Friday, September 23, 2016

Surprise! The Year of the GameBoy Continues: Bubble Ghost

OK, so every year seems to be the "Year of the GameBoy" around these parts. Sue me!

The fact is, I'm still madly in love with Nintendo's first portable system and its fine catalog of games. Sure, the latter includes a slew of crappy titles, but the same can be said of most handhelds. Plus, for me, the GameBoy's best gems are so enjoyable they make it easy to overlook its unplayable turds.

Speaking of my on-going love affair with this brick-like device (I'm talking about its design here, not its abilities), I've currently got a burr up my butt about whittling down the GameBoy portion of my lengthy gaming bucket list.

That's why I recently acquired the cart that serves as this post's focus, actually. Well, that played a role, at least. Also relevant: Bubble Ghost's adorable cover art.

And it is pretty darn adorable, wouldn't you agree?

To be honest, I'm not sure which piece of Bubble Ghost GameBoy box art I like more: the one created for Japan or the one created for North America and Europe.

Regardless, both are easy on the eyes. And both sport the same oh-so-appealing logo.

In terms of overall packaging, though, I've got to go with Japan's GameBoy port of the game. I like that it offers up random pops of color--such as the hint of teal at the top of its box front, or the vibrant pink that's splashed across its side flaps.

That same pink shows up as an accent color on the game box's back side, while a shockingly bright yellow blankets the remainder of its surface.

Similarly appealing hues can be found on every piece of Bubble Ghost's packaging. A case in point: the subdued, bubblegum-y pink featured on the game's instruction manual. Also, the banana yellow that covers its cartridge label.

OK, so the copy I recently bought and that's on display throughout this post isn't immaculate. I don't mind that as much as you might imagine. Sure, I'd love it if it were in perfect condition, but as long as it doesn't look like a dog chewed on it, I'm OK with a couple of creased manual pages or a few frayed box edges.

After all, what really matters is that the cartridge is works. And that's exactly the case here. Which is great, as Bubble Ghost is yet another of those intriguing titles that is perfectly suited to the GameBoy.

That probably sounds funny to those of you who know a bit about its history. For those of you who don't, Bubble Ghost began life in 1987 as an Atari ST game. In that release, and the numerous other PC ports that followed in the original's footsteps, players controlled the titular ghoul using a mouse.

A press of the space bar or shift key prompts the little guy to blow out a puff of air in those versions--which is important, as this is what allows you to guide the bubble mentioned in the game's title through the many halls of a haunted house.

In this GameBoy iteration (remake, really), developed by Opera House, the system's directional pad moves the pixelated specter and its face buttons produce the needed puff of air.

The latter control scheme works surprisingly well. Also, the GameBoy's archaic hardware doesn't do much to hold back Bubble Ghost's graphics or gameplay. In other words, this cartridge is well worth checking out if you're like me and you're still interested in playing decades-old handheld games.

See also: previous 'Year of the GameBoy' posts about Noobow, Peetan and Tumblepop.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Aural Gratification #2: 'Ghetto' from Gekisha Boy (PC Engine)

IREM's Gekisha Boy--or Gekibo, as I believe it used to be called in Japan--is one of those games all PC Engine fans should play.

Unfortunately, complete copies are pretty pricey these days. Also, the game has yet to hit Nintendo's Virtual Console for any system (3DS, Wii and Wii U) or in any region.

Does this mean you should go grab the ROM and play Gekisha Boy--which translates to Photograph Boy--on your emulator of choice? Sure, if that'll float your boat. IREM the game-maker basically closed up shop in 2011, so it's unlikely Gekibo or any of the company's other great titles will be re-released anytime soon, so emulation is likely to be the only avenue for most folks who want to experience this weird "action photography" game.

Just be prepared to face a stiff challenge no matter how you decide to play this 1992 offering. Successfully finishing its many stages is no easy feat, as doing so requires you to control its protagonist--his name is David Goldman, according to Wikipedia--as well as a reticle using the PC Engine's directional pad.

The good news here is that all of the time you're sure to put into beating Gekisha Boy's tough-as-nails levels means you'll become well acquainted with its soundtrack. Speaking of which, my favorite of its tunes is the one showcased in the video above. I love that it's kind of spooky--like something you'd listen to around Halloween.

Have any of you played Gekibo? If so, let me know what you think of it by leaving a comment below.

See also: my first 'Aural Gratification' post about 'Salad' from Panic Restaurant (Famicom)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Manual Stimulation (Parodius Da!, PC Engine)

Before we begin to prattle on about this PC Engine game's instruction manual, let's take a second to bow our heads in honor of the fact that the world's unlikely to get another game in Konami's wacky Parodius series.

That's a shame because all of the Parodius games Konami made and released between 1988's Parodius: Tako wa Chikyū o Sukū for MSX and 1996's Sexy Parodius for the original PlayStation (and arcades)--we'll just ignore all of those pachinko games the company put out over the last decade--were more than worth the price of admission.

This 1992 release may be my favorite of them all. Granted, the PC Engine port of Parodius Da! is missing a few of the arcade original's stages, but its chaotic omake bonus level makes up for it.

Its fabulous manual eases some of the disappointment associated with this semi-downgraded port, too.

Don't take that to mean it's all that and a bag of chips. It doesn't sport nearly as many adorable illustrations as the Famicom version's booklet. And it doesn't kick off with a multi-page comic strip like the Super Famicom release's manual. Still, it's cute and colorful enough that most folks should enjoy flipping through it now and then.

The "story" spread above helps prove that point, I think. Hell, so does the regrettably tiny depiction of Takosuke (the series' iconic octopus character) hoisting and shooting a machine gun.

The illustrations on the following pages, which show off and explain the game's power-up items and abilities, are interesting in that they're in a style that's quite different from the rest of the art that appears in the Parodius Da! instruction manual.

That's not a bad thing, mind you. Still, I can't help but wish they were sillier or livelier--like the ones included in the Famicom booklet I linked to earlier.

Somewhat strangely, the designers who created the Parodius Da! manual devoted two whole pages to explanations of the game's bell power-ups. I suggest that's strange because these explanations presumably took the place of artistic representations of its enemies and bosses.

Oh, well you can't have everything, right? And at least we're treated to one last top-notch illustration before the booklet wraps up with some pithy stage descriptions.

Want to see how the Parodius Da! PC Engine case and HuCard stack up to its manual? Check out my latest "Nice Package!" post, which features photos of of both--as well as some additional commentary on the game itself.

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts about Rainbow Islands, Pop'n Magic and PC Genjin