Friday, November 01, 2013

I really hope this is Bravely Default's North American box art, too

So, the rather fabulous image seen below will grace the cover of each and every copy of Bravely Default: For the Sequel sold in Japan starting on Dec. 5.

As far as I can tell, the Australian and European versions of this beautiful 3DS RPG (which will hit store shelves on Dec. 7 and Dec. 6, respectively) will sport the same box art--with the "For the Sequel" bit removed, of course.

Does this mean we can expect it to be used once again when Bravely Default finally makes its way to North America sometime between Jan. 1 and Mar. 31?

I sure hope so. I know it's not the most original of compositions, but it's colorful and bright and brings to mind Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, so I'm pretty fond of it despite the fact that it's far from unique.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A few quick-and-dirty impressions of Sayonara Umihara Kawase

Those of you who read this post the other day probably noticed the bit at the end about how I've already put some time into both Pokémon X and Sayonara Umihara Kawase since my Pokémon Center 3DS LL arrived on my doorstep.

Would you believe I've played more of Sayonara Umihara Kawase than I have Pokémon X? Well, even if you don't believe it, it's the truth.

Now, I haven't experienced so much of the third entry in the vaunted Umihara Kawase series--which, as you've hopefully heard by now, will hit the North American 3DS eShop in early 2014 as Yumi's Odd Odyssey--that I'm ready to fully review it, but I've experienced enough of it (a couple of hours, I would say) that I'm more than ready to share a few early impressions of it. So, here they are:

* If you're looking for a "looker," you'd better look somewhere else--That's a long (and rather stupid, I have to admit) way of warning folks that this game is pretty darn ugly. And this is coming from a guy who generally doesn't care how attractive or unattractive a game is. I think my negativity in this case stems from the fact that I like the visuals of this game's two predecessors. The good news here is that if you're anything like me, your hatred of Sayonara's graphics will soften fairly quickly (due to your enjoyment of the rest of the game, of course).

* I'm not so keen on being forced to use the 3DS' d-pad to control ol' Yumi--I understand that the d-pad's probably more accurate than the circle pad when it comes to controlling this 3DS title's oddly busty protagonist, but would it have killed the developers to allow us to come to that conclusion on our own? As it stands, I often feel like I'm fighting the controls (those set to the uncomfortably located d-pad, specifically) as well as each level's slippery platforms and enemies--something I never (or rarely) felt while playing the first two Umihara Kawase games on the Super Famicom and PlayStation, respectively. (UPDATE:  I just discovered that you can enable use of the 3DS' circle pad within the game's settings menu. And guess what? I much prefer using it to the system's d-pad--while playing Sayonara, at least.)

* It may look all cute and cuddly (if also kind of ugly), but this game will kick the crap out of you--Granted, that should come as little surprise to anyone who's played, or even heard of, the previous entries in this strangely titled series. If you're an Umihara Kawase virgin, though, you may be shocked to discover just how difficult this version can be. My suggestion: just go with it. Embrace the fact that dying in this game is like gaining "1-ups" in a New Super Mario Bros. title and you'll enjoy it a whole lot more, I say.

* Despite all of the above, I'm still having a blast with Sayonara--While playing this game's fifth stage the other day, I must have died about 15 times (if not 20). Sometimes I died after nearly making it to the stage's exit, sometimes I died just a few steps from its start point. After each and every death, I let out a surprisingly hearty guffaw given the situation at hand.

To me, that last bit is all you really need to know about Sayonara Umihara Kawase. Yes, it makes some of Ubisoft's shovelware look like masterpieces in the graphics department (OK, so that's probably going too far), it can be awkward to control and it's often tougher than a two-dollar steak, but it's also totally unique and an awful lot of fun.

As such, at the moment I'd highly recommend it to 3DS owners who yearn for something new and different and who aren't afraid of a stiff challenge--especially should it arrive on the eShop carrying a $20 price tag, as has been rumored.

See also: 'Guess what the mailman just delivered? (Hint: it's a Japanese 3DS game and its title begins with Sayonara and ends with Kawase)'

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy 26th anniversary, PC Engine, and ever-so-slightly belated 25th anniversary, Mega Drive!

I was all set to publish a post about something else this morning--such as early impressions of Sayonara Umihara Kawase, which is set to hit the North American 3DS eShop early next year as Yumi's Odd Odyssey--but all that went out the window as soon as I realized that today is the 26th anniversary of the release of one of my all-time favorite consoles, the NEC PC Engine.

For those of you who aren't math wizards (don't worry, I'm not one myself): that means it hit Japanese store shelves all the way back on Oct. 30, 1987. (Its North American counterpart, the TurboGrafx-16, didn't see the light of day until nearly two years later, on Aug. 19, 1989.)

Amazingly, the PC Engine isn't the only 16-bit console partying it up this week. Sega's Mega Drive celebrated its 25th anniversary yesterday. (Which means, of course, it was first released--in Japan--on Oct. 29, 1988, with its North American debut following on August 14, 1989, and its European one on Nov. 30, 1990.)

