Friday, February 25, 2011

My Patapon problem

It saddens me to admit that I haven't made the most of the PSP I purchased early last year. Actually, I've barely made use of my portable PlayStation at all--as I've yet to buy a single game for it.

One of the games I've been meaning to buy for it--along with the Final Fantasy remakes, the Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! titles, Half-Minute Hero and bunch of others--is Patapon.

The good news is that I've dragged my feet for so long that I could pick up this strategic rhythm game--or is it a rhythmic strategy game?--quite cheaply at this point. The bad news, however, is that while I've been dragging my feet, the folks at Sony have released not one but two Patapon sequels.

OK, so the second sequel (called, imaginatively enough, Patapon 3) hasn't yet hit the streets in the States, but it will soon--on April 12th, in fact. (Surprisingly, it won't be released in Sony's home country until April 28th.)

That doesn't mean much to me at the moment--why would I care about the series' third game when I've yet to buy the first?--but I realize it could mean something to those of you who have experienced (and hopefully enjoyed) the original Patapon.

If that includes you, you'll likely rejoice when you hear that both the UMD and PSN download versions of Patapon 3 will carry price tags of just $19.99. (Pre-order the former here.)

'Size doesn't matter if you can perfect the Rising Dragon Punch'

London-based designer Aled Lewis (aka fatheed) recently posted the image below--and the comment above--to his Flickr photostream and to his tumblog, Aled Knows Best.

I'm also quite fond of "Enhancement" and "Fashion Faux Pas." And "Private Time." Oh, hell, I like everything Lewis has created so far.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Great Gaymathon Review #7: Mizubaku Daibouken (PC Engine)

Game: Mizubaku Daibouken
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Taito 
Publisher: Taito
System: PC Engine (HuCard)
Release date: 1992

One way to translate the Japanese title of this game into English, or so I've been told, is to call it Water Bomb Adventure. That's certainly an apt way to describe this quirky little platformer, which stars a platypus--yeah, I know the folks at Taito say he's a hippopotomus, but there's no way the paunchy protagonist is anything other than an Ornithorhynchus anatinus--who throws, you guessed it, giant balls of water at innumerable foes as he waddles through levels pulled from the pages Platformers for Dummies. His journey--to save his kidnapped girlfriend, naturally--begins easily enough, with straightforward stages filled to the brim with enemies who put up little to no resistance, but it rapidly rachets up in intensity. That's OK, though, because the Parasol Stars-esque sights you'll see and the hummable tunes you'll hear along the way help make it all worthwhile--assuming, of course, you didn't drop too much cash to procure your copy of the game (an unfortunately all-too-common occurrence given its Bubble Bobble connection).

See also: Previous 'Great Gaymathon' posts

8-bit terrariums

When "Game Over IV," the show at Giant Robot San Francisco that "pays homage to the continuous evolution of videogames and their massive influence on popular culture," opens on March 4 (it runs through the end of the month), it will include a trio of "8-bit terrariums" created by Philadelphia-based artist Jude Buffum.

The terrarium below, "Toadstool Terrarium," was inspired by Super Mario Bros., while Buffum's other 8-bit terrariums--"Belmont Terrarium" and "Hyrule Terrarium"--were inspired by Castlevania and The Legend of Zelda, respectively.

On his blog, Buffum explains what prompted these earthly endeavors.

"I am actually a bit of a terrarium enthusiast myself, so this idea sort of evolved naturally from that interest. I see a lot of similarities between video games and terrariums; they are both closed systems that seek to nurture and sustain an entire world within a small viewing space. And I get equal enjoyment out of interacting and watching both."

Prints of each of the above-mentioned pieces can be purchased--for between $40 and $70--from Buffum's online shop.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why I 'collect' games

A recent post over at has prompted me to consider why I "collect" games. (I put quotes around the word collect, by the way, because I don't think of what I do as collecting. Or, at least, my intent isn't to be a collector.)

It's obvious enough to me why I buy, collect or whatever-else-you-want-to-call-it current-gen games and systems. If I didn't, I wouldn't be able to play games like ClaDun: This is an RPG, Dragon Quest IX or Kirby's Epic Yarn--as, with few exceptions, none of the aforementioned games can be played on a computer via emulation.

The same is true for most last-gen games and systems. Although it's easy enough to play GameBoy Advance games via emulation these days, it isn't so easy to play, say, GameCube or PS2 titles that way. (I know emulators exist for both of those consoles, but as far as I'm aware rather high-end computers are required in order for them to operate at acceptable levels.) As such, there's also no question as to why I continue to buy games for those systems.

None of the above can be said of earlier generations of games and systems, though; after all, I could, quite easily, enjoy pretty much every pre-PS2 game ever released--and a few that weren't--by downloading and playing them, for free, on my PC or even Wii via emulation at this point. So, why do I still "waste" my money by buying them--especially if I don't consider myself a collector?

