Thursday, December 01, 2016

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

Of all the "five overlooked games you need to play as soon as possible" posts I've already published here and will publish in the coming weeks and months, this is sure to be the easiest to write.

After all, as much as I love the FamicomPC Engine and PlayStation, and as much as I know about their extensive game libraries, I know quite a bit more about the GameBoy's catalog at this point--especially when it comes to that portable's more obscure titles.

Speaking of which, the following five carts are among the GameBoy's most painfully ignored, in the opinion of yours truly. All are Japanese, but don't let that keep you from giving them a try. You don't need to know a lick of the language to beat any of them.

Astro Rabby--Before I say anything else, I have to warn you that one small aspect of this Cyclone System-developed game will make you want to rip out your hair. Thankfully, it can be ignored. Also, the rest of what's on offer in Astro Rabby--forced-scrolling, overhead action that puts players in the shoes (paws?) of a robotic bunny who hops through space in search of the stolen parts that'll allow him to fly--is enjoyable enough that it more than compensates for the bitter taste left by the above-mentioned bonus rounds. Still not convinced its worth your while? Boot up Astro Rabby simply because its interstellar stages are littered with Super Mario Bros.-esque question blocks.

Burning Paper--Of all the games discussed here, I consider this one to be the most disappointingly overlooked. That's mainly because Burning Paper's gameplay is unlike that of any other GameBoy title I've played. Hell, it's unlike that of any other game I've played, period. Imagine an inverted Space Invaders mixed with a dash of Qix (or even Patchwork Heroes) and you'll be close to understanding what it's like to play Burning Paper. Unfortunately, whatever image you conjure up won't let you hear this old LOZC G. Amusements-published cart's far-better-than-it-has-any-right-to-be soundtrack, so you really have to buy a copy of the game (or boot up a ROM) to get the full experience.

Noobow--This slow-paced puzzler-platformer is the perfect pick-up for someone who wants a unique portable title that won't tax their reflexes. In fact, you're never even forced to time a jump à la Mario while playing Noobow. Here, all you do is move the titular character left and right using your GameBoy's d-pad. As you do that to work your way through each of this Irem-made title's stages, you encounter various obstacles and objects. A single press of the system's A or B buttons generally prompts Noobow to pick up whatever object is in front of him, and another press prompts him to set it down or use it in some fashion. Successfully reaching the end of each level is more challenging than you probably thinking, especially when you consider this game was aimed at kids.

Painter Momopie--As far as Pac-Man clones go, Painter Momopie is neither the best nor the worst in the world. Still, I recommend checking out this Sigma Entertainment-developed release because: a) its cast of characters is surprisingly appealing for such an under-the-radar title (especially the titular Momopie--I mean, what's not to love about a broom-toting witch?), b) its soundtrack is wistful in a way most game music isn't and c) its gameplay tweaks the aforementioned quarter-muncher's just enough to make things seem fresh and interesting. I'm also pretty fond of the quaint cottage-like environs that double as Painter Momopie's stages.

Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe: Ohanabatake wa Dai-Panic--Just like Astro Rabby and Burning Paper, it's not easy to explain Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe's gameplay in a quippy sentence or two. Actually, I'm not sure I can explain it in an entire paragraph. Thankfully, Hardcore Gaming 101 devoted an entire page to this Technos-made head-scratcher. All you really need to know, though, is it's a unique experience that's well suited to the GameBoy hardware and screen. Also, its angelic protagonist and cadre of baddies (if they can be called that) are beyond cute.

Enjoy this post? Keep your eyes peeled for a similar one in the coming weeks that'll shine a light on five overlooked North American GameBoy games I think you should play as soon as possible.

See also: five favorite pieces of Japanese GameBoy box art and five favorite pieces of North American GameBoy box art

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Five favorites: North American GameBoy box art

A couple of years ago, I published a post that highlighted five of my favorite pieces of Japanese GameBoy box art.

This post, of course, focuses on five of my favorite pieces of North American GameBoy box art.

Balloon Kid--I know some of you will look at Balloon Kid's cover art and declare it to be an abomination. And I can understand that--to an extent. Its depiction of the game's pigtailed protagonist is a bit odd, to say the least. The illustration of the giant, bug-eyed fish that's attempting to eat Alice (the aforementioned heroine) is even worse. Still, I like the overall image, thanks in large part to its liberal and adept use of color. I'm also a big fan of the game's bold and subtly creative logo. (Bonus: the entirety of Balloon Kid's instruction manual can be seen here.)

BurgerTime Deluxe--This is one of the few instances where I prefer a GameBoy title's North American box art to its Japanese counterpart. (You can see the Japanese BurgerTime Deluxe's cover in this old post.) Not only that, but I think this particular example of packaging design may be my favorite of all the ones included in this post. I want to say the logo is the star here, but the illustrations of Peter Pepper (he's the guy in the funny-looking white hat) and BurgerTime Deluxe's angry, anthropomorphic ingredients are pretty stellar, too. I even like the purple backdrop that supports the whole she-bang.

Dig Dug--This selection will raise a few eyebrows, I'm sure. It's quite a bit darker than and nowhere near as cute as what most people would expect to see splashed across the cover of a GameBoy port of this Namco arcade classic. That's probably a big part of why I like it so much, to be honest. There's more to it than that, though. I also appreciate the skewed perspective that puts one of the game's iconic Pooka enemies front and center. Admittedly, the protagonist's mouth-tongue-whatever-it-is freaks me out a tad, but I'm willing to overlook it for the rest of what's on offer here.

Mole Mania--This piece of box art really looks like something the designers at Nintendo would cook up, doesn't it? It's stuffed to the gills with cute characters, it's positively doused with pastels and it's got an adorable logo plastered across its top half. Could the artists who created it have removed the main mole's unibrow? No doubt. Still, Mole Mania's cover is a keeper even with the little guy's questionable grooming habits on display. By the way, if you'd like to see how this game's North American packaging stacks up to its Japanese packaging, check out this post.

Wario Land--Full disclosure: I've barely played any of the first four Wario Land games. I can't even tell you why that's the case. I guess I've just always gotten my fill from Nintendo's Mario-centric platformers. Anyway, the Wario Land series' covers certainly aren't responsible for me ignoring its games. The one made for this first entry is a knockout, wouldn't you agree? Some may say it's busy, and I can't (completely) argue against that, but I personally think such a bombastic design works in this particular context.

So, what do you think of these examples of North American GameBoy box art? Do you like them, too--or do you hate them?

If it's the latter and if you can think of pieces of North American GameBoy box art you prefer, let me know about them in the comments section of this post.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Aural Gratification #4: 'Snowy Fields' from Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)

I was reminded of this wonderfully wintry track when my friend Anne recently sent out a tweet about a similarly seasonal tune from Yoshi's Woolly World.

The reminder was much appreciated, as both "Snowy Fields" and Kirby's Epic Yarn have long had a special place in my heart.

Not only did I declare the latter my favorite Wii game of 2010, but I now work my way through it every year in the run up to the holidays.

Why? The game's "Snow Land" is a major reason, of course, but the rest of Epic Yarn's many worlds play a role, too. After all, each and every one of them look (and sound) like they sprang out of a child's toy chest.

Plus, the whole adventure evokes that same wide-eyed feeling of wonderment and awe that washed over me as a kid after I woke up on Christmas morning and first caught a glimpse of the brightly wrapped presents under our tree.

Do any of you also have fond memories of Kirby's Epic Yarn? If so, please share them in the comments section that follows.

See also: previous 'Aural Gratification' posts