Friday, July 27, 2012

Acquisition #138: Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure (3DS)

Considering my enthusiastic reaction to its eShop demo, you'd think I would have ripped the Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure cart from its packaging and slammed it into my trusty 3DS system as soon it arrived on my doorstep late last week.

That's exactly how I would have reacted, actually--had Theatrhythm Final Fantasy not beaten Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure to the punch (not to mention to my mailbox) by a few days.

You see, I've quite literally become entranced by Square Enix's Final Fantasy-themed rhythm title. In fact, I've played little else since I obtained my copy of the game nearly two weeks ago.

I didn't want to leave you guys and gals hanging with yet another "yeah, I added another game to my collection, but I haven't had a chance to play it yet" post, though, so yesterday I forced myself to replace Theatrhythm Final Fantasy with Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure for a while.

As for what I thought of my rather cursory experience with this Sega-developed release: Well, for starters, all of the folks who have described Rhythm Thief as "a mash-up of Professor Layton and Space Channel 5" deserve some sort of prize, because that's pretty much how this peculiar title plays out.

Which means, of course, that I'm loving it. That said, it's far from perfect. For instance, the game's currently a bit too skewed toward the Professor Layton side of things for my liking. (I'd prefer it to be more evenly divided between the adventure/puzzle/story segments and the rhythm ones.)

Not only that, but the rhythm segments, while enjoyable, aren't as deep as I'd hoped they'd be. Granted, I've only played five of them thus far, so it's altogether possible that they'll gradually increase in complexity.

Given all of the above, I think it's fair to say that I'm currently on the fence about Rhythm Thief. I'm enjoying it, but I'm also feeling a bit disappointed by it. I'll keep plugging away at it, though, and I promise to share my final thoughts on the matter (in an upcoming "Great Gaymathon" review) as soon as possible.

See also: 'Deep thoughts (or not) on a quintet of recent 3DS demos'

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Super Marilyn Clouds

You know what I'd do this weekend if I lived in Atlanta? I'd drag the hubs to the Emily Amy Gallery on Saturday evening so I could take in Ashley Anderson's "Shinobi Marilyn" exhibition, that's what.

Why did Anderson call his first solo show, "Shinobi Marilyn," you ask? According to the Emily Amy Gallery's website, he chose the strange moniker because he was "inspired by an online discovery of imagery embedded in a classic Sega video game from 1987 (Shinobi). Convinced the appearance of Marilyn Monroe in the game was a posthumous tribute to Andy Warhol created by the game designer in 1980s Japan, Anderson sought to explore the subject further."

(For more on what prompted Anderson to focus on this head-scratcher of a subject, read Henry Detweiler's informative interview with him over at

A series of 10 digital collages will be featured as part of the "Shinobi Marilyn" exhibit, including the following trio:

According to Anderson, the second of the three pieces above was inspired by fellow artist Cory Arcangel, whose most famous creation also incorporated cloud sprites pulled from the first Super Mario Bros. (On a related note, I'm pretty sure the third piece is made up of coin sprites taken from the same game.)

Want to know more about this Atlanta-based artist? Check out his blog, his Facebook page and his Flickr photostream.

FYI: Wizorb is now available via PSN

Not only that, but this "retro-flavored Breakout clone with a dash of RPG folded into it" is playable on PS3, PSP and Vita, as far as I'm aware.

I know for sure that it's playable on PSP, though, since I just bought it. Yes, that means I now own four "copies" of Wizorb--one each for my Mac, PC, PSP and Xbox 360.

A word of warning to those of you who are about to race to your PSPs and download this puppy: A bit of "frame-rate chug" weaseled its way into this particular version.

It doesn't ruin the experience--or at least it hasn't yet ruined it for me--but it is noticeable, not to mention a tad annoying, especially if you've spent some time with the Mac, PC or Xbox 360 releases.

Hopefully no such "chug" rears its ugly head while playing the game on a PS3 or Vita. Since I don't own either of those systems, though, I currently can't tell you if that's the case or not.

See also: 'A somewhat gay review of Wizorb (PC and XBLIG)' and 'Ten questions with the guys who created Wizorb'

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Great Gaymathon Review #57: Balloon Kid (GameBoy)

Game: Balloon Kid
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Pax Softnica
Publisher: Nintendo
System: GameBoy
Release date: 1990

Last week, I published a little write-up (read it here) on this game's Famicom-based kinda-sorta remake, Hello Kitty World. I'm sure some will say it's overkill to review the original so soon afterward, but that's not how I see it. Instead, I'm thinking of this "Great Gaymathon" review as being the blogging equivalent of "striking while the iron's hot"--as in, why not chat about Balloon Kid while Hello Kitty World's still fresh in your brains?

Anyway, enough about that. You're probably wondering what sets this breezy release (you can beat its eight stages in an hour or two, if you're skilled enough) apart from its console-based follow-up. There aren't as many differentiators as you might think, to tell you the truth. The most obvious ones: 1) Balloon Kid stars a wee lass named Annie as opposed to Hello Kitty, 2) Annie's goal is to save her kid brother Jim while Kitty-chan has to rescue some Sanrio character named Tippy, 3) the GameBoy title is a black-and-white affair while the Famicom one is in full color, and 4) although the camera is zoomed-out in Hello Kitty World, it's much closer to the action in Balloon Kid.

