Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hello, Fire Emblem: Awakening; goodbye, holiday weekend

Guess what our pipe-smoking, shorts-wearing (even in winter) mailman plopped onto our doorstep the other morning? If you guessed a brand new copy of Fire Emblem: Awakening for the 3DS, pat yourself on the back. Don't let your head get too big, though--after all, I basically spoiled the surprise in the headline above.

Anyway, the game's cover art (below) is pretty nifty, don't you think? In person it looks even nicer than it does in the photo below, actually, as the gray/silver background has an appealing shimmer to it.

Fire Emblem: Awakening's cart art is similarly noteworthy thanks to the pixelated reworkings of what I'm guessing are the game's main characters. Yes, I just admitted that I know next-to-nothing about this title at the moment.

Why did I buy it if I know little about it (and if I've never before played a Fire Emblem game)? Because I really liked the looks of the battle scenes that were shown off when it was first announced.

Also, I've long been a fan of tactical RPGs, and this is supposed to be one of the best, so the question really should be: how could I not buy it?

As of now, I've yet to even stick the Fire Emblem: Awakening cartridge into my trusty pink-and-white 3DS XL, but that's only because I'm completely obsessed with Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime right now. (More on that tomorrow or Monday.)

I promise to tear myself away from Rocket Slime sometime today (or maybe tomorrow), though, so expect to hear me gushing--either here or on Twitter--about my experience with Fire Emblem: Awakening shortly. In the meantime, are any of you playing it? If so, what do you think of it so far?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Let's Play: 'Which Box Art is Better?' (Touch Detective edition)

I've got the BeeWorks-developed, Success-published (in Japan) Touch Detective series on the brain at the moment thanks in large part to my recently professed obsession with the soon-to-be-released (and soon-to-be-in-my-grubby-hands) 3DS-based spin-off, Osawari Tantei Nameko Daihanshoku.

As such, I thought it would be fun to write up another "Which Box Art is Better?" post that focuses on these portable point-and-click adventures.

To get things off to a proper start, here's the art that graced Japanese covers of the first Touch Detective game (known over there as Osawari Tantei: Ozawa Rina):

And here's the illustration that appeared on copies of the North American release:

The European version's box art isn't too different from its North American counterpart, but I'm sharing it here anyway due to the fact that it's more colorful.

Finally, the more-precious-than-it-has-any-right-to-be box art seen below was used for the Japanese budget re-release of the game:

Which one is my favorite? Well, right off the bat I can tell you the Euro art is my least favorite (mostly because I find it a bit garish).

Strangely, I think the budget re-release cover would top my list (if one were to exist), even with its yellow border and excessive use of text. That said, I like the original Japanese and North American versions quite a bit, too.

Which one do you gals and guys prefer (assuming it could be said that you prefer one at all)?

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

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A few thoughts on this morning's trifecta of Nintendo Direct broadcasts

So, the folks at Nintendo provided us with another trio of Nintendo Direct broadcasts this morning. (The last ones arrived less than a month ago.) Unlike the company's previous Nintendo Directs, the three that aired today--watch the North American one here--focused (mostly) on the 3DS. And not only that, but they focused on 3DS games featuring Luigi.

Here are a few brief thoughts on the three 3DS titles that fit the above-mentioned bill:

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon (aka Luigi Mansion 2 in Japan)--This long-awaited game, which will, at long last, hit store shelves across North America on March 24, looks as gorgeous as always. Also, the online-enabled multiplayer modes sound like a lot of fun.

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (aka Mario & Luigi RPG 4: Dream Adventure)--This one was a bit of a surprise, wasn't it? I mean, I assumed Nintendo would release another Mario & Luigi game at some point in time, but I never imagined they'd do so as soon as this summer--especially since Paper Mario: Sticker Star only came out a few months ago. Anyway, this iteration looks superb, and it'll likely be my first foray into this AlphaDream-developed series.

Mario Golf World Tour--I guess you could say this announcement was less surprising than the one above given that a new Mario Tennis title has already appeared on the 3DS, but I still found it a bit shocking. The question is: will this game, also due out this summer, be more worthy of purchasing than Camelot's earlier effort? I hope so, as I've been itching to experience another Mario Golf game for some time now.

After Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was done dropping those bombs, he turned the reins over to the crew at Nintendo of America, who chatted about Fire Emblem: Awakening DLC and (finally) pulled back the curtain on Animal Crossing: New Leaf's North American release date (June 9).

They also revealed that Game Freak's highly anticipated rhythmic platformer, HarmoKnight, will hit the eShop on March 28. (A demo of the game will be made available on March 14.) Oh, and HarmoKnight will soon be joined by a curious-looking title called Kersploosh!Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move and Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger--the last of which will appear on April 11. All of the above looked good to my eyes, although I'm most interested in HarmoKnight at this point.

Finally, it was announced that Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D hit the streets of North America sometime this summer. I'll probably pass on the title myself, despite the fact that I enjoyed the Wii version of the game, but I'm sure a lot of 3DS owners will snap it up.

