Friday, October 07, 2011

The Great Gaymathon Review #38: Flying Hero (Famicom)


Game: Flying Hero
Genre: Arcade
Developer: Aicom
Publisher: Epic/Sony Records
System: Famicom
Release date: 1989

Before you ask: No, this isn't an 8-bit predecessor of the Super Famicom shoot 'em up (made by Sofel and released in 1992) with the same name. Instead, it's more akin to Arkanoid--although even that isn't the most apt or accurate of comparisons. Hopefully this brief description will help clarify things: You control a trio of firefighters who have been tasked with saving the inhabitants of several burning buildings. Two of said firemen hold a trampoline and, with your help, race back and forth along the base of each domicile while the third ricochets between the trampoline and that particular building's windows (some ablaze, some not), Breakout-style, in an attempt to rescue all remaining dwellers. Still confused? Check out this video. Anyway, it's all pretty fun--in a play-it-for-a-few-minutes-and-then-play-something-else-instead kind of way. It's also, well, pretty, if a bit archaic and simple. Each structure (a castle, a cemetery and, er, a space ship among them) is unique and well realized, for example, and each structure's inhabitants are rather charmingly crafted and animated. Speaking of the game's structures: Most of them are single-screen affairs, but a select few take up two screens. That's worth noting mainly because these "tall" stages kind of suck--especially when compared to their more traditionally sized counterparts--due to the fact that the transition between the screens is both janky and jarring. Even then, though, Flying Hero is an enjoyably eccentric addition to the Famicom catalog and is well worth picking up (or playing via emulation) if you're into old-school oddities.


See also: Previous 'Great Gaymathon' posts

Three PC Engine games I want to like, but can't

Although all of the games detailed in this post were developed by the folks at Namco/Namcot, don't take that to mean that I dislike Namcot products. On the contrary, I consider some of the company's games--such as Dig Dug, Galaga, Mappy and Pac-Man--to be all-time favorites.

That said, the following trio of PC Engine releases are games that I'd love to call all-time favorites but can't for a number of reasons.

1. Barunba (1990)

Why I want to like it: The game's logo is pretty spiffy (it even has stars where the letters' holes should be!), as is its overall cover art, which showcases what seems to be Barunba's raison d'etre--its globe-shaped ship with its rotatable weapons.


Why I can't: Unfortunately, said cover art is, by far, the best thing about this forced-scrolling shmup. Its graphics can only be described as ugly, and its sound effects are just this side of ear-splitting. The worst part of this pixelated package, though, is that it's flat-out boring thanks in large part to overly long and uninspired levels.

2. Pac-Land (1989)

Why I want to like it: I distinctly remember seeing this game for the first time in a local arcade. "It's like Pac-Man mixed with Super Mario Bros!" I thought with amazement and wonder. (Superficially, that thought was spot-on, by the way, as Pac-Land looks exactly as you'd expect a Pac-Man-based platformer from the 8-bit era to look.)


Why I can't: Then I played it. To say I wasn't as impressed as I thought I'd be would be a massive understatement. The graphics are dull, but I'd happily embrace them if the gameplay weren't even duller--not to mention overly difficult. That rather brutal combination keeps me from playing it more than once or twice a year--and even then I only do so for a few minutes (which is how long it takes me to remember what an absolute turd this game is).

3. Wonder Momo (1989)

Why I want to like it: I hate to sound like a broken record, but Wonder Momo shares a number of traits with Barunba. Specifically, it has cute cover art ... and that's about it. OK, so it also has a cute protagonist.


Why I can't: A cute protagonist doesn't mean much, though, when the game she stars in is a complete and utter bore. It means even less when said game features iffy controls (Wonder Momo's jump kick is the worst offender here) and yawn-inducing enemy designs and backdrops.

I can't publish this post without mentioning that I originally intended to include The Tower of Druaga, too, but after picking up and playing it for the first time in a number of months (if not years) I discovered that the game isn't as bad as I thought it was. In fact, I now quite like it--although I can understand why many feel otherwise.

Note: This post originally appeared on my other gaming blog, iwasateenagepcenginefan.wordpress.com.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

I swear Reggie Fils-Aime is trying to torture me

For those of you who don't know who Reggie Fils-Aime is: He's Nintendo of America's president and chief operating officer.

As for why he's torturing me: His employer, Nintendo of Japan, just (well, yesterday) announced that yet another color will be added to the company's 3DS line of handhelds soon.

