Friday, December 13, 2013

All I want after Christmas is ...

One of my blogging buds, Minee, recently published her holiday wish list on her site, Vast Sea of Games, and then asked her readers to share theirs in its comments section. I liked the idea and thought it might be nice to do something similar here--and then I realized I'm not really asking for anything gaming-related for Christmas.

I'm sure that sounds kind of strange given my usual proclivities, but there's a good reason for it: the only people in my life who give me Christmas presents at this point are my parents, and they tend to give me (along with my brother and our spouses) small gifts and a nice amount of cash rather than larger gifts such as game systems and the like.

Will I be buying any systems or games with this impending holiday haul? Of course! In fact, I've already got my eyes on a few potential purchases, including the following:

Zoo Keeper 3D--I have a feeling I'm a member of a very small (and, let's face it, very odd) club of gamers thanks to my interest in this Japan-only 3DS title. What can I say? I love the GameBoy Advance version of the game (called Zooo, strangely enough) and also quite like the DS iteration, so I'd like to try this one, too.

Possibly one or more import-only DS games--Which ones, you ask? 7th Dragon (above) is one. Nora to Koku no Koubou: Kiri no Mori no Majo (aka Noora and the Time Studio: The Witch of the Misty Forest) is another. Oh, and Maestro! Jump in Music, too--which is a Europe-only DS release, strangely enough.

Definitely an obscure GameBoy title or two--In fact, it's extremely possible I'll forego all of the above and blow my entire wad on obscure (and mostly Japanese) GameBoy titles, like the one pictured above. That is how obsessed I am with this 24-year-old handheld at the moment.

Although there's a chance I'll spend my Christmas cash on something else--don't be too shocked if a Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket Color or PSP game enter the fray, for example--the best bet is that you'll see a few posts focused on one or more of the above once the holidays are over.

Now that I've had my say, what gaming-related presents are all of you hoping to receive from your loved ones (or, like me, buy for yourself) this gift-giving season?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Five favorites: Sega Game Gear titles

You'd think that with the 3DS, DS, GameBoy, Neo Geo Pocket Color and WonderSwan (all of which I've been playing in recent weeks--sometimes using actual hardware and sometimes going the emulation route), my portable gaming bases would be covered for the time being.

Over the weekend, though, I ditched the systems mentioned above and instead spent some quality time with a few Game Gear titles (again, both via real hardware and emulation), an experience that prompted me to contemplate my favorite examples of that handheld's game catalog.

Here's what I came up with, in alphabetical order. (Note: the following games are my personal favorites. I don't necessarily consider them to be the "best" this Sega-made machine has to offer. Also, I have to admit I've yet to play Phantasy Star Gaiden, a title that surely appears on some similar lists.)

The Berlin Wall--Although I've been a fan of the single-screen platformer (think: Bubble Bobble) since I first got into gaming, I wasn't aware of this game's existence until a year or so ago. That's a shame, as The Berlin Wall is a lot of fun. How would I describe it? Don Doko Don blended with Lode Runner is the best I can come up with at the moment, although I doubt that means much to some of you. Regardless, check it out if you've ever gotten a kick out of games like Snow Bros. or Tumblepop.

Bubble Bobble--Those looking for a direct port of Taito's bubble-centric classic will want to steer clear of this version, as it ends up feeling more like Bubble Bobble Mini than a full-fledged port. That's because although each stage has been shrunken down to fit the Game Gear's tiny screen, the title's other elements--Bob, Bub and their many colorful enemies, mainly--were given a reprieve. The game's honestly a bit broken because of that fact, but it's still a lot of fun.

Madou Monogatari I--A first-person dungeon crawler from the makers of Puyo Puyo? Where do I sign up? That was my first thought upon hearing about this series (four of its entries ended up on the Game Gear) some years ago. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was even more enjoyable--and charming--than I assumed it would be. By the way, if you're too chicken to play through such a game in Japanese, this first one was translated into English courtesy of SSTranslations.

Magical Puzzle Popils--All you really need to know about this one is that it was made by the same guy, Fukio Mitsuji, who brought Bubble Bobble to the world. Like that game, Magical Puzzle Popils features more-adorable-than-they-have-any-right-to-be protagonists and tunes but takes the gameplay in a different direction altogether by tasking players with getting from each level's start to its exit (a trapped princess) in as few steps as possible.

Puzzle Bobble--If you're looking for the best-possible portable version of this classic puzzler, look no further than this old port. Sure, it's far from perfect, but it's miles better than its GameBoy, Neo Geo Pocket Color and WonderSwan counterparts. (I'm especially fond of how Bub and Bob look here.) Plus, this release actually features the original arcade soundtrack, which alone makes it well worth checking out.

Honorable mentions: Galaga '91Ganbare GorbyMagical Taruruuto-kun, MappyShining Force Gaiden

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I think I'm going to pass on the PS4, the Xbox One and even the Wii U for the time being

With "the time being" potentially extending through the end of next year (2014). Oh, and it's extremely possible I'll also pass on the Vita during the same period.

The funny thing is, I actually want two of those systems--the Wii U and the Vita--quite a bit at the moment. What I don't want so much is to support them with games in the coming 12 or so months.

There are a number of reasons for that, of course. One of them: I'm just not interested in shelling out $60 per game when it comes to the Wii U or $40 per game for the Vita.

I know that's not always the case and that some of the games released for these systems carry more agreeable price tags, but in general those are the prices I'm going to be forced to pay if I want to own and play the marquee titles that come out for them.

Another reason I'm not so interested in picking up a Wii U or Vita or any other system anytime soon is that my gaming backlog is pretty insane right now. Not only do I have 3DS games that have yet to be played (or that have been played just a smidge), but the same is true when it comes to my DS, PSP and Wii, too.

And then there are all of the retro systems--the PC Engine, Famicom, GameBoy, Game Gear, and WonderSwan, especially--I own and continue to support.

Actually, I'm as likely to want to buy a game for one of the above-mentioned consoles and handhelds as I am for my 3DS, DS or PSP these days, which only adds weight to this most "first world" of problems.

So, there you have it: I think I've come to the conclusion that unless something monumental happens within the next 12 months (such as the Wii U version of Dragon Quest X earning a North American release or Mario Kart 8 blowing me away to an enormous degree), I'm likely going to forgo the Wii U and Vita next year and focus my attention--and spending cash--on the DS, 3DS, PSP and retro systems I already own instead.

Are any of you considering doing the same--sticking with consoles and handhelds you own rather than buying a "next-gen" one--in 2014?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hmmm, I may eventually need to start a third Animal Crossing: New Leaf town just so I can make use of this F-Zero-themed path design

Seriously. I mean, I need another copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf like I need another trip to the ER, but I'm strongly considering the former after coming across the following F-Zero-themed path (and "environment") design while perusing NeoGAF yesterday.

It was created by someone who calls himself (or is it herself?) RawNuts, by the way, and it's based on the original F-Zero's "Big Blue" track (see below).

The only negative related to RawNuts' creation: he (or she) wasn't able to make an "inside corner" pattern thanks to Nintendo's idiotic decision to allow characters to hold just 10 designs at a time.

Oh, well. Nothing's stopping one or more of us from picking up where RawNuts left off and creating those missing "inside corner" pieces ourselves, right? Anyway, go here if you want to scan the QR codes for these awesome designs and add them to your New Leaf 'hood.