Saturday, December 09, 2017

To buy the Romancing SaGa 2 remake for Switch or Vita, that is the question

I've been awaiting an English release of Square Enix's Romancing SaGa 2 remake--or remaster, if you prefer--for a surprisingly long time.

Hell, I've been waiting for the game to be made playable in English, period, since it first hit the Super Famicom back in late 1993.

After all, the Romancing SaGa titles are about the worst games you could attempt to play through if you don't have a mighty firm grasp of the Japanese language thanks to their open-ended nature and ridiculous amount of (kanji-heavy) text.



Sadly, none of the fan translations of these games have ever progressed to a point where they could be said to be playable. As such, I bought the iOS version of the above-mentioned Romancing SaGa 2 remake the day it made its way on to the North American App Store early last year--despite its rather hefty price tag of $17.99.

Unsurprisingly, I've barely touched it in the year-plus since. Oh, I started it, and I didn't find its touchscreen controls to be anywhere near as off-putting as I assumed they'd be, but, as is the case with pretty much every mobile game I've bought to date, I just couldn't stick with it.

So, I've not-so-secretly held out hope that Square Enix would eventually bring the Vita version of the Romancing SaGa 2 remake--released in Japan alongside the mobile iteration in March 2016--to our shores.

Just when I'd about given up on that ever happening, series creator Akitoshi Kawazu took to Twitter to mention he and his team were still working toward that goal (while also prepping a similarly updated version of Romancing SaGa 3).



That was all the way back in April, though, and Kawazu's barely made a peep about the fate of the English release of Romancing SaGa 2's Vita port since, so let's just say yesterday's announcement that it'll be available for purchase on the North American PlayStation Store on Dec. 15 proved to be a bit of a curveball.

Even more of a curveball was the news that PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One owners also will be able to buy and play the Romancing SaGa 2 remaster on that same date. (Visit japanesenintendo.com to see the game's latest trailer.)

Which of course begs the question: which version should I pick up?

My initial response was to go with the Vita iteration, as that's the one I've always wanted. It wasn't long before I changed my mind and decided I'd rather experience the game on my new go-to system, the Switch.



As of this morning, though, I'm no longer so sure. Yes, the Switch has a bigger screen and I use it far more than I use my Vita at the moment, but the Vita has a better, longer-lasting battery and it also simply seems like the right "home" for such a game.

What do all of you think I should do here?

Also, are any of you planning to purchase some version of the Romancing SaGa 2 remake when it drops in a few days? If so, which one?

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Shippo de Bun's stunning packaging puts a new spin on the old phrase 'nice piece of tail'

I know this post should be included in my long-running "Year of the GameBoy" series, but I've got to cut the cord on it at some point (I launched it back in early 2014), so I figured now was as good a time as any.

Plus, any write-up about this Japanese title deserves a unique headline, if you ask me. Shippo de Bun is one of the best GameBoy releases around, after all.


Not that I knew this myself until a few years ago, mind you. Back in the summer of 1991, when this game first hit store shelves in North America and Europe--as Tail 'Gator--it completely avoided my radar. It wasn't until I came across its brilliant Japanese box art, showcased in the photo above, that it made any kind of impression on me.

Shortly after I figured out its name, I plopped it into the search bars on auction sites like eBay and Yahoo! Auctions Japan--and nearly fainted.

Anyone who collects GameBoy carts won't be surprised by that news, I'm sure. Why? Because copies of both Tail 'Gator and Shippo de Bun--complete-in-box ones, in particular--often cost a pretty penny these days.


Still, I was determined to own a Japanese copy of the game, so I kept my eye out for a reasonably priced one--and snapped one up earlier this year.

Am I glad I did, now that I've had a few months to ponder my wallet-withering decision? You bet. Like I said in my first attempt at this post's header, I think Shippo de Bun's packaging alone is worth the price of admission.

Couple that with the fact that Shippo de Bun--or Tail 'Gator, whichever you prefer--is an absolute blast to play, and I'd say the game is a must-own for anyone who owns and still plays a GameBoy (or GameBoy Color or GameBoy Advance) and has the needed funds.



If that doesn't quite describe you, I'd still recommending finding a way to experience some version of this game. It plays similarly to old-school single-screen platformers like Don Doko Don and Parasol Stars, but with a number of twists.