Well, one reason is that I like having a physical object that I can hold onto, look at or read, depending on the situation. (I also like being able to play a game using a controller that was intended to be used for said game.) Another reason: I like owning the systems and games I dreamed about owning as a kid.

Although I think both of the above are good reasons to keep buying systems and games from the past, I have to admit the second one gives me pause. Am I really buying these games and systems mainly because I want to hold, look at and, in the end, play them, or am I buying them because I want to relive--and maybe recreate--my childhood?

If I were to be completely honest with myself, I'd admit that, yes, some of my interest in certain systems--such as the Famicom and the PC Engine--and games can be linked to my childhood, but I don't think nostalgia is chiefly responsible for my virtual trips through the aisles of some of the world's best import shops.

Anyway, that's why I tend to buy, collect or whatever-else-you-want-to-call-it retro games and systems. Assuming some of you do the same, what are your reasons?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

If only I could read it while sitting on the toilet

On the hand, I love that the most recent issue--the fourth, for those of you who are counting--PC Engine Gamer is available, free of charge, to anyone who has access to the Internet. On the other hand, I don't love that this online magazine isn't "bathroom friendly," if you get my drift.

That's not to suggest I'll be passing on this issue because of the above-mentioned negative. After all, it includes lengthy reviews of Monster Lair and Rastan Saga II, a rather WTF-esque "fight to the death" between Golden Axe's Tyris Flare and Fantasy Zone's Opa Opa, and a "final countdown" column that features the 10 best smart bombs in all of shoot 'em up-dom.

Which is to say that this 26-page issue is well worth a few minutes of your time (read it here) if you're at all interested in the system I like to call NEC's little white wonder.

Is the WonderSwan remake of Final Fantasy III finally going to be released?

Sadly, the most likely answer to that question is "no."

For those of you who've never heard of the WonderSwan remake of Final Fantasy III, here's the deal: Shortly after the folks at Bandai unveiled the WonderSwan Color in 2000, the folks at Square announced they were prepping enhanced remakes of the first four Final Fantasy games for the system.

Although the first two Final Fantasy remakes were released within a year of that announcement, and the fourth was released in early 2002, the third never followed in their footsteps. (The remakes of the first two games, by the way, served as the blueprint for Final Fantasy Origins and Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls, which were released for the PlayStation and GameBoy Advance in 2003 and 2004, respectively.)

As far as I can tell, this is the only screenshot that exists of the 
aborted WonderSwan Color remake of Final Fantasy III.

Why is that ill-fated Final Fantasy III remake once again a topic of interest? Well, late last week a number of gaming sites revealed that the game will soon be released for the iPhone.

The question is, will it be a straightforward port of the Famicom version of the game, a reworked port of the aborted WonderSwan Color version, an iPhone-friendly port of the DS version or something altogether different (such as an enhanced, two-dimensional remake a la the PSP versions of Final Fantasy I, II and IV)?

I don't know about you, but I'm guessing the third option mentioned above is the most likely, with the last coming in a close second.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Great Gaymathon Review #6: Bubble Bobble (Famicom Disk System)

Game: Bubble Bobble
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Taito
Publisher: Taito
System: Famicom Disk System
Release date: 1987

When I first played Taito's 8-bit port of Fukio Mitsuji's classic quarter-muncher, I hated it. The top three reasons for my malignity: the Famicom (or, rather, NES) version's backdrops lacked the depth of those seen in its big brother, its fruit sprites weren't as well drawn and it featured a metric ton of flicker. A few months ago, I gave the game another chance--after realizing its enemy sprites, at least, were pretty respectable recreations of their arcade counterparts. I'm glad I did, because the experience forced me to recognize that this version of the game successfully (and surprisingly) reproduces two of the most important aspects of the original: its addictive gameplay and its awesome soundtrack. Sure, there are a few quirks here and there--the main one being that bubbles sometimes float through the ceiling when they shouldn't--that keep me from calling it "perfect." (An accolade I'd use, without hesitation, while describing its arcade cousin.) It's close enough to that pinnacle, though, that I believe it's well worth buying if you own a Famicom, NES or Wii (it's available for sale via this last system's Virtual Console).

PC Engine Punch-Out!!

Wouldn't it be great if someone created a "console wars"-themed boxing game? (Don't worry, you can disagree with me.) I'd especially like it if such a game allowed players to choose handhelds as well as consoles as their pixelated--or polygonal--pugilists.

Although I'd probably pick underdogs--the PC Engine, Saturn and Dreamcast, especially--most of the time, every once in a while I'd pick the tank-like NES, which in my mind would play a bit like King Hippo.

Note: This post originally appeared on my other gaming blog,