Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Manual Stimulation: Bubble Bobble (Japanese GameBoy)

I'm always a bit disappointed the first time I flip through an instruction manual that's associated with a game from Taito's Bubble Bobble series.

I guess it's because all of these single-screen platformers are so bursting with color and charm that it can be a bit of a bummer to discover their manuals tend to be black-and-white affairs.

If you can get past that initial devastating blow, though, you're likely to find that these manuals do have their moments, despite being (mostly) free of color.

The booklet below, made for the Japanese GameBoy version of Bubble Bobble, is a good example.

One thing I've really come to like about Japanese GameBoy manuals in recent years is how many of them feature a single color that bolsters and even brings a bit of softness to their otherwise monochrome pages.

The miniature illustrations on the following pages are completely fabulous--and tooth-achingly adorable--don't you think? And of course the subtle injection of color makes them even more so, in my opinion.

I particularly love one of the illustrations below, by the way--with the one in question being the one that depicts a couple of Zen-Chans being swept off a platform by water attack.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Like seemingly everyone else on the planet, I'm completely smitten with Nintendo of Japan's latest TV commercial (for the new 3DS)

I actually have a lot to say about the wacky TV spot that can be enjoyed below (and here), but all of it was rather eloquently summed up by NeoGAF user Oersted when he/she said the following earlier today: "Pretty much the Nintendo I want. No acting tough and serious. We are colourful, suck it."

Will this commercial prompt hundreds of thousands--or more--of Japanese citizens to race out and pick up one of the new 3DS systems that will hit store shelves in that region in just over a week (on Oct. 11, to be exact)? I have no idea, but it certainly has me contemplating buying one ASAP.

Final Fantasy Explorers will include bell weapons, which means I may have to buy a copy

Here's a queer little fact I'm guessing few people know about me: my favorite weapon type in my favorite Final Fantasy game--that would be Final Fantasy V--is the bell.

In fact, whenever I play through Final Fantasy V (and I've played through it a good many times over the years), I obtain the ninja job's "dual-wield" ability so I can give (at least) one of my characters a pair of bells to use against the game's bevy of baddies.

I bring up the above, by the way, because I just discovered that Square Enix's upcoming Monster Hunter-esque (or maybe I should say Crystal Chronicles-ish?) 3DS title, Final Fantasy Explorers, also will feature bell weapons--which of course makes me want to nab a copy of it as soon as possible.

The thing is, I'm still a bit iffy on the rest of this game. For starters, its graphics are underwhelming, to say the least, although I'd be OK with that if its overall art style were less ... generic, for lack of a better word.

And then there's its gameplay, which doesn't sound terrible, but also doesn't sound entirely interesting. Or maybe I should say it doesn't sound entirely interesting for someone like me, who is likely to play the game alone, rather than with others.

Still, I'm sure I'll strongly consider picking up Final Fantasy Explorers should it earn a North American release at some point in time--although given Square Enix's recent history (especially with the 3DS), I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

Are any of you also pondering this portable Final Fantasy spin-off?

Friday, September 26, 2014

I love everything about this Legend of Legacy (3DS) trailer except for maybe the English text

Actually, I guess you could say the English text in the following trailer--which, as I mentioned in the header above, is for the upcoming 3DS RPG called Legend of Legacy--is good for chuckle, but it also could be described as cringe-inducing.

That said, pretty much every other aspect of this rather lengthy preview--yes, including the pop-up scenery--pleased me, so who really cares it if featured some wonkily translated text?

By the way, if this is the first time you've heard of Legend of Legacy, here's the gist: it's an RPG that's being made by a bunch of former Square Enix staffers, many whom have worked on some of that company's SaGa games.

Oh, and the finished product is set to be released in Japan on Jan. 22 carrying a price tag of 5,980 yen (about $55).

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Second Chances: Magical Chase (PC Engine)

To be completely honest, this cute--and absurdly costly--PC Engine shoot 'em up wasn't even on my radar when I first considered which games to play as part of this month's #Shmuptember festivities.

After fellow blogger Retro King Simon (of Red Parsley fame) mentioned it in the comments section of this recent post, though, I decided I should give it a second chance.

You may be wondering why I needed to give it a second chance. After all, it's a fairly well-liked shmup among PC Engine fans--again, despite the astronomical price tags that tend to be attached to copies of it.

While that may be true, I've never really been a part of that camp--the one full of folks who fall over themselves to talk about what a top-shelf cute 'em up it is, I mean. (Admittedly, I have a feeling it's a small camp.)

Don't get me wrong, I've long thought of Magical Chase as being a "competent enough" smhup, but I've also long preferred playing similar games--like Parodius Da! and Coryoon and Air Zonk--to it.

Have I had a change of heart as a result of my most recent experience with the game? Actually, I have. I wouldn't say I now consider it to be worth its asking price (although even that could change in the coming months and years, especially given my history with such things), but I definitely find it a lot more appealing than I used to.

One of the main reasons for that is HuCard's art style seems a lot more cohesive than I remember it to be. In the past, I thought the design of the adorable, broom-riding protagonist (she is a witch, after all) didn't quite "fit" with those of the game's enemies or backdrops, if that makes sense.

