Friday, March 23, 2007

Sega brings more Genesis goodness to the VC

Although I'm still holding out for the release of Climax's phenomenal quartet of Genesis RPGs (Shining in the Darkness, Shining Force, Shining Force II and the seminal Landstalker)--not to mention the rest of Treasure's 16-bit catalog--I guess I can play a few of Sega's other offerings in the meantime.

Joining Streets of Rage, Gunstar Heroes and a few others in the next few weeks and months are Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, Wonder Boy in Monster Land and, gulp, Virtua Fighter 2. (The gulp comes from the fact that this is a horrible 2D rendition of VF2, not the arcade original or even the Saturn remake).

Alex Kidd and Wonder Boy are good options for those hankering for a bit of side-scrolling platform action a la Mario. Personally I think Alex Kidd comes out on top here, but don't take that to be gospel as I haven't spent much time with either of them.

I always knew Link was a pussy

I don't want this blog to become overrun by middle-aged spinsters, but I simply can't help but post this super cute picture recently posted to VH1's gaming site.

Clearly this cat's owner was on something (probably crank) when he or she decided to set up the shot. I think the poor kitty got a whiff of it too--how else do you explain those drug-crazed eyes?

I'd dress up our cat to look like Princess Peach if I could (it would be so fitting), but I don't know how to sew, and even if I did I don't think there's enough fabric to cover her (poor thing).

DS Crystal Chronicles: Lookin' good!

I really don't know what's gotten into the head honchos at Square-Enix in Japan. Sure, they created masterpieces on the SNES/Super Famicom as well as the PSOne, but to be honest I've been far from impressed with what they've turned out since.

If the company's recent and upcoming releases on the DS are any indication, though, the creators of Final Fantasy are back where they belong: making great, genre-busting games for hard-core players.

Lately most of my Squeenix attention has been focused on Heroes of Mana and Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings. That's slowly changing, though, as more screenshots and information are released about another highly coveted DS offering: FF Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates.

Those looking for a few tasty looking shots of the upcoming action-RPG should check out a recent post on Frankly, I amazed the DS will be pumping out such detailed 3D environments on the fly, and I can't wait to find out more about the characters, settings and how the darn thing plays (oh, and when it'll be released, too).

Wait in line for a PS3, get a free 46" telly, too!

You've got to hand it to Sony. The company's powers-that-be may not have seemed too bright before, during and even after the unsuccessful launch of the PS3 in Japan and the U.S., but they obviously got it together in time for this week's European launch.

Case in point: The first 100 people standing in line at the launch event at London's Virgin Megastore were given a free 46" high-definition Bravia TV, as well as a free cab ride home, for their troubles. Sony must be sitting on a lot of HDTVs--or they're very desperate to garner some sort of positive media attention for the PS3--considering the TVs are worth about$5,000 (U.S.).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Final Fantasy (part 1) returns to the States

Haven't had enough of the original Final Fantasy? Well, Square-Enix is going to give you another shot at their seminal RPG sooner rather than later it seems.

The ESRB (that's the Entertainment Software Rating Board) recently updated its website to mention that "Final Fantasy" for PSP has been reviewed and earned an E10+ rating for "mild fantasy violence" and "mild suggestive themes."

Final Fantasy II isn't on the list yet, but that doesn't mean it's not coming.

Personally, I'm still not sure what I think of the redone sprites in this version. If I had been the one giving the game a face lift, I either would have turned the sprites into polygonal characters like those seen in the DS remake of FFIII or I would have made them look like the CG characters that appeared on the Japanese boxes for FFIV and V in Japan.

To be be perfectly honest, rather than all of these rubbish-y remakes, I'd rather Square offer up the original, untouched NES version on the Wii Virtual Console...

Ted Woolsey: The man who introduced Square to the U.S.

If you're a Square fan, you already know Ted Woolsey. Maybe not by name, but definitely by the translation work he did for the influential game developer back in the 90s. Despite tight deadlines, Woolsey single-handedly translated such games as Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy IV and VI into English. The guy even fought for a U.S. release of Final Fantasy V on the SNES, which in my book makes him a saint.

