Friday, June 16, 2017

I'm stoked about the unveiling of Sushi Striker (3DS), and not simply because some of its characters are beefy studs

What's Sushi Striker, you ask? A sushi-themed puzzler that's being developed for the 3DS by indieszero (of Electroplankton, Retro Game Challenge and Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy fame).

Nintendo revealed it a couple of days ago during E3 2017 and at the same time mentioned it will release sometime in 2018.

Unfortunately, it's not yet known if Sushi Striker (full title--Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido) will be sold via retail or if it'll be relegated to the 3DS eShop.

What is known, beyond the aforementioned facts, about this "conveyor belt sushi puzzle action" game (that's Nintendo's official description of it) is that it's stuffed to the gills with musclebound studs.

Don't believe me? Feast your thirsty eyes on the following:

I don't know about you, but the last guy is the most visually appealing to yours truly.

Not into men? No worries. The game also features a bevy of attractive women--as is made abundantly clear in Sushi Striker's first trailer.

Does any of the above have you salivating over the 2018 release of this yummy-looking (in more ways than one) puzzle game? Chat about it with me and others in the comments section of this post.

See also: 'The best 3DS eShop games you've never played (or, 10 overlooked 3DS eShop games you need to try as soon as possible)'

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Manual Stimulation: Astro Rabby (GameBoy)

I haven't been shy about declaring my love for the Japan-only GameBoy title known as Astro Rabby lately.

Late last year, I included it in a post about five overlooked Japanese GameBoy games I thought people should play as soon as possible. And a couple of months ago, I mentioned it again in a write-up celebrating the 28th anniversary of GameBoy's Japanese release.

Granted, I haven't always felt so positively about this Cyclone System-made and IGS-published game. When I first played it a few years back, I was far from impressed by it. That said, I changed my tune after returning to it some months later and giving it a second chance. (The second set of impressions can be found in this "Shall We Do It Again?" post.)

If this is the first you're hearing of Astro Rabby, the gist is it's an overhead action game that's unlike anything else I've ever played. For starters, each space-based level (viewed from an overhead perspective) scrolls forward automatically. Your goal, as the titular "rabby," is to not only keep up with that forced movement, but to leap into the air to avoid the baddies and to smash into the Super Mario Bros.-esque question-mark blocks that dot the planetary terrain.

The latter are an especially important aspect of Astro Rabby, as hidden within one of those blocks is a "power-up part" that not only bolsters the abilities of the game's big-eared protagonist but also allows him (and you) to move on to the next level.

Except for the game's disastrously annoying bonus stages, all of the above is surprisingly exhilarating and enjoyable.

Also enjoyable, of course, is Astro Rabby's instruction manual. Its front and back covers, showcased in the first scan (above), are especially so, if you ask me, although I also love the character illustrations included in the second scan, which details the game's story. (Sorry, my Japanese skills aren't yet advanced enough for me to translate it for you.)

Actually, cute illustrations are par for the course in the Astro Rabby manual, with the ones above being my favorites.

Admittedly, IGS' artists could have included many more of them in this booklet. Instead, they filled the majority of its pages with low-quality images (photos?) of in-game sprites.

Even they provide some charming moments, though--like the "enemy" sprites highlighted on the left-hand page of the spread above.

The "panel" sprites seen on pages nine and 10 of the Astro Rabby instruction manual (below) are less thrilling, perhaps, but at least they're educational. In particular, they let you know you should avoid the one on the right-hand page that looks like a cracked brick.

You see, if you jump on a single panel too many times, it crumbles away. Step or jump into the resulting hole, and you lose a life.

Page 11 of this game's manual describes its handful of collectible items. As far as I can tell, the "S" one improves Rabby's speed, the "J" one enhances his ability to jump and the "B" one either increases his bullet stock or makes his bullets more powerful. Oh, and the last item is a 1-up.

Don't be fooled by the adorable illustration that takes up half of the Astro Rabby manual's second-to-last page (below). It relates to the game's previously maligned bonus stages, which means it's evil.

