Friday, September 05, 2014

I guess I've come around to Bubble Bobble Junior's box art as well as its gameplay

My initial reaction to Bubble Bobble Junior's box art basically mirrored my initial reaction to its gameplay--which is another way of saying both initially prompted me to scrunch my face in a way that implied I was not altogether pleased.

As I shared in this recent "Second Chances" post, however, I recently came around to this portable platformer's gameplay. Sure, it lacks some of the thrilling punch for which the arcade original is known and loved, but it's still an enjoyable little romp.

I'm not sure why it took me so long to come around to this GameBoy release's box art, to be honest. I have a feeling, though, that I turned up my nose at it early on because it showcases a rather derpy Bub (or is it Bob?) rather than the far more adorable one that was featured in the cover illustration created for this title's predecessor. (I guess you could say I'm not a fan of how Taito has screwed with, er, altered Bub's and Bob's designs in recent years.)

I've since softened my stance, of course, and now I actually find Bubble Bobble Junior's packaging to be pretty darn appealing. 

That's mainly because its logo is both colorful and precious--although both of those words also could be used to describe the rest of its cover, if you ask me.

As is often the case with Japanese GameBoy titles, the back of Bubble Bobble Junior's box is a smidge less exciting than its front.

Unsurprisingly, Bubble Bobble Junior's cart label apes its cover art, although the logo's now in Japanese and makes use of a far less fabulous font.

Those of you who regularly check out my Flickr photostream may have seen this recent upload, which highlights a page of the first Bubble Bobble GameBoy port's instruction manual.

Did the artist responsible for the illustrations showcased in the linked scan also produce the ones seen in the photo above? I have no idea, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear that the same person created both sets of drawings. (He or she may have had a hand in the manuals made for the PC Engine ports of Don Doko Don, Mizubaku Daibouken and The New Zealand Story, now that I think about it.)

See also: 'Where have you been all my life, Cave Noire?'

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Manual Stimulation: Don Doko Don (PC Engine)

The designers and artists at Taito really hit it out of the park when they produced instruction manuals for the PC Engine. A couple of cases in point can be found in the "Manual Stimulation" posts I previously published about Mizubaku Daibouken and The New Zealand Story.

The manual made for 1990's Don Doko Don is no exception, and it all starts with its adorable and colorful cover.

The interior of this particular instruction manual eschews color, sadly, but it's hard to say it suffers much as a result.

Like The New Zealand Story's manual, this one features a number of charmingly childish illustrations, such as the ones that can be seen in the scans above. (Click on them for a closer look.)

More such illustrations can be found throughout this instruction manual, with the ones below being some of my favorites. (I love how they simply explain to readers how the game works: bonk enemies on the head with your hammer, then pick up the squished foe and toss it against a wall or other solid object in order to extract oddly spotted fruit from it.)

Later pages showcase noteworthy aspects of each of Don Doko Don's stages as well as drawings of their boss denizens.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Second Chances: Rainbow Islands (Famicom)

Every previous entry in this series has followed a pretty similar path: after returning to a game I previously didn't enjoy all that much, I discovered it really wasn't so bad after all!

This one is going to be different. Now, that doesn't mean I'm going to declare at its end that I still dislike the Famicom port of Rainbow Islands even after giving it a second chance, but it also doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to say that I'm now madly in love with it.

In reality, my current opinion of this 8-bit conversion of Taito's classic arcade game, the only official sequel to the company's Bubble Bobble, is that it's a hit-and-miss affair. On the one hand, for instance, its protagonist and enemy sprites are pretty darn nice, especially when you consider the Famicom surely pales in comparison, power-wise, to the arcade PCB.

Also, this port's controls and overall "feel" are close enough to those of the arcade original to not be off-putting--for the most part--and the soundtrack holds its own, too. (Note that the Famicom version of Rainbow Islands retains the arcade's "Over the Rainbow"-inspired theme, while its NES counterpart features a different and unique tune.)

As for what's keeping me from enjoying this installment as much as I enjoy, say, the pretty-much-arcade-perfect PC Engine one: a particularly noteworthy example, I think, is the limited color palette that's used here. Although the game's sprites look great, its backdrops often appear drab or washed out.

A few other reasons this Rainbow Islands port doesn't exactly stack up to its arcade or PC Engine brethren: the ever-present and action-obscuring flicker, the subtly altered gameplay (protags Bubby and Bobby can only shoot a maximum of two rainbows here, as opposed to the three that can be spawned in other iterations) and the screwed-up stage layouts.

That last negative is the most damning, if you ask me, as some of the level-design choices that were made during the production of this port are head-scratchers. Case in point: a number of stages now have spike-lined platforms that aren't, as far as I'm aware, present in other versions and that make progressing through some of the levels in this one to be an annoyingly difficult chore.

