Friday, April 19, 2013

A somewhat gay review of HarmoKnight (3DS)


Game: HarmoKnight 
Genre: Platformer 
Developer: Game Freak 
Publisher: Nintendo 
System: 3DS (eShop)
Release date: 2013

It has to be said, right from the start, that I've been chomping at the bit to play this Game Freak-developed digital title since it was unveiled during a Japanese Nintendo Direct broadcast back in August of last year.

I liked pretty much everything about the chunks of HarmoKnight that were highlighted during its first trailer--its art style, its music and its rhythm-based gameplay, especially. Each of those aspects continued to enthrall me after I played the title's demo for the first time about a month ago, which prompted me to assume this would be the next 3DS release--after THE DENPA MEN and Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, among others--to consume my so-called free time.


How wrong I was. Although HarmoKnight's art style is unquestionably appealing, and while its soundtrack and overall gameplay--which generally consist of "endless running" platformer stages that task players with jumping or hitting enemies and obstacles in time with a backing track's beat, although boss encounters switch things up by going with a more "Simon Says" approach--are (for the most part) stellar, those pieces never come together to produce the thoroughly enjoyable, must-play experience I expected after loving the demo.

In a way, this creation is much like Sega's Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure, which similarly intrigued me in the lead up to its release, only to disappoint and even enrage me (on occasion) afterward.

As for which elements were most responsible for letting me down: the most notable revolves around too many of the game's stages--I'm looking at you, Baroque, Jazz and Rock worlds--feeling cheap from a difficulty standpoint. Sometimes that's due to the background music being too subtle (making it hard to discern an actual beat), while at other times it's due to enemies or obstacles literally coming out of nowhere. (Both of these issues are present in every one of HarmoKnight's maddening mine-cart stages, by the way.)


Three other components that contributed to my more-negative-than-I'd-originally-hoped assessment of HarmoKnight: its lack of checkpoints (although this only becomes a real problem during this eShop title's later levels), its love of narrative text (especially annoying when you consider its story basically boils down to "save the princess from the bad guy") and the fact that it's a fairly short-lived experience (I beat the final boss and encountered the game's end credits after just three hours of play).

Do all of the above-mentioned cons outweigh HarmoKnight's pros--which include not only its art style and soundtrack, but also its Space Channel 5-esque boss and mini-boss battles and Pok√©mon-themed bonus stages? Sadly, I think they do.

I have to say, though, that I'd probably respond to that question in a more positive manner if the game cost $5 or even $10. At $15, though, it's far too flawed to recommend to anyone other than huge fans of rhythm-based platformers--and even those folks are likely to wish they'd refrained from hitting the "buy" button at one point or another.


See also: previous 'somewhat gay' reviews

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Month with Super Mario Sunshine, Part 2

So, my second week with Super Mario Sunshine is over. How did I do this time around--you know, compared with the disaster that was my first week with Mario's most major GameCube outing?

To tell you the truth, I didn't do much better in week two than I did in week one. In part, that's because all sorts of things once again conspired to keep me from gaming as much as I would have liked. (I'll spare you the details.) It has to be said, though, that it's also due to me just not enjoying this game--for all of the reasons I mentioned in my last Super Mario Sunshine write-up and then some.

Still, I gave it a go and collected a handful of additional Shine Sprites. I only nabbed two of them, though, after turning to videos on YouTube. Before that, I had no idea how I was supposed to accomplish the goals mentioned at the start of each respective stage.

That, in a nutshell, is my biggest problem with this title at the moment. All too often I have no idea where I'm supposed to go or what I'm supposed to do in a given level in order to snatch its precious Shine Sprite.

Before you call me an idiot: I never had this problem with Super Mario 64 or either of the Super Mario Galaxy games. Maybe I'm just trying to run through things too quickly? Or maybe I should better pay attention to the things that are being said to me by the odd-looking residents of Isle Delfino?