For starters, stages in Shippo de Bun take up more than a single screen. They only scroll sideways, though, not up and down, and most seem to cover about three screens.

Also, you don't capture or trap enemies in this Natsume-made game and then use them as weapons against their surviving co-conspirators, as is the case in most examples of the genre. Here, you whack baddies with your tail until they croak. You use the same appendage to crack open safes, which litter each level and provide vital power-ups.


Finally, your goal while playing Shippo de Bun isn't to clear each screen of enemies, but to find--in a safe, unsurprisingly--the key that opens a door that sits on opposite your entrance point.

It's all a lot more enjoyable than it probably sounds. Bolstering Shippo de Bun's appeal: it looks great and sounds even better. Seriously, the soundtrack that accompanies the alligator protagonist's trials and travails is among the best ever produced for a GameBoy cartridge. It's bouncy and jazzy and even a bit rock-y.

My only complaint about Shippo de Bun's packaging: its designers reused the same art for its outer box, manual cover, and cart label.


Oh, well, at least a few original illustrations can be found on the inside pages of its instruction booklet. Don't worry, you'll be able to give them a good, long look in a future installment of my "Manual Stimulation" series.

In the meantime, what do those of you who've played either Tail 'Gator or Shippo de Bun think of the game? And what do you think of the Japanese version's packaging?

See also: previous blog posts about the packaging produced for Burning Paper, Noobow, Peetan, Snow Bros. Jr., and Tumblepop

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Dear third-party developers and publishers, please greenlight Switch sequels to these games

Just over a month ago, I published a similarly titled post in which I discussed sequels I'd like Nintendo to greenlight for Switch.

This write-up, of course, is aimed at third-party developers and publishers.

Sadly, I don't have the highest of hopes that follow-ups to any of the games mentioned below will make their way to the Switch anytime soon, but I'm not going to let that keep me from blathering on about them here.

With that out of the way, keep reading to learn about 10 Switch sequels I'd like third parties to make before Nintendo's popular hybrid system gives up the ghost.



Cladun--I'm well aware that this retro-tinged series of dungeon-crawlers began life on Sony systems, but considering the one that put it on the map (the PSP) is long dead and its successor has one foot in the grave, prepping the next Cladun for Switch seems like the only viable option for developer System Prisma. Should the company do that, though, I hope it eschews the last release's ancient Japanese setting in favor of something a bit more in line with the series' first two entries.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles--Specifically, I want a "real" sequel to the GameCube original. The Switch would be perfect for such a game, don't you think? And this time around, you wouldn't need to own a bunch of GameBoy Advances and related cables to experience its particular multiplayer pleasures. All you'd need are a couple of extra Joy-Cons--if your goal is to cobble together a proper four-person party, I mean. At any rate, please make this happen pronto, Square Enix.



Mr. Driller--The bigwigs at Bandai Namco have ignored this Dig Dug spinoff for a good while now. In fact, Drill Till You Drop and W, sold via the DS and Wii eShops, respectively, are the series' most recent console outings, and they came out all the way back in 2009. A fresh sequel for Switch would be perfect, if you ask me--especially if it allowed players to make use of the system's touch screen in handheld mode.

Opoona--Developer ArtePiazza has been dropping hints that Opoona may soon make a return, but no one seems to know what form the return will take. It could simply be an untouched digital release of the original game for Switch (and maybe other current consoles). Or it could be a mobile port of the same game. The best-case scenario, in my mind: a Switch sequel that addresses Opoona's many shortcomings but retains its sense of otherworldly awe. That said, I'd also take a remake--as long as it, too, fixes some of the Wii offering's issues.



Pac-Man Championship Edition--Oh, who am I trying to kid here? I don't really want Bandai Namco to push out yet another sequel to this 2007 release. I just want the company to make the first one available to Switch owners like myself. That's not too much to ask, is it? If it is, how about a Switch port of 2014's Pac-Man Museum?

Shiren the Wanderer--Actually, I'd welcome any sort of Mystery Dungeon sequel on Switch as along as it isn't another of the Pokémon-branded ones. Don't take that the wrong way--I don't have a problem with the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series. I would, however, prefer to see a mainline entry come to the system first. OK, and new Torneko or Chocobo spinoffs, too. Once those are out of the way, Spike Chunsoft, feel free to churn out another Pokémon offshoot for Nintendo.



