Friday, August 07, 2015

Shall We Do It Again? (Astro Rabby, Crush Roller, Mappy, Pac-Man, Puzzle Bobble and Tumble Pop)

If you were on Twitter last weekend, you may have noticed my mention that I spent a rather obscene amount of time playing old GameBoy and Game Gear titles on Saturday.

I also spent some time playing a couple of Neo Geo Pocket Color games--a fact I didn't mention on Twitter because, well, I ran out of characters.

Anyway, because I played so many of these "golden oldies," and because I so thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with them (two of them in particular), I thought I'd write up a second "Shall We Do It?" post for the week that focuses on those experiences.

Before I get to all of that, though, I want to make one thing clear: I played all of these retro games via emulation (thanks to my soft-modded Wii).

Yes, I own a couple of GameBoys, and I own a Game Gear, too. (No Neo Geo Pocket Color, though--at least not yet.) I also own copies of four of the six titles mentioned here. I was too lazy to get them out of their hiding places, though; plus, I didn't want to deal with the battery drama--so, I took the easy route and emulated them.

With all of that out of the way, here are a few, random thoughts on the GameBoy, Game Gear and Neo Geo Pocket Color carts--er, ROMs--that ruthlessly captured my attention this past weekend.

Astro Rabby (GameBoy)--Would you believe I've owned this Japan-only release from 1990 for some time now (over a year, if I were to guess), yet I'd only put a small handful of minutes into it before I fully acquainted myself with it a few days ago?

Er, yeah, I guess some of you would believe that based on my propensity to buy and then sit on games. (Not literally sit on them, of course.)

Whatever. That's not supposed to be the point here; what is supposed to be the point is that I'm now slapping myself across the face for taking so long to properly give this game a shot. It's actually quite a bit of fun--if you can overlook the totally lame "bonus rounds" that pop up every few stages.

As for why that is, well, try to imagine if someone had attempted to make something similar to Jumping Flash! for the GameBoy before the folks at Exact Co., Ltd. and Ultra Co., Ltd produced the beauty that launched shortly after the original PlayStation hit store shelves in Japan.

That's basically the gist of Astro Rabby, which puts you in the shoes (paws?) of a cyborg rabbit who, for some reason or other, is forced to hop through space in search of "power-up parts" while staying clear of evil frogs and bad octopi as well as keeping from plummeting into seemingly bottomless holes. This hopping-through-space action is depicted in a top-down fashion, by the way, which can make the titular hare's leaps kind of dicey from time to time, but after a few minutes it not only feels pretty natural but also feels pretty exhilarating.

Thankfully, it's OK to fail at the aforementioned bonus rounds, which boil down to a musical game of Concentration and are far more frustrating than my abbreviated description probably makes them sound. Still, I wish they were a bit more ... traditional in nature so I could enjoy the entirety of Astro Rabby and not just a good portion of it.

Crush Roller (Neo Geo Pocket Color)--I wrote about this colorful, portable take on the Pac-Man formula all the way back in 2013 (in a post titled, "It's Just a Little Crush Roller"), but haven't said a thing about it since.

That's a real shame, as Crush Roller is a treat. A tough, pull-your-hair-out-in-giant-clumps "treat" at times, but a treat nonetheless.

Unfortunately, although I became pretty skillful at playing this ADK-developed game the first time I gave it a go (I even made it all the way to the end credits, after some effort), this time around I found things quite a bit more trying.

Oh, well. Its paint-roads-while-desperarely-avoiding-Dragon-Quest-slime-like-enemies action still put a smile on my face--when it wasn't causing me to cuss at it under my breath, of course.

Mappy (Game Gear)--Here's another Japan-only handheld title that I've chatted about previously.

What prompted me to pick it up again this past weekend? I don't know, to tell you the truth. I guess I was just in the mood for a little classic, arcade-style, cat-and-mouse action.

Just in case I've never mentioned this before: the Game Gear port of Mappy--originally a Namco quarter-muncher--is top-notch. Everything about it is "correct," as the reviewer at Video Game Den used to like to say; plus, it's simply a blast to play.

So, if you've got a Game Gear and a wad of batteries (or an AC adapter, I guess), you could do far worse than buy a copy of this 1991 release and stick it in your system when you've got a couple of minutes to burn.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Speaking of Nippon Ichi's Yomawari (Vita), it's going to feature some really awesome enemies

I know I'm going a bit overboard with the posts about Yomawari at the moment. (Hell, I just published one yesterday.) Sorry about that.

If any upcoming Vita game--Japanese, North American or otherwise--could be said to be "right in my wheelhouse," though, it's this one. After all, not only is it cute as all get-out (look at its adorable protagonist for proof), but it's got a decidedly spooky edge to it, too.

Don't believe me? Check out some of the baddies that you're sure to find hiding in Yomawari's darkened corners and stalking its empty roadways:

That last one is my favorite, I have to say, although I like the idea of that disembodied cat head, too--especially since I can see it sending a chill or two down my spine if it caught me off guard.

By the way, if you'd like to take in images of a few more of the nightmare-inducing enemies that have been conjured up for this sure-to-be-unique Vita cart, which is set to be released in Japan on Oct. 29, head on over to as soon as you're able.

See also: 'I'm not entirely sure what we're going to get gameplay-wise from Nippon Ichi's Yomawari (Vita), but I think I want it anyway'

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

After eyeballing its beautiful debut trailer, I want Yomawari (Vita) even more than I did before...

A month after they pleased the three people in the known world who were clamoring for an adorable horror game that could be played on the Vita by revealing Yomawari, the brass at Nippon Ichi Software made the aforementioned folks even happier yesterday by finally making available a trailer that shows the in-the-works title in action.