Thankfully, failing to successfully complete said bonus stages (and believe me, you will fail to successfully complete them) won't keep you from progressing to the next proper level. Still, they're so infuriating that any reference to them gets my blood boiling.

With all that out of the way, if you're up for learning more about this oddly endearing GameBoy import, I'd highly recommend reading my Astro Rabby review. Also, photos of the game's stellar box and cartridge label can be ogled in this "Year of the GameBoy" post.

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts about Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe, Totsugeki! Ponkotsu Tank and Snow Bros. Jr.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Nice Package! (Mizzurna Falls, PlayStation)

I've been obsessed with Mizzurna Falls since I first read an article about it on the now-defunct Eastern Mind blog a number of years ago.

You might think it piqued my interest because it's often described as being something of a precursor to the 2010 cult classic, Deadly Premonition. In reality, the thing that initially attracted me to Mizzurna Falls, which released in Japan (and only in Japan) in 1998, was its captivating cover art.

There's just something about its wintry landscape, and the illuminated town that's nestled among its shadowy mountains and trees, that made me want to own and play this game.

I also was drawn to its odd title and even odder subtitle (the latter being "Country of the Woods and Repose"). And then, of course, I couldn't help but find the Twin Peaks-esque story--that focuses on the mystery of a missing girl--and open-world gameplay alluring.

Another intriguing aspect of Mizzurna Falls: it was developed and published by Human Entertainment, the same company that gave the world the classic survival-horror title, Clock Tower.

Not that the two games are at all alike. Oh, Mizzurna Falls has an unsettling air about it, but I wouldn't say it ever even approaches the terrifying heights of Clock Tower.

Given the above, it shouldn't be too surprising to hear this game's instruction manual is a bit quirky. My favorite spread is the one highlighted above, which details the titular town's map.

I also like the pages near the end of Mizzurna Falls' manual, which offer up English and Japanese lyrics to the title's theme song.

For some dumb reason, I failed to take a photo of the Mizzurna Falls game disc when I snapped the others showcased here. I'd take one now, but I didn't bring the CD with me when I left Seattle early this year. (It's currently in storage--and won't be reunited with me until sometime this summer.)

I can tell you that you're not missing a whole lot. The disc basically depicts the same scene printed on the Mizzurna Falls manual cover--only in black and white rather than in color.

Oh, well, the gameplay embedded on that disc is what's important, right? And Mizzurna Falls' exploration-heavy gameplay is--or at least seems to be, I've only played a small portion of it so far--pretty special.

I'll try to share some more detailed impressions of Mizzurna Falls once I get my hands on its CD again in a month or two. At that time, I'll also scan its instruction manual and share the resulting images in a future installment of my "Manual Stimulation" series.

In the meantime, I'd highly recommend reading the Eastern Mind blog post I linked to earlier. It's more than a review; it offers up all sorts of background information and in-depth analysis that help explain why Mizzurna Falls is so impressive--especially for a 19-year-old game.

See also: previous 'Nice Package!' posts about The Adventure of Puppet PrincessMoon: Remix RPG Adventure, Ore no Shikabane o Koete Yuke and PoPoLoCrois Monogatari.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The best 3DS eShop games you've never played (or, 10 overlooked 3DS eShop games you need to try as soon as possible)

Now that the Nintendo Switch is out and the company's previous portable game system is slowly heading to the grave, I thought I'd finally publish a post about the 3DS eShop titles I think have been most depressingly overlooked during that handheld's lifetime.

Attack of the Friday Monsters!--Originally intended for Level-5's aborted second Guild series compilation, this game eventually saw the light of day as an individual eShop release. That's a big deal because it means you can access it for just a few bucks ($7.99, to be exact) rather than $30 or $40. And believe me, $8 for this little slice of faux nostalgia is a real bargain. I say "faux nostalgia" because, well, I doubt many Western gamers who play Attack of the Friday Monsters! will have experienced 1970s Japan--this game's probable setting. The gameplay embedded within that setting, by the way, is divided between exploration and card battles. Although the latter aspect is enjoyable enough, the former--which involves running around the fictitious town of Fuji no Hana and chatting with its many inhabitants--is the highlight here.