Slime MoriMori Dragon Quest--By nearly all accounts, Square Enix's last Slime MoriMori Dragon Quest game didn't do so well. It only saw the light of day in Japan, however, and it came out fairly early on in the 3DS' life. Had it launched later, and had it earned a Western (North American, especially) release, I think it may have fared better. Regardless, with the Switch lighting up the sales charts around the world, a fourth Slime MoriMori Dragon Quest title could finally see the kind of worldwide success this series has always deserved.

Super Monkey Ball--I know this Sega series has gone downhill since its second console release, but I'd welcome a new Switch entry with open arms if it returned to its glory days on the GameCube. The question is: does the company still have what it takes to produce a worthwhile Super Monkey Ball game? I'm not sure it does, but I'll give Sega the benefit of the doubt and cross my fingers that a new, thrilling adventure starring AiAi and co hit the Switch sometime soon.



Yomawari: Night Alone and Midnight Shadows--It's hard to say if this series of cute-but-creepy survival-horror titles has done well enough for Nippon Ichi Software to make another or if it's currently on the proverbial chopping block due to ho-hum sales. Should NIS make a third, though, I pray it'll add Switch to the mix of systems that can play it--and maybe port the first two titles to the hybrid as well?

Zoo Keeper--I have to be one of the few people around clamoring for this series of match-three puzzlers to continue on the Switch. I've thoroughly enjoyed every version of Zoo Keeper I've played to date, though--with the GBA and Japan-only 3DS games being my favorites--so I'd love to see what developer Success can concoct for Nintendo's latest handheld.

Are there any sequels you'd like third-party developers and published to make for Switch? If so, let me and others know about them in the comments section below.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Manual Stimulation: Bubble Ghost (GameBoy)

I'm sure I've said this before, but I'm saying it again anyway: some Japanese GameBoy instruction booklets are better than others.

Sadly, the Bubble Ghost manual is one of the "others."



It could be worse, I know. Much, much worse.

I mean, look at its logo, for starters. I'm talking about the main English one here, which is wonderfully and appropriately bubbly, although the Japanese one is awfully nice, too.



And of course the eponymous bubble ghost sitting smack-dab in the middle of it doesn't hurt matters.

Beyond those elements, there's the raspberry-colored ink that's slathered over a good portion of both the Bubble Ghost manual's cover as well as its innards.



Strangely, I'm pretty fond of the fuchsia-tinged screenshots that dot this booklet's pages.

I'm not as fond of the fact that those pages feature only a few illustrations. You'd think a game like this would come with a manual that's filled with drawings of the main character. It doesn't.



Granted, I'm not sure the folks at publisher Pony Canyon put a whole lot of energy into the creation of this booklet.

For a case in point, take a gander at that rather pointless map that takes up more than half of its second-to-last page.



Thankfully, Bubble Ghost's outer box and cartridge label go a long way toward making up for its manual's missteps.

To see what I mean, check out this blog post of mine: "Surprise! The Year of the GameBoy Continues: Bubble Ghost."



Have any of you played this version of Bubble Ghost? Or have you played any other version of the game-, which began life (in 1987) on the Atari ST computer? If so, share your thoughts on the game--or this GameBoy manual--in the comments section below.

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts about Astro Rabby, Noobow, Peetan, and Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A few thoughts on three digital Switch games: Elliot Quest, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, and Slime-san

I don't know about you, but I've spent a lot of time with a lot of different games in the last month.

For instance, I returned to Yomawari: Night Alone for Vita and started through that system's just-released ports of VA-11 HALL-A and Undertale in that time. Also, I both began and finished Golf Story and Super Mario Odyssey for Switch.

I'm still plugging away at the Vita titles, of course, but that doesn't mean I'm letting my Switch collect dust as I do so. In fact, I'm enjoying more Switch games than ever thanks to some kind publishers (which provided me with press codes for the following titles).

