Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Nice Package! (Daichi-kun Crisis: Do Natural, PC Engine)

I have a bit of a roller-coaster relationship with this HuCard, a bizarre PC Engine strategy game that was made and published by a company called Salio in late 1989.

After seeing its cover imagery for the first time a number of years ago, I quickly added it to my "buy this game as soon as possible" list.

Why? I guess I'm just a sucker for game box art that features anthropomorphic cows and exploding volcanos. Also, the "Do Natural" portion of this game's title intrigued me.

Daichi-kun Crisis' spot on my aforementioned wish list came into question after I encountered a few screenshots, however. Video footage of the game in action made me feel even less certain I'd enjoy playing it.

As for what caused me to change my mind once again--to the point that I picked up the copy showcased in this post--that would be this extensive YouTube tutorial of the game.

If you don't have the interest or time to watch it, the gist is that it shows Daichi-kun Crisis: Do Natural to be an oddly compelling mix of arcade-y action, life simulation and tower defense.

Oh, and you control a cow--the eponymous Daichi-kun--during all of the above.

Those other cows shown on the front and back covers of the game's manual? They're Daichi-kun's family members and they help clean up volcanic ash (one of your tasks while playing this HuCard) as well as defeat the monsters that rise out of it.

Two other creatures aid in Daichi-kun's battle to secure "Moo Cow Island," too--a crow named Alice and a bear named Goro.

I don't know all of this because I've played the game, mind you. Some of the details were gleaned from the YouTube video I linked to earlier, while I learned others thanks to this intriguing Daichi-kun Crisis FAQ.

I hope to experience the game for myself soon enough. In the meantime, though, I thought some of you might enjoy checking out its colorful packaging.

Also, keep an eye out for a "Manual Stimulation" post devoted to the Daichi-kun Crisis instruction booklet. I've already scanned it, so look for it to go live shortly.

See also: previous 'Nice Package!' posts about Bikkuriman World, Dungeon Explorer, Parodius Da! and Son Son II

Monday, October 16, 2017

Switch owners: if you're itching to play an interesting RPG on your systems, consider supporting Poisoft's Kickstarter for Order Land!

OK, so I'm a bit obsessed with the Nintendo Switch right now. The same happens to everybody after they get a new system, right?

Regardless, my Switch obsession currently has me looking left and right for both existing and upcoming games to play on the console.

Two examples of in-the-works titles I'm planning to buy for my Switch: The Longest Five Minutes and Penny-Punching Princess.

I'm also hoping to play the game discussed here--Order Land!--sometime next year. That'll only be possible if this just-launched Kickstarter ends in success, however.

Basically, developer and publisher Poisoft wants to release an English version of Order Land! for Steam, Switch and Xbox One in early 2018, but knows that doing so wouldn't be an easy endeavor. So, it launched a Kickstarter to help cover the costs of the localization.

The Order Land! campaign seems pretty modest as far as Kickstarters are concerned. Poisoft's goal is to raise just under $45,000 for the project, and a pledge of about $9 or more nets supporters a digital download code for the English version of the game. (Larger pledges offer rewards like posters, mugs, t-shirts and even 3DS and New 3DS systems.)

If you need to hear a little more about Order Land! before handing over hard-earned cash to aid its localization, the gist is it's a simulation RPG that offers players three intriguing modes.

One puts you on a throne and has you rule the game's world as its king. Another allows you to create and train heroes who protect the land.

The third option seems to be as close to a traditional role-playing experience as you're going to get in Order Land!, as it plops you into the boots and armor of a hero and sets you loose to explore your surroundings.

A few of the stretch goals associated with the Order Land! campaign would add even more modes to the game, which began life as a Japan-only 3DS eShop release.

One would let you play as a devil, while another would shine a light on the "back side of this world"--whatever that's supposed to mean. Sadly, I don't understand what a third, called "Ikusa no Kuni," would offer.

Should all of the above sound interesting enough to you that you want to take part, keep in mind the Order Land! Kickstarter ends on Nov. 11.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

If Nintendo put me in charge of a GameBoy Classic Edition, here are the 30 games it would include

Word on the street is Nintendo may be prepping a GameBoy Classic Edition--or "GameBoy mini," as many on the Internet like to call it--to complement its recent NES and SNES plug-and-play consoles.

