Thursday, December 31, 2015

My favorite games of 2015 (that actually were released in 2015)

Although I bought and played a lot of games in 2015, the sad truth is that not many of them actually were released this past year.

In fact, aside from the ones highlighted here, the only other released-in-2015 games I remember playing are BOXBOY!, The Legend of Kusakari, Nintendo Badge Arcade and Pokémon Picross.

Still, I think the trio touched on below are worthy of all the praise I can heap on them.

The Legend of Legacy (3DS)--If I were forced to point out my absolute favorite of the current-gen games I bought and played in 2015, this weird, distinctly Japanese RPG would be it. Don't take that to mean it's perfect or recommended for everyone or anything of the sort, though, as The Legend of Legacy often goes out of its way to be repetitive, tight-lipped (as in, its story is the definition of sparse) and hair-pullingly difficult.

Still, I put nearly 40 hours into The Legend of Legacy since I got my hands on a copy of it a couple of months ago, so clearly its developers did something right. Specifically, I consider the pop-up backdrops, watercolor aesthetics and surprisingly deep battles they created for this 3DS title to be spot-on.

I wouldn't have complained if they'd added a bit more pizazz to that last component, mind you, but even in its current, somewhat unfinished state, The Legend of Legacy is pretty great, in my humble opinion, and well worth the hard-earned cash I spent on it.

Rhythm Tengoku: The Best Plus (3DS)--Am I surprised that a lot of folks were let down by The Best Plus after digging into it? Not really. For starters, like me, they probably spent a long time looking forward to a new entry in this quirky series of rhythm games--and as we all know, that sort of thing usually leads to disappointment.

Two additional issues that surely pushed at least a few people down that same path: this title's "best of" nature (as in, most of its content is pulled from past Rhythm Tengoku releases) and its insistence on wrapping an unnecessarily chatty story around the included package of mini-games.

Although I'm just as guilty as anyone in being turned off by those "problem areas," I still walked away from The Best Plus happy that I added it to my collection. The new characters more than hold their own against those who were showcased in previous Rhythm Tengoku installments, and the new mini-games, while perhaps not as stellar as their predecessors, are well beyond passable.

In other words, there's plenty of fun to be had with The Best Plus if you lower your expectations a smidge and then just go with the flow.

Undertale (Mac)--Full disclosure: at this point in time, I don't consider Undertale to be a better (or more enjoyable) game than any of Nintendo's three Mother (aka EarthBound) titles. Granted, I'm pretty sure I've only experienced a fraction of what it has to offer so far.

Also, although I may not be as enamored with this unique RPG as some others are, there's no question I've loved every second I've put into it. The touching--and almost shockingly dark--story and pleasantly odd art style on offer here are obvious high points, but I also really appreciate Undertale's fresh take on old-school RPG battle scenes. As a result, I very much intend to blast my way to this game's finish line in early 2016.

Now that I've blathered on about my favorite games of 2015 (or at least those that actually were released in the last 12 months), please feel free to talk about yours in the comments section below.

See also: 'My favorite games of 2014 (that actually were released in 2014)' and 'My favorite games of 2014 (that were released before 2014)'

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

5 games I bought in 2015 that I've regrettably (some might say embarrassingly) failed to play

Here's an admission that should shock almost no one: I bought quite a few games--both old and new--in 2015.

Even less shocking to those of you who've been reading this blog for even a few weeks: I've only played a handful of those pick-ups so far.

I'll spend some time chatting about the ones I've actually spent time with in a post that'll be published in a couple of days. In this one, though, I'll blab about some of the ones I've regrettably (and embarrassingly) ignored.

Clock Tower (WonderSwan)--I was so excited when I finally acquired a WonderSwan system (along with five WonderSwan games) a few months ago. I've been buying WonderSwan games for a number of years now--read about some of them in these previously published posts--but until my black WonderSwan Color arrived on my doorstep in mid-October I was unable to play them. Anyway, you'd think that all of this would've prompted me to cram my freshly obtained Clock Tower cart into the aforementioned portable as soon as possible. After all, I've wanted to experience some version of Human Entertainment's point-and-click horror game for ages. Alas, it's still on the to-do list. As is the case with all of the games mentioned here, though, I'm planning to rectify matters in 2016.

Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. (3DS)--I'll be honest here: I wasn't entirely sure what to think of this turn-based strategy game when Nintendo first unveiled it. Sure, Intelligent Systems' involvement thrilled me, and I also loved that they dared to take the genre in a unique direction with the comic-book setting and steampunk aesthetic on display here. On the flip side, though, I wasn't so enamored with their seeming obsession with garish colors. Still, I pre-ordered a copy as soon as I was able--and then promptly neglected to even open it after it was delivered.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (3DS)--True story: I've wanted to play Majora's Mask ever since I conquered the original Nintendo 64 version of Ocarina of Time back in the day. For whatever reason, though, I passed on Majora's Mask when it was released in 2000. Actually, I believe my brother and I owned a copy of it at one point, but I never went through its adventure myself. With that in mind, I happily pre-ordered this 3DS remake-of-sorts and then ... you know how this story ends by now, right?

Taiko no Tatsujin V Version (Vita)--When I first heard that the folks at Bandai Namco were prepping a new Taiko no Tatsujin game for the Vita, I was stoked. I own and love all three of the Taiko titles that were released (in Japan only, sadly) for the DS a few years back, and that affection pushed me to purchase iterations for the PSP and 3DS, too. So, why not add V Version to the pile, too, right? Unfortunately, I didn't give my Vita the attention it deserved in 2015, so this and other releases basically fell by the wayside. Hopefully that won't be the case in the coming year.

