Friday, January 31, 2014

Five more favorites: Japanese Nintendo 64 box art

Can a person have too many favorites when it comes to Nintendo 64 box art? Not in my opinion--which may be why I've decided to publish yet another post about the subject.

Bakuretsu Muteki Bangaio--If I had my way, this game's cover imagery wouldn't be constrained by a border as it is now. Even with the border, though, Bangaio's box art is a looker--thanks in large part to its bold logo, which really makes things "pop."

F-Zero X--Would you believe I was completely obsessed with this game while in college? Well, I was--and my copy (of the North American version) didn't even sport the awesome illustration seen above. Anyway, if ever a piece of Nintendo 64 box art perfectly depicted the "experience" of the game packed within, this is it.

Fushigi no Dungeon: Fuurai no Shiren 2--For some strange and sad reason, I was completely oblivious about this game until quite recently. I say sad, by the way, because Fuurai no Shiren 2's graphics are nearly as adorable as its cover art. 

Yoshi's Story--I know a lot of folks hate this game, but I'm not one of them. Sure, it pales in comparison to its predecessor, Yoshi's Island, but it's still a joy to look at and a blast to play. That said, I'd kill for a sequel that features graphics similar to the stitched Yoshis seen in the box art above. (Yes, I know Yarn Yoshi is being prepped for the Wii U; what I'm talking about here is a two-dimensional platformer à la Kirby's Epic Yarn.)

Zelda no Densetsu Majora no Kamen--As much as I love the cover art produced for the Japanese version of Ocarina of Time, I love the imagery above even more. In fact, I love it so much that I think I'm going to have to snatch up a copy of it in the future. Maybe it could be a present to myself after I've reached some sort of milestone related to learning Japanese?

See also: five favorite pieces of Japanese Nintendo 64 box art

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Manual Stimulation: Mesopotamia (PC Engine)

When you sit down and think about it, it's kind of shocking how many PC Engine instruction manuals are starkly black-and-white affairs--especially when compared to the kaleidoscopically hued games about which these manuals are supposed educate...

Thankfully, not all of these colorless pamphlets can be categorized as boring. A good number of them, after all, feature appealing illustrations and the like that help elevate them from drab to fab. The New Zealand Story's is a good example, and Mizubaku Daibouken's is another.

The manual included with every copy of Atlus' Mesopotamia (Somer Assault in North America) fits this description, too, although perhaps not quite as well as its above-mentioned counterparts.

Regardless, its cover certainly is colorful enough, wouldn't you agree? OK, so it's a bit busy, but that aspect of it gets a pass from me thanks to the fact that it's predominantly orange (a color that gets far too little love when it comes to box art) and that it features a number of adorable drawings that depict the game's Slinky-like protagonist.

As should be expected given my earlier musings, the cover art's bold display of color doesn't survive the transition into the manual's interior. Oh, well, what can you do?

Sadly, things barely perk up on the manual's next pair of pages. Do any of you know who the guy featured in the text blocks at the bottom of the page is supposed to be, by the way? He appears throughout this particular booklet, so I'm guessing he's important?

Finally, a bit of visual interest! Those illustrations are the cutest, aren't they? Sure, they'd be even nicer if they were in color (pink, to be exact), but they're still pretty nice as is, in my opinion.

Hey, look, more Slinky illustrations. At least they're unique and not just reused from previous pages. Also, the one with the heart bubble over its head is my favorite of the bunch.

And there you have it. Admittedly, the folks who designed Mesopotamia's manual could've been a little more (OK, a lot more) creative while completing this particular assignment. Where's the cartoon depicting how the ol' Slinkster got himself into this predicament? Where are the illustrations of the zodiac-symbols-that've-come-to-life bosses he's forced to battle? Each of those additions would've turned this "merely acceptable" manual into a "unquestionably stellar" one, if you ask me.

Not that I'm complaining. I consider what you see above to be a lot more interesting than the majority of game manuals that came before and after it, so I'm going to go ahead and treat this one as a "take what you can get" sort of situation. 

