Thursday, December 08, 2016

Manual Stimulation: Bomberman (PC Engine)

To be frank, there aren't a whole lot of reasons to buy, own or play the first PC Engine Bomberman title in 2016.

In fact, I can only think of three reasons at the moment: 1) you're a huge fan of this Hudson-made series, 2) you have a bunch of friends as well as a bunch of PC Engine (or TurboGrafx-16) controllers and 3) you're trying to fill out your HuCard collection and this game is the best of what's left on your dwindling wish list.

Actually, I just came up with another reason: you like Bomberman's iconic cover art, which can be seen in the scan above. (As always, click on it to take a much better and closer look at its contents.)

OK, so maybe I'm being a bit harsh. The first Bomberman isn't a complete turd, after all. Still, it pales in comparison to later titles, like Bomberman '93, Bomberman '94 and Saturn Bomberman.

That's mainly because the play fields, power-ups and enemy selection in this entry fail to display the imagination and creativity that seemingly helped produce the aforementioned sequels.

Thankfully, fun can be had despite the fact that it's all rather vanilla. Plus, nabbing a copy of this version of Bomberman these days won't cost you an arm and a leg (unlike a lot of other PC Engine or TurboGrafx-16 games) and it'll also net you the surprisingly appealing instruction manual that's displayed throughout this post.

Admittedly, the Bomberman depictions in this manual are kind of wonky, but the other illustrations on hand go a long way toward making up for it.

Also, the folks who designed Bomberman's booklet covered its handful of pages with some nice pops of color.

Could this particular PC Engine instruction manual be better, flashier, more fabulous? Of course. Even as is, though, it's got more going for it than Rainbow Islands' or Parasol Star's manual, so at least there's that.

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts about Bikkuriman World, Dungeon Explorer, Hana Taaka Daka!? and The New Zealand Story

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Nice Package! (Guru Logi Champ, GameBoy Advance)

While researching and writing my post of #HudsonMonth game recommendations--which includes a brief mention of this unfortunately obscure puzzler--over the weekend, I came to the shocking realization that the only photo I've published of Guru Logi Champ since acquiring a copy of it in early 2010 is of its cartridge. (Here is the post in question, in case you're curious.)

That's a real shame, as not only is Guru Logi Champ one of the best GameBoy Advance titles around, but its box, cartridge and instruction manual sport some of the best cover (or label) art around.

Don't take my word for it. A single glance at the photo below is all you should need to be convinced of the greatness of this Compile-made game's packaging.

If that's not quite enough to sell you on it, check out the following:

Yes, the flaps on Guru Logi Champ's box feature depictions of the game's adorable duck-like characters.

Those same creatures are plastered across the GameBoy Advance puzzler's instruction manual, too, as you can see in the snapshot above.

Guru Logi Champ's cart label is a slight variation of the main cover art. Hey, at least there's a little difference--too many publishers of GBA games used the same designs on both surfaces, in my experience.

If you'd like to learn more about this 2001 release, by the way, you can do so by reading my Guru Logi Champ review. Also, you can ogle the most interesting pages of the game's instruction manual in this "Manual Stimulation" post. And if you'd like to see a few more photos of its box and cartridge, check out this Flickr album of mine.

See also: previous 'Nice Package!' posts

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Get your piping hot #HudsonMonth game recommendations here!

In case you weren't already aware, December is "Hudson Month," according to my friend Anne Lee (of the Chic Pixel blog).

What does that mean? Basically, it means you're supposed to play one or more games made by the now-defunct developer and publisher Hudson Soft sometime this month and then blog or tweet about the experience (using #HudsonMonth in the latter scenario)--if you're willing and able, of course.

If Hudson Soft doesn't ring a bell, maybe the names of some of the company's most famous releases will: Adventure Island, Bomberman and Bonk's Adventure.

Although there's nothing wrong with playing through one of those titles or their sequels for this game-along, there are many other--and oftentimes better--options available to you, such as the following:

DoReMi Fantasy: Milon no DokiDoki Daibouken (Super Famicom)--There weren't many side-scolling platformers made for the Super Famicom or SNES that can compete with Nintendo's own Super Mario World or Yoshi's Island. DoReMi Fantasy is one of the few. Greatly helping matters is this cart's gameplay, which is reminiscent of Mizubaku Daibouken's. Physical copies (loose or complete) tend to be absurdly pricey these days, but that's not a problem if you've got a Wii or Wii U, as DoReMi Fantasy can be bought from both of their online shops for just a few bucks.

Hatena Satena (GameBoy Advance)--If you like Picross or even that old standby, Minesweeper, you'll love this 2001 Japan-only GameBoy Advance title. That's because Hatena Satena combines elements of both of those popular puzzlers, and the resulting effort more than stands on its own. Even better, Hatena Satena has a funky aesthetic that puts that of its predecessors to shame. Relevant aside: Compile's Guru Logi Champ will provide you with even more Picross-y thrills should Hatena Satena not fully satisfy your craving.