Crimson Shroud--Oh, hey, another 3DS eShop game that began life on one of Level-5's Guild series compilations. This one, however, is Yasumi Matsuno's take on a digital tabletop RPG. (Matsuno is best known for acting as the director of Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII.) Don't worry, you needn't be a fan of tabletop or pen-and-paper role-playing games (like Dungeons & Dragons) to enjoy Crimson Shroud, which first hit 3DS eShops around the globe in late 2012. An interest in the RPG genre in general wouldn't be a bad idea, though, especially since Crimson Shroud will set you back around $8 for what'll likely end up being a five- to 10-hour playthrough (longer if you decide to tackle the "new game plus" that unlocks after beating its main campaign).

The 'DENPA' Men 3--Before I say anything else about this eShop title, let me say this: I actually like the first 'DENPA' Men game more than the pair of sequels that followed in its wake. (Here's my review of The 'DENPA' Men.) I have a feeling most people will prefer the second and, especially, third 'DENPA' Men games to the original, though, which is why I'm recommending the most recent one here. For the uninitiated, The 'DENPA' Men 3, like its predecessors, is a unique turn-based RPG that has players use their 3DS systems' AR functionality to find and capture the titular characters from the world around them. Once you've nabbed enough to form a party (up to eight, eventually), you wander an overworld, explore dungeons and battle enemies just as you would in pretty much every other RPG in existence. The difference in The 'DENPA' Men 3 (as well as in the earlier 'DENPA' games): the bulk of its battles involve your colorful band of big-headed party members running toward and slamming their noggins into opposing baddies. OK, so most of them can hurl magic spells at foes, too, but head-butting is the big differentiator here. Still skeptical? All three of the DENPA' Men titles can be taken for a spin via free-to-download demos. Should you like that experience, I'd strongly recommend handing over $9.99 to buy either the first or third of the series' releases.

Gotta Protectors--To be completely honest, I haven't put as much time into this portable sequel to Ancient Corp's stellar Protect Me Knight: Mamotte Kishi (for Xbox 360) as I'd like. I say that because the hour or two I've spent with Gotta Protectors (known as Minna de Mamotte Knight in Japan) were thrilling. Of course, I've long liked these real-time tower-defense games, so keep that in mind as I slobber all over this particular one. As for what's so great about Gotta Protectors, the fast-paced, responsive, princess-protecting action that serves as its backbone is the first reason I'll toss at you. Also, both its 8-bit-ish graphics and soundtrack are right out of my teenage dreams (that's a good thing). The only negative associated with this digital title, in my opinion, is that it's $12.99 price tag is a bit steep if you're not a fan of the genre or if you're not entirely sure this example will be your cup of tea.

HarmoKnight--I've got to be honest here: I wanted to like this Game Freak product more than I did. And, really, who could blame me for getting pumped up about a digital title that's equal parts platformer and rhythm game and that was made by the company behind the world-conquering Pokémon series? As for what keeps HarmoKnight from being as perfect as I imagined it'd be, the main criticism I'll offer up is that it often feels "cheap"--with enemies and obstacles flying at you from all directions, often without warning. So why am I recommending it here? Because it's not a total clunker. It art style is captivating, and its soundtrack is, by and large, scintillating.  Plus, there aren't many games out there that combine these two genres, so I can't help but feel like the few in existence need to be supported--even those that are less-than-perfect.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Anyone looking for a few #PuzzleGameMonth recommendations?

Although platformers and RPGs continue to be my favorite types of games, I'm pretty much always up for playing a good puzzler.

