Friday, August 31, 2012

Let's Play: 'Which Box Art is Better?' (LittleBigPlanet Vita edition)

I'll be honest here: I'm not actually all that interested in this title. Like most folks, I used to drool over every screenshot and video I came across of this platformer's console-based predecessors. After reading a bunch of ho-hum impressions of the first LittleBigPlanet, though, the series basically fell off my radar.

Still, I'm always a sucker for good--or at least interesting--box art, which is where this particular blog post comes in. While perusing NeoGAF a week or so ago, I came across LittleBigPlanet Vita's Japanese box art and thought, "Hmmm, I like the looks of that!" A few clicks of the keyboard later, I found myself staring at--and, yes, liking--this portable platformer's European and North American covers, too.

The question is: Which LittleBigPlanet Vita cover illustration do I like best? Before I respond, let's take a little look-see at each of the contenders, shall we?

Actually, the following illustration can't actually be called a contender, as it won't appear on this game's packaging in any region, as far as I'm aware. Because a number of European and North American retailers used it as a placeholder image on their websites, though, I decided to include it here. (By the way, the game is set to hit Australia and Europe on Sept. 19, Japan on Sept. 20 and North America on Sept. 25.) 

The box art that eventually took its place on the aforementioned sites can be seen below.

As is typically the case, LittleBigPlanet Vita's Japanese cover art is quite different from that of its western counterparts:

As for which piece of box art I prefer: If the Japanese cover's background were light blue like the background of the European/North American cover, I'd go with it in a heartbeat, as I prefer the more colorful and whimsical nature of that creation. As it stands, though, I'm going to say it's a tie between the two.

What do all of you think? Do you have a favorite when it comes to LittleBigPlanet Vita's cover imagery?

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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Welp, it seems I'll be buying a 3DS XL a bit sooner than I initially thought I would

That's because, as some of you likely have heard already, during its latest Nintendo Direct broadcast yesterday, Nintendo of Japan announced that it will release a "PINKxWHITE" 3DS LL (XL to us heathens in the west) in late September.

Will this precious-looking handheld also find its way onto store shelves in other regions in the coming weeks and months? Sadly, I have no idea, although I certainly hope that will be the case. Should it fail to appear in my neck of the woods (that would be North America), though, I'll probably go ahead and pick up a Japanese one, as I'd love to be able to play some of the games--like Dangerous Jii-san Jya--that haven't been or won't be brought to our shores.

The announcement of the pink-and-white 3DS LL wasn't the only nugget of news that caught my attention during yesterday's Nintendo Direct, by the way. Also piquing my interest: This bit of gameplay footage of the next Animal Crossing title, as well as the title's colorful Japanese box art that can seen below.

Similarly thrilling for yours truly were two eShop game reveals. The first was for Denpa Ningen RPG 2, the sequel to the Genius Sonority-developed title that I once described as being "part Teletubby, part Tingle, part Pikmin, part Mr. Driller and part Mii," while the second was for HarmoKnight, a Bit.Trip Runner-esque platformer from the folks behind the Pokémon series. (To see HarmoKnight, which will hit the Japanese eShop on Sept. 5, in action, check out this recent post.)

Finally, I have to admit that watching the latest footage of Tomodachi Collection 3DS, which was shown during the waning moments of the aforementioned Nintendo Direct broadcast, made me feel sad that those of us who live outside the Land of the Rising Sun likely will never get to experience its wackiness. Maybe this will be the game that finally gets me to start learning Japanese?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Acquisition #142: Ganbare Gorby! (Game Gear)

You probably can't tell by looking at the cover art below, but my latest acquisition, Ganbare Gorby!, is an action-puzzler that stars Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev--aka the guy with the port-wine birthmark who served as president of the Soviet Union between 1988 and 1991.

As odd as that likely sounds, the end product's actually pretty darn fun. Of course, how could it not be? Not only does it put players in ol' Gorby's shoes, but it tasks them with racing through one Russian factory after another in order to provide the poor with such basic essentials as food, medicine and, er, Game Gears, while avoiding violent soldiers and guards.

Thankfully, the factories you and Gorbechev spend so much time in are far from drab. On the contrary, they're bright and colorful, with red and blue floors giving way to green and purple walls that are topped by orange and yellow minarets.

Ganbare Gorby's gameplay is similarly striking, despite the fact that it often involves stepping onto and off of switches--or moving conveyor belts to and fro--that help deliver the above-mentioned staples to the awaiting masses. (To see what I mean, check out this video. Just make sure your volume is turned down, as the sound quality in this clip is terrible.)

By the way, I can't write a post about this game without mentioning two things. First, it was released outside of Japan (in 1991) as Factory Panic, with Gorbechev being replaced by some random blond brat. (Strangely, everything else remains--including the minarets and the Soviet soldiers.) Second, I have to thank the proprietor of the VGJunk blog for turning me on to Ganbare Gorby!, as I'd never heard of it before reading this post. Afterwards, I traipsed on over to eBay and searched for it on a whim. To my surprise, I discovered an auction for the rather pristine copy you see above and promptly picked it up.