Kororinpa (Wii)--This is one of those early Wii games that made full use of the system's motion-sensing controller. In fact, Kororinpa is played by twisting and turning the Wii Remote to do the same to the title's labyrinthine levels--with the goal being to roll a ball (or something resembling a ball, at least) from each stage's entrance to its exit. That's harder than it sounds, of course. Thankfully, the game's colorful backdrops and chipper background tunes help take the edge off some of its tension. Bonus: cheap copies of both the first Kororinpa and its sequel can be bought via eBay these days.

Monster Lair (TurboGrafx-16)--If you're a PC Engine aficionado, you likely know this game by its original name, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair. Whatever you call it, though, it's a great little game that's one part platformer and one part shoot 'em up. There's more to Monster Lair than its intriguing gameplay, though. The game's also a real looker thanks to its liberal use of color and its big, bold sprites. Its soundtrack is pure bliss, too. Relevant aside: I saved up and bought a pricey TurboGrafx-CD add-on as a teen solely because of this game.

Nuts & Milk (Famicom)--This single-screen platformer (don't be fooled, it's nothing like Bubble Bubble) was the first third-party game to be released for the Famicom. Despite that, and despite the fact that Nuts & Milk is just as fun as many classics from the same era, maker Namco never brought it to North America. Thankfully, it's easy enough to play in 2016 and beyond no matter where in the world you live. Actual carts are both abundant and cheap (on eBay and the like), or of course you can go the old "boot up the ROM" route. (If you own a Japanese 3DS, Wii or Wii U, you can buy Nuts & Milk from that region's Virtual Console. Unfortunately, the same can't be said if you own a recent Nintendo system that originates from North America or Europe.)

Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom (NES)--All you really need to know about this 1991 release: it's an old-school point-and-click adventure starring anthropomorphic pieces of produce. That alone should make you sit down and play it, in my opinion. If that's not enough, consider its grin-inducing visuals and its jaunty soundtrack. Also, Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom can be picked up quickly and cheaply via the Wii eShop if you have that Nintendo console or the Wii U. Why the higher-ups at Konami (which now owns Hudson's intellectual properties) have yet to slip the game onto any region's 3DS eShop is beyond me.

Saturn Bomberman (Saturn)--If you play just one of the games discussed here, let it be this one. In my humble opinion, this is the best, most enjoyable Bomberman game to ever see the light of day. Plus, its graphics are so adroitly drawn and animated they'll make you tear up. As for Saturn Bomberman's music, I can't say it'll make you cry, but it'll definitely help set the mood for a properly thorough play session. If you're without a Sega Saturn and a copy of this game, by the way, you can buy the next best thing, Bomberman '94 for the PC Engine, from the Wii eShop or the PlayStation Store.

Star Parodier (PC Engine)--I fell in love with this overhead, vertical-scrolling shoot 'em up the second I found out one of its selectable ships was a PC Engine system that takes down oncoming enemies with HuCards and CDs and deflects their projectiles using controllers that double as as shields. (You can choose to pilot Bomberman, too, curiously enough.) Sadly, that's about the wackiest thing you can say about Star Parodier. The rest of its content is quite a bit less intriguing than similar games like Parodius and Pop'n TwinBee. Still, this Super CD-ROM2 title is well worth checking out if you're a fan of the shmup genre in particular or cute games in general.

Are you a fan of a Hudson Soft-made or -published game not discussed here? Let me--and others--know about it in the comments section below.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Five overlooked Japanese GameBoy games you need to play as soon as possible

Of all the "five overlooked games you need to play as soon as possible" posts I've already published here and will publish in the coming weeks and months, this is sure to be the easiest to write.

After all, as much as I love the FamicomPC Engine and PlayStation, and as much as I know about their extensive game libraries, I know quite a bit more about the GameBoy's catalog at this point--especially when it comes to that portable's more obscure titles.

Speaking of which, the following five carts are among the GameBoy's most painfully ignored, in the opinion of yours truly. All are Japanese, but don't let that keep you from giving them a try. You don't need to know a lick of the language to beat any of them.

Astro Rabby--Before I say anything else, I have to warn you that one small aspect of this Cyclone System-developed game will make you want to rip out your hair. Thankfully, it can be ignored. Also, the rest of what's on offer in Astro Rabby--forced-scrolling, overhead action that puts players in the shoes (paws?) of a robotic bunny who hops through space in search of the stolen parts that'll allow him to fly--is enjoyable enough that it more than compensates for the bitter taste left by the above-mentioned bonus rounds. Still not convinced its worth your while? Boot up Astro Rabby simply because its interstellar stages are littered with Super Mario Bros.-esque question blocks.

Burning Paper--Of all the games discussed here, I consider this one to be the most disappointingly overlooked. That's mainly because Burning Paper's gameplay is unlike that of any other GameBoy title I've played. Hell, it's unlike that of any other game I've played, period. Imagine an inverted Space Invaders mixed with a dash of Qix (or even Patchwork Heroes) and you'll be close to understanding what it's like to play Burning Paper. Unfortunately, whatever image you conjure up won't let you hear this old LOZC G. Amusements-published cart's far-better-than-it-has-any-right-to-be soundtrack, so you really have to buy a copy of the game (or boot up a ROM) to get the full experience.