Given the success the company found with those miniaturized systems, a similarly compact re-envisioning of its first handheld wouldn't exactly be a surprise.

What would be a surprise (or at least it would be to me): if Nintendo filled the memory of this as-of-now-imaginary GameBoy Classic Edition with worthwhile games.

After all, while the NES-inspired product featured a number of veritable classics, it also included some head-scratchers like Pac-Man. More surprising were the titles its omitted, like the first Dragon Quest (or Dragon Warrior, for old folks like me), Duck Tales and Bionic Commando.

Would I do a better job of cramming a GameBoy Classic Edition or GameBoy mini full of must-play games? I'd like to think so.

Admittedly, the brass at Nintendo probably would put the kibosh on a number of the carts I'd push for, but I won't let that keep me from discussing them in this post.

Alleyway--Most people pooh-pooh this "launch window" release as an antiquated bore, but I've always enjoyed it. Plus, even with its issues, I think it would be a perfect pick-up-and-play-when-you-only-have-a-few-spare-minutes title for a product like this.

Amazing Penguin--I have to imagine a lot of folks who owned a GameBoy in the late 1980s and early 1990s aren't aware of this game's existence. That's too bad, as Amazing Penguin's gameplay--equal portions Pac-ManPengo and Qix--sets it apart from all the humdrum puzzlers and platformers that flooded store shelves during the system's reign.

Balloon Kid--This Balloon Fight spinoff is a tough cookie and a painfully short experience, but it deserves a spot here due to its unique gameplay (it's a side-scrolling platformer in which its main character is nearly always floating beneath a balloon) and its female protagonist.

Bubble Bobble Part 2--None of Taito's handheld Bubble Bobble titles hold a candle to the arcade original, but that doesn't mean they're all stinkers. Part 2 (Bubble Bobble Junior in Japan) is the best of the bunch by far, with adorable sprites and sprawling stages.

BurgerTime Deluxe--I've long loved the original BurgerTime game, but there's no question it's often brutal. Thankfully, this GameBoy sequel is miles more accessible. It also looks great and features a surprisingly ear-pleasing soundtrack. Bonus: the Japanese BurgerTime Deluxe packaging and instruction manual are splendid, too.

Catrap--Yet another often-overlooked game that really should be played by everyone who comes within a foot of a GameBoy system. Not only are its cat-eared protagonists (you can switch between the girl or boy at the beginning of every stage) cute as can be, but the time-bending, brain-melting, puzzler-platformer action at its core is completely brilliant, too.

Dig Dug--You just know that should a GameBoy Classic Edition ever be made, Nintendo's more likely to include Namco's portable, black-and-white Pac-Man port instead of this one. Which would be a shame, as the puzzle-heavy "New Dig Dug" mode included here (and not found anywhere else) is a breath of fresh air.

Donkey Kong--This may well be the best game ever made for Nintendo's first portable console. If you've never played it, it takes the arcade original's straightforward barrel-jumping action and transforms it into the puzzler-platformer to beat all puzzler-platformers--and that includes the many Mario vs. Donkey Kong titles that followed in this 1994 release's footsteps.

Dr. Mario--Truth be told, I've never been a huge Dr. Mario fan. I know a lot of folks like it, though, so that's why I'm including it here. I also think it's a good counterpoint to the far less flashy Tetris.

Final Fantasy Adventure--It would be easy to give this game's slot to another thanks to the presence of Link's Awakening (see below), but I'd campaign against that tactic for a couple of reasons. For starters, not everyone loves Link or Zelda. Also, Final Fantasy Adventure's ARPG gameplay is different enough from its aforementioned competitor's to be worth a go even if you're a Zelda veteran.

Final Fantasy Legend II--Purists probably would prefer to include the first Final Fantasy Legend title here, but I think its sequel is the better, more interesting, game. Either title should be seen as a welcome addition to this line-up, though, as it's decidedly lacking in traditional RPGs.

