E3 2006: Hudson Announces Far East of Eden: Ziria & Others
05.11.06 - 2:49 PM

Long remembered for their tremendous software contribution in the 8-bit and 16-bit era, Hudson Entertainment had faded from view in North America in the last decade. The publisher that brought legendary games like Bonk's Adventure, Bomberman, Dungeon Explorer, and Ys: Books I & II to the domestic market, has stepped back into the ring for the next generation. At this year's E3, they've announced a bevy of titles to delight their old school fans as well hoping to captivate the new main stream audience.

First up, we have their announcement of over 100 of their classic titles for the Wii's virtual console. Gamers can expect almost their entire library of Turbografx-16 titles to be amongst the collection. Classics such as Bonk's Revenge, Legendary Axe, and Alien Crush to name a few.

Next, we have news of development of a brand new Dungeon Explorer for the Xbox 360. This title is slated to take advantage of multiplayer via the Xbox Live system. Fans might remember the original Dungeon Explorer on the TG-16 or Dungeon Explorer II on the TurboDuo, which combined classic Gauntlet-style gameplay with more conventional RPG upgrades. Also of note is that Hudson will also be bringing yet another original Dungeon Explorer to the PSP, which will support 4 player co-op play via its wireless connectivity.

Also on the PSP front is the sequel to cyborg pseudo action-RPG Rengoku. While the original Rengoku was met with mixed reviews, Rengoku II promises to improve upon the strengths of the previous title and support up to 4 player simultaneous PvP in ad-hoc mode. Manga artist Jun Suemi, of Guyver fame, will reprise his role as character designer.

Last, but certainly not least, is their announcement of Tengai Makyo: Ziria (Far East of Eden: Ziria) for North American release on Microsoft's Xbox 360. Recently released in Japan to the elation of fans, Hudson plans for an impeccable localization of this charismatic title, though no release date is available at this time.

The announcement of a new RPG, especially for the Xbox 360, is always exciting news, but it comes as no surprise that most RPG fans have never heard of Far East of Eden. Sadly, none of the series, or its side-stories ever made their way to North America. This was primarily due to them being published in Japan for the PC-Engine family of consoles (released here under the Turbografx-16 and Turboduo monikers), during a time where RPGs were not viewed as an insignificant niche in the domestic market. The consequent decline of the NEC consoles in North America made release impossible.

While the Far East of Eden series was passed over in America, they thrived in Japan - spawning several sequels, spin-offs, anime and merchandise. The series' popularity rivaled Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest in the late 1980's and early '90s due to amazing characterization, disturbingly off-beat humor and dynamic storytelling. The series has dealt with themes and archetypes ranging from Japanese folklore to the Book of Revelations in the New Testament, while still maintaining its tongue-in-cheek personality.

This recreation of Far East of Eden: Ziria for the Xbox 360 involved not only a complete visual overhaul from 2D sprites to 3D polygonal world, but a complete revision of the first-person combat system to a more contemporary third-person.

From the import version we had a chance to play at the show, we found the classic anime-style preserved in polygons, but harkened back to a very attractive Dreamcast game than the photo-realism we've come to expect from the Xbox 360. This stylistic choice was intended. We were very happy to see a consistent 60 fps throughout the game, non-existent load times and incredibly detailed character animations. The combat, while turn-based, moved very quickly. Probably most surprising of all was that Ziria sports an incredibly massive and gorgeously rendered world map that the player can explore at their leisure. Without a doubt, the game retains all the classic charm of a true anime-style RPG, a genre completely ignored on Microsoft consoles, until now.

In preserving the integrity of the title, Red Company (the title's developer) stayed true to form with the inclusion of long anime cutscenes and keeping the original orchestrated soundtrack. They even went the extra mile to re-hire all of the original voice talent to reprise their roles. Hudson stated that there was a definite possibility they will include the original Japanese dialogue with English subtitles in addition to the English voice-overs, but that since they are so early in the localization process, anything can happen. We'll keep our fingers crossed. Hudson acknowledged that the Tengai Makyo series is most well known for its humor, and that much of the content would be difficult to translate in an English context, but that they were taking great pains in hiring localization staff who will preserve the essence of original text.

In closing, Hudson Entertainment was emphatic in their desire to return to the console software market in North America, and also hoped to bring some of their success in the Japanese mobile phone entertainment industry to our shores. Titles such as Ys are already available for download in Japan for their mobile entertainment customers, but are still in the process of working contracts with domestic cell phone providers. RPGFan was very impressed with Hudson's motivation to get back into the gaming fray, and with a 30 year history in the industry, they promise to be a contender. For now, we'll grab another bucket of popcorn and stare in amazement as this forgotten giant lifts itself off the mat for another round. The bee is back!


Stephen Harris