Saturday, September 08, 2012

My, er, Wii U Experience experience

As some of you (i.e. those of you who follow me on Twitter) already know, I attended the "Wii U Experience" event Nintendo of America held in downtown Seattle last night.

In case you've never heard of them before now, these invite-only events have been held in cities across the country over the last month or so and provide attendees with a bit of hands-on time with Nintendo's next console and a number of its games (both first- and third-party).

As far as I can remember, the following games were demoed during the "Wii U Experience" I attended: Batman: Arkham City--Armored EditionGame & WarioJust Dance 4Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's EdgeNintendo LandNew Super Mario Bros. UProject P-100Pikmin 3Rayman LegendsSingWii Fit UWii U Panorama View and ZombiU.

I think Scribblenauts Unlimited, and possibly another game or two, may have been at the event as well, but I'm not sure about that. (The venue where the "Wii U Experience" was held had a number of rooms, and I didn't go into all of them, shockingly enough.)

Anyway, of all of the aforementioned games, I personally got to, well, experience just four of them: Game & WarioNintendo LandNew Super Mario Bros. U and the still-tentatively-titled (I hope) Project P-100.

Below are my impressions of each of those titles, as well as a few thoughts on some of the games I simply watched other people play.

* Game & Wario--If there was a Wii U game at this event that disappointed me, or at least confused me, it was this one. For starters, I find the art style used here to be kind of off-putting, especially when compared to the style that's been used in the most recent WarioWare titles.

The oddly childish (in a bad way) art style employed here isn't Game & Wario's main problem, though; no, that would be its rather unappealing gameplay. You see, rather than rapidly throwing a series of hilarious (or at least mildly humorous), single-player-focused mini-games at players like WarioWare does, this Wii U title tosses a bunch of slower-paced (as in, some of them have time limits that last for a number of minutes), multi-player-focused games at them.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Five favorites: Famicom/NES platformers that don't involve a fat, Italian-American plumber

As much as I love the first three Super Mario Bros. titles as much as the next guy or gal, they're not the only cartridges I stick into my Famicom when I'm in the mood for some platforming action.

In fact, these days I'm far more likely to reach for the five games listed below--each of which offer up music, graphics and gameplay that I consider to be on par with those aforementioned Nintendo-made classics.

1. Don Doko Don 2--I'm guessing Taito's decision to turn Don Doko Don's sequel into a Super Mario Bros.-esque, side-scrolling platformer was met with at least a bit of skepticism back in the day (it was released in 1992), but gamers needn't have worried. After all, the contents of this particular cart is a treat for the eyes, ears and even hands. (You know, because it controls well and is an overall joy to play.) Plus, it features a cameo of sorts by Chack'n (of Chack'n Pop fame)--which, in my mind at least, means it's an absolute-must-play.

2. Hoshi no Kirby: Yume no Izumi no Monogatari (aka Kirby's Adventure)--Is Kirby's first console outing his best? I tend to think so, although I also hold Kirby's Epic Yarn and Kirby's Return to Dream Land in high esteem. (Sorry, I've yet to play Kirby Super Star.) Regardless, the game known to westerners as Kirby's Adventure easily is one of the more enjoyable--and precious--platformers released for Nintendo's 8-bit super system. It is easy? Yes, it is, but that's the point. Focus on taking in the sights and having fun while doing so and you won't regret a second of the time you spend with this one.

3. Pajama Hero Nemo (aka Little Nemo the Dream Master)--Would you believe me if I said that this may be my favorite Famicom/NES game? Well, it is. Or it may be. Whatever. Anyway, even if you don't agree--due to its difficulty, most likely--you have to admit this title is a looker. I mean, really, how adorable are those sprites? That Little Nemo sounds nearly as good as it looks just adds to its status as a top-shelf platformer that should be experienced by everyone who isn't afraid of a bit of a challenge, a splash of color and a protagonist who's still in his pajamas.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Second Chances: Gokuraku! Chuka Taisen

I've never liked the looks of this PC Engine shoot 'em up, which is based on the legend of the Monkey King. That's because I've always considered it to be the two-dimensional shmup equivalent of too many of today's three-dimensional FPS titles: Brown, dark and drab.

It's almost like Gokuraku! Chuka Taisen's developers decided, "There are too many cheerful and colorful PC Engine shooters. Let's make one that's the complete opposite!"

(It should be noted, by the way, that I also find many of this title's character, or maybe I should say "creature," designs to be the definition of dreadful.)

So, I ignored this HuCard like a pixelated plague. Until I came to the realization that Taito released a ton of surprisingly great games for NEC's adorable little system--such as Don Doko DonHana Taka Daka!?Jigoku Meguri, Mizubaku Daibouken, The New Zealand Story and Parasol Stars--back in the day.

