Friday, January 10, 2014

Five more favorites: Japanese Game Gear box art

Last week around this time, I published a post devoted to five of my favorite pieces of Japanese Game Gear box art. Today, I'm publishing another.

Don't worry, this one features absolutely no purple-tinged cover illustrations--although it does feature a few pink ones.

Nazo Puyo: Aruru no Roux--There's a whole lot to like about this piece of box art, in my estimation. First, there's the giant photo of a plateful of curry. Then, there are the illustrations that depict the titular Arle (Aruru) and her pal Carbuncle as chef and, uh, a curry-loving flying-carpet rider. Finally, there's the flashy and fun logo.

Pengo--OK, so the bird in the cover illustration above looks more like a duck than a penguin (and I'm pretty sure the protagonist of this classic game is supposed to be the latter), but the rest of it is so cool that I'm giving it a pass.

Phantasy Star Adventure--This game's box art can't hold a candle to that of its counterpart, Phantasy Star Gaiden, but I think it still deserves a spot in this post. If only the main illustration took up the entire cover...

Psychic World--I've never much cared for this title's gameplay (or graphics, to be completely honest), but I very much care for its cover imagery. That its border is a pleasant shade of pink just adds to its allure in my mind.

Putt & Putter--I know what some of you are thinking in regard to this selection: "It looks like one of those nasty posters that appear in movies from the 1980s!" I can't disagree with that assessment. Still, it appeals to me. I'm guessing it's because of that retro-tastic logo.

See also: five favorite pieces of Japanese Game Gear box art

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Second Chances: Magical Taruruuto-kun (Sega Game Gear)

When I first discovered that someone had released a Magical Taruruuto-kun title for the Game Gear, I was thrilled. After all, I've long loved the Game Freak-developed, Sega-published Mega Drive game based on this anime and manga franchise, so surely I'd also get a kick out of a portable iteration, right?

You'd think so, but my first impressions of Tsukuda Ideal's Game Gear title were far from favorable. It didn't help matters, of course, that this game isn't a platformer like its Mega Drive-based cousin is; instead, it's a shmup in the vein of Gradius (Parodius may be a better point of comparison). That's rarely an issue for me, though, so what prompted my less-than-thrilled initial reaction to this one?

For starters, when you first boot up Magical Taruruuto-kun, it gives the impression that it's akin to My First Shmup. You see, your ship--actually a flying version of the series' protagonist--is overly large, as are most of the enemies that hurtle (OK, usually they simply meander) toward it, which makes the first stage, especially, seem both boring and a bit too easy.

That's where my first attempted playthrough ended, to tell you the truth. Then, a few weeks ago, I came across a copy of the game while perusing eBay, liked the cover art (what a surprise, right?) and decided to give it a second chance.

This time around, I forced myself past that opening level ... and discovered that, while it's still far from amazing, it's actually a nicely made little shmup.

One of the main reasons I say that is Magical Taruruuto-kun's sprites are surprisingly well crafted considering they were produced by a company (Tsukuda Ideal) I'd never heard of before a few days ago. For example, in the first level, which is set in a school, rulers, staplers and fire extinguishers--all adorably adorned with cartoon eyes and mouths--serve to liven up the otherwise pedestrian surroundings.

The game's bosses--which include an anthropomorphic piano (see above), a haunted pirate ship and a giant tree--are similarly full of character, although the battles against them disappointingly take place against a plain white backdrop.

I'd still be hard-pressed to describe Magical Taruruuto-kun's soundtrack or gameplay as anything approaching thrilling, but they're also far from tragic. As such, I have no regrets about picking up the complete-in-box copy I mentioned above shortly after I came across it. (Rest assured I'll share a few photos of its packaging as soon as it arrives on our doorstep.)

See also: previous 'Second Chances' posts

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Introducing: Shall We Do It?

As a result of my recent "Suggestions?" post, I've decided to add a new, published-as-often-as-I-feel-like-it column to this blog's line-up.

If you can't quite tell from its title what it'll cover (and I can't really blame those of you who feel that way), here's the gist: every so often--likely every other week, but I can't promise I'll keep to that schedule--I'm going to publish a "Shall We Do It?" post that details, via blurbs of a reasonable length, my impressions of all (or at least most) of the games I'm currently playing.

I'm not entirely sure how I'll title these posts, although I have a feeling it'll be something along the lines of "Shall We Do It? (Attack of the Friday Monsters, Bravely Default demo and Zooo)."