Regardless, I'm not quite to the point of giving up on Super Mario Sunshine, although I'll admit to being awfully close to that breaking point. I'd say that if things don't improve appreciably within the next few days, I'm going to move on to something else. Life is too short, in my opinion, to waste time on games that make you want to stomp on your controller until it's a pile of plastic dust.

Speaking of games that produce violent reactions: when I wasn't attempting to play Super Mario Sunshine last week, I attempted to play one of the latest games to hit the 3DS eShop, Game Freak's HarmoKnight.

As flawed as I've found the latter title to be so far (I'll explain in further detail in a "somewhat gay" review of it that'll be published tomorrow), I've enjoyed it more than I've enjoyed Super Mario Sunshine--although even HarmoKnight has made me consider throwing my 3DS against the nearest wall on more than one occasion.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Don't worry, I won't be buying the Animal Crossing 3DS XL. Or at least I don't think I'll be buying it ...

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm pretty sure I won't be buying the Animal Crossing 3DS XL that will be released in North America (and throughout Europe, too, I believe) alongside Animal Crossing: New Leaf on June 9 (June 14 in Europe).

I still love the system's classy design, of course, but I like my pink-and-white XL nearly as much--and, really, who needs to own two different XLs?



The Animal Crossing 3DS XL's European and North American release was announced during a pair of Nintendo Directs that aired earlier this morning, by the way. You can watch them here and here, respectively, if you'd like. A Japanese Nintendo Direct (deemed the "Luigi Special 2") went live at the same time and can be viewed here.

I took the time to watch both the Japanese and North American Nintendo Directs, so I figured I might as well share my thoughts on some of what was covered during those broadcasts.



Japan's getting a Luigi-branded 3DS LL--Haven't Japanese gamers received enough limited edition LLs? I guess not, as another one--featuring a number of green Luigi silhouettes--will be released there alongside Mario & Luigi RPG 4 (aka Mario & Luigi: Dream Team) on July 18.

Another Mario Party? Yawn--What can I say? I'm not all that interested in this long-running series. In fact, I don't think I've played a Mario Party game since the second one. That said, I know a lot of people still get a kick out of them, so I'm glad another is being prepped for release.



AHHHHHHHH!!!--That was the gist of my reaction to the news that we'll soon be getting a new entry in the Yoshi's Island series, by the way. Although I wasn't sure what to think of the new art style at first, it's since grown on me and now the game is at or near the top of my "most wanted" list for whichever year it winds up being released.



I think I've changed my mind about Sayonara Umihara Kawase's graphics--I've been pretty down on this game in the recent past, despite my love for previous Umihara Kawase titles, but the gameplay snippet shown during the Japanese Nintendo Direct prompted me to do a 180, as they say. Now, I still don't consider it gorgeous, by any means, but I do think it looks better in motion than it does in statis screenshots. Assuming its gameplay holds up to prior iterations, I have a feeling this will be a 3DS game well worth owning. 



You had me at A Link to the Past 2--So, those devious designers and developers at Nintendo are busy working on a follow-up to one of my all-time favorite games, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I couldn't be happier. Well, OK, maybe I could be happier if the game was sprite-based rather than polygon-based, but that's probably asking a bit much in this day and age. Also, this sequel earns bonus points for employing an art style that somehow reminds me of (a prettier) Super Mario RPG.



Bravely Default: Flying Fairy it is (I think)--You know how I just said I couldn't be happier? I was lying, as this piece of news was responsible for bringing the biggest smile to my face while watching today's Nintendo Directs. Sadly, it won't hit store shelves here until 2014, but I have a feeling it'll be worth the wait. By the way, does this mean the folks at Nintendo and Square Enix--who will be publishing the game in tandem, it seems--have decided to stick with the Japanese name? I sure hope so.

Now that I've had my say, what did all of you think of this morning's reveals? Did they satisfy you, or did they leave you wanting more?

Who's up for another episode of The Nichiest Podcast Ever?

You didn't think Anne, shidoshi and I gave up on this venture, did you? Sure, it's been just over two months since the last one (our fifth) graced the world with its presence (ahem), but the only reason we didn't record one in March was that all three of us found ourselves a tad too busy. (OK, so it really was because shidoshi was busy. Anne and I didn't mind the delay, though!)

