Thursday, September 29, 2016

Manual Stimulation: Son Son II (PC Engine)

Considering how wonderfully colorful Son Son II the PC Engine game is, you could be forgiven for assuming Son Son II the PC Engine instruction manual follows suit.

Unfortunately, it doesn't. Or at least it doesn't do so fully. Instead, it does so in fits and spurts.

Its first few pages are a perfect reflection of that. Although the spread seen below features three really nice illustrations, the rest of the acreage on hand is mostly white space and black text.

That's less true when it comes to the spreads that follow, but even then it'd be hard to argue that there's a whole lot more black and white on those pages than there are colorful pieces of art.

At least the pieces of art that are there are easy on the eyes. Granted, I've rarely come across a drawing of a collectable in-game item I didn't like, so maybe I'm alone in finding them appealing.

(Speaking of game items, my friend, Jess, recently published a great blog post about Capcom's long history of silly, strange and intriguing power-ups. I'd definitely recommend reading it if you find such things interesting.)

I also really like the enemy depictions that are showcased in the scan above. The only thing I don't like about them is there are only 11 of them.

Oh, well, at we got those 11, right?

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts about Don Doko Don, Parasol Stars and Parodius Da!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Why did I wait so long to play Dragon Quest VII? (or, a few thoughts on the just-released 3DS port of Square Enix's mammoth RPG)

I have a strange history with the Dragon Quest series.

As a teenager, I devoured every piece of information about the first game's three-years-in-coming North American release I came across. My older brother and I bought it as soon as it hit store shelves and quickly beat it. (Actually, he beat it. Although I played the game, known here as Dragon Warrior at the time, through to the final boss, I never vanquished him. Later, my brother took care of it while I watched.)

You'd think that experience would've prompted us to buy and similarly burn our way through the second, third and fourth Dragon Quest--er, I mean Dragon Warrior--titles. For whatever reason, though, we didn't.

In fact, we (or, rather I) ignored every other Dragon Quest game that was released in English until Dragon Quest IX hit the streets in my neck of the woods in 2010. This time, I not only reached the end credits on my own but put more than 100 hours into it along the way.

I intended to follow up that experience my battling through the DS remakes of Dragon Quest IV, V and VI--or at least one of them--but you know what they say about best-laid plans.

Did I partially make up for the misgivings detailed above by pre-ordering the North American 3DS remakes of Dragon Quest VII (and Dragon Quest VIII) as soon as I was able to do so last year? I'd like to think so.

Even better, in my mind, is that I crammed the Dragon Quest VII cartridge into my trusty 3DS as soon as the former arrived on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago. Fast-forward to today, and I'm about seven hours into this portable adventure.

I'm enjoying the journey so much at the moment that I'm beating myself up for not playing the game sooner. That's mainly because of the characters and the story.

Actually, I think my favorite aspect of Dragon Quest VII right now is the little vignettes you have to complete while advancing the overarching saga. Some of them are silly, some of them are surprisingly poignant (the first one, especially)--and all of them enjoyable. Or at least that's been the case with the handful I've encountered up to this point.

Those aren't the only reasons I'm busy kicking myself for passing on Dragon Quest VII for so long. A few others include Akira Toriyama's adorable monster designs, Koichi Sugiyama's magnificent soundtrack and the stellar visual upgrade provided by ArtePiazza's crack team of artists and developers. In fact, this version's aesthetics make it the most appealing Dragon Quest to date as far as graphics are concerned--in my humble opinion, of course.

Anyway, I know I've got a long, long way to go before I see this game's credit roll, but I have absolutely no doubt I'll get there eventually.

How about you? Are any of you also playing the Dragon Quest VII 3DS remake? If so, what do you think of it so far?