By Benny Carrillo / July 29th, 2016
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed as part of this panel recap are those of the writer and do not reflect those of oprainfall as a whole.
JAST USA is a company that any old school Eroge player knows, heck just utter the term “Dating Sim” or “Bishoujo Game” and you’ll see who really knows their history. Back before we even were talking about Visual Novels on Steam, one of the only ways you could procure these games was by buying the physical discs from J-List or finding them at Anime Conventions. As one of the oldest, if not the oldest, localization houses for Eroge in west, they’ve been through their ups and downs, but their hearts have always been in the right place I believe. So heading into their panel on July 2nd, which would be my second year in a row attending, I was unsure of what to expect but hopeful for some great announcements. I was not disappointed.
JAST USA, J-List and Jbox. Who’s Who?
The panel was hosted by Peter Payne, who runs both J-List and JAST USA. Peter has been in the industry for quite a long time and if you’ve ever followed J-List’s twitter, he’s the one posting things there. If you’ve ever been to a convention where J-List has a booth then you’ve no doubt run across him at the Eroge section talking fans and selling them games. That’s not to say this doesn’t happen at MangaGamer or Sekai Project’s booths as well, but I’ve rarely seen Peter selling product outside of the Eroge section. Which is interesting when you consider the diversity of products for sale at the J-List booth. It really does show, I think, his love for the genre. So making him the host makes a lot of sense. Let’s jump into the panel itself though and go over a few things.
Peter opened with a brief explanation of JAST USA and J-List. The main thing to take away from this is that JAST USA handles localization of Eroge. J-List is more of a general store for various Japanese goods (including textbooks) of both the All-Ages (technically called J-Box) and Adult variety (J-List). You can even find some of MangaGamer’s physical editions for sale on their store. This also plays into the fact JAST USA really champions its physical editions. While the company does offer direct downloads from its site, and Steam releases where it can, they’ve been putting out collector’s editions of pretty much all their recent and upcoming releases. This includes Starless: Nymphomaniacs’ Paradise, Shiny Days, Lighting Warrior Raidy III, Sonicomi: Communication with Sonico, and Flowers -Le volume sur printemps- to name a few. This is important as many hardcore Eroge fans love these physical editions and prefer them. Plus, it’s an incentive to buy the game from J-List, rather than Steam. Now, let’s talk about what’s coming soon from JAST USA.
A Yuri Romance and a Naughty Teacher ~ Upcoming Titles
Two games will be coming out soon; one is Flowers -Le volume sur printemps-. I’ve mentioned this game in my Most Anticipated Games of 2016 alongside MangaGamer’s Kindred Spirits on the Roof. Peter and I both seem to love the Yuri genre so I’m really excited to see this game come out… despite the fact, there were some localization issues. Apparently, when a demo was put out on Steam there was some negative fan feedback, especially with the dialogue. As such the game was delayed a bit to work out the bugs, but that’s a good sign. I’d rather have a delayed product that’s good and polished than one that’s a mess. We’ll have to see what happens when the final product is released, but I’m going to cross my fingers and hope for the best. While Flowers would be an All-Ages Yuri tale, that doesn’t mean JAST USA doesn’t have some Nukige coming down the pipeline. Enter Nympho Sensei Ryoko.
Nympho Sensei Ryoko (or Sumiragi Ryoko no Bitch na Ichinichi in Japanese) is very much a Nukige. As if the title alone didn’t tell you that. The game, however, is told from Ryoko’s perspective, which is interesting. I haven’t played a ton of Nukige where we have a female protagonist and she’s the one in control. This wasn’t on my radar before the panel, but after doing a little research I’m definitely curious. With eight endings, a map where you can choose where to go, and being uncensored with no mosaic, this might be worth a look for Nukige fans. If that’s not up your alley, though, then I ask you turn your attention to JAST USA’s new announcements, because this was a very interesting lot.
Where History, Monster Girls, Yuri, and Sex Combine ~ The 2017 Announcements
First up was Katahane An’Call Belle. This apparently was a title that came out in Japan in 2007 under the name Katahane. However, that’s not the version we’re getting. Currently, there is an updated rerelease in development which is what we’ll be getting. The game will be in HD and have additional story content. Oh yes, and it’s a Yuri title. With as much of a landmark year it’s been for Yuri, I’m glad to see that 2017 will continue the trend and this wasn’t just a fluke. This, however, was not what floored me the most. The next game was something I was not expecting.
Eiyuu Senki needs little introduction to those of you familiar with this site. Not only did we review the game, it was nominated for several of our 2015 Gaming Awards, walked away with Best Download Title and Best Villain, and was in the running for Game of the Year. Having played this, myself last year it was one of my favorite titles, so you can imagine how filled with glee I was to see that the original uncensored Eroge version would be coming to the West, with Fruitbat Factory’s excellent localization no less. The All-Ages version on PS3 is nothing to scoff at and worth every penny, but I still want to know all steamy antics Chihaya gets himself into. Especially with the likes of Nobunaga Oda, Arthur, and Alexander the Great. 2017 is going to bring new meaning to the term “Getting intimate with history.” Next up was a game to cater to all the fans of Monster Girl fans out there and ask the question: “What if your fiancé was one?”
