Saturday, December 10, 2016

The best box art of 2016

This past year was a great one for games. It also was great for game cover art--as the following examples hopefully prove.

Culdcept Revolt (3DS)--To be totally honest, I originally chose to include this piece of box art in this post because it's awash in red. I've since come around to appreciating that the game's cast of characters aren't huddled around the middle point of the illustration, which seems to the case for most Japanese cover images these days. Add in Culdcept Revolt's slick logo, and you've got yourself an obvious winner.

Dragon Quest Builders (PS4/Vita)--What's not to love about Dragon Quest Builders' Japanese cover art? After all, it sports a top-notch logo, a charmingly stylized main image and is so sweetly colorful it could give you a toothache. Sadly, Square Enix's designers gave it an extreme makeover when prepping the game for release outside its home country.

Final Fantasy XV Deluxe Edition (PS4)--I've drooled over Yoshitaka Amano's work since I learned he was responsible for the key art for one of my all-time favorite games, Final Fantasy VI. What he conjured up for Final Fantasy XV's Deluxe Edition may not be quite as mind-blowing as those aforementioned creations, but it's still completely gorgeous and very much worthy of being mentioned in a write-up such as this.

Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna (PS4/Vita)--This may be my favorite of all the box arts mentioned in this post. I love that it's subtle. I love that its designers weren't afraid of white space. I love the pop of color provided by the lone tree in the upper-right corner. I love the logo, which straddles the line of looking handwritten and looking like a computer-enabled font. And, oddly enough, I love the feeling of loneliness it evokes.

The Last Guardian (PS4)--Please note that I'm talking about the Japanese "First-Press Limited Edition" here. As in, the chartreuse-tinged label affixed to the cardboard outer box shown in the photo above. That's the only cover image associated with this long-awaited release I find at all appealing, by the way.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Manual Stimulation: Bomberman (PC Engine)

To be frank, there aren't a whole lot of reasons to buy, own or play the first PC Engine Bomberman title in 2016.

In fact, I can only think of three reasons at the moment: 1) you're a huge fan of this Hudson-made series, 2) you have a bunch of friends as well as a bunch of PC Engine (or TurboGrafx-16) controllers and 3) you're trying to fill out your HuCard collection and this game is the best of what's left on your dwindling wish list.

Actually, I just came up with another reason: you like Bomberman's iconic cover art, which can be seen in the scan above. (As always, click on it to take a much better and closer look at its contents.)

OK, so maybe I'm being a bit harsh. The first Bomberman isn't a complete turd, after all. Still, it pales in comparison to later titles, like Bomberman '93, Bomberman '94 and Saturn Bomberman.

That's mainly because the play fields, power-ups and enemy selection in this entry fail to display the imagination and creativity that seemingly helped produce the aforementioned sequels.

Thankfully, fun can be had despite the fact that it's all rather vanilla. Plus, nabbing a copy of this version of Bomberman these days won't cost you an arm and a leg (unlike a lot of other PC Engine or TurboGrafx-16 games) and it'll also net you the surprisingly appealing instruction manual that's displayed throughout this post.

Admittedly, the Bomberman depictions in this manual are kind of wonky, but the other illustrations on hand go a long way toward making up for it.

Also, the folks who designed Bomberman's booklet covered its handful of pages with some nice pops of color.

Could this particular PC Engine instruction manual be better, flashier, more fabulous? Of course. Even as is, though, it's got more going for it than Rainbow Islands' or Parasol Star's manual, so at least there's that.

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts about Bikkuriman World, Dungeon Explorer, Hana Taaka Daka!? and The New Zealand Story

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Nice Package! (Guru Logi Champ, GameBoy Advance)

While researching and writing my post of #HudsonMonth game recommendations--which includes a brief mention of this unfortunately obscure puzzler--over the weekend, I came to the shocking realization that the only photo I've published of Guru Logi Champ since acquiring a copy of it in early 2010 is of its cartridge. (Here is the post in question, in case you're curious.)

That's a real shame, as not only is Guru Logi Champ one of the best GameBoy Advance titles around, but its box, cartridge and instruction manual sport some of the best cover (or label) art around.

Don't take my word for it. A single glance at the photo below is all you should need to be convinced of the greatness of this Compile-made game's packaging.

If that's not quite enough to sell you on it, check out the following:

Yes, the flaps on Guru Logi Champ's box feature depictions of the game's adorable duck-like characters.

Those same creatures are plastered across the GameBoy Advance puzzler's instruction manual, too, as you can see in the snapshot above.

Guru Logi Champ's cart label is a slight variation of the main cover art. Hey, at least there's a little difference--too many publishers of GBA games used the same designs on both surfaces, in my experience.

If you'd like to learn more about this 2001 release, by the way, you can do so by reading my Guru Logi Champ review. Also, you can ogle the most interesting pages of the game's instruction manual in this "Manual Stimulation" post. And if you'd like to see a few more photos of its box and cartridge, check out this Flickr album of mine.

See also: previous 'Nice Package!' posts

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Get your piping hot #HudsonMonth game recommendations here!

