Sunday, May 21, 2017

Coming soon-ish to a DS near you: a fan translation of Irozuki Tincle no Koi no Balloon Trip

Most Nintendo fans know about two of the Tingle games the company published for the DS a few years back.

The first, of course, was the Zelda-esque Freshly-Picked Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland, which hit the streets of Japan in 2006 and Europe in 2007. The second, Tingle's Balloon Fight DS, also was a 2007 release, although it never left the Land of the Rising Sun. (If you'd like to see some snapshots of the latter title's case, cartridge and instruction manual, by the way, you can do so here, here, here and here.)

Well, Nintendo offered up a third DS game to Tingle fans two years after Tingle's Balloon Fight dropped. Its name: Irozuki Tincle no Koi no Balloon Trip, which apparently translates to Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love.

Unlike its predecessors, this title isn't an action RPG or a rehash of an arcade classic. Instead, it's a point-and-click adventure game.

As if that weren't appealing enough (I don't know about you, but I've long been attracted to point-and-click games), the story that envelopes the gameplay of Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love is based, at least in part, on The Wizard of Oz.

Combine all of the above with a rather glorious art style (see screenshot on the right) and you've got a game that looks to be right up my alley--if my understanding of Japanese were in a more advanced state than it currently is, I mean.

Thankfully, I probably won't have to wait another year or two to stumble my way through Balloon Trip of Love's oddball story. That's because an English fan translation of the Vanpool-developed game is rapidly approaching its finish line.

Unfortunately, no one really knows when the patch containing Balloon Trip of Love's English translation will be offered up to the masses. Considering the most recent update on its progress suggested the project was nearly 80-percent complete, though, I have to imagine a release by the end of this year is a possibility.

In the meantime, you can keep an eye on how things are going by checking out the translation team's blog at tingletranslation.blogspot.com. (Threads devoted to their efforts can be found at gbatemp.net and romhacking.net as well, if you're curious.) Something else to keep an eye on: my upcoming interview with the person heading up this ambitious project.

See also: my Tingle's Balloon Fight DS review

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Welcome to WonderSwan World: Special Glamour Shots® Edition

Three WonderSwan-focused posts in a row? Seriously?

Yes, seriously.

I guess you could say I have Bandai's Japan-only GameBoy competitor on the brain right now. Don't worry, I'll write about something else in the next few days. (In fact, a couple of half-finished, 3DS-centric posts are staring at me, begging to be wrapped up, as I type this one.)

In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy ogling the following photos I recently snapped of my WonderSwan Color system and a selection of the WonderSwan games I brought on the road with me this year.



I took these photos in a Palm Springs (California) hotel room, by the way. Its decor didn't exactly lend itself well to such snapshots, so I improvised a light box by going to a nearby Walmart (don't judge), buying a large piece of white poster board and then laying it on a table near our room's main windows.

Granted, that isn't a whole lot different from what I did to nab game and console photos back when I lived in Seattle. There, I placed items on a white, well-lit IKEA table that also effectively replicated a light box.


Anyway, enough about that. I promised WonderSwan Glamour Shots®, so let's focus on them from here on out, shall we?

The first two showcased here are of my translucent black WonderSwan Color system. It's a real beauty, isn't it? Honestly, I'm head-over-heels in love with this handheld's design. Strangely, I think I like the look of the original WonderSwan best (it's a tad sleeker and smidge more minimalist than its two successors), but the Color is pretty sweet, too.


If you'd like to see a few photos of the WonderSwan Color's box, by the way, you can do so by checking out my first "Welcome to WonderSwan World" post or this Flickr photo album. (The latter includes shots of a number of WonderSwan game boxes, cartridges and manuals, too, in case that sort of thing interests you.)



Monday, May 15, 2017

Welcome to WonderSwan World: Clock Tower

When it comes to video games, I tend to prefer cute, quirky and whimsical ones to those that are more realistic or serious.

When it comes to movies, though, I tend to prefer those that are tense and scary to almost anything else.

Seriously, I've been a horror-film buff since I rented and watched a VHS tape of the first Nightmare on Elm Street as an early teen.

For whatever reason, my interest in scary movies has rarely translated to me playing scary games. That's not because I think the latter are unappealing, mind you. Actually, I've found a ton of scary games intriguing over the years. Almost every time I start one, however, I quickly become overwhelmed to the point that I have to turn the damn thing off.


A relevant case in point: the original, Super Famicom version of Human Entertainment's Clock Tower.

I've tried to play this point-and-click survival-horror game on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, each one ended rather abruptly--usually around the first time the series' unimaginatively named antagonist, Scissorman, shows his face and grotesquely (some might say comically) massive weapon of choice.

Say what you will about my inability to deal with those scissor-on-girl encounters, but the fact remains that trying to run away from a murderous maniac using a cursor controlled by a directional pad is stressful--or at least it has been for me.

Is that still true with Clock Tower for WonderSwan? (That's the full title of this port, by the way. For whatever reason, a lot of game publishers followed that same naming convention while prepping ports of games for Bandai's oddball handheld.) Yes and no.

