Friday, February 28, 2014

Thanks to my recently completed EarthBound playthrough, I can't get this tune out of my head

I know I've shared this video before, but it's so darn good that I can't help but share it again--especially since it's been bouncing around in my brain ever since I finished EarthBound a couple of weeks ago.

Do any of you have favorite EarthBound tunes? If so, what are they?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Great Gaymathon Review #65: Sweet Fuse: At Your Side (PSP)

Game: Sweet Fuse: At Your Side
Genre: Otome/Visual Novel
Developers: Comcept and Idea Factory
Publisher: Aksys Games
System: PSP
Release date: 2013

Considering how much I enjoyed Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom a few years ago, I approached the kind of similar--yet decidedly more modern--Sweet Fuse: At Your Side with fairly high expectations.

Which may explain why I initially, at least, found myself feeling a tad underwhelmed by this PSP "visual novel," despite the fact that I consider both its creative setup (it's a mystery that takes place at a video game-themed amusement park) and its colorful cast of characters to be far more appealing that the ones offered up by Hakuoki.

Thankfully, my indifference only lasted for an hour or so. After that, I was fully and joyfully involved with this game's plot--a doozie that involves saving game illustrator and producer Keiji Inafune and a few other folks from being blown to smithereens, along with the aforementioned theme park, by a porcine villain.

That's not to say the experience was all puppies and rainbows. There were times, for instance, when I just wanted the characters to shut up so I could move things along. (And by that, I mean so I could spend some more "alone time" with my main-squeeze-to-be, Ayumu Shirabe.) Granted, chattiness kind of comes with the territory when you agree to play a virtual novel, which tend to feel a lot like Choose Your Own Adventure novels in game form, but that isn't going to keep me from occasionally becoming annoyed by someone who's being just a bit too verbose.

Speaking of visual-novel standbys, another Sweet Fuse element that proved to be a bump in the road for me, from time to time, was the one that basically dictates that a player use a guide if he or she wants to end up successfully wooing a particular man in the end. (And let's be honest here: as much as this game is about solving a mystery and saving Inafune, it's also about winding up with a hot boyfriend.) I know this is a staple of the genre--that one or two missteps can keep you from finding love--but I really would've preferred it if the developers of this game could've found a way to make things less rigid in that regard.

Other than those two aspects, though, I found Sweet Fuse to be a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable affair. Like I said earlier, there's a lot to like about this game's cast--from its spunky protagonist, Saki Inafune (she's Keiji's neice), to its disparate band of potential paramours, to its cigar-chomping baddie, Count Hogstein.

The overall story here deserves praise, too. There are twists and turns, red herrings, dramatic confrontations and colorful dialogue--all of which are part and parcel of any good mystery, if you ask me.

And then there are the little things that conspire to keep players excitedly--or at least attentively--pressing their PSPs' X buttons, like the "Break Time" and "Explosive Insight" segments and the moments that prompt Saki to get pissed and scream, "WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?!"

Does all of the above mean I wholeheartedly recommend Sweet Fuse to anyone who happens across this review? Not entirely. Some folks just aren't going to enjoy spending 10 or so hours mostly clicking through text, even if that text is both witty and entertaining. If that doesn't bother you, though, and if you're even slightly curious about this game's concept, I'd certainly recommend giving it a try as soon as you can.

See also: previous 'Great Gaymathon' reviews and Sweet Fuse posts

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Shall We Do It? (Bravely Default ... and that's pretty much all, folks!)

After a month or more of juggling two, three and even four games at a time, I pared back this week and played just one.

Of course, I spent just under 20 hours with that particular title--the just-released Bravely Default for the 3DS--so you could hardly say I shirked my duties as a gaming blogger since I last published one of these "Shall We Do It?" posts.

Anyway, as I'm sure you've already surmised based on my comment about spending 20 or so hours with Bravely Default, I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

I know I said in my last "Shall We Do It?" post that my favorite aspect of the game is the "party chat" feature, but that's not true any longer. Oh, I still like it quite a bit--and I'm still amazed the folks at Nintendo or Square Enix (whichever handled the localization) kept it intact--but in the last few days that aspect of the game has taken a back seat to a couple of others, like the dramatic boss battles and the bevy of different jobs.

The boss battles--some of which result in your party gaining access to new jobs, actually--I've encountered so far have especially wowed me so far, I have to say. Not only are they appealingly theatrical, but many of them also are tough as nails. I can't tell you how many times I've escaped from one of these encounters by the skin of my teeth.

That's a positive in my eyes, by the way. I get so sick of playing RPGs--or any other genre of games, really--that feature baddies that can be tossed aside like week-old leftovers.

