Friday, January 16, 2015

Five games I'd recommend playing as part of #RhythmMonth

January is half over, and I've yet to do more than ogle (and only briefly, at that) the game I'm planning to play as part of Anne Lee's #RhythmMonth extravaganza.

(The game I'm eyeing up, both figuratively and literally, by the way, is Osawari Detective Ozawa Rina Nameko Rhythm, a wacky 3DS spinoff of the Touch Detective series.)

I'm going to do my best to devote some time to the above-mentioned title this weekend (and then share my impressions here next week, of course), but in the meantime I thought I'd write up a few blurbs about some of my favorite rhythm games--games I'd highly recommend to anyone who is keen on participating in Anne's game-along but hasn't a clue as to what to play.

HarmoKnight (3DS eShop)--This choice could be called controversial, considering I wasn't entirely enamored with the game after my first encounter with it, but I still think it's worth checking out if you're looking for a vibrant-looking game that combines elements of the platformer and rhythm genres. I probably wouldn't make it my first #RhythmMonth pick, though, unless I'd already played the other titles discussed in this post.

Patapon (PSP)--Whereas the Game Freak-made HarmoKnight mashes together the platformer and rhythm genres, this Pyramid-developed title does the same with the rhythm and strategy genres. It, too, has an altogether appealing art style, plus it's far less aggravating than the aforementioned 3DS game, so you'd do well to consider it if you own a PSP or Vita.

Rhythm Tengoku (GBA)--Of the three Rhythm Tengoku (Rhythm Heaven and Rhythm Paradise in other regions) that have been released so far, this is my favorite. Its purposely rough graphics are sure to put a grin on your face, as are its maddeningly catchy tunes. The highlight, though, is the one-button gameplay, which keeps frustration to a minimum. That said, the DS and Wii sequels are well worth experiencing, too, so if they're cheaper and easier for you to obtain, don't feel bad about going with one or both of them instead.

Space Channel 5 (Dreamcast, PS2)--I've had a ridiculously good time playing the original (Dreamcast) version of this game over the years. The soundtrack is stuffed full of songs you'll be humming long after you power down your system, and the aesthetics are as pleasing as any Sega has produced in its long and tumultuous history. Should you not have a Dreamcast or PS2 handy, or should you simply not want to invest in those iterations of this title, though, you can't go wrong by picking up the sequel (shown in the screenshot above), which has been available via PSN, Steam and XBLA for ages now.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (3DS, iOS)--Based on everything I've heard and read so far, you'd be wise to purchase and play this game's Curtain Call follow-up rather than the original. I've yet to play the just-released sequel, though, so I can't say anything about it here. If it's anything like the first Theatrhythm, though, it's a thrilling addition to the genre that deserves the attention even of folks who aren't Final Fantasy fans.

A handful of rhythm games I've heard are good but have yet to play myself: Gitaroo Man (PS2/PSP), any/all of the Hatsune Miku titles, Maestro! Jump in Music (DS), Magical Beat (Vita), most of the Taiko no Tatsujin titles and Vib Ribbon (PS1/PS4/Vita).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I may be a bit miffed with Nintendo at the moment, but I'm still looking forward to a mountain of upcoming 3DS games

There's no question Nintendo of America irritated me and a lot of other North American gamers during (and after) yesterday's Nintendo Direct.

Did the company irritate me to the point that I'm considering giving up on its 3DS system? Of course not. In fact, I'm as smitten with Nintendo's second dual-screen handheld as ever--if my ever-growing list of pre-ordered games is any indication.

For instance, I've had three North American 3DS games--Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. (due out on March 13), Etrian Mystery Dungeon (April 7) and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (Feb. 13)--pre-ordered for some time now, and the same can be said of two upcoming Japanese 3DS games, The Legend of Legacy (Jan. 22) and Theatrhythm Dragon Quest (March 26).

I actually had Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (Feb. 13) pre-ordered until last night, but I canceled it after I had a not-at-all-awkward heart-to-heart chat with myself about the fact that I've only put a few hours into MH3U so far and, as such, I really shouldn't buy its follow-up until I can be sure I'll give it the attention it deserves.

And then there are all of the North American and Japanese 3DS titles I'd pre-order in a snap if I were allowed to do so, like A-Train: City Simulator, Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX, Lord of Magna (assumed to be the North American title of Marvelous' Kinki no Magna), Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition and the just-announced fourth game in the Rhythm Tengoku series.

Finally, there are two Japanese 3DS RPGs that I'm hoping beyond hope will make their way to our shores at some point in 2015: Bravely Second and Final Fantasy Explorers.

How about you? Are you looking forward to a bunch of 3DS games, too? If so, which ones?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A few thoughts on this morning's Japanese and North American Nintendo Direct broadcasts

Let's get this out of the way right at the beginning: Nintendo revealed during this morning's Nintendo Direct broadcast (watch it here) that it's finally bringing the New 3DS to North America on Feb. 13.

Unfortunately, it appears the company's only giving us the XL version of this stopgap system, as the smaller New 3DS--the one that can be personalized with all sorts of fun and colorful "cover plates"--was completely ignored.

I'm hopeful we'll get the non-XL New 3DS eventually, but I'm not sure I care one way or the other at the moment. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to own one of the smaller New 3DSes some day, but I'm plenty happy with my pink-and-white XL and I'm not in any particular hurry to replace it (or my red OG 3DS)--especially since I have yet to buy a Vita.