Sadly, I've never owned an actual Mega Drive system (or any Mega Drive games, I believe). Oh, I've had a Genesis for some time now, but it's really not the same thing, is it? Anyway, a Japanese Mega Drive 2 (or maybe a Mega Jet?) is on my "to buy" list--along with a few other systems and about a thousand games--so hopefully I'll acquire one before my time is up.

I have owned a PC Engine, though--as well as a Core Grafx II, a Super CD-ROM2, a TurboGrafx-16 (also with CD attachment) and a TurboDuo. You'd think that would be enough to scratch anyone's PC Engine itch, but nope--I want more. Specifically, I want a PC Engine LT. Thankfully, I'm not (yet) willing to blow $1,000 or so on a single console.

Anyway, enough about me and my insane desires. This post is supposed to celebrate the existence of both the PC Engine and Mega Drive. So, here's a virtual tip of the hat to NEC and Sega for producing a pair of consoles that continue to tickle the fancy of tasteful gamers the world over.

Also: 'Happy belated birthday, Dreamcast!'

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The first thing I did when I turned on my gold Pokémon Center 3DS LL was ...

You might think that the first thing I'd do after getting my new gold Pokémon Center 3DS LL up and running would be to boot up Pokémon X.

In reality, my first move was to head to the Japanese eShop and download the following:

First up was Darumeshi Sports Store, a Japan-only (just for now, I hope) eShop game that reportedly was developed by the same folks who brought the world the Rhythm Tengoku and WarioWare series. Although Darumeshi Sports Store follows in the footsteps of those titles in some ways--at its heart, it's a wacky mini-game collection--in other ways it stands on its own, such as by basing all of its mini-games on the sport of baseball.

Next was Balloon Fight GB, above, a game I'm pretty sure I've mentioned here on at least a few occasions. If not, it's the colorized version of Balloon Fight's sort-of sequel, Balloon Kid, which didn't hit Japan until a decade after everyone else in the world got it (and even then it only received a digital release).

Finally, there's the Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai 2 demo--which, sadly, has yet to be played. I've been looking forward to experiencing this adorable rhythm game for ages, though, so I can guarantee it won't sit unused on my LL's menu screen for long.

Don't worry, I've also put in some time with Pokémon X and even Sayonara Umihara Kawase--a game I bought a while ago but couldn't get to until now.

Although they'll be undeniably "late to the party," look for impressions of both games to be shared here in the coming days.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A few photos of (and thoughts on) my gold Pokémon Center 3DS LL

How did I spend my weekend? Well, besides doing a bit of catch-up work and playing some ping pong with my husband, I spent it setting up my shiny (literally) new 3DS LL.

OK, so I did more than just set it up. I also downloaded a few demos as well as an actual game or two. Oh, and I played a good number of minutes of the game that was included with this sparkly handheld, Pokémon X.

I'll share my initial thoughts on Pokémon X in a couple of days. In this post, though, I want to focus on the hardware and its packaging--both of which can be seen in the following photo.

I have to say, I'm pretty fond of the front of this system's packaging. OK, so it could be more dramatic--you know, covered in gold leaf or something--but it's still very much a looker in its current form (in my opinion, of course).

As for its backside: well, it's, uh, informative? Utilitarian is another word I'd use to describe it. Regardless, it's probably safe to say I'm not going to while away the hours staring at this portion of the handheld's box.

One thing that disappoints me about the Pokémon Center 3DS LL's packaging is that it displays little of the charm that's plastered all over the system itself. For example, why don't the end flaps, one of which can be seen below, feature a few playful silhouettes of frolicking Pokémon?

Thankfully, there are plenty of silhouettes of frolicking Pokémon on the actual hardware--which is far more vibrant (and shiny) than it appears in the following snapshot.

The back of the hardware is nice, too, although it doesn't quite match the splendor of its counterpart around the corner (thanks in large part to the annoying block of text that likely has to be featured on all such devices).

Finally, here's a shot of its interior. Yep, it's black. In fact, this part of the system looks just like every other 3DS LL or XL you've ever laid eyes on--there are no gold accents or trim or even silhouettes of frolicking Pokémon to be found. Damn it.

Actually, I'm completely OK with that, as such accents likely would be a distraction in the end--and, really, who needs that when you've got awesome games like Pokémon X, Sayonara Umihara Kawase and Taiko no Tatsujin: Chibi Dragon to Fushigina Orb to play?

See also: 'Reason #407 I could be considered an 'eccentric' (aka bat-sh*t crazy) gamer: I recently bought a gold Pokémon Center 3DS LL'

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Who wants a Charizard-branded 3DS LL when you can have a Charizard GameBoy instead?

OK, so it's extremely possible I'm alone when it comes to preferring the custom-painted system below to the official one that was released in Japan late last year.

Of course, I've always appreciated dramatic-looking consoles, and this Charizard-branded GameBoy certainly fits that bill.

As for who's responsible for this colorful concoction, that would be artist and blogger Oskunk, of

The backside of this particular GameBoy is nearly as beautiful as its front, in my opinion--although I think it would look even better with copy of Pokémon Red stuck into it, don't you think?

See also: other posts about Oskunk's stuff