Another possibility would be to give them headlines like, "Shall We Do It? (Week of Jan. 6, 2014)," but that seems just a bit too or sterile to me.

That said, what do all of you think (of this pair of title options, not of the general column idea)?

Oh, and in case any of you are curious, the name of this new column was inspired by the most famous line--"Yaranaika?" which translates to, "Shall we do it?"--to appear in Kuso Miso Technique, the bara manga from 1987 featuring Takakazu Abe (aka the handsome guy seen above, in my avatar here and on Twitter).

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

I think I'm finally free of New Leaf's grasp

And all it took was the "triple combo" of Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale, the just-released Bravely Default demo and the four new-ish 3DS StreetPass Mii Plaza games.

Of course, I was heading down this path--to not checking in on my two Animal Crossing: New Leaf towns every single day, at least for a few minutes--before I nabbed all of the above from the 3DS eShop, but I'm not sure I would've done so as quickly as I have without their "help."

Illustration by leav
All that said, it's possible I'll slip back into my old, nasty ways once I've beaten both Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale and the Bravely Default demo, but I'm going to do my best to keep that from happening--mainly by booting up a few of the games I picked up in 2013 but have yet to actually play.

A couple of examples: Airu de Puzzle (PSP), Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (3DS) and Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS). And then there are a few older games that I've wanted to sink my teeth into for some time, like Contact (DS), Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (Wii), Opoona (Wii) and Touch Detective (DS).

There's also the Feb. 7 release of Bravely Default to consider--because once that sucker's in my hands I probably won't even think of playing anything else until I've beaten it. (Assuming I don't falter at the very end like I did with its predecessor, Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light.)

Anyway, all of this is just a really long-winded way of saying, "I'm finally free of New Leaf's grasp!"

I'm not entirely sure why I feel the need to share that here, but rather than overanalyze why that may be let's just celebrate the fact that it means I'll be playing--and, as a result, blogging about--a lot more games in the next six or so months than I did in the preceding ones.

Monday, January 06, 2014

A few thoughts on the Bravely Default demo

Note: my original plan was for the header above to read something along the lines of, "A few thoughts on the surprisingly polished, gorgeous and fun Bravely Default demo," but in the end I deemed it a smidge too wordy.

Which I guess kind of gives away how I generally feel about this just-released 3DS demo, although I'll let you in on a little secret right now--as much as I love the North American Bravely Default demo, I do, in fact, have at least one issue with it.

Before I get to that "problem area," though, let's focus on what I consider to be the demo's more positive aspects:

It looks stunning--Of course, I could've written that before the demo came out (and before I spent more than six hours with it), couldn't I? Still, seeing this game's graphics on an actual 3DS system has been quite the breathtaking experience for me. I'm especially impressed with some of the enemy designs, like the cheetah-esque baddie who bounces back and forth before bounding forward in attack. I'm also smitten with some of the clothing worn by party members while testing out various jobs--with the ninja, red mage and valkyrie wardrobes being my favorites at the moment.

The soundtrack's pretty ace, too--I've pretty much always loved the soundtracks to Square-Enix games, so I went into the Bravely Default demo expecting to be blown away by its music, too. And guess what? It's knocked my socks off so far. I particularly enjoy the demo's pan-flute-heavy overworld theme.

How ever did we survive previous RPGs that lacked the Bravely and Default battle system?--Seriously, this game's battle system is the proverbial feather in its cap, if you ask me. Which is funny, because when I first saw video of it in action I assumed it would make Bravely Default's battle scenes interminably long. Thankfully, that's not the case--or at least it isn't in the demo. Sure, some battles--boss ones, especially--can drag on a bit, but most non-boss fights can be finished in a satisfactory snap if you spam "Bravely" at the outset and wipe out the enemy before they know what's hit them.

A bit more character would've been nice--Specifically, it would be nice if the demo provided players with a more in-depth look at Bravely Default's four party members. As it is, though, they're basically hollow palette swaps--which is a shame, as it seems they're given pretty distinct personalities in the full release. Now, I realize it likely would've been tough for the folks who produced this demo to inject it with the additional story elements my request would require, but I also think some people currently unsure about the full game could've been swayed in favor of picking it up if the demo had a bit more, er, character.

So, those are my thoughts thus far on the Bravely Default demo. What do all of you think of it?