Now I just need to pick up a (refurbished) Game Gear so I can play it the way it's supposed to be experienced (as opposed to doing so via emulation), don't you think?

See also: Previous 'Acquisition #123' posts

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Another Bubble Bobble/Fairyland Story clone approaches

Actually, this game is more of a Don Doko Don clone than a Bubble Bobble or Fairyland Story clone, but I'm sure most of you understand where I'm coming from regardless.

As for which game I'm talking about in the headline and sentence above: The Berlin Wall.

Specifically, I'm talking about the 1991 Game Gear port of this Kaneko-developed and -published quarter-muncher.

I'm not sure how or why, but I only learned about this game last week while perusing my bank account's least favorite website ever (aka eBay).

The premise of this single-screen platformer, for those of you who are in the same pixelated boat: Players are placed in the shoes of a boy who must use his hammer to break the blocks that form the platforms that fill each stage. The resulting holes act as traps for the many enemies (including penguins and porcupines) that patrol said stages--as in, after a baddie falls into a hole, the player can bop them in the head with his hammer and send them crashing into the platform or floor below.

Strangely (or not, if you're at all used to the single-screen platformer genre), that last bit causes the defeated enemy to transform into various power-ups and food items that can be collected.

As is the case with many of these Bubble Bobble/Don Doko Don/Fairyland Story clones, The Berlin Wall is almost insultingly easy at the beginning but the difficulty quickly ramps up--about halfway through the second world, in my opinion--to a level that can only be described as "maddening."

A little trivia for anyone who cares about such things: Kaneko basically re-skinned and re-released, in 1992, this game for the Sega Mega Drive. Called Wani Wani World, this single-screener stars a green crocodile who wields his/her hammer against a bevy of platform-stalking baddies.

See also: 'You say Bubble Bobble clone, I say Fairyland Story clone'

Monday, August 27, 2012

Five favorites: Super Famicom games I'd play with my husband (if he actually played games)

Why'd I decide to limit the contents of this post to Super Famicom games? Actually, my first thought was to focus on Famicom games. Shortly after, I changed my mind, broadened the scope and altered the headline to "games I'd play with my husband (if he actually played games)."

The first three games that came to mind, however, were released for the Super Famicom (or SNES, if that's your thing), so I altered the header for a second time to the one you see above.

Don't worry, I plan on writing up a "Famicom games I'd play with my husband (if he actually played games)" post soon enough, and I'll probably devote another to "PC Engine games I'd play with my husband (if he actually played games)," too.

This time around, though, I'm going to focus on the following five titles, all of which appeared on Nintendo's super second console.

1. Pocky & Rocky--Although I'm listing this Natsume release first (simply because I'm an alpha-order kind of guy), I have a pretty good feeling that it wouldn't go over all that well with the hubs if I introduced him to it early on. That's because, like most overhead run-and-guns, Pocky & Rocky can be both difficult and frustrating. Still, I think he might like the adorable protagonists and the colorfully wacky setting--you know, if he had any interest in gaming at all.

2. Sanrio World Smash Ball--Now here's a game that I think anyone would like--yes, even anti-gaming crumudeons like my husband. It's barely more than good ol' Pong turned on its side, but for various reasons--such as its selection of cute-as-buttons characters and its wonderfully cheerful soundtrack--this Tomcat System-developed, Character Soft-published title a lot more enjoyable than that ancient classic.

3. Secret of Mana--Can you believe I've only ever played this game solo? That surprises me, as my older brother and I used to play games together all the time, and I'm pretty sure he was still living at home (as opposed to in a college dorm) when I first acquired this one. Anyway, as a result, I've always wanted to see what it's like to play through this epic, Final Fantasy-meets-The Legend of Zelda ARPG with another human being. In all honesty, I think my husband would find it boring, but you never know--the pastel graphics and soothing music may just win him over.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A little translation assistance, please?

So, I've been playing the Game Gear port of Namco's Mappy on and off over the last week or so. Why have I been playing this version as opposed to the arcade original, which I bought a few years back via the Wii Virtual Console, or the Famicom port (see a photo of it here) that I picked up in late 2009? I'm not sure, to tell you the truth. I guess I'm just in a Game Gear kind of mood right now.

Anyway, I bring all of this up here because this iteration's options screen, below, has me feeling completely stumped at the moment and I'm hoping one or more of you will be able to translate--into English, naturally--the second and third choices for me.

By the way, those of you who consider yourselves to be Mappy fans but have never played the Game Gear port might like to know that choosing the second option takes you to a set of levels that are much more expansive than those found in the arcade original. I'd almost liken them to playing in an apartment setting as opposed to a house setting, if that makes sense.

As for what happens when you choose the third option: Strangely, the answer seems to be nothing, at least at the moment. (Whenever I click on it, the carrot cursor simply moves back up to "MAPPY.") Maybe it's a series of more challenging levels that open up only after you've conquered the originals?