Even when stages aren't hampered by spike-lined platforms, though, they're often hamstrung by other obstacles--all of which conspire to kill the flow that I consider to be a hallmark of the arcade and PC Engine versions. As such, while playing the Famicom cart it's nearly impossible to get into the same kind of grin-inducing "zone" that makes those other iterations so enjoyable, and that's a shame.

Once all of the above is taken into consideration, I'd be hard-pressed to call this release anything other than disappointing. It's not terrible, nor is it a Famicom cartridge that should be avoided at all costs, but it's also not what I would consider to be the go-to conversion of this classic platformer. (For most folks, that would be the arcade original, which can be found on the Taito Legends compilation that was released for PC, PS2 and Xbox, although the PC Engine installment's worth picking up, too, if that's an option.)

To those of you who've also spent some time with Rainbow Islands' Famicom (or even NES) outing: what are your thoughts on it?

See also: previous 'Second Chances' posts

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Six reasons I'm excited about the 'new' 3DS

I know I'm a few days late when it comes to commenting on the "new" 3DS and 3DS LL systems Nintendo will release in Japan next month (check out's write-up for the particulars), but I just haven't had much to say on the subject until now.

Other than "I think some of the new features and components sound kind of cool, even if I don't fully understand them," I mean.

As cool as some of the "new" 3DS' features and components sound, the only one that currently has me contemplating picking up one of these systems is the one that allows owners to customize the look of their "new" 3DSes with interchangeable "cover plates."

Speaking of which, here are six of my favorite cover-plate designs:

If I had to point to just one of the above as being my absolute favorite, I'd go with the Monster Hunter 4G "Poogie" one, no question.

What do all of you think about the announcements related to this recent Nintendo Direct? Are you now chomping at the bit to buy one of the "new" 3DS systems, for instance? Or maybe you're desperate to get your hands on a copy of the just-unveiled Xenoblade port that will only be playable on these upgraded portables? Regardless, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Monday, September 01, 2014

I went to PAX Prime 2014 and all I got was this lousy copy of Daigasso! Band Brothers Request Selection

To those of you wondering if this post is going to be about PAX Prime 2014 or Daigasso! Band Brothers Request Selection: it's going to be about both.

Let's start, though, with some general thoughts on PAX Prime 2014, the Seattle-based gaming convention that began last Friday and ends today.

For the first time since I moved here nearly eight years ago, I acquired a one-day badge to this hot-ticket event--and then used it to attend on Saturday.

The long and short of my maiden PAX Prime experience: it's not really my thing. Specifically, being surrounded by hundreds of strangers isn't really my thing. That's not the only reason I walked away from PAX feeling pretty sure I'd never return, though; another is that the games that were on hand just weren't my cup of tea.

Case in point: Nintendo of America's booth consisted of two games, Hyrule Warriors and Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U. Both games looked great--I watched others play the former and actually spent a few minutes with the latter--but I can't say they're games I've been dying to play. I would've much rather spent time with Fantasy Life or Yoshi's Woolly World or titles of that ilk.

One game that was on hand that I wanted to play--but didn't, because I'm lame--was Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Although I watched others play it, and considered getting in line to do so myself, I chickened out in the end because I was nervous about having to fight the game's beasts alongside three other players (as opposed to doing so on my lonesome). Like I said, I'm lame.

What else did I play? The Behemoth's 2013 XBLA (and PC) effort, BattleBlock Theater, was one. My blogging pal, Jess, recommended this title to his readers via this recent post, and in doing so reminded me of its existence. So, when I saw it available for play at The Behemoth's booth, I decided to give it a go. For what it's worth, I liked what I experienced of it--its art style and puzzler-platformer-ish gameplay, especially.

At the moment, I can't remember anything else I played or watching others play--aside from a few rounds of BurgerTime and Ms. Pac-Man in the event's "retro arcade" room, I mean. Which, I know, says quite a few things about my PAX Prime 2014 experience--or lack thereof--but what can you do?

Other than all of the above, I perused a bunch of the awesome merchandise booths, like the Fangamer one and a few other t-shirt-centric ones. Also, I checked out the booth manned by the youthful staff of Seattle's main retro- and import-game store, Pink Gorilla. In fact, that's where I picked up the complete-in-box copy of Daigasso! Band Brothers Request Selection mentioned in the header above.

This title, released in late 2005 as an add-on to the base version of Daigasso! Band Brothers--Request Selection's cart goes into a DS' GBA slot while the Daigasso! Band Brothers DS card is in place, too--had been on my "to buy" list for ages, but I failed to buy it until this weekend because I never wanted or needed it so badly that I was willing to hand over the 25 or so dollars eBay sellers tended to ask for it.

It wasn't until I came across the rather pristine copy--and its attention-grabbing $10 price tag--seen above at Pink Gorilla's booth, that I was spurred to action.

I haven't tried it out yet, but I will soon, especially since it adds 31 new songs to the ones showcased in the main release. When I do, I'll be sure to share my impressions here, as I am wont to do.

In the meantime, did any of you also attend PAX Prime 2014? If so, what are your thoughts of the event?