Wednesday, December 13, 2017

I'm pretty sure I've never attempted to juggle as many games as I am right now

There's no question 2017 has been a good year for people who enjoy playing video games.

I wish I could say the same for my wallet--or the storage on my current go-to systems, the Switch and Vita, for that matter.

Speaking of which, look at all the new-ish games I'm attempting to play on my Switch at the moment: Elliot Quest, Floor Kids, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Slime-san, Super Bomberman R and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Admittedly, I'm more likely to play some of those Switch titles than others. For example, I doubt I'll devote too much more time to Elliot Quest from here on out, and the same probably could be said about Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime and Slime-san.

Still, the point stands that I'm juggling a lot of Switch games right now--and things are only going to get worse in that regard in just over a week, which is when I'm pretty sure I'll be getting Skyrim as a Christmas gift.

Over on my Vita, I'm struggling to spend time with a bunch of titles that were recently released for it, too.

Among them are four "hot off the presses" ports--2064: Read Only Memories, Papers, Please, Undertale, and VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action--although I'm also doing my best to wrap up my on-again-off-again playthrough of a game that came out ages ago, Yomawari: Night Alone. And this list will grow even longer on Friday once Romancing SaGa 2 finally hits the North American PlayStation Store.

Finally, I'm playing a couple of games on my laptop at the moment as well: Doki Doki Literature Club and Strange Flesh. And a copy of the curious 3DS RPG, Miitopia, just landed on my doorstep, so I'll be digging into that this weekend, assuming my schedule and attention span allow it.

Honestly, I can't remember the last time I was swimming in so many recently released games.

How about all of you? Are you feeling similarly overwhelmed--in a good way, mostly--by all of the great titles that have come out this year?

Saturday, December 09, 2017

To buy the Romancing SaGa 2 remake for Switch or Vita, that is the question

I've been awaiting an English release of Square Enix's Romancing SaGa 2 remake--or remaster, if you prefer--for a surprisingly long time.

Hell, I've been waiting for the game to be made playable in English, period, since it first hit the Super Famicom back in late 1993.

After all, the Romancing SaGa titles are about the worst games you could attempt to play through if you don't have a mighty firm grasp of the Japanese language thanks to their open-ended nature and ridiculous amount of (kanji-heavy) text.

Sadly, none of the fan translations of these games have ever progressed to a point where they could be said to be playable. As such, I bought the iOS version of the above-mentioned Romancing SaGa 2 remake the day it made its way on to the North American App Store early last year--despite its rather hefty price tag of $17.99.

Unsurprisingly, I've barely touched it in the year-plus since. Oh, I started it, and I didn't find its touchscreen controls to be anywhere near as off-putting as I assumed they'd be, but, as is the case with pretty much every mobile game I've bought to date, I just couldn't stick with it.

So, I've not-so-secretly held out hope that Square Enix would eventually bring the Vita version of the Romancing SaGa 2 remake--released in Japan alongside the mobile iteration in March 2016--to our shores.

Just when I'd about given up on that ever happening, series creator Akitoshi Kawazu took to Twitter to mention he and his team were still working toward that goal (while also prepping a similarly updated version of Romancing SaGa 3).

That was all the way back in April, though, and Kawazu's barely made a peep about the fate of the English release of Romancing SaGa 2's Vita port since, so let's just say yesterday's announcement that it'll be available for purchase on the North American PlayStation Store on Dec. 15 proved to be a bit of a curveball.

Even more of a curveball was the news that PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One owners also will be able to buy and play the Romancing SaGa 2 remaster on that same date. (Visit to see the game's latest trailer.)

Which of course begs the question: which version should I pick up?

My initial response was to go with the Vita iteration, as that's the one I've always wanted. It wasn't long before I changed my mind and decided I'd rather experience the game on my new go-to system, the Switch.

As of this morning, though, I'm no longer so sure. Yes, the Switch has a bigger screen and I use it far more than I use my Vita at the moment, but the Vita has a better, longer-lasting battery and it also simply seems like the right "home" for such a game.

What do all of you think I should do here?

Also, are any of you planning to purchase some version of the Romancing SaGa 2 remake when it drops in a few days? If so, which one?

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Shippo de Bun's stunning packaging puts a new spin on the old phrase 'nice piece of tail'

I know this post should be included in my long-running "Year of the GameBoy" series, but I've got to cut the cord on it at some point (I launched it back in early 2014), so I figured now was as good a time as any.

Plus, any write-up about this Japanese title deserves a unique headline, if you ask me. Shippo de Bun is one of the best GameBoy releases around, after all.