Yomawari (Vita)--Of all the unplayed games name-checked in this post, this one bugs me the most. Why? Yomawari is "my cup of tea," as that old saying goes. Specifically, it's cute, it's scary and it's portable. Yet it continues to sit in the same stack as the titles noted above. Admittedly, one reason I've been dragging my feet when it comes to booting up my copy of this Nippon Ichi production is that I'm a bit worried the in-game text will be over my head. Even if that proves true in the end, though, I won't know it for sure until I've actually given Yomawari a try, wouldn't you agree?

With all of that out of the way, what are some of the games--new or old--that you picked up in 2015 but failed to play?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Shin Megami Tensei IV Final looks so good in this new trailer I'm going to get off my butt and finally start playing the first SMT IV in early 2016

So, one of my great gaming regrets of the last few years is buying Shin Megami Tensei IV as soon as I was able and then failing to even pull it out of its packaging until now.

Mark my words, though: I'm going to do my best to change that shortly after I return from vacation.

What prompted this turnaround? To be honest, I've been thinking about finally starting the game for a while now, but the thing that pushed me over the edge was watching the new Shin Megami Tensei IV Final trailer that can be seen below.

Hopefully I'll be able to finish, or at least put a good dent in, the original Shin Megami Tensei IV before Final is released in my neck of the woods--assuming it's actually released outside of Japan, of course.

How about all of you? Are you excited about the possibility of experiencing this Shin Megami Tensei IV follow-up at some point in 2016?

Also, have any of you played the first version of Shin Megami Tensei IV? If so, what did you think about it?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Another Year of the GameBoy: Seiken Densetsu

Like most people my age who have enjoyed video games since they were youngsters, I distinctly remember my reaction to Seiken Densetsu's unveiling in the early 1990s.

"It's like Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda blended together!"

(And in case you're wondering, yes, this is the exact same reaction I had to Secret of Mana's unveiling a few years later--which makes sense, as that game's Japanese title, as most of you surely know, is Seiken Densetsu 2.)

Did the reality of Seiken Densetsu live up to that fantasy once I finally was allowed to put it through its paces? I'd say so.

Sure, the game--renamed Final Fantasy Adventure in North America and Mystic Quest in Europe--isn't as deep as its 16-bit sequel, but it was more than deep enough for my teenage self. Hell, it's more than deep enough for my no-longer-teenage self.

Which should go a long way toward explaining why I finally picked up a complete-in-box copy of the Japanese version of this much-loved action RPG a couple of months ago.

I'm not sure why I waited so long, to be honest. I mean, just look at the photos included in this post. I'd want to own that box and cartridge and instruction manual even if I only kind of liked Seiken Densetsu's gameplay.

I especially love the little enemy illustrations that are hidden on the box's inner flaps. 

Seiken Densetsu's cartridge label is pretty darn nice, too--don't get me wrong. I guess it's the least exciting portion of this particular package thanks to the fact that it uses elements that also can be found on the front of the game's outer box, but I like that cart art is more minimalist.

As for this GameBoy title's manual, well, just take a gander at the snapshot above. A number of similarly great illustrations fill the remainder of its instruction booklet. 

Speaking of which, I'll do my best to scan and share--in another of my "Manual Stimulation" posts--the Seiken Densetsu manual in its entirety sooner rather than later. I know I've said that before, but I hope to make good on all of those promises shortly.

In the meantime, are any of you fans of Seiken Densetsu--or Mystic Quest or Final Fantasy Adventure? If so, please share your thoughts and memories in the comments section below.

See also: previous '(Another) Year of the GameBoy' and 'Nice Package!' posts

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Let's take a minute to chat about (and ogle) Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna's gorgeous character designs

I'm looking forward to putting loads of games--new and old--through their paces in 2016, but one of the former that I'm especially keen on playing is Square Enix's throwback RPG known as Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna.

There are a ton of reasons for my interest in this upcoming PS4 and Vita adventure, of course. One is that it features a Chrono Trigger-esque battle system. Another is that it takes place (at least partially) in a breathtakingly wintry setting.

I also love that the in-game versions of Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna's many party members all boast what can only be described as "stubby feet" à la Bravely Default and Bravely Second. (And, no, I'm not kidding.)

Speaking of the game's color cast of characters, they're also among the reasons I can't wait for my retail copy to arrive on our doorstep shortly after Feb. 18.

Seriously, take a gander at the illustrations found throughout this post and then try to tell me you wouldn't kill to play through a title that stars such beauties.

Setsuna, the ponytailed "hero" and Kuon, above, are my favorites, I've got to say, but I'm also quite fond of Julion, Yomi and Keele (or Kiel).

If I were forced to choose a favorite of all Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna's currently known party members, I'd probably go with Kuon.

How about you? Which one is your favorite?

Also, are any of you also chomping at the bit to play some iteration of this retro-tinged RPG in the coming year?

See also: 'Square Enix's beautiful throwback of an RPG, Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna, will be mine sometime on or around Feb. 18'

Monday, December 21, 2015

This soon-to-be-released Romancing SaGa 2 'remake' looks 100 times better than Square Enix's most recent Final Fantasy V and VI re-releases and that makes me really happy

Here's a bit of news I'm guessing will interest about four of you: Square Enix recently announced that it's working on a remake (of sorts) of Romancing SaGa 2 for Android, iOS and Vita.