One other piece of news a select few of you may be interested in hearing: during the Japanese Nintendo Direct, Iwata discussed the next Daigasso Band Bros. game, saying that it will be able to access and play the more than 9,000 tracks that were created for Daigasso Band Bros. DX. Unfortunately, the title is still without a release date.

Another (Japanese) Nintendo Direct was promised for next week, by the way, and apparently it'll cover third-party 3DS titles. As such, expect a similar write-up about that event to appear here shortly after it wraps up.

You had me at 'geeky retro video game pillows'

On the one hand, I'm glad that the gal behind the raindrop23 etsy shop is on vacation right now, as I really don't need any more gaming-related paraphernalia taking up space in one of our home's few closets.

On the other hand, I like her quilted pillow covers so much that I'd be more than happy to hand over my credit card and say, "Give me one of these and one of these and one of these," if that were possible.

Here are the pillow covers I'd buy if given the chance, by the way:

I also like a number of the Bob-omb, Fire Flower, Mario and Kirby pillow covers she's created.

Regardless, I love the different patterns and textures that raindrop23 puts to use while producing these functional pieces of art.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Duck Hunt x 3

I'm a sucker both for Nintendo's Duck Hunt and for the works of the artist known as SUIKA (or melonjaywalk), so I couldn't help but share the following photo here.

By the way, is anyone else wondering why in the hell Nintendo has never given us a Duck Hunt sequel? Sure, a similar game was packed within the first Wii Play, but that wasn't what I was looking for.

I can understand why the company wouldn't want to release such a title via retail, of course, but doing so digitally could be a pretty successful endeavor, if you ask me.

Or maybe I'm completely alone in wanting to return to Duck Hunt's grassy plains?

I'm a bad, bad Hikaru Utada fan

I know this isn't completely game-related, but most westerners know of Japanese singer-songwriter Hikaru Utada because of the tunes she contributed to Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II--"Simple and Clean" (aka "Hikari") and "Sanctuary" (aka "Passion"), respectively--so I also wouldn't say it's not at all game-related.

Anyway, the reason I'm a bad, bad Utada (as she's heretofore been known outside of Japan) fan is that I didn't realize until a few days ago that she released a new single, "Sakura Nagashi," which serves as the theme song for Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo, in late November.

Unfortunately, only a snippet of the Naomi Kawase-directed video for "Sakura Nagashi" can be found on Utada's official YouTube channel (and above) at the moment, although the entire song can be downloaded from iTunes. (Also, its officially translated lyrics can be found here.)


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Got a couple of hours? Check out the fifth installment of The Nichiest Podcast Ever ...

Of course, you don't have to listen to all two hours and 15 minutes of this edition of The Nichiest Podcast Ever in one sitting.

And don't worry, we don't spend that entire time giggling (or at least Anne and shidoshi don't spend the entire time giggling)--we spend it discussing Corpse Party: Book of Shadows (PSP) and Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS) and Ni no Kuni (PS3) and Pandora's Tower (Wii) and all sorts of other games that were mentioned in this previous post.

Should you actually give it a listen (you can do so here), please let Anne, shidoshi and I know what you thought of it, will you? You can do so in the comments section below or you can do so via Twitter (apricotsushi, pikoeri and thegaygamer, respectively).

Also, we're planning to record another one sometime in early March, so expect to hear more about that in just a few weeks.

In which I blather on about a trio of Japanese 3DS game demos ...

Although I've owned a Japanese 3DS (read about it here) for about two months now, I've yet to buy a game for it. (Not even a digital one.) I have, however, downloaded a healthy number of demos from that region's eShop. As such, I thought it might be nice to write up a few mini-reviews of three of the demos I've played so far.

1. Neratte! Tobashite! Rilakkuma Guragura Sweets Tower--You didn't expect me to pass up this demo, did you--especially after I slobbered over its cover art in this previous blog post? Anyway, this one's a pretty straightforward demo: it can be played just three times and it offers up three levels of varying complexity. As I believe I shared in the aforementioned blog postNeratte! Tobashite! Rilakkuma Guragura Sweets Tower is little more than an Angry Birds clone--which isn't a bad thing, in my opinion. It helps, of course, that it attempts to bring a few new things to the Angry Birds table, such as awarding bonus points for hitting characters from the Rilakkuma universe that are strewn about some of the levels. It also helps that the graphics (and the soundtrack, too, I guess) in this one are the gaming equivalent of a sugary waffle covered with ice cream, caramel and a cherry on top. Given all of the above, I'd actually pick up a copy of this disgustingly adorable game--if doing so wouldn't set me back as much as it currently would.