Not that I knew this myself until a few years ago, mind you. Back in the summer of 1991, when this game first hit store shelves in North America and Europe--as Tail 'Gator--it completely avoided my radar. It wasn't until I came across its brilliant Japanese box art, showcased in the photo above, that it made any kind of impression on me.

Shortly after I figured out its name, I plopped it into the search bars on auction sites like eBay and Yahoo! Auctions Japan--and nearly fainted.

Anyone who collects GameBoy carts won't be surprised by that news, I'm sure. Why? Because copies of both Tail 'Gator and Shippo de Bun--complete-in-box ones, in particular--often cost a pretty penny these days.

Still, I was determined to own a Japanese copy of the game, so I kept my eye out for a reasonably priced one--and snapped one up earlier this year.

Am I glad I did, now that I've had a few months to ponder my wallet-withering decision? You bet. Like I said in my first attempt at this post's header, I think Shippo de Bun's packaging alone is worth the price of admission.

Couple that with the fact that Shippo de Bun--or Tail 'Gator, whichever you prefer--is an absolute blast to play, and I'd say the game is a must-own for anyone who owns and still plays a GameBoy (or GameBoy Color or GameBoy Advance) and has the needed funds.

If that doesn't quite describe you, I'd still recommending finding a way to experience some version of this game. It plays similarly to old-school single-screen platformers like Don Doko Don and Parasol Stars, but with a number of twists.

For starters, stages in Shippo de Bun take up more than a single screen. They only scroll sideways, though, not up and down, and most seem to cover about three screens.

Also, you don't capture or trap enemies in this Natsume-made game and then use them as weapons against their surviving co-conspirators, as is the case in most examples of the genre. Here, you whack baddies with your tail until they croak. You use the same appendage to crack open safes, which litter each level and provide vital power-ups.

Finally, your goal while playing Shippo de Bun isn't to clear each screen of enemies, but to find--in a safe, unsurprisingly--the key that opens a door that sits on opposite your entrance point.

It's all a lot more enjoyable than it probably sounds. Bolstering Shippo de Bun's appeal: it looks great and sounds even better. Seriously, the soundtrack that accompanies the alligator protagonist's trials and travails is among the best ever produced for a GameBoy cartridge. It's bouncy and jazzy and even a bit rock-y.

My only complaint about Shippo de Bun's packaging: its designers reused the same art for its outer box, manual cover, and cart label.

Oh, well, at least a few original illustrations can be found on the inside pages of its instruction booklet. Don't worry, you'll be able to give them a good, long look in a future installment of my "Manual Stimulation" series.

In the meantime, what do those of you who've played either Tail 'Gator or Shippo de Bun think of the game? And what do you think of the Japanese version's packaging?

See also: previous blog posts about the packaging produced for Burning Paper, Noobow, Peetan, Snow Bros. Jr., and Tumblepop

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Dear third-party developers and publishers, please greenlight Switch sequels to these games

Just over a month ago, I published a similarly titled post in which I discussed sequels I'd like Nintendo to greenlight for Switch.

This write-up, of course, is aimed at third-party developers and publishers.

Sadly, I don't have the highest of hopes that follow-ups to any of the games mentioned below will make their way to the Switch anytime soon, but I'm not going to let that keep me from blathering on about them here.

With that out of the way, keep reading to learn about 10 Switch sequels I'd like third parties to make before Nintendo's popular hybrid system gives up the ghost.

Cladun--I'm well aware that this retro-tinged series of dungeon-crawlers began life on Sony systems, but considering the one that put it on the map (the PSP) is long dead and its successor has one foot in the grave, prepping the next Cladun for Switch seems like the only viable option for developer System Prisma. Should the company do that, though, I hope it eschews the last release's ancient Japanese setting in favor of something a bit more in line with the series' first two entries.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles--Specifically, I want a "real" sequel to the GameCube original. The Switch would be perfect for such a game, don't you think? And this time around, you wouldn't need to own a bunch of GameBoy Advances and related cables to experience its particular multiplayer pleasures. All you'd need are a couple of extra Joy-Cons--if your goal is to cobble together a proper four-person party, I mean. At any rate, please make this happen pronto, Square Enix.

Mr. Driller--The bigwigs at Bandai Namco have ignored this Dig Dug spinoff for a good while now. In fact, Drill Till You Drop and W, sold via the DS and Wii eShops, respectively, are the series' most recent console outings, and they came out all the way back in 2009. A fresh sequel for Switch would be perfect, if you ask me--especially if it allowed players to make use of the system's touch screen in handheld mode.