Specifically, the "Ice White" 3DS system seen below will be released in Japan on Nov. 3.


A few weeks before, of course, the company will make this "Misty Pink" 3DS system available to the country's masses:


Sadly, Fils-Aime has yet to say if either or both of these systems will be coming to the States--and, if so, when we can expect them to arrive.

Here's hoping at least the pink one hits North American store shelves before Christmas. If not, I may just have to go on a PC Engine-centric shopping spree instead...

Let's Play: 'Which Box Art is Better?' (Kirby's Return to Dream Land edition)

Sorry for barraging you with "Which Box Art is Better?" posts lately. I usually try to limit them to one per week, but I've been itching to push the "publish" button on this one since the box art for Kirby's Return to Dream Land was revealed back in August.

Why didn't I publish it back then? Because the brass at Nintendo of Japan decided to hold off on revealing the cover art for the Japanese version of the game--which is called Hoshi no Kirby Wii, or Kirby of the Stars Wii)--until yesterday, that's why.

Speaking of which, here is the radiant piece of art that will grace the cover of each copy of Hoshi no Kirby Wii when the game hits store shelves throughout Japan on Oct. 27:


The box art created for the European version of the game--called Kirby's Adventure Wii--is basically identical to what you see above, by the way. Well, except for the logo. (FYI: It will be released on Nov. 25.)

As for the art that will appear on the cover of Kirby's Return to Dream Land--which will hit the streets of North America on Oct. 24--here you go:


Although I can't help but roll my eyes at the "angry Kirby" that serves as the focus of the North American box art, I'd be lying if I said I didn't still prefer that cover option to its European and Japanese counterparts.

I'd love to say it's because of Kirby's big, er, "sword," but in reality it's because there's more movement to the North American box art.

As always, though, that's just my opinion on the matter. What's yours?

See also: Previous 'Which Box Art is Better?' posts

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Reason #398 I could be considered an 'eccentric' (aka bat-sh*t crazy) gamer

I really want to buy a Sega Game Gear--despite the fact that I only want to buy one game along with it.

That game: Magical Puzzle Popils, which I'm pretty sure I've mentioned on more than one occasion. (Yep, here and here.) I know, I could easily continue playing this Fukio Mitsuji-developed title via emulation if I really wanted to, but I'd prefer to own the real deal if at all possible.

There are a few other Game Gear titles I'm at least mildly interested in, of course--like Fantasy Zone Gear, Madou Monogatari I, II and III, and Shining Force Gaiden--but I likely wouldn't even consider picking up the system if Magical Puzzle Popils weren't available.


To make things even worse, I'd love to buy one of the rare, white Game Gears--like the one seen in the photo above--that only saw the light of day in Japan. Thankfully, even I have my (spending) limits. So, black it will be--should I ever buy one, of course.

See also: Other reasons I could be considered an 'eccentric' (aka bat-sh*t crazy) gamer

You know which game-based food item I'd like to create/consume in real life? The fuchsia martini that appears in Bobble Bobble ...

... or maybe the strawberry-topped cake from the same game.

I doubt I'll be able to create my own recipes for either of those dishes anytime soon, though, so I'll just cross my fingers and hope that Daniella Zelli, proprietress of the Gourmet Gaming tumblog (gourmetgaming.co.uk), covers one or both of them at some point.

In case you've never been to Zelli's site before, it features recipes that attempt to bring game-based food items to life. Thus far, she's recreated the "amazing apple pie" from Fable II, the "golden brown pizza" from Dead Rising and Thomas' biscuit from Deadly Premonition, among others.

It appears that Zelli takes requests now and then, so maybe I should hit her up and ask if she'll consider tackling one or both of the Bubble Bobble-based food items I mentioned earlier in a future post?

(Via gamesetwatch.com and vidyaboi.blogspot.com)

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Hey Nintendo, where's my 'New Legend of Zelda'?

You know what I find strange? I find it strange that the folks at Nintendo have yet to release a back-to-its-roots Zelda game (à la New Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. Wii).

Instead, they seem to be obsessed with either recreating Ocarina of Time (see: Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword) or re-imagining Wind Waker (see: Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks).

