Tuesday, January 27, 2015

#ADecadeofDS: Taiko no Tatsujin DS

Amount of time devoted to this DS game in the last week--Three hours, 39 minutes.

Most recent boss toppled, location reached or milestone achieved--I've played through (and earned golden crowns for) the easiest versions of all of the songs that are available to me at the moment. I've also played a handful of the daily challenges.

Overall comments on the experience--Before I tucked the colorful Taiko no Tatsujin DS cart into my 3DS last weekend, I imagined it would be a nightmare--or at least a bore--to play using buttons rather than a pair of styli. I mention that because despite those misgivings, I began my first Taiko DS foray by--you guessed it--using the former instead of the latter.

I'm glad I did, because it forced me to recognize that this style of play actually is pretty fun. It can be a little awkward, yes--especially when you have to press the left and right shoulder buttons on your DS or 3DS system at the same time to hit a blue "Big Note"--but it's nowhere near as unplayable or even uncomfortable as I thought it would be.

As for playing the game using the two Taiko-branded styli that came packed inside its case, that's nice, too, of course, although it can be a bit trying to transition from one control method to the other. (I've been switching between the two because I don't want to scuff up the screens of my 3DS.) Also, using the styli-plus-touch-screen combo can feel less accurate than buttons now and then--particularly when tackling the blue "Big Notes" mentioned above.

With that out of the way, the other obvious aspects to focus on while critiquing Taiko no Tatsujin DS are its soundtrack and its aesthetics. The former's more important to the overall enjoyment of this game, I think, so let's start with it. Although just 35 songs are on offer here (I've only got access to 30 of them at the moment), that's proven to be more than enough for me thanks to the variety of the selection.

Among the genres represented in this particular title: anime, classical, folk, J-POP and "game music." I can't say I knew any of the included anime or J-POP tunes before I began this Taiko journey, but that didn't keep me from enjoying every single one of them after a couple of plays.

As for the aesthetics, well, that's the element of the Taiko series that first grabbed my attention way back when, so it should go without saying that I find it awfully appealing. Of course, it's bright, colorful, cute and very Japanese--what's not to like? That its protagonist, Don-chan (an anthropomorphic taiko drum), is beyond adorable--not to mention one of my favorite game mascots--helps matters a good deal, too.

In the end, the nearly four hours I've put into Taiko no Tatsujin DS so far has me pining to play other iterations--especially one or more that use the famed "Tatacon" controllers--as soon as humanly possible.

Will I continue to play this game in the coming days, weeks and maybe even months?--Definitely, although it's likely to be set aside sooner rather than later so I can play the first Taiko no Tatsujin title that was released for 3DS a few years ago, which I recently picked up.

Do I recommend it to others?--If you tend to enjoy playing rhythm games and you also like--or at least don't actively dislike--Japanese music, yes, I'd very much recommend buying this game. I'm not entirely sure this is the best version to buy, though, if this is going to be your first time at the Taiko rodeo, so to speak. Both the second and third Taiko DS titles seem to be more robust experiences (offering more songs and modes), for example, and the PSP and Wii iterations are widely adored, too, so consider them if prices for this iteration are too high for your liking.

Next up--Zombie Daisuki

See also: previous #ADecadeofDS posts

Monday, January 26, 2015

Shall We Do It? (Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley)

If you follow me on Twitter, you've likely seen me comment on my Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley playthrough quite a bit over the last couple of weeks.

A lot of those tweets have been pretty negative, and for good reason. This 3DS game--which was made internally at Natsume rather than by the folks at Marvelous Entertainment--does nearly everything it can to break the heart and soul of the person playing it.

First, there's the blink-and-you'll-miss-it passage of time. As in, each in-game day lasts about five minutes in the real world--which may not sound all that bad, but it surely is when you have to try to fit tending to your crops, milking and feeding your cow, chatting with semi-random visitors and many other, similar sorts of tasks into such a severely compressed period of time.

This is what summer looked like in my version of
The Lost Valley--for two whole days.

That's especially true when it comes to the portions of the game that revolve around watering flowers and other plants as well as the Minecraft-y ones that involve re-sculpting the landscape (by digging into the earth or excavating stone) in various ways. Crops are fertilized, watered and harvested one plant at a time, for instance, and digging and excavating stick to a similar formula.

Another way in which The Lost Valley attempts to deter even the most Pollyanna-ish players is tied to all of the annoying "fetch quests" that are forced on those who would like to push along the story that sits at the center of the experience.

Here's a much more typical view of my particular
portion of this 3DS game's world.

And believe me, you'll want to push along the story as quickly as you're able, as doing so allows you to eradicate from the game one of its biggest and most obnoxious issues, which is its seemingly never-ending winter.