Opoona--Developer ArtePiazza has been dropping hints that Opoona may soon make a return, but no one seems to know what form the return will take. It could simply be an untouched digital release of the original game for Switch (and maybe other current consoles). Or it could be a mobile port of the same game. The best-case scenario, in my mind: a Switch sequel that addresses Opoona's many shortcomings but retains its sense of otherworldly awe. That said, I'd also take a remake--as long as it, too, fixes some of the Wii offering's issues.

Pac-Man Championship Edition--Oh, who am I trying to kid here? I don't really want Bandai Namco to push out yet another sequel to this 2007 release. I just want the company to make the first one available to Switch owners like myself. That's not too much to ask, is it? If it is, how about a Switch port of 2014's Pac-Man Museum?

Shiren the Wanderer--Actually, I'd welcome any sort of Mystery Dungeon sequel on Switch as along as it isn't another of the Pokémon-branded ones. Don't take that the wrong way--I don't have a problem with the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series. I would, however, prefer to see a mainline entry come to the system first. OK, and new Torneko or Chocobo spinoffs, too. Once those are out of the way, Spike Chunsoft, feel free to churn out another Pokémon offshoot for Nintendo.

Slime MoriMori Dragon Quest--By nearly all accounts, Square Enix's last Slime MoriMori Dragon Quest game didn't do so well. It only saw the light of day in Japan, however, and it came out fairly early on in the 3DS' life. Had it launched later, and had it earned a Western (North American, especially) release, I think it may have fared better. Regardless, with the Switch lighting up the sales charts around the world, a fourth Slime MoriMori Dragon Quest title could finally see the kind of worldwide success this series has always deserved.

Super Monkey Ball--I know this Sega series has gone downhill since its second console release, but I'd welcome a new Switch entry with open arms if it returned to its glory days on the GameCube. The question is: does the company still have what it takes to produce a worthwhile Super Monkey Ball game? I'm not sure it does, but I'll give Sega the benefit of the doubt and cross my fingers that a new, thrilling adventure starring AiAi and co hit the Switch sometime soon.

Yomawari: Night Alone and Midnight Shadows--It's hard to say if this series of cute-but-creepy survival-horror titles has done well enough for Nippon Ichi Software to make another or if it's currently on the proverbial chopping block due to ho-hum sales. Should NIS make a third, though, I pray it'll add Switch to the mix of systems that can play it--and maybe port the first two titles to the hybrid as well?

Zoo Keeper--I have to be one of the few people around clamoring for this series of match-three puzzlers to continue on the Switch. I've thoroughly enjoyed every version of Zoo Keeper I've played to date, though--with the GBA and Japan-only 3DS games being my favorites--so I'd love to see what developer Success can concoct for Nintendo's latest handheld.

Are there any sequels you'd like third-party developers and published to make for Switch? If so, let me and others know about them in the comments section below.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Manual Stimulation: Bubble Ghost (GameBoy)

I'm sure I've said this before, but I'm saying it again anyway: some Japanese GameBoy instruction booklets are better than others.

Sadly, the Bubble Ghost manual is one of the "others."

It could be worse, I know. Much, much worse.

I mean, look at its logo, for starters. I'm talking about the main English one here, which is wonderfully and appropriately bubbly, although the Japanese one is awfully nice, too.

And of course the eponymous bubble ghost sitting smack-dab in the middle of it doesn't hurt matters.

Beyond those elements, there's the raspberry-colored ink that's slathered over a good portion of both the Bubble Ghost manual's cover as well as its innards.

Strangely, I'm pretty fond of the fuchsia-tinged screenshots that dot this booklet's pages.

I'm not as fond of the fact that those pages feature only a few illustrations. You'd think a game like this would come with a manual that's filled with drawings of the main character. It doesn't.

Granted, I'm not sure the folks at publisher Pony Canyon put a whole lot of energy into the creation of this booklet.

For a case in point, take a gander at that rather pointless map that takes up more than half of its second-to-last page.

Thankfully, Bubble Ghost's outer box and cartridge label go a long way toward making up for its manual's missteps.

To see what I mean, check out this blog post of mine: "Surprise! The Year of the GameBoy Continues: Bubble Ghost."

Have any of you played this version of Bubble Ghost? Or have you played any other version of the game-, which began life (in 1987) on the Atari ST computer? If so, share your thoughts on the game--or this GameBoy manual--in the comments section below.

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts about Astro Rabby, Noobow, Peetan, and Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe