Friday, April 17, 2020

Manual Stimulation: Wanpaku Kokkun no Gourmet World (Famicom)

No joke, the English version of Taito's Wanpaku Kokkun no Gourmet World, called Panic Restaurant,  is one of my favorite side-scrolling platformers around.

Which isn't to suggest it's one of the best side-scrolling platformers around. It's not. It's probably not even one of the best platformers released for the Famicom or NES.

Still, I adore it. Why? For starters, I've never been shy about admitting I love games that feature food. Well, that's pretty much all you encounter while playing Wanpaku Kokkun no Gourmet World, which is set in and around a restaurant ("Eaten").

Food's about all you encounter while flipping through the Wanpaku Kokkun no Gourmet World instruction manual, too. Food and people who make food (like the cute chef showcased on the manual's cover and on pretty much every interior page), I mean.

Thankfully, the Wanpaku Kokkun no Gourmet World manual follows in the glorious footsteps of many other old Taito game manuals and depicts all of the above-mentioned food and food-making with the most brilliant of illustrations.

The illustration that serves as the backdrop of this booklet's "story" page (see above) is a perfect example.

None of the other drawings that fill the Wanpaku Kokkun no Gourmet World booklet are as massive as the one that sits behind its story text, but most are just as adorable.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Manual Stimulation: Don Doko Don 2 (Famicom)

At the end of my post about the Don Doko Don Famicom instruction manual, I mentioned that the manual you see here makes its predecessor "look like something that was pulled from the gutter."

Harsh, I know, but I stand by it. I mean, just look at the cover of the Don Doko Don 2 manual, below. It alone is more stupendous than anything you'll find in the first Don Doko Don manual.

Don't take any of this to mean I think the original Don Doko Don manual is a stinker. I think it's pretty snazzy, actually.

Maybe not as snazzy as, say, the manuals publisher Taito created for the Famicom Disk System version of Bubble Bobble, or the PC Engine ports of The New Zealand Story or Mizubaku Daibouken, but still worth the occasional ogle.

I say without hesitation, however, that the Don Doko Don 2 instruction manual is snazzier than all of the above-mentioned booklets--perhaps combined.

Every page of the Don Doko Don 2 booklet features something fabulous, usually in the form of a stunning drawing.

OK, so they're not all as jaw-dropping as the gigantic one that opens the Don Doko Don 2 manual. But, really, not every illustration can be of a huge, crying, king-turned-into-a-frog, right?

At any rate, the pages that follow shine a light on the game's story. Besides all of the art they produced, I also love how the designers who worked on this booklet used pops of red and pink to add drama and interest to the proceedings.

The spread above educates readers on how to play Don Doko Don 2. There's not much to tell them, however; as is the case in the original Don Doko Don, in part two, you dispatch enemies by smacking them with your mallet, picking up their squished bodies, and then tossing their corpses at oncoming clueless baddies.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Manual Stimulation: Don Doko Don (Famicom)

Don Doko Don is one of those old games that avoided pinging my radar for a lot longer than it should've done.

Granted, this series hardly is a household name outside of Japan--despite the fact that Taito, the company responsible for developing and publishing it, previously gave the world Space Invaders, Qix, Chack'n Pop, and Bubble Bobble, among other classics.

At any rate, I remained blissfully unaware of Don Doko Don's existence until sometime after I became obsessed with the PC Engine.

You see, Taito ported this single-screen platformer, which stars a pair of mallet-wielding dwarves, to NEC's diminutive console less than a year after its original arcade release in 1989, and just two months after the Famicom port that's the subject of this post.

Why didn't I hear about Don Doko Don for the Famicom before I heard about its PC Engine iteration? I haven't the slightest idea.

At any rate, and as you might suspect, the instruction manual that came packed inside copies of the Famicom port of Don Doko Don is quite similar to the PC Engine port's manual.

The two booklets aren't identical, however. Take the spread above. The pair of illustrations you see here are completely different from the ones you see on the corresponding pages of Don Doko Don's PC Engine booklet.

For the record, I prefer the unique illustrations in the PC Engine release's manual to the ones used in the Famicom release's manual.

All that said, most of the drawings in these two manuals are the same. Generally speaking, though, the ones in the Famicom manual are given a bit more space to breathe than are the ones in the PC Engine manual.

The drawings highlighted on the last few pages demonstrate to readers Don Doko Don's main gameplay loop, which involves whacking enemies with your trusty hammer, picking up their smooshed bodies, and then tossing them at other unsuspecting foes.

The next handful of spreads focus on educating players about the particulars of each Don Doko Don stage. For example, the first world is forested, contains trees that spit out baddies, and features a multi-jack-o'-lanterned boss.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

A few thoughts on the six games I've finished so far in 2020

I came up with what I thought was a brilliant (if also unoriginal) idea for this blog about six months ago: I'd write and publish micro-reviews of all the games I finished in 2019.

Coming up with the idea proved a lot easier than following through with it, though, as I finished 19 games last year. Producing the pair of posts I just linked to took loads of work despite the fact that I limited each write-up to just a handful of sentences.