2. Shippuu no Usagi-Maru: Megumi no Tama to Fuuma no Shirushi--I've been trying to come up with an existing game that is most like this eShop-only puzzler-platformer since I first played this demo, but I can't quite do it. The closest one I can think of is Konami's Moai-kun for the Famicom, although even that isn't the best point of comparison. Regardless, both games task players with doing a bit of platforming while avoiding traps, pushing and pulling blocks, saving kidnapped maidens--that sort of thing. Anyway, Shippuu no Usagi-Maru's demo is pretty beefy as far as demos go, what with its seven included stages. Granted, five of them are little more than tutorials, but believe me when I say such introductions are needed if the second of the "real" levels is representative of the level of challenge that awaits folks who buy the full game. (It took me five tries to get through said stage.) That's a big plus in my book, as are the pixel-based graphics and Asian-influenced soundtrack found in this Arc System Works-published title. 

3. Taiko no Tatsujin: Chibi Dragon to Fushigina Orb--I've had my eye on this latest entry in Namco-Bandai's Taiko no Tatsujin series ever since I bought my "misty pink" Japanese 3DS, so it should come as little surprise to hear that it was one of the first Japanese eShop demos that I downloaded and tried. Unfortunately, Chibi Dragon to Fushigina Orb's demo is pretty thin in terms of content, featuring just two battles. Still, that was enough to convince me to add this title to my so-far-non-existant Japanese 3DS game collection sooner rather than later--thanks in large part to the gloriously over-the-top version of "O Sole Mio" that serves as the backdrop to the first battle. Here's hoping that by the time I finally do that (buy a copy of the game) I'll have a better understanding of what I'm supposed to do while playing it. (I don't know what I'm supposed to do with the bombs that appear every so often, for instance.)

The trio of demos discussed above are just a small sample of the ones I've nabbed from the Japanese eShop, so expect a similar post (or two) to this one to be published soon.

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Month with Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, Part 1

I thought I'd take a more straightforward approach to this month's "Bye-Bye, Backlog" follow-up posts. For instance, here are a few stats related to my playthrough of Square Enix's Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, which was released for the DS in late 2006:

* So far, I've played the game for just about three and a half hours.
* In that time, I've saved 24 of my kidnapped (slimenapped?) buddies.
* I've only opened up two locations: Forewood Forest and Tootinschleiman's Tomb.
* Unfortunately, I can't remember how many of the game's tank-on-tank battles I've experienced up to this point, although I want to say I've completed four or five.

Other than that, what do I like and what do I hate about Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime right now? Actually, I can't say I hate any part of it. On the contrary, I like pretty much every aspect of this adorable overhead action-puzzler.

My favorite aspect has to be the core gameplay, which mainly involves slamming into enemies (with the titular Rocket's "Elasto Blast" move), popping them into the air and then catching them on your back (or should I say head?). That captured baddies can be stacked--three high--and tossed at their cohorts is the icing on this pixelated cake.

That only makes up a portion of Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime's gameplay, though; with the other part consisting of the above-mentioned tank-on-tank battles. Surprisingly (to me, at least), I'm not enjoying these sequences as much as I'm enjoying the overworld (for lack of a better word) ones. Too often they feel like a chaotic mess, with me flinging bullets and rocks and whatnot at the enemy tank without much rhyme or reason. Maybe I'm just missing some heretofore strategic element of these encounters?

Other than that one stumbling block, though, I'm having a lot of fun with this game and I'm very much looking forward to unlocking additional locations and rescuing more of my slime buddies. As such, expect me to put another few hours into the game this week and look for me to publish a second "My Month with Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime" next Monday (if not before).

See also: Previous posts related to the 'Bye-Bye, Backlog' project

Japanese 3DS owners get the best Swapnote stationary designs

I don't know about you, but I haven't opened up my 3DS' Swapnote app for some time now.

That's not a reflection on the quality of the product, mind you; rather it's a reflection on my inability to deal with the flood of a million (give or take a few thousand) Swapnotes that are sure to flood my in-box should I decide to check in on it.

I'm seriously considering testing my mettle, though, thanks to the following handful of stationary designs that have been sent to Japanese 3DS owners in recent weeks.

I'm pretty keen on the one above, which first appeared about a month ago in response to the continued success of Denpa Ningen no RPG 2 (aka The "Denpa" Men 2), because of its colorful, Katamari Damacy-esque vibe.

The rather classy one above, on the other hand, was released to celebrate the arrival of the new year.

In a cruel twist of fate, not only do Japanese 3DS owners get to play Tobidase Dōbutsu no Mori (aka Animal Crossing: New Leaf), but they also get to exchange adorable, Animal Crossing-themed notes and doodles thanks to the stationary design seen above (which was first delivered to unsuspecting gamers a week or so ago).

Two days ago, the folks at Nintendo starting sending out the precious piece of stationary that can be seen above, which once again includes characters from the popular eShop title, Denpa Ningen no RPG 2.

Will those of us who don't have Japanese 3DSes (or don't have friends who have Japanese 3DS3s) ever gain access to any of these Swapnote designs? I have my doubts, but I'm crossing my fingers and toes all the same.