Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Hirokazu 'Hip' Tanaka's first album is everything an EarthBound, Kid Icarus, or Metroid fan could want

I've been a fan of Hirokazu "Hip"--now apparently "Chip"--Tanaka ever since I discovered he was responsible for Kid Icarus' glorious soundtrack.

My admiration of and belief in his talents blossomed when I found out he also had a hand in crafting the music for classic Famicom and NES games like Balloon Fight, Wrecking Crew, Metroid, and the first two Mother (aka EarthBound) titles.

Tanaka now serves as the president of Creatures Inc., although that lofty position clearly hasn't caused him to turn his back on his first career.



His just-released (not to mention first-ever) album, Django, is the perfect case in point.

Its 13 tracks are everything a "Hip"--or "Chip"--Tanaka fan could want. My favorites: the chunky "Beaver" (listen to it and watch its video here), the jazzy, laid-back title tune, the ethereal "EMGR," and the blippy, breezy "Prizm."

Really, though, you can't go wrong with any of the game-inspired soundscapes offered up by Django. Speaking of which, you can listen to the whole album at chiptanaka.bandcamp.com.

See also: my '10 Most Influential Games' write-up about Kid Icarus

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Seven 3DS, Switch, and Vita games I'm determined to at least start before the end of 2017

It's that time of year again, folks! And, no, I'm not talking about the winter holidays. I'm talking about the time of year where I wring my hands over all the games I failed to play this year.

Sadly, the games discussed below are just the tip of this particular iceberg. They're the ones I most want to experience before 2017 comes to an end, though, so that's why I decided to single them out here.

I guess I'll have to publish a follow-up post early in 2018 that reveals whether or not I actually spent time with these titles and, if so, what I think of them, eh?

In the meantime, here's a bit of commentary on why I so desperately want to put at least a couple of hours into each of these 3DS, Switch, and Vita games in the next month and a half.



Dragon Quest XI (3DS)--I was so excited about this game's Japanese release, and yet I forgot about it shortly after it arrived on my doorstep in August. OK, so it's possible my memory issues were aided  a bit by my wariness of the endless lines of barely decipherable Japanese text it'll surely throw at me. Also helping matters, or maybe I should say making them worse: the potential for this version of Dragon Quest XI, or even the supposed Switch port, to be released in North America sometime in 2018. Still, I spent good money on this Japanese 3DS copy, so I should at least attempt to play it before the year is out, right?



Hey! Pikmin (3DS)--This side-scrolling, platforming offshoot of Nintendo's popular Pikmin series hasn't exactly garnered rave reviews since it first hit digital and retail store shelves earlier this year. I had a lot of fun ambling through its demo, though, so I ignored the negative word of mouth and picked up a copy a month or so ago. Anyway, I have a feeling Hey! Pikmin will prove to be a good game to play in small spurts, so I'll do my best to at least boot it up over the upcoming holiday weekend.



The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)--Here's the first game of this post I don't yet own. I have a feeling that won't be true for much longer, though, as it's basically the only thing I asked my parents to buy me for my rapidly approaching birthday. Assuming a copy of Breath of the Wild does find its way into my hands soon, it'll be interesting to discover if the game's my cup of tea or not. I haven't often loved Link's three-demensional adventures, after all, with the Nintendo 64 version of Ocarina of Time being the lone exception. I'm completely enamored with this one's aesthetic, though, so hopefully that'll help it worm its way into my heart.



Skyrim (Switch)--At the moment, I feel like one of the few people in the world, or at least one of the few people in North America, who has yet to play some version of Skyrim. That's mainly because I've only owned one console capable of playing it--the Xbox 360--and the only boxed game I bought for it was Deadly Premonition. Even if I'd been more willing to build up a catalog for that system, though, I doubt I would've added this title to it. It just doesn't look like my kind of game, if you get my drift. That said, I'm currently finding it intriguing enough that I'll probably ask for it as a Christmas gift. Surely I'll have (mostly) burned myself out on Breath of the Wild by then?