Noobow--This slow-paced puzzler-platformer is the perfect pick-up for someone who wants a unique portable title that won't tax their reflexes. In fact, you're never even forced to time a jump à la Mario while playing Noobow. Here, all you do is move the titular character left and right using your GameBoy's d-pad. As you do that to work your way through each of this Irem-made title's stages, you encounter various obstacles and objects. A single press of the system's A or B buttons generally prompts Noobow to pick up whatever object is in front of him, and another press prompts him to set it down or use it in some fashion. Successfully reaching the end of each level is more challenging than you probably thinking, especially when you consider this game was aimed at kids.

Painter Momopie--As far as Pac-Man clones go, Painter Momopie is neither the best nor the worst in the world. Still, I recommend checking out this Sigma Entertainment-developed release because: a) its cast of characters is surprisingly appealing for such an under-the-radar title (especially the titular Momopie--I mean, what's not to love about a broom-toting witch?), b) its soundtrack is wistful in a way most game music isn't and c) its gameplay tweaks the aforementioned quarter-muncher's just enough to make things seem fresh and interesting. I'm also pretty fond of the quaint cottage-like environs that double as Painter Momopie's stages.

Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe: Ohanabatake wa Dai-Panic--Just like Astro Rabby and Burning Paper, it's not easy to explain Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe's gameplay in a quippy sentence or two. Actually, I'm not sure I can explain it in an entire paragraph. Thankfully, Hardcore Gaming 101 devoted an entire page to this Technos-made head-scratcher. All you really need to know, though, is it's a unique experience that's well suited to the GameBoy hardware and screen. Also, its angelic protagonist and cadre of baddies (if they can be called that) are beyond cute.

Enjoy this post? Keep your eyes peeled for a similar one in the coming weeks that'll shine a light on five overlooked North American GameBoy games I think you should play as soon as possible.

See also: five favorite pieces of Japanese GameBoy box art and five favorite pieces of North American GameBoy box art

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Five favorites: North American GameBoy box art

A couple of years ago, I published a post that highlighted five of my favorite pieces of Japanese GameBoy box art.

This post, of course, focuses on five of my favorite pieces of North American GameBoy box art.

Balloon Kid--I know some of you will look at Balloon Kid's cover art and declare it to be an abomination. And I can understand that--to an extent. Its depiction of the game's pigtailed protagonist is a bit odd, to say the least. The illustration of the giant, bug-eyed fish that's attempting to eat Alice (the aforementioned heroine) is even worse. Still, I like the overall image, thanks in large part to its liberal and adept use of color. I'm also a big fan of the game's bold and subtly creative logo. (Bonus: the entirety of Balloon Kid's instruction manual can be seen here.)

BurgerTime Deluxe--This is one of the few instances where I prefer a GameBoy title's North American box art to its Japanese counterpart. (You can see the Japanese BurgerTime Deluxe's cover in this old post.) Not only that, but I think this particular example of packaging design may be my favorite of all the ones included in this post. I want to say the logo is the star here, but the illustrations of Peter Pepper (he's the guy in the funny-looking white hat) and BurgerTime Deluxe's angry, anthropomorphic ingredients are pretty stellar, too. I even like the purple backdrop that supports the whole she-bang.

Dig Dug--This selection will raise a few eyebrows, I'm sure. It's quite a bit darker than and nowhere near as cute as what most people would expect to see splashed across the cover of a GameBoy port of this Namco arcade classic. That's probably a big part of why I like it so much, to be honest. There's more to it than that, though. I also appreciate the skewed perspective that puts one of the game's iconic Pooka enemies front and center. Admittedly, the protagonist's mouth-tongue-whatever-it-is freaks me out a tad, but I'm willing to overlook it for the rest of what's on offer here.

Mole Mania--This piece of box art really looks like something the designers at Nintendo would cook up, doesn't it? It's stuffed to the gills with cute characters, it's positively doused with pastels and it's got an adorable logo plastered across its top half. Could the artists who created it have removed the main mole's unibrow? No doubt. Still, Mole Mania's cover is a keeper even with the little guy's questionable grooming habits on display. By the way, if you'd like to see how this game's North American packaging stacks up to its Japanese packaging, check out this post.

Wario Land--Full disclosure: I've barely played any of the first four Wario Land games. I can't even tell you why that's the case. I guess I've just always gotten my fill from Nintendo's Mario-centric platformers. Anyway, the Wario Land series' covers certainly aren't responsible for me ignoring its games. The one made for this first entry is a knockout, wouldn't you agree? Some may say it's busy, and I can't (completely) argue against that, but I personally think such a bombastic design works in this particular context.

So, what do you think of these examples of North American GameBoy box art? Do you like them, too--or do you hate them?

If it's the latter and if you can think of pieces of North American GameBoy box art you prefer, let me know about them in the comments section of this post.