Admittedly, I'm still a bit unsure as to how Yomawari will play--does the cute-as-a-button protagonist simply run away from the various baddies that are shown throughout this video, or will she be given means to battle them?--but that isn't doing much to dampen my interest in its release.

Speaking of which, Yomawari will hits store shelves (both physical and digital, I'm guessing) in Japan on Oct. 29--just in time for Halloween.

Will I be pre-ordering a copy--say, via amiami--so that I can play this girl-searches-for-her-sister-and-dog-in-a-creepy-setting game shortly after everyone's favorite spook-centric holiday takes leave for another year? I'm not sure.

On the one hand, I really want to experience Yomawari as soon as it humanly possible (even if I'm only able to understand a fraction of its story), while on the other, I can't shake the feeling that Nippon Ichi's North American arm will bring this Vita game to the region I currently call home sooner rather than later.

How about you? Are any of you also a bit conflicted about this upcoming adventure--especially after watching the trailer shown above? If so, please share why in the comments section below.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Shall We Do It? (Contact, The Legend of Kusakari, Penguin no Mondai: Saikyou Penguin Densetsu! and Rhythm Tengoku: The Best Plus)

I've played a lot of games since I last published one of these "Shall We Do It?" posts (which happened all the way back on June 22, incidentally enough), so I figured now would be as good a time as any to get off my lazy butt and work up another.

As for which games I've played in the last month-plus and what I think about those experiences, here are all of (or at least most of) the relevant details:

Contact (DS)--Yes, I'm still plugging away at this always intriguing and sometimes infuriating adventure. Or at least I was plugging away at it until about a week ago. That's when I reached what I believe is the game's final location, and after spending a few hours grinding (the enemies in this level are quite a bit tougher than the ones I had to deal with previously), I basically chickened out on taking on the last boss.

The plan at the moment is to take care of him (or her, or whatever it may be) in the next few weeks, after I wrap up my playthrough of Penguin no Mondai: Saikyou Penguin Densetsu! (see below for more on that title), but who knows if I'll actually follow through with that.

I don't suppose any of you can provide me with any motivation here? I mean, will Contact's ending make my gargantuan effort thus far worthwhile, or will it make me wish I'd never shoved its cartridge into my trusty 3DS?

The Legend of Kusakari (3DS)--If you've never heard of this one, it's a 3DS eShop that's only seen the light of day in Japan so far. I picked up last week because it was cheap (just 300 yen, which is about $2.50) and because Brian, the proprietor of the Japanese 3DS tumblog, has said interesting things about it since it was released a couple of months ago.

Speaking of which, Brian recently described The Legend of Kusakari as being a "fun cross between the 80s ZX Spectrum lawnmower simulators and A Link to the Past," and even though I've sadly never played any ZX Spectrum lawnmower simulators, I definitely can see where he's coming from with this association.

After all, The Legend of Kusakari basically involves whacking away at clumps of grass, à la A Link to the Past, while bystanders and baddies block your path (both of them can cause you harm) and a timer ticks away.

No one is going to accuse this digital title of being an overly deep experience, but it's fun and cute and has a wonderfully weird soundtrack, so for me it's more than worth its bargain-basement price tag.

Penguin no Mondai: Saikyou Penguin Densetsu! (DS)--It's funny that I mentioned the Japanese 3DS tumbler's Brian in the segment above, as he's responsible for me playing this game, too. (Here's some more information on why that is, if you're at all curious.)

Although he deserves a hearty pat on the back for both introductions, that's especially true when it comes to Penguin no Mondai, which is a surprisingly enjoyable--and adorable--Metroidvania that was developed (I believe) and published by Konami.

In fact, my only complaint about this action-heavy DS release is that its protagonist--a roly-poly penguin--is made of polygons rather than sprites, which is what was used to construct pretty much every other component of Saikyou Penguin Densetsu!

Other than that little niggle, though, I've really gotten a kick out of the handful of hours I've put into this game in the last few weeks. I especially like how you regularly encounter various minibosses--which also are penguins, by the way--that offer up their outfits and weapons upon being defeated. From then on, you can mix and match their swag to alter your move set, health, power, defense and more.

Anyway, I've had such a blast with it that I'm planning to pick up the other Penguin no Mondai games Konami made for the DS as soon as is possible.

Rhythm Tengoku: The Best Plus (3DS)--Sure, I've put a lot of time into all of the previously mentioned games in the past month or so, but this is the one that's taken up the lion's share of my attention during that span. Specifically, I've plopped over 13 hours into my copy of The Best Plus since it arrived on our doorstep at the end of June.

As you may have heard, this iteration of Rhythm Heaven features a story (which a lot of long-time fans seem to hate), 70 "old" mini-games and about 30 new ones. I've now experienced--and "beaten"--all of them, along with their corresponding remixes. In fact, I gleefully encountered its ending credit roll this time last weekend.

So, what do I think of this iteration of Nintendo's fabulous series of music-focused games? I think it more than holds its own with its predecessors, for starters. Admittedly, the story does slow things down at first, and it takes far too long to get to this version's remixes (as well as a number of its new mini-games, a couple of which are as good as any that have appeared in past Rhythm Tengoku titles), but even then it's a joy to behold.

I'll say more in the "Great Gaymathon" review of The Best Plus that should be published late this week or early next, but in the meantime, just know that I highly recommend buying this game if you have a 3DS that's capable of playing Japanese carts. And if you don't, well, here's hoping the powers that be at Nintendo do the right thing and bring it to other regions sooner rather than later.

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