Saturday, June 04, 2016

In honor of the company's 56th anniversary, here are five of my favorite Sega games

Although the company that eventually became Sega first opened its doors 76 years ago (as Standard Games), it didn't change its moniker to the one millions of people around the world know and love until 20 years later--as of yesterday, in fact.

Which means, of course, the renowned game developer and publisher--not to mention former console maker--just celebrated the 56th anniversary of its existence.

To honor that fact, I thought I'd whip up a blog post about some of my all-time favorite Sega titles. Strangely, perhaps, a couple of them weren't actually made by any of the brilliant people employed by the Tokyo-based firm. They were playable on a wide range of its hardware, though, and that's enough for me.

Final Bubble Bobble (Master System)--How could I include a simple home port of Taito's classic, dino-starring quarter-muncher on a list such as this? Well, for starters, this is no simple port. Consider that the Famicom (or NES, if you wish) port of Bubble Bobble, as grand as it is, is a pale imitation of the original in the audio and visual departments. This Sega-published iteration is far truer to the arcade version in both areas. Plus, its box sports an absolutely top-shelf cover illustration. Add to that the fact that Final Bubble Bobble's controls are just as butter-smooth as those found in its counterparts and you've got a cartridge that more than deserves this celebratory nod.

Shining Force (Genesis)--I know many will say this strategy RPG's sequels are better in almost every imaginable way, but the original is the only one that's earned a piece of precious real estate within my heart. As for why that is, one reason is it served as my introduction to the genre. Another is that, even today, its focused, streamlined nature feels like a breath of fresh air when compared to the bulk of the more convoluted SRPGs that came before it and, especially, followed in its footsteps. Finally, there's Yoshitaka Tamaki's gorgeous character and enemy designs and illustrations. I mean it when I say they defined Japanese gaming for me as a youngster.

Madou Monogatari I (Game Gear)--Sega may not have developed this adorable dungeon-crawler (the folks at Compile took care of that task), but the company most certainly published it. Even if that weren't the case, though, I'd include the initial Madou Monogatari game in this write-up simply because it's so damn cute. And fun. And a welcome reprieve for someone--like me--who usually finds this sort of thing mind-numbingly boring. (I prefer the first Madou Monogatari to the other three that were ported to the Game Gear, by the way, due to the fact that--no joke--the sprite of its protagonist, Arle, looks less wonky here than it does in the series' later titles.)

Saturn Bomberman (Saturn)--Singling out one Bomberman title as being better than the others isn't a simple task, as nearly all of the games published between, say, the first PC Engine offering and this 1996 release are well worth playing, in my opinion. Still, there's no question in my mind Saturn Bomberman is the best of the bunch. Its graphics are the most colorful and detailed of all the series' sprite-based entries, and its stages sprawl in a surprisingly satisfying manner. Admittedly, its soundtrack is a bit of a head-scratcher, but I'd hardly describe it as bad. At any rate, this is one of those titles that can suck up a big chunk of your free time without you realizing it--a sure sign of a great game, wouldn't you agree?

Space Channel 5 (Dreamcast)--I've played and loved a lot of Sega-made Dreamcast games over the years, but I come back to this one more than any other. Which is understandable, as its star, the candy-coifed Ulala, is quite a charmer, and its soundtrack is stuffed with tunes that basically force you to tap your foot (if not wiggle your tush). I guess some might say its Simon-esque gameplay is on the simplistic side, but you won't hear me complaining about that aspect of Space Channel 5. After all, I'd rather play a straightforward music game (Nintendo's Rhythm Tengoku is another perfect example) than an overly complicated one any day.

Now that I've had my say on this matter, what are your favorite games that were made by Sega, published by Sega or simply created for Sega hardware?

Friday, June 03, 2016

Which game looks better? (Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap edition)

Considering how much I tend to love adorable games, it probably seems weird that I've barely even acknowledged any of the various iterations of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap that have been released over the years.

After all, each and every one of that Westone-made title's many ports are cute as all get-out. Don't believe me? Check out the video footage--of the 1991 PC Engine version--below.

You may notice that the video in question refers to the game Adventure Island. That's because Hudson decided to change things a bit when it moved The Dragon's Trap to NEC's Japan-conquering 16-bit console.

