Friday, April 18, 2014

I don't get mad, I get Madou Monogatari

I have a feeling the headline above is among the worst--or at least the cheesiest--I've ever written. Sorry about that.

It's hard for me not to get a bit goofy when Compile's Madou Monogatari (Story of Sorcery in English, basically) series is involved, though. For me, these dungeon-crawling titles are like the "perfect storm" of gaming; on the one hand, they're cute as can be, yet on the other, they're tough as nails (or are from time to time, at least).

Given the above, along with the fact that I've been playing the game's fan translation via a patched ROM on and off for some time now, I recently decided to pick up an actual copy of the first Madou Monogatari title that was released for Sega's Game Gear back in 1993.

For whatever reason, I've long been a big fan of this game's flowery logo, which can be seen in the photo above (especially if you zoom in on it--just click on the image to do that).

Madou Monogatari I's cartridge label is pretty nice, too, although it's probably hard to tell that given the rather over-exposed nature of the photo above. (Sorry about that, too; I'm still coming to terms with using a new piece of software to clean up my snapshots.)

Thankfully, the photo above of the first page of this pint-sized dungeon-crawler's instruction manual is clear as day. By the way, the group of kids and other beings in this illustration constitute the bulk (if not the entirety) of the game's cast and crew--in case any of you were wondering. Oh, and if any of them look kind of familiar, well, that's because Compile later put them to use in its Puyo Puyo series of puzzlers.

Those same characters can be found on the back of Madou Monogatari I's box, which I suppose could be considered a bit underwhelming. You've got to love, though, that the box in question features such little text.

I mean, I'm guessing the Madou Monogatari series was pretty well known by Japanese gamers at the time and so most potential buyers didn't need to be told that this game was a dungeon-crawling RPG, but even then you'd think its packaging would include more than five lines of text.

See also: 'It was worth every penny (or, I heart my copy of Lunar: Samposuru Gakuen for the Game Gear)' and 'Manual Stimulation: Lunar Samposuru Gakuen (Game Gear)'

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An open letter to Nintendo of America about Tomodachi Life's presumed lack of gay, lesbian or bisexual relationships

Dear Nintendo of America,

Before I say anything else, I'd like to mention that I've been looking forward to playing this game (some version of it, at least) since the original Tomodachi Collection was announced for the Japanese DS back in 2009.

Given that, it shouldn't be too surprising for you to read that I was more than a bit excited when I heard you'll be releasing that game's 3DS sequel as Tomodachi Life in North America on June 6.

That excitement lost some of its luster a few days after that announcement was made, though, when it finally sank in that the game will very likely force me to "play straight" (you know, as opposed to "playing gay" as I'd obviously prefer to do).

Although I was pretty sure that would be the case the second I heard about Tomodachi Life's impending North American release, it didn't really bother me until I watched the Nintendo Direct broadcast devoted to the game and it struck me that I'd more than likely have to watch my male Mii woo (and possibly marry and maybe even have kids with) female Miis over and over and over again should I decide to pick up a copy of the game.

I'm sure that sounds like a silly complaint, especially since what we're talking about here is a rather silly video game, but to me it's anything but silly.

In fact, the whole thing makes me feel sad--sad that despite the fact that you're marketing this 3DS game as being all about "your life," that's not going to be true in my case or in the case of any of my LGBT brothers or sisters who similarly decide to buy and play Tomodachi Life.

All I want is for my Mii to be able to date, marry and, yes, maybe even have kids with any of the male Miis (those who aren't designated as family-members, of course) who populate my game--much like how my straight friends' female Miis will be able to date, marry and have kids with their games' male Miis. Is that too much to ask?

I know this game is going to hit store shelves in this country in a matter of weeks and, as such, it's probably too late for you to make the above-suggested changes. I hope, though, you'll consider producing and releasing a patch that makes gay, lesbian and bisexual relationships possible within Tomodachi Life as soon as possible.

I also hope you--and your cohorts at Nintendo of Japan, too--will consider making these relationships possible from the get-go when work begins on this game's sequel.

I say that because this is the kind of thing that could not only make an "old" gamer like myself feel welcomed and appreciated and accepted, but more importantly it could make younger gamers--boys and girls who may be struggling with their budding LGBT realities in all sorts of ways and for all sorts of reasons--feel like they're loved and supported and just as worthy of a big game company's consideration and attention as anyone else.

Thank you for listening,

Bryan Ochalla (aka "The Gay Gamer")

See also: 'The day we've all (or at least three or four of us have) waited for has arrived: Tomodachi Collection is coming to Europe and North America this June'

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Someone please tell me Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines (Vita) won't hit North American store shelves until at least September

I say the above because, frankly, I don't want to add another system to my "collection" until this fall at the earliest.

