Saturday, July 21, 2012

When it comes to ol' Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, I'm clearly 'part of the problem'

Any of you who have spent even a bit of time on sites like NeoGAF should be well acquainted with the phrase that makes up the tail end of the headline above.

And if you're not? No worries. Basically, some gamers tell other gamers they're "part of the problem" when they, say, buy Super Mario Bros. via the 3DS eShop after they've already bought it via the Wii Virtual Console or bought the "Classic NES Series" version released for the GameBoy Advance back in 2004.

I'm often "part of the problem," by the way--although I'm guessing a good portion of you already knew or guessed as much.

Anyway, why am I "part of the problem" when it comes to Theatrhythm Final Fantasy? Why, because I've already started buying DLC tracks for this more-addictive-than-it-has-any-right-to-be 3DS title, that's why.

Specifically, I just bought three delicious (in my opinion, of course) DLC tracks for 99 cents a pop: Final Fantasy IV's "The Final Battle," Final Fantasy V's "In Search of Light" and Final Fantasy VI's "Battle."

I'm having an especially good time with "In Search of Light"--although, really, that shouldn't be much of a surprise, as I've always been gaga for anything related to the fifth iteration of Final Fantasy.

I'm finding myself similarly smitten with Final Fantasy VII's "One-Winged Angel." That one does surprise me a bit, to tell you the truth. Of course, I've never been the biggest fan of this 1997 release, so that's probably why.

All that said, playing through the Final Fantasy VII tracks that are included here has me itching to give the game a second chance. Maybe I'll do just that--and then play through both Final Fantasy V and VI again, just for kicks--as soon as I've tried of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy.

Friday, July 20, 2012

I think I'm in love (again)

With whom? Or with what?

Interestingly, both questions are applicable in this case, since I'm both in love with a what (the flute-and-trumpet-centric cover of Rhythm Heaven's "Munchy Monk 2" that can be found below and here) and a who (the adorkable guy who created it).

Don't worry, I'm not seriously considering leaving my husband for this guy (who calls himself The 8-Bit Dreamer, by the way). For the sake of our marriage, though, let's hope he doesn't decide to take things down a notch, so to speak, and cover Rhythm Tengoku's "Bon Odori."


This one's for the ladies

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Deep thoughts (or not) on a quintet of recent 3DS demos

The brass at Nintendo may have been a bit slow to add demos to the 3DS eShop, but they've done their best to pick up the pace over the last few weeks.

Being the sucker that I am for free stuff (even when that free stuff constitutes just a small portion of a game and can only be played a limited number of times), I downloaded a number of said demos recently and gave them the old college try. My thoughts on each of these bite-sized experiences are below.

Heroes of Ruin--I'm sure this admission will cause some of you to get the vapors, but it can't be helped: I knew next to nothing about this Square Enix-published title before acquiring this demo. As such, you could say my expectations were about as low as you can get. Did that help me enjoy this bit o' Heroes of Ruin more than I may have otherwise? I'm can't say, unfortunately. What I can say is that the game looks nice enough--or at least nicer than I thought it would. Also, I like that you can customize your characters to a fairly high degree. That said, I didn't find the gameplay all that captivating and I doubt I'll be adding this title to my overly long 3DS wish list.

Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance--Full disclosure: Before I played through this demo, I'd never before played a Kingdom Hearts game. I've always thought this series looked nice, but the seeimingly one-dimensional gameplay just didn't appeal to me. Still, I thought I should try this demo, as it would give me a chance to see if these games are more or less superficial (for lack of a better word) than I've long imagined them to be. The verdict, after spending a good bit of time with its demo: Dream Drop Distance actually seems to be a deeper experience than I expected it be. Running around Traverse Town was a thrill, as was battling the title's rather whimsically designed baddies. I'd be lying if I said I was now planning on buying this entry in the Kingdom Hearts series, but I may pick up the original release sometime soon and progress from there should I dig it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Five favorites: PC Engine platformers that don't involve Pithecanthropus Computerus

At first, coming up with a list of favorite PC Engine platformers that don't feature the third wheel in the race of the 16-bit mascots--that would be the "Pithecanthropus Computerus" mentioned in the headline above, who also goes by "PC Genjin" and "Bonk"--seems like a daunting task. After all, when most folks think of NEC's pint-sized system (the Japanese one, at least), the first games that come to mind are Hudson's PC Genjin trio (otherwise known as Bonk's Adventure, Bonk's Revenge and Bonk's Big Adventure in North America).

