Saturday, July 23, 2016

Nice Package! (Moon: Remix RPG Adventure + UFO: A Day in the Life, PlayStation)

I can't say for sure which "modern" game system boasts the biggest and best selection of odd and off-the-wall titles, but I'm inclined to suggest it's the original PlayStation.

Admittedly, arguments could be made in favor of the Famicom (NES), the DS and even the PC Engine, but at the moment I'm leaning toward Sony's maiden console thanks in large part to the pair of games that serve as the focus of this post.

In case this is the first you've heard of these titles, both are wackadoodle adventures conjured up by the wizards at Love-de-Lic, Inc. That name may ring a bell if you're a fan of some other out-there games, like Chulip, Giftpia, Little King's Story and Chibi-Robo! Not that Love-de-Lic developed those titles, mind you. They were made--in part, at least--by former Love-de-Lic employees, though. (Those staffers went on to form Punchline, skip and Vanpool.)

Love-de-Lic itself produced just three games during its disappointingly brief, five-year existence. One was 2000's L.O.L.: Lack of Love, a head-scratcher for Sega's Dreamcast. The others were the titles highlighted in the headline above--1999's UFO: A Day in the Life and 1997's Moon: Remix RPG Adventure.

I spent a number of years pining for Moon: Remix RPG Adventure before I finally bought it. That's because complete-in-box copies tend to be pricey. 

I lucked out and nabbed the one you see here for a veritable steal some months ago while perusing the wares of one of my favorite eBay vendors.

It isn't in pristine condition, mind you, but it's in good enough condition that I'm more than happy with the purchase.

Anyway, I really like Moon: Remix RPG Adventure's whimsical disc label, showcased in the photo above, for whatever reason.

Don't get me wrong, it's instruction manual is nice, too. It's definitely a bit on the "uh, wow" side, as the focus of the following snapshot should make clear, but that's part of its charm, don't you think?

Sadly, I've yet to even slip my Moon: Remix RPG Adventure disc into my adorable Japanese PSone system. I hope to rectify that soon, but I've said that many times before, so who knows when it'll actually happen.

Hell, it's possible the game's fan translation, which has been in the works for ages now, will be out before give this pick-up a go. Oh, well. 

I know for sure I'll play my copy of UFO: A Day in the Life before its fan translation sees the light of day. That's because, as far as I know, no one is working on a fan translation of this curious Japan-only release.

Which is too bad, as both Hardcore Gaming 101's and Wikipedia's write-ups about the game make it sound awfully interesting.

In particular, UFO's Wikipedia entry suggests the adventure on offer here is at least somewhat Chulip-esque. That intrigues me for reasons I can't quite explain, as the month I spent with that 2002 PS2 title a couple of years ago was trying at best.

Here's portion of the entry in question, should any of you want to read it: "UFO: A Day in the Life puts the player in the role of an extraterrestrial attempting to save a group of 50 fellow aliens who have been stranded on Earth. The player must navigate areas that humans and animals inhabit, unable to actually see the alien he or she is trying to rescue. To this effect, the player must use a device called 'COSMIC,' a kind of camera, to reveal the creatures. As more aliens are rescued, more areas open up and different times of day are available for exploration."

Honestly, though, even if UFO: A Day in the Life proves to be a smelly turd of a game, I want to play through as much of it as I'm able at some point in time.

Have any of you played either of these Love-de-Lic products? If so, what did or do you think about them? Let me and others here know in the comments section below.

Also, if you'd like to see a few more snapshots like the ones above, pay a visit to my Flickr photostream.

See also: previous 'Nice Package!' posts

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Shall We Do It? (Flying Hero, Ghosts 'n Goblins, Kickle Cubicle, Pooyan and Son Son)

You know what I've been daydreaming about for the last few weeks? Someday having a small, cozy den with a with a rather modest TV and an original Famicom system set up in its far corner.

Oh, and within reach of that TV and Famicom would be a small selection of pick-up-and-play Famicom games, of course. Like Flying Hero, Meikyūjima (aka Kickle Cubicle) and Pooyan.

Thanks to those daydreams, I spent a good number of minutes and even hours playing the above-mentioned games--along with a few others, like Jaleco's Racket Attack--this past weekend. Here are some thoughts on them, in case anyone's interested.