I'm not sure I'll be able to stop myself from buying a Vita, though, once the fascinating RPG known as Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines (aka Ore no Shikabane wo Koete Yuke in Japan, which translates to something along the lines of Go Forth Over My Dead Body) arrives on our shores.

In case this is the first you've heard of Oreshika, the gist (via the PlayStation Blog) is that it's "an RPG in which you take charge of an ancient Japanese clan that have been cursed with a maximum lifespan of just two years. Your task is to lead the clan on their quest to lift the curse and enlist the help of gods inspired by Japanese mythology to make sure each new generation of the clan is more powerful than the last."

Are any of you now itching to pick up this title? Or maybe you're planning to use your hard-earned dough to buy one or more of the other Vita games--like Freedom Wars, Soul Sacrifice Delta and Tales of Heart R--we've just learned will be heading West sometime this year instead?

Watch: Ore no Shikabane wo Koete Yuke's Tokyo Game Show 2013 trailer

Monday, April 14, 2014

If you like Yoshi's Island, you're going to love the Videri String Quartet's take on a handful of that game's classic tunes

In honor of the recent release of Yoshi's New Island, the members of Boston's Videri String Quartet decided to arrange, perform, record and share a medley of tunes pulled from the soundtrack of that game's Super Famicom (or SNES, if that's your thing) predecessor.

The entire composition is so wonderful I can't even point to a particular section as my favorite--although I guess if I were pressed I'd have to go with the quartet's sublime rendition of the game's "castle and fortress" theme. How about you?

See also: 'Raise your hand if you, too, are conflicted as hell about Yoshi's New Island'

Friday, April 11, 2014

Shall We Do It? (saying sayonara to Bravely Default and Yoshi's New Island and konnichiwa to Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball and Etrian Odyssey IV)

After spending just over 100 hours playing it, I finally put a fork in (i.e., finished) Bravely Default on Wednesday.

In a way, I'm relieved, as a good handful--at least 10 or so, I'd say--of the final hours I spent with this 3DS RPG were not altogether enjoyable. I'm also kind of sad, though, as not only did I thoroughly enjoy the rest of the time I spent with the game, but I also got a real kick out of its final salvo.

So, where does that leave me in terms of how I feel about this title? Well, I no longer wish I'd never picked up a copy of it, I can tell you that much. In fact, after watching the captivating "special video" that's unlocked following the credit roll, I'm once again genuinely curious about the upcoming sequel.

I still believe the majority of the last third, if not the entire last half, of Bravely Default is flawed to the point that I have to imagine a lot of players will give up on it before ever encountering the end credits, mind you, but I also appreciate what its developers and writers were going for with that much-maligned section of the game--even if their execution of that vision left a lot to be desired.

Also, like I implied a few paragraphs ago, the last two battles really helped wash from my mouth the bad taste that had developed while I played through the bulk of the optional boss fights that preceded them.

Speaking of which, here's a little piece of late-game advice for anyone who may need it: if you find your interest in the game waning during any of its last three chapters (six, seven and eight), I'd highly recommend skipping the aforementioned boss battles--the optional ones, I mean--and instead focusing simply on what's required of you to complete them.

(To read some of my earlier impressions of Bravely Default, by the way, check out a few of my most recent "Shall We Do It?" posts. Also, keep an eye out for a "Great Gaymathon" review of the game that will be published in the next week or so.)

In other news, I also beat Yoshi's New Island last week after putting about 13 hours into it.

I'd like to save most of my comments about this just-released 3DS platformer for the review I'll be publishing early next week, but one basic thing I'd like to get off my chest here is that, in the end, I personally found Yoshi's New Island to be a worthy-enough successor to the original Yoshi's Island.

The key for me was that Yoshi's New Island was, for the most part, a lot of fun to play. Plus, I found its graphical stylings to be more than pleasant (and really, really well done in certain areas) and I even liked its laid-back soundtrack.

So, my recommendation to folks who are on the fence when it comes to this game: if you liked the SNES original, I'd at least consider picking up New Island if you're in the market for a 3DS platformer. And if you've never played Yoshi's Island? Again, I'd say that if you're in the mood for a platformer and you own a 3DS, you should at least consider giving it a try.

Just don't go into Yoshi's New Island thinking it's a cakewalk, because it isn't. Yes, it's easy to breeze through a good number of stages, but if you're playing the game as it's meant to be played--which means you're aiming to find and collect all of the flowers, red coins and stars hidden away in each level--you'll likely find it sufficiently challenging.

Now that I'm done with Bravely Default and Yoshi's New Island, which games am I calling on to fill whatever free time I have at the moment? One of them is Rusty's Real Deal Baseball, that Nintendo-made eShop-only title that was announced a few months back.

In case this is the first you've heard of it, Rusty's Real Deal Baseball is a free-to-play (initially, at least) compilation of baseball-themed mini-games. Basically. That's selling the title short, though, as along with all of the (very fun, in that "just one more try" kind of way that's surprisingly similar to Nintendo's Rhythm Heaven/Tengoku titles) mini-games that are packed into Real Deal Baseball there's an oddly and sometimes uncomfortably dark story that holds everything together as well as a similarly strange haggling aspect that comes into play whenever you decide to buy any of the 10 in-game "4DS" cartridges (each of which contain an assortment of unique mini-games).

Don't worry if some or all of the above doesn't make sense. The point I'm trying to make is that there's more to Rusty's than a couple of baseball-themed mini-games.

Anyway, I've handed over about $4 of real money in order to buy two of Rusty's in-game 4DS carts, "Bat & Switch--Hitting" and "Cage Match--Hitting," and I've devoted quite a bit of time to both of them thus far. Each in-game cartridge features a bevy of "challenges," by the way--as in, about 50. All of the challenges included in a particular cart (such as "Bat & Switch--Hitting") are similar to each other, but they also differ enough that it never feels like you're just doing the same thing over and over again.

One thing I think I should mention here: I'm not a baseball fan. At all. In fact, although I'm an athletic person, the only sport I care about in real life is tennis. Given that, I think it's kind of cool that I'm enjoying Rusty's as much as I currently am. In fact, I'm enjoying it so much that I'll very likely buy all of its in-game carts in the coming weeks. (Which should wind up costing me about $16, if what I've read on the Internet is true.)

Does that mean I think you, too, should spend $4, $8 or even $16 on this title? I'm not sure, to be completely honest. Thankfully, anyone can go and download the base game for free, so I'd highly recommend doing just that, if you're curious, and then playing through the six or so challenges that are unlocked from the outset. If you enjoy them, haggle with Rusty and buy the full version of "Bat & Switch--Hitting" from him after you've gotten him down to $2. From there, you should be able to decide for yourself if the rest of the content is worth your hard-earned money or not.

Even if you end up feeling like the game just isn't for you, though, the most you'll be out is a couple of bucks. So, what have you got to lose?

Last, but not least, I also started playing Etrian Odyssey IV on Wednesday--in large part so I could support my friend Anne's "Atlus Community Game-Along" event. So far, though, all I've done is create a "guild" and name a handful of party members (all after classic Final Fantasy characters, of course), so I can't say much about the experience right now. I promise to spend some more time with it this coming weekend, though, and report on any and all progress I've made next week.

In the meantime, which games are all of you playing right now, and are you enjoying them?

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

After taking in its first trailer, I'm still hot to trot for Nippon Ichi's htol#NiQ (Vita)

I'd be even more hot to trot (hotter to trot?) for this upcoming Vita game if said trailer, below, did a better job of showing or explaining how it will play, of course, but even in its current state I'm still pretty hot for it.

The game's full title is Hotaru no Nikki, by the way, which translates to something akin to Firefly's Diary or Firefly Diaries.

A digital version of htol#NiQ will hit the Japanese PlayStation Store (with a price tag of 3,086 yen, or approximately $30) on June 16, while a "premium box" will arrive at retail (for about $58) on the same day.

See also: 'You say htol#NiQ, I say gorgeous Vita game'

The day we've all (or at least three or four of us have) waited for has arrived: Tomodachi Collection is coming to Europe and North America this June

Surprisingly, the bigwigs at Nintendo have decided to retain the Tomodachi part of this seemingly crazy 3DS game's Japanese title, although in the Western world the game will be known as Tomodachi Life rather than Tomodachi Collection: New Life.

Oh, and it will hit both European and North American store shelves on June 6. (It'll carry a price tag of $34.99 in the latter region; I'm not yet sure what it'll cost in the former.)

For more information on this zany life sim, check out its first trailer, below.

If you'd like a more in-depth look at Tomodachi Life, both of Nintendo's Western arms uploaded rather in-depth (and completely bananas) Nintendo Direct broadcasts devoted to the game early this morning. Watch the North American one here, and the European one here.

See also: 'We interrupt this program to inform you that Tomodachi Collection: New Life is almost assuredly heading West'