Friday, January 03, 2014

Five favorites: Japanese Game Gear box art

Now that the holiday season is over, it's about time I got back to discovering my favorite pieces of box art, don't you think?

This time around, I'm going to focus on that brick-sized handheld of yesteryear, Sega's Game Gear.

As the header above suggests, each of the cover illustrations below appeared on copies of Japanese Game Gear games at one point or another.

House of Tarot--I've never played this first-party tarot-reading simulator and I'm not sure I ever will, but I sure like its cover art. That's mainly because it screams "old-school Sega" (or at least it does to me), although I also really like its peachy color scheme and its prickly logo.

Ninja Gaiden--I can't speak for how well this game stacks up to the arcade original, but its box art is awesome, don't you think? I mean, it features a ninja (duh), missiles, some kind of zombie-like being, and a whole lot of purple. Yeah, it's awesome.

Phantasy Star Gaiden--Hey, more purple! I guess I really like purple packaging--at least when it comes to video games. Anyway, I think this may be my favorite piece of Game Gear-related box art, but don't quote me on that.

Puyo Puyo--Could this cover illustration be any more cheerful or colorful? I doubt it. Granted, I like pretty much any piece of box art that features this series' gelatinous logo, but even then this one manages to stick out from the crowd.

Shining Force Gaiden II--Yes, this piece of box art also features a lot of purple. It features some really nice character illustrations, too, though, so I'm including it here even though doing so means this post could be re-titled, "Five favorites: purple-tinged box art." Anyway, I really could have chosen any of the Shining Force Gaiden covers, as all three of them are top-shelf creations.

Be on the lookout for a second "five favorites" post devoted to Japanese Game Gear box art in the next week or so.

Thursday, January 02, 2014


Now that a new year is upon us, I thought this would be the perfect time to ask all of you if you have any suggestions as to how I may be able to improve this here blog in the next 12 or so months.

For instance, I cut back on "Great Gaymathon" and "Somewhat Gay" reviews in 2013--in part because they've never been my favorite thing to write and in part because they've never seemed very popular with readers. Would any of you like to see more of them in 2014, or are you OK with me publishing them only occasionally?

I also haven't published many "Manual Stimulation" posts in the last few months--would any of you like to see them show up with a bit more regularity this year?

Or maybe you'd like me to start an entirely new "column" or two (similar to the ones above) in 2014? I have no idea what said column(s) would focus on, but I'm sure you folks can come up with a few suggestions if you put your minds to it. Regardless, feel free to share any thoughts you may have in the comments section below.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My favorite games of 2013

I haven't played as many games in 2013 as I imagined I would before the year began, but I've still played enough to be able to write a post about the ones that have pleased me the most.

Strangely--or perhaps not, considering my current obsession with the dual-screened handheld--all of the games discussed herein were released for Nintendo's 3DS. (That's not to suggest I've only played 3DS titles this year; pretty much all of the other games I played in the last 12 months, though, were for "older gen" systems like the DS, GameBoy, PC Engine, PlayStation and PSP.)

Animal Crossing: New Leaf--If I were to hold up one of these games as my absolute favorite of 2013, it would be this one. Not only have I played it more than any other title this year, but I've spent more time with it than I've spent with any game in the last few years (if not ever). I'm still not sure which Animal Crossing game I like best, the original or New Leaf, but it doesn't really matter--they're both among the most entrancing games I've ever come across.

Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale--Thank goodness for the 3DS eShop. Without it, gamers outside of Japan probably never would have gained access to this nostalgia-tinted title, which I can only describe as three parts open-ended adventure and one part card battles. Don't worry if that sounds less than thrilling--I can't imagine anyone but the most crotchety of gamers disliking this digital release.

THE "DENPA" MEN 2: Beyond the Waves--Although I haven't enjoyed Beyond the Waves as much as I enjoyed its more simplistic and straightforward predecessor, I've still had a good time with it. Sure, I find some of the newly introduced elements to be overwhelming, but I like a number of them, too--such as the new body colors and the additional clothing and equipment that can be used to alter the looks and even abilities of your adorable "Denpa" crew.

Nintendo's four "new" StreetPass Mii Plaza games--I held off on buying Flower Town, Mii Force, Monster Manor and Warrior's Way for quite a while (I only did so about two weeks ago) because I was unsure as to whether they'd be worth $15. Now that I've spent some quality time with each of them, I can safely say they're well worth the asking price--assuming you regularly StreetPass other 3DS owners--with Mii Force (the shmup shown above) and Monster Manor being my current faves.

Pokémon X--Back when it was first revealed, I wasn't all that sure what to think of the latest pair of Pokémon games. As soon as I started playing one of them, though, I was sold on its brilliance. That I've yet to get even close to finishing it says more about how hectic my life has become in the last few months than it does about the quality of this portable RPG, so rest assured I'm going to do my best to beat it in 2014.

Witch and Hero--It may surprise some of you to hear this, but I think this eShop title may be my second favorite game of 2013. There's just something about its mix of simplicity and depth (in terms of its gameplay--as in, there's more to Witch and Hero than simply bumping into baddies as quickly as possible), I guess. It's not for everyone, as the saying goes, but for me it's been the perfect title to turn to whenever I've got five or 10 minutes to blow.

A few games that I likely would've included here if I'd played more than an hour or so of them so far: Darumeshi Sports Store, Fire Emblem: Awakening and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Monday, December 30, 2013

Five games I have to get back to (and hopefully finish) in 2014

I started a lot of games in the last year or two (or three) that I've yet to finish, but the five below are the ones I most want to get back to and "beat" in 2014.

Deadly Premonition (Xbox 360)--It's going to be very interesting to see if I actually go back to playing this one. Although I loved the bizarro story when I started playing it many moons ago, I wasn't so enamored with some of the gameplay (anything resembling a battle scene, basically). Still, I'd really like to finish it someday--if only so I can say I did it.

EarthBound (SNES)--I know, I know--it's wronger than wrong that I've yet to "beat" this legendary RPG. (I've tried three times now, if memory serves.) The thing is, I've loved every second I've played of it during each of my attempts--but something's always distracted me before I could complete it. Hopefully I can avoid that when I go back to my most recently created save file in early 2014.

Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light (DS)--This situation surrounding this game is a bit strange, as the only thing I have to do is beat its final boss. I've actually battled it a number of times already, and even made it as far as its third (and final, I think) form, but I faltered each and every time. So, I'm going to make another run at it next year--probably after bolstering my party a bit (or a lot).

Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)--Another crying shame, right? I can't remember how many hours I put into this title before being pulled away by Animal Crossing: New Leaf, but I know it wasn't close to enough. Hopefully I can give it the attention it obviously deserves at some point during 2014.

Opoona (Wii)--I bought this unique, Dragon Quest-esque RPG with the best of intentions earlier this year, but only made it an hour or so in before walking away for some reason or another. I found the first 60 minutes to be pretty enjoyable, though, so I'll definitely do my best to further explore it in the next 12 months.

Are there any games you guys and gals started in 2013 (or before) and would like to finish next year? Let me know which ones in the comments section below.