Flying Hero--I chat about this game here and on Twitter on a regular basis, I know. The fact is, though, that it's really great title for when you've only got time--or energy--for a couple of minutes of gaming. I've got to warn you, though: if you're anything like me, you'll very likely put more than a couple of minutes into this Arkanoid-esque cart whenever you stick it into your trusty Famicom (or, you know, boot up its ROM on your PC). Me, I usually dump at least 30 minutes into it during each attempt--and even then I have to pull myself away from it. What's the draw here? I guess I just like bat-and-ball games with an interesting twist. (See my ages-old review of Wizorb for additional evidence.) Plus, I really like all of the little details that are packed into Flying Hero; namely, a wealth of different settings, NPCs and power-up items.

Ghosts 'n Goblins--Here's another game I've long ignored. In this case, though, I know why I've given it the cold shoulder: it's hard as hell. To the point that previous experiences with it usually caused me to want to slam my controller into the nearest wall. Still, I felt like playing it last weekend so that's just what I did. And you know what? I mostly enjoyed it. I've always been a big fan of this game's graphics, and I like its controls quite a bit, too. And then there's the soundtrack, which creates the perfect atmosphere for all of the monster bashing that's to come. OK, so I suck at this spooky side-scroller--known as Makaimura in its country of origin--and I'm not going to see its end credits (or even its third stage, if I'm to be honest) anytime soon, but I think I'll still get a kick out of playing it every now and then.

Kickle Cubicle--I'm honestly bamboozled by the fact that I've barely spent any time with this Irem-made action-puzzler over the years. It seems right up my alley, after all. Not only does it have a cute-as-buttons protagonist, but its enemies (if you can call them that) are adorable, too. And then there's the fact that it features tons of collectible fruit and vegetables and other food items--and that's always been something that piqued my interest. On top of all of that, this cartridge's gameplay is addicting as can be. It actually reminds me of other great titles from the same period--like Adventures of Lolo and Bubble Bobble. They're not all of the same genre, naturally, but they all come from the same "just one more level" mold. Speaking of which, I kind of want to get back to it now.

Pooyan--Although Pooyan was released for the Famicom just over two years after Nintendo's console first hit the streets of Japan, it began life in 1982 as an arcade game. That makes a lot of sense when you sit down and play this late-to-the-party home port. Pooyan's a fairly straightforward and basic quarter-muncher with few bells and whistles. You control a pig who has to defend her forest home from a seemingly endless swarm of balloon-carrying wolves. Oh, and you do this by firing arrows--some of which strangely contain chunks of meat--at said canids. Don't worry, it's less weird while you're actually playing it. It's also a lot of fun--if fairly limited from a gameplay perspective. Still, I get the urge to play it on a regular basis, so obviously it does something right despite being more than a little archaic.

Son Son--This Capcom title is in the same boat as Pooyan, actually. It, too, is an old arcade game (first released in 1984) that earned a Famicom port a couple of years later. Also, Son Son doesn't offer players a whole lot of variety when it comes to gameplay. Basically, you're put into the shoes of a chibi version of the "Monkey King" and tasked with, well, I'm not exactly sure. Regardless, from the moment the game starts, you're on the move--this is an auto-scrolling platformer, if you weren't aware--and forced to jump between six platforms, shoot oncoming baddies and collect pieces of food. Although the look of the platforms changes (from grass, to brick, to stone and more), as do the approaching enemies, you see all you're going to see from Son Son shortly after you hit your Famicom's "Start" button. Some may consider that a negative, but not me. I like that this is a streamlined experience. Don't expect more than that when you sit down to play it and you'll have a good time, too.

See also: previous 'Shall We Do It?' posts

Monday, July 18, 2016

Second Chances: Racket Attack (NES)

I've played tennis since I was about seven years old. That's when my dad started teaching me the sport at the public courts not too far from our suburban Wisconsin home.

I didn't consider myself a tennis fan, though, until I turned 12 or 13. That's when I remember watching Wimbledon on TV for the first time. Or at least that's the first time I remember laying eyes on the player (Steffi Graf) who single-handedly caused me to tune into many more Wimbledons--not to mention Australian Opens, French Opens, US Opens and other, smaller tournaments--in the years and even decades to come.

I say all of this because it should help explain this next comment: as a teen, I played a whole lot of Jaleco's Racket Attack (Moero!! Pro Tennis in Japan). I couldn't tell you how many hours I devoted to it, of course, but I can tell you it wasn't just a passing fancy.