Anyway, four New 3DS XLs will hit North American store shelves on Feb. 13: a black one, a red one and two special editions (one of which is gold and features a Majora's Mask design and the other of which is silver and features a Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate design).

Oh, and speaking of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, both of those 3DS games will launch alongside the New 3DS XL in North America. Sounds good to me.

A few other 3DS games were revealed during this morning's North American Nintendo Direct, namely the New 3DS port of Xenoblade Chronicles (due out in this region in April), Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition (coming in May) and a new entry in the Fire Emblem series (see screenshot below) that's being called Fire Emblem If in Japan and supposedly will see the light of day sometime between now and the end of 2015.

I'll be picking up the latter two titles, no question, although I'll very likely pass on Xenoblade Chronicles 3D even if I change my mind and pick up a New 3DS XL at some point down the road. (I liked what I played of the Wii version of Xenoblade Chronicles a year or two ago, but I don't have much interest in revisiting the experience.)

The Japanese Nintendo Direct (watch it here) was far more thrilling for me thanks to a single announcement--that being that a new Rhythm Tengoku game will be released for the 3DS this year.

As far as I can tell, it doesn't yet have an official name or a solid release date. What is known is that it will feature more than 100 mini-games, with around 70 of them being taken from earlier Rhythm Tengoku titles and 30 of them being new (including the one seen below).

I'll be pre-ordering this sucker as soon as allows me to do so, of course.

Another interesting 3DS-related announcement made during the Japanese Nintendo Direct revolved around the Girls Mode series, known as Style Savvy in North America. Specifically, the 3DS' home region will be getting Girls Mode 3 on April 16.

It's been a while since I played my copy of Style Savvy: Trendsetters (the North American version of the second Girls Mode), so I can't really say what's new about this entry, but it looks interesting all the same, so fingers crossed that it somehow makes its way to our shores in the coming months.

Other than the above, I continue to be impressed by a trio of upcoming Wii U games--Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Splatoon and Xenoblade Chronicles X--that were shown as part of the North American Nintendo Direct.

All three look absolutely marvelous, although I have no idea when I'll actually get to experience any of them myself, as my home remains a Wii U-free environment. Who knows, maybe that finally will change later this year.

Now that I've had my say, what did all of you think about this morning's broadcasts? Did they satisfy you? Anger you? Or maybe they made you feel some other emotion entirely?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Gay Gamer Giveaway™: Drop Wizard Edition

Late last week, the folks at Neuronized offered me a free code for their just-released (on Jan. 8) single-screen platformer, Drop Wizard. (A game I previously discussed in this post.)

I had to turn them down, though, because I currently don't own any sort of iOS-enabled device. (At the moment, Drop Wizard is playable only on iPhones and iPads.)

Knowing that at least a few of you lovely people must own such gadgets, I quickly followed up that denial with a suggestion that I could pass along the code--as well as a couple of others, perhaps--to some of my blog's readers.

They liked the idea, so today I'm offering up three free codes for the company's lovely looking game (see trailer above), which apparently features more than 60 levels of Bubble Bobble-ish goodness.

Speaking of that Taito-made classic, if you'd like to nab one of these Drop Wizard codes, leave a comment below between now and 8 am Pacific time on Saturday morning that includes the name of your all-time favorite Bubble Bobble clone. (I'll announce the winners in a separate post later that same weekend.)

In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed in the hope that the powers that be at Neuronized eventually decide to bring this game to the Nintendo eShops, the PlayStation Store and Steam.

Monday, January 12, 2015

#ADecadeofDS: Okamiden

Amount of time devoted to this DS game in the last week--Seven hours, 23 minutes.

Most recent boss toppled, location reached or milestone achieved--Defeated Bullhead in Agata Forest.

Overall comments on the experience--Although I've been keen on the Okami series (if such a thing can be said to exist) since it debuted in 2006, I'd only ever spent a handful of hours with the original PS2 title before I booted up Okamiden for the first time last weekend. That rather anemic playthrough took place a number of years ago, though, and I can only barely remember it today, so it may as well be said that I came into this DS follow-up with fresh eyes.

A week later, I'm flogging myself for failing to tackle the game earlier. Admittedly, it features a decent number of flaws--a dodgy frame rate, some oft-awkward controls and disappointingly constricted play fields among them--but on the whole, Okamiden offers up a rousing and beautiful adventure that's more than the sum of its parts.

It would be easy (and kind of lazy, too) for me to say that my favorite of Okamiden's many "parts" at the moment is its art style--which is, without a doubt, pretty darn stunning. In reality, though, the game's aesthetics are at least matched in my mind by its story and boss battles. The former can seem a bit trite at times, actually, but for whatever reason I've more often than not found it sweet and even touching. As for the latter, they almost always overstay their welcome, but they're also inventive and interesting--or at least the one's I've experienced so far have fit that bill.

Another highlight: getting to know and use the "Celestial Brush" that serves as the centerpiece of this portable, Zelda-like offering. Sure, the game's often a bit too willing to spell out for players when and where to utilize these stylus-enabled symbols, but thankfully that rarely seems to dent the unique appeal this gameplay element brings to the proceedings (especially the battle scenes, which otherwise would feel simplistic and repetitive).

Will I continue to play this game in the coming days, weeks and maybe even months?--Definitely, and hopefully all the way through to the end credits.

Do I recommend it to others?--Yes. Some may find the art style to be disorienting or even off-putting, but they're the only folks I'd even think of dissuading from playing this game.

Next up--Catch! Touch! Yoshi! (aka Yoshi Touch & Go)

See also: Introducing #ADecadeofDS