Monday, March 02, 2015

I will hug, and pet and squeeze my new Hobonichi Techo and call it Mother (or maybe Onett)

I've wanted a Hobonichi Techo ever since I first became aware of the existence of this popular Japanese daily planner--which is produced by Shigesato Itoi's company Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun, aka Hobonichi--some time ago.

The Itoi connection is of the main reasons for my interest in this product, of course--hello, the man gave the world three of best video games ever in Mother, Mother 2 (EarthBound) and Mother 3--but another is I love that a culture of creativity and customization (for lack of a better phrase) has built up around these planners in the last few years.

So, in early January, when the "Onett" (yes, the same Onett that's found in Mother 2 and EarthBound) cover once again became available for purchase--it was sold out for a while at the end of 2014--I nabbed one.

Although it was left on my doorstep a few weeks ago, it took me until this past weekend to take some photos of it.

Before we get to my snapshots of the snazzy Onett cover, let's check out the similarly snazzy packaging that protected my Techo and related products as they made their way across the pond.

As nice as Hobonichi's packaging is, there's little question that it pales in comparison to the Onett cover (and associated components) that I mentioned earlier.

For example, check out the Mr. Saturn-branded "pencil board" (above) that was stuck inside my Onett cover. (You can slide this accessory under the page you're currently writing or drawing on to keep from marking the ones below it.)

As for the Onett cover, well, it kind of speaks for itself, don't you think? (It's showcased in the photos above and below this text, in case anyone missed that fact.)

Unfortunately, I haven't actually started using my Techo, so I can't yet share with you any cute, crude or otherwise creative doodles. (That's mainly what I'll be including in my planner, in case you're curious.)

As soon as that happens, though--and it should be soon, as I did a bit of "practice doodling" on random pieces of paper over the weekend--I'll photograph or scan my favorite concoctions and then publish them here, on Instgram, on Twitter and maybe even on deviantart.

Friday, February 27, 2015

This deluxe Hatsune Miku 'plush pouch' is making me want to do bad things ... with my wallet

What business does a guy like me, a guy who doesn't own a single Hatsune Miku game (although I'll have two shortly), have desiring something as fan-focused as the "deluxe plush pouch" showcased in the photo below?

I don't know. All I know is that I think it's fantastically adorable and that I want one--despite the fact that my life currently is one, big "Hatsune Miku-free zone."

To be honest, though, I have a feeling I'll chicken out on buying one when all is said and done. After all, the darn things are going to cost about $35, if not more, and that's before shipping is included.

Still, it comes with the most precious little sushi-themed screen cleaner (also pictured above), and that alone has to be worth about $10 or $15, right?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

I hope you're up for a little more MonHun Nikki: Poka Poka Airu Mura (PSP) love

Early last week, I published a post in which I blathered on and on and on about the stupendously sparkly--and purple--PSP that my pal, Jess (he of the Kiblitzing blog), recently bought and sent to me.

A small handful of photos were included in the above-mentioned post, and two of them featured peeks at the complete-in-box copy of MonHun Nikki: Poka Poka Airu Mura that I recently picked up.

This Monster Hunter spin-off--which is supposed to have a sort of Animal Crossing feel to it, not that I would know--is worth more than just a passing glance, so today I'm giving it a bit more attention.

Specifically, I'm giving its box art, UMD label and instruction manual a bit more attention.

Fun fact: I could've bought the follow-up of this game, called MonHun Nikki: Poka Poka Airu Mura G, for pretty much the same amount of money I spent on the copy highlighted throughout this post, but I went with Capcom's original effort because I prefer its cover art.

The game's UMD features art that's nearly as adorable, if you ask me. You may not be able to tell in the fairly crappy photo above, but the Poogie that sits just to the left of the MonHun Nikki: Poka Poka Airu Mura logo is wearing a watermelon-themed outfit.

The backside of MonHun Nikki: Poka Poka Airu Mura's instruction manual is beyond cute, too--or at least I think it is.

Sadly, that's about all I can say about this Japan-only release at the moment, as I've yet to even pop it into my beautifully purple PSP. I'm going to do my best to rectify that soon, though, as once I do, I'll share my thoughts on it here (probably in a future installment of my "Shall We Do It?" series).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

#ADecadeofDS: Maestro! Jump in Music

Amount of time devoted to this game in the last week--One hour, 38 minutes.

Most recent boss toppled, location reached or milestone achieved--I finished all 24 of the game's stages (each of which is backed by a different tune, from "ABC" to Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5") at least once, but only on the "easy" difficulty level.

Overall comments on the experience--If I were forced to sum up my impressions of this import-only music game in just one word, the word I'd choose would be "sigh."

