Monday, August 31, 2015

Nice Package! (Last Window: The Secret of Cape West, Nintendo DS)

You've hopefully noticed by now that I currently have Hotel Dusk on the brain. After all, my last two posts have focused on that Cing-developed, Nintendo-published DS game. (My most recent #ADecadeofDS write-up is one, while my latest installment of 'Which Box Art is Best?' is the other.)

Although I haven't yet finished my Hotel Dusk playthrough (I just crossed the 12-hour mark), I'm already looking forward to diving into its sequel, known as Last Window: The Secret of Cape West.

In case this is the first you've heard of Last Window (which I've stupidly been calling The Last Window in the comments here as of late), it is a follow-up to Hotel Dusk that hit Japanese store shelves in early 2010 and made its way to Europe a few months later.

I bought a copy of the latter version shortly after it was released, despite the fact that I hadn't yet played (let alone finished) Hotel Dusk.

Sadly, the copy in question has been sitting in a cupboard ever since.

Considering how much I'm currently enjoying Hotel Dusk, though, you can rest assured it won't be sitting there for much longer.

In the meantime, I thought all who are interested may enjoy ogling the photos of Last Window's packaging that can be seen throughout this post.

Have any of you played Last Window? If so, what did you think of the experience? Also, how did you think it compared to Hotel Dusk--assuming you played that portable whodunit, too?

See also: previous 'Nice Package!' posts

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Which Box Art is Best? (Hotel Dusk: Room 215)

After writing my recent #ADecadeofDS post about Hotel Dusk, I was forced to search the web for good-quality scans of its box art. (Sorry, I was too lazy to do it myself--although I'll surely do it before I publish my "Great Gaymathon" review of this Cing-developed adventure title in a week or two.)

In the process, I came across the cover illustrations produced for Hotel Dusk's Japanese and Korean counterparts. Both intrigued me so much that I decided I needed to work up another "Which Box Art is Better?" (or in this case, "Which Box Art is Best?") post devoted to them.

First up is the Japanese version's box art. In that region, the game was called Wish Room: Angel's Memory, which is just as appropriate as Hotel Dusk: Room 215, if you ask me.

Anyway, I find it interesting that this illustration completely ignores the ramshackle hotel that serves as the focal point (in different ways) of the North American and Korean covers.

The piece of box art below is well known to those of us who call Australia, Europe and North America home, of course.

Actually, the art that covers the frontside of my particular copy of Hotel Dusk is slightly different from what's showcased here--with a large orange banner sweeping across the top portion of the illustration and a "Touch Generations" logo appearing in its upper-left corner.

Finally, there's the Korean cover art, below, which takes the most straightforward approach and focuses on a hand-drawn depiction of the titular establishment. It also features headshots of Hotel Dusk's colorful cast of characters and even offers potential players a glimpse at how they'll hold their DS systems while working their way through this portable whodunit.

So, which one is my favorite? It's hard to say, although if I were forced to pick one over the others I'd probably go with the North American iteration, as I think it does the best job of emulating Hotel Dusk's contents.

That said, I'm also pretty fond of the Korean and Japanese cover illustrations. I like that the former actually shows the hotel and the game's book-like perspective, while I like that the latter takes a more creative approach to the same subject matter.

How about you? Which piece of Hotel Dusk (or Wish Room) box art do you like best?

See also: previous 'Which Box Art is Better?' posts

Thursday, August 27, 2015

#ADecadeofDS: Hotel Dusk

Amount of time devoted to this game since I started playing it just over a month ago--Six hours, 59 minutes.

Most recent boss toppled, location reached or milestone achieved--To be honest, Hotel Dusk really isn't the kind of game that prompts you to celebrate reaching a particular milestone--or even recognize that a milestone has been reached.

Still, I'll do my best to recall my last "accomplishment." I guess that would be me finally gaining access into a pair of Hotel Dusk's rooms that previously had been off limits to me and the game's hunky (and often grumpy) protagonist, Kyle Hyde.

If that doesn't sound like something to cheer about, consider that the titular establishment houses just a dozen or so rooms, and only a few of them are explorable at any given time, especially early on.

Overall comments on the experience so far--Hotel Dusk is an odd game. Actually, some may not consider it a "game" at all. In a way, I can see where they're coming from, as if any title deserves to be called a "visual novel," this Cing-developed one is it.

