Friday, October 14, 2016

Surprise! The Year of the GameBoy Continues: Burning Paper

This latest "Year of the GameBoy" post focuses on a title that's long given me a lot of joy--and has long caused me to wrinkle my nose in disgust due to the fact that almost everyone overlooks it.

What's so great about Burning Paper, which was developed by Pixel and published by LOZC G. Amusements in 1993? Its name is a good starting point, I think--even if you know nothing about its gameplay.

Speaking of which, Burning Paper reminds me a lot of one of my favorite PSP titles, Patchwork Heroes (aka Hyakumanton no Bara Bara), when it comes to how it plays.

In that game, you control a brave citizen who volunteers to save his comrades from approaching warships by hacking them to pieces.

In Burning Paper, on the other hand, you're plopped into the boots of a guy who bears a shocking resemblance to the iconic Bomberman. For whatever reason, he's been tasked with protecting a series of buildings from an advancing horde of nasty-looking beings. (OK, so most of them are kind of cute. Still, it's clear they're up to no good.)

I'm sure all of this is explained in the game's instruction manual, but at the moment my grasp of the Japanese language isn't advanced enough for me to make sense of its "story" page.

(Regarding Burning Paper's manual, by the way, it's actually pretty impressive. I especially like all of the little illustrations that are sprinkled throughout--scroll down a couple of inches to see a few of them. And keep your eyes peeled for a "Manual Stimulation" post devoted to this booklet)

Going back a bit, Burning Paper's gameplay is at least somewhat explained in the game's opening cinematic. In a series of four static images, a scientist who could pass as a close relative of Mega Man's Dr. Light creates a concoction that appears to cause an adverse reaction (to put it mildly) to some nearby creepy-crawlies.

Thankfully, mister Bomberman wannabe is on hand and comes to the rescue. Or something like that.

Regardless, each and every stage in Burning Paper begins with the above-mentioned and familiarly besuited protagonist stuck atop a high-rise. These high-rises are covered in posters. Don't ask me why--again, I don't have a clue.

As a variety of vermin--including bugs, mice, moles and a bunch of other creatures I can't properly categorize--amble their way toward your lofty position, you use some sort of laser (provided by the faux Dr. Light, naturally) to cut pieces out of the placards below. Get the timing right, and the falling scraps crash into the oncoming baddies and send them into the Great Beyond.

It's a lot of fun, and more than a bit frantic. Plus, it looks rather nice and sounds lovely.

Actually, I'd say it sounds more than lovely. In fact, its soundtrack is pretty amazing considering I'd never heard of Pixel or LOZC G. Amusements before I became acquainted with Burning Paper.

Combine all of the above with the fact that, as I've hopefully made clear with the photos you see here, this title's outer box, cartridge and instruction manual are beautifully designed, and it should be easy to understand why the lack of Burning Paper love from the GameBoy-loving masses (if such a thing can be said to exist in 2016) confounds and confuses me.

Who knows, though, maybe posts like this will help bring it to the attention of more people who still get a kick out of old-school oddities.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A few more Dragon Quest VII 3DS impressions now that I've put about 20 hours into it

When I last commented on the recently released (outside of Japan) Dragon Quest VII 3DS remake on this blog, it was to share my impressions of the first seven or so hours of the game.

Those impressions were decidedly positive, with the only real negative I could muster was that it takes a while for the adventure to get going. (Specifically, you don't encounter your first battle until you've crossed the hour-and-a-half or even two-hour mark.)

Other than that, my first seven hours with Dragon Quest VII 3DS were thoroughly enjoyable. Is that how I'd describe the 13-plus hours I've since spent with the game? For the most part, it is, though I probably wouldn't use the word thoroughly this time around. Here's why:

Boy, you sure spend a lot of time running around in Dragon Quest VII, don't you?--Was the same true of Dragon Quest IX, my previous experience with this ages-old series? If so, I certainly don't remember it. Or at least I don't remember it impacting my enjoyment of that game as much as it is this one. Regardless, I've got to admit I've already become a bit annoyed by the game's many fetch quests that force you to return to locations you've already visited a number of times before.

I know I'm "directionally challenged," but I think I'd regularly get lost in this game even if that weren't the case--Combine this piece of criticism with the last one and it should be clear that a Dragon Quest VII playthrough can really test your patience. Granted, some of this likely is my own fault. I can be more than a bit dense when it comes to keeping track of all the details that are thrown at me while playing an RPG. Although in my brain's defense, pretty much every locale here has two versions--one set in the past, and one set in the present--and as such I can't help but think most folks who decide to tackle this game also have a hard time keeping them straight, especially as the adventure progresses and the world opens up.

What's the point of making monsters visible on the overworld (or in dungeons) if you can't escape them?--OK, so this actually isn't an issue while traversing Dragon Quest VII's overworld--or at least it's only rarely an issue in that context. It's very much an issue, though, once you dive into one of the game's many dungeons. Almost without exception, these dungeons are made up of claustrophobic hallways that make it nearly, if not completely, impossible to avoid oncoming baddies. In some cases, that means getting into a battle every couple of steps. Thankfully, the battles on offer here are snappy affairs, but that doesn't mean much when you're forced into 100 of them within a single, small dungeon.

Is it just me, or does everyone here look the same?--Considering how much content developer Arte Piazza was able to squeeze into this diminutive 3DS cartridge, I can understand why they decided to cut a couple of corners along the way. Still, would it have killed that company's designers and programmers to have created a few more NPC models? It often seems like they made a small handful and then called it a day, as you encounter the same ones over and over and over again during your travels. That would bother me a lot less than it does, by the way, if it didn't regularly fool me into thinking I'm talking to a character I'd previously met when in fact it's just someone who looks like a character I'd previously met.

Given all of the above, you might think I'm no longer thrilled to be playing Dragon Quest VII. That couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, I'm mildly annoyed by some aspects of the game, but I'm loving the rest of it (especially the "party chat" option that's accessed with a push of the 3DS' B button), so don't expect me to walk away from it anytime soon.

Now that I've said my piece, what do all of you who also are making your way through this 3DS remake think of it?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Attention regular folk: you can now buy Keita Takahashi's cute-as-hell ALPHABET

I was more than a bit bummed when I failed to back (via Kickstarter, naturally) the LA Game Space earlier this year and as a result missed out on obtaining a copy of Keita Takahashi's and Adam Saltsman's Alphabet.

For a $15 donation, backers gained access to the above-mentioned curiosity as well as something like 30 other indie titles.

That was nice and all, but the only one of those rewards that really appealed to me was Alphabet. I guess that goes a long way toward explaining why I didn't hand over any money in the end--despite the fact that the game offers players the chance to "run, jump, eat, sing, poop and sleep through silly obstacle courses."

Still, whenever Alphabet pops up in online conversations, I think, damn, I'd really like to play that game someday. Well, someday could be today, if I'd like it to be. That's because regular folk like you and I can now buy it and four other titles from for--you guessed it--$15.

Considering doing the same but not yet ready to sign in to your PayPal account or dig your credit card out of your wallet? Check out my friend Anne's entertaining playthrough of Alphabet. It should help you reach some sort of consensus on the matter.

Should you follow through with the purchase, come back here and let me know what you think of the game--especially if you figure it to be another Katamari Damacy.