The five brain-busters below fit that bill and more. As such, I think any one of them would be worth playing as part of Anne Lee's latest "community game-along" that's devoted to the puzzle genre. (For more information on this month-long event, go to

I've spent a good amount of time with all of these games, by the way, so rest assured they have my personal seal of approval (should such a thing hold sway over you, of course).

Moai-kun (Famicom)
Guru Logi Champ (GameBoy Advance)--I've mentioned this Compile-made title a couple of times in the past. (Most notably, in my recent post about overlooked GameBoy Advance games you need to play as soon as possible.) To be honest, though, I feel like I should've written about it more, as it's easily one of the best puzzlers to be published for Nintendo's GameBoy successor. What's so great about it? For starters, it offers up a unique twist on Picross' gameplay. Also, it's wonderfully colorful and features a cast of characters that's as cute as it is silly. The cherry on top of all this puzzling goodness: Guru Logi Champ's box, cartridge label and instruction manual knock it out of the park, too.

Loopop Cube: Lup Salad (PlayStation)--Although Guru Logi Champ is at least somewhat of a known quantity thanks to its Compile connection, this similarly impressive PlayStation release from Datam Polystar continues to fly under the radar. Not that Loopop Cube and the above-mentioned GBA game are at all alike. This Japan-only title combines light platforming action with the gameplay of a match-three puzzler. Add to that its cute-as-a-button aesthetic (mirrored in Loopop Cube's packaging) and some catchy background tunes, and you've got an import that should have a much higher profile than it currently does. By the way, if you're not in the mood for buying and playing Japanese PSone games, you can pick up Loopop Cube: Lup Salad for the DS or PSP, too.

Magical Puzzle Popils (Game Gear)--Of all the puzzle games showcased here, this Tengen-developed and -published one is my favorite. Like Loopop Cube, Magical Puzzle Popils (released outside Japan as Popils: The Blockbusting Challenge) is one part platformer and one part puzzler. You don't match blocks in the latter, though; instead, you do whatever's needed to get the "hero" protagonist to the princess who's marooned somewhere on each and every stage. Usually that means punching or kicking blocks out of your way, but sometimes it also means climbing or descending a ladder. Don't worry, it's a lot more fun than I've made it sound here. Plus, it looks great--similar to Bubble Bobble, actually, which makes sense, as the same man (Fukio Mitsuji) headed up both games--and sports a stellar, earworm-worthy soundtrack. (Bonus: virtually flip through Magical Puzzle Popil's instruction manual.)

Onore no Shinzuru Michi wo Yuke (PSP)
Moai-kun (Famicom)--I know, I know. I just slobbered over this Konami cart in my most recent "Manual Stimulation" post. What can I say? I've got Moai-kun on the brain. Also, if any Famicom puzzler is worth mentioning in a write-up such as this, Moai-kun is it. This Japan-only release from 1990 isn't the prettiest puzzle game to see the light of day on Nintendo's first real console, but I'd argue it's the most interesting. Once again, the focus here is on hopping to and from platforms, destroying blocks (using your noggin, à la PC Genjin) and rescuing loved ones. Don't worry if you'd like to try Loopop Cube, Magical Puzzle Popils and Moai-kun, by the way. Although all three are puzzler-platformers, they provide different enough experiences that you won't feel like you're playing the same game.

Onore no Shinzuru Michi wo Yuke (PSP)--I'd include this PSP title, made by Silicon Studio and published (only in Japan, naturally) by From Software, even if it were a total dud. That's because its cover illustration, right, is among the best produced for Sony's first portable system. Also, its Ukiyo-e art style is beyond gorgeous. Thankfully, Onore no Shinzuru Michi wo Yuke's gameplay is just as captivating as its more superficial components. Explaining why that is would take too many words, so I'm going to suggest you check out if you're curious to know more. Just know that if you've still got a PSP and you're at all into games that try their best to overheat your brain, you'll get your money's worth out of Onore no Shinzuru Michi wo Yuke.

See also: my trio of #PlatforMonth recommendation posts