Friday, May 10, 2013

Five Famicom games I'm going to (attempt to) play once I've learned enough Japanese

Now that I've broken the ice and written a post about five of the PC Engine games I'm going to attempt to play through one I've learned enough Japanese, I may as well continue that line of thinking and plow through a number of similar posts devoted to other not-available-in-English games I've always wanted to play, right?

I agree. This post, then, will focus on five Famicom games that currently reside on my "play as soon as you've learned enough Japanese" (whatever that means) shortlist, while future posts likely will focus on GameBoy Advance, Game Gear, PlayStation and WonderSwan games. (Don't worry, I'm considering adding Mega Drive, PlayStation 2, Saturn and Super Famicom games to this series, too.)


1. Digital Devil Monogatari: Megami Tensei--I've yet to play any of the mainline Megami Tensei or Shin Megami Tensei titles (Shin Megami Tensei IV for the 3DS will be my first), so why do I want to play this one so badly? I guess I'm a sucker for old-school dungeon-crawlers and RPGs. Let's just hope that this one relies entirely (or at least mostly) on hiragana and katakana, rather than kanji, to tell its story--otherwise, I may end up wishing I'd avoided it altogether.


2. Ganbare Goemon Gaiden I and II--A pair of Goemon-based RPGs, you say? And they feature some surprisingly nice (although by no means amazing) graphics? Where do I sign up? Oh, and another feather in the pixelated caps worn by this pair of Konami-made games: both have absolutely breathtaking box art.


3. Lagrange Point--Considering how many Famicom games have been translated into English by fans over the years, I'm more than a bit surprised that this one has yet to join the club, so to speak. I mean, not only was it developed and published by Konami, but it's also a sci-fi RPG, for crying out loud. Maybe the VRC7 chip that was used to enhance the game's music and sound effects has hampered translators? Whatever the reason, I've always wanted to play it, so hopefully I'll be able to do so sooner rather than later. (Although, honestly, I'll take what I can get.)


4. Shin Onigashima--Call me crazy, but I've been curious about this text-based adventure ever since I first laid eyes on a few screenshots of it as a youngster. Back then, I was especially attracted to its overtly Asian art style, but these days I also like that, according to the Shin Onigashima Wikipedia entry, its story apparently is made up of "numerous interwoven Japanese fairytales."


5. Square's Tom Sawyer--I was blissfully unaware of this 8-bit, RPG-ified take on Mark Twain's classic novel from 1876 until my pal, blogger Drew Mackie, published an eye-opening post about it ("An Ill-Advised Trip Down a Pixelated River") last summer. I've wanted to play it ever since. Given that, maybe this should be the first Japanese-heavy Famicom game I attempt once I've learned enough of the language?

See also: 'Five PC Engine games I'm going to (attempt to) play once I've learned enough Japanese'

Thursday, May 09, 2013

'The ultimate game of cat and mouse'

I've long been a fan of Namco's arcade classic, Mappy--for proof, read through my "Great Gaymathon" review of its Famicom port--so it shouldn't be too surprising to hear me come out in support of the following print, produced by the ├╝ber-talented Zac Gorman.


If you're in the mood for game-related illustrations, by the way, I'd highly recommend heading over to Gorman's site, Magical Game Time, to check out this compilation of doodles--which features a Bub (or is it Bob?) design that's miles better than the one currently used by Taito--as well as this recent-ish EarthBound comic.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Step aside, Super Mario Sunshine--it's time for me to play some Shake Kids!

At long last, "the day" has arrived.

No, not the day I sell my body (or soul ... or whatever else) so I can afford to buy a PC Engine LT and still have some spending money left over for other games and systems.

Rather, it's the day when I can finally start playing through the classic (not really) Japanese PlayStation platformer, Shake Kids!

Actually, I've already spent about an hour with this delightfully odd import, so why don't I share a few early impressions of it here rather than make you wait for its eventual "Great Gaymathon" review?



Before I chat about Shake Kids' graphics and gameplay, though, I thought I'd share a few thoughts on its packaging, which can be seen in photos throughout this post.

Unfortunately, there isn't much to say about this Digital Kids-developed, On DiMand-published title's cover and disc art, or even the contents of its instruction manual, as all of it can be summed up with what sometimes seems to be the Internet's favorite word: meh. (The game's logo is especially atrocious, if you ask me.)

To be honest, its likely some would describe its graphics, soundtrack and gameplay as "meh," too, although I'm personally finding both aspects to be at least somewhat appealing in the early goings.

A good part of the appeal for me is in the game's oddball setting and premise--the latter of which puts players in the shoes of one of two characters (a fairly generic-looking boy or girl) who, for some reason currently unbeknownst to me (I can't understand the story), use cocktails shakers as weapons against the assortment of baddies they encounter during their side-scrolling adventure.


Strangely, said cocktail shakers quickly return to their owners after they've been thrown, as if they're chrome-plated yo-yos rather than shiny bar implements. Most enemies can be taken out with a few well-placed hits, by the way, although that's not the only option made available to players. Another: after scooping groups of baddies into their shakers, gamers are transported to an alternate reality that can only be described as a disco-ball-topped dance floor, where they shake their butts (and everything else) until the trapped enemies expire.

As for why you do this: I have no idea. It's cute and reasonably fun, though, so who really cares? (The same can't quite be said about the rest of Shake Kids' gameplay, I'm afraid, which, at least in the early stages, is too straightforward for its own good.)

