Friday, March 14, 2014

The Great Gaymathon Review #66: Painter Momopie (GameBoy)

Game: Painter Momopie
Genre: Action
Developer: Sigma Entertainment
Publisher: Sigma Entertainment
System: GameBoy
Release date: 1990

I've mentioned this game in so many posts over the last six months that I thought I finally should write and publish a formal review of it.

So, what's the first thing you should know about this little-known import? I'd say it's that the game, at its heart, is a late-to-the-party Pac-Man clone. Actually, a better way of stating things might be to say that it plays like an inverted version of that Namco classic. After all, rather than ridding each stage of something (pellets in the case of Pac-Man), in Painter Momopie your aim is to fill each stage with something--specifically, you're tasked with painting the floors of someone's home. (The titular Momopie's? I would guess so, but I'm not entirely sure.)

Sigma's "clone" apes its main source of inspiration in another important way, too--that being that the witchy protagonist is forced to avoid, as best she can, a slew of baddies who "kill" her upon touch. Unlike their counterparts in Pac-Man, though, the enemies found in Painter Momopie aren't simply color swaps of one another. Here they're distinct creatures with similarly distinct personalities and routines. A few examples: the blubbery ghosts that float through walls, the tittering mice that occasionally leave behind footprints that have to be cleaned up and the odd-looking baddies known as "ojari" that drop deadly puffs of dust in their wake.

That isn't the only example of how this portable effort differs from its quarter-munching predecessor. Another: Painter Momopie's stages aren't abstract realities like those that appear in Pac-Man. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, the ones in the former seem to be the actual rooms of someone's house. The whole she-bang begins in the kitchen, for instance, then moves to the hallway, a couple of bedrooms and more. I wouldn't go so far as to describe these constructions as being anything close to ornate, but they get the job done and they're more visually intriguing than Pac-Man's neon-colored corridors, so I'm not about to complain.

Momopie's individual levels also are far less rigid than the ones found in Namco's genre king, with rooms laid out in a more organic and asymmetrical fashion. That's generally a good thing, by the way, but not always, as sometimes I find myself longing for even a couple of them to be a bit more structured so I can zone out like I do when I play, say, Ms. Pac-Man. (Because, really, who plays Pac-Man when they have access to his wife's game?)

What else should you know about Painter Momopie before spending your hard-earned dollars on a copy of it (or, you know, before you search for and download the ROM--hey, I'm not judging)? Well, it looks quite nice, even if it's far from a stunner. I especially like Momopie's sprite, for whatever reason.

Its soundtrack isn't quite so impressive, sadly. The tunes are jaunty enough, but they stick around too long--you have to listen to the same one over and over again for seven stages before a new one pops up. Granted, games like Bubble Bobble force you to listen to the same track from start to finish, so it seems harsh to complain about Momopie's situation, but then again the latter's music can't hold a candle to former's so maybe that's the real issue here.

The only other thing I can think of to say here is that you've got to stick with Painter Momopie a bit before it shows its teeth, so to speak. The first seven stages are a veritable cakewalk, but things do become more difficult after that. So, if your only quibble early on is that it's a bit too easy, play a few more levels before deciding to hang on to it or give it the heave-ho.

See also: photos of the Painter Momopie box and cartridge, and scans of the Painter Momopie manual

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Manual Stimulation: Lunar Samposuru Gakuen (Game Gear)

I'm just going to say this right off the bat: the instruction manual produced for Lunar: Samposuru Gakuen (aka Lunar: Walking School--and by the way, I know the title in the header above is missing the colon; the fact is, I just couldn't handle two colons pressing against each other like that) is one of the most impressive I've come across so far, especially in terms of manuals produced for portable games.

After all, more than half of its many pages are filled with beautiful, full-color illustrations (like the ones below).

I believe this is the island on which the game takes place, by the way, although don't quote me on that.

Likewise, I'm pretty sure the folks featured on the following pages are Lunar: Samposuru Gakuen's main characters.

Are the gal and guy below the game's antagonists? Again, I don't know, but I'd be willing to bet that's just who they are. They certainly look ... villainous enough, don't they?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

If only the gameplay in Kitchen Panic (GameBoy) were as awesome as its box art

Oh, don't get me wrong--the gameplay in Kitchen Panic, a rather unheralded Japan-only GameBoy title that was released all the way back in 1991, isn't completely terrible. I also wouldn't describe it as overly appealing, though, which is a bit of a shame given the effort put into its colorful box art.

Oh, well, you can't always have everything, can you? And at least in the case of this portable action game--which was developed by Bits Laboratory and published by Coconuts Japan--we got a pretty ace cover illustration out of the deal.

We also got a surprisingly adorable manual out of it. As you hopefully can see in the photos above and below, the front and back covers of Kitchen Panic's instruction manual are supposed to resemble the corresponding surfaces of an actual GameBoy.

Now, don't take all of this yammering to mean that everything other than Kitchen Panic's box and manual art is completely without merit. In fact, some of its spritework is pretty darn nice, and its gameplay is of the accessibly arcade-y sort that only can be found in a title of this era.

Just don't spend an arm and a leg on a copy of it, OK? In fact, before you spend even a dime on it I'd highly recommend taking it for a test drive via emulation. After that, if you're still interested in it and if you've got the means to play it, pick up a loose cart on the cheap.

See also: my 'Great Gaymathon' review of Kitchen Panic and scans of its entire instruction manual

Monday, March 10, 2014

I really like these recently-ish released examples of Japanese box art

So, here we are again. What is it with me and box art? Honestly, I have no idea--other than I really like it (box art), I mean.

If you're also a fan of box art, hopefully you'll dig the recently-ish released examples below, each of which should show up on Japanese store shelves sooner rather than later.

This first one is for the PS Vita "Premium Box" version of Atelier Ayesha Plus, as you've probably already surmised. I'm also pretty fond of the cover art that's going to be used for this game's regular release (check it out here), I have to say, but I like this one even more due to the presence of that goat-lamb creature.  

I really, really liked the illustration that was created for the first Theatrhythm title's case cover, so I expected to like this one, too. And you know what? I do! Hopefully if the powers that be at Square Enix decide to release it elsewhere they'll leave the box art alone.

The box art above is for what looks to be a Wizardry clone called Tsurugi no Machi no Ihoujin (or, Stranger of the Village of the Sword). Apparently the game's also going to be released for the Vita, so hopefully some brave company will localize that version for other regions (and of course use the same cover illustration). 

Finally, there's Natural Doctrine, another upcoming title I know next to nothing about--other than it's a PS4 game that's being published by Kadokawa Games, I mean. I do believe I've read that it's been announced for North American release, though, so I'm guessing we'll all learn more about it shortly.

Do any of the pieces of cover art above make your heart race, too? If so, which ones--and why?