Friday, June 26, 2015

Five games I'm really looking forward to playing between now and the end of 2015

True story: I've been on a bit of a "pre-order tear" for the last couple of weeks due to all of the just-announced games that have been offered up for sale at sites like amiami.com and play-asia.com.

I only mention this because the afore-mentioned pre-order-athon is fully responsible for the creation of this post.

So, which games am I really looking forward to playing between now and the end of 2015, and which ones have I already pre-ordered? Keep reading to find out.


Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer (3DS)--I don't know about you, but I've had quite a change of heart regarding this soon-to-be-released (in Japan, at least) 3DS title. When it was first unveiled, I looked at it in horror due to the fact that it sounded like little more than an embarrassingly limited cash-in. After its brilliant E3 2015 showing, though, I "did a 180," as the saying goes. Now, I'm not only interested in this game, but I've got a copy of the Japanese version, Doubutsu no Mori: Happy Home Designer, pre-ordered along with a couple of packs of the Animal Crossing-branded amiibo cards that will join it on store shelves in late July.


Code: Realize (Vita)--I've considered myself a fan of the otome genre ever since I played through the first Hakuoki game that made its way to the West. (I shared my impressions of that PSP title in this "somewhat gay" review.) Does that mean I'll get a kick out of Code: Realize, which will earn both a digital and physical release sometime this fall courtesy of Aksys Games? Not necessarily, but I certainly hope I'll end up feeling as positive about it as I did about Demon of the Fleeting Blossom. The story "hook" of this Otomate-made game should help matters quite a bit, given that it features a number of famous literary characters as romance options.


Super Mario Maker (Wii U)--Does this mean I'm actually going to get off of my cheap, lazy butt and buy a Wii U before 2015 comes to a close? That's the plan, but your guess is as good as mine as to whether or not that's what will happen. If it does, though, you can thank Super Mario Maker, which I think looks absolutely stunning at this point--and I'm not sure we even know all there is to know about it yet. Speaking of which, if someone at Nintendo were to reveal that Super Mario Bros. 2 (Super Mario Bros. USA in Japan) characters, enemies, items and moves will be appearing in this game, too, I'd go out and buy a Wii U console the very next second.


Taiko no Tatsujin: V Version (Vita)--My decision to include this upcoming Vita release on this list shouldn't surprise those of you who previously read this post or this post. Still, I'm mentioning it here because it's easily near the top of the heap in terms of games I desperately want to play in the next six months. Thankfully, I know for certain that I'll be playing it either in late July or in early August, as I pre-ordered it as soon as I was able via the previously discussed amiami.com.


Yo-kai Watch (3DS)--I've wanted to play this Pokemon-esque Level-5 RPG since it first graced Japan with its presence two years ago. Thankfully, Nintendo revealed it will be releasing a localized version of it in North America this holiday season. Will it also bring the series' second and third entries to our shores, potentially in 2016 and 2017? I sure hope so, although I can't say I'm all that confident that's what will come to pass. Oh, well, at least we'll always have this first ghostly adventure.

This isn't the extent of the games I'm looking forward to playing between now and the end of the year, by the way. In fact, I've already started writing a follow-up post in which I declare my love for five more such titles, so look for it to be published sometime next week.

In the meantime, let me know which games, if any, you're chomping at the bit to sink your teeth into at some point during the remainder of 2015.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

#ADecadeofDS: Contact


Amount of time devoted to this game since I started playing it just over a month ago--Eleven hours, 31 minutes.

Most recent boss toppled, location reached or milestone achieved--I can't believe I'm making this comparison, but the last boss I remember conquering (there are surprisingly few in Contact) actually reminded me of that pink whale that sits in wait at the end of The New Zealand Story's first stage. Here, however, the entity that you're sucked into and forced to battle from within is an Egyptian pyramid.

The most recent location I encountered, though, clearly was a take on Tokyo's famous Akihabara district. A particular highlight of this area: some of the "enemies" found on its upper reaches included refrigerators and vacuum cleaners that had been imbued with life.

Overall comments on the experience so far--I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found it “interesting”—and I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way--to finally play through a game I’ve had my eye on for ages.

There are all sorts of reasons for that, of course, but a big one for me is that it’s far too common for my curiosity in a long-ignored titles to grow to such an extent that I wind up considering them at least a bit of a letdown after I start playing them.

Has that been the case with my maiden voyage through Grasshopper Manufacture’s Contact so far? At risk of sounding wishy-washy, I have to sheepishly admit that the answer is: in some ways, yes, and in some ways, no. That said, I’ve found the 11 or so hours I've spent with this dual-screened adventure up to this point to be more positive than negative, which is all most folks are going to want to know (especially if they're trying to figure out if they should follow in my footsteps and play it or not).

Some of the things that have made it a satisfying experience: its dual art styles (one of which harkens back to games like EarthBound, while the other recalls more lushly illustrated 16- and 32-bit titles), its eclectic and appealingly video-game-y soundtrack, its rather cryptic story and its overall "feel." (In regard to that last bit, I simply have a blast moving the protagonist around Contact's many gorgeous environments.)

As for the few aspects that have had me, at times, wanting to hurl my 3DS against the nearest wall in anger, they would be Contact's fairly hands-off battle engine (although if you're like me at all, it'll grow on you over time), its stiff challenge and its stubborn dedication to being head-scratchingly obtuse. (Let's just say I've had to turn to GameFAQs on more the one occasion to figure out what I was supposed to do next or how I was supposed to defeat a boss.)

