Friday, March 25, 2011

The Great Gaymathon Review #16: Devil World (Famicom)

Game: Devil World
Genre: Action
System: Famicom
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Release date: 1984

Is this Nintendo's response to Pac-Man? It sure seems to be. After all, both games feature cute-as-buttons protagonists (especially in the case of Devil World) who are tasked with clearing labyrinthine levels of pellet-like items while avoiding meandering baddies. In that context, this Shigeru Miyamoto-designed title doesn't fare so well--Namco's arcade classic wins the competition, hands down. Taken on its own merits, though, Devil World is an enjoyable little diversion from the bevy of arcade ports (Donkey Kong, Mario Bros.) Nintendo released alongside it at the beginning of the Famicom's lifetime. So, what keeps Devil World from stacking up positively against Pac-Man? It certainly isn't its graphics or soundtrack, both of which are better, arguably, than its Tōru Iwatani-designed counterpart. No, what holds Devil World back are the overabundance of ideas that Miyamoto shoves into the game, seemingly to differentiate his creation from Iwatani's. Although some of them--the multi-scrolling stages, especially--are interesting, most of them just seem to get in the way of what should have been a simple affair.

See also: Previous 'Great Gaymathon' posts

I heart Darumaka

And Darumaka hearts strawberries. Or at least he does in my latest doodle (below).

Why does he love strawberries? I don't know. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they're both red? (Kind of like how Pikachu loves yellow fruit, like bananas.)

I've just passed the 13-hour mark in Pokémon Black, by the way. I'm currently catching wild Pokemans along Route 5 and 16, although I'll probably give that up soon so I can tackle the fourth gym leader.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Magweasel lives!

Don't you just hate it when a blog or site you've been following for ages suddenly stops being updated? I sure do. That very thing happened to me last fall--in early August, to be exact--when writer Kevin Gifford's wonderful came to a rather abrupt halt.

I've been checking the site at least once a week since then, and over time it became less and less likely in my mind that Gifford would ever return. (I'm especially fond of his "I ♥ The PC Engine" posts.)

Well, guess what? He finally resumed posting activities a few weeks ago. If you've yet to check out his retro-centric site, I suggest you rectify that sooner rather than later (assuming, of course, you're at all interested in old-school gaming).

Does this mean I'm going to have to get an Intellivision?

While working on yesterday's "five favorites" column about cooking-themed games, I became aware of a console-only sequel to BurgerTime that was released way back when (1984, to be exact) for Mattel's Intellivision.

The game, called Diner, isn't set in a nightmarish hamburger factory like its predecessor, by the way; rather, it's set in a M.C. Escher-esque restaurant. (Don't worry, BurgerTime fans: Peter Pepper's still the star. Those hateful hot dogs are back, too, and they've brought a few friends along with them--including some murderous mugs of root beer.)

So, what's the point of this odd little plate-former--which was programmed by Ray Kaestner (who also programmed Burger Time)? The game's intro text does a pretty bang-up job of explaining things:

Avoid enemy food!
Kick food balls to bottom plate!
Roll food balls over enemies!
Freeze enemies with pepper!
Collect prizes for extra pepper!
Amaze your friends!

Check out these two video reviews--here and here--of this Realtime Associates-developed title if the above text doesn't make much sense (or if you just want to know more about the game) or check out the Diner entry on the Church of BurgerTime website.

Sadly, I've yet to play Diner myself--I can't get the darn Intellivision emulator I downloaded over the weekend to work--but you can bet I'll do so as soon as possible.

See also: 'Five favorites: cooking-themed games'

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Five favorites: cooking-themed games

It should be obvious to anyone who stumbles upon this blog that I love gaming. Likely not as obvious is my similar love of cooking.

Anyway, once in a great while those two interests collide in a cooking-themed video game. I've played a number of such games over the years, with the following being my favorites:

1. BurgerTime (Arcade, 1982)--As far as I can tell, this is the original cooking-themed video game. To say it's still one of the best wouldn't be an understatement, in my opinion. OK, so the cooking here involves assembling giant hamburgers by running over each ingredient--bottom bun, burger, lettuce and top bun--in order while avoiding crazed eggs, hot dogs and other food items, but that's still cooking in my book, so I'm including it on this list.

2. Panic Restaurant (NES, 1992)--I'd like to give a good pat on the back to the person who came up with the idea for this game--which focuses on a Chef Boyardee-esque protagonist who races through a cursed restaurant in pursuit of his chief rival--and another to the publishing exec who gave it the green light, as it is, sadly, one of the very few cooking-themed platformers to hit store shelves over the years. Thankfully, it's a delicious, if a tad difficult (and expensive), gem of a game.