Anyway, we recorded another episode last night, and I'm hoping the five of you who listen to it (I kid--kind of) will enjoy this one every bit as much as you've enjoyed our previous efforts.


As for what we talked about this time around: well, we began by chatting about a trio of nichier-than-niche soon-to-be-released PSP games (Sweet Fuse: At Your Side, Class of Heroes 2 and Black Rock Shooter) as well as a trio of so-far-Japan-only 3DS games (Bravely Default, Fantasy Life and Sayonara Umihara Kawase) that, rumor has it, will see the light of day in the western world sometime soon. Oh, and we also (finally) chimed in on the PS4 and the next Xbox.


Finally, we all spent a few minutes cheerleading in support of some recently released niche-y games (I chose HarmoKnight, Anne selected Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and shidoshi went with Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers) and played yet another round of everyone's favorite guessing game, "Nichiest of Them All."

If you'd like to listen to the first five episodes of The Nichiest Podcast Ever before taking in the latest one (which should go live within the next few days), you can do so here: radio.morningproject.com.

Monday, April 15, 2013

*2*0*0*0*

Is it weird that I'm celebrating the fact that I've published 2,000 posts on this blog since I started it all the way back in early 2007?

I hope not, because that's what I'm doing with this post.

Mind you, this isn't actually my 2,000th post. That post was published a few days ago. Technically, this post is this blog's 2006th.

Still, better late than never, right?



In all seriousness, I'm pretty shocked that I've made it to this point.

I'm fairly certain I know what's kept me going for the last six years, though: all of you great folks who visit and comment and otherwise help make this a blog one that I continue to enjoy updating on a nearly daily basis.

Thank you all for your support, kindness and friendship.

See also: *1*0*0*0*

Magweasel's back!

Don't sweat it if you have no idea what "Magweasel" is. After all, it's been many moons since I last mentioned this superb gaming blog, which has been rather spottily maintained by former GamePro editor Kevin Gifford since early 2009.

I say "spottily" because after pumping out a good number of brilliantly in-depth posts about games--those released for the famed PC Engine, especially--and Japan between the site's inception and August 2010, Gifford and his witty commentary basically fell off the face of the earth (with the exception of a brief reprise that lasted from March to June 2011).



Anyway, as you've likely gathered from this post's header, he's back. Not only that, but in the last five or so days he's published four posts--including this one about the Famicom port of Hudson Soft's Lode Runner and this one about Yoshi's Safari (aka Yoshi's Road Hunting).

I have no idea how long Gifford's planning to stick around this time, but I sincerely hope he does so long enough to make a sizable contribution to his incomparable "I ♥ The PC Engine" series, which is what attracted me to his blog in the first place.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The perfect Animal Crossing: New Leaf accompaniment

I don't know about you, but I'm going to spend a sizable chunk of this coming June glued to my pink-and-white 3DS XL--which will, of course, have an Animal Crossing: New Leaf cart stuck squarely into its backside.

Paul Veer's contribution, above, is my favorite so far.
A comparably smaller, but not at all insignificant, chunk of my time that month likely will be spent with my nose stuck in Meghan Lands' and Justin Woo's Animal Crosszine, a 70-page "love letter to the Animal Crossing video game series" that will contain art, comics and stories that have been contributed by 38 different writers and artists (including Daniel Bressette, Ashley Davis and Jake Lawrence).

The latter is supposed to ship around the time of the former's North American release (June 9), by the way, and can be pre-ordered--for just $12 per copy--right now at animalcrosszine. bigcartel.com. (If you'd like to know a bit more about this black-and-white fanzine before handing over your hard-earned dough, check out its official tumblr at animalcrosszine.tumblr.com.

In other New Leaf-related news, Nintendo of Europe recently published on its website an English version of an Iwata Asks Q&A about this 3DS title that originally appeared on its Japanese parent company's site back in October. Read it in all its giggly glory here.