Saturday, June 08, 2013

My Chic Pixel Plus! debut

Sick to death of E3 2013 predictions? If not, you might want to check out episode three of Chic Pixel Plus! sometime this weekend, as hostess Anne Lee and I spend a good bit of time discussing the upcoming event during the just-uploaded podcast.

Don't worry, E3 2013 wasn't the only thing we chatted about while recording this episode of Chic Pixel Plus! We also spent some time talking about learning Japanese and about Anne's rapidly approaching trip to the erstwhile Land of the Rising Sun.

Would you believe the latter topic spurred us to talk about the games--both new and old--Anne's hoping to pick up while in Japan? I didn't think so.

Speaking of old games, the final segment of the podcast finds me attempting to sell Anne on a couple of retro Japanese consoles. Can you guess which ones?

Should all or even part of the above sound appealing, I'd highly recommend heading over to Anne's blog, Chic Pixel, and taking in episode three of the Chic Pixel Plus! podcast at your earliest convenience (preferably before E3 starts early next week).  

See also: posts about The Nichiest Podcast Ever, another podcast that features both Anne and myself

Friday, June 07, 2013

Should I be a boy or a girl? (Or, my kind of silly Animal Crossing: New Leaf conundrum)

So, here's the thing: I'm currently feeling a bit spastic because I can't make up my mind as to whether my Animal Crossing: New Leaf character will be a boy or a girl.

Why's that silly, you ask?

Basically, it's silly because in the past I've pretty much only chosen girl characters while playing Animal Crossing games.

There are a number of reasons for that, of course--with the main ones being that I think they're cuter and I prefer their selection of clothing and accessories--but that's really neither here nor there. The fact is that I usually go with a girl, no question.

So, why am I hemming and hawing about going with one this time around?

For starters, with New Leaf, I'll undoubtedly spend some of my time visiting friends' towns and otherwise interacting with fellow players while making use of the game's online capabilities. That's virgin territory for me, as all of my previous Animal Crossing forays have been completely solo affairs.

In that kind of situation, I was able to lose myself in the character and world I created--much like how I've been losing myself in the characters and world of THE "DENPA" MEN 2 over the last few days, or how I lost myself in the characters and world of Fire Emblem: Awakening and EarthBound before that.

Throw some honest-to-goodness, real-life interaction--especially with people I know--into the equation, though, and all of the sudden I have a different perspective on the experience before me.

Are people expecting to interact with "me" while traipsing around my village or theirs? And, if they are, does that mean I should play as myself rather than as a girl with rosy cheeks and pale pink pigtails?

Those are only a few of the questions currently swirling through my brain, though. A few others: will people think it's weird or strange or odd that I've chosen to play as a girl rather than as a boy? And, as such, will it make our online interactions awkward or uncomfortable or weird?

I know I'm likely over-thinking things, but I decided to share these thoughts and insecurities and feelings here anyway because I think it's interesting to suss out where they come from and what they mean.

I also think it's interesting to consider why I even care if people think it's weird or strange or odd to choose to play as a virtual character that's of a gender different from my real-world one. After all, given the name and content of this blog, I clearly don't much care if people have a problem with me being gay, or liking the color pink, or enjoying games with "cute" characters and settings.

So, why do I care if people have a problem with me preferring to play as a girl rather than a boy character in New Leaf?

I'm not sure, to tell you the truth.

I'm also not yet sure how I'm going to answer or solve this particular conundrum--although my current solution is that I'll make two different characters: one of whom will be a boy character who resembles my actual self (and who will represent me when I convo with friends, most likely) and one of whom is a girl who exists simply to look cute and don fabulous frocks.

With that out of my system, what are all of you going to do once you get your hands on a copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf? Are you planning to create a character who at least somewhat mirrors the real-life you, or will you create one who's little more than a figment of your imagination?

Thursday, June 06, 2013

THE 'DENPA' MEN 2 don't need no stinkin' overworld (and a few other thoughts on this tough-as-nails 3DS eShop RPG)

Don't get me wrong, I like that the designers at Genius Sonority decided to beef up THE "DENPA" MEN 2: Beyond the Waves by giving it an overworld for gamers to explore.

That said, the more I time I spend exploring that overworld, the more I realize that--for me, at least--it wasn't really needed.

Although I've only spent about five hours with the game so far, that's been enough for me to realize that I rather liked--and possibly preferred--the streamlined nature of the first game, subtitled They Came By Wave.

In part, that's because the Beyond the Waves' overworld, at least at this early juncture, can be a bit baffling for players in terms of figuring out where to go next. (Some of the blame here has to be laid at the feet of the game's writers, it has to be said, as they tend to imbue non-player characters with the vaguest of clues.)

Another reason this title's overworld isn't all it's initially cracked up to be: unlike some other RPGs, it isn't all that fun to explore. That isn't because it's boring or nondescript, mind you; instead, it's because your party of merry "Denpa" men (and women) are brutally attacked every few steps--or so it seems.

As such, if you're anything like me, you'll usually find yourself rushing as quickly as possible from one point on the map to another.

Given all of the above, I guess it shouldn't be too surprising to hear me say I wouldn't have minded at all if the folks at Genius Sonority nixed the overworld idea in favor of simply expanding on the "hub world plus multiple islands" concept of the original.

Does this mean I'm currently feeling a little disappointed with THE "DENPA" MEN 2? Not really. In fact, I'm pretty darn happy with the majority of it at the moment.

The aspects that are making me the happiest at the moment: the new body colors (yellow, purple and pink, as well as gold and silver) and the additional clothing and equipment that can be used to alter the looks and even abilities of your "Denpa" crew.

Oh, and the option that allows players to jump, basically at will (although there are exceptions), between any previously visited locale--mighty handy for avoiding at least some of those pesky random battles, of course.

