Friday, May 30, 2014

Lucky Monkey? More like lucky me ...

You the saying, "never judge a book by its cover"? Well, in the case of this game, I wish I would've heeded a slight twist on that oft-used cliché ("never judge a game based on random screenshots") long before now.

Oh, well, at least I pulled my head out of my keister eventually, right?

And, really, it's at least somewhat understandable that I would've ignored Natsume's Lucky Monkey--released elsewhere as Spanky's Quest--for a certain period of time, as it's hardly the most attractive (in terms of graphics) GameBoy title out there.

Not helping matters was the fact that Natsume published a second game called Spanky's Quest in the West--this time for the SNES--which long led me to believe the GameBoy iteration was little more than a second-string bastardization of its 16-bit big brother.

So, what prompted me to change my mind about this oddly compelling (in the end) portable title? Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it was the Japanese version's box art:

Actually, its cart-label art is even better:

Lucky Monkey's Arabic-leaning logo (see the first photo, above, for the best view of it) also is pretty cool, if you ask me--as is the curvy, English version of the same logo that's plastered across the side of its box.

Thankfully, this GameBoy game's packaging isn't all that's attractive about it. Its gameplay--which basically involves clearing each stage of fruity (literally) baddies by bouncing bubbles on the titular monkey's head before tossing them at the aforementioned adversaries--is pretty great, too, once you get a hang of it.

Lucky Monkey is a game that can be enjoyed no matter which language(s) you understand, by the way, so feel free to pick up the Japanese version, the North American version (called Spanky's Quest) or any other version of the game you come across in your pursuit of portable, ball-bouncing, fruit-flaying action.

Do you know of any other GameBoy "gems" I should add to my collection? If so, let me know about them in the comments section below.

See also: 'Who you gonna call? HAL Laboratory's Ghostbusters 2 for GameBoy'

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Shall We Do It? (BurgerTime Deluxe, Final Fantasy Adventure, Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe and more)

So, I pushed both THE "DENPA" MEN 3 and Etrian Odyssey IV to the back burner this past weekend so I could play a handful GameBoy titles--specifically, BurgerTime Deluxe, Final Fantasy Adventure, Snow Bros. Jr. and a little gem known as Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe (aka Sunshine Angel Marlowe).

Here are a few thoughts on each of the aforementioned games:

BurgerTime Deluxe--What can I say about this title that I didn't say in the "Great Gaymathon" review I published earlier in the week? I don't know, to tell you the truth--well, other than that I finally made it pretty deep into the game and, as such, experienced some of its most daunting challenges.

Sadly, I never was able to successfully make my way through stage 4-4, so eventually I had to cheat (by looking up passwords via GameFAQs) to play through the rest. I'd normally feel kind of bad about that, but not in the case of this game--thanks to the fact that some of its later levels are tougher than nails and seriously impressed me with the amount of strategy that's required to beat them without wasting all of your "pepper shots" and lives en route.

Random aside: my favorite part of this most recent playthrough of BurgerTime Deluxe revolves around encountering the gigantic angry doughnut enemies that only pop up in its last few stages.

Final Fantasy Adventure--I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but I was absolutely obsessed with the first two Final Fantasy Legend titles that were released for the GameBoy way back when. (The third one, not so much--although in its defense, I've yet to spend much time with it.)

Given the above, it almost could be considered criminal that before this weekend I'd never played that series' companion (in the States, at least), Final Fantasy Adventure, for more than a few, scant minutes.

Now that I've played it for a good couple of hours, I can honestly say I was a complete idiot to ignore it for so long. The game's basically a mash-up of Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda and, thus far, has proven to be even more enticing and enjoyable than that combo suggests.

Two of its standout characteristics, in my mind: its destructible environments (assuming you're sporting the right equipment) and its old-school difficulty level. (Oh, and a third: its sublime soundtrack, which harkens back to Square's glory days.)

Snow Bros. Jr.--Considering I've long professed to being a bit of a "super fan" when it comes to single-screen platformers (see: Bubble Bobble), you'd think I would've put some serious time into one version of Toaplan's Snow Bros. or another before now.

Not so, sadly enough. Actually, I've spent a few minutes with both the arcade and Mega Drive iterations here and there, but neither left a very positive impression on me, if I'm to be completely honest. That had nothing to do with its gameplay, mind you; rather, I think it had to do with the game's odd, off-putting art style.

After I came across Snow Bros. Jr.'s Japanese box art a few months ago, though, I decided to give it another chance. And you know what? I kind of fell in love with it as a result. In part, this change of heart can be attributed to the earworm of a tune that accompanies players through the first 10 stages, although the snowball-throwing and -making gameplay is pretty infectious, too.

Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe--File this one under "it's never too late to discover great GameBoy titles." That's because I didn't even know of this Technos-made game until some kind soul on Twitter brought it to my attention a month or so ago.

After reading about it over on, I decided the above-mentioned twitterer was onto something and hunted down a copy of the game as quickly as I could. It wasn't long before I was regretting that decision, though, as despite the game's adorable art style and pleasant backing tunes, I found myself stumped by its gameplay during my first few attempts at it.