Do I wish some of the above-mentioned pitfalls had been fixed, or at least partially smoothed over, before this intriguing DS title was plopped onto store shelves? I guess you could say that. Still, I've enjoyed this undertaking quite a bit despite its sometimes-off-putting quirks, so it's hard to rail against them too mightily.

Will I continue to play this game in the coming days, weeks and maybe even months?--I sure hope so. Normally I'd offer up a solid "yes," and without hesitation, especially since I seem to be fairly close to the finale, but that's just what I said about My World, My Way--a game I liked more than I've liked Contact so far--as well as a few of the other DS titles I've recently played, so I know it's far from out of the question that I'll continue the trend (of not living up to these predictions) with this Rising Star Games-published effort.

Do I recommend it to others?--Oh, boy, this is a tough one. If you're the kind of person who generally gets a kick out of playing RPGs that attempt to do things differently, I think you'll at least find this adventure to be interesting--especially if you can nab a rather inexpensive copy of it. If you're not the genre's  biggest fan, though, or if the only Contact carts you come across cost more than $30 or so, I'd probably recommend spending your hard-earned cash elsewhere.

Next up--Bokujou Monogatari: Youkoso! Kaze no Bazaar e (known in other regions as Harvest Moon DS: Grand Bazaar) and Penguin no Mondai: Saikyou Penguin Densetsu!


See also: previous #ADecadeofDS posts

Monday, June 22, 2015

Shall We Do It? (The Legend of Legacy and Rhythm Tengoku: The Best Plus)

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (or even Instagram and Google+) may already be aware of this, but since I have no idea how much crossover there is between all of the aforementioned social-media platforms, I'll share the info here, too: late last week, I returned home from work to find a copy of  Rhythm Tengoku: The Best Plus (or Rhythm Tengoku: The Best+, if that's how you like to refer to this just-released Japanese 3DS game) on our doorstep.

Considering I've been looking forward to getting my hands on Rhythm Tengoku: The Best Plus since it was first announced many moons ago, it probably should come as little surprise to hear that I spent a bit of quality time with it over the weekend.

Specifically, I put just over three hours into it on Saturday and Sunday. In that time, I've gotten to experience a good number of the mini-games included in this, the latest iteration of Nintendo's popular (in Japan, at least) series of quirky music-centric titles.

Sadly, only a handful of those have been all-new affairs, with the rest being returning "greats" that were pulled from earlier Rhythm Tengoku (aka Rhythm Heaven or Rhythm Paradise) efforts.



Actually, I'm not sure why I just typed "sadly" in that last sentence, as I didn't exactly drown in salty tears after I heard that The Best Plus would include a ton of songs and skits that first appeared in the GameBoy Advance, DS and Wii Rhythm Tengoku games. On the contrary, I did the exact opposite when I became aware of that fact. (That said, I'm still a bit miffed that one of my all-time favorites, that being "The Bon Odori" from the GBA original, was completely ignored by the folks who were responsible for piecing together this collection.)

Anyway, as pleased as I am with "old faves" that have been crammed onto this 3DS cartridge, I'm also pretty happy with the all-new mini-games that are introduced in The Best Plus. (I like "Stair Catch," which tasks players with controlling a pair of characters as they attempt to grab oranges and pineapples as they bounce down a set of stairs, the most at the moment.)

Unlike the previous three Rhythm Tengoku titles that have made their way to market over the last decade, this fourth one changes things up a bit by wrapping all of its mini-games in what seems to be an appropriately silly story. I've heard a lot of people complain about this particular addition on line, but I can't say it's bothered me much up to this point. 



Sure, it slows things down a tad, but I really like the colorful cast of characters that are showcased in the related cutscenes. Also, the diorama-like rooms that are tied to each story segment (and that contain four thematically unrelated mini-games) are stunningly realized. So, if a smidge of story was required for these components to exist, I'm all for them.

That's about all I can say about Rhythm Tengoku: The Best Plus so far, as I've yet to tackle some of the other intriguing modes that have been added to this sequel, but you can rest assured I'll do my best to talk about them in a future post.

As for the other game mentioned in the header above, The Legend of Legacy, I've only devoted about two hours to it since I first popped its cartridge into my Japanese 3DS LL, but that's been enough to give me the distinct impression that I'm going to enjoying working my way through it in the coming weeks and months.

Specifically, I love the art style employed in this SaGa-esque role-playing game--although I'm not as enamored with the aesthetics of its battle scenes as I am with the rest of its content. Also, the soundtrack is the definition of fabulous and the gameplay is both engaging and addictive. 



In regard to the latter, I'm especially getting a kick out of those battle scenes I just disparaged in the previous sentence. Although they're far from lookers (so far, at least), they're surprisingly satisfying thanks to their strategic nature. (You really have to think your way through many of the fights that pop up every few minutes; you can't just bludgeon foes like you can in many Japanese RPGs.)

They're also surprisingly tough, though, so make sure you're the kind of person who can laugh off being annihilated during a random encounter before you decide to pick up a copy of The Legend of Legacy.

As with Rhythm Tengoku: The Best Plus, expect to read more impressions of The Legend of Legacy in an upcoming write-up.

Have any of you played either (or both) of these 3DS imports, or are any of you looking forward to playing them. If so, let me and others know about your experiences--or your interest--in the comments section below.