Speaking of which, here are a few thoughts on the trio of digital Switch games currently doing their darndest to gobble up my free time:



Elliot Quest--Many have heralded this game as a Zelda II: The Adventure of Link clone. Those are hollow words to me, as I don't have a high opinion of that particular NES "classic." Still, Elliot Quest's art style has appealed to me since I first laid eyes on it, so I promptly added it to my lengthy "play as soon as possible" list despite my lack of love for the first Zelda sequel.

As for what I think of Elliot Quest now that I've put about two hours into it: it's very nice--although perhaps not as compelling as I assumed it would be? I'm not entirely sure why I feel that way about the game, to tell you the truth. It may be due to its rather languid pace, or it may be its overall lack of tension. And it doesn't help, of course, that I'm not yet clear as to why I'm working my way through the sprawling stages of Elliot Quest's beautifully pixelated world.

Another element of Elliot Quest I don't exactly love: I keep getting stuck. I know that's supposed to inspire me to use my noggin, but the tactic only goes so far with me. If I spend, say, 45 minutes trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do or where I'm supposed to go to advance a game's story, I'm not going to stick with it for very long.

Which is a shame, as I really do appreciate a lot of what Elliot Quest offers. As I said earlier, it looks great, it controls well, and its basic gameplay is solid (if not spectacular). Despite all that, I'm not finding it as interesting as I expected to before I first booted it up and thus won't be surprised if I walk away from it long before I reach its credit roll.



Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime--It should be clear with one glance at the screenshot above why this game has intrigued me ever since it was first made available to PC and Xbox One gamers back in late 2015.

Of course, a dayglow, 1980s-inspired aesthetic doesn't mean much if the accompanying gameplay sucks. Thankfully, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime impresses in that area, too. Rather than speed through levels like you do in most side-scrolling shoot 'em ups, here you alternate between slowly advancing your spherical ship through each labyrinthine stage and utilizing its bevy of weaponry to take out evil oncomers.

In a way, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime reminds me of both the Mii Force 3DS StreetPass title and an old NES cart called Solar Jetman. Given my love of those games, I guess I shouldn't be shocked that this one has sunk its claws into me as deeply as it has in the short time I've spent with it.

Granted, I'm tackling Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime all on my own, and the vibe's sure to be different if at least one other person joins in the journey. (I believe four can play at once, if you have the right setup.) Regardless, I'm really digging how it feels like a thoughtful, methodical take on the ages-old shmup genre when experienced solo.



Slime-san--While Elliot Quest apes The Adventure of Link, this game apes Super Meat Boy. Or so I've heard, at least. I can't say if that's true or not as I've never played that supposedly masochistic platformer. At any rate, I've had my eye on Slime-san since I first heard it was coming to Switch, as it seems like the perfect play-whenever-you-have-a-few-free-minutes game.

Is it? Based on my experience with Slime-san so far, I'd say the answer is yes. In fact, you can easily breeze through a number of its levels in a few minutes--or at least you can if you're properly skilled. Some of Slime-san's bite-sized stages are absolutely brutal. Expect to die a lot. Expect to die so many times, and so often, that dying no longer means anything to you. That's not a critique, by the way; in fact, I like that dying in this game doesn't bother me in the least. If anything, it prompts me to chuckle and then grit my teeth in anticipation of yet another run at a particular level.

My only complaint about Slime-san: it ramps up in difficulty surprisingly quickly. Walking away from it for a bit has helped me overcome most of the obstacles (aka seemingly insurmountable stages) the game has thrown my way, but there's no guarantee that tactic will continue to help down the road. Oh, well, I'll deal with that issue if and when it becomes a reality. In the meantime, I'll chip away at it whenever the fancy strikes.

See also: 'seven 3DS, Switch, and Vita games I'm determined to at least start before the end of 2017'

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Hirokazu 'Hip' Tanaka's first album is everything an EarthBound, Kid Icarus, or Metroid fan could want

I've been a fan of Hirokazu "Hip"--now apparently "Chip"--Tanaka ever since I discovered he was responsible for Kid Icarus' glorious soundtrack.

My admiration of and belief in his talents blossomed when I found out he also had a hand in crafting the music for classic Famicom and NES games like Balloon Fight, Wrecking Crew, Metroid, and the first two Mother (aka EarthBound) titles.

Tanaka now serves as the president of Creatures Inc., although that lofty position clearly hasn't caused him to turn his back on his first career.



