Friday, April 12, 2013

Let's Play: 'Which Box Art is Better?' (Umihara Kawase edition)

Now that Sayonara Umihara Kawase's box art has been unveiled (I came across it yesterday on NeoGAF), I thought it would be a good idea to dedicate a "Which Box Art is Better?" post to this vaunted series of platformers.

Before we get to the cover art that's been created for the newest Umihara Kawase title, which will be released this summer for the 3DS, let's check out the covers that came before it.

For starters, here's the illustration that was used on the original Super Famicom release (which hit the streets in Japan all the way back in 1994):

Three years later, Umihara Kawase Shun was released for the PlayStation, with the following piece of art gracing that version's packaging:

Strangely, Umihara Kawase Shun features between-stage commercials for a company called Mitchell. They were replaced (with pieces of illustrator Toshinobu Kondo's artwork) in a "Second Edition" of the game that saw the light of day in 2000. Here is that iteration's box art:

Fast forward eight years and you encounter Umihara Kawase Portable, a supposedly bug-riddled port of Umihara Kawase Shun:

That was followed a year later by Umihara Kawase Shun Kanzenban, a DS cart that contained both the Super Famicom and PlayStation titles as well as a handful of additional stages. Thankfully, it's reported to be bug-free.

Finally, we come to the recently announced Sayonara Umihara Kawase, a full-on sequel that's being developed by the same folks who made the series' initial offerings. Its cover art can be seen below.

Which piece of Umihara Kawase box art is my favorite? The one produced for the original pressing of Umihara Kawase Shun, no question. That said, I'm also pretty fond of the covers made for the Super Famicom and PSP releases.

I'm not much of a fan of Sayonara Umihara Kawase's cover art, sadly. It's by no means terrible, mind you, but it's also kind of boring--in my opinion, at least. Of course, all of the creations seen above are variations on a rather ho-hum theme, aren't they?

Now that I've had my say, what do all of you think? Do you prefer one example of Umihara Kawase box art over another?

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

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Who wouldn't want to be seen wearing an 8-bit-ified 'Virgin de Guadalupe' t-shirt?

I, for one, would strut around town as proudly as a peacock if I owned the t-shirt bearing the design seen below (and here)--which was produced by one of my favorite gaming-inspired artists, Ashley Anderson.

Of course, I could acquire one of said shirts pretty easily if I made my way over to and handed over $28 of my hard-earned cash.

I may do just that in the next few days, to tell you the truth, as I really like how Anderson's sprite-based illustration looks against a sage-y green American Apparel tee.

Do you think it would clash too much if I paired the shirt above with this "Black Honey" pin that Anne Lee (of the Chic Pixel blog and The Nichiest Podcast Ever) recently turned me on to?

I'm not usually a fan of the black Wii U, but ...

... I'll make an exception in the case of the custom-painted system seen in the photo below (and here).

I especially like the blood spatter on the Wii U GamePad, by the way--although the piece of art that's plastered across the side of the system is pretty sweet, too.

Have any of you played ZombiU? If so, what do you think of it--and would you recommend it to someone like me (a guy who likes zombies despite the fact that they're a bit overdone at the moment)?

See also: more photos of this awesome OSKUNK creation

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Another update RE: my quest to learn Japanese

The last time I checked in regarding my quest to learn Japanese (a whole week and a half ago), I revealed that I'd successfully taught myself the language's hiragana alphabet (syllabary, if you're a stickler for such things).

What have I achieved since then? Why, I've only learned the language's katakana alphabet, that's all.

Granted, some folks learn both of these alphabets--er, syllabaries--in week or less, but neither my brain nor my schedule would allow for that.

Anyway, as a result of my two-to-three-week dedication to enhancing my ability to communicate with the world (ha!), I can now speak, read and write (with proper stroke order!) all of the Japanese language's hiragana and katakana characters.

As for what's next: vocabulary and basic grammar, mostly by way of the first volume of Genki's An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese.

I'm also going to take a Twitter friend's advice and stick Post-It notes with words like "chair" and "lamp" and "vase" (in Japanese, of course) around our house in order to speed up my comprehension of such everyday terms.

Will any of this help me learn enough Japanese to at least fumble my way through games I've always wanted to play, like Tengai Makyou II: Manji Maru (PC Engine), Shin Onigashima (Famicom Disk System) and, er, Royal Stone (Game Gear)?

I have no idea, but I'll do my best to keep all of you in the loop either way.