Stardew Valley (Switch)--My original plan was to purchase this Switch port of Eric Barone's Harvest Moon clone as soon as I wrapped up my Golf Story playthrough. (Speaking of which, here's my Golf Story review.) Right after that happened, though, Super Mario Odyssey was plopped onto my doormat. And now I'm done with Odyssey, but Breath of the Wild and Skyrim are right around the corner. Maybe I should just bite the bullet and buy it this weekend, even if doing so wouldn't be the wisest way to spend my hard-earned cash. Worst-case scenario: I barely devote any time to it this year, but then thoroughly dig my teeth into it early next.



Undertale (Vita)--Do you ever buy a game and then forget you bought it? That's basically what happened with me and this recently published port of Toby Fox's genre-busting role-playing game. Actually, I've now forgotten I own this portable version of Undertale a few times. Which is pretty darn sad, as I've wanted to play it on my Vita ever since I worked my way through its first handful of hours on my laptop a couple of years back. Given my rejuvenated interest in the Vita--thanks in large part to the game that follows--I think it's a pretty safe bet I'll make it much farther than that this time around.



VA-11 HALL-A (Vita)--OK, so I'm already playing this one. In my defense, I started this post before I began the game. Regardless, I've been itching to play VA-11 HALL-A, which is best described as one part bartender simulator and one part visual novel, since I first became aware of it last summer. As I generally despise playing games on my laptop, I held out for this just-released Vita port. All I'll say here is it's been more than worth the wait. (Don't worry, I'll share some initial VA-11 HALL-A impressions in an upcoming post.)

Have you bought any games this year that you desperately want to at least start before 2017 ends? If so, let me (and others) know about them in the comments section below.

See also: 'Five long-awaited 3DS, Switch and Vita games I wish would be released already'

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Great Gaymathon Review #76: Golf Story (Switch)



Game: Golf Story
Genre: Sports/RPG
Developer: Sidebar Games
Publisher: Sidebar Games
System: Switch
Release date: 2017

Is Golf Story really the second coming of Nintendo's Mario Golf series? Or does it really blend Scotland's national sport with the kooky, quirky, cult classic, EarthBound? My answer to both of those questions is a fairly resounding "no."

That's not to suggest Sidebar Games' maiden release never delights. It does. I wouldn't go so far as to say it delights as much as either of the aforementioned efforts, though--in large part because it lacks the kind of polish associated with most games made by Nintendo and its development partners.

Nowhere is this more clear than when a bug or glitch pops up and interrupts play. Thankfully, most of these are simply aggravating, but a few are game-breaking. Regardless, you won't find either variety in the games that supposedly inspired this one.

There are other aspects of Golf Story that keep it from reaching the heady heights of EarthBound and the Mario Golf GameBoy Color and Advance titles, too. One is its lack of direction or clarity--as in, the game frequently fails to be clear about what you're supposed to do or where you're supposed to go next. Another is its soundtrack, which is far from terrible but also isn't what I'd call enjoyable.



Still, despite these shortcomings, and despite the fact that I don't consider it to exist in the same space as the best Mario Golf titles and EarthBound, Golf Story is an entrancing game.

Its story and protagonist aren't anything special, to tell you the truth. At the starter, you're plopped into the shoes of an "average Joe" kind of guy (you can't choose a gal instead, unfortunately) and then tasked with helping him live out his childhood dream of becoming a pro.

Thankfully, once you get the ball rolling on that journey, the clich├ęs that support it tend to fade into the background. That's a testament to its accessible and appealingly breezy gameplay, which does, in fact, recall Nintendo's first two portable Mario Golf titles--to a point. Granted, most arcade-y golf games control similarly these days; you know, hit a button to get a cursor moving along a linear gauge, hit it again when the cursor nears the gauge's peak (this determines the power of your swing), and then hit it one last time as the cursor approaches its starting point (this determines your timing).

Beyond that basic gameplay element, though, Golf Story feels pretty unique among casual golf titles. You're occasionally asked to play nine holes against another of the game's characters (once per course, to be more specific), but that cornerstone of the sport often takes a backseat to the less traditional--not to mention less time consuming--challenges nearby NPCs offer up as you stroll around each locale.