I describe it as a "remake of sorts" because the few screenshots that have been released thus far suggest that this version of the game will retain the 1993 original's character and enemy sprites while the old backdrops will be replaced with ones that are a bit more detailed.

The result reminds me of the awesome Final Fantasy IV, V and VI Advance titles Square Enix published for the GameBoy Advance between 2005 and 2007.

As for when this reimagined Romancing SaGa 2 will be made available to the masses, all that's known at the moment is it'll see the light of day this "winter."

Will the Vita version earn a retail release? I have no idea, but I'm currently crossing my fingers in the hopes that it does.

I'm similarly clueless as to whether or not any iteration of the game--which began life as a Super Famicom cartridge--will be localized for regions outside of Japan. If I were a betting man, though, I'd probably put my money on "no way in hell."

Will any of you buy it even if it remains a Japan-only offering? If so, why? Also, do you think you'll pick it up for Android, iOS, Vita, or all of the above?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Why didn't someone tell me Square worked to port its Aliens MSX game to the Famicom Disk System and that the ROM had found its way on line?

Anyone new to this blog may not yet know this bit of oh-so-interesting news, but I am an absolute Alien nut.

Both Ridley Scott's 1979 film and James Cameron's 1986 sequel (called Aliens, naturally) are among my all-time favorite pieces of cinema.

Combine that with my love of video games, and you've got a situation where a person (that would be me) scours the globe in search of quality games that were inspired by the above-mentioned films.

Sadly, that lifelong search has turned up only a few worthwhile possibilities, such as Konami's side-scrolling action game from 1990, 1994's Aliens vs Predator title for the ill-fated Atari Jaguar, WayForward's Aliens Infestation for the DS and last year's Alien: Isolation for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Is the awkwardly named Aliens: Alien 2, made by Square for the MSX computer platform all the way back in 1987, another example? I've never played it, so I have no idea, but videos such as this one certainly make it look like a contender.

I share all of this because I just--well, a couple of days ago--became aware of the fact that the fine folks at Square worked on a Famicom Disk System port of Aliens: Alien 2 at some point in time.

For whatever reason, though, the company's higher-ups weren't happy with the effort and scrapped it before it could be released.

Amazingly, some wonderful person got his or her hands on the game's not-quite-finished prototype and leaked its ROM onto the Internet in 2011--another piece of news that only recently reached my ears.

If you, too, are an Alien buff and this is the first you're hearing of the Famicom Disk System port of Square's Aliens: Alien 2, you may get a kick out of the footage included in the video above.

Personally, I prefer the more minimalist aesthetic of the MSX original, although the FDS version is far from unappealing. What do all of you think?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Happy 4th anniversary, Vita!

I've got to admit: when Sony first announced it was prepping a follow-up to the PSP, I wasn't all that interested.

Which is strange, as I loved--and continue to love--the company's first handheld system to death. At the time, though, the 3DS (as well as the DS and the PSP) had a virtual monopoly on my gaming attention span.

Because of that, the poor Vita basically avoided pinging my radar in any kind of meaningful way until a year or two after its release.

Speaking of which, the Vita's Japanese launch took place four years ago yesterday. (It didn't hit North American store shelves until two months later, on Feb. 15, while other regions had to wait until Feb 22.)

That's an anniversary well worth celebrating, wouldn't you agree?

Assuming you feel the Vita's existence is one that should be honored, why do you think that is? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, if you've got the interest and the time.

On a related note, you might enjoy reading this previously published post of mine, which includes a few words about as well as a few photos of the pink-and-white Vita system I acquired earlier this year.

Or you may want to check out these "Shall We Do It?" write-ups, which feature a smattering of impressions of the original Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

PSP PSA: Nihon Falcom's Brandish is now just $10 on the PlayStation Store

I kind of can't believe I'm mentioning the above news here, as I've never played any version of this dungeon-crawler. (It first saw the light of day on some rather ancient Japanese computers--the NEC PC-9801 and the FM Towns, to be exact--in 1991 before being given a second chance on the PC Engine and Super Famicom in 1994.)

Don't take that to mean I'm indifferent to it. In fact, I'm quite interested in it. The only reason I haven't bought some iteration or other of Brandish yet is that I can't decide which one to pick up.

I have narrowed things down a bit, though. Specifically, I'd like to own either a physical, boxed copy of the Japanese PSP release or XSEED Games' recent English localization of it.

Because the former can be acquired for about $20 these days, it's probably my first choice at the moment. Or it would be if the latter weren't just $10 on the PlayStation Store. (It's playable on both PSP and Vita, by the way--in case you're curious.)

A video showcasing the gameplay of this most recent version of Brandish can be found above. After watching it, do any of you think you'll be adding it to your digital PSP or Vita collections?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Shall We Do It? (Alien Syndrome, City Connection, Mickey Mousecapade, Parodius Da! and Super Mario Bros. 2)

Some of you may be wondering why all of the games mentioned in this post's headline are decidedly retro" Well, that would be because the only current game I've played in the last few weeks is Pokémon Picross.

OK, so I've also put some time--and money--into Nintendo Badge Arcade during that same period, although I don't know if I'd call the latter a "game." (It's more of an app, if you ask me.)

What about The Legend of Legacy and Undertale? I haven't played either of them in about a month, sadly. And I haven't even started Yo-Kai Watch, despite the fact that a copy of that 3DS title has been in my hands since I got it as a birthday present right after Thanksgiving.

Given all of the above, it may seem strange that I decided to spend a good part of this past weekend playing the following bunch of golden oldies. The only response I can come up with to that charge is "I needed it." And don't we all sometimes?

