Saturday, April 23, 2016

Drop whatever you're doing and download the Pocket Card Jockey 3DS demo now

When a little game called Solitiba hit the Japanese 3DS eShop back in July of 2013, I snapped it up as soon as I could.

I did that for a few reasons. One, I knew the title had been made by the folks at Game Freak—best known, of course, for the world-conquering Pokémon series. Two, it had previously made headlines for attempting to combine two disparate genres: horse racing and puzzlers (solitaire, specifically).

Add to that Solitiba’s undeniably adorable art style and, well, you’ve basically got a game that’s “right up my alley,” as that stale old saying goes.

How far up my alley is it? Well, I’ve since put more than 60 hours into it so far, if that tells you anything.

On a related note, I've already put about three hours into the demo of Solitiba's North American localization--which is known as Pocket Card Jockey in this neck of the woods. (Actually, I believe that's the name it goes by in every region outside of Japan.)

Which means, of course, that I'm enjoying the English version of the game quite a bit. OK, I'm enjoying it a lot.

It's not perfect, mind you. A case in point: the text seems a bit stilted at times, as if the people who worked on that aspect of the game hewed more closely to the original script than maybe they should have done.

Granted, the powers that be at Nintendo probably didn't want to devote tons of time, money or energy to this project, and its localization team was tasked with translating a ton of text, so I won't be too tough on anyone for that slight miscue.

At any rate, I highly recommend downloading the Pocket Card Jockey 3DS demo as soon as you're able. And after you've played it for a while, come back here and tell me what you think of it. (Also, if you need advice, just ask. I'm more than happy to help.)

See also: 'Five reasons it's a shame Game Freak hasn't yet released its quirky 3DS eShop title, Solitiba, outside of Japan'

Friday, April 22, 2016

Let's hear it for the 'Boy (or, celebrating the 27th anniversary of the GameBoy's Japanese launch)

It shouldn't be surprising to hear that I'm a big fan of Nintendo's first handheld system, the GameBoy. After all, I've written about it and its catalog of quirky games many, many times over the years. (More on that in a second.)

What should be surprising to hear is that I somehow failed to mention that yesterday was the 27th anniversary of the GameBoy's Japanese launch.

Yes, that means the GameBoy first hit store shelves in Japan all the way back on April 21, 1989.

In case you don't have a memory like an elephant (don't worry, neither do I), the brick-sized portable didn't make its way to North American until three months later (on July 31). And Europeans had to sit tight until late September of the following year.

I've been around the block a lot of times, so of course I remember reading about the GameBoy's Japanese release.

Actually, I remember more than that--I remember salivating over the impending North American release and how it would mean I'd soon be able to have a tiny NES on me at all times.

That wasn't entirely the case, of course, but that's how it seemed back then.

The GameBoy hardware and software seem quite a bit less impressive today, but that doesn't mean either of them are unimpressive--or at least they aren't in my mind.

In fact, the system's design is one of my all-time favorites. Plus, its games catalog is chock-full of underappreciated (and even unknown) classics--in my humble opinion, naturally.

If you'd like to learn more about the latter, you could do worse that check out the following:

* "Great Gaymathon" reviews of Astro Rabby, Kitchen Panic and Painter Momopie

* "Manual Stimulation" posts about Bubble Bobble, BurgerTime Deluxe and Ghostbusters 2

* My Flickr album of GameBoy software and hardware photos

Oh, and you should read through my many "Year of the GameBoy" write-ups. I'll publish more of these this year, by the way--despite the fact that doing so effectively will make it my third "Year of the GameBoy."

Are any of you GameBoy fans? Even if you're not, maybe you're a fan of a particular GameBoy title? Regardless, please share your thoughts on this momentous occasion in the comments section below.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Shots fired: Zero Time Dilemma's Japanese box art massacres its North American counterpart

While talking about Zero Time Dilemma's North American box art last week, I mentioned that I wouldn’t have minded if its designers had used another of artist Rui Tomono’s fascinatingly dark illustrations rather than the clichéd group shot seen here.

I also said "I would’ve even preferred if the folks at Aksys had gone with the gun-to-the-head art that helped introduce [the game] to the masses instead."

Fast forward to this morning, and what do I see while perusing one of my favorite Nintendo-focused sites (that would be The following:

That imagery is going to greet folks who buy retail copies of the Japanese 3DS version of Zero Time Dilemma this summer, of course. (You can check out the very similar Vita iteration here, if you're curious.)

I don't know about you, but I much prefer the above to the North American cover. Do you feel the same way, or do you like the Western art better?

By the way, those of you who can't wait to start playing this third (and final) entry in the Zero Escape series of games may want to watch its second Japanese trailer.

See also: all of my posts about 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Nice Package! (Hana Taaka Daka!?, PC Engine)

It may surprise some of you to hear I only recently bought a copy of Hana Taaka Daka!?

After all, this oddly titled game--which I believe translates to Long-Nosed Goblin in English--is a PC Engine game. Also, it’s a cute ‘em up (aka a cute shmup, à la Konami’s Parodius or TwinBee series). And then there’s the fact that it was made by the wizards at Taito.

So why did I fail to pick it up until a month or two ago? Because despite all of the above, Hana Taaka Daka!? has long rubbed me the wrong way.

For starters, the game’s protagonist is a bit of an eyesore. Plus, he’s annoyingly large when fully powered-up. Toss into this mix a difficulty level that’s often locked at “frustrating,” and you have a HuCard that can be hard to embrace—despite its pastel backdrops and impressive pedigree.

What’s changed? I don’t know, to tell you the truth. I mean, there’s no question my dislike of the long-nosed goblin sprite has softened quite a bit in the last year or so, but that alone wasn’t responsible for my Hana Taaka Daka!? turnaround.

Also helping matters is that I gave in and accepted the fact that this shooter is tough as nails. Although I usually like it when games put up a fight—as opposed to rolling over and letting you pummel them—I’m less of a fan of it in shmup form, for some reason.

And then there’s this game’s cover art and instruction manual—which, as many of you surely already know, are one in the same (or at least connected) when it comes to PC Engine releases.

The former has caused me to salivate since I first came across it thanks to its sumi-e style and splash of color. In true Taito fashion, though, the many pages of paper that sit beneath that beautiful cover image are lookers, too.

Don't believe me? Check out past "Manual Stimulation" posts devoted to booklets made for the company's GameBoy port of Bubble Bobble, PC Engine port of KiKi KaiKai and Famicom port of Rainbow Islands.

Or, you know, look at the illustrations showcased in the snapshots above and below.

Don't worry, I'll prep and publish a "Manual Stimulation" post about the Hana Taaka Daka!? instructional pamphlet shortly as well.

In the meantime, have any of you played this quirky PC Engine title? If so, share your thoughts--good or bad--in the comments section that follows.

See also: previous 'Nice Package!' posts about Rainbow Islands (Famicom) and KiKi KaiKai (PC Engine)