Friday, October 24, 2014

On the one hand, I'm glad I finally own a copy of one of Nippon Ichi's first PlayStation games, Cooking Fighter Hao

On the other, I wish I actually enjoyed playing this cooking-themed import.

Sadly, I doubt the latter is going to change anytime soon, as Cooking Fighter Hao has proven to be a monumentally tedious experience for me so far. It was fairly evident from the word go that would be the case, actually, as the game opens with may well be the world's most boring--and wordy--introductory cutscene.



After that, players are transported to a drab, gray arena and then tasked with battling a bunch of SNK rejects in an what can only be described as an Iron Chef-esque competition. Here, though, participants produce dishes by bashing the adorable (well, kind of) animals that scurry about each stage and then pressing the PlayStation controller's buttons or control pad in various ways once the cattle, chickens, crabs and such have been stunned into submission.

Although that may sound acceptable enough on paper (or, er, on blog), in reality it's anything but.



Add to this the fact that the aesthetics of Cooking Fighter Hao would have been considered middle of the road even if they'd appeared in an early Super Famicom release--although I personally quite like the sprites found in the battle scenes--and you've got yourself a rather disappointing PlayStation pick-up.



So why did I buy a copy of it? And why am I happy about it? My knee-jerk reaction is to say that the game was made by the folks at Nippon Ichi and, as such, it would be worth hunting down even if it literally were a piece of crap. After a bit of reflection, I'd add that, despite all of the criticism I've leveled at it so far, I still like Cooking Fighter Hao enough to own a copy of it--especially given the price I paid for this particular copy.



Plus, the game's packaging is pretty nice, as a quick glance at any of the photos strewn about this post should prove. I especially like its cover and disc art, by the way, although the manual sports some nice illustrations, too.

Have any of you experienced Cooking Fighter Hao in some form or fashion? If so, do you agree with my rather negative assessment of it, or have you enjoyed what you've played of it thus far?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

FYI: I'm still pretty darn keen on Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley (3DS)

Actually, I'm now more interested in this upcoming 3DS title than I was previously thanks to the trailer that can be viewed below.

Sure, the game still looks like an old Nintendo 64 or PlayStation game, but that's a big part of its appeal, in my humble opinion.



Also, I just think the Minecraft-esque gameplay that's been crammed into this iteration of the long-running series--which was made by the folks at Natsume rather than by creator Yasuhiro Wada and his crew at Marvelous--looks like a lot of fun.

Are any of you also planning to pick up The Lost Valley after it hits the streets (and eShop) of North America on Nov. 4  or after it finally makes its way to Europe?

One more game I'll be buying after I (finally) get a Vita: Pix the Cat

I've been aware of this digital PS4 and Vita title for a couple of weeks now, and every time I think of it, I want it--and a system that will allow me to play it--a little more than I wanted it the last time it popped into my head.

Why is that? For starters, Pix the Cat was made by the crew at Paris-based Pastagames, whose past products include one of my favorite XBLIG titles, Arkedo Series: 03 Pixel, as well as the superb (and sadly under-appreciated) DS gem, Maestro! Jump in Music.

Also, there's the following trailer:



NeoGAF user Sir TapTap recently described Pix the Cat as being akin to Pac-Man ChuChu Snake Rocket Championship Edition DX+--or a mash-up of the ancient Snake game, Pac-Man Championship Edition and Sega's ChuChu Rocket!--which of course makes me want it even more.

Unfortunately, it's unlikely I'll be able to buy this game--or, for that matter, a Vita--until the end of the year. In the meantime, I guess I'll have to continue lusting after the trailer above and poring over Tiny Cartridge's recent write-up of the title.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Five more favorites: Japanese Dreamcast box art

You didn't think my last "five favorites" post would be my one and only write-up on this subject, did you? Well, if you did, you were wrong, because today I'm publishing another!

With that out of the way, let's get to the meat of this particular box-art-focused post.


Berserk--I've never played this game, and probably never will, but that isn't stopping me from slobbering all over its cover art. My favorite part of said piece of cover art, by the way, is the blue-haired fairy, although that's mainly due to how she pops from the red-and-black backdrop that sits behind her.


Elemental Gimmick Gear--I nearly included this one in my last post on this subject. I can't remember what I went with instead, but I guess it doesn't matter now. Anyway, the illustration that serves as the focal point of this piece of box art is its highlight, if you ask me, although I think the minimalist logo is a nice touch, too.


Gunspike--I'm a real sucker for cover art like this. Cover art that's full of color and showcases an illustration that takes a few risks when it comes to how it's laid out. Sure, it's easy for a game's logo to get lost amidst such chaos, but I'm OK with that (in most cases).


Sengoku Turb--This one's sure to be deemed an odd selection, but I'm not going to back away from it, as I like pretty much every aspect of it. Its overall art style, which calls to mind Japanese calligraphy, is an obvious high point, of course, but its successful use of space (white space, especially) is worth a respectful nod to two as well.


Twinkle Star Sprites--I guess you could say this is the most traditional of all the examples shared here, but that doesn't make it any less impressive in my eyes. Granted, it's hard to hate on a piece of box art that's as cheerfully colorful (or colorfully cheerful?) as this game's is, isn't it?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Five reasons it's a shame Game Freak hasn't yet released its quirky 3DS eShop title, Solitiba (aka Soliti Horse), outside of Japan

How do I love thee, Solitiba (aka Soliti Horse)? Let me count the ways.

Actually, let me count the hours--as in, the hours I've spent playing this Japan-only, Game Freak-made 3DS eShop title that, as I'm sure you've heard me say before, adds a bit of zip to the traditionally staid horse-racing genre by infusing it with some lightning-fast rounds of solitaire.