Alien Syndrome (Game Gear)--Considering my nearly lifelong love of the first two Alien films, you’d think I would have at least tried this similarly themed game ages ago. Actually, I have plunked a bit of time into various versions of this Sega-made title (which originated in the arcades) over the years, but for whatever reason the aesthetics and gameplay never sat well with me. Something changed in that regard this weekend, though, as I raced through three of the Game Gear port’s stages on Saturday morning and only gave up after seeing a satisfactory portion of its fourth.

If this is the first you’ve heard of Alien Syndrome, by the way, the gist of it is it’s a run-and-gun action game that’s clearly inspired by the original Alien flick. You run around each level--most or all of which take place on some sort of spaceship--and rescue stranded crewmates while avoiding (or blowing away) a whole host of nightmarish baddies. Oh, and a clock is ticking away all the while, which adds a certain sense of urgency to both of those tasks.

As is the case with most of the games I booted up over the last few days, some (maybe many) modern gamers are sure to find the Game Gear version of Alien Syndrome painfully dated, especially in the graphics department. Still, if you’re a fan of tense gaming experiences and extraterrestrial settings, you’d do well to overlook this title’s superficial stumbling points and give it a bit of love.

City Connection (Famicom)--Looking back on it now, it seems strange that as a kid I had access to an arcade containing a City Connection cabinet. After all, I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin—not exactly a hotbed of obscure Japanese games of any sort.

At any rate, I'm glad my local arcade (bowling alley, really) was home to this Axes Art Amuse-made and Jaleco-published oddity--for a while, at least. I played it every chance I got. Who could blame me? It's a platformer--of sorts--that shoves players behind the wheel of an adorable red sports car and then forces them to race and leap around a handful of stages, all of which are set in real-life cities. The point: why, to cover their roadways in paint, of course. (You do this do you can prove you've fully experienced each locale.)

I wish I could tell you how accurate the Famicom port of City Connection is to the arcade original, but I can't. I can say the former is a lot of fun, though. It's colorful, it controls well enough, it's challenging (but not overly cheap, as is the case for too many games from this era) and it has a soundtrack that's better than it has any right to be.

Mickey Mousecapade (NES)--Here's another game from my childhood. For some weird reason, this is one of the 20 or so NES games I owned as a kid. I say it's weird because I've never really been a big Disney fan. As such, I'm not sure what prompted me to buy (or, more likely, ask for it as a birthday or Christmas gift) Mickey Mousecapade.

Regardless, I remember liking this classic platformer--which curiously puts players in control of both Mickey and Minnie at the same time--well enough. I also remember finding it more than a smidge frustrating beyond its first stage. Which is kind of hilarious, as I got all the way to the game's third stage on my second try this past weekend, and without a whole lot of fuss. Sadly, that's as far as I was able to get.

Oh, well, I'm glad I finally revisited Mickey Mousecapade after all these years. It's far from a great game, and it's downright ugly in spots (I'm looking at you, annoying forest level), but the background music is nice and the overall experience is enjoyable enough that I'll probably return to it again ... in a couple of years or so.

Parodius Da! (PC Engine)--Would you believe this was one of the first Japanese games I ever imported? Detana!! TwinBee was another, along with Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy VI and Tengai Makyou II. Oh, and Pop'n TwinBee, too.

At any rate, this was my favorite of the bunch. (OK, so I was pretty fond of the two Final Fantasy games as well.) Which makes sense, as it's hard to play this wackadoodle shmup, which parodies Konami's genre-defining Gradius series (hence the name), without a huge grin plastered across your face all the while.

I spend most of my time with the PC Engine port of Parodius Da! playing its "Special" mode, by the way. It's a single-level, high-score romp that's perfect for short bursts of play--which means it's perfect for my ever-diminishing attention span.

Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)--Do you have a favorite Famicom or NES cart? Well, this is one of mine. To me, this bastard child of Nintendo's decades-old Mario series is the gaming equivalent of chicken noodle soup. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy in a way that not too many titles from any era can match.

Anyway, I was prompted to return to this pastel-shellacked platformer by the recently released Nintendo Badge Arcade. For the last few days, that 3DS app has offered up a slew of Super Mario Bros. 2 pins--every single one of which caused my mouth to froth in nostalgia-flavored glee. (OK, so maybe that's overstating things a tad.)

Although I somehow stopped myself from dropping $5 more into the Nintendo Badge Arcade, I wasn't able to keep myself from spending a similar amount to buy Super Mario Bros. 2 via the eShop. Which is just as well, because every 3DS needs to have a copy of this game stuck to its main menu and at the ready at all times, don't you think?

Have you played any retro games in recent days or weeks? If so, which ones--and what pushed you to spend some quality time with them?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

All I want for Christmas is ...

Well, it's that time of year again--if you celebrate Christmas or any of the other "winter holidays" in some form or fashion, of course.

I do, although not in a religious sense, which means I've been forced--yes, forced, I tell you!--to come up with a list of potential presents for a select few people in my life.

Here are the gaming-related gifts that made it onto my list this year, in case any of you are curious:

16GB memory card for Vita--When I bought my pink-and-white Vita early this year, I was so excited about it that I completely ignored the fact that the system comes with just one GB of internal storage memory. In other words, I've barely bought any digital titles since March. Or, rather, I've bought some, but I can't play them because I don't have enough room on my Vita to download them. So, this may be the present--game-related or not--that I want the most this holiday season.