Other publishers similarly opted to recast this platformer's title during the porting process. A couple of examples: Sega called its on-the-go Game Gear effort Monster World II: The Dragon's Trap, while Hudson and NEC transformed Adventure Island to Dragon's Curse while localizing the former for the North American market.

I bring up all of the above because publisher DotEmu and developer Lizardcube just revealed that they're busy working on a remake of the game that will be called Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap.

Apparently Lizardcube is a two-person company. Normally that would concern me, but in this case, it doesn't--thanks to the fact that the people in question (Omar Cornut and Ben Fiquet) both had a hand in creating the excellent Soul Bubbles, aka Awatama, for the Nintendo DS.

Sadly, the trailer above doesn't reveal when this prettied-up take on The Dragon's Trap will see the light of day.

In the meantime, let's chat about which one looks better. Personally, I think both sport some pretty stellar visuals. Obviously Lizardcube's reimagining is the more glossy and modern of the two, but Hudson's spritework is nothing to be sneezed at either.

What do all of you think? Also, what do you think of this latest take on Westone's classic?

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

I know almost nothing about Thomas the Tank Engine, so why am I strangely attracted to this upcoming Japanese 3DS game?

The game in question: Tetsudou Nippon! Rosen Tabi: Kikansha Thomas-hen Oigawa Tetsudou!

I have no idea what that means in English, but I that's OK--all you really need to know is this is yet another 3DS train simulation game from the masters of the genre, Sonic Powered.

Or maybe I should say it would be yet another 3DS train simulation game if it didn't throw a wrench into the works by featuring the world-famous Thomas the Tank Engine character.

Although I've never played any of Sonic Powered's million (give or take a few hundred thousand) 3DS choo-choo sims, I've long wanted to do so.

As for why the one starring Thomas the Tank Engine has me thinking of biting the bullet, so to speak, well, I'm not sure. OK, so that's not entirely true. After reading about the game on both and yesterday, and in the process discovering that this title's Thomas mode switches out the Japanese Rail Sim series' realistic trappings for ones far more colorful and toylike, I was smitten.

That doesn't mean I've already pre-ordered Tetsudou Nippon! Rosen Tabi: Kikansha Thomas-hen Oigawa Tetsudou! Nor does it guarantee I'll do so between now and when the game is released in late July (carrying a price tag of 6,264 yen, or about $57).

I am seriously considering it, though. Should I go through with it, I'll of course do my best to share some impressions in a future post.

Are any of you similarly attracted to this curious import? If so, please tell me (and others) why in the comments section below.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

So, who else has plopped down 60 big ones for the North American version of Yomawari: Night Alone?

What kind of idiot agrees to spend $60 to buy a second copy of a game he already owns--especially when that money could be put toward the purchase of one or more of the titles currently taking up space on his or her miles-long wish list?

This kind of idiot, that's who.

I say this because over the weekend I decided to pre-order one of the Yomawari: Night Alone limited editions currently being offered up on the NIS America online store.

That wouldn't seem light such a stupid--or at least strange--move if I didn't already own a copy of the Japanese release of this cute-yet-unsettling Vita game. (Check out some photos of Yomawari's Japanese case, cartridge and instruction sheet in this recent "Nice Package!" post.)

Worse yet: I've yet to even stick my Japanese Yomawari cart into my pink-and-white Vita.

So, why did I willingly agree to hand over $60 for the game's North American limited edition when it hits the streets here on Oct. 25? To be completely honest, I was suckered in by this LE's contents.

I mean, who wouldn't want a heat-changing tumbler that features an image of this adventure's protagonist? Nearly as appealing for yours truly: a pair of full-color, soft-cover art books (one for Yomawari: Night Alone and one for the also-included htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary) and a jewel-cased soundtrack.

NIS America's also selling a mousepad that's branded with imagery invoking both hotL#NiQ and Yomawari, but that's a separate, $15 purchase, and although I love it, I don't love it enough to blow $75 on the whole she-bang.

Will any of you also plop down some hard-earned cash on some version of Yomawari: Night Alone after it's made available this fall? If so, which one do you have your eye on at the moment?

See also: previous Yomawari-focused posts