Friday, April 29, 2016

Here's the first English footage of Romancing SaGa 2's mobile remake

OK, so the text highlighted in the trailer below is a bit stilted, but it's hard to care about that when you've been waiting to play the game--in a language you understand--for more than two decades. (Just under 23 years, if you want to be specific.)

It helps, of course, when the game surrounding that text looks as fun, interesting and unique as Romancing SaGa 2's mobile port-remake-whatever-you-want-to-call-it does.

I'm not at all sure I prefer the aesthetics of this updated iteration to the original, mind you. The backdrops are almost too slick, in my opinion. Plus, they tend to dwarf the character sprites, which I find a tad off-putting.

All that said, I can't wait for Romancing SaGa 2 to hit the App and Android stores.

When's that going to happen? I haven't the slightest clue, although I won't be surprised if the day arrives sooner rather than later. After all, the footage shown in the teaser above gives off the impression that the game's localization is pretty far along.

Are any of you similarly chomping at the bit to get your grubby hands on a non-Japanese version of this ages-old RPG?

See also: 'Romancing SaGa 2's Android/iOS/Vita remake is looking good, sounding great--and releasing soon' and 'Our prayers to Kawazu have been answered: Square Enix's Romancing SaGa 2 remake will be released outside of Japan'

Thursday, April 28, 2016

So, what do you think: is this just-announced Azure Striker Gunvolt physical release worth getting or a waste of money?

A couple of days ago, Japanese game-maker Inti Creates announced it would release--in its homeland only, at least for the time being--a physical compilation of its two Azure Striker Gunvolt 3DS titles on Aug. 25.

I've yet to play the first Azure Striker Gunvolt--barely even thought about doing so, to be perfectly honest--but of course I'm seriously considering pre-ordering this sucker via because of my sick and desperate need to own as many boxed Japanese 3DS games as possible.

The thing is, because I haven't shown much interest in Azure Striker Gunvolt until now, I have no idea if it's any good, or if this upcoming Azure Striker Gunvolt Pack is worth picking up.

Have any of you played this Mega Man-esque title? If so, what do you think about it? Is it worth owning, or is it a waste of time and money? Also, would you even consider buying a physical compilation of it and its soon-to-be-released sequel for about $40?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Three things I really like about Yo-Kai Watch (and three things I don't entirely like about it)

After putting more than 25 hours into it, I appear to be nearing the end of my Yo-Kai Watch playthrough.

I'll do my best to publish a more formal review of this 3DS game in the next week or two, but for now I just want to rattle off a few comments about my most and least favorite aspects of it.

Here are three things I'm really liking about Yo-Kai Watch at the moment:

The setting--It's refreshing to play an RPG that takes place in a modern, real-world setting. OK, so Yo-Kai Watch's real-world setting is decidedly comical and cartoonish, but what else would you expect from a game that's aimed at the Pokémon-playing set? At any rate, it's nice to run around housing complexes and schools and parks rather than the generic fantasy settings that fill most of this genre's offerings.

The yo-kai--Nowhere is Yo-Kai Watch more obviously the anti-Pokémon than in its character designs. Whereas the catchable monsters in Game Freak's series tend to be cute and cuddly, the ones showcased in this Level-5 title tend to be, well, kind of ugly. Naturally there's some overlap between the two, and most people would be hard-pressed to describe Yo-Kai regulars like Jibanyan and Whisper as anything less than adorable, but there's no denying that many of their counterparts aren't as immediately attractive as Ken Sugimori and company's creations. For some strange reason, I consider that to be a "very good thing," as the incomparable Martha Stewart would say.

The battles--When I first played the Yo-Kai Watch demo Nintendo dropped onto the 3DS eShop late last year, I found the game’s battle scenes a tad overwhelming. I loved how engaging they were, but I also found it difficult to keep track of all their moving parts. (While taking on foes in this title, six of your ghost pals are plopped onto a wheel. Only three can fight at any given time, but you can switch between them by spinning the aforementioned disc left or right using the 3DS’ touch screen or shoulder buttons.) Thankfully, the experience is a lot easier to manage given a bit of time. Plus, it eventually becomes frantically fun in a way that further differentiates it from its Pokémon forebearers.

