Last week, when Important Importables talked about visual novels you could get for your iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, the publisher 5pb came up quite often. That’s because it’s quite well known for a number of its VN series, some of which are starting to find fame outside Japan despite never being released in English. Not to mention, Important Importables reviewed a 5pb PSP game a while back. It seemed like a good time to look into what that particular company is about. Especially since they might not be around for much longer. (Cue the ominous music!)
All about 5pb
Actually, it may be better to talk all about AG-One. That’s 5pb’s parent company, which it is being absorbed into on June 1, 2011. For now, 5pb is still a separate entity though. Besides, even after the merger 5pb could still stay around as the brand name to cover AG-One’s video games and record label. Think of it as a situation similar to what happened with Atlus and Index. Index was the parent company and absorbed Atlus, in that case, but Atlus games still exist.
5pb was first created in 2005, and it develops and publishes video games, as well as publishing music. The 5pb part stands for “Five Powered & Basics.” When it comes to video games, 5pb is mainly works with visual novels. That isn’t to say they don’t make other games, just those are their primary focus. The company also tends to stick to console and handheld games. The music artists it usually signs tend to be rock and pop singers, like Ayane, Riyu Kosaka and Yui Sakakibara.
While 5pb hasn’t released any physical copies of games outside Japan, it is starting to build a worldwide presense on iTunes. The company has begun porting some of its more successful visual novels, like Chaos;Head Noah (Chaos; Head port), 11 eyes CrossOver and Memories Off 6 ~T-wave~. So even though its games are rare and niche overseas, there is still a small chance you’ve heard of them.
Recommended 5pb games
Unfortunately, no 5pb games have been released in English yet. So if you want to play one of them, you’ll probably need some basic understanding of Japanese. If you can’t read hirigana, katakana or kanji, or at the very least understand the spoken language (since practically every 5pb game has voice acting), you’re pretty much out of luck. If you can, then you could get to experience some really interesting stories and games.
- Chaos;Head (iOS, PSP, Windows, Xbox 360): This is a mature thriller visual novel from NitroPlus and 5pb about a young man who finds himself caught up in a series of murders going on in his town. He also seems to be gradually losing his mind and a target for both the murderer and the police. It’s a mature series, which has been so successful that it’s inspired manga and anime adaptations. It also inspired a spin-off Xbox 360 visual novel that was a dating sim called Chaos;Head Love Chu Chu!.
- Ketsui ~Kizuna Jigoku Tachi~ (Xbox 360): This is probably the only game 5pb was involved with that you can enjoy without any knowledge of Japanese. It’s a Cave and 5pb shoot’em up set in a post apocolyptic world. In order to save the world, one of two pairs of pilots must hop in a fake EVAC plane go into EVAC and cause chaos inside that organization. A DS adaptation was also released, but Arika took care of it.
- Memories Off (Dreamcast, iOS, PS1, PS2, PSP, Windows, Xbox 360): 5pb’s most popular games are its Memories Off series of visual novel dating simulations. Each one has a different story and situation to explore, with the story changing depending on which character you decide to pursue. It’s unique in that almost every game in the series has multiple endings for each chaseable character. The series has even inspired a spinoff game for women called Your Memories Off ~Girl’s Side~. There have also been animated movies or short series inspired by certain entries in the series.
- Phantom Breaker (Xbox 360): Here’s one to look forward to. Phantom Breaker is a 2D fighting game from 5pb. It’s going to be a lot like Arcana Heart, as it features only female fighters. It also is going to have some cameo appearances from characters from Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate. It’ll also be fairly import friendly when it comes out in June 2011, as text really isn’t much of an issue in fighters.
- Skip Beat! (PS2): 5pb was responsible for a game (adventure, visual novel, simulation) based on the Skip Beat! anime and manga series. Actually, it follows the anime series more closely and acts as a sequel to that, since you’re helping Kyoko find new acting gigs and build relationships with other characters from the original series in the hopes of making her a success.
- Steins;Gate (PSP, Xbox 360, Windows): Another thriller visual novel from 5pb and NitroPlus. In this game some a select group of Akihabara residents, one of whom claims to be a mad scientist, jury-rig a microwave to make it a device to send messages to the path, and in doing so attract the attention of a group called SERN that tries to eliminate them. Like Chaos;Head, it has inspired manga and anime series, as well as a more lighthearted spin-off game.
Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate are pretty much 5pb’s current darlings, so if you’re looking for a visual novel filled with suspense, you may want to start with one of those two games.
COMING NEXT WEEK: Important Importables talks about Cave Story.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week talked about iPhone visual novels.