Admittedly, a couple of the other visual novels I've played to date--such as Hakuoki and Sweet Fuse for PSP--are fairly book-like, too, but both of those titles are more like digital, gamified "Choose Your Own Adventure" paperbacks than the far more straightforward, yet still surprisingly interactive, Hotel Dusk.

What I mean by the latter part of the above is that Hotel Dusk tells a single, set story from start to finish. No matter what you do while you stalk the halls of this out-of-the-way inn, and no matter which choices you make while you talk with its odd cast of customers, you won't change the course of the central tale.

I can appreciate that to an extent, although I also kind of hate it due to how it often causes a Hotel Dusk playthrough to come to a screeching halt. That's because whenever you can't figure out what to do to advance this game's story, you're basically forced to wander around aimlessly, poking your nose into the corner of each and every room while also clicking on anything that happens to catch your eye (and even a few things that don't), until you successfully "pick up the scent" again.

Thankfully, that hasn't happened too often during my maiden voyage through this 2007 release--although I think it could be argued that even a handful of times are a handful too many. 

Anyway, despite that above-mentioned quibble, I've gotten a lot of enjoyment out of Hotel Dusk so far. Although the mystery that serves as its centerpiece is only passable, in my humble opinion, I still want to see how it wraps up.

I’m also pretty fond of the numerous guests who share the hotel with you. Each one has a distinct personality and all are surprisingly likeable or dislikeable. (OK, so that’s not entirely true, as I just thought of one character who straddles that line due to how boring she is—but she’s definitely an exception to the rule.) My favorites: the saucy maid, the stoner bellhop and the old lady who sports an eye patch.

And then, of course, there’s the art style that’s so effectively put to use throughout Hotel Dusk. Specifically, I’m talking about the rotoscoped graphics that call to mind A-ha’s iconic “Take On Me” video, although that’s not the full extent of why this game’s aesthetics are so noteworthy. Also playing a role here is the game’s 1970s-tastic sheen, which helps make even the most mundane passages seem interesting from a visual standpoint.

Will I continue to play this game in the coming days, weeks and maybe even months?--Oh, I'm definitely going to finish it; that's not even in question. Will I enjoy it all the way to the end, though? That's far more in question, if I'm to be honest.

I say that because it seems like Hotel Dusk's more annoying traits are becoming more frequent, not less, the deeper I delve into its story. Assuming that trend continues, I can guarantee my final opinion of this game will be far less rosy than I initially imagined it would be.

Do I recommend it to others?--Are you a mystery buff? Are you also a fan of the 1970s—or are you at least not turned off by books or games or movies that are set in that shagadelic decade? If you're able to answer both of those questions with at least a tentative yes, you’ll probably enjoy your stay at Hotel Dusk--or at least you probably won't regret your purchase.

Even then, you're likely to encounter at least a few aggravating moments, but all of what I've said here so far should help steel you for them a bit.

Next up--9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors

See also: previous #ADecadeofDS posts

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Introducing: Swan of Wonders

I may not yet own a WonderSwan—which, for those of you who are out of the loop when it comes to Japan-only handhelds, is a portable gaming system that was first released in that region back in the late 1990s—but I still know a lot about this curious contraption.

Of course, I guess you could say I should know a lot about the WonderSwan, as I already own 11 games that were made to run on it. (I wrote about—and shared some photos of--10 of those titles in this recently published post.)

Even so, I’ve enjoyed perusing a just-launched site--called Swan of Wonders--that’s devoted to Bandai’s answer to Nintendo’s line of GameBoy products over the last few days. 

Admittedly, Swan of Wonder is a bit thin content-wise at the moment, but I’m sure that will change in due time. Thankfully, the little amount of text that’s currently available is a joy to read—with the site's "Top 15 WonderSwan Games" post being the highlight, in my opinion.

Are any of you also WonderSwan fans? If so, don’t be shy about it—share your WS pride in the comments section below.

While you’re at it, let me know which WonderSwan game most tickles your fancy or piques your interest. Or, let me know which WS system—three different iterations saw the light of day between 1999 and 2002, and each of them came in a wide array of colors—you like best.

See also: my WonderSwan-focused Flickr album

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Nichiest Podcast Ever: Take 15

Did you think The Nichiest Podcast Ever was a goner? If so, I'm happy to inform you that you were mistaken--as a new episode is now available for your aural pleasure.

That's not to say this particular "take"--which is The Nichiest Podcast Ever's 15th, if you can believe that--is of the "par for the course" variety. For starters, some exciting news is shared in its first few minutes. I won't spoil that news here, but I will say that it involves the podcaster formerly known as shidoshi.