That may shock those of you who have even the slightest amount of experience with this TOSE-developed NES cartridge, as the game isn't exactly considered a classic.

Still, when I was younger, I was fairly obsessed with it--at least for a time. I'm not sure if I ever "beat" it (hell, I'm not even sure its "beatable"). Regardless, I got to know Racket Attack really well at that time in my life.

Unfortunately, none of that seemed to matter whenever I've returned to the game in the last few years. Each time, I walked away from it in disgust after failing to come to grips with its frustratingly awkward controls.

Why did I give it another chance this past weekend? Honestly, I haven't a clue. I guess I was just curious to see if I still thought it sucked. Or maybe I just wanted to play a tennis video game and couldn't think of a better option. At any rate, I booted it up and took a deep breath. Here's a rundown of what happened next:

* Through the first three games of my match (I played as "Gray," while my opponent was "Juana"), I won a single point.

* In the fourth game, I not only won a few points, I won an entire game--on my opponent's serve, no less. This was accomplished by rushing the net like Martina Navratilova in her prime.

* Sadly, that was the only game I won during that first set against the similarly baseline-phobic Juana. I should've won a few more, but I always found a way to screw up those chances. Oh, well.

* Shockingly, I won the first game of the second set. I also started to feel at one with the "down the T" serve at this point. (I pretty much always faulted on it before.) Not that it did me much good, mind you, as I dropped the very next game.

* Although I gave Jauna a tougher time in our match's second set, she eventually ran out to a 5-3 lead. Somehow, I broke her--saving two match points along the way--and got back to 5-5. I lost the next two games and the match (6-1, 7-5), naturally.

Given the above, you may assume I once again walked away from Racket Attack wondering how I could've enjoyed it so much as a teen. In reality, I walked away from it with a grin on my face and the expectation that I'd play it again soon.

This is despite the controls being horribly slippery and every point--every movement, really--feelsing as though the game is stuck in slow motion. Plus, even hitting a routine groundstroke is a challenge at the outset.

And then there's the fact that my hour-long match left me shaking (due to nerves) and with clammy palms and sore forearms (from clutching my controller as though my life depending on it).

On the flip side, my latest run-in with Racket Attack also prompted me to laugh more than I have in some time while playing a game. Also, there's no denying it looks and sounds rather nice. Player sprites are large, if not exactly well animated. Courts are spacious, colorful and appropriately detailed. And the backing tune is surprisingly catchy.

Does that mean I'd recommend it to others? Not really. It's a frustrating game to play and even folks who usually enjoy tennis titles are sure to turn it off in disgust.

For me, though, it's just playable enough for me to return to it now and then--although I have a feeling it'll be some time before I'm able to win a set against, let alone defeat, an opponent.

See also: previous 'Second Chances' posts

Saturday, July 16, 2016

I am so ready to be 'Alone With You' on Aug. 23

Full disclosure: I've yet to play--or even buy--Benjamin Rivers' first game, Home: A Unique Horror Adventure. I've wanted to play it, though, thanks to its appealing graphics and intriguing gameplay.

The same could be said for why I'm planning to purchase another of Benjamin Rivers' titles, the upcoming Alone With You, around the time of its release on Aug. 23.

I'm interested in Alone With You beyond its graphics and gameplay, though. Specifically, I'm interested in the fact that it's being described as a "sci-fi-romance adventure." Who wouldn't want to experience such a thing?

If this is the first you're hearing of Alone With You, check out the launch trailer above. It should answer many of the questions you have about how this PS4 and Vita title looks, how it plays, and more.

I don't know about you, but between this game, 2064: Read Only Memories (out on Aug. 16 for both PS4 and Vita) and VA-11 Hall-A (supposedly coming to Vita in late 2016), my Vita's going to get a lot of love this fall and winter.

Are any of you also psyched about these in-the-works Vita (and PS4) releases? If so, let me know why by leaving a comment below.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Four reasons I'm planning to nab one of those adorable Nintendo Classic Mini: NES consoles once November rolls around

If you were like most folks in the Western world yesterday, you spent at least a few of its 24 hours staring at your phone while playing Pokémon GO. As a result, you may have missed seeing or hearing a piece of news that pertains to another curious Nintendo product. The product in question: the "Nintendo Classic Mini" NES.