Don't get me wrong, this portable version of Clock Tower freaks me out every bit as much as its console counterparts did and continue to do. I've done my best to get over that, though, so I can write the post you're reading right now.


Before I get into my feelings on this WonderSwan cartridge, here are a few tidbits you should know about it:

* This iteration of Clock Tower was made for the original WonderSwan system, so it's in black and white rather than in color like its Super Famicom and PlayStation predecessors.

* A company called Kaga Tech developed it. To be honest, I'd never even heard of Kaga Tech before I started doing research for this write-up. Is or was the company at all related to Kaga Create, which produced titles for everything from the Famicom to the Saturn, or that outfit's parent firm, Kaga Electronics? I believe so, as Naxat (Soft) published this port, and Naxat was the public-facing name of Kaga's gaming devision. Regardless, GameFAQs tells me Kaga Tech at least made a bunch of WonderSwan games as well as a few for the GameBoy, GameBoy Advance and PlayStation during its heyday.

* As far as I can tell, Clock Tower for WonderSwan is a shockingly faithful conversion of the 1995 original. Some concessions were made so the game could run on WonderSwan hardware, of course--such as the aforementioned lack of color, a lower resolution and a minimalist head-up display (more on that last one in a second)--but besides those, everything else seems to be in place.

Don't take that last bullet point to mean this handheld iteration of Human Entertainment's cult classic is near-perfect. It's not.

Although it looks surprisingly great in black and white, and although it controls as well as could be expected of a point-and-click game that requires players to use a d-pad, its protagonist, Jennifer, moves as though she's wading through knee-deep molasses. (To see what I mean, check out this video of Clock Tower for WonderSwan in action. For comparison's sake, here is footage of the Super Famicom version.)


That alone will be a deal-breaker for some, I'm sure. For me, it's mostly been an occasional annoyance. Usually, I'm fine with it; at other times, I daydream about my Clock Tower cart suddenly igniting and melting into a pool of unrecognizable goo.

Regardless, Clock Tower for WonderSwan's slowness is a shame, as every other aspect of the game is captivating. OK, so at first I didn't like that it no longer displays Jennifer's portrait, which in the Super Famicom and PlayStation versions depicts the orphan girl's stamina and stress levels. After a bit of reflection, though, I decided Kaga Tech's (or Naxat's, if you prefer) substitution--three dots along the edge of the screen that appear and disappear depending on how worked up Jennifer is or isn't--is perfectly serviceable.

Other than that and the previously discussed lack of speed? Not much to grouse about, if you ask me. I personally love the moody, low-tech look of this port and I've never really run into any issues with moving Jennifer about via my WonderSwan Color's weird directional pad and A and B buttons. (For the curious: the d-pad controls a cursor, while pressing the A and B buttons allows you to walk or run toward the cursor, examine the environment, pick up or use items and fight off Scissorman.)

I'm also now a big fan of how Clock Tower of WonderSwan progresses. Following a brief intro, you (as Jennifer) are left alone in the titular mansion. Silence surrounds you. The only sounds you hear are those of Jennifer's feet walking along wooden and carpeted floors. That is, until Scissorman makes his first appearance. Then both background music and panic kick in, and the race to find Jennifer's fellow orphans and escape their supposed new home begins.


I've yet to accomplish that last task, and I have a feeling I'll need to refer to a guide to do so, but I'm perfectly OK with that.

In the meantime, I'm getting a kick out of exploring Clock Tower--both the mansion in particular and the game in general--while also trying to avoid or fend off the incessant Scissorman, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Are any of you Clock Tower fans? If so, have you experienced this WonderSwan release? Regardless, please share your thoughts and opinions on those topics or anything I've said here in the comments section below.

Also, if you'd like to see photos of Clock Tower for WonderSwan's box and cartridge, you can do so via this Flickr photo album of mine.

See also: my 'Welcome to WonderSwan' post about Rainbow Islands: Putty's Party

Friday, May 12, 2017

Nice Package! (Puzzle Bobble, WonderSwan)

I've got to be honest here: I was more than a bit apprehensive about buying a black-and-white port of Taito's Puzzle Bobble.

The fact is, I'm generally not all that interested in black-and-white ports of games that usually are drenched in color. You know, like, the platformer--Bubble Bobble--that spawned this puzzler. Or Puyo Puyo. Hell, even Pac-ManBomberman and Adventures of Lolo come to mind.

Still, I've had some good times with the pair of Bubble Bobble titles that were published for the GameBoy in 1990 and 1993. Also, I'm surprisingly fond of Rainbow Islands: Putty's Party, as I explained in my most recent "Welcome to WonderSwan World" write-up.


So, when I came across a rather cheap complete-in-box copy of Puzzle Bobble for WonderSwan a couple of months ago, I bit the bullet and bought it despite my initial reservations.

Am I happy I with my purchase now that I've spent some time with this seemingly gimped conversion of Taito's classic coin-op? Yes, I am.

I don't want to say too much about why that is in this post, though, because I'll cover a lot of that ground in a future installment of "Welcome to WonderSwan World."