Kiki Kaikai (PC Engine)--I have kind of a weird history with this Taito-made, Japanese-folklore-themed run-and-gun game. When I first played it a few years back, it made me turn up my nose in disgust. To say the game looks a bit bland is an understatement of nearly criminal proportions. Plus, it's tough as nails--and in this case, I don't mean that in a good way. Over time, though, Kiki Kaikai's grown on me--to the point that I'm now chomping at the bit to own a complete-in-box copy of it.

One of these Japanese 3DS cover plates--Full disclosure: I already own three cover plates for the New 3DS I imported a couple of months ago. I tend to think of these cover plates like I think of my precious baseball caps, though--in other words, I want one for every outfit and every occasion. Which should go a long way toward explaining why I long to own both this pink-and-white striped one and this watermelon-inspired one.

Pink Yarn Yoshi amiibo--Would you believe I don't own a single amiibo figure? Hell, I wouldn't believe it if I weren't me. (Does that even make sense?) After all, I just admitted that I'm gaga over Nintendo's New 3DS cover plates, and I admitted last week that I can't be trusted when it comes to that same company's Nintendo Badge Arcade app. For whatever reason, though, I've yet to be bitten by the amiibo bug. That said, I find the pink Yarn Yoshi ones to be the definition of adorable.

Steins;Gate (Vita)--It is with great shame that I reveal I never pre-ordered this game as I promised in the lead up to its release. Actually, that's not true. I did order it, but I later canceled it when I discovered I'd overextended my gaming budget a bit and had to scale things back a bit. I still very much want to experience this highly acclaimed visual novel, though, so even if my parents or husband fail to put a copy under the tree for me, I'll buy one for myself in the days or weeks that follow.

So, those are the gaming-related items I've included in my holiday wish list. What are all of you asking your loved ones for this season?

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Nice Package! (Ni No Kuni, DS)

You know how in my last post--about Ni No Kuni II, which is being prepped for PS4 as we speak--I mentioned that I might publish a post about the original DS game's beautiful packaging soon?

Well, I decided to go ahead and publish it today rather than wait. Why? Because this Japanese title's packaging is beyond gorgeous, and I desperately want to spread the word about it, that's why.

Don't take my word for all of this blather. Check out the following photos and see for yourself.

This first snapshot, above, is of the front of Ni No Kuni's outer slip cover. This "slip cover" is a lot like those cardboard sleeves that so charmingly wrap around (and protect?) Japanese GameCube cases.

And here--again, above--we have the back of that same wrapper.

Beneath that slip cover is a rather large and sturdy cardboard box that is rather obscenely (I mean that in a good way) decorated.

Unsurprisingly, the backside of Ni No Kuni's box is as much of a looker as its front.

Monday, December 07, 2015

I hate the protagonist's hairdo, but I'm still hot and bothered about Ni No Kuni II

For me, the biggest shocker to come out of Saturday's PlayStation Experience event was the news that the folks at Level-5 are busy prepping a second Ni No Kuni game for PS4.

I know, I know. Some of you are shaking your heads at me because you were most surprised by the first gameplay footage of Square Enix's Final Fantasy VII remake or the North American release announcements for both Yakuza 0 and Yakuza 5.

For me, though, the prize goes to Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom. Speaking of which, here's the game's very first trailer:

OK, so it doesn't seem to show any real gameplay footage--or at least not any footage of its overworld (assuming one exists) or battle scenes, but I don't consider that too much of a surprise. We'll get plenty of that soon enough, I'm sure.

When we finally get it, though, I sincerely hope what is shown makes people in the know believe the gameplay in Ni No Kuni will be more enjoyable than what was included in the first title. (Specifically, I've heard quite a few folks say that the battles in the original Ni No Kuni--the PS3 iteration, at least--left a lot to be desired.)

I haven't heard quite such negative things about the DS version of Ni No Kuni, by the way--which is a very good thing, as I recently bought a complete-in-box copy of that behemoth. Who knows, maybe I'll publish some photos of its beautiful packaging in the next couple of days?

Saturday, December 05, 2015

This better mean Nintendo's planning to release a 'Machoke Movers' 3DS menu theme tout de suite

Just over a year ago (or just under a year ago, if you don't own a Japanese 3DS), Nintendo dropped a 3DS menu theme that changed lives from one side of the globe to the other.

I'm talking about this Slowpoke-centric theme, of course.

OK, so it only changed my life. Still, that's pretty impressive considering the life-changer in question is a lousy home menu theme.

Anyway, as mind-blowing as that Slowpoke theme was and continues to be, I'm pretty sure a similar creation based on the following Japanese commercial would be even more so.

Seriously, who would use anything other than a "Machoke Movers" 3DS menu theme if such a concoction were released?

I'm going to guess next to no one.

So, please make this happen, Nintendo and Pokémon Company. And make it happen soon.


Friday, December 04, 2015

I don't know how 'new' it looks or sounds, but I'm still pretty darn interested in Danganronpa V3

Granted, the sentiments expressed above are coming from the mouth of a guy who's only put a few hours into the first Danganronpa game thus far.

So, for all I know, the footage (found in the trailer below) of the in-the-works third Danganronpa title, which apparently will be called New Danganronpa V3: A New Semester for Everyone's Killing Life in its home country, is quite a departure from its predecessors.

Speaking of my unfortunate lack of experience with the initial pair of Danganronpa games, keep that in mind while you consider whether or not to check out the following video. I have no idea if does or doesn't contain spoilers, so view it at your own risk.

With that out of the way, what do those of you who actually watched it think of it? Are you excited? Are you feeling wary? Are you experiencing some other emotion or emotions altogether?