In case you weren't already aware, December is "Hudson Month," according to my friend Anne Lee (of the Chic Pixel blog).

What does that mean? Basically, it means you're supposed to play one or more games made by the now-defunct developer and publisher Hudson Soft sometime this month and then blog or tweet about the experience (using #HudsonMonth in the latter scenario)--if you're willing and able, of course.

If Hudson Soft doesn't ring a bell, maybe the names of some of the company's most famous releases will: Adventure Island, Bomberman and Bonk's Adventure.

Although there's nothing wrong with playing through one of those titles or their sequels for this game-along, there are many other--and oftentimes better--options available to you, such as the following:

DoReMi Fantasy: Milon no DokiDoki Daibouken (Super Famicom)--There weren't many side-scolling platformers made for the Super Famicom or SNES that can compete with Nintendo's own Super Mario World or Yoshi's Island. DoReMi Fantasy is one of the few. Greatly helping matters is this cart's gameplay, which is reminiscent of Mizubaku Daibouken's. Physical copies (loose or complete) tend to be absurdly pricey these days, but that's not a problem if you've got a Wii or Wii U, as DoReMi Fantasy can be bought from both of their online shops for just a few bucks.

Hatena Satena (GameBoy Advance)--If you like Picross or even that old standby, Minesweeper, you'll love this 2001 Japan-only GameBoy Advance title. That's because Hatena Satena combines elements of both of those popular puzzlers, and the resulting effort more than stands on its own. Even better, Hatena Satena has a funky aesthetic that puts that of its predecessors to shame. Relevant aside: Compile's Guru Logi Champ will provide you with even more Picross-y thrills should Hatena Satena not fully satisfy your craving.

Kororinpa (Wii)--This is one of those early Wii games that made full use of the system's motion-sensing controller. In fact, Kororinpa is played by twisting and turning the Wii Remote to do the same to the title's labyrinthine levels--with the goal being to roll a ball (or something resembling a ball, at least) from each stage's entrance to its exit. That's harder than it sounds, of course. Thankfully, the game's colorful backdrops and chipper background tunes help take the edge off some of its tension. Bonus: cheap copies of both the first Kororinpa and its sequel can be bought via eBay these days.

Monster Lair (TurboGrafx-16)--If you're a PC Engine aficionado, you likely know this game by its original name, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair. Whatever you call it, though, it's a great little game that's one part platformer and one part shoot 'em up. There's more to Monster Lair than its intriguing gameplay, though. The game's also a real looker thanks to its liberal use of color and its big, bold sprites. Its soundtrack is pure bliss, too. Relevant aside: I saved up and bought a pricey TurboGrafx-CD add-on as a teen solely because of this game.

Nuts & Milk (Famicom)--This single-screen platformer (don't be fooled, it's nothing like Bubble Bubble) was the first third-party game to be released for the Famicom. Despite that, and despite the fact that Nuts & Milk is just as fun as many classics from the same era, maker Namco never brought it to North America. Thankfully, it's easy enough to play in 2016 and beyond no matter where in the world you live. Actual carts are both abundant and cheap (on eBay and the like), or of course you can go the old "boot up the ROM" route. (If you own a Japanese 3DS, Wii or Wii U, you can buy Nuts & Milk from that region's Virtual Console. Unfortunately, the same can't be said if you own a recent Nintendo system that originates from North America or Europe.)

Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom (NES)--All you really need to know about this 1991 release: it's an old-school point-and-click adventure starring anthropomorphic pieces of produce. That alone should make you sit down and play it, in my opinion. If that's not enough, consider its grin-inducing visuals and its jaunty soundtrack. Also, Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom can be picked up quickly and cheaply via the Wii eShop if you have that Nintendo console or the Wii U. Why the higher-ups at Konami (which now owns Hudson's intellectual properties) have yet to slip the game onto any region's 3DS eShop is beyond me.

Saturn Bomberman (Saturn)--If you play just one of the games discussed here, let it be this one. In my humble opinion, this is the best, most enjoyable Bomberman game to ever see the light of day. Plus, its graphics are so adroitly drawn and animated they'll make you tear up. As for Saturn Bomberman's music, I can't say it'll make you cry, but it'll definitely help set the mood for a properly thorough play session. If you're without a Sega Saturn and a copy of this game, by the way, you can buy the next best thing, Bomberman '94 for the PC Engine, from the Wii eShop or the PlayStation Store.

Star Parodier (PC Engine)--I fell in love with this overhead, vertical-scrolling shoot 'em up the second I found out one of its selectable ships was a PC Engine system that takes down oncoming enemies with HuCards and CDs and deflects their projectiles using controllers that double as as shields. (You can choose to pilot Bomberman, too, curiously enough.) Sadly, that's about the wackiest thing you can say about Star Parodier. The rest of its content is quite a bit less intriguing than similar games like Parodius and Pop'n TwinBee. Still, this Super CD-ROM2 title is well worth checking out if you're a fan of the shmup genre in particular or cute games in general.

Are you a fan of a Hudson Soft-made or -published game not discussed here? Let me--and others--know about it in the comments section below.