Some are merely intriguing--like, "I'll bet you can't hit the green from the bunker five times"--while others are downright silly. (A couple of noteworthy examples: using your clubs to feed hungry fish and to hit eyeballs into skeleton skulls.)

On top of all that, Golf Story also allows you to "tee up anywhere." As in, you can drop a ball and take a crack at a hole whenever and wherever you'd like. Or you can simply smack balls in random directions, if that's what you prefer. Regardless, I personally think that press release bullet point is more interesting in theory than in practice.

So, what about the rest of this indie darling? It certainly looks the part, with graphics that evoke the better (cartoonish) sports games of the late 1980s or early 1990s. As for its story, it may not be as brilliant or as "out there" as EarthBound's, but it's well crafted and stuffed with text that elicits a chuckle. In other words, it's deserving of the attention and praise that've been heaped upon it to date.

The same can be said of Golf Story as a whole. Sure, it's not quite the blend of EarthBound and Mario Golf many claim it to be, but it's still charming and addictive and an overall joy to play--even with its bugs, glitches, and other rough edges.



See also: previous Golf Story impressions and previous 'Great Gaymathon' reviews

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

I think I'm going to back another Kickstarter (for a musical puzzler called Bit Band)

You may remember the post of mine from mid-October in which I declared my interest in a Kickstarter that, if successful, would bring the curious Order Land! (for Steam, Switch and Xbox One) to the West in early 2018.

Sadly, developer and publisher Poisoft pulled the plug on the campaign on Nov. 1. It's vowed to try again after retooling its appeal, but who knows when that'll happen or if it'll succeed during its second go-round.

Why am I bringing that up here? Because it was the first Kickstarter I actually attempted to back. Which means that if I back the one highlighted here, for a musical puzzler called Bit Band, it would be my second such attempt.

What's so great about this crowd-funding effort that I'm willing to throw some of my hard-earned money at it? I'm mostly into Bit Band's aesthetic, to be perfectly frank. I know some are over the whole "chunky sprite" retro look, but it's done so well here that I can't help but be impressed by it.



Don't get me wrong, I'm also pretty keen on Bit Band's gameplay. The developers describe it as being like "Tetris meets Rock Band," and I'd say that's pretty apt based on the gameplay displayed in the trailer above.

The only thing giving me pause at this point is that I'm not thrilled the project page mentions a "goal for the Nintendo Switch console," but then never explains it further. That bothers me because I'm not interested in backing the campaign, only to receive a Steam key in return.

Gavin Reed, who's handling Bit Band's art, animation, music, and game design, told me on Twitter the other day that a Switch version is this Kickstarter's first stretch goal. That makes me feel a bit better, but not entirely.

Anyway, despite my misgivings, I'll probably toss some money at this campaign before it ends on Dec. 8. If you'd like to do the same, or if you'd simply like to learn more about Bit Band, visit kickstarter.com.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I rarely buy mobile games, but I may make an exception for HAL Laboratory's Hataraku UFO

The above assumes the company best known for the Kirby series of platformers releases its first (I think?) mobile game outside of Japan, of course.

I have a feeling it will, though, as Hataraku UFO looks--and sounds--like a lot of fun based on the trailers that can be seen over on japanesenintendo.com.

In fact, I'd say the game looks like equal parts Kirby (the protagonist's design, in particular), Hayden Scott-Baron's Tumbledrop, and your average "claw crane" game.


Add in the fact that HAL's selling Hataraku UFO for just 480 Yen in Japan (about four bucks in North America)--with no in-app purchases--and you've got yourself a sure-fire winner. Or at least that's my view of the situation.

You know what I'd like even more than for this game to make its way to my region's App Store and Google Play Store? For HAL to expand on it a bit and release some sort of "deluxe" version for the Nintendo Switch.

Don't worry, I'm keeping my eyes peeled for Hataraku UFO to land on my shores regardless. Are any of you going to do the same now that you're aware of this adorable game's existence?