Share your answers to those questions in the comments section below when you've got a second to spare. Oh, and also let me know if you think there's anything "new" to New Danganronpa V3 based on what you saw in the trailer above.

See also: some of the thoughts I've shared so far regarding my playthrough of the first Danganronpa

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

I've already spent $5 on Nintendo Badge Arcade; how about you?

Did I say $5? What I meant to say was $10.

What on earth prompted me to hand over $10 of real-world money to play the just-released 3DS application-cum-bottom-line-stuffer called Nintendo Badge Arcade?

I'll give you three reasons, with the first being the BOXBOY! badges Nintendo plopped onto its claw machine-esque app in early November, and the second and third being the Pikmin and Pushmo badges that followed closely behind.

Thankfully, I've since come to my senses and I haven't plunked any more of my hard-earned cash into Nintendo Badge Arcade for at least a couple of days now.

All bets are off, though, if Nintendo cruelly decides to tease me with some Ice Climber or Kid Icarus badges in the coming weeks.

Strangely, despite my unhealthy fascination with the Nintendo Badge Arcade and a good portion of its offerings so far, I've yet to do a whole lot with the spoils I've yanked from the app.

In fact, at the moment, I've simply got a handful of adorable Pikmin creatures traipsing along the top of my favorite 3DS icons. (Previously, I used my BOXBOY! badges to conjure up a slightly more creative scene, but I quickly replaced it because I found it too busy.)

How about you guys and gals? Have you put any time into Nintendo Badge Arcade? If so, which of its many digital pins have most attracted your attention?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Two more reasons to back Indivisible on Indiegogo this week: it's being made by a gay guy and it's going to include LGBT content

First, the "gay guy" in question is Peter Bartholow, CEO of Los Angeles-based Lab Zero Games.

Second, Indivisible, in case this is the first you've heard of it, is a two-dimensional action RPG--inspired by both Valkyrie Profile and Super Metroid--that Bartholow and his team hope to release for PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac and Linux in 2017.

For that to happen, though, Lab Zero Games has to raise $1.5 million. As of now, its related Indiegogo campaign has garnered just over $1.2 million, with less than five days left until its Nov. 24 deadline. (Go to to learn more about Indivisible and to make a contribution.)

If you're still on the fence as to whether or not to hand over some of your own hard-earned cash for this intriguing effort, the following tête-à-tête--about Indivisible's origins as well as the gay content mentioned in the header above--with Bartholow may help nudge you toward the "yes" side of the equation.

The Gay Gamer: Indivisible's Indiegogo page describes the game as being inspired by Valkyrie Profile and Super Metroid. Why those two games? Were they simply games you enjoyed playing back in the day, or is there more to it than that?

Bartholow: Indivisible actually began as a pitch for another publisher--they requested something along the lines of Child of Light. So we all played it, and our main takeaway was that it was a hybrid platformer-RPG. We thought about other platformer RPGs, and Valkyrie Profile immediately came to mind, since it’s one of our favorite games.

As we thought more about Valkyrie Profile, we thought about what we’d like to change. The first thing we decided to do was remove the time limit so that players had more opportunity to explore and enjoy the game as they saw fit. And that got us thinking--RPGs typically have a strong exploration component, so what are platformers with a strong exploration component? Naturally, Super Metroid came to mind. The addition of new progression abilities and weapons fit nicely into Indivisible’s nascent story, and so we started heading down that route.

The Gay Gamer: You've also brought up Chrono Trigger in past interviews about Indivisible. How does that Squaresoft classic fit into all of this? Or to put it another way, which aspects of Chrono Trigger will be seen or heard or felt in the final version of Indivisible?

Bartholow: There are subtle touches here and there influenced by Chrono Trigger, such as how the enemies are in the environment and you fight them right there. But probably the main influence is our approach to the story. In Chrono Trigger, each era was sort of an episode focused on a particular character or characters who, in addition to being involved in that era’s story, also served as a guide for Crono and Marle to help them settle into the events they’ve stumbled into. So our goal is to give each region of Indivisible’s world and its story a similar feel, with interconnected episodes anchored by strong characters.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Happy birthday to me :)

So, as I just gave away in this post's header (above), it's my birthday.

What wild and crazy things have I done since I got out of bed about seven hours ago? Well, playing the "special" mode of the PC Engine port of Parodius Da! counts as wild and crazy, right?

I've also played a good bit of a few other PC Engine games, namely Detana!! TwinBee, Pro Tennis World Court (RPG mode, of course) and Valkyrie no Densetsu.

That's all well and good, I'm sure some of you are thinking, but what about newer games? Have you spent any time with games that were made and released in the last, say, 20 years?

Not really. I'll be playing some of those kinds of games soon, though. Or at least I hope I'll be playing them soon.

That's because between my parents and myself, I received three thoroughly modern games as birthday gifts this year.

OK, so I personally bought two of the three games in question. Also, one of them technically is 20 years old--although the version I snagged is just seven years old.

That particular game would be Chrono Trigger DS, by the way.

Yes, Justin Difazzio, I'm finally going to play this classic Squaresoft RPG. (In case some of you haven't followed every single word I've said on this blog or on Google+, Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr over the years, although I watched my older brother play through most of Chrono Trigger when both of us were much, much younger, I've never played through it myself.)

As for why I bought it now, that would be because Square Enix's online store hosted a bit of a sale yesterday, and one of the best bargains to be had (for a short period of time, it seems) revolved around brand-new copies of Chrono Trigger DS for $6.