Personally, I'd prefer it if the company's designers and programmers took the series back to its 16-bit glory days and produced a game that brought to mind A Link to the Past. It wouldn't have to be sprite-based, of course--although I certainly wouldn't complain if it were--but I do think it should use a top-down perspective similar to the one seen in the above-mentioned SNES (or Super Famicom, if that's your thing) classic.


Going back to this so-called New Legend of Zelda's graphics for a second: Sure, the game could ape the New Super Mario Bros. titles and feature acceptably-crafted-yet-somewhat-boring polygonal characters and environments, but I'd much rather see Nintendo's developers push the envelope a bit. For example, they could make it appear as though everything in the game were created using clay or fabric (à la Kirby's Epic Yarn). Or they could turn to the Paper Mario series--or the image above--for inspiration and make it look like a pop-up book.

That said, I'll gladly accept slightly uninspired visuals if it means I'll get to play a "modern" Zelda game that feels and plays like A Link to the Past.

What do you think? Would you like the folks at Nintendo to release New Legend of Zelda for the 3DS, Wii U or both? If so, how would you want the game to look and feel?

Manly, muscly Wario

When I think of Wario, I think of an annoyingly lovable mischief-maker. I don't think of a Tom of Finland-esque muscleman.

Thankfully, artist Pauli Kohberger (aka madamluna) is more imaginative than I am. Otherwise, we wouldn't have access to the following illustration, which is rather appropriately titled, "Greed is Good."


To see more examples of Kohberger's work, check out her blog, Electric Stories, and/or her deviantART gallery.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Great Gaymathon Review #37: Jam with the Band (DS)


Game: Jam with the Band
Genre: Music/Rhythm
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
System: Nintendo DS
Release date: 2010

Before I get to the heart of this little write-up, I have to say that it's a crying shame that the brass at Nintendo decided against releasing this title in North America. Granted, they probably would have sent it to die (i.e., released it without an ounce of promotion) like they did in Europe, but at least I would have been able to pick it up for a decent price. As it is, I spent about $60 on the Japanese version, Daigasso! Band Brothers DX, shortly after it was released in 2008, and another $40 on the UK version. Is the game worth such a sum? In a word: Yes. That's mainly, if not totally, due to the fact that it's a ton of fun--or at least I think it is. Playing it is kind of like playing Dance Dance Revolution with your fingers, as you have to press the DS' buttons and directional pad in time with a particular song's score. (Confused? Watch this video.) Speaking of songs: 50 of them--in a variety of genres and styles (a few examples: Beethoven's "Für Elise," "Material Girl" and a Super Mario medley)--are included on the cart. That's not the end of this title's content, though, as Jam with the Band allows players to create their own compositions that can then be uploaded for others to download and enjoy. It also allows people to play together locally (as opposed to online) or sing songs (à la karaoke) using the system's built-in microphone. All of those options are welcome additions to the overall Jam with the Band package, of course, but the main reason to pick up the game is the basic, play-along-with-a-particular-tune mode--which, in my mind, could/should have served as a blueprint for Nintendo's much-maligned Wii Music title--detailed at the beginning of this review.


Let's Play: 'Which Box Art is Better?' (Rainbow Islands edition)

I haven't always been a fan of Rainbow Islands. In fact, the first few times I played this Fukio Mitsuji-designed platformer I hated it. That's probably because I expected it to look and feel like its predecessor, Bubble Bobble. It wasn't until I got over the fact that "The Story of Bubble Bobble 2" wasn't a straight-up sequel to what I consider one of the best quarter-munchers ever made that it finally earned a place in my heart.

Even when I didn't like this arcade classic, though, I wanted to like it thanks to the wonderfully colorful cover art that was created for many of its console ports.

For instance, the Famicom version's box art, below, features a number of the game's characters crafted out of what looks like clay (or is it wood?).


The art that graces the cover of the FM Towns port, on the other hand, is two-dimensionally cartoonish.


The Mega Drive version's box art spotlights the game's various islands (each of which has a different theme) as well as a particularly bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked take on its protagonist, Bubby.


Speaking of Bubby, the cherubic character takes up a ton of acreage on the PC Engine CD-ROM2 port's cheerful cover.


The art that appears on the PC Engine release's box is my least favorite of the bunch, by the way. Which one is my most favorite? The Famicom version's--although I have to admit that I like the FM Towns and Mega Drive versions' box art quite a bit, too.

Now that I've had my say, which piece of Rainbow Islands box art do you like best?

See also: Previous 'Which Box Art is Better?' posts