3. Cooking Fighter Hao (PlayStation, 1998)--Nippon Ichi may be best known for its tactical RPGs (like Disgaea and Phantom Brave), but one of its very first releases seemingly took its cues from that campy Food Network mainstay, Iron Chef. Unfortunately, this sometimes-annoying, button-mashing arena battler--which, admittedly, features some nice spritework--fails to evoke any of the fun that's a hallmark of its boob-tube-based inspiration.

4. Ore No Ryouri (PlayStation, 1999)--The folks who made Cooking Mama and its ilk--which includes the following entry on this list--owe a lot to those who made Ore No Ryouri. The protagonist in each of these games is a wet-behind-the-ears chef who has to work his (or her) way up the proverbial ladder of the restaurant world, after all. In Ore No Ryouri, that means chopping a lot of onions, frying a lot of meat and pouring a lot of beer--all while utilizing the pair of analog sticks on the original DualShock controller, of course.

5. Order Up! (Wii, 2008)--Take Ore No Ryouri, replace the Japanese setting with an American one, change the art style so the characters look like Weeble Wobbles (in a good way--honestly!) and alter the controls so it works with the Wii Remote and, basically, you have this charming, Supervillain Studios-developed title. Read this review (part of "The Great Gaymathon" series) for more information on this criminally overlooked release.

See also: Previous 'five favorites' posts

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Great Gaymathon Review #15: SaGa Frontier (PlayStation)

Game: SaGa Frontier
Genre: RPG
Developer: Squaresoft
Publisher: Squaresoft
System: PlayStation
Release date: 1998

A lot of gamers--especially American ones--love to complain about Squaresoft's SaGa series. I'm not one of them. I thoroughly enjoyed playing through each of the series' GameBoy iterations--known as Final Fantasy Legend in the States--as a tot, and I've similarly enjoyed what (admittedly little) I've played of the Super Famicom-based Romancing SaGa titles. That said, none of those games have tripped my trigger as much as the series' first 32-bit offering, SaGa Frontier. Sure, this expansive, open-ended RPG (one of the many traits it shares with its predecessors) isn't for everyone, but those looking for something out of the ordinary for the genre are most likely to enjoy it. My favorite aspects of SaGa Frontier: Its sci-fi setting; its non-linear storylines; its bevy of playable protagonists, party members and optional quests; and its beautiful battle scenes. That last bullet point, by the way, is chiefly responsible for my enjoyment of this crazy, Akitoshi Kawazu-crafted creation--especially when one of the game's many over-the-top combination attacks come into play.

See also: Previous 'Great Gaymathon' posts

The world's sexiest tennis player, eh?

When I first saw the following commercial--which seemingly is being used to promote the Move-enabled PS3 version of Top Spin 4--I thought it was cheesy and tasteless.

Then I realized I would have reacted quite differently if it had featured, say, a shirtless Rafael Nadal or Fernando Verdasco rather than a Spandex-clad Serena Williams.

Monday, March 21, 2011

'Memory Beach 02'

It's always a great day when a new piece of Ashley Anderson's artwork appears on Flickr.

The latest example of this Atlanta-based artist's talent is called "Memory Beach 02," and it will soon grace on the walls of a local yogurt shop.

Being the curious chap I am, I asked Anderson if he'd be willing to share which games are represented within this eight-inch-by-eight-inch piece. Here's what he had to say:

"The girl's face is from Ao no Senritsu for the Famicom. The polaroid border on the photo of the girl is partly drawn by me and partly borrowed from SimCity for the SNES. The thumbtack is from scratch. The ocean, beach, sunset, and ship are from the end screen for Goonies for the NES. The octopus is from Adventure Island for the NES. The seagulls are from Family Composer for the Famicom. The crab holding the turtle is from Kame no Ongaeshi - Urashima Densetsu for, I think, the Famicom. The stereo is from Guile's stage in Street Fighter II. The car is from Famicom Grand Prix II - 3D Hot Rally for the Famicom. The bonfire is from Kazekiri for the PC Engine."

Go here for more information about "Memory Beach 02." To see more of Anderson's portfolio, go here.

Raise your hand if you're a Tympole hater

I hereby declare the Tympole (right) to be the worst Pokémon design ever. Or, at least the worst Pokémon design of which I'm aware.

Close behind, in my estimation, is Roggenrola.

On the other hand, two of my favorite designs of this generation thus far are the two-by-four toting Timburr and the zebra-based Blitzle. (I also have a bit of a soft spot for Sewaddle.)

To those of you currently playing through Pokémon Black or White: Which designs are your favorites and least favorites so far?

I'm currently about nine hours into the game at this point, by the way. I just chased Team Plasma through Pinwheel Forrest and into Castelia City.