This smaller, sleeker take on the Japanese company's first real games console was revealed early Wednesday and will be released in both Europe and North America on Nov. 11. I'm planning to nab one as soon as possible, and for the following reasons:

It's cute--I mean, come on. It's a tiny NES! What's not to like about that? OK, so I actually understand why some may not like it. After all, I've never been a huge fan of the system's design myself. For some reason, though, seeing it shrunk down as it is here brings a huge, stupid grin to my face.

That said, if Nintendo announces mini Famicom in the coming weeks or months, I may well buy it rather than this similarly petite NES. Or, who knows, maybe I'll pick up both of them.

It's cheap--I've encountered more than a few people on line who think this product's $59.99 price tag is a bit egregious. I think that's ridiculous. Packed inside each beautifully branded box is an adorable miniature NES, a controller that looks like a dead ringer for the original, an HDMI cable, an AC adapter and 30 pre-installed games.

Considering The Legend of Zelda, all three of Nintendo's 8-bit Super Mario Bros. titles, Kirby's Adventure and Kid Icarus are among those pre-installed games, that last bullet point's an especially big deal, if you ask me. Also, think about how much you'd have to plonk down to buy those games via the 3DS, Wii or Wii U Virtual Console. About $4 or $5 a pop, right? To own all of them, you'd have to shell out $120 to $150. With the "Nintendo Classic Mini," you have to hand over just $60 or so.

The included games--It's hard to find fault with the list of 30 titles that Nintendo's going to cram inside each of its tiny NES systems. Sure, I could come up with about 30--or even 60--others at the drop of a hat, but as far as "classics" go, I think the company has done a pretty solid job with this aimed-at-the-masses product.

I was especially happy to see so many third-party efforts appear on the list of included games. Hell, it could be argued titles like Bubble Bobble, Castlevania I and II, Final Fantasy and Ninja Gaiden alone are worth the price of admission.

Could they have given us the original Contra, Double Dragon and Mega Man releases rather than, or along with, their sequels? Of course. Also, I would've full-on swooned if, say, the palm-sized console came with Adventures of Lolo, the first Dragon Quest (Warrior), Duck Tales or Kickle Cubicle installed. I understand why that's not the case, though. And like I said earlier, even without those unquestionably stellar games, this plug-and-play product has my full attention and support.

The possibilities--As far as I'm aware, owners of these reduced-fat NESes can't take them on line, nor can they add external storage to them. Both of those aspects likely will make them harder to hack. (Says the guy who knows very little about such things.) Still, I get the feeling someone, somewhere, will find a way to make these things more practical. And by that I mean they'll make it so folks like me can fill out its games library a bit.

Don't worry, I won't whine if that fails to happen. I won't even whine if I drop nearly $60 on one of these suckers and it stops working at some point. I'll still have a lovely, NES-shaped paperweight, after all--and who wouldn't want one of those?

I'm not alone in wanting Nintendo Classic Mini: NES, right? Surely some of you also are chomping at the bit to pre-order one?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A few thoughts on a trio of just-released 3DS eShop titles (Unholy Heights, BoxBoxBoy! and The Battle Cats POP!)

It's been quiet around these parts the last week or two, I know. There's a reason for that: I've been on vacation!

Normally I prep a few posts in advance so no one can tell I'm away, but that wasn't possible this time around. Oh, well, what's done is done. Plus, that's all in the past now, as I'm home again--and ready to get back to blogging about games.

Specifically, I'm ready to write about the three 3DS games I spent time with while holed up (not really) in a mountain cabin outside of Asheville, North Carolina last week. 

My original plan was to put a good dent in a number of other 3DS and even DS carts--namely Chrono Trigger, Contact, Final Fantasy Explorers and Return to PopoloCrois--during this getaway, but that went out the window when I stupidly left all of them at home.

So, while the above-mentioned cabin still had WiFi (it only lasted a couple of days--harrumph), I bought and downloaded a trio of recently released digital 3DS titles that have intrigued me since they were first announced. The titles in question: Unholy Heights, BoxBoxBoy! and The Battle Cats POP!

Here's what I think of each of these bite-sized gaming experiences after putting a handful of hours into them.

The Battle Cats POP!--I was pretty darn skeptical about this PONOS-developed game before I first experienced it for myself.