Another is that I'm now pretty enamored with the "zippiness" of this colorful shoot 'em up's controls. In fact, I'd say Magical Chase compares favorably to both Coryoon and PC Denjin (Air Zonk) in that regard, and possibly even feels a bit smoother than those aforementioned contemporaries.

Now that I've come around to Magical Chase's considerable charms, though, I'm feeling kind of miffed. I mean, for the same amount of money it would cost me to acquire the Japanese version of this game, I could pick up copies of both R-Type titles, Parodius Da! and Hana Taka Daka!? instead--and still have a good chunk of change left over for a couple of cheaper chip-based titles.

The latter option seems far more desirable to me than the former at the moment, but who knows what will happen once I've filled out my PC Engine shmup collection a bit more?

See also: previous 'Second Chances' posts about Bubble Bobble Junior (GameBoy), Don Doko Don (Famicom) and Hana Taka Daka!? (PC Engine)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I'm kind of obsessed with the PC Engine's HuCard-based RPGs at the moment

Did you know that only a handful--as in, less than 20--of RPGs were released for the PC Engine in HuCard format?

The reasons for that seem obvious enough, of course--with the compact console's "CD-ROM2" attachment, which allowed developers to use higher quality music and cut scenes, hitting Japanese store shelves barely a year after the base system's release being the biggest one.

Dungeon Explorer

Were CD games cheaper to manufacture than HuCards? If so, that would be another reason.

Regardless, the lack of chip-based RPGs at least somewhat surprises me, especially when I remember how many games of that genre found their way onto Famicom cartridges and disks.

Jaseiken Necromancer

In a way, though, I'm kind of glad so few HuCard RPGs saw the light of day on the PC Engine, because it means it'll be far easier to play through them--you know, should I ever decide to do something stupid like that--than it would be to, say, play through every Famicom or Super Famicom (or even PC Engine CD) RPG.

Don't worry, I'm not planning to make that a goal anytime soon, although I am planning to pop two or three of them into my trusty PC Engine Core Grafx II sometime in the next few (OK, six or seven) months.

Necros no Yosai

The most like candidates: Cyber KnightDungeon ExplorerJaseiken NecromancerNecros no Yosai and War of the Dead.

Should any of you be curious as to the names of the other HuCard RPGs of which I'm aware, here you go: CadashDouble DungeonsLady SwordMakai Hakkenden ShadaMomotarou Densetsu IIMomotarou Densetsu GaidenMomotarou Densetu TurboNeutopiaNeutopia IISilent DebuggersSpiral Wave and Susa-no-Oh Densetsu.

Neutopia 2

Only a couple of these could be called traditional RPGs with turn-based battles and such, mind you. A good portion of them are action role-playing games of some sort or other, and a similar number are dungeon crawlers.

If I left any HuCard-based RPGs off of the lists above, by the way, please let me know about them in the comments section below, as I wouldn't be at all shocked to hear I've missed a couple.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Five favorites: Japanese PlayStation box art

Of all the "retro" game systems I currently collect, the one about which I'm the least knowledgable is the original PlayStation--especially when it comes to the subject of Japanese cover art that was produced for that groundbreaking console.

Still, I think I've come across enough examples of the above to publish a post such as this.

Should you have any favorites that aren't highlighted here, though, by all means let me know about them in the comments section below.

Boku no Natsuyasumi--To be perfectly frank, I'd like this particular piece of box art a lot more if it ditched the English text and even the "contrail" logo that takes up a smidge of space in the lower-right corner. Even in its current state, though, I'm pretty darn smitten with it and the cheery, nostalgic vibe it gives off to viewers.

Eldergate--There are a bunch of Konami-made PlayStation covers that could be mentioned here, but I'm going with Eldergate's because it features a sumptuously colored--and not at all clich├ęd, which can't be said of many of its counterparts, especially today--illustration.

Mad Panic Coaster--Could you describe this selection as a bit garish? Yes, I suppose you could. It's long been a favorite of mine regardless, though, due to its unique layout--it takes the eye a few seconds to recognize the roller-coaster car along the bottom edge--and bold use of color. (Although I wouldn't have complained if the logo had been made a bit smaller.)

Mizzurna Falls--Here's another piece of cover art that I've been a fan of since I first laid eyes on it (while perusing this review at easternmind.tumblr.com). There's something so ... moody about it that really appeals to me. Plus, it features snow-covered mountains, which always earns an approving nod from me.

PoPoLoCrois Monogatari--This is the perfect way to portray an RPG's contents on its box art, if you ask me. We've got dragons (two of them, I think), a varied party of adventurers (the dudes and the dudette situated between the dragons) and dramatic dose of magic--unless, of course, that orb is something other than a "wall" or "protect" spell.

Add in the abundance of color and clean composition and you've got yourself one attractive cover illustration. In my opinion, of course.

See also: 'Five favorites: Japanese DS box art,' 'Five favorites: Japanese PSP box art' and 'Five favorites: Japanese Wii box art'