And here are three things I'm not entirely liking about Level-5's Pokémon-esque RPG:

The story--Don’t get me wrong, I adore that Yo-Kai Watch’s story isn’t your typical “save the world” tripe that’s at the center of about 99 percent of RPGs offered to the masses today. I just wish it were more cohesive. As it stands, the game feels like a collection of vignettes. That’s not a bad thing, of course, but it does keep Yo-Kai Watch from feeling as epic as I expected it to be back when I first heard about it. It also can make the game feel like a slog as you near its home stretch. Normally some sort of rousing finale keeps you coming back to the journey even if you've slowly bored of it. Here, you get semi-stuck and can't help but wonder, "eh, why bother?"

The yo-kai befriending mechanism--Anyone who’s played Pokémon knows how frustrating it is when you fail to catch a creature even after tossing a handful of Poké Balls at it. Well, multiply that feeling times 10--if not more--and you have, in a nutshell, a good part of the Yo-Kai Watch experience. Let’s just say that while I usually have to "catch 'em all" when I play a Pokémon title, here I've pretty much stuck to just the yo-kai I most need or want. And even that tactic hasn't proven to be very fruitful thanks to Yo-Kai Watch's confounding befriending mechanism, which often sees you wasting many minutes, as well as many of the game’s consumable treats, trying to woo a character to your side, only to be rebuffed in the end.

The fetch quests--I usually like a gaming fetch quest as much as the next guy or gal, but that's only true if the fetch quests in question are fun--or at least captivating. In Yo-Kai Watch, the majority of them are mundane to the point of being easily overlooked or ignored. Thankfully, you can pass by most without it biting you in the butt down the road.

Have any of you played Yo-Kai Watch yet? If so, please share your opinions of it in the comments section below.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Drop whatever you're doing and download the Pocket Card Jockey 3DS demo now

When a little game called Solitiba hit the Japanese 3DS eShop back in July of 2013, I snapped it up as soon as I could.

I did that for a few reasons. One, I knew the title had been made by the folks at Game Freak—best known, of course, for the world-conquering Pokémon series. Two, it had previously made headlines for attempting to combine two disparate genres: horse racing and puzzlers (solitaire, specifically).

Add to that Solitiba’s undeniably adorable art style and, well, you’ve basically got a game that’s “right up my alley,” as that stale old saying goes.

How far up my alley is it? Well, I’ve since put more than 60 hours into it so far, if that tells you anything.

On a related note, I've already put about three hours into the demo of Solitiba's North American localization--which is known as Pocket Card Jockey in this neck of the woods. (Actually, I believe that's the name it goes by in every region outside of Japan.)

Which means, of course, that I'm enjoying the English version of the game quite a bit. OK, I'm enjoying it a lot.

It's not perfect, mind you. A case in point: the text seems a bit stilted at times, as if the people who worked on that aspect of the game hewed more closely to the original script than maybe they should have done.

Granted, the powers that be at Nintendo probably didn't want to devote tons of time, money or energy to this project, and its localization team was tasked with translating a ton of text, so I won't be too tough on anyone for that slight miscue.

At any rate, I highly recommend downloading the Pocket Card Jockey 3DS demo as soon as you're able. And after you've played it for a while, come back here and tell me what you think of it. (Also, if you need advice, just ask. I'm more than happy to help.)

See also: 'Five reasons it's a shame Game Freak hasn't yet released its quirky 3DS eShop title, Solitiba, outside of Japan'

Friday, April 22, 2016

Let's hear it for the 'Boy (or, celebrating the 27th anniversary of the GameBoy's Japanese launch)

It shouldn't be surprising to hear that I'm a big fan of Nintendo's first handheld system, the GameBoy. After all, I've written about it and its catalog of quirky games many, many times over the years. (More on that in a second.)

What should be surprising to hear is that I somehow failed to mention that yesterday was the 27th anniversary of the GameBoy's Japanese launch.

Yes, that means the GameBoy first hit store shelves in Japan all the way back on April 21, 1989.

In case you don't have a memory like an elephant (don't worry, neither do I), the brick-sized portable didn't make its way to North American until three months later (on July 31). And Europeans had to sit tight until late September of the following year.

I've been around the block a lot of times, so of course I remember reading about the GameBoy's Japanese release.

Actually, I remember more than that--I remember salivating over the impending North American release and how it would mean I'd soon be able to have a tiny NES on me at all times.