That's because Maestro! Jump in Music has so many things going for it--the most noteworthy being its Disney-esque art style, which loses nothing in its translation to the DS' low-res screens, and its admirably diverse soundtrack--yet a few flubs keep it from being the thoroughly enjoyable experience it really should be. Even worse, these missteps actually make the game kind of frustrating--to the point that I'm not sure I'll spend as much time playing this one as I imagined I would before I bought it.

The main misstep, in my opinion: the touch-screen-centric gameplay (the pink bird shown on the cover art above walks from left to right across the screen, which is made up of a series of strings, and you "pluck" them along with music to make him jump, nab items and the like) on offer here isn't always the most responsive.

Actually, it's responsive enough when there aren't a ton of strings to pluck, items to grab or baddies to tap, but when things speed up or the screen becomes too densely packed, things deteriorate pretty rapidly. (As in, it becomes seemingly impossible to do everything you need to do to perfect, and sometimes just to complete, a particular level.)

Another of Maestro's missteps: for me, it features a few too many gameplay elements. Plucking strings so your feathered friend can nab items or change paths is fun, as is tapping certain enemies along with the beat (Taiko no Tatsujin-style, basically), but some of the other elements are far less so.

Specifically, near the end of the game, there are stages (or portions of stages) during which you have to repeatedly strum (rub) a number of strings, while in other stages you have to make continuous circular motions with your stylus--and neither activity ends up being very enjoyable or effective.

That said, the Simon Says-ish boss battles that pop up every fourth stage are a real breath of fresh air and rarely frustrate or annoy, so you'll always have those to look forward to (even if some of the levels that precede them don't enamor you).

Will I continue to play this game in the coming days, weeks and maybe even months?--I'll likely come back to it every now and then so I can experience some of my favorite stages a second, third or even fourth time, but other stages I'll avoid like the plague from here on out--which means I'll probably never play through the entire game again. Which is too bad, as it's a top-notch product in almost every way and it really should have been a much more enticing experience than it has been so far.

Do I recommend it to others?--Considering complete-in-box copies are somewhat pricey, and not all that easy to find outside of Europe (the only region that earned a physical release of the game, I believe), and considering playing it is a hit-and-miss affair, I don't think I would, unfortunately. If you tend to go totally bonkers for music or rhythm games, though, it may still be worth your while.

Next up--Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales

See also: previous 'A Decade of DS' posts

Monday, February 23, 2015

It looks like I'll be getting my second Vita game sooner rather than later

Which game am I alluding to in the header above? Why, Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines, of course--which will be released in North America on March 3 (and in Europe on the following day).

I'm a bit bummed that Oreshika won't be getting a physical (boxed) release in either of the above-mentioned regions, but I'm far less bummed than I'd be if the game weren't being released at all.

Plus, Oreshika will cost just $19.99 upon release in North America, and €19.99 in Europe, so it's hard to complain too much about the situation surrounding the localization of this lovely looking RPG.

Oh, and in case I haven't said so here already (I know I've mentioned at least part of the following somewhere on line in the last few weeks, but I can't remember where), I recently bought a Vita. More specifically, one of the Japanese pink-and-white Vita 2000 systems, as they're sometimes called.

And just before I bought that Vita, I bought a Vita game--with the game in question being the first Danganronpa, of course.

Anyway, the Vita is due to be dropped on my doorstep any day now, and as soon as that happens I'll let everyone know via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and here, although not necessarily in that order.

In the meantime, are any of you planning to buy Oreshika--either at launch or at some point down the road?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Shall We Do It? (BATTRIX, Drop Wizard, rainblocks, Tumbledrop and Zoo Keeper DX)

You may remember how, in this recently published post, I said of the iOS puzzler, rainblocks: I'm not sure it's something I'll return to all that often.

Fast forward to today, just over a week later, and although I can't prove it, I'm pretty sure rainblocks--which was made by Eric Koziol--is now my most-played iOS game.

So, what's changed in the meantime? I don't really know, to be honest--well, other than I think my brain went on a walkabout during my initial experience with it, which prompted me to assume it was some sort of endless (or nearly so) puzzle game, like the Tokoton mode of the Zoo Keeper series.

In reality, it's a decidedly timed affair, with the result being that rainblocks feels like a mad-dash, try-to-beat-your-high-score kind of title--which is right up my alley, especially if it's stuck inside a portable device.

One aspect of this iOS game that I've always liked is its art style. It's very simple, but also very clean, colorful, consistent and even "classy," if that makes sense. In fact, I dare say it reminds me of something Nintendo or one of its second-party developers would have made during the GameBoy Advance era to fill the gaps between its heavy hitters.