Gargoyle's Quest--This was one of my most-cherished cartridges back when I first owned a GameBoy thanks to how it combines exploring an RPG-ish overworld with conquering side-scrolling action stages. And it was among the hardest to let go of when I stupidly sold my system and collection of GameBoy cartridges a number of years after I bought them.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Manual Stimulation: Noobow (GameBoy)

Up until the early part of 2013, I had only a passing interest in Nintendo's GameBoy.

Oh, I owned one as a kid--got one as soon as I possibly could after it hit store shelves in the summer of 1989, in fact--and I loved it as much as anyone can love a bulky electronic gadget with a green-and-black screen.

After I sold my GameBoy system and catalog of carts a few years later, though, I rarely looked back. It just wasn't an experience I felt like revisiting, you know?

So, what happened in 2013? I came across a small blog post about the game highlighted here: Irem's Noobow.

That post included a short video of Noobow in action. I was hooked a second after I hit "start."

Over the next few months, I searched the Internet high and low for other Japan-only GameBoy games that had escaped my attention and that might appeal to me as much as Noobow.

All of that digital sleuthing resulted in me discovering import gems like PeetanPainter Momopie and Osawagase! Penguin Boy. (OK, so that last one actually earned a Western release--as Amazing Penguin.)

Once I became aware of those titles, too, there was no going back. In the years since, I basically made it a goal to obtain complete-in-box copies of those Japanese GameBoy games and a slew of others (like Astro RabbyBurning Paper and Cave Noire).

Curiously, each of the games I've mentioned so far were sold with stellar instruction manuals packed inside their colorful cardboard boxes.

Noobow's manual isn't as stellar as some of the others linked to at the bottom of this post, but I think it's still pretty nice.

Chiefly responsible for me calling it "nice" is that it sports a number of adorable illustrations of the eponymous Noobow, who apparently began life (and I believe continues to serve) as a mascot for a line of merchandise.

Strangely, this booklet doesn't contain even half as many illustrations as Noobow's outer box does, but at least almost all of the ones stuffed inside the manual are unique.

Also worth celebrating: the Noobow manual features three full pages of item drawings and descriptions.

If this is your first visit to this site, or if you haven't been visiting it for long, you need to know I love old game manuals that feature item drawings and descriptions.

Admittedly, the item drawings showcased here are on the rough side, but that just adds to their charm, if you ask me. (For another Japanese GameBoy manual that features rough item drawings, check out my post about the booklet made for the system's Bubble Bobble port.)

The second-to-last page of the Noobow instruction manual (see below) is supposed to be reserved for jotting down passwords, by the way. Whether or not the text a previous owner scribbled onto mine actually is a password, though, is up for debate.

Now that you've taken it all in, what do you think of the Noobow GameBoy instruction manual?

Also, if any of you have played this 1992 release, what do you think of it?

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts about Astro Rabby, Bubble Bobble Junior, Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru, Snow Bros. Jr. and Tumblepop

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A few thoughts on Golf Story for Switch now that I've put about eight hours into it

I don't know about you, but I think it's almost comical that the first game I played on my new Switch was Golf Story.

(Yes, a digital copy of Splatoon 2 came with the system, but I quickly sold it. Don't worry, I'll likely buy a physical copy of it down the road.)

As for why it's so funny this was my first pick-up for Nintendo's latest console, I sort of have a reputation for liking old and quirky games, right? Well, Golf Story has quirk to spare, and there's no doubt it looks like something that could've come out of the 8-bit or 16-bit eras.

So, I guess what I'm saying here is: I doubt there could be a better game to ease me into Switch ownership.

It's certainly done its job in that regard. After all, like this post's header makes clear, I've already spent more than eight hours playing Golf Story--and at the expense of the recently released Project Octopath Traveler demo, no less. (It wouldn't be an overstatement to say Square Enix adding this bite-sized version of its upcoming, Romancing SaGa-esque RPG to the Switch eShop is what pushed me to buy the system now rather than early next year.)

Would anybody become as engrossed as I have with this game if they were given a chance to play it? I think a good percentage of folks would, but not everyone.

To figure out if you're more likely to be in the yay or the nay camp, read my impressions of Golf Story's first eight or so hours.

