Friday, November 02, 2012

A somewhat gay review of Magical Whip: Wizards of the Phantasmal Forest (DSiWare)

Game: Magical Whip: Wizards of the Phantasmal Forest
Genre: Single-Screen Platformer
Developer: Agetec
Publisher: Agetec
System: DSi/3DS
Release date: 2011

It isn't often that fans of single-screen platformers are presented with a current-gen game that can be considered an honest-to-goodness "Bubble Bobble clone"--especially one that costs just $1.99. As such, one of the first things I purchased from Nintendo's eShop after I obtained a 3DS was Agetec's Magical Whip: Wizards of the Phantasmal Forest (which, it should be noted, is a DSiWare, rather than a 3DSWare, title).

So, does this, er, dual-screened platformer (the action takes place over both of the DSi's and/or 3DS' screens, after all) bring anything new to the genre made famous by Taito's classic quarter-muncher, or does it basically just trade on nostalgia? I'd say the answer's a little of both, if that makes sense.

What I mean is that, yes, Magical Whip is, initially at least, aimed at those of us who have enjoyed games like Bubble BobbleDon Doko Don, Rod Land and Snow Bros. It quickly becomes apparent, though, that the team that made this digital title wanted to do more than just copy those aforementioned trailblazers.

That's especially obvious after you first discover Magical Whip's combo system, which pushes players to master the game's juggling mechanic--use your character's wand/whip to grab an enemy and toss it at another, which will then launch into the air so it can be captured and then launched at another enemy--and then rewards them by boosting the power of their attacks. (According to the folks at Agetec, if you string together enough attacks you can wipe out one of the game's bosses with a single strike--although I've yet to do this myself.)

Magical Whip's juggling mechanic and combo system aren't the only thing that help separate it from the pack. Also noteworthy: The fact that the action takes place over both of the DSi's and 3DS' screens. Admittedly, it doesn't significantly change the gameplay, but it alters it just enough to make things interesting.

As for this title's negative aspects (you just knew they were coming, right?), the main one, in my mind, is the repetitive backdrops. I know the game's subtitle is "Wizards of the Phantasmal Forest" and, as such, most if not all of its levels should take place in wooded areas, but couldn't the designers have changed the look of the trees every five or 10 stages?

Also rather disappointing is the game's limited number of enemy designs. If Magical Whip were a retail release, I'd complain that it includes 50 measly levels, but since it's a two-dollar digital one I'll forgive that particular transgression.

The "two dollar" part of that last sentence is perhaps the most telling part of this review, by the way. Basically, if you consider yourself a fan of Bubble Bobble and its ilk, there's really no reason to pass up Magical Whip if you own a DSi or 3DS given its minuscule price tag, as its few miscues are easily overlooked when you consider just how few pennies you have to hand over to buy it.

See also: Previous 'somewhat gay' reviews

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Let's Play: 'Which Box Art is Better?' (Style Savvy edition)

Did you get your fill of Style Savvy cover art last week when I devoted a "Which Box Art is Better Post?" to the just-released Style Savvy: Trendsetters and its international counterparts?

I hope not, as you're going to get a bit more of it today.

This time around, though, we're going to check out the box art that was created for the original Style Savvy.

Here's the "art" (yes, I'm using the word loosely in this case) that appeared on covers of the North American version of the game, which hit store shelves in late 2009:

Sadly, the art made for the game's European packaging, below, isn't much better. In fact, I think it could easily be said that it's worse than the North American version's box art.

So, how does the box art of the Japanese original, Wagamama Fashion Girls Mode, stack up? Pretty well, if you ask me.

Sure, it features far too much text, but at least that text is nicely stylized and colored.

As such, I'm personally giving Wagamama Fashion Girls Mode's box art the nod this time around. That's just my opinion, though; which cover do you like best?

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Five favorites: Japanese Wii box art

Since I'm feeling kind of nostalgic when it comes to the Wii--and the DS, too--right now, I thought I'd work up a few posts dedicated to my favorite pieces of box art created for Nintendo's "seventh generation" systems.

This one focuses on box art that was created for the Wii, of course. Note that I'm only covering Japanese box art in this particular post. I may publish a similar post in the future that focuses on, say, North American Wii box art, this one is limited to box art made for game-buyers in the Land of the Rising Sun.

1. Dragon Quest X--Say what you will about Dragon Quest X the game, but it's hard to knock its cover art, don't you think? Not only is it wonderfully colorful, but it's filled to the brim with characters and other details. I'm especially fond of the grinning Puklipo who seems to be doing a backflip on the right edge of the illustration, by the way.

2. Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon--Given my love of post-apocalyptic novels and movies, I find it kind of astonishing that I've yet to pick up a copy of this Tri-Crescendo-developed title. Granted, it received fairly poor reviews, so that probably had something to do with it. Regardless, the Japanese release featured one of the best pieces of box art this "era," in my humble opinion. Had the folks at Xseed Games (Fragile Dreams' North American publisher) used that image rather than the one that ended up on store shelves I likely would have purchased it the day it was released.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

You say Shippuu no Usagi-Maru: Megumi no Tama to Fuuma no Shirushi, I say uh ...

While scanning Nintendo of Japan's website a week or so ago (I can't remember why, actually), I happened upon an enticing image of an upcoming 3DS eShop game.

After doing a bit of digging, I discovered that the game is called Shippuu no Usagi-Maru: Megumi no Tama to Fuuma no Shirushi and it's being published by Arc System Works, best known for two-dimensional brawlers BlazBlue and Guilty Gear.

Actually, I should say it was published by Arc System Works, as it was uploaded to the Japanese eShop (carrying a ¥500 price tag) on Oct. 10.

The main reason I'm interested in it is its art style, of course, but I'm also pretty interested in its gameplay (see a bit of it in the trailer above), which looks similar to that of Moai-kun, a puzzler-platformer that Konami released for the Famicom back in the day.

Fun fact: One of my co-hosts on The Nichiest Podcast Ever kindly agreed to translate the game's title for me, with the result being something along the lines of Usagimaru of the Gale: The Blessed Seed and the Cursed Seal. (Oh, and Usagimaru is the adorable protagonist's name.)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Manual Stimulation: Magical Puzzle Popils (Game Gear)

You know you're in for quite a read when someone decides to call the booklet that's included with a particular game--in this case, Tengen's Magical Puzzle Popils for the Sega Game Gear--a "guide" rather than a "manual," as is typically the case.

Which begs the question: Is it a good read in this case or a bad one?

Considering I don't know a lick of Japanese, you'll have to take my response with a rather large grain of salt. Based on what I can see, though, I'd say Magical Puzzle Popil's 30-page (yes, you read that correctly) "guide" is a bit of both.

The manuals' designers certainly didn't start things off on the wrong foot, thanks in large part to its colorful front and even back covers.

The first two interior pages are quite a bit less thrilling, but the following pair offer up a trio of adorable illustrations that more than make up for the preceding yawn-fest.

Even more illustrations appear on the manual's next handful of pages. They're not as precious--or large--as the ones I just pointed out, but they're still pretty cool.