His just-released (not to mention first-ever) album, Django, is the perfect case in point.

Its 13 tracks are everything a "Hip"--or "Chip"--Tanaka fan could want. My favorites: the chunky "Beaver" (listen to it and watch its video here), the jazzy, laid-back title tune, the ethereal "EMGR," and the blippy, breezy "Prizm."

Really, though, you can't go wrong with any of the game-inspired soundscapes offered up by Django. Speaking of which, you can listen to the whole album at chiptanaka.bandcamp.com.

See also: my '10 Most Influential Games' write-up about Kid Icarus

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Seven 3DS, Switch, and Vita games I'm determined to at least start before the end of 2017

It's that time of year again, folks! And, no, I'm not talking about the winter holidays. I'm talking about the time of year where I wring my hands over all the games I failed to play this year.

Sadly, the games discussed below are just the tip of this particular iceberg. They're the ones I most want to experience before 2017 comes to an end, though, so that's why I decided to single them out here.

I guess I'll have to publish a follow-up post early in 2018 that reveals whether or not I actually spent time with these titles and, if so, what I think of them, eh?

In the meantime, here's a bit of commentary on why I so desperately want to put at least a couple of hours into each of these 3DS, Switch, and Vita games in the next month and a half.



Dragon Quest XI (3DS)--I was so excited about this game's Japanese release, and yet I forgot about it shortly after it arrived on my doorstep in August. OK, so it's possible my memory issues were aided  a bit by my wariness of the endless lines of barely decipherable Japanese text it'll surely throw at me. Also helping matters, or maybe I should say making them worse: the potential for this version of Dragon Quest XI, or even the supposed Switch port, to be released in North America sometime in 2018. Still, I spent good money on this Japanese 3DS copy, so I should at least attempt to play it before the year is out, right?



Hey! Pikmin (3DS)--This side-scrolling, platforming offshoot of Nintendo's popular Pikmin series hasn't exactly garnered rave reviews since it first hit digital and retail store shelves earlier this year. I had a lot of fun ambling through its demo, though, so I ignored the negative word of mouth and picked up a copy a month or so ago. Anyway, I have a feeling Hey! Pikmin will prove to be a good game to play in small spurts, so I'll do my best to at least boot it up over the upcoming holiday weekend.



The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)--Here's the first game of this post I don't yet own. I have a feeling that won't be true for much longer, though, as it's basically the only thing I asked my parents to buy me for my rapidly approaching birthday. Assuming a copy of Breath of the Wild does find its way into my hands soon, it'll be interesting to discover if the game's my cup of tea or not. I haven't often loved Link's three-demensional adventures, after all, with the Nintendo 64 version of Ocarina of Time being the lone exception. I'm completely enamored with this one's aesthetic, though, so hopefully that'll help it worm its way into my heart.



Skyrim (Switch)--At the moment, I feel like one of the few people in the world, or at least one of the few people in North America, who has yet to play some version of Skyrim. That's mainly because I've only owned one console capable of playing it--the Xbox 360--and the only boxed game I bought for it was Deadly Premonition. Even if I'd been more willing to build up a catalog for that system, though, I doubt I would've added this title to it. It just doesn't look like my kind of game, if you get my drift. That said, I'm currently finding it intriguing enough that I'll probably ask for it as a Christmas gift. Surely I'll have (mostly) burned myself out on Breath of the Wild by then?



Stardew Valley (Switch)--My original plan was to purchase this Switch port of Eric Barone's Harvest Moon clone as soon as I wrapped up my Golf Story playthrough. (Speaking of which, here's my Golf Story review.) Right after that happened, though, Super Mario Odyssey was plopped onto my doormat. And now I'm done with Odyssey, but Breath of the Wild and Skyrim are right around the corner. Maybe I should just bite the bullet and buy it this weekend, even if doing so wouldn't be the wisest way to spend my hard-earned cash. Worst-case scenario: I barely devote any time to it this year, but then thoroughly dig my teeth into it early next.



Undertale (Vita)--Do you ever buy a game and then forget you bought it? That's basically what happened with me and this recently published port of Toby Fox's genre-busting role-playing game. Actually, I've now forgotten I own this portable version of Undertale a few times. Which is pretty darn sad, as I've wanted to play it on my Vita ever since I worked my way through its first handful of hours on my laptop a couple of years back. Given my rejuvenated interest in the Vita--thanks in large part to the game that follows--I think it's a pretty safe bet I'll make it much farther than that this time around.