Giving Gokuraku! Chuka Taisen a second chance with that in mind helped a great deal. For starters, once I looked past this game's gloomy graphics (don't be fooled by the screenshot below) and focused instead on its gameplay, I found that it's a pretty great shoot 'em up. More specifically, I discovered that it's both tight (in terms of controls) and tough--two things a shmup needs to offer for me to fall in love with it.

I also discovered that it has some awesome boss fights, which I believe rival those found in Coryoon and PC Denjin (aka Air Zonk) when it comes to beauty and brilliance (thanks in large part to the many layers of parallax scrolling they contain).

Gokuraku! Chuka Taisen's soundtrack is nice, too. Sadly, it's often drowned out by the game's overly loud "pew pew" effects that accompany each and every shot.

That lone misstep--well, if you don't count the dreary aesthetics--isn't nearly enough to get me to continue to ignore this 1992 release, of course. On the contrary, I now regularly find myself playing and enjoying it regularly due to the aspects mentioned above.

Do I still consider it to be a rather unattractive title? Yes, I do. But it no longer means more to me than the rest of what it has to offer any gamer interested in playing a retro shoot 'em up that isn't a total pushover.

See also: Previous 'Second Chances' posts

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

How desperate am I to get my hands on Animal Crossing 3DS? *This* is how desperate I am to get my hands on Animal Crossing 3DS...

I mean, I'd have to be pretty desperate to watch, a few times over and with bated breath no less, The Bit Block's video analysis of Animal Crossing 3DS' Japanese box art that can be viewed below, don't you think?

Although a few of Josh's comments tripped my trigger, if you know what I mean, the one that really revved my motor was the one that suggested this iteration of the Animal Crossing franchise may include more than one island to explore, à la the first release.

Sadly, it seems all of us schmucks outside of Japan won't be playing this game anytime soon, as Nintendo of America recently tweeted that it would hit the streets sometime during "the first half of 2013"--which of course means it likely won't do so until around June.

Are any of you also chomping at the bit to get your hands on the game that the Japanese will call Tobidase Dōbutsu no Mori (aka Animal Crossing: Jump Out)?

Handre De Jager's BurgerTime

When Data East's BurgerTime was ported to the NES in 1985, its box art looked like this:

South African illustrator, animator, 3D modeler and digital music composer Handre De Jager thinks it should have looked more like the image below, given "the [often] inaccurate nature of 80's and early 90's video game cover art."

Although I can't say I agree entirely--mainly because I'm pretty fond of the box art we ended up with--I also can't say I dislike De Jager's illustration.

That said, it is a bit frightening, isn't it? Honestly, I'm not sure which aspect scares me more: The hot dog, the pickle or the egg.

(Thanks to Twitter user Alchemlx for turning me on to this creation.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Great Gaymathon Review #59: BurgerTime (Famicom)

Game: BurgerTime
Genre: Arcade/Action
Developer: Data East
Publisher: Namcot
System: Famicom
Release date: 1985

This is one of those ancient arcade games that probably only appeals to folks who were around when it was first released. For everyone else, the premise--create hamburgers while walking over ingredients and avoiding similarly munchable enemies--is unlikely to make much sense and the old-school difficulty of the gameplay is sure to prove more than a bit daunting.

So, where do I sit on this BurgerTime continuum? If you'd asked me back when it was first ported to Nintendo's 8-bit systems, my 9-year-old self would have told you I was located firmly on the "hell no" side of things--in small part because of the game's cruelly challenging nature but in larger part because it's far from "arcade perfect" (something I pointlessly put a lot of stock into in those days). How would my 35-year-old self respond if asked today? I'd say that I'm now on the opposite end of the spectrum and that I'm pretty darn fond of this iteration of Data East's admittedly brutal quarter-muncher.

My younger self was right, of course, that the stages in the Famicom/NES version aren't as colorful as those in the coin-op original, nor are the enemies in the former as well crafted as those in the latter, but who cares? Both releases more than get the job done in the looks department, and both feature the same brilliant, can't-get-it-out-of-my-head backing track. Most importantly, though, both also evoke a rather thrilling sense of panic in the player that calls to mind other classic titles--like Mappy and Pac-Man--from the same era.

Combine all of the above with the Famicom port's tight-as-can-be controls and completely adorable cover art and you've got yourself a great little pick-up--assuming you don't have a short fuse (see the comments above about this game's difficulty) and you can find it on the cheap.

See also: Previous 'Great Gaymathon' posts

Monday, September 03, 2012

What does it say about me that the first thing I noticed about this photo was that these guys are playing a Dreamcast game?

I mean, it's great that they have visible abs, nice enough legs and an acceptable taste in underwear, but what I really want to see is: Which Dreamcast game are they playing?

I'm guessing it's something "typical" like SoulCaliber or Dead or Alive 2. They'd earn my undying respect, though, if it were ChuChu Rocket! or even one of the Power Stone titles.