Princess X ~ My Fiance is a Monster Girl was released in Japan in 2011 under the titles Princess X ~ Boku no Iinazuke wa Monsterkko!?. The title is from Poison@Berry, who is one of JAST USA’s new partners. I can’t find a lot out regarding this one (even VNDB doesn’t have much on this), but what screens I did find look interesting. The game seems to promise plenty of sexy monster girl action (and a robot girl) and what CGs I could find look intriguing. I’ll say this much when someone goes giantess and uses the corner of a building to get off, you have gotten quite creative. That brings us to the last announcement which has you returning home.
Sweet Home (no not the NES cult classic, the Japanese title is Sweet Home: H na Onee-san wa Suki Desu ka?) starts off with your college residence burning down. Upon returning home you find your house is rented out to a bunch of women. Thankfully they allow you to stay and thus what seems to be a rather lighthearted and comedic Nukige begins. A pretty basic plot, but sometimes that’s all you need. With the announcements done, there was a short Q&A and a raffle. However, I’m going to focus on breaking down the panel and the announcements for the rest of this article.
The Good, the Impressive, and the Unknown ~ Analysis
As a whole, this was a good presentation. I use that word specifically as JAST USA’s panels feel the most formal of the big three. That’s not necessarily bad, and it does seem to work for them. Peter has a very commanding presence while leading the panel. He may have been the only presenter, but he does it well. Things moved quickly and smoothly from point to point, and while it was fast, there was some good content. Speaking of which, let’s dive into said content.
Hands down Eiyuu Senki was the crown jewel of this panel. I may love my Yuri, but let’s be fair. Eiyuu Senki is a pretty well-known game at this point. The news that we’ll be getting access to the original Eroge version is proof enough at how well that game has done for Fruitbat Factory. Yes, the game will also be coming to Steam for those who don’t want the 18+ content and that’s fine. Having a choice is good, and as long as we have access to both versions I feel like everyone wins. Besides, with as great as the dialogue was in the original release I want to see what these H-Scenes hold in store for us. Next for me was Katahane An’Call Belle.
Katahane is important for two reasons. The first is of course that it continues the recent trend in Yuri we’ve seen. While trends in the industry come in cycles, it’s nice to see Yuri finally see some great success after never really establishing itself here. I’m just hopeful that we’ll see the same success BL titles in the future, which is where I think the next success in the industry is going to be. We just need someone to put out that perfect title. The second reason is the fact we’re getting a version that currently in development. In fact, this version is due out next month it seems in Japan. The time between Japanese and Western releases is getting shorter, and we’re seeing more and more Japanese developers turning to the west to expand their horizons. Even as they’re still working on the Japanese version of the game. This kind of growth is exactly what we need in the VN and Eroge industry, and I’m happy to see it happening. That then brings us to Sweet Home.
While there’s always been a vocal fanbase that seems to decry Nukige titles, I’m not one them. Nukige is the bread and butter of the industry and basically, pays the bills. It’s what allows these developers to fund the story-heavy titles we all love. While we’re seeing a shift towards more and more story based titles being released, I still think Nukige are going to continue to be commonplace. Not to mention, there’s nothing that says a Nukige can’t be entertaining. Sweet Home may be a clichéd concept, but clichés usually exist for a reason. It’s how you use them that matters. VNDB currently has the title rated at a 7.41, which is pretty good. Not to mention there was a three episode OVA series based on it. So the game seems to have done well in Japan at least. That leaves us with Princess X.
Princess X is probably the title I’m the most indifferent towards. It’s not that it’s a bad looking title, it’s just that I don’t know anything about it. I know Eiyuu Senki, Katahane has the fact it’s a Yuri title to give me something to go on, and Sweet Home is a concept I’m familiar with. Thus, I know what to expect. Princess X is certainly gauged towards the Monster Musume crowd, but what made that show work so well, were the characters. Which in regards to Princess X, I know little about. If you’ve been looking for a Monster Girl game, then this is definitely a title to watch. For me, I’m going to keep an eye on this and make a decision as we get more information. So what’s my final summary and conclusion?
If you’re as JAST USA fan, then I think you have every reason to be excited about these announcements. The company you know and love is still going strong and bringing over quality titles. If you’re someone who isn’t a JAST USA diehard however then it really depends on what you want. I’d recommend Eiyuu Senki no matter what as it’s a great marriage of gameplay and Visual Novel elements. Really it’s a game any VN fan can get into. For the Yuri fans, keep an eye on Katahane and certainly Flowers. The only way that genre is going to grow is if people keep supporting it. Between Sweet Home and Princess X, I’m going to recommend Sweet Home as the one to keep a look out for. That said, there’s nothing wrong with Princess X. It’s just like I said, there’s not a lot I could find on this title at the moment. Plus, if you’ve never played a Nukige before, Sweet Home could be a good intro title to the subgenre for you. No matter what your preference, however, it’s good to know that JAST USA isn’t going anywhere and that competition in the industry is alive and well.
Anime ExpoAXAX 2016eiyuu senkierogeFlowers -Le volume sur printempsJ-ListJASTJAST USAKatahaneKatahane An’Call BelleNukigeNympho Sensei RyokoPrincess X ~ My Fiance is a Monster GirlSweet Homevisual novelVN