Another, far more modern game I bought for myself yesterday: the Vita port of Hatoful Boyfriend.

I've been meaning to buy this pigeon-centric dating sim for ages, but failed to do so until now for all sorts of stupid reasons.

When I heard (via Twitter) that it could be picked up via the PlayStation Store for just $5, though, I hightailed it over there and nabbed a copy as quickly as I was able.

Sadly, I'm not going to be able to play the damn thing until at least Christmas, as the game is 1.9 gigs in size--which is way more than my poor Vita can handle.

As such, until I buy (or receive for Christmas) a Vita memory card, Hatoful Boyfriend is going to have to become intimately acquainted with the other games on my PSN download list.

That leaves just the game my parents so kindly bought and sent me for my birthday: Yo-Kai Watch for 3DS.

I really enjoyed this game's demo, so I'm very much looking forward to playing through the full offering.

Have you played any of these three titles? If so, share your thoughts on them in the comments section below.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

One more reason to buy Sega 3D Fukkoku Archives 2 if you own a Japanese 3DS (hint: it involves Fantasy Zone)

OK, so you'll need more than a Japanese 3DS system and a copy of Sega 3D Fukkoku Archives 2 to take advantage of the "reason" mentioned in the header above.

Specifically, you'll need to own a copy of the first Sega 3D Fukkoku Archives, too.

Why? Because people who own--and have played, for at least a second or two--both Sega 3D Fukkoku Archives 3DS games will gain access to the Sega Mark III (aka Master System) version of Fantasy Zone that's been updated with FM sound.

If that last bit means nothing to you, read this post on Also, watch the video above to see (and hear) this iteration of the original Fantasy Zone in action.

So, with that, now features 10 old Sega games, including Altered Beast, Fantasy Zone (Sega Mark III port), Fantasy Zone 2 (Sega Mark III), Fantasy Zone 2 DX, Galaxy Force II, Maze Walker (Sega Mark III), Power Drift, Puyo Puyo Tsu, Sonic the Hedgehog and Thunder Blade.

You've got a few options if you want to play this version of Sega's pastel-tinged shmup, by the way. If you already own the first Sega 3D Fukkoku Archives, you can simply buy the second compilation, which is due out on Dec. 23. And if you don't own either title, you can pick up the "double pack" that will be released on the same day.

(Via and

Monday, November 23, 2015

Happy (ever-so-slightly belated) 25th anniversary, Super Famicom!

Twenty-five years ago, Nintendo made its second cartridge-based games console, the Super Famicom, available to the Japanese masses.

I breathlessly followed its development in the pages of magazines like Electronic Gaming MonthlyNintendo Power and Video Games and Computer Entertainment. (Note: I remember reading this article--over and over again--like it was yesterday.) I was especially obsessed with coverage of Super Mario World, of course, although I was nearly as keen on "launch window" titles Pilotwings and F-Zero.

Despite my overwhelming interest in the Super Famicom and its initial releases, though, I didn't buy one on or around its Nov. 21 debut. Granted, I was just about to turn 14 at the time, and buying Japanese consoles (or even games) wasn't really an option--especially since doing so likely would have cost me somewhere in the vicinity of $400.

Instead, I had to wait until shortly after the Super Famicom's North American counterpart, the SNES, launched in my own neck of the woods a year later before I was able to experience Nintendo's brand of 16-bit gaming for myself. 

A couple of years later, I finally got to play my first Super Famicom (as opposed to SNES) game when I imported a used copy of Final Fantasy V--which I still have today, mind you--via one of those companies that advertised in the back of DieHard GameFan and the aforementioned EGM.

Actually, I may have picked up Parodius Da! first, but who really cares this many years later, right?

Strangely--given my current love of imported games--those two Japanese titles, along with Final Fantasy VI, may have been the only ones I ever bought to play on my trusty SNES. (Don't worry, I've bought a few more Super Famicom in the last couple of years, although only a few--so far.) 

Also, I've never owned an actual Super Famicom system. Which is a crying shame, as I've always considered its design to be among the most attractive and appealing of the consoles that have seen the light of day since the early 1980s.

What else did I--and do I--love about the Super Famicom? I've always loved its graphics capabilities, which for me represent the peak of two-dimensional, sprite-based game visuals. I've also always loved its audio components, which allowed the best musicians and composers of the day to produce some absolutely stellar soundtracks. 

And then, of course, there was the system's controller, with its four face and two shoulder buttons, which I've long considered to be as eye-catching as it is comfortable.

How about you? Do you have any particularly fond memories of this superb entry in the fourth generation of game systems? If so, feel free to share them in the comments section below. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Square Enix's beautiful throwback of an RPG, Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna, will be mine (and yours, too?) sometime on or around Feb. 18

If you're anything like me, you slobbered all over Project Setsuna's first trailer, which made its debut during a Sony Japan event held in September.

What's happened in the two months since? Not a whole lot--again, if you're like me. Although maker Square Enix promised this breathtaking PS4 and Vita RPG would hit the streets of Japan "early next year," that was too far away for my puny little brain so I pushed its released onto the proverbial back burner until the date was a bit closer.

Admittedly, it's still three months away as I type this post, but at least now those of us who are interested in the game have a solid release date--Feb. 18--to focus on moving forward.

We also have a final name--Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna, which I've been told translates to something like The Sorrow of Sacrifice and Snow--a retail price (4,800 yen, or about $39) and a cover illustration.