What do I think of the fishing and gardening elements that were added to this sequel? Nothing so far--mainly because I've barely made use of them. Already, though, I can sense that neither aspect will be as captivating as, say, their counterparts that appear in the Animal Crossing series.

So, that's what I think of THE "DENPA" MEN 2: Beyond the Waves thus far. Are any of you also playing it? If so, what do you think of it?

See also: 'Ten questions with the makers of THE 'DENPA' MEN 2: Beyond the Waves'

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Zac Gorman x Dragon Quest

You want to know why I've long been fascinated by Square Enix's vaunted Dragon Quest series?

Take in the illustration below, which was made by artist Zac Gorman for an iam8bit gallery exhibition that opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

Seriously, how could you not fall head over heels in love with such a charming cast of characters?

For those of you who are up for a bit more of Gorman's brilliance, check out this Donkey Kong-inspired t-shirt design.

No joke: if I hadn't just bought two game-related tees, I'd pick up one of the above faster than you can say, "It's-a me, Jumpman!"

Sexy Spa + Red Loincloth Mario

OK, so the "Sexy Spa Mario" seen in the photo below (and here) isn't quite as studly as the one showcased in this pair of previous posts.

That doesn't mean he isn't worth checking out, does it?

At the very least, he's worth a quick glance--maybe even a double take--just for the effort Flickr user Danny Yama, aka danny_8bit, put into creating him (out of Perler Beads).

Also worth a bit of visual attention, in my humble opinion: Yama's "Red Loincloth Mario," which can be seen below and here.

The question I have for the folks at Nintendo of Japan: when are we going to see these Mario personas in an official Super Mario Bros. game?

To see more of Yama's concoctions, saunter on over to at your earliest convenience.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Coming soon: me on the Chic Pixel Plus! podcast

Those of you who follow me on Twitter likely already know this, but here's a little heads up for the rest of you: last night Anne Lee and I recorded the third episode of her podcast, Chic Pixel Plus!

We discussed all kinds of fun stuff during our hour-and-a-half chat, although the majority of it focused on Japan--as in, why Anne and I decided to learn Japanese (I just started; Anne's been at it for years) and how Anne's planning to spend her time in the erstwhile Land of the Rising Sun when she and her husband travel there in just over a week.

While discussing Anne's upcoming trip, by the way, we spent quite a bit of time talking about some of the games--GameBoy Advance ones, especially--she's considering buying while perusing Osaka's main shopping district, "Den-Den Town."

Anne even challenged me to try to sell her on one of the many retro consoles she's sure to encounter while in Japan. Which one did I go with? The PC Engine, of course, although I also suggested she couldn't go wrong with the Famicom.

Anyway, according to Anne, this episode should be available--on her blog, Chic Pixel--sometime early next week. In the meantime, feel free to check out the first two episodes of her podcast here.

See also: posts about The Nichiest Podcast Ever

'The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers'

A hearty thanks goes out to The Gay Gamer commenter and, far more importantly, developer (of Astroman and Tiny Barbarian DX, among other titles) Michael Stearns for pointing out the following Kickstarter, which is in support of British writer John Szczepaniak's ambitious quest to pen a book entitled "The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers."

Szczepaniak's goal for this £50,000 project: to cram "The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers" full of more interviews with Japanese developers than any previous gaming-centric tome.

"There are so many Japanese developers from over the decades who have fascinating stories, but they don't have the opportunity to communicate with English speaking audiences," Szczepaniak explains.

"This book will not be a nostalgia trip," he adds. "I am determined to have every page contain at least one previously unknown fact, anecdote or piece of trivia. My passion has always been the undocumented side of games, and regardless of who I speak with my intention will always be to ask them something no one else ever has."

To learn more about Szczepaniak's plan for "The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers," check out the video above or pay a visit to the project's Kickstarter page between now and 6 am EDT on June 30.

Monday, June 03, 2013

I find this quartet of recent-ish Japanese 3DS box arts to be really appealing, too

While hunting down examples of beautiful PS3 box art for this blog post late last week, I came across the following handful of similarly appealing Japanese 3DS covers and decided to conjure up a post about them as well.

The first, below, is of Spike Cunsoft's oddly named (and just as oddly themed--as it has players explore demon-infested dungeons with their illegitimate spawn, er, "Star Children" in tow) Conception II: Guidance of Seven Stars and Muzzle’s Nightmare.

Odd as it may be, Conception II's cover art looks pretty great--thanks in large part to its use of bright blues, purples and magentas.

The design created for New Etrian Odyssey: Millennium Girl's packaging, below, is on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of both color and drama, but that doesn't mean I find it boring.

On the contrary, I find it to be completely compelling. Strange as it probably seems, I'm particularly taken with the font that makes up its logo--a perfect complement, in my opinion, to the ethereal illustration that supports it.

Mario and Luigi RPG 4's box art, below, also keeps things simple, and benefits greatly from it.

The only thing I'd change: that bat-thing that's hovering just above Mario's head. It really isn't needed. Thankfully, it hardly destroys the rest of the design, so I won't be too disappointed if it appears on the game's North American cover, too.

I have a feeling I'm going to be in the minority when it comes to liking Monster Hunter 4's box art, below, but I don't care.

Of course, I've long had a soft spot for the kind of illustrations that graced covers of North American Genesis games--which Monster Hunter 4's art harkens back to, even if unintentionally--so you might want to take my opinion with a large grain of salt.

What do all of you think about the box arts above? Do you love them? Hate them? Don't worry, a shrug of the shoulders is an acceptable response, too.

See also: 'I find this trio of recent-ish Japanese PS3 box arts to be really appealing'