For those of you who've yet to read or hear much about The Lost Valley, you may be surprised to learn that it drops you (or, rather, your avatar) into a desolate, snow-covered landscape. Unbelievably, that's about all you'll see for the first 20 hours or so, assuming your playthrough is anything like mine has been so far. That's because, as per the game's story, your main task during your first year in The Lost Valley is to help bring the seasons back to this harsh and deserted environment. Although it's possible you'll be able to do what it takes to see a couple days of spring, summer or fall before they cruelly snap back to winter, the most likely scenario is that your initial 120 days with this title (each season lasts 30 in-game days) will be spent staring at a blanket of white.

Presented without comment.

As I said while recording the latest episode of The Nichiest Podcast Ever, a part of me actually respects and even appreciates that The Lost Valley's developers were so brazen as to plop players into such an uninviting world. Another part, though, absolutely hates them for it, as what seemed like an acceptable-enough situation for my first few hours with the game has since become almost unbearable.

Note I just said "almost" unbearable rather than, say, completely unbearable. That's because despite all of my complaints so far, I've still devoted more than 20 hours to The Lost Valley since I first crammed its cart into my 3DS a couple of weeks ago. Clearly, something keeps drawing me back, even if that "thing" is nothing more than a stubborn desire to prove--to myself, to shidoshi, to designers who surely snickered as they pieced together this masochistic experience--I can make it through the game's abominable opening salvo.

Believe me, I enjoyed summer as much as I could while it lasted.

I'm nearly through my first year in The Lost Valley, by the way, so it's possible the game will take a turn for the better shortly. Being an avowed cynic, I'm not going to place any money on that coming to fruition, but who knows? Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised for once.

Even if I'm not, I'm planning to plow ahead (pun intended), at least for the time being. I won't be shocked if my interest in the game wanes sometime the next week or two, though, as I just can't imagine it's going to change enough once I rid the world of its oppressive frigidity to the bowels of hell--or somewhere similarly suitable--to keep my attention. 

I'll let you know one way or the other in my next "Shall We Do It?" post, of course. In the meantime, have any of you played Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley? If so, what are your thoughts on its particular pros and cons?

Friday, January 23, 2015

I told you I've got Harvest Moon on the brain (plus a Binary Land surprise)

A couple of weeks ago, I admitted to buying the original, SNES version of Harvest Moon from the clunky old Wii eShop.

In that same post, I also admitted to having the Harvest Moon series "on the brain" at the moment. Which makes sense when you consider I got the latest 3DS-based Harvest Moon title, The Lost Valley, for Christmas, then I picked up the SNES iteration and then, about a week ago, I bought a loose copy of Harvest Moon 64 from my Internet pal, Jeremy--who also goes by "Nightmare Bruce" and "the guy who runs the Ribbon Black blog."

Although I've had my copy of Harvest Moon 64 in hand for about a week now, it hasn't even sniffed the inside of my dusty Nintendo 64, as I've been too busy playing--wait for it--Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley.

In fact, I've put nearly 20 hours into The Lost Valley over the last couple of weeks, which has left me nearly no time for other games (aside from my #ADecadeofDS titles, of course). 

Anyway, the photo at the top of this post showcases how fabulously Jeremy packaged the copy of Harvest Moon 64 he sold and sent me. He included a fun postcard, a strip of adorable Mario stickers and ... some sort of "bonus gift" wrapped in sparkly paper?

Inside that sparkly paper was the copy of Binary Land shown in the snapshot that sits just north of this block of text. How cool is that? It's a fully working cartridge, by the way, and the label was designed by Jeremy himself.

Now I just need to find the time to play both of these beautiful-looking carts.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Nichiest Podcast Ever turns 13

Not 13 years old, mind you. Thirteen episodes--or "takes," in shidoshi speak--old.

Anyway, another iteration of The Nichiest Podcast Ever is available for your listening pleasure, should you be a person who enjoys hearing a trio of fellow humans blather on about niche video games and systems.

As always, we cram a lot of niche-y game-y chatter into the latest episode, take, whatever you want to call it of the podcast. Among the topics covered this time around:
  • the impending release of the New 3DS in North America
  • the episodic visual novel, Harvest December, that's being localized by the folks at Circle Entertainment
  • the many Japanese 3DS, Vita and even PC titles that supposedly are being worked on (for Western audiences) by the folks at Xseed
  • the plethora of Vita game announcements that followed the holidays (one of which was tied to an English release of Steins;Gate)
Oh, and during our "Cheerleading" section, Anne declares her love for Pikmin 3 (Wii U), while I do the same--to various degrees--for Coming Out on Top (Mac), Woah Dave! (3DS) and Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley (also 3DS).

Speaking of which, look for me to expound on my feelings--both positive and negative--regarding The Lost Valley in a post that will be published tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out The Nichiest Podcast Ever 13 at radio.morningproject.com, if you dare.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A little more Catch! Touch! Yoshi! (DS) love

Did you think I was done talking about Catch! Touch! Yoshi! (aka Yoshi Touch & Go) with yesterday's post? I hope not, because I'm going to chat about it again today.