So, I'm doing things a little differently in 2020. Rather than cram all of these pithy critiques into the last few weeks of November or December, I'm spacing them out a bit.

As such, here are some thoughts on the six games I've managed to beat in the first three months of this year. Look for a similar post to appear in late June or early July--assuming I complete at least a couple more titles between now and then. (That's not a given considering Animal Crossing: New Horizons is doing its darndest to take over my life.)

Alice in Wonderland (DS)--Every single time I ask people to recommend DS games, a handful of them implore me to play this 2010 release. Did their vociferous advice prove accurate in the end? I'd say so. Although this iteration of Alice in Wonderland has its fair share of flaws, overall it's a gem. Truth be told, I'm not sure what my favorite aspect of it is: its Tim-Burton-by-way-of-Okamiden aesthetic, its Metroidvania-plus gameplay, or its near-perfect length. Regardless, I'm glad I finally got off my lazy butt and gave it a try.

Detective Pikachu (3DS)--Here's another game I dragged my feet on playing for far too long. Per the usual, I can't really tell you why. I guess I assumed it would be so "kiddie" it would be boring? Well, it's definitely aimed at a younger audience, but that didn't keep me from having a blast with it. I especially liked how it tweaked the adventure-detective genre in some surprising and intriguing ways. Oh, and it gets bonus points from me for looking great and not overstaying its welcome. (I finished it in less than 20 hours.)

Heroland (Switch)--I don't know about you, but I often have a better time with games I begin with low expectations than I do with games I dig into after anticipating them for months or years. Heroland fits into the latter category. Given that, I shouldn't have been surprised when I didn't immediately love it. It did surprise me, though--probably because the bulk of it (including its adorbs graphics, its jaunty OST, and its quirky gameplay) is my cup of tea. I came around to this weird mashup of a board game and an RPG in the end, but I'd still have a hard time recommending it to others--particularly at full price.

Hey! Pikmin (3DS)--I know everybody and their brother seemingly loves to shit on this portable Pikmin spinoff, but I'm not one of them. On the contrary, I adored the nearly 13 hours I devoted to Hey! Pikmin early this year. Oh, it's far from perfect, that's true, but it's also true that its pros far outweigh its cons--or at least they did for me. Chief among the former, by the way, are Hey! Pikmin's painterly art style and the puzzle-heavy nature of its side-scrolling action.

Pokémon Shield (Switch)--I've had a real hit-and-miss history with the world-conquering Pokémon series. After adoring, and finishing, the very first game way back when, I responded to almost every subsequent release with a shrug and a yawn. Or I did until I played, and beat, Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! in late 2018. As much I as loved that remake, I loved Pokémon Shield even more--so much so I've already put over 80 hours into it. The highlight for me: the thrilling and endlessly explorable "Wild Area." No joke: probably half of my Shield playthrough has been spent in this sprawling region thus far.

Raging Loop (Switch)--Although I had a feeling I'd enjoy this horror-tinged visual novel, I never dreamed I'd fall head over heels for it. What changed between when I first became aware of it and when it dug its claws into me? I got pulled into its Groundhog Day-esque story, for starters. I also got to know its curious cast of characters. Even its initially off-putting art eventually grew on me. Still not convinced? How about this: despite the fact that it took me about 30 hours to reach its end credits, I'm already looking forward to playing through Raging Loop again. If that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is.

Have you finished any games this year? If so, which ones? And what did you think of them? Let me know in the comments section of this post.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Manual Stimulation BONUS: Hello Kitty World sticker sheet

I'm a sucker for games, especially old Japanese games, that come packed with sticker sheets.

Sadly, I don't own too many of these treasured goods. In fact, I can only think of four examples at the moment: Detana!! TwinBee, Loopop Cube: Lup Salad, PoPoLoCrois Monogatari, and Rhythm Tengoku.

Four examples other than the one I'm discussing and highlighting in this very post, I mean.

Funnily enough, I didn't even realize I owned this sticker sheet until I pulled my copy of the 1992 Famicom game out of the closet to scan its instruction manual.

To my utter surprise, stuck inside the pages of the Hello Kitty World manual were the stickers you see here.

Truth be told, I'm a bit miffed this precious sticker sheet focuses entirely on Hello Kitty, aka Kitty White.

Granted, she's the star of the show--er, game--and this sheet only contains eight stickers, five of which are pretty darn small, so the lack of any Mimmy or Tippy stickers makes some sense.

Something that makes a lot less sense: none of these stickers directly refer to Hello Kitty World. (Erm, except the one at the top.) It's almost like Character Soft, the publisher of this Balloon Kid knockoff, just took a few existing Hello Kitty illustrations and slapped them onto the sheet you're ogling now.

All that said, I'd rather get a sticker sheet than not get one, so please don't take what I've written so far to be serious complaints.

See also: scans of the Detana!! TwinBeeLoopop Cube: Lup Salad, and Rhythm Tengoku sticker sheets