I don't only like that the bosses in this game mean business, by the way; I also like that the bulk of them showcase some pretty impressive designs. Case in point: the airborne "Nemesis," Mammon, who looks like your typical blond baroness (well, the typical blond baroness that can be found in a Japanese RPG, anyway) with four drumsticks strapped to her back.

As for Bravely Default's jobs, well, they're pretty impressive, too; and not just in design, but also in utility. The one that's surprised me the most so far is the spell fencer. Here's a job, class, whatever you want to call it, that I've always wanted to like (when it appeared in games like Final Fantasy V) but have never been able to do so. In this game, though, it's not only pretty darn useful, but it's visually stunning, too.

I'm also quite smitten with the monk, performer and summoner jobs, but that's not much of a surprise where I'm concerned, as I've always loved this trio of RPG career paths.

Oh, and the ranger! How could I forget the ranger? OK, so the design is a bit ... interesting, but I'm willing to put up with it if it means I can master the use of the bow (my favorite weapon in Bravely Default right now, in case you're curious).

Is there any part of this portable adventure that isn't quite clicking with me at the moment? Not really, although I will admit that the game's characters can be a bit verbose at times. Thankfully, it's easy enough to skip over whenever I'm not in the mood, so don't take my mention of it here to be akin to a formal complaint.

Another of my not-quite-complaints: the game's really dense. As in, there's a lot of stuff a player has to learn about if they hope to have the "full Bravely Default experience"--stuff like abilities and special moves and parts and compounds. To be completely (and embarrassingly) honest, I'm still not completely sure what I need to do to trigger some special moves, nor do I fully understand how I'm supposed to make use of the aforementioned "parts" (which augment special moves, if I'm not mistaken).

Again, though, I wouldn't really say this is a complaint. I personally like that Bravely Default is packed with features and options. I imagine, though, some gamers will encounter some or all of the above and wonder, "What am I supposed to do this?"

Are any of you also playing Bravely Default at the moment? If so, what do you think of it--and are there any aspects of it that you particularly love or hate?

By the way, although I focused all of my gaming attention on Bravely Default this week, I picked up Weapon Shop de Omasse a few days ago and will set aside at least a couple of hours for it in the coming days. So, expect to hear at least a smidge about that 3DS eShop release in my next "Shall We Do It?" post.

See also: previous 'Shall We Do It?' posts

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I'd be a lot more interested in these if they were Dragon Quest-branded coffee mugs rather than 'melamine cups'

To be completely honest, I'm not entirely sure what a "melamine cup" is. Are we just talking about a plastic cup that a person might use to drink milk or water?

Regardless, I can't help but wish the Dragon Quest-themed vessels (above and below--oh, and there's a blue one, too!) that will soon be sold by the folks at were porcelain mugs rather than melamine cups.

Of course, I need a game-related mug like I need a social disease (some would say "another social disease"), so maybe I should forget about this particular wish while I'm ahead.

Are any of you chomping at the bit to own one of these cups (which can be bought for just $8.90 each), or are you perfectly fine with whatever other cups you already own?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Let's Play: 'Which Box Art is Best?' (Osawari Tantei 1, 2 1/2 and 3 edition)

I'm not entirely sure why I'm as interested in the Touch Detective (Osawari Tantei in Japan) series as I am. After all, my copy of the first game, released for the DS back in 2006, is still sealed, and I've yet to even buy its 2007 sequel.

I guess it's all due to the adorable protagonist, Mackensie (Ozawa Rina in Japan) and her just-as-adorable mushroom companion, Funghi.

Regardless, the series has me by the balls at the moment, at least to an extent. Which is why I'm publishing a post about the box art that's been produced for the first three Osawari Tantei titles (the last of which was unveiled late last week).

Speaking of which, here is the first Osawari Tantei's cover imagery:

And here is the second game's:

As for the cover art produced for the third game (the title of which translates to Touch Detective Rising 3: Does Funghi Dream of Bananas?), here you go:

This third entry in the Osawari Tantei series hits Japanese store shelves on May 1, by the way. Hopefully we'll hear about a Western release in the next few months.

And if we do, I promise I'll not only unwrap my woefully ignored copy of the first Touch Detective, but pick up the second one, too--and play both of them before the 3DS sequel lands on our shores.

In the meantime, I probably should state which of the three box arts seen above I like the best. My first thought is to go with the first one, due in large part to its simplicity. That said, I like the latest one, too--its soft colors, especially.

How about all of you? Do you prefer one piece of Osawari Tantei cover art over the others?