Following in the footsteps of yesterday's article about the localization of Etrian Odyssey, has posted a wonderfully detailed article about Woolsey's work at Square, which unfortunately came to an end in 1997 when Square changed its focus from Nintendo to Sony. This is worth a read whether you're a Square fan or not, as it gives a rare glimpse into what it's like to bring a game from Japan to the U.S.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A behind-the-scenes look at Etrian Odyssey

I love reading interviews with folks who make games, especially when they talk about the process of creating a game or translating it for a foreign audience.

Jason Dobson over at offers up both in an article posted to the site today that includes comments from Atlus USA's Nich Maragos, who is acting as project lead for the company's upcoming DS release, Etrian Odyssey.

Maragos says "watching over the American localization process has been a real labor of love for me" and that certainly comes through in the details he shares with Dobson. The article's only two pages, so if you're interested in learning more about the localization process I suggest you check it out.

The game itself looks pretty interesting to these eyes. It'll be interesting to see if the dungeon crawler can win over U.S. audiences the way some of Atlus' other offerings (such as Disgaea on the PS2) have.

I always knew Ms. Pac Man was a tramp

The bow, the lipstick--even those narrow, beady eyes--you just knew from the start Ms. Pac Man wasn't a pixelated version of June Cleaver.

That said, I guess I didn't know just how trampy Pac Man's missus was until now. The folks at the wonderfully named T-shirt Hell are currently offering up a design that shares that dirty little secret with everyone who passes you on the street (or works out next to you in the gym).

I think I'll have to get one--size small, sleeveless and in black--despite the fact that I'm trying to be a grown up these days and not wear shirts with "stuff" on them. Life's too short, right?

A few more reasons to own a PSP

Well, I've said it before and now I'll say it again: My husband's going to kill me. Not because he's a homicidal maniac (not that I know of), but because I am once again pining for a new game system (the system in this case being the PSP).

The recently released Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure gave me the first shove in the direction of Sony's under-loved portable, then the remakes of Final Fantasy I, Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea gave me another little push.

Today on I read that two more examples of RPG goodness will be showing up on the U.S. PSP scene soon enough: XSeed's Brave Story: New Traveler and Level 5's Jeanne D’Arc. The latter looks especially appealing, what with its cell-shaded graphics and Tactics-esque game play.

The next thing you know, Sony will start unleashing some monsters for the PS3--then I'll be in especially big trouble!

Could the DS beat them all?

GameDailyBiz posted an interesting little (well, it's not so little, really) article today about the future of the Nintendo DS. Apparently, analysts at DFC Intelligence believe the Japanese giant's latest portable system could well become the biggest selling game system ever--even topping the mighty PlayStation 2, which has racked up a whopping 115 million sales since it was first released.

Along the same lines, DFC estimated the worldwide portable market will bring in more than $10 billion this year, putting portables well on their way to leading the market as a whole (currently consoles covet that position).

Before you DS fanboys send out the party invites, understand that the sleek little system has a ways to go (it's sold about 40 million systems to date) before pushing the PS2 from the top spot.

Touched for the very first time: NEC's PC-FX

If you want to know just how crazed I used to be about video games, all you need to know is that in the early 90s I desperately wanted a PC-FX.

NEC had already won me over with the PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 and the SuperGrafx, and even though the company's 32-bit was quickly trumped by the Saturn, PlayStation and the N64, I wanted one anyway.

It never happened, of course. When it was first released in Japan it was far too expensive for me to pick up, and the only games that looked at all interesting were Battle Heat and the Tengai Makyou fighter, so I put it out of my mind.

Flash forward a few years, and I quickly became obsessed with the system again. I think it was when I first discovered emulation, and after finding emulators for practically every other system out there (including the Wonderswan, of all systems) I began looking for one that emulated the PC-FX.

