Tuesday, April 03, 2012

You've never looked more beautiful, Binary Land

If you ask me, it's a crying shame that one of Hudson Soft's earliest Famicom games, the rather romantic Binary Land, was never released outside of Japan.

That's because Binary Land is one of the cutest, not to mention one of the most unique, titles to hit the console that was called the Nintendo Entertainment System everywhere else in the world.

Sure, it's more than a bit archaic in terms of graphics--although the main characters, Gurin (the blue penguin in this video of Binary Land's first level) and Malon (the pink penguin), were crafted with a good bit of care and skill--but the boring-ish visuals never detract from the gameplay, which calls on players to lead Gurin and Malon through each maze-like stage until they meet at the caged heart in the middle. (This is more challenging than it sounds, as players control both players at the same time.)

Anyway, I'm guessing that even if Binary Land had been released in Australia, Europe or North (or South) America, its cartridge label likely wouldn't have been half as cute as the one seen in the photo above.

Said label was made by the proprietor (or proprietress) of "the laboratory" tumblog, by the way. If you like his/her style (and you should), you'll probably like these Famicom label mockups and these mockups of a make-believe series of games called Wander World, too.

(Via the comments section of this famicomblog post)


Andi Lea said...

It's too bad that much of the adorable packaging and marketing of Japanese products ends up being changed. I know for me, part of the allure is the Asian-ness (I made that up) of the artwork, etc.

I've been following your blog for a little while now and enjoy seeing all of the JRPG stuff you talk about. I've been a bit nervous to actually post anything, because I am more of an appreciator of gaming.

At the risk of dating myself I remember a lot of these old systems from the 80's, but my mother would not let me have them. When I had my own kids, I indulged my kids with N64. Many, many family fun hours were had.

A particular favorite for us was Yoshi's Story. A lot of that stemming from my own childhood interest in anything Japanese (ie: Sanrio products like Hello Kitty).

Anyway, the little penguins on this cartridge remind me of Kirby and some of the Pokemon monsters.

I am glad I found your blog, I really enjoy it, even when I am on an obvious learning curve. I've had to research several games to be able to follow along. It's been a fun respite. And I have learned a quite a bit, and skipped down memory lane a few times.

Viewtiful_Justin said...

This is amazing! I'd never even heard of that game, but it looks so cute! That video proved to me that this game would make me tear out my hair and scream after the first world, probably.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hello, Andi! Thanks for the comment -- and for following me. I appreciate both :)

I agree with you 100% about it being too bad that so many Japanese games had their box art, in-game art, etc., changed when they were prepped for release in other regions. I often wonder if some of these games would have sold better/been more popular if their box art, etc., had been left alone.

BTW, please don't be nervous about posting comments on this blog. You don't have to be an uber gaming nerd to participate here.

Speaking of your learning curve, I often try to include relevant links (to, say, Wikipedia articles) in each post, so be sure to click on the links that appear in posts about games or systems you don't know much about.

Finally, I love that you bought your kids an N64. Such a great system! I love Yoshi's Story, too, by the way. I know it doesn't get a ton of love from the gaming community at large (due to it not being Yoshi's Island 2, I believe), but I've always loved its adorable graphics and music.

Thanks again for stopping by here, Andi. Hope to see you around here again soon!

Bryan Ochalla said...

Justin: Binary Land actually seems to have a nice enough learning curve, based on my admittedly limited experience with the game. I say give it a go via emulation. Then, if it does indeed cause you to pull your hair out, you can always just throw away the ROM :)

Andi Lea said...

Thanks Bryan!

I am definitely not an uber gaming nerd, but a simple uber nerd and slightly otaku.

In the way back machine of my life I used to be a buyer for this really cool toy store and we carried a lot of anime/manga related items. I was able to go on a lot of buying trips and see some of the coolest stuff coming out of Japan and Korea. Anyway, the stuff we imported far out sold anything that had been repackaged in the US.

I have never really understood the need to Americanize imported items. Part of the charm is the fact that something is from elsewhere and has a whole set of cultural identity to it.

Again, thanks for welcoming me.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Oh, that's a really interesting story, Andi! I envy those buying trips, by the way. That said, I'm glad, in a way, that I haven't had such a job, as I'd likely spend way too much of each paycheck on some of the cool stuff you surely can find in Japan and Korea :)

Anyway, I agree with you that it's a bit baffling that so many companies have felt the need to Americanize their imported items (games, especially) over the years. Thankfully, things seem to have improved a bit when it comes to gaming -- i.e., more and more companies are OK with just translating their games and leaving the art, etc., the same when they bring it to the US or Europe.

Andi Lea said...

I was pretty much broke all the time. My kids have a great appreciation/abhorrence for top ramen and rice.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Well, if it makes you feel any better, Andi, I have a great appreciation/abhorrence for top ramen, too :)

Sean said...

Binary Land really is great. I have no idea why it was never released outside of Japan as it isn`t one of those games that wouldn`t translate well or offend cultural sensibilities or anything. I`ve played it through to about the tenth level or so I think. It is one of those games that you need to keep in practice, if you stop playing for a month you will totally forget how to play and have to start all over again.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Sean: I agree! Actually, is there even anything to translate in this game? I honestly can't remember. Certainly, it wouldn't have taken much to make up some new box art.

Also, I agree that this is one of those games that needs to be played frequently/regularly if you're going to get very far. Otherwise, you have to play through a number of levels before you get your footing, etc.

Ribbon Black said...

Wow, thanks for the feature! I did this label a while back...I started reading your blog a few months ago and never saw this article. Binary Land is one of my ultimate feel good games personally, I made that label as an alternative to the bizarre and somewhat unsettling original when I built a reproduction cart of it, and have been buying cheap sports famicom games from Sean up there to do new labels a la the My Famicase exhibition.

Wander World was done as my graphic design thesis actually--in addition to the labels and box art I ended up writing 45 pages about the fictional series and video game marketing in general. Thanks again.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, Nightmare Bruce! Thanks for the comment -- and for sharing a bit of the backstory for this label. Have you made any others? If so, I'd love to see them!