Well, kind of. Instead of discussing this early DS game's gameplay, I thought I'd talk about its packaging.

The centerpiece of this game's packaging, of course, is its cover art, which can be seen in the photos above and below.

This game's cover imagery is among my favorites for the system, and the illustrations produced for its manual and cart label--both of which are shown in the snapshot above--are pretty sweet (and I mean that literally and figuratively), too, if you ask me.

By the way, getting back to the box art for a second, I really like how it features a DS stylus that's apparently responsible for the squiggly pink lines that careen around its ample acreage.

Anyway, the back of the manual features a really nice image, too. Sadly, the interior of this pamphlet isn't quite as fabulous as its exterior, although I wouldn't go so far as to call it a stinker, either.

Still, it's always nice to see a bunch of colorful Yoshis stumbling around as they are in the manual page above.

Have any of you played Catch! Touch! Yoshi!--or Yoshi Touch & Go, or whatever it may be called in your neck of the woods? If so, what do you think about it?

Or, what do you think of the art showcased in the photos shared throughout this post? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

#ADecadeofDS: Catch! Touch! Yoshi!

Amount of time devoted to this DS game in the last week--One hour, 54 minutes.

Most recent boss toppled, location reached or milestone achieved--Erm, I spent a good bit of time with each of its four main modes--will that suffice? (I've yet to experience the game's "Battle" mode for what I'm sure are obvious reasons.)

Overall comments on the experience--For starters, don't read too much into the time listed above. Catch! Touch! Yoshi! (Yoshi Touch & Go outside of Japan) isn't a game you play for hours and hours on end--or at least that's not how I played it. Instead, it's one of those games you put five or 10 minutes into while you're lazing away on the couch on a Sunday afternoon.

Of course, it's possible I would've spent more time with Catch! Touch! Yoshi! over the last week if it had grabbed me from the get-go. Unfortunately, it didn't, and my first few stints with it left me thinking it just wasn't "my cup of tea"--or whatever the gaming equivalent would be.

I stuck with it, though, in part because I felt I needed to give it a fair shake and in part because I found it to be pretty darn easy on the eyes, and I'm glad I did, as its unique, touch-screen-centric gameplay--which alternates between using a stylus to form cloud-puff paths for an airborne baby Mario and using it to guide an always-on-the-move Yoshi through a seemingly endless ground-based stage--eventually grew on me to a surprising degree.

The game's "Score Attack" and "Time Attack" modes have proven to be my favorites, by the way, with the "Marathon" ("Endless" in the Japanese version) and "Challenge" modes being just a bit too tricky for me on most occasions.

Unfortunately, each of these modes are so similar in terms of aesthetics and gameplay that they're nearly interchangeable--a fact that makes Catch! Touch! Yoshi! seem dangerously thin, content-wise.

Still, there's obviously some good, almost "old fashioned" fun to be had here, and that shouldn't be overlooked--nor should the surprisingly attractive visuals that are on offer. (I especially love how the look of each "stage" slowly, but surely, morphs as the seconds tick away--from blue skies, to sunset, to nighttime and back again.) Add in what's sure to be an enticing price point--even for "complete" copies--and it's easy enough to overlook this cumbersome cart's handful of negatives.

Will I continue to play this game in the coming days, weeks and maybe even months?--Yes, on and off. Mind, you, I'd be far more likely to play it on the regular if a digital version of it were on my 3DS at all times, but as it stands, this colorful cartridge will have to settle for only occasionally making the journey from its case to one of my treasured DS or 3DS systems.

Do I recommend it to others?--It's kind of hard to say, actually. If 3DS owners could download Catch! Touch! Yoshi! (or Yoshi Touch & Go) from the eShop for a couple of bucks, I'd throw my full weight behind it, as it's definitely the kind of game a lot of people would enjoy dumping a few minutes into when they have some free time. It's harder to recommend it, though, when playing it requires tracking down an actual cart that's unlikely to stay in someone's DS or 3DS for very long.

Next up--Taiko no Tatsujin DS

See also: previous #ADecadeofDS posts

Monday, January 19, 2015

And the winners of The Gay Gamer Giveaway™ (Drop Wizard Edition) are ...

Congratulations to the following trio for winning the Drop Wizard (iOS) codes the folks at Neuronized so kindly sent my way a week or so go:

* Rui
* Nightmare Bruce
* Justin Difazzio

Jeremy and Justin: I'll send your codes to you through Twitter and Facebook, respectively.

As for you, Rui, drop me an e-mail (bochalla at yahoo dot com) at your earliest convenience so I can get a code out to you, too.

Other than that, I'd just like to thank, once again, whoever mans the Neutronized Twitter account for being so kind as to offer up these codes.