Saturday, April 16, 2016

A somewhat gay review of Witch & Hero II (3DS)

Game: Witch & Hero II
Genre: Tower defense
Developer: Flyhigh Works
Publisher: Circle Entertainment
System: 3DS
Release date: 2016

Witch & Hero II doesn't offer up the most positive of first impressions.

Early on, it’s nearly indistinguishable from its predecessor in the looks department. It sounds a lot like that lovely eShop title from 2013 (read my review of it here), too.

In fact, the only aspect of Witch & Hero II that alerts you to the fact you’ve booted up the sequel instead of the FK Digital-made original is its main gameplay hook, which lets players control both of the titular characters rather than just one of them.

Unfortunately, that change isn’t as thrilling as it may seem--at least initially. At first, it’s actually kind of annoying, as keeping track of the hero and the witch (one is moved using the 3DS’ circle pad, while the other is moved using the system’s A, B, X and Y buttons) is quite a hassle, especially when the screen is swarming with enemies.

(If you’re still a Witch & Hero virgin, both games are twitchy takes on the tower-defense genre and task players--after plopping them into the shoes of an adorably Dragon Quest-esque knight--with protecting a magic-wielding witch from hordes of similarly retro-inspired baddies. Oh, and you off those pixelated foes by bumping into them, preferably from the rear, à la classic Ys.)

Thankfully, controlling two characters at the same time quickly shifts from being a nuisance to being a blast. It changes up the formula just enough to make Witch & Hero II's multi-screen trek a lot more interesting and thrilling than it would have been if developer Flyhigh Works had whipped out a sequel that simply tossed a few new enemies and music tracks on top of the first title's gameplay and called it a day.

As for aspects that could be considered less positive than the one discussed above, an obvious candidate is the massive slowdown that pops up in its latter stages. 

Another is that the game can become a cakewalk around the halfway point if you aren't careful about doling out armor, weapon and magic upgrades. This is easier said than done, unfortunately, as Witch & Hero II's early levels mean business, and your immediate reaction to them is likely to be to buff up your pint-sized adventurers as quickly as possible to ensure their survival. 

My advice: only increase the speed, strength and defense of the witch and hero enough so they won't be slaughtered. Do that, and you won't waltz through this game's second half as I did.

One last comment before I stick a fork in this review: if you haven't played the first Witch & Hero already, I'd highly recommend doing that before jumping into the follow-up. It serves as a great introduction to the second title's gameplay, plus it helps you fully appreciate the "throwing off the shackles" sense of freedom that's at the heart of the sequel.  

See also: previous 'Great Gaymathon' and 'somewhat gay' reviews

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Thank you for playing: 15 years of Dōbutsu no Mori (Animal Crossing)

April 14th, 2001. That's the day Dōbutsu no Mori (Animal Forest in English) for the Nintendo 64 was released in Japan.

I haven't been playing the series since then, of course. Not that I can remember exactly when I started playing it. All I know is that the North American version of Japan's Dōbutsu no Mori+, a GameCube title that first hit store shelves in late 2001, is what pushed me to finally pick up a GC console.

The thing is, I distinctly remember waiting until the GameCube dropped to $99 in price before I bought one. Also, I'm pretty sure the copy of Animal Crossing I purchased alongside that system (a silver one, in case anyone's curious) was a "Player's Choice" release.

GameFAQs is telling me the "Player's Choice" iteration of Animal Crossing didn't drop until late 2003, so I guess that's around when I was introduced to the achingly lovely world of this long-running series.

I share all of that because I've been an Animal Crossing devotee ever since. I own every sequel that's seen the light of day between the first localized effort and today--well, except for Amiibo Festival. Hell, I own multiple copies of some of these titles.

Because of that, the video above, published via Nintendo of Japan's YouTube channel yesterday to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the series' launch, prompts a giant, teeth-baring smile to spread across my face each time I watch it. (And believe me, I've watched it a number of times in the last 12 or so hours.)

How about you? Are any of you huge Dōbutsu no Mori or Animal Crossing fans? Or do you have any particularly strong memories of your first Animal Crossing or Dōbutsu no Mori experience? If so, please feel free to share the love with me and others in the comments section below.

See also: an old post full of photos of Dōbutsu no Mori's splendid Nintendo 64 packaging and my review of Animal Crossing for the GameCube

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Let's chat about Zero Time Dilemma's cover art

Once I finally got around to playing it, I fell head over heels in love with 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors.

I can't say the same for its sequel, Virtue's Last Reward, because, well, I haven't played it yet. I do own a copy of it (the Vita version), though, and my current plan is to find a way to play it before the series’ third and final entry, Zero Time Dilemma, hits store shelves in late June.

For now, fans of the Zero Escape series can do little more than chat about Zero Time Dilemma’s first screenshots and trailer or ogle its just-released box art.

Speaking of which, here’s the cover imagery that was created for North American copies of this highly anticipated visual novel.

As I’m sure you can guess, the 3DS version’s packaging will look very similar to its Vita counterpart. (Check it out here, if you’re curious.)

Will Zero Time Dilemma’s Japanese covers sport completely different art? I obviously don’t know, but I kind of hope they will.

Although I can’t say I dislike what Aksys Games’ designers conjured up for North American copies of this game, I wouldn’t have minded if they’d used another of artist Rui Tomono’s fascinatingly dark illustrations rather than the clichéd group shot seen above.

(I’m probably in the minority here, but I would’ve even preferred if the folks at Aksys had gone with the gun-to-the-head art that helped introduce Zero Time Dilemma to the masses instead.)

What do all of you think? Do you like Zero Time Dilemma’s North American 3DS and Vita box art?

Also, how does it compare in your minds to what was concocted for 999 (for a refresher, here are that DS game’s Japanese and North American covers) and Virtue’s Last Reward (3DS version here, Vita version here)?

See also: my #ADecadeofDS post about 999

Monday, April 11, 2016

Manual Stimulation (SonSon, Famicom)

As much as I've always enjoyed playing the Famicom port of Capcom's SonSon, I've never felt compelled to actually own it.

Until recently, of course. Even then, I only bought the complete-in-box copy that provided me with the manual seen here because I came across a fairly cheap one during a regular sweep of eBay.

Now that it's finally in my possession, I've got to say I would've gladly paid twice that auction's ending price thanks to this gorgeous instruction booklet.

After all, aside from its first few pages (above), it's chock-full of top-notch illustrations. (Click on the scans found throughout this post if you want to take a much better, and closer, look at them.)

Hell, exactly half of the SonSon manual's how-to information is conveyed via a shockingly adroit comic strip.

Sadly, I don't understand the bulk of the text that's offered up throughout the comic strip in question, but I get the gist of it--and that's more than enough for me.

Topping off all of the above with a big, juicy cherry is the sheet music of the SonSon theme song that brings everything to a close.

What do all of you think of the focus of this installment of "Manual Stimulation"?

Also, to those of you who've played any iteration of SonSon: what did you, or do you, think of it?

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts