Saturday, October 08, 2016

Aural Gratification #3: 'Woods Land' from Don Doko Don 2 (Famicom)

I'm not entirely sure why, but Taito's Don Doko Don 2 is strangely absent from most online discussions of great Famicom and NES platformers.

Which is a real shame, as this Japan-only release from 1992 is one of the system's better side-scrollers, in my opinion.

One reason I hold it in such high esteem is it's as cute as can be. Another is that it's full of the kind of charm Taito was known for back in the day. (Don't know what I'm talking about here? Check out Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands, Parasol Stars, The New Zealand Story and Mizubaku Daibouken.)

Most importantly, though, Don Doko Don 2 is a blast to play. I especially like how it takes the hammer-centric gameplay mechanism of the original Don Doko Don, which basically is a Bubble Bobble clone, and puts it to use in a Super Mario-esque platformer.

Don Doko Don 2 never reaches the dizzying heights of Super Mario Bros. 2 or 3, mind you, but it's still very much worth trying if you tend to enjoy the genre.

And even if you consider it a flop from a gameplay perspective, you should still get a kick out of its soundtrack. "Woods Land," which can be heard in the video above, is my favorite of its many tunes, but plenty of others also will have you tapping your foot or bobbing your head as you traipse through the title's brightly colored stages.

So, what do you think of this Don Doko Don 2 song? Or what do you think of this Famicom game in general?

See also: previous 'Aural Gratification' posts

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Nice Package! (Shining Force, Mega Drive)

Although I began the 16-bit generation favoring NEC's and Nintendo's machines over Sega's, that's not how I ended it.

OK, so I wouldn't say the Genesis (or Mega Drive, depending on your preferences) wound up being my favorite of that era's consoles, but I'd definitely say I grew to love it every bit as much as the Super Nintendo and TurboGrafx-16 (or Super Famicom and PC Engine, respectively).

This game is hugely responsible for that change of heart. I distinctly remember reading everything I could about its Japanese release in 1992 and swooning over practically every screenshot and piece of concept art I came across along the way.

That's understandable, right? I mean, Yoshitaka Tamaki's character designs, showcased in the Japanese box art seen above, are beyond fabulous, in my humble opinion.

Shining Force's in-game graphics are just as wonderful, of course. Also wonderful: the title's epic soundtrack, tactical gameplay and likable cast of characters.

In fact, I found all of those things so appealing then, and still find them so appealing now, that I wouldn't hesitate to call Shining Force one of my all-time favorite games.

I also wouldn't hesitate to call Shining Force's Japanese packaging an all-time favorite.

After all, not only is its outer box a stunner, but so is its cartridge. (Seriously, I've always loved the sexy, rounded carts that contained Japanese Mega Drive games.)

Unsurprisingly, its manual is well worth ogling, too, as the photo above should prove.

Don't worry, I'll try to scan and share the entirety of Shining Force's instruction booklet in an upcoming installment of my "Manual Stimulation" series.

In the meantime, please enjoy the snapshots shared throughout this post. (I especially like this last one, by the way. There's just something about its layout that rubs me the right way.)

Also, if you, too, are a big fan of the original Shining Force--or any of this long-running series' releases--let me and others know in the comments section below.

See also: previous 'Nice Package!' posts

Monday, October 03, 2016

Five overlooked Japanese PlayStation games you need to play as soon as possible

Most folks who love the original PlayStation know all about Japan-only gems like Harmful Park, LSD: Dream Emulator, Rakugaki Showtime, Slap Happy Rhythm Busters, Vib-Ribbon and Umihara Kawase Shun.

There are a lot of other PSone imports that are worth picking up and playing, though--and many of them are far more affordable than the titles mentioned above. Here are five such games. (Bonus: all of the following can be enjoyed without knowing a lick of Japanese.)

Engacho!--I know why people ignore this game even after they become aware of it. It's gross--and not in a Mortal Kombat kind of way. No, this colorful puzzler is gross in an "it's full of boogers and spit and smelly armpit hair" kind of way. The thing is, the brain-teasing gameplay that surrounds all of this grossness is not only fun and challenging, but unique. To learn more about it, read my Engacho! review. (If you'd also like to get a glimpse of this game's outer case, disc and manual, check out my post, "What in the hell does Engacho! mean, anyway?"

Gussun Paradise--Although I can understand why a lot of Westerners shy away from Engacho!, I'm completely flummoxed that they treat Gussun Paradise in the same manner. For starters, the latter game was made by the masters at Irem. Second, it's a single-screen platformer à la Don Doko Don and all kinds of other Taito releases. Third, its graphics are so cute and colorful it's hard not to grin like an idiot while basking in their glow. For more information on this Gussun Oyoyo spinoff, and to see some snapshots of its packaging, peruse this old post about it.

Lup Salad: Loopop Cube--If adorable games tend to give you toothache, you may have to see your dentist for a root canal after playing this puzzler-platformer from 2012. Not only are its sprite-based characters, blocks and backdrops as precious as can be, but the same can be said of its ear-pleasing soundtrack. You'd do well to try Loopop Cube (or Lupupu Cube or Rupupu Cube) even if the description and screenshot above give you pause, though, as the block-pushing and -matching gameplay at the center of this title will entice even the biggest haters to waste many an hour on it.

Mad Panic Coaster--All of the Japan-only PlayStation games that have been discussed up to this point are unquestionably enjoyable affairs. The same can't be said of Mad Panic Coaster. So why on earth have I included it here? Because it's so damn weird--it's basically an on-rails racer that's set on a bunch of themed roller coasters--that it's worth playing even if it can be maddeningly frustrating and difficult at times. If you're a collector of import PSone titles, by the way, do yourself a favor and hunt down a complete-in-box copy of Mad Panic Coaster. Its instruction manual (ogle scans of it here) alone will make you appreciate your purchase.

Susume! Taisen Puzzle-Dama--For whatever reason, Konami's long-running Taisen Puzzle-Dama never made waves outside of Japan like other match-two and -three titles from the same era. You know the ones I'm talking about: Columns, Magical Drop, Puyo Puyo and their ilk. That's too bad, as the various iterations of Taisen Puzzle-Dama I've played--including this one and one that features the company's TwinBee characters--are a blast. That's partially because of its frantic puzzling action, of course, but it's also because of its wacky cast (see above) and sense of humor.

Can you think of any unfortunately overlooked or ignored Japan-only PSone games that people in other parts of the world really need to play? If so, share them in the comments section of this post.