Friday, August 21, 2015

Another Year of the GameBoy: Astro Rabby

A couple of weeks ago, I included a few paragraphs about this weird, Japan-only GameBoy release in my latest "Shall We Do It?" post.

Those of you who read that write-up probably got the feeling that I'm sort of "on the fence" when it comes to Astro Rabby, which was developed by a company called Cyclone System and published by another known as IGS.

Actually, that's not completely accurate, as I definitely like Astro Rabby more than I hate it. In fact, the only part of this overhead action game is its between-worlds bonus rounds, which are hair-pullingly confounding.

Other than those few misfires, though, Astro Rabby's actually pretty fun--although I'm sure some will find it a bit archaic.

That I mostly enjoy this Jumping Flash-esque effort is a very good thing, of course, as if I didn't, I probably wouldn't own a copy of it--which would be a crying shame, as its outer box (pictured above) is pretty darn great, don't you think?

(Full disclosure: I actually bought Astro Rabby before I played it for even a single moment--and mainly because of its awesome box art.)

The rest of Astro Rabby's packaging is worth noting, too, if you ask me. OK, so its cartridge label (above) is only so-so, but its instruction manual more than makes up for it, as you'll see in a second.

Don't worry, the cover of Astro Rabby's manual isn't its high point--although I personally think its use of dark gray, white and various shades of pink is surprisingly appealing.

Now we're getting somewhere, right? Yes, the back of Astro Rabby's instruction booklet definitely is a looker--or at least the illustration that's featured on it is one.

The inside pages of this manual are no different, with a number of nice drawings included throughout (some of which are highlighted in the "Story" page photo above).

I'll scan the entirety of this sucker soon and share all of them in an upcoming installment of my long-lived "Manual Stimulation" series. In the meantime, though, have any of you played Astro Rabby--even via emulation? If so, what do you think of it?

See also: previous 'Another Year of the GameBoy' posts

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Calling all gamers who know of box art featuring toys or figures instead of drawings or renders

Yesterday morning, game developer Hayden Scott-Baron (he's had a hand in Lostwinds, Tumbledrop and Zoo Tycoon, among other titles) asked me on Twitter if I could recommend any game box art that uses photos of toys or figures instead of drawings or renders.

An example of what he was looking for, he said in a later Tweet, was the cover made for the packaging of Monster World IV, a rather lovely action RPG that was released for Sega's Mega Drive back in 1994.

Sadly, that prompt didn't help a whole lot--at least at first. In fact, the only piece of cover art I could think of was the one that was produced for the Japanese version of Advance Wars: Dual Strike, which was known as Famicom Wars DS in that territory.

Later, though, a few others came to mind, such as Teketeke! Asmik-kun World (aka Boomer's Adventures in Asmik World) for the GameBoy and HAL Laboratory's Eggerland (part of the series that later became known as Adventures of Lolo) for the Famicom Disk System.

The Eggerland box art (below) is among the most delicious things you've ever laid eyes on, right? Don't be shy--admit it.

The only other example I've been able to think of, by the way, is Atlus' Totsugeki! Valetions (see it here), which also is a Japanese GameBoy title. (Its name was changed to Spud's Adventure when it was brought to North America in 1991.)

I don't suppose any of you can think of examples of game cover art that showcases toys or figures instead of drawing or renders? If you can, please let me know about them in the comments section of this post.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Great Gaymathon Review #71: Hoshi no Kirby (GameBoy)

Game: Hoshi no Kirby
Genre: Platformer
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
System: GameBoy
Release date: 1992

It may be hard to believe given my current love of cute games, but my first experience with a Kirby game didn't come until I eagerly picked up a copy of the DS-based spin-off known in my neck of the woods as Canvas Curse.

Which means, of course, that I was about 13 years late to that pink, puffy party. (The title we're chatting about here, which was Kirby's maiden voyage--or whatever the gaming equivalent of that ages-old phrase may be--first hit store shelves back in 1992.)

Why did I ignore Hoshi no Kirby (aka Kirby's Dream Land) for so darn long? I owned a GameBoy system and a whole slew of GB games at the time this cart was released in my region, after all, so adding it to my collection shouldn't have been out of the question. Sadly, the only answer I can come up with at the moment is that it looked a tad too easy for my liking.

Even then, it seems, I couldn't understand the point of a cakewalk platformer. I mean, really, who wants to stroll through a side-scrolling action game that refuses to put up an adequate fight? Not me, that's for sure.

And so I turned my nose up at Hoshi no Kirby--until I played and loved Canvas Curse. Actually, it took longer than that for me to give this portable effort a chance, as I didn't dive into it until after Kirby's Epic Yarn extracted its flannel-tipped claws from the depths of my soul sometime in 2010 or 2011.

At any rate, I eventually acquired a copy of Hoshi no Kirby--and quickly fell in love with it, too. Which is a good thing, as this particular Kirby adventure doesn't last very long. In fact, its five or so worlds and their respective bosses can be toppled in about 25 minutes if you can keep yourself from dillydallying.

Strangely, coming face to face with that truth didn't bother as much as I thought it would, and my only explanation for that is Hoshi no Kirby is so damn cute, and its titular protagonist is such a joy to control, that it's hard not to put aside your usual prejudices and instead focus on having fun when you pop its cartridge into your trusty GameBoy.

Does that mean I consider this initial iteration of the Kirby formula--which is what I imagine Super Mario Bros. would be like if it had been made by kids, what with its cartoonish, dream-like focus on manipulating Kirby's gaping maw to inhale baddies and float above the earth--to be portable perfection in black and white? Not hardly.

A case in point: although Hoshi no Kirby is a total, grin-inducing hoot to play through, there's no denying its brevity--even when a second, slightly more difficult adventure is offered up on a pixelated platter at the tail end of the first. Also, there's no question that this Kirby escapade feels a bit "bare bones" when compared to pretty much every other game that stars this pink puffball.

That's not enough for me to give this game whatever my version of a "thumbs down" would be, though, especially considering both physical and digital copies of it can be picked up for less than $10 these days. Back when it was a new release and cost a couple of times that amount? Sure, why not. But here in 2015, the only reason I can come up with that would prompt me to recommend someone not buy this gem of a platformer is if they already own it in some form or fashion.

See also: previous 'Great Gaymathon' reviews