Other than that, we spend the bulk of this episode chatting about the slew of niche-y games that have been announced since we last found the time to sit down and record together--which was all the way back in May.

Specifically, we talked about: Crypt of the Necrodancer (PS4/Vita), Dragon Quest Builders (PS3/PS4/Vita) Dragon Quest XI (3DS/PS4), Final Fantasy Explorers (3DS), Hatoful Boyfriend (PS4/Vita), Odin Sphere Leifdrasir (PS3/PS4/Vita), Rhythm Tengoku: The Best Plus (3DS) and Zero Escape 3 (3DS/Vita).

That's just the tip of the iceberg, though, so if the list above sounds at least a smidge appealing to you, you'll probably enjoy the entirety of "Take 15."

Should you take the time to listen to the latest iteration of The Nichiest Podcast Ever, please leave a comment about your experience on Better yet, leave a question--so we finally can have one or two to answer when we go to record our 16th episode.

See also: previous posts about The Nichiest Podcast Ever

Friday, August 21, 2015

Another Year of the GameBoy: Astro Rabby

A couple of weeks ago, I included a few paragraphs about this weird, Japan-only GameBoy release in my latest "Shall We Do It?" post.

Those of you who read that write-up probably got the feeling that I'm sort of "on the fence" when it comes to Astro Rabby, which was developed by a company called Cyclone System and published by another known as IGS.

Actually, that's not completely accurate, as I definitely like Astro Rabby more than I hate it. In fact, the only part of this overhead action game is its between-worlds bonus rounds, which are hair-pullingly confounding.

Other than those few misfires, though, Astro Rabby's actually pretty fun--although I'm sure some will find it a bit archaic.

That I mostly enjoy this Jumping Flash-esque effort is a very good thing, of course, as if I didn't, I probably wouldn't own a copy of it--which would be a crying shame, as its outer box (pictured above) is pretty darn great, don't you think?

(Full disclosure: I actually bought Astro Rabby before I played it for even a single moment--and mainly because of its awesome box art.)

The rest of Astro Rabby's packaging is worth noting, too, if you ask me. OK, so its cartridge label (above) is only so-so, but its instruction manual more than makes up for it, as you'll see in a second.

Don't worry, the cover of Astro Rabby's manual isn't its high point--although I personally think its use of dark gray, white and various shades of pink is surprisingly appealing.

Now we're getting somewhere, right? Yes, the back of Astro Rabby's instruction booklet definitely is a looker--or at least the illustration that's featured on it is one.

The inside pages of this manual are no different, with a number of nice drawings included throughout (some of which are highlighted in the "Story" page photo above).

I'll scan the entirety of this sucker soon and share all of them in an upcoming installment of my long-lived "Manual Stimulation" series. In the meantime, though, have any of you played Astro Rabby--even via emulation? If so, what do you think of it?

See also: previous 'Another Year of the GameBoy' posts

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Calling all gamers who know of box art featuring toys or figures instead of drawings or renders

Yesterday morning, game developer Hayden Scott-Baron (he's had a hand in Lostwinds, Tumbledrop and Zoo Tycoon, among other titles) asked me on Twitter if I could recommend any game box art that uses photos of toys or figures instead of drawings or renders.

An example of what he was looking for, he said in a later Tweet, was the cover made for the packaging of Monster World IV, a rather lovely action RPG that was released for Sega's Mega Drive back in 1994.

Sadly, that prompt didn't help a whole lot--at least at first. In fact, the only piece of cover art I could think of was the one that was produced for the Japanese version of Advance Wars: Dual Strike, which was known as Famicom Wars DS in that territory.

Later, though, a few others came to mind, such as Teketeke! Asmik-kun World (aka Boomer's Adventures in Asmik World) for the GameBoy and HAL Laboratory's Eggerland (part of the series that later became known as Adventures of Lolo) for the Famicom Disk System.

The Eggerland box art (below) is among the most delicious things you've ever laid eyes on, right? Don't be shy--admit it.

The only other example I've been able to think of, by the way, is Atlus' Totsugeki! Valetions (see it here), which also is a Japanese GameBoy title. (Its name was changed to Spud's Adventure when it was brought to North America in 1991.)

I don't suppose any of you can think of examples of game cover art that showcases toys or figures instead of drawing or renders? If you can, please let me know about them in the comments section of this post.