Saturday, October 17, 2015

The 'Tumbleweed Portable Club' (of lonely WonderSwan owners) has another member

Remember this recent post, the focal point of which was a snapshot of a tiny, cube-shaped box that was topped by a copy of Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits?

Well, the photos that follow detail the contents of that surprisingly small package.

No, your eyes aren't deceiving you. I finally got off my lazy butt and bought a WonderSwan. Specifically, a translucent black WonderSwan Color.

That may have elicited a groan from some of you. After all, anyone who knows anything about the WonderSwan knows that the SwanCrystal is by far the best of the three WonderSwan systems that were sold in Japan in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The thing is, I didn't go out of my way to buy this WonderSwan Color. You see, it was just one part of a nicely appointed eBay auction that also included a number of WonderSwan games.

In fact, one of those games--the one seen below--was responsible for bringing my attention to the eBay auction in question.

That would be the WonderSwan port of Human Entertainment's Clock Tower--or Clock Tower for WonderSwan, as I believe it's officially known.

For whatever reason, I got a bug up my butt about this horrific point-and-click game a month or so ago, and while searching eBay for a copy of it I came across a tantalizingly cheap auction that included a black WonderSwan Color, Clock Tower, a visual novel called Terrors (not pictured here) and three other WonderSwan games.

Which ones, you ask? Well, here's one of them:

Although this WonderSwan Color "remake" of Final Fantasy IV isn't all that different from Final Fantasy IV Advance for the GBA--the latter was released in 2005, while the former was released in 2002--I've long wanted to own a copy of it because I'm such a huge fan of this particular Squaresoft game.

The other two games included in the eBay auction I ended up winning are Final Fantasy titles, too. Specifically, the WonderSwan Color re-imaginings of the first and second Final Fantasy adventures. (These remakes later served as the backbones of 2002's Final Fantasy Origins for PlayStation and 2004's Final Fantasy 1 & II: Dawn of Souls for GBA.)

The photo above showcases the back of the first Final Fantasy remake's box. That illustration covering its top half is pretty slick, don't you think?

I didn't snap any shots of the front of that game's box because, well, it's not all that exciting. The same is true of the box that houses the WonderSwan Color version of Final Fantasy II.

Still, you can ogle both covers in the image above--especially if you click and zoom in on it. 

Last, but far from least, is this photo of the translucent black WonderSwan Color I first described in the opening lines of this post. 

Something you probably can't tell from this snapshot: how small this system is. Seriously, it's about the size of my wallet--which came as quite a shock to me. 

Also a pretty big shock was the dimness of the system's screen. I had been warned about this, of course, but it's been so long since I spent time with a handheld that doesn't have a backlit screen that I almost forgot how annoying that kind of thing can be.

Oh, well, I got used to it back when I spent a ton of time with an actual GameBoy (these days I mostly play that system's titles through emulation--even though I have a couple of OG GameBoy systems and a ton of games), I'm sure I'll get used to it again.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A trio of spooky games I'm hoping to play between now and All Hallows' Eve

For those of us in North America--and any other locale where folks celebrate the holiday--it's that time of year again. And when I say "that time of year," I of course mean Halloween.

While my compatriots spend the next couple of weeks prepping costumes, planning parties and popping orange and black candies into their mouths, I'm going to spend them playing spooky games. Specifically, I'm going to play--or maybe I should say I'm going to do my best to play--the following trio of Halloween-appropriate titles.

Undertale (Mac)--The good news here is that I've already started playing this just-released, EarthBound-esque RPG. The bad news: I've only played about an hour and a half of it so far. I have no doubt that will change appreciably by the end of this coming weekend thanks to all of the grins and chuckles it's already produced.

My favorite aspects of Undertale at the moment, by the way, are its colorfully creepy "overworld" graphics, its wonderfully witty text and its unexpectedly unique gameplay. A highlight of that last component: if you want, you can dance, flirt or simply chat with baddies rather than beat them up during this title's battle scenes.

Corpse Party (PSP)--I put a small handful of hours into this game a couple of years ago while traveling for one reason or another. That playthrough came to a screeching halt, though, when I got stuck and couldn't figure out what to do next. Why didn't I turn to GameFAQs or some other online resource? I have no idea, I'm sorry to say.

Thankfully, I'm feeling decidedly less stubborn these days--especially after listening to my podcast pal, Mollie, rave about this original entry in the oddly titled Corpse Party series while we recorded the 17th installment of The Nichiest Podcast Ever a few nights ago. So, look for me to give the game a second chance (and write about it in one or more future blog posts) between now and the end of this month.

Clock Tower (Super Famicom or WonderSwan)--Can you believe I've never played any of the many versions of Clock Tower that have been released over the years? I can't. OK, so that's not completely true. I spent about 30 minutes with the Super Famicom release earlier this year, but I quickly gave up on that campaign when the game's scissor-wielding antagonist popped up and scared the living daylights out of me.

I can't guarantee the same thing won't happen again when and if I return to this pixelated horror title, but I can guarantee I'll do my best avoid it. Who knows, maybe playing it in black and white will help?

Any you playing any spooky, scary or otherwise Halloween-esque games this month? If so, which ones--and what do you think of them thus far?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Another Year of the GameBoy: Lock 'n' Chase

I had my eye on the GameBoy port of Lock 'n' Chase for a long time before I finally added it to my collection.

Why the wait? Well, to tell you the truth, I thought Lock 'n' Chase's gameplay looked kind of boring until I experienced it for myself.

Thankfully, a few months ago I went ahead and picked up a copy of this 1990 release despite my misgivings. I say "thankfully" here because now that I've thoroughly put this portable version of Lock 'n' Chase through its paces, I'd describe it as anything but a yawner.

Is it as worthy of praise as the Namco-made quarter-munching classic--that would be the original Pac-Man--that clearly inspired it? No, but how many games of this type are as worthy of praise?

Lock 'n' Chase does what it can to earn your attention even though it's "only" a Pac-Man clone at heart.

A good example is the game's behatted protagonist, who is as cute as a button and, at least initially, seems more visually interesting than his pellet-chomping counterpart.

The badge-sporting "baddies"--Lock 'n' Chase's equivalent to Pac-Man's multi-colored ghosties--are similarly adorable. Plus, they sport names like Stiffy (see below), which give them a leg up on the latter game's Pinky and Clyde.

And there are the different treasures--coins, money bags and jewels--that Lock 'n' Chase's main character nabs as he runs around each stage. They're quite an improvement over Pac-Man's "Power Pellets," don't you think?

Aside from all of that, though, Lock 'n' Chase doesn't do a whole lot to differentiate itself from Namco's genre-creating effort. I mean, the levels in the former often take up more than a single screen, but that's not always a positive.

Also, Lock 'n' Chase's levels are far less symmetrical than Pac-Man's but, again, that's just as liable to be annoying or off-putting than it is to be entertaining.

Still, this Data East title is worth checking out if you've got a GameBoy of some sort or other and you're looking for a cartridge that will grab your attention when you've got a few minutes of free time.

This is especially true if you can find a Japanese copy of the game. After all, the various aspects of that version's packaging feature some really spiffy illustrations, as you can see in the photos included throughout this post.