Every other aspect of these auto-scrolling platformers is pretty similar. Both buck tradition and progress from right to left. Their plucky protagonists use balloons rather than their legs to move around as well as to avoid enemies--which include bees, penguins and, er, walking campfires. Enjoyably creative boss fights pop up every other stage whether you're playing Hello Kitty World or Balloon Kid. (Speaking of this game's stages, although most are thematically clichéd, a couple are surprisingly unique--with the standouts being the first and its pencil-shaped skyscrapers as well as the fourth that takes place in a wale's bowels.) These cute-as-buttons carts even share the same, Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka-sourced soundtrack.

Anyway, as I said in my earlier review, I tend to prefer Pax Softnica's effort to Character Soft's--mainly due to the GameBoy title's art style--although you really can't go wrong with either. That said, if you decide to play these games via emulation, be sure to go with the colorized, Japan-only version of Balloon Kid, known as Balloon Fight GB. It adds a pretty little map screen and the ability to save after each level to the mix.

See also: Previous 'Great Gaymathon' posts

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My body's ready for the North American release of Denpa Ningen RPG

If the name Denpa Ningen RPG doesn't ring a bell, how about "that previously Japan-only eShop RPG that features characters who look part Teletubby, part Tingle, part Pikmin, part Mr. Driller and part Mii"?

Note how I described it as a "previously Japan-only" eShop RPG. That's because this wacky, Genius Sonority-developed title is on its way to the North American eShop, according to at least one source.

No word on when it'll arrive, but the same source suggests a Denpa Ningen RPG demo will hit the eShop in advance of the full game's release, so we're sure to get at least a bit of warning before we're forced to hand over our hard-earned dough.

Still not convinced that the announcement above constitutes good news? Check out this trailer for the Japanese version of the game.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Things I'd buy if I were independently wealthy #273: The Bravely Default Collector's Pack

Actually, I'd likely find a way to add it to my collection regardless if I could play it on my current 3DS and if I knew a a lick of Japanese. As it stands, though, picking up such an item seems a bit ridiculous--especially considering those of us who don't live in the Land of the Rising Sun are sure to spend upwards of $200 on it. (Square Enix is selling it through its eShop for ¥12,800, or about $163. Which means stores like will sell it for far more than that.)

All that aside, some of you probably are wondering what's included in this pricey-yet-delicious-looking package. To which I say: A copy of Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, the game's original soundtrack, an art album, a 3DS "protect case" and a life-sized AR poster.

The folks at Square Enix have yet to announce a Western release for Bravely Default, although I'm hopeful they'll do so around the time the game hits store shelves in Japan (in early October). And if not? Well, I'll just have to pick up a Japanese 3DS (LL?) and a "standard" copy of this game, I guess--yes, even if I won't be able to understand a word of it. It reportedly features a Final Fantasy V-like job system, which means there's no way in hell I'm passing it up.


Is a Bubble Bobble clone really a Bubble Bobble clone if fruit and other food items aren't involved?

I asked myself the question in the header above shortly after I played the awkwardly titled (in my humble opinion) DSiWare title, Magical Whip: Wizards of the Phantasmal Forest, for the first time a few weeks ago.

In case you've never played--or even heard of--Magical Whip, it's a nice little dual-screened "Bubble Bobble clone" that puts players in the shoes--not to mention flowing robe and pointy hat--of a young warlock (or witch, if that's the way you swing) and tasks them with clearing 50 forest-themed stages of bats, ghosts, slimes and other baddies. That's accomplished, for the most part, by picking up--with the titular whip--one or more of the aforementioned spooks and tossing them at each other. (Larger enemies and bosses, which appear on every fifth stage, also can be beaten by bopping them with your weapon.)

Disappointingly, Magical Whip's foes don't produce an eruption of fruit and other food items, a la Bubble Bobble and most/all of its wannabes, once dispatched, which I have to admit caused me to wrinkle my nose in disgust at first. "What's the use in being a Bubble Bobble clone if you can't collect food?" I asked myself after clearing the game's first stage.

I've since gotten over Magical Whip's lack of munchables (for the most part) thanks to the unique spin it puts on this well-worn genre. Like I said earlier, rather than encasing enemies in bubbles or bopping them with hammers, the witchy protagonists in this digital title use their whips to grab and then hoist baddies above their behatted heads. After that, they can toss them at other baddies, causing them to flip into the air. Catch the spinning enemy (with a flick of your whip, of course) and you create a combo that slowly but surely increases your character's attack strength.

That's not all Magical Whip has to offer single-screen platformer fans, of course. It also offers up some surprisingly well-crafted sprites and an appealingly triumphant--if slightly repetitive--soundtrack.

Speaking of repetitive, the only real negatives associated with this game, in my mind, are its backdrops, which barely change from stage to stage. Considering buying the game will only set you back $1.99, though, I wouldn't let it keep you from giving it a try.