Warning: this is not a golf simulator--Do you love serious golf games? The kind that mimic the club-and-ball sport down to a T (or, you know, a "tee")? If so, you might want to avoid Golf Story for the time being. To begin with, it's a fairly silly take on the Scotland-born pastime. Also, it would be a stretch to say it forces you to play gobs of golf. Yes, the eons-old sport is Golf Story's focus, and nearly every inch of its overworld (for lack of a better word) is a fairway or green or bunker, but you spend a lot less time making your way through multi-hole courses than you might think. In other words, if you're looking for something that's more like Electronic Arts' PGA Tour series and less like Sony's Hot Shots Golf efforts, this isn't the download for you.

That said, if you've enjoyed any of the early Mario Golf games, you should enjoy Golf Story, too--I say that mainly because Golf Story's gameplay feels a lot like that of the original Mario Golf and Mario Golf: Advance Tour. For those of you who've never experienced those titles, that means Golf Story's controls are arcade-y and accessible and, for the most part, intuitive--assuming you've played at least one other video game version of the sport before you picked up this one.

A little clarity would be greatly appreciated--Notice how I said "for the most part" at the end of my last sentence? I did that because, as fun as Golf Story is, it doesn't always provide the player with all the information he or she needs to enjoy it to its fullest. On more than one occasion, I've found myself in a situation where I wasn't completely sure what I was supposed to do or how I was supposed to do it. At first, I thought I was to blame, but eventually it dawned on me that Golf Story's sometimes-vague text was the real culprit. Thankfully, I've always gotten myself out of those jams, but I obviously would've preferred not getting into them in the first place.

I don't really agree with people who say this game is "EarthBound-esque"--Sure, Golf Story is goofy. And weird. But is it as weird and goofy as everybody's favorite cult-classic RPG, EarthBound? Not in my mind. Plus, the vibe here is completely different. Shigesato Itoi's seminal work often feels like a dream--or a nightmare. Golf Story is far more mundane and down to earth. It's odd in parts, no question, but don't expect it to display the kind of amusing, head-scratching edginess that's front and center in all three of Nintendo's Mother titles.

I'm not a huge fan of Golf Story's soundtrack--It almost kills me to say this, but I don't much like the music that accompanies your trip around the pixelated Australia that serves as this title's setting. At best, the tunes are forgettably ho-hum; at worst, they recall something you'd hear at a low-rent Renaissance fair. That's hardly the end of the world, of course, and the music here isn't exactly keeping me from enjoying my playthrough, but I also wouldn't have minded a more compelling and ear-pleasing soundtrack.

Don't be surprised if you encounter a few bugs or glitches here and there--On the fence about whether or not you should buy Golf Story? You may want to stay there a little while longer. Why? If you play it now, you'll likely run into one or more bugs or glitches--some of which could cause you to replay a chunk of the game (or worse). For example, I've regularly gotten the pompadour-sporting protagonist stuck while trying to run across a bridge. Jiggling the Switch's left analog stick a few times always frees him, but it's annoying all the same. Another bug I've experienced a couple of times: the camera getting screwed up if I try to scope out a hole before taking a shot. The worst glitch I've encountered, though, has been when I've hit a ball, or thrown a disc (you play disc golf in this title, too), and it's become jammed in a tree or behind a non-player character. On these occasions--yes, it's happened more than once--the only option has been to reset the game.

The good news here: developer and publisher Sidebar Games is prepping a patch as we speak, so hopefully it will take care of all of the bugs and glitches I just mentioned, as well as the many others discussed in this Reddit thread.

Given all of the above, you might think I'm less than enamored with Golf Story at the moment. On the contrary, I'm thrilled with it. Sure, it's got its flaws, but it's such a blast overall that I'm finding them easy to overlook. I especially like the game's relaxed attitude and almost languid pace. Although there's a point to all of its swinging and putting and chipping, it never really puts any pressure on you. You're free to explore its evocative environments in whatever manner and at whatever pace you prefer, and I'm finding that particularly refreshing.  

Are any of you playing Golf Story? If so, what do you think of it? Do its positive attributes outweigh its negative ones for you, too, or is the opposite true for you?

See also: 'OK, who's got some Switch game recommendations for me?'