Think about it for a bit, though, and it becomes apparent that this "little console that could"--because it ably competed with the Genesis/Mega Drive and the SNES/Super Famicom despite the fact that it wasn't a full-fledged 16-bit system--was home to a number of top-shelf run-and-jump (or hop-and-bop) titles.

The five below are my personal favorites. Notice I'm not saying that I think they're the best platformers to grace the PC Engine. Although a couple of them are sure to fit that bill, others are too flawed to be so highly considered. Still, I can't help but like them more than a few of their closer-to-perfect counterparts.

One last thing before I get on with the show, so to speak: I'm not including single-screen platformers--games like Don Doko Don and Parasol Stars--in this post, mainly because they differ pretty substantially from the side-scrolling affairs discussed below.

Bikkuriman World--What a way to start a post like this, eh? I say that because many PC Engine fans likely consider this game's successors, Adventure Island and Dynastic Hero (they're all part of the Wonder Boy series), to be far superior efforts. Although I'd agree with those folks in some respects, I've spent a lot more time playing Bikkuriman World than I have playing either of its follow-ups over the years. I can't really tell you why that is, sadly, although if I had to guess I'd say that it's because I actually like the rather antiquated look--yes, even the Kewpie doll-esque protagonist--and feel of this particular HuCard. Also, I'm a bit of a masochist, which is a must for anyone who wants to tackle this tough-as-nails title.

Mizubaku Daibouken--You certainly don't have to be masochist to enjoy this Taito-made title, which was released outside of Japan as Liquid Kids. That's because this platformer is as cute as can be, what with its bubble-tossing protagonist, adorable enemies (I especially like the ones that look like tottering strawberries) and colorful stages that take players from a lush forest, to (what appears to be) a water-filled cave, to a sandy pyramid. Just because it's cute, though, doesn't mean it's a cake walk. In fact, I've yet to see the end credits of Mizubaku Daibouken--despite spending quite a bit of time with it. My favorite part of this game: Tossing "water bombs" (yeah, I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean either) at anything and everything. Believe me when I say it's addictive.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Great Gaymathon Review #56: Hello Kitty World (Famicom)

Game: Hello Kitty World
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Mario Co., Ltd.
Publisher: Character Soft
System: Famicom
Release date: 1992

According to this 2011 article by Wired's Chris Kohler, Hello Kitty World was made by the folks at Nintendo (under the guise of Mario Co., Ltd.--with Mario Co., Ltd. being a joint venture between the Kyoto-based gaming giant and an advertising company known as Dentsu). That makes sense on a number of levels. For starters, there's the fact that Hello Kitty World, at its heart, is a console-based re-skin of Nintendo's should-have-become-a-classic GameBoy title, Balloon Kid. Also, there's the fact that this game is as fun and polished as can be--qualities that I consider to be part and parcel of pretty much every game Nintendo's ever produced.

Beyond the fact that Hello Kitty World is a Nintendo-made title, though, why should you care about it--especially if you're normally averse to anything featuring the nauseatingly cute cat made famous by the folks at Sanrio? Let's go back to Balloon Kid, the GameBoy cart I mentioned earlier, shall we? If you've never played that 1990 release, imagine Balloon Fight's "Balloon Trip" mode turned into a multi-stage platformer. And if you've never played "Balloon Trip," well, imagine a platformer that scrolls from right to left and that features a protagonist who relies more on a pair of balloons for getting around than her own two feet.