The only thing we're missing at the moment: a handy pre-order link. OK, so Play-Asia has a pair up on its site--here's the one for the PS4 version and here's the one for the Vita version--but I prefer to buy upcoming and current Japanese games via AmiAmi, so I'm waiting for it to allow pre-orders before finally biting the bullet (on the Vita iteration, naturally).

Are any of you planning to buy one or more copies of Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna? Or are any of you hoping it'll cross the pond and find its way onto the store shelves in your neck of the woods?

If so, please let me and others who visit this blog know all about it in the comments section below when you have a free second or two.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

If I didn't already own a Vita, I'd totally buy one of the Dragon Quest Metal Slime Editions hitting Japanese store shelves on Jan. 28

Don't take the comment above to mean I'm at all unhappy with the precious pink-and-white Japanese Vita I picked up earlier this year, by the way.

In fact, if I had to choose between that version of Sony's latest handheld and one of the Dragon Quest Metal Slime Edition models showcased throughout this blog post, I'd still probably go with old pinky.

If the pink-and-white one didn't exist, though, there's no question in my mind that I'd blow the needed amount of money on a Metal Slime system.

Speaking of the latter, these slick special editions are set to hit the streets--and store shelves--of Japan on Jan. 28 alongside Square Enix's intriguing Dragon Quest Builders game.

A copy of that Minecraft-esque title will be included with each Metal Slime Edition package, as will an adorable Metal Slime headphone jack figure, an AC adapter, a power cord and a USB cable.

I don't suppose any of you fine folks have pre-ordered one of these suckers--or have designs on purchasing one down the road?

If so, please let me know in the comments section below so I can become your new best friend.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Random musings on the other games that were and weren't mentioned during last week's Nintendo Direct broadcasts

The trio of Nintendo Direct broadcasts that aired a couple of days ago featured a bunch of wonderful looking games.

Two of them: localized versions of the 3DS iterations of Dragon Quest VII and VIII, which amazingly are being brought to both Europe and North America by Nintendo at some point in 2016.

Of course, Nintendo also ignored a bunch of 3DS and Wii U games during these latest Directs.

Speaking of which, here are a few thoughts on some of the ones that actually earned a mention as well as some of the ones I wish had been mentioned.

First, the chatter about the ones that were given a nod:

Bravely Second (3DS)

Bravely Second: End Layer--Unfortunately for North Americans like myself who are chomping at the bit to play the English version of this Bravely Default sequel, the only attention Second received in the Nintendo Direct aimed at our neck of the woods was a sentence or two. Still, among those few words was a promise that the game would hit store shelves here this coming spring, so I won't complain too loudly about that oversight. (If you call Europe home, you'll be able to get your hands on Bravely Second within the first three months of 2016.) Anyway, although I would've loved a specific release date or glimpse of the title's Western box art, I'm happy we at least were given confirmation it'll be out soon.

Final Fantasy Explorers--I've had the North American version of this 3DS-based MonHun wannabe pre-ordered for some time now, so it would've really sucked if I thought the footage included in this Direct was subpar to the point of turning me off of the game entirely. Delightfully, that wasn't the case. In fact, the gameplay showcased here made me even more interested in this title than I was earlier. Sure, it's more than a little rough around the edges, with low-poly character models and a shockingly iffy frame rate, but even then it looks like good fun to me. The question is, do I keep my pre-order in place for the standard edition, or do I cancel it so I can go for the pricey collector's edition instead?

Fire Emblem Fates (3DS)

Fire Emblem Fates--This is another 3DS title I pre-ordered a while back. Did the snazzy special edition, which features all three versions of the game (Birthright, Conquest and the digital-only Revelation) as well as an art book and a carrying pouch, prompt me to ditch that "standard" copy in favor of this $80 counterpart? Nope. Don't get me wrong, the Fire Emblem Fates SE sounds awesome, but I've only played about seven hours of Fire Emblem Awakening thus far, so I don't think I need to own three different iterations of its follow-up. Or at least I don't need to own all three right from the get-go.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD--Ah, a Wii U game. Finally! Sadly, unlike a lot of people, I don't find this one all that appealing--and I would say that even if I actually owned a Wii U system. That's not a rip on Twilight Princess, mind you; rather, it's more of a comment on how I feel about the Zelda series as a whole these days. In other words, if we're not talking about throwback games like A Link Between Worlds (which I adored), I just can't muster up much interest.

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam (3DS)

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam--If you'd like, you can take some of what I just said about Twilight Princess HD (the part about not being able to muster up much interest, mainly) and use it here, too. Why? For starters, the Mario & Luigi series has never really done it for me, especially from an aesthetics standpoint. I'm feeling similarly apathetic about the Paper Mario series these days--which is a shame, as I loved its first two entries for the Nintendo 64 and GameCube. Both Super Paper Mario for Wii and Sticker Star for 3DS ended up boring me to tears, though, and none of what I've seen of Paper Jam makes me think it'll provoke a more positive reaction, so until and unless that changes, this game is getting a "hell no" from yours truly.

Pokémon Blue, Red and Yellow--It's about time, Nintendo. It's about time. Why the company decided to wait until the end of the 3DS' life to add this trio of classic RPGs to the system's Virtual Console is beyond me. Did it have something to do with Nintendo's crack team of engineers figuring out how to make it so gamers could swap monsters, which most folks surely consider to be a staple of this decades-old series? Maybe. Whatever the case may be, I'm glad I'll finally be able to try my hand at Yellow. I finished Red way back when, and later picked up a copy of Blue, too, but Yellow's always been a mystery to me. Hopefully the wait will have been worth it.