That wasn't entirely the case, of course, but that's how it seemed back then.

The GameBoy hardware and software seem quite a bit less impressive today, but that doesn't mean either of them are unimpressive--or at least they aren't in my mind.

In fact, the system's design is one of my all-time favorites. Plus, its games catalog is chock-full of underappreciated (and even unknown) classics--in my humble opinion, naturally.

If you'd like to learn more about the latter, you could do worse that check out the following:

* "Great Gaymathon" reviews of Astro Rabby, Kitchen Panic and Painter Momopie

* "Manual Stimulation" posts about Bubble Bobble, BurgerTime Deluxe and Ghostbusters 2

* My Flickr album of GameBoy software and hardware photos

Oh, and you should read through my many "Year of the GameBoy" write-ups. I'll publish more of these this year, by the way--despite the fact that doing so effectively will make it my third "Year of the GameBoy."

Are any of you GameBoy fans? Even if you're not, maybe you're a fan of a particular GameBoy title? Regardless, please share your thoughts on this momentous occasion in the comments section below.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Shots fired: Zero Time Dilemma's Japanese box art massacres its North American counterpart

While talking about Zero Time Dilemma's North American box art last week, I mentioned that I wouldn’t have minded if its designers had used another of artist Rui Tomono’s fascinatingly dark illustrations rather than the clichéd group shot seen here.

I also said "I would’ve even preferred if the folks at Aksys had gone with the gun-to-the-head art that helped introduce [the game] to the masses instead."

Fast forward to this morning, and what do I see while perusing one of my favorite Nintendo-focused sites (that would be The following:

That imagery is going to greet folks who buy retail copies of the Japanese 3DS version of Zero Time Dilemma this summer, of course. (You can check out the very similar Vita iteration here, if you're curious.)

I don't know about you, but I much prefer the above to the North American cover. Do you feel the same way, or do you like the Western art better?

By the way, those of you who can't wait to start playing this third (and final) entry in the Zero Escape series of games may want to watch its second Japanese trailer.

See also: all of my posts about 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Nice Package! (Hana Taaka Daka!?, PC Engine)

It may surprise some of you to hear I only recently bought a copy of Hana Taaka Daka!?

After all, this oddly titled game--which I believe translates to Long-Nosed Goblin in English--is a PC Engine game. Also, it’s a cute ‘em up (aka a cute shmup, à la Konami’s Parodius or TwinBee series). And then there’s the fact that it was made by the wizards at Taito.

So why did I fail to pick it up until a month or two ago? Because despite all of the above, Hana Taaka Daka!? has long rubbed me the wrong way.

For starters, the game’s protagonist is a bit of an eyesore. Plus, he’s annoyingly large when fully powered-up. Toss into this mix a difficulty level that’s often locked at “frustrating,” and you have a HuCard that can be hard to embrace—despite its pastel backdrops and impressive pedigree.

What’s changed? I don’t know, to tell you the truth. I mean, there’s no question my dislike of the long-nosed goblin sprite has softened quite a bit in the last year or so, but that alone wasn’t responsible for my Hana Taaka Daka!? turnaround.

Also helping matters is that I gave in and accepted the fact that this shooter is tough as nails. Although I usually like it when games put up a fight—as opposed to rolling over and letting you pummel them—I’m less of a fan of it in shmup form, for some reason.

And then there’s this game’s cover art and instruction manual—which, as many of you surely already know, are one in the same (or at least connected) when it comes to PC Engine releases.

The former has caused me to salivate since I first came across it thanks to its sumi-e style and splash of color. In true Taito fashion, though, the many pages of paper that sit beneath that beautiful cover image are lookers, too.

Don't believe me? Check out past "Manual Stimulation" posts devoted to booklets made for the company's GameBoy port of Bubble Bobble, PC Engine port of KiKi KaiKai and Famicom port of Rainbow Islands.

Or, you know, look at the illustrations showcased in the snapshots above and below.

Don't worry, I'll prep and publish a "Manual Stimulation" post about the Hana Taaka Daka!? instructional pamphlet shortly as well.

In the meantime, have any of you played this quirky PC Engine title? If so, share your thoughts--good or bad--in the comments section that follows.

See also: previous 'Nice Package!' posts about Rainbow Islands (Famicom) and KiKi KaiKai (PC Engine)