As for the other games mentioned in this post's header, if I were to line them up based on how much time I've spent with them in the last week or so, I'd probably go with: BATTRIXZoo Keeper DX, Drop Wizard and then Tumbledrop.

I don't suppose you're up for taking in some of my thoughts on all of these lovely iOS games (and they truly are lovely, each and every one of them)? If so, please keep reading.

BATTRIX--This bite-sized RPG was made by the wizards at Opus Studio, who also brought the world the Half-Minute Hero games and Jikandia: The Timeless Land, which of course means it features some stunning spritework.

There's more to it than that, though--which probably won't shock anyone who's experienced any of the afore-mentioned PSP titles. This is most evident in BATTRIX's gameplay "hook," which tasks players with exposing its map one tile at a time. (You begin the game standing on a single, solitary tile, and nearly every step you take away from it reveals previously hidden areas and battle-able enemies.)

The idea is a perfect fit for the medium, and a lot of fun to boot. Also a perfect fit for the medium: the controls used in BATTRIX's battle scenes, which of course are intuitively touched-based and which also feature fast, frequent and intriguing weapon changes.

Drop Wizard

Drop Wizard--This was my first iOS game, and it's sure to remain one of my favorites for some time to come. The graphics here are absolutely adorable--and right up there with the best of the single-screen platformer genre, if you ask me.

The gameplay's great, too, in that it wisely considers and keeps in mind the iOS platform's weaknesses (generally unresponsive digital controls being the main one, of course) without letting them hamper the action at hand.

As for what all that nonsensical blather means for the end-user (me and you): instead of focusing on fast-paced leaps and twitchy, last-millisecond responses à la most other single-screen platformers, Drop Wizard focuses on strategy. Which is a good, as all you're able to do in this game, control-wise, is move your adorably behatted protagonist left and right. (Yes, that means there's no jump or other action button.)

I'm sure that sounds more than a bit nuts, but in reality it's brilliantly refreshing.

Zoo Keeper DX
Tumbledrop--Despite this game's title, it's nothing like the wonderful Bubble Bobble clone--or, rather, Snow Bros. clone--called Tumble Pop. That's disappointing at first, or at least it was for me, but it's doubtful you'll feel that way for long, as Tumbledrop's gameplay wastes little time in differentiating itself from any other title you're likely to compare it to.

So, what's Tumbledrop's gameplay like? I guess you could say it's a physics-based puzzler. Actually, it's kind of like Jenga, that block-balancing tabletop game that everybody's become obsessed with at one point or another. Only Tumbledrop is a lot more visually interesting, what with its on-point use of pastels as well as its bricks and blocks and stars that grin like non-creepy Kewpie dolls.

Anyway, it's a lot of fun, and it's no pushover (pun not entirely intended), which always is a good thing, in my opinion. In fact, I've only made it through a few screens so far thanks to its general toughness. Still, I hope I can make it a bit further before I stick a fork in it and move on to some other technicolor iOS title.

Zoo Keeper DX--If you've played some version of Zoo Keeper over the years, you've pretty much played them all. In the case of almost any other series, I'd say that's a bad thing, but these bright, animal-themed puzzlers are such a blast to play that I can't bring myself to do it.

One somewhat negative thing I will say about the iOS iteration of Zoo Keeper is that it's a bit lacking when it comes to modes and options--there are just three of the latter, as far as I can tell, and one of them is an online battle mode I'm unlikely to use.

Other than that fairly minor quibble (especially given Zoo Keeper DX's cheap asking price), though, this one's a ... well, it's a keeper, as that old--and appropriate--clich√© goes.

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

Thursday, February 19, 2015

'Dead Wario' mug + 'Dead Mario' badges by the illustrious OSKUNK!

Those of you who've been coming here for a bit should be well aware of my love for the artist who calls himself OSKUNK!

(Don't worry, the exclamation point at the end there is his doing, not mine. Not that I hate exclamation points, mind you.)

After all, I've published just a few posts about his creations over the years--a good number of which have focused (and deservedly so) on his custom-painted Dreamcast consoles and controllers.

Today's post, though, focuses on some of his Nintendo-centric concoctions, with the first being the completely awesome "Dead Wario" mug showcased in the photo above.

Seriously, if I had one of these mugs, I'd never drink out of anything else. Even when I switched from coffee or tea to water or soda or booze.

The "Dead Mario" badges shown in the following photo are pretty great, too, but it's kind of hard for them to compete against the "Dead Wario" mugs, isn't it?

If you'd like even more OSKUNK! goodness, by the way, be sure to check out the custom-painted Super Smash Bros. GameCube controller that can be spied here.