See also: 'A long-overdue update RE: my quest to learn Japanese'

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

My Month with Super Mario Sunshine, Part 1

At long last, I've started playing through Super Mario Sunshine--a game that was released all the way back in 2002 but which I didn't acquire until a few years ago.

So far, I've only played this tropical-themed, GameCube-based platformer for about three hours. I had hoped to spend a bit more time with it than that in the last week or so, of course, but that's all I was able to devote to it due to an overly busy work schedule and an annoying bout of tendinitis (at least that's what I think it is) in my right arm.

What do I think of Super Mario Sunshine after capturing my first seven "Shine Sprites"? Here are the game's pros and cons as I current see them.


FLUDD--Although Mario's water-squirting accessory is far from perfect in my mind, I'm still enjoying tinkering with it. I especially enjoy making use of its hovering capabilities.

Isle Delfino--To be honest, before I began I wasn't sure if I was going to like Super Mario Sunshine's resort-like setting. Those apprehensions flew out the window as soon as I set foot into the title's first real stage ("Road to the Big Windmill"), which is so bright and cheerful that only avowed curmudgeons are likely to find it off-putting. That said, it'll be interesting to see if the atmosphere retains its freshness throughout this adventure or if it becomes a bit stale and repetitive over time.

Non-FLUDD stages--I've lost track of how many people have told me over the years that this game's "secret stages," which don't allow players to use Mario's FLUDD contraption, are its highlight. Given all of that hype, you'd think that I may have found them underwhelming. I haven't. In fact, the break they offer from the Isle Delfino levels has been refreshing so far, as has the "old school" challenge they offer.


A little help, please?--Although I've only played through a couple of Super Mario Sunshine's many stages so far, I've already found myself lost on more than a few occasions. One of those occasions ("Petey Piranha Strikes Back") was due to the title not properly showing me what I was supposed to do (or, rather, where I was supposed to find ol' Petey), while another ("Red Coins of Windmill Village") was due to me being unable to discern the location of an unearthed Shine Sprite. Granted, I'm usually against games doing too much to hold a player's hand, but in this case I think a bit more could be done to let someone know

Playing blind--As much as I've been annoyed by the above-mentioned situation so far, it's nothing compared to his one, which centers on Super Mario Sunshine's often-wonky camera. Especially frustrating for me has been attempting to jump from the ground or a roof or a wall onto one of the game's many tightropes, although attempting to race along the tops of said walls and roofs can be just as trying.

Given all of the above, what's my current consensus of this GameCube "classic"? Sadly, I have to say that I'm finding it more annoying and less enjoyable than I imagined I would before I booted it up for the first time.

That's mainly because of all of the problems I'm having with its camera, though, so hopefully I'll come to terms with that aspect of the game in time. (If not, don't be surprised if this series of posts ends with me sharing that I've put my trusty WaveBird controller through our TV or one of our walls.)

Now that I've had my say, what do all of you think of this game--and my impressions of it so far?

See also: previous 'Bye-Bye, Backlog' posts

Monday, April 08, 2013

Not-so-new Bravely Default, Fantasy Life and Sayonara Umihara Kawase news

I say not-so-new in the header above because all of the information included in this post was revealed a few days (or more) ago. Although I wasn't able to mention it here when it was fresh for a variety of reasons, I thought I'd do so now.

For starters, it seems more likely than ever that Square Enix's Bravely Default: Flying Fairy and Level-5's Fantasy Life finally will see release outside of Japan.

In regard to Bravely revealed last Wednesday that during the recent Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, "multiple trusted sources" confirmed that the thus-far-Japan-only 3DS RPG will be localized for English-speaking audiences. As for Fantasy Lifethe same site reported on Tuesday that Level-5 has filed a U.S. trademark for the Animal Crossing-esque title (also for Nintendo's latest dual-screened handheld system).

Sadly, neither game has officially been announced for European or North American release, although it now seems likely that news will be shared sooner rather than later.

In other not-so-new 3DS news: the folks prepping Sayonara Umihara Kawase (it'll hit Japanese store shelves sometime this summer) unveiled the following trailer for this eagerly anticipated platformer on Friday.

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I find it kind of disappointing. I know the Umihara Kawase games that were released for the Super Famicom and PlayStation (and later ported to the PSP and DS) could hardly be considered "lookers," but I think they were far more attractive than what's on display in the video above.

That said, I'm planning to follow through with my pre-order of this 3DS title and I'm also feeling hopeful that the team behind the game will make sure it plays better than it looks.

Are any of you excited about any or all of the above-mentioned news nuggets? If so, which ones--and why?

(Video via