Playing this game is as simple as can be: while on the ground (sans balloons), you can jump (with the A button) or inflate balloons (by pressing down on the d-pad). While in the air, you can control your flight by pressing left or right on the d-pad and by pressing the A button (which causes you to flap your arms and helps you gain altitude). Oh, and pressing the B button while in the air releases your balloons so you can scamper around on the ground (assuming there's any beneath you).

Although you'll spend most of your time hammering the A button while playing Hello Kitty World--so you can avoid pesky enemies and obstacles, of course--you won't want to forget about the B button, especially during the every-other-level boss fights, each of which are both easier and more enjoyable if you fly above and then dive bomb said baddies.

Given all of the above, I'm guessing all of you (or at least a few of you) are wondering if I prefer this cute and colorful console release to its portable predecessor. To be honest, I don't. I like the art style used in Balloon Kid more than the one used here, plus I'm pretty fond of Alice, the star of the GameBoy title, while I'm not much of a fan of ol' Hello Kitty. That said, both games are well worth playing, so feel free to go with whichever one superficially appeals to you most.

See also: Previous 'Great Gaymathon' posts

Monday, July 16, 2012

Acquisition #137: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy

Drat. And I was just getting into Kirby Mass Attack and Professor Layton and the Last Specter.

I say that because both of these lovely (so far) DS games are sure to be placed on the proverbial back burner for a bit now that I've got my grubby hands on a copy of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy.

Don't worry, I'll go back to them sooner rather than later. For now, though, my attention is turned squarely toward Square Enix's odd, nostalgia-laden addition to the rhythm-game genre.

I very nearly didn't pick up Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, by the way. Oh, it was on my "wish list" and I was planning to buy it at some point, but I really didn't expect to do so on day one. So, what prompted me to change my mind? Well, I discovered that was selling it for $29.99 (as opposed to $39.99) and decided on the spot that I couldn't pass up such a sweet deal.

Before I get to my early impressions of the game, I have to give props to the folks at Square Enix's North American arm for putting so much into this release. For starters, my copy came with a special, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy-branded stylus as well as a small sheet of completely adorable stickers. Also, the cover slip is double-sided, with the inside art being designed in such a way that the heads of the game's main characters show through the holes that line the interior of the case.

Neither of those things could or should be considered mind-blowing surprises, of course, but I think they're nice touches nonetheless.

As for the game itself: I've only played it for a few hours thus far, but I can say without hesitation that those few hours have been pretty darn enjoyable. I like that there are a number of different styles of gameplay--they're more like variations on a theme, really, but they're distinct enough that it rarely feels like you're playing the same thing over and over again--and I also like that all of the tracks included here are the originals and not watered-down remixes.

My only complaints thus far: I'm often so focused on tapping, sliding and holding my stylus just so that I'm unable to properly take in the game's adorable graphics. Also, I'm currently feeling more than a little overwhelmed by all of the options that are constantly being thrown my way.

Are any of you also playing through Theatrhythm Final Fantasy at the moment? If so, do you think about it so far?

See also: Previous 'Acquisition #123' posts

I can't think of a better way to start the week ...

... than with a new issue of PC Engine Gamer magazine.

OK, so I can think of a few things that would kick off the week in a better way than this, but this is pretty good one all the same.

I say that in part because this issue of PC Engine Gamer contains write-ups of two of the cutest PC Engine games around: Be Ball and Star Parodier.

(Silly aside: I'm sure a few hardcore PC Engine fans will want to smack me for saying this, but I actually prefer Be Ball to Star Parodier by a pretty wide margin. I guess I just have a soft spot for chibi Chun-Li-esque protagonists who can't keep their hands off of giant balls.)

That isn't all the seventh issue of PC Engine Gamer has to offer, of course. It also features a fascinating interview with Hudson Soft's Tadayuki Kawada (who worked on the aforementioned Star Parodier) and a surprisingly lengthy Legendary Axe comic.

Anyway, I'd highly recommend checking it out here at your earliest convenience--whether or not you consider yourself to be a PC Engine fan. The articles in this little ezine are witty, well-written and, if you're anything like me, sure to put a smile on your face.