VA-11 HALL-A (Vita)--OK, so I'm already playing this one. In my defense, I started this post before I began the game. Regardless, I've been itching to play VA-11 HALL-A, which is best described as one part bartender simulator and one part visual novel, since I first became aware of it last summer. As I generally despise playing games on my laptop, I held out for this just-released Vita port. All I'll say here is it's been more than worth the wait. (Don't worry, I'll share some initial VA-11 HALL-A impressions in an upcoming post.)

Have you bought any games this year that you desperately want to at least start before 2017 ends? If so, let me (and others) know about them in the comments section below.

See also: 'Five long-awaited 3DS, Switch and Vita games I wish would be released already'

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Great Gaymathon Review #76: Golf Story (Switch)



Game: Golf Story
Genre: Sports/RPG
Developer: Sidebar Games
Publisher: Sidebar Games
System: Switch
Release date: 2017

Is Golf Story really the second coming of Nintendo's Mario Golf series? Or does it really blend Scotland's national sport with the kooky, quirky, cult classic, EarthBound? My answer to both of those questions is a fairly resounding "no."

That's not to suggest Sidebar Games' maiden release never delights. It does. I wouldn't go so far as to say it delights as much as either of the aforementioned efforts, though--in large part because it lacks the kind of polish associated with most games made by Nintendo and its development partners.

Nowhere is this more clear than when a bug or glitch pops up and interrupts play. Thankfully, most of these are simply aggravating, but a few are game-breaking. Regardless, you won't find either variety in the games that supposedly inspired this one.

There are other aspects of Golf Story that keep it from reaching the heady heights of EarthBound and the Mario Golf GameBoy Color and Advance titles, too. One is its lack of direction or clarity--as in, the game frequently fails to be clear about what you're supposed to do or where you're supposed to go next. Another is its soundtrack, which is far from terrible but also isn't what I'd call enjoyable.



Still, despite these shortcomings, and despite the fact that I don't consider it to exist in the same space as the best Mario Golf titles and EarthBound, Golf Story is an entrancing game.

Its story and protagonist aren't anything special, to tell you the truth. At the starter, you're plopped into the shoes of an "average Joe" kind of guy (you can't choose a gal instead, unfortunately) and then tasked with helping him live out his childhood dream of becoming a pro.

Thankfully, once you get the ball rolling on that journey, the clichés that support it tend to fade into the background. That's a testament to its accessible and appealingly breezy gameplay, which does, in fact, recall Nintendo's first two portable Mario Golf titles--to a point. Granted, most arcade-y golf games control similarly these days; you know, hit a button to get a cursor moving along a linear gauge, hit it again when the cursor nears the gauge's peak (this determines the power of your swing), and then hit it one last time as the cursor approaches its starting point (this determines your timing).

Beyond that basic gameplay element, though, Golf Story feels pretty unique among casual golf titles. You're occasionally asked to play nine holes against another of the game's characters (once per course, to be more specific), but that cornerstone of the sport often takes a backseat to the less traditional--not to mention less time consuming--challenges nearby NPCs offer up as you stroll around each locale.



Some are merely intriguing--like, "I'll bet you can't hit the green from the bunker five times"--while others are downright silly. (A couple of noteworthy examples: using your clubs to feed hungry fish and to hit eyeballs into skeleton skulls.)

On top of all that, Golf Story also allows you to "tee up anywhere." As in, you can drop a ball and take a crack at a hole whenever and wherever you'd like. Or you can simply smack balls in random directions, if that's what you prefer. Regardless, I personally think that press release bullet point is more interesting in theory than in practice.

So, what about the rest of this indie darling? It certainly looks the part, with graphics that evoke the better (cartoonish) sports games of the late 1980s or early 1990s. As for its story, it may not be as brilliant or as "out there" as EarthBound's, but it's well crafted and stuffed with text that elicits a chuckle. In other words, it's deserving of the attention and praise that've been heaped upon it to date.

The same can be said of Golf Story as a whole. Sure, it's not quite the blend of EarthBound and Mario Golf many claim it to be, but it's still charming and addictive and an overall joy to play--even with its bugs, glitches, and other rough edges.



See also: previous Golf Story impressions and previous 'Great Gaymathon' reviews

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

I think I'm going to back another Kickstarter (for a musical puzzler called Bit Band)

You may remember the post of mine from mid-October in which I declared my interest in a Kickstarter that, if successful, would bring the curious Order Land! (for Steam, Switch and Xbox One) to the West in early 2018.

Sadly, developer and publisher Poisoft pulled the plug on the campaign on Nov. 1. It's vowed to try again after retooling its appeal, but who knows when that'll happen or if it'll succeed during its second go-round.

Why am I bringing that up here? Because it was the first Kickstarter I actually attempted to back. Which means that if I back the one highlighted here, for a musical puzzler called Bit Band, it would be my second such attempt.

What's so great about this crowd-funding effort that I'm willing to throw some of my hard-earned money at it? I'm mostly into Bit Band's aesthetic, to be perfectly frank. I know some are over the whole "chunky sprite" retro look, but it's done so well here that I can't help but be impressed by it.



Don't get me wrong, I'm also pretty keen on Bit Band's gameplay. The developers describe it as being like "Tetris meets Rock Band," and I'd say that's pretty apt based on the gameplay displayed in the trailer above.

The only thing giving me pause at this point is that I'm not thrilled the project page mentions a "goal for the Nintendo Switch console," but then never explains it further. That bothers me because I'm not interested in backing the campaign, only to receive a Steam key in return.

Gavin Reed, who's handling Bit Band's art, animation, music, and game design, told me on Twitter the other day that a Switch version is this Kickstarter's first stretch goal. That makes me feel a bit better, but not entirely.

Anyway, despite my misgivings, I'll probably toss some money at this campaign before it ends on Dec. 8. If you'd like to do the same, or if you'd simply like to learn more about Bit Band, visit kickstarter.com.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I rarely buy mobile games, but I may make an exception for HAL Laboratory's Hataraku UFO

The above assumes the company best known for the Kirby series of platformers releases its first (I think?) mobile game outside of Japan, of course.

I have a feeling it will, though, as Hataraku UFO looks--and sounds--like a lot of fun based on the trailers that can be seen over on japanesenintendo.com.

In fact, I'd say the game looks like equal parts Kirby (the protagonist's design, in particular), Hayden Scott-Baron's Tumbledrop, and your average "claw crane" game.


Add in the fact that HAL's selling Hataraku UFO for just 480 Yen in Japan (about four bucks in North America)--with no in-app purchases--and you've got yourself a sure-fire winner. Or at least that's my view of the situation.

You know what I'd like even more than for this game to make its way to my region's App Store and Google Play Store? For HAL to expand on it a bit and release some sort of "deluxe" version for the Nintendo Switch.

Don't worry, I'm keeping my eyes peeled for Hataraku UFO to land on my shores regardless. Are any of you going to do the same now that you're aware of this adorable game's existence?

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Manual Stimulation: Peetan (GameBoy)

You may remember how, in my last GameBoy-centric "Manual Stimulation" post, I mentioned that belatedly discovering Irem's Noobow back in 2013 almost singlehandedly reignited my interest in Nintendo's first portable game system.

The key words there are "almost singlehandedly," as although that side-scrolling puzzler was the game that got me thinking about the GameBoy again (after more than a decade of completely ignoring it), a number of other titles kept the proverbial ball rolling and even helped it pick up speed.



Kaneko's Peetan, highlighted here, is one of those titles.

Of course, only a person with a heart of stone could fail to fall in love with a game that comes in such a wonderfully colorful and charming package, don't you think?



Add in the fact that Peetan's protagonist is a protective mother hen and that its gameplay revolves around launching her endangered chicks to the upper-reaches of a tree, and it should be easy to see how I quickly became smitten with this Japan-only release from 1991.

Am I as smitten with Peetan's instruction manual as I am with its gameplay, premise, and packaging? Not really, but don't take that to mean I think it's a dog.



After all, it offers up a number of nice touches. The line of illustrated chicks that runs along the bottom of every page is a good example. The larger drawings that pop up here and there are another.



I'm also pretty fond of the Peetan manual's overall color scheme, although it