Why? Well, for starters,  it's $9.99. To me, that's a lot for a digital title with a questionable amount of depth or content. Also, its art style is ... interesting. And I don't necessarily mean that in a good way--or at least I didn't before I was given a chance to appreciate it in context.

Once I began playing this tower defense title, though, its weird aesthetics made perfect sense. (Or maybe I should say they made as much sense as is possible for a game that features armies of felines who fight each other for some reason that's currently slipping my mind.) On top of that, it was so much fun I completely forgot I dropped nearly $10 to add it to my 3DS' home menu.

Based on what's showcased in this trailer, even more thrilling wackiness is in store for me if I continue to plug away at it--and I can guarantee that's the current plan. 

BoxBoxBoy!--I'll be honest here: despite the fact that I liked a lot of what the original BoxBoy! offered, I've yet to finish it. Although I'd like to say that's because some other game stole away my attention, in reality it's because I lost interest in it.  I

t seems almost criminal to say that, but it's true. For me, there's just something lacking in these HAL Laboratory-made platformers. They look, sound and--most importantly, in my mind--feel great, no question, but they also lack cohesion. Levels are almost painfully short, and they rarely seem to build on one another. (A skill or trick you learn in one may only be used in the next stage or two.)

Admittedly, BoxBoxBoy! offers more depth than its predecessor, and it's also less obsessed with handholding, but even then it doesn't completely solve the earlier game's issue of not being altogether enticing. 

Unholy Heights--Another tower defense game? Yes, but this one differs enough from The Battle Cats POP! that owning both isn't a completely terrible idea.

If you only have the funds to buy one of them (Unholy Heights is $3.99 cheaper than The Battle Cats POP!), though, I'd personally recommend picking up this Mebius-developed title, which shoves you into the shoes of a devilish landlord tasked with attracting monstrous tenants to protect his not-so-humble abode. I

t takes a while to get into, I've got to say, but once it clicks it does so in a way that makes it difficult to put down. Helping matters are Unholy Heights' chuckle-worthy text, appealingly drawn graphics and surprisingly deep--not to mention addictive--gameplay.

Just be sure you're in a patient state of mind when you boot it up, as there are times when the action flows like molasses (even when it's set to fast-forward). 

Have you played any of these games? If so, share your impressions of them in the comments section below. 

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Nice Package! (Pikmin, GameCube)

I'm sorry if I've mentioned this before, but I think it's pretty relevant to this post, my last post and a handful of posts that will follow in the coming weeks.

How so? Well, the thing is, I have a rather spotty history with Nintendo's GameCube. I only bought one after it had basically failed in the US, for starters. (I waited until the system could be picked up for a measly $99.) Also, between then and now, I've acquired just a handful of GameCube titles--nearly all of which are of the North American variety.

All of that changed a few months ago when I purchased Mr. Driller: Drill Land, which serves as the focus of this recent write-up. The floodgates opened shortly afterward.

In the weeks that followed, I added the copy of Pikmin that can be seen below. I also added a good number of other Japanese GameCube discs I'll shine a light on shortly.

Today, though, let's focus on the absolutely lovely packaging of Pikmin's Japanese release. It all starts with the cover of the game's outer sleeve, of course.

Don't get me wrong, I also like its North American counterpart a great deal. Still, I'd be lying if I said I preferred it to the comparatively simple--not to mention colorful--piece of art that's stretched across the piece of cardboard seen above.

The instruction manual and game disc that are packed inside Pikmin's colorful Japanese wrapper are similarly eye-popping.

I especially like the disc label, and not just for the image of Olimar offering encouraging words to the faithful Pikmin who follow in his footsteps.

OK, so the back of the game's outer sleeve isn't as brilliant as the rest of its packaging. It certainly does the trick, though. Also the line of rainbow-hued Pikmin that traipse across its top edge are cute as buttons, so it's hard to say it's without merit at all.

All apologies to my pal Zach for failing to include a snapshot of the tiny plastic case that houses the Japanese Pikmin's disc and booklet. I'll be sure to do so in one of my upcoming GameCube-centric posts.

In the meantime, I'm sure some of you are big Pikmin fans. Why is that the case? What do you like about this game--or either of its sequels--so much? Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.

Or just share your thoughts and opinions on the Japanese release's outer sleeve, instruction manual and game disc. I'm open to any and all such banter, as always.