What I'm willing to say here: Puzzle Bobble's WonderSwan port both looks and sounds better than you're probably imagining (you can see and hear what I'm talking about in this YouTube longplay of the game). Also, it's surprisingly enjoyable to play.



This iteration's graphics and gameplay aren't solely responsible for why I'm glad I added this title to my growing collection of WonderSwan carts, however. Just as responsible: its packaging, of course.

The best part of owning a complete-in-box copy of Puzzle Bobble for WonderSwan, in my humble opinion, is its cover art. Although not as amazing as the illustration conjured up for the game's Neo Geo Pocket Color port (see it here), it's basically on par with the one plastered across the front of the Puzzle Bobble Super Famicom box.

Going back to Puzzle Bobble's WonderSwan cover imagery, while looking at this post's first photo, you may notice it sports both a Taito as well as a Sunsoft logo.

That's because, unlike the original arcade release of Puzzle Bobble, which Taito developed and published, Sunsoft published this one--at the beginning of July in 1999.



Sunsoft didn't develop it, though. A company called Yoshidayama Workshop handled that task.

Don't worry if Yoshidayama Workshop doesn't ring a bell; before I started doing my research for this post, I'd never come across its name either.

Which makes sense, as according to GameFAQs, Yoshidayama Workshop only ever developed a small handful of video games. Besides this portable Puzzle Bobble, it also produced two other WonderSwan titles (Meta Communication Therapy: Nee Kiite!, released in 2000, and Wonder Classic, released in 2001) and a Japan-only GameBoy cartridge called Itsudemo! Nyan to Wonderful.

I can't speak to the quality of that trio of games, as I've never played any of them, but I can say Yoshidayama Workshop did a pretty good job down-porting Taito's Bubble Bobble-inspired puzzler to the WonderSwan hardware.


I wish I could say the same about the designers who created this title's instruction booklet. Sure, it's colorful, as a glance at the photo above should make clear, but it's also devoid of the kinds of illustrations that pop up in every other Bubble Bobble or Puzzle Bobble manual I've seen to date.

Oh, well, it's hardly the end of the world--especially when the rest of this Puzzle Bobble release's packaging is so stellar.

What do you think of the box, cartridge and manual shots shown throughout this post? Also, what do you think of this version of Puzzle Bobble? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

See also: previous 'Nice Package!' posts

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Now that I've finished StreetPass Mii Plaza: Monster Manor, let's talk about how brilliant it is

I've played most of the StreetPass Mii Plaza games Nintendo has made available to 3DS owners since early 2011, and I've had a blast with pretty much all of them.

The ones that have given me the most joy in that time: Battleground Z, Find MiiFlower TownMii ForceMonster Manor and Ultimate Angler.

Besides Find Mii and Monster Manor, though, none of the just-mentioned titles were able to hold my attention or maintain my interest for more than a month or two.


The Prope-made Monster Manor, in particular, has enthralled me since I first bought and downloaded it. I can't estimate how much time I devoted to it in 2013, 2014 or 2015, but I can say it was almost singlehandedly responsible for me dumping more than 39 hours into StreetPass Mii Plaza in 2016.

I've also put a good number of hours into it this year. The reason: I wanted to finish the climb to Monster Manor's top floor before Nintendo pulls the plug on StreetPass (or, you know, before StreetPass encounters completely fall off a cliff).

Well, I did just that a couple of weeks ago. And now? I'm sort of depressed, to be honest. I was so sucked into this bite-sized adventure that I basically never wanted it to end.

As for what prompted me to develop such feelings about Monster Manor, well, the short answer is I loved--and continue to love--every aspect of it.


I love its deeper-than-it-first-appears gameplay, which bizarrely, yet successfully, combines elements of Tetris with those of a bare-bones RPG. I love the ghouls you encounter in the titular mansion's haunted hallways. I love the creatively designed and upgradeable weapons you find hidden in treasure chests that are tucked away in its rooms. I love its appropriately spooky--as well as jaunty--soundtrack.

And of course I love that it can be played in short spurts. Hell, I'd say it's supposed to be played in short spurts--whenever you get a handful of StreetPasses and whenever you have a few spare minutes. At any rate, games that don't ask for much of a commitment are the ones that are most compatible with my life at the moment, which only added to Monster Manor's appeal.

Sadly, as much as I love this digital morsel of a video game, and as much as I loved slowly but surely making my way through its 50 stages, I can't imagine I'll ever return to it now that I've seen its credit roll.


I know I could pick it up again down the road by StreetPassing myself (assuming Nintendo doesn't make that impossible by disabling the app entirely), but right now that sounds about as appetizing as returning to my aborted playthroughs of Hometown Story or Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley. (That's overstating things a tad, of course, but I'm sure you get the drift of what I'm saying here.)

Oh, well, at least I was able to experience Monster Manor in all its glory once.

How about you? Have any of you finished, or at least spent some time playing, Monster Manor? If so, share your thoughts and impressions in the comments section of this post.

Another option: share how you feel about the fact that we're unlikely to see games like this on the StreetPass-less Switch.