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Shall We Do It? (A Link Between Worlds, Hometown Story and Puyo Puyo Tetris demo)

Hey, I'm actually publishing another of these "Shall We Do It?" posts. Who would've thunk it, eh? Especially given my propensity to introduce columns with tongue-in-cheek titles that I return to only sporadically.

Well, screw history. For the time being, at least, I'm really enjoying writing these posts. Plus, they're seemingly giving me that extra push that's sometimes needed for me to sit down and actually play the games I buy.

With all of that out of the way, why don't I get to some of my experiences with those aforementioned games?

I may as well begin with the game that captured the bulk of my attention over the last week and a half or so--The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for the 3DS.

I'm about 15 or so hours into A Link Between Worlds now and, boy, does it have me by the balls. I love nearly every aspect of it--from the crisp controls, to the "it's amazing how pretty they are in motion" graphics, to the triumphant soundtrack, to the satisfyingly unique feature that allows Link to turn into a piece of graffiti so he can scamper along walls and shimmy through cracks.

I even love the title's open-endedness--despite the fact that it's prompted me to turn to GameFAQs more times than I'd like to admit (because I'm completely stumped as to where I should go or what I should do next).

My absolute favorite aspect of this portable adventure so far: traipsing through Hyrule's fabulously malignant flip side, Lorule. It's both beautiful and a bit creepy, plus its denizens really mean business (especially in comparison to most of the pushovers that populate the sunnier side of Link's habitat).

Thankfully, I have a feeling I'll be exploring Lorule (and Hyrule) for a few more hours yet, as I've only completed what I believe to be just over half of the latter area's dungeons.

Anyway, as much as I'm loving A Link Between Worlds, it isn't the only game I'm playing at the moment. One of the others: Hometown Story.

Last time I mentioned this title, made by Harvest Moon's Yasuhiro Wada, I confessed to being a bit torn about it. On the one hand, I rather like how it looks--although some are sure to find it just a bit too twee--and I really like its 1990s-esque soundtrack, but the gameplay ... well, let's just say I'm still on the fence about it (and that I'm currently leaning toward the "it's not quite my bag" side of things).

Although Hometown Story's main gameplay "hook," which revolves around running a shop in a quaint if somewhat creepily empty town, grew on me a bit during the hour and a half I spent with the title over the weekend (I've now played it for just over two hours), it still seems more tedious than fun.

Don't get me wrong, I like that I'll be able to change the decor of my shop over time as well as expand its size, which will allow me to sell an increasingly diverse selection of goods to the town's citizenry, but I really can't see either of those things doing much to enhance the appeal of the title's core gameplay.

In the end, the gist of Hometown Story seems to be: stock shelves, sell items, buy more inventory, stock shelves, sell items, buy more inventory--lather, rinse, repeat. If that sounds fun to you, you may just get a kick out of this Natsume-published release, but I'd be hard pressed to say I'm "enjoying" it at the moment.

Still, I'm not quite ready to give up on it, so expect me to keep plugging away at it for a little while longer--and look for me to give it at least a passing mention in the next one or two "Shall We Do It?" posts, too.

Last, but not least, I downloaded the Puyo Puyo Tetris demo from the Japanese 3DS eShop late last week and gave it a whirl.

I've felt a roller coaster of emotions about this upcoming 3DS release--first feeling excited about the possibility of playing a game that includes two of my favorite puzzlers, Puyo Puyo and Tetris, then feeling disheartened after the first screenshots were released and revealed it would use the same boring art style the series has utilized since 2004's Puyo Puyo Fever.

How do I feel after playing a few rounds of the just-released (in Japan, sorry) demo? Somewhere in the middle of the two above-mentioned extremes, I guess. On the positive side, Puyo Puyo Tetris feels really good. Also, I found it surprisingly fun to be able to choose to play either Puyo Puyo or Tetris against my AI-controlled opponent (who also could choose either Puyo Puyo or Tetris). Finally, I have to admit that, in action, this title's art style is more appealing than I originally considered it to be, although I still vastly prefer the old Puyo Puyo style to it.