Eventually I discovered that the folks who created the amazing Magic Engine emulator (for PC Engine, TurboGrafx-16 and SuperGrafx) were in the lab (or wherever they go to make sch things) working on an emulator for the PC-FX. It finally came out around Christmas, but considering the last few months of my life have been insanely crazy it took me until last night to remember it and download it for my playing pleasure.

And what a pleasure it is! Really, some of these games are too cool. Many don't stack up all that well to some of what's produced today (or those that were produced back in the early 90s, for that matter), but a few--Chip Chan Kick as well as the aforementioned Battle Heat and Tengai Makyou fighter--are worth at least a few minutes of your time.

The only one I've put a lot of time into as of yet is Chip Chan Kick, a Bubble Bobble clone that oh-so-cute and quite addictive. I'll be posting a review of it soon, along with a slew of other games for this system and others (such as the Saturn, the Genesis/Mega Drive and the Super Famicom/SNES).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mana from heaven?

Saying Square's latest foray into the world of Mana (as in the classic SNES title, Secret of Mana) is heaven-sent may be a bit of a stretch at this point, especially considering the turn for the worse the series has taken over the past few years.

Thanks to a few glowing reports of the upcoming Heroes of Mana (for Nintendo DS), however, fans are hoping the series is back where it belongs, or at least is heading in the right direction.

Roli O. (nice name) over at Siliconera just posted his (her?) impressions of the game, and they are quite positive indeed. Among his closing comments are:

"Heroes of Mana is the one game that seeks to revive the Mana franchise and does it gracefully. With a new take on game play and making use of the DS’ capabilities, Heroes of Mana is sure to provide many of you with a great experience. Just be sure to venture into Heroes of Mana with an open mind and limited, if none, expectations."

Now Squeenix just needs to let us poor non-Japanese folk know when the game will be showing up on our shores. And while they're at it, maybe they can let slip the U.S. release date for Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings as well.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Past-Due Review: Photograph Boy (PC Engine)

If Hudson really wants to impress with their Virtual Console releases, they should localize this quirky, long-lost gem for English-speaking audiences.

Although NEC's PC Engine was home to many oddly endearing games during its wildly successful run (it gave Nintendo's Famicom a run for its money back in the day--a feat it unfortunately couldn't replicate in the U.S. with the TurboGrafx-16), few if any were wackier than Photograph Boy (also known as Gekisha Boy).

Players control a green-around-the-gills photographer who hits the streets looking for the perfect shots to take back to his gruff-looking newspaper editor. If that sounds like a piece of cake, wait until you give it a go.

As the lushly detailed environments scroll by, photographic opportunities--such as hovering UFOs, burning buildings, even flashers in trench coats--pop into view, ready for their close-up.

Using up a few rolls of film would be a snap (pun intended) if it weren't for all the dangers surrounding our intrepid photographer--balls, skateboards and other random projectiles pose a constant threat. Get hit and you lose valuable film--an important distinction because the more well-taken photos you turn in, the more points you receive from your boss and the more likely you are to advance to the next level.

Controls in Photograph Boy are about as tight as they can be--movement of your character and aiming your camera is handled with the d-pad, while the action buttons control your camera's shutter and your ability to jump. Unfortunately, the well-tuned controls don't make the game a walk in the park--it's more like a walk down a darkened alley in the bad part of town. Expect to repeat each level many times before you succeed--especially as the game progresses.

Considering the sights you'll see along the way, you'll likely enjoy every hair-pulling minute of it. At least I did.

More classics coming soon to the VC

We've known for some time that Excitebike, Duck Hunt and Super Metroid (among other NES and SNES) classics eventually will make their way to the Wii Virtual Console. What we didn't know was when.

Well, an article othat just appeared on Yahoo about the console wars includes a brief mention of those above-mentioned games, indicating they'll hit the Shop Channel sometime in the "next few months."

As happy as I am to see Super Metroid join the fold, what I really want is the original game in the series. Also, how about the original SNES version of Super Mario Kart, Nintendo? The N64 sequel is all well and good, but doesn't hold a candle to the original (if you ask me, and I know you did).