Returning to the Hardcore Gaming 101 article I mentioned a paragraph ago opened my eyes as to what I was doing wrong (yes, you can aim the sun's beams at baddies to get rid of them, but if you want to advance you have to aim them at the flower seeds that populate each stage, too), and ever since it has been smooth sailing.

Actually, it's been better than smooth sailing, as I now consider myself a fairly big fan of this kinda-sorta tower-defense game. It's far from a perfect game, of course--as implied by the fact that it took me a while to figure out how to play it--but it's also refreshingly unique and features some really impressive spritework.

Will I ditch all of the above and get back to THE "DENPA" MEN 3 and Etrian Odyssey IV this week? I'm not at all sure, to tell you the truth. I have a feeling, though, what ends up happening will fall somewhere between those two extremes (as in, I'll probably continue to play Final Fantasy Adventure while also playing one or both of the 3DS titles).

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

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Manual Stimulation: Penguin Land (GameBoy)

Something you may have already noticed about the Japanese GameBoy instruction manuals I've been sharing here as of late is that a good number of them aren't all that appealing.

I'm publishing "Manual Stimulation" posts about them anyway, though, because most of these games are fairly (if not completely) unknown outside of Japan and I'd like to do my part in helping educate Westerners about them, if at all possible.

Plus, very few (if any) photos or scans of the manuals, packaging or cartridges of these games find their way onto the Internet these days, and I hate the idea of them eventually becoming lost to time.

With all of that said, let's take a gander at the instruction manual that was produced for Pony Canyon's GameBoy port of Sega's classic Doki Doki Penguin Land, shall we?

Things certainly get off to a good start, if you ask me. That splash of blue in the logo is a nice addition, for instance, although it pales in comparison to the adorable illustration that graces the manual's back cover.

The illustrations that top the manual's "story" page (above) are pretty adorable, too.

How can you add a bit of "oomph" to an otherwise humdrum instruction manual? Have a cute comic strip run along the bottom of each page, as is the case here.

In fact, said comic is about all that's worth looking at when it comes to the latter stages of the Penguin Land manual--although I guess some folks (who can understand Japanese, of course) may also like the parts that explain how to play this unique puzzler-platformer.

Thankfully, this game is extremely easy to pick up and play, so don't avoid picking up a copy (or, um, downloading a ROM) of it if you don't understand a lick of Japanese. A couple of seconds of trial and error are all you're likely to need to come to grips with how it controls and what the point of it is.

And here (above) the comic strip ends--seemingly on a positive note for the game's protagonist?

Penguin Land features an extensive cast of characters, as you can see in the pair of pages above.

I don't suppose any of you can make out what's discussed on this last page of the game's instruction manual? Are we looking at gameplay hints or tips here, or is it just random details that didn't fit anywhere else?

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Great Gaymathon Review #69: BurgerTime Deluxe (GameBoy)

Game: BurgerTime Deluxe
Genre: Arcade
Developer: Data East
Publisher: Data East
System: GameBoy
Release date: 1991

As much as I've always loved the unique-to-this-day arcade classic that is BurgerTime, I'd be hard pressed to describe it as "accessible" thanks to the daunting challenge it presents anyone who dares approach it.

Thankfully, the folks at Data East--the now-defunct, Tokyo-based company was both the developer and publisher of the 1982 original--decided in the early 1990s to take another stab at the avoid-food-themed-baddies-while-piecing-together-gigantic-burgers formula that proved so appealing (if not accessible) in their earlier effort, with the result being this far more enjoyable sequel.

Now, that isn't to suggest BurgerTime Deluxe is some sort of pushover. In fact, by the time you reach the game's fourth "world," you'll likely be pulling your hair out as you attempt to complete at least a few of its final handful of stages. You won't be doing that because the stages in question are "cheap," though, and that's definitely a key takeaway here.

Another key takeaway related to this portable platformer (of sorts): despite its obvious lack of color, it looks great on the GameBoy's (or 3DS', if that's how you roll) small screen, with well-drawn sprites that easily put to shame those found in, say, the Famicom port of the arcade original. Sure, it would've been nice if the developers had done more to change up the backdrops that support this quirky title's burger-making, condiment-escaping action, but at least they throw in a new enemy or ingredient every now and then.

The team responsible for putting BurgerTime Deluxe together was a bit more creatively on the ball when it came to producing the game's soundtrack, thankfully, as three different tunes are divvied up amongst its 24 levels. My favorite is the lilting, peppy one that kicks things off, although the others have their charms, too.

Add all of the above together and you've got a GameBoy title that's well worth exploring, especially if you're like me and you liked the idea, but not the execution, of the arcade original.

It's nowhere near as deep or exhilarating as, say, Nintendo's splendid Donkey Kong revamp that was released in 1994, of course, but it holds its own against pretty much every other platformer produced for this iconic portable, and for that reason alone I'd say it deserves a look.

See also: previous 'Great Gaymathon' reviews