As for the demo's negative attributes: actually, I don't have any to share, other than all of the positives mentioned above failed to sway me to purchase the retail release that'll hit store shelves in Japan in early February.

That said, I think it's possible I'll break down and buy it at some point in the future--although not until I've gotten my money's worth out of a few other 3DS puzzlers I've picked up (or pre-ordered) in recent months, including Kumamon ★ Bomber Puzzle de Kumamon Taisou and Touch Detective: Funghi's Big Breed.

See also: 'Shall We Do It? (Attack of the Friday Monsters, Bravely Default demo, Hometown Story and more)'

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

For the two or three of you who care: here's a look at Magical Taruruuto-kun's (Game Gear) packaging, instruction manual and cartridge

Have I got Magical Taruruuto-kun on the brain at the moment? I guess you could say that. After all, this is the third post to mention the portable shmup in the last month or so. (Here's the second and here's the third, if you're curious.)

Of course, who could resist becoming a bit obsessed with a game as cute and colorful as this one?

Those same descriptors can be used when chatting about Magical Taruruuto-kun's box art, cart label and instruction manual, by the way. Case in point: the vibrant front cover of its diminutive packaging, which can be seen below.

It's a little less vibrant than it could be due to some sun damage, but that's OK. Oh, and the cart label features the same illustration as the box cover, as you can see in the next photo:

A handful of nice illustrations can be found in the game's instruction manual, too, but I'm not going to show them here because I want to save them for a future installment of "Manual Stimulation." In the meantime, the following is a little sample of its wonders:  

In case any you're wondering--yes, the first level's boss is an anthropomorphic piano.

The back of Magical Taruruuto-kun's box is far less thrilling than its cover or contents, I guess, but I still think it's nice enough--especially given the era in which it was produced. That said, I think it would've benefited greatly had its designer spent a few more minutes on it.

So, what do you think? Would all of the above have captured your attention back in the day, assuming you were at all interested in shmups made for Sega's Game Gear?

Monday, January 27, 2014

I'm getting such a kick out of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds that I'm seriously considering buying a second copy

I'm sure the statement above seems more than a smidge ridiculous to some of you, but here's the thing: the copy I'm currently playing was given to me (thanks again, anonymous benefactor!). Also, it's a digital copy of the game--and you know how much I love owning actual cases and cartridges and manuals and such. (Not that I'm expecting A Link Between Worlds to come with an actual manual or anything.)

As a result, I'm considering buying the Japanese version of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Zelda no Densetsu: Kamigami no Triforce 2). At some point. Which could, of course, mean later this week.

Why the Japanese version, you ask? Um, I like its box art (which can be seen above)? Also, I'm itching to own a few more 3DS games that hail from the Land of the Rising Sun.

In related news: although I've yet to finish the North American version of A Link Between Worlds, already I can say with some assurance that it's one of my five favorite 3DS games--along with Animal Crossing: New Leaf, THE "DENPA" MEN, Mario Kart 7 and Theatrhythm Final Fantasy.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

I think we may be looking at another 'Link Between Worlds situation' RE: Yoshi's New Island

And by that I mean that although I think Yoshi's New Island always has looked a bit rough in screenshots (and even in early video footage), I have a feeling it's going to look pretty darn nice once it's chugging along on my 3DS XL's upper screen.

Which is pretty much the same situation The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds was in before it was released late last year. Most folks declared it uglier than sin in the lead-up to its release, but once they saw it in motion on actual 3DS hardware many of them--including yours truly--changed their tune.

Anyway, it doesn't much matter to me at this point if Yoshi's New Island ends up being more impressive--in terms of its looks as well as its music and gameplay--than it currently appears to be, as I pre-ordered a copy of it long ago and nothing's going to prompt me to cancel it.

All that said, why do all of you think of the game's latest trailer, above? Does it look appealing enough that you're going to give it a chance, or are you planning to give it a pass?