.

Photo and video interview by Jeriaska.

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Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi will abandon home consoles for his next project, an iPhone game centred on his hobby of surfing.

The legendary developer told Eurogamer at a BAFTA event in London last night he now had three iOS projects in the works, but remained tight-lipped on the details.

The trio of titles will be "small projects" and "platform" games, following his work on expansive Wii role-player The Last Story.

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Final Fantasy 13 reflected the character of its heroine, Lightning: an elite, standoffish soldier who would let nothing come between her and her mission. The game presented a journey so focused and linear that its first 25 hours could be mapped out as an unbroken corridor. And Lightning's purity of focus saw Square Enix discard many Final Fantasy tropes so she could pursue her goals without distraction.

The series may reinvent itself with each new entry, but the games have always been tied together by common motifs: crystals, summons, Chocobos, airships, Yoshitaka Amano's Klimpt-esque concept art, and that tinkling harpsichord arpeggio. In Final Fantasy 13, both towns and exploration were discarded as extraneous trappings, unnecessary to Lightning's mission or - as it was referred to in the game's terminology - her Focus. Rarely has a game been so focused as to discard so much of its own heritage.

Serah, Lightning's younger sister and heroine of Final Fantasy 13-2 - a rare sequel to a mainline Final Fantasy title - is a primary school teacher in a seaside village. She has none of the steel composure of her elder sibling, none of that dogged determination that makes Lightning such a difficult character to empathise with. And the game world reflects this from the first moment.

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