All of the above is portrayed in rather rough (graphical) fashion, it has to be said. Of course, it's clear from the second you start the game that this title's makers, like many of their counterparts at the time, struggled with the transition from sprites to polygons.

Still, I find its blocky graphics to be pretty charming in a Rankin/Bass Productions (of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" fame) sort of way.



I do wish the game's artists and designers had gone a little further with its look, though. Too often, Shake Kids' locales and even enemies are the definition of drab. A few more touches like the house that's shaped like an octopus (encountered at the very beginning of the game) could have made the final product so much more enticing.

Thankfully, drab is the last word I'd use to describe this import-only title's music. Of course, it's hard to hate on a soundtrack that's so full of energetic, late-1990s flair.

I'll continue to poke and prod at Shake Kids! in the coming days and weeks in the hopes of experiencing enough of it to be able to produce yet another "Great Gaymathon" review. In the meantime, you may enjoy checking out this YouTube clip, which shines a light on a number of the elements I've mentioned here.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Elsewhere, Mayle, Womb Odyssey and other excellent 'My Famicase Exhibition 2013' entries

Calling all fans of faux cartridge labels: this year's "My Famicase Exhibition" entries are now available for public consumption at famicase.com.

Surprisingly, a good number of the fake labels that were compiled for this year's event--which annually collects a mountain of made-up Famicom cartridge art and then displays them on line and in Tokyo's Meteor shop--were concocted by Western artists. Among my favorites:

Apple Pickin's--This John-Charles Holmes charming creation tasks players with picking apples "on a warm and breezy May afternoon. But only the ripest apples will do!"



Elsewhere: Labyrinth of Cemetery--Jeremy Hobbs' entry plops players into the shoes of a "lost monster girl" who has to escape the Great Graveyard or "become its newest resident." (For more information on this imaginary game, head over to Hobbs' great blog, Ribbon Black.)



Mayle--Does the idea of delivering mail to a bunch of islanders sound fun to you? If so, you'd probably enjoy playing artist Paul Veer's summery Mayle. (I know I would--even if it sounds a tad tedious.)



Witch Hunt--Only folks with hearts of stone--or a certifiable aversion to witches--could fail to be captivated by Elena You's deliciously dark label art (below). Also sure to appeal to most right-in-the-head gamers: this title's premise, which has players "navigate complex mazes and avoid capture" while attempting to escape a treasure-filled pirate's lair.



Womb Odyssey--Marc Rios' entry certainly wins the "Most Intriguing Title" award of this year's "My Famicase Exhibition." Its description is similarly intriguing, as it sends players on a "microscopic excursion into the sacred chambers of life."



All sorts of additionally wonderful concoctions can be found at famicase.com/13/, of course, so I'd highly recommend checking out the site at your earliest convenience.

See also: previous 'My Famicase Exhibition' posts

Monday, May 06, 2013

So long, 'Bye-Bye, Backlog,' hello, 'Baby Got Back(log)'

I know it may seem a little late in the game (pun intended) to change the title of this particular series from "Bye-Bye, Backlog" to "Baby Got Back(log)," but, really, it's only early May, so there are nearly eight months left in the year to make use of the new moniker.

I can't claim responsibility for "Baby Got Back(log)," by the way--that honor goes to reader Tony Sadowski, who recently suggested it via The Gay Gamer Facebook page.

I thought it was so spot-on perfect that I couldn't help but steal it--with Tony's permission, naturally--and put it it to use.



And who knows? Maybe I'll continue this little "project" of mine next year, too. Not just so I can type "Baby Got Back(log)" as often as possible, mind you--although I'd surely be lying if I said that wasn't at least a slight source of inspiration.

Anyway, aside from that, I probably should tell you a bit about the games I've played since the last "Bye-Bye, Backlog," er, "Baby Got Back(log)" post I published.

Sadly, I've only enjoyed two titles in that time, both of which were nabbed from the 3DS eShop: Crimson Shroud and Witch & Hero.

I'm absolutely loving the former game, by the way. I love its graphics, its soundtrack--even its quirky, table-top-RPG-esque gameplay. I can't say I understand everything that's going on at the moment, but I'm guessing I'll get up to speed eventually.



I'm also continuing to enjoy Witch & Hero, of course, although not as much as I was earlier in the week. That's mainly because I'm stuck on the final boss. Here's hoping I can topple him tomorrow, so I can type up a "somewhat gay review" about it.

In the meantime, are any of you playing either of these games--or have you in the recent past? If so, what do you (or did you) think of them?

And if you aren't playing (or haven't played) either of them, what games are you playing right now?

Sunday, May 05, 2013

It's like the soundtrack to the awesome Mappy sequel of my dreams ...

The header above is the gist of my reaction to hearing, for the first time, the song "Circus" by SEXY-SYNTHESIZER (featuring Chihiro).

Which, of course, means I enjoyed the hell out of that initial encounter--as, really, who wouldn't love to hear a song that sounds like the main backing track of an imaginary follow-up to the Namco-made, mouse-fronted arcade classic of yesteryear?




I can't claim to have come across this gem myself, by the way. That honor belongs to Bill Sannwald (aka Mister Raroo), who turned me on to it a few days ago. Thanks, Bill!

To hear more tracks from SEXY-SYNTHESIZER's just-released EP, check out sexy-synthesizer.bandcamp.com.