The tally so far, by the way, would be just under 25 hours. That's how long I've played Solitiba, I mean. Which, admittedly, is a bit ... extreme. What can I say? I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

Which is why, as I state in the header above, it's a damn shame this game has yet to be released outside of Japan.

Here are five more observations related to why I believe that to be the case:


It's addictive--I guess that could be gleaned from my earlier revelation that I've spent 25 or so hours with this sucker so far, but that's not all there is to Solitiba's addictive nature. For instance, there's the fact that this is one of those titles that, even when all you plan to do is pick it up and play it for five or 10 minutes, you end up playing it for far longer than that. In my case, that usually means playing it for 30 to 40 minutes, it not longer, which is kind of crazy when you consider we're basically talking about a gussied-up game of solitaire.


It's adorable--All you need to see for proof of this bullet point are the screenshots that are scattered throughout this post. I especially love the looks of Solitiba's pudgy little horses, although I wouldn't have minded if the artists at Game Freak had conjured up at least a couple of "girly-looking" ones to balance things out a smidge. (I mean, why don't any of them sport pink or purple coats? There are a number of blue and yellow ones, after all.)


It's deep--Despite the fact that I've described Solitiba as being one part horse-racing sim and one part solitaire on at least three or four occasions now, there's far more to this digital title than that. Winning or losing has to do with more than just completing a hand of solitaire. How a player positions his or her steed throughout a race can lead to success or failure, for example, as can either picking up or passing up on the many "item" cards that are scattered about each track.


It's got a surprisingly awesome soundtrack--In fact, I've yet to hear a tune that I would describe as anything other than great. The standouts on Solitiba's soundtrack, though, go well beyond great, with two notable cases in point being the ditty that opens this video and the one that can be heard starting at the 8:04 mark of the same medley.


It's really easy to screw things up due to the slew of unintelligible menus--And by that, I mean that if you don't know some amount of Japanese, it can be far too easy to, say, delete your save file--which is a headache that's made even more painful once you realize that you're going to have to go through the game's far-too-wordy-for-its-own-good tutorial once again.

See also: Dengeki Online's Solitiba guideJapanese3DS.com's review and Sosostris.com's write-up

Friday, October 17, 2014

I've quickly gone from having zero copies of Hoshi no Kirby (aka Kirby's Dream Land) to having two

Given my propensity toward cute games, the declaration in the header above probably strikes a few of you as odd.

Sadly, I can't really explain to you why it took me so long to acquire a copy of--or even play--this particular platformer, other than I just wasn't all that keen on this Kirby character when he first arrived on the scene back in 1992, and that lack of interest prompted me to ignore him and pretty much every one of his games until Kirby's Canvas Curse piqued my interest a few years ago.

Even after I had that change of heart--which was bolstered by the release of Kirby's Epic Yarn and Kirby's Return to Dream Land--about the little squeeze toy, though, I still couldn't be bothered to pick up the GameBoy cart that introduced him to the world.


That's mainly because I'd always imagined a "mainline" Kirby game without the series' trademark--the ability to take on enemies' powers--would be a waste of time. Then, a couple of months ago, I watched a video of Dream Land's first stage. I liked pretty much all of what I saw, of course, but what pushed me from "like" to "love," strangely enough, was seeing a couple of Grizzos--one of which had a Poppy Bros. Jr. on its back--hop to and fro in the most adorable manner.

So, I ran out--well, directed my browser to eBay--and bought a copy of the Japanese version of Dream Land, which is known in that part of the world as Hoshi no Kirby, or Kirby of the Stars.


Its packaging, as you can see in the photos shared throughout this post, is simple but effective. I especially like how the illustration that sits behind Kirby (on the front cover) looks like it may have been made out of fabric. (A precursor to the aforementioned Epic Yarn, perhaps?) That said, I think I prefer the even more simplistic cart-label art to the box art.

The back of the Hoshi no Kirby's packaging is pretty darn appealing, too--or at least I think it is.


I still haven't played a ton of the game, I'm embarrassed to admit, but I've played through a small handful of stages, enjoying every second of the experience, and as a result I can assure you I'll return to finish the rest of them sooner rather than later.

Do any of you consider yourselves to be fans of Hoshi no Kirby or Kirby's Dream Land? If so, please share your thoughts about why that is in the comments section of this post.

See also: 'I guess I've come around to Bubble Bobble Junior's box art as well as its gameplay'

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Game Freak is releasing a Solitiba soundtrack on Nov. 7 and I'm going to buy the hell out of it

I know what at least a few of you are thinking right now: "How do you buy the hell out of something?"

I don't know, to tell you the truth, but I'm going to figure it out between now and Nov. 7, which is when the folks at Game Freak, makers of those Pok√©mon games you've probably heard about (along with a number of other gems), will release a soundtrack for Solitiba--aka Soliti Horse, aka the game that's currently eating up most of my precious free time.


Anyway, I'm guessing the two or three of you who also are feeling this Japan-only eShop game will be happy to hear copies of its soundtrack are being sold for just 2,700 Yen (about $25) via shop.2083.jp--although it seems Amazon Japan will sell them eventually as well.

Want to hear a bit of said soundtrack before committing your hard-earned dollars to it? Here you go:



By the way, if any of you are curious to learn more about this addictive digital title, which wackily combines elements of solitaire with those of an adorable horse-racing sim, keep your eyes peeled for a post I'll be publishing early next week.

See also: 'Would somebody please translate these Solitiba (3DS) screens for me?'