Thursday, November 10, 2016

Five overlooked Famicom games you need to play as soon as possible

In my two previous "five overlooked games" posts, I focused on Japanese PlayStation and PC Engine titles. (Here's the PlayStation post, and here's the PC Engine post, in case you're interested.)

This one, of course, focuses on Famicom titles.

I know what some of you are thinking. Wait, there are overlooked Famicom titles? The system was released all the way back in 1983. How could any of its games be considered "hidden" gems? My reply: please consider the following.

Banana--This is one of those "don't judge it by its cover" games. And when I say cover, I'm not talking about Banana's box cover, which is the definition of cute. No, I'm talking about the screenshot above. Yes, this Victor Interactive Software-made and -published title (from 1986) is far from a looker, but I love its dynamic soundtrack and its action-puzzler gameplay, which is equal parts grin-inducing and brain-cramping. For more on why I'm such a big fan of Banana, read these previous posts of mine.

Door Door--Admittedly, this isn't an overlooked Famicom game in Japan. In fact, as far as I'm aware, it's actually considered a classic there. Elsewhere in the world, though, it's an unknown quantity at best. That's a shame, because aside from some unfortunate slowdown, Door Door is a real gem, with single-screen gameplay that recalls--without improperly aping--classics like BurgerTime and Wrecking Crew. Bonus: its protagonist and enemies are the most precious things you're going to come across this week, and likely this month--though its box art and instruction manual may have something to say about that.

Moai-kun--Many of the games Konami made and published during the 8-bit era are understandably regarded as classics today. Why isn't this one of them? I don't have a clue, although I wouldn't be surprised if its status as a Japan-only release has a little something to do with it. Still, it's 2016, and that sort of thing no longer really matters. So why do I think Moai-kun deserves a spot next to titles like Castlevania, Contra, Gradius, Goemon and Metal Gear? Because it stars a Moai figure, for starters. Also, its gameplay is like a sideview version of HAL Laboratory's Adventures of Lolo. And then there's the fact that Moai-kun's box art is among the best the Famicom has to offer.

Otocky--This Famicom Disc System game used to have a much lower profile than it does today. What prompted that uptick in interest? The release and embrace of Nintendo's Electroplankton for DS. Both games were conceived and designed by Japanese artist Toshio Iwai, and the popularity of the latter game prompted curiosity about the former. Which is great, as Otocky is a far more enjoyable--not to mention traditional--experience than Electroplankton, in my humble opinion. Of course, what else would you expect from a game that adds a smidgen of music-creation to the side-scrolling shmup genre? (By the way, if you own a console that accepts FDS discs, you owe it to yourself to buy a complete-in-box copy of Otocky. Its outer box, case and manual--all showcased in this old post of mine--are worth the price of admission alone.)

Warpman--If Bomberman and Robotron mated, not only would it be kind of kinky, but the product of their procreation would be this home port of an old Namco arcade game called Warp & Warp. That alone would be enough for me to recommend Warpman, but thankfully there's more to it than its bizarre sources of inspiration. Specifically, by offering up two different play styles, it keeps things feeling fresh despite its overall repetitiveness. Also, there's little denying Warpman's character sprites are almost overwhelmingly adorable. For more of my thoughts on this Famicom cart, check out my review.

Have you played any of these overlooked Famicom games? If so, share your opinions of them in the comments section below.

Also leave a comment if you think of any other often-ignored games that were made for Nintendo's first console.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Who else is excited about Miitopia after this weekend's Japanese Nintendo Direct?

What kind of "gamer" am I these days? The kind who wakes up early with butterflies in his stomach because he knows he's finally going to see some footage of an upcoming game he's been clamoring for since it was announced a couple of months back.

At least that's the kind of gamer I was over the weekend thanks to the Japanese Miitopia-focused Nintendo Direct that hit the Internet on Saturday morning.

What did I think of what I saw during that 16-minute broadcast? I thought it looked pretty great--although don't take that to mean I understood what was going on during this Direct's many gameplay segments.

I mean, I get that Miitopia is going to be one part Tomodachi Collection (Tomodachi Life in my neck of the woods) and one part Final Fantasy-esque JRPG, but even after watching Saturday's "Miitopia Direct" a few times I'm still not sure how much of the latter aspect I'll be able to control while playing through it.

Specifically, I'm wondering if I'll be able to freely move my party of adorably outfitted Miis around the game's towns and overworld areas (if what was shown in the above-mentioned broadcast can be described as such) or if it'll be done for me?

A similar question is bouncing around in my head in regard to the hilarious battles highlighted in last weekend's footage: will I direct them in Miitopia as I would in your typical Dragon Quest game, or will the title's artificial intelligence handle it?

I'd be lying if I said I'd be perfectly happy if most or all of these activities happen on their own without my input. That said, I thought I would dislike the similarly hands-off Tomodachi Life before I played it; in the end, I put nearly 130 hours into that curiosity and loved every second of it.

In other words, who's to say Miitopia won't out-and-out charm me even if it's not as involved than I'd like it to be?

Of course, that's less likely to happen if most of this game's text goes over my head due to my still-developing Japanese skills. Or maybe I should look at Miitopia as an opportunity to further expand those skills--while also having a bit of fun?

While I work through my own feelings about Miitopia, please share yours with me (and others) in the comments section below.

I'd especially love to hear from those of you who are planning to purchase the game on or around its Japanese release date of Dec. 8, although I'd also like to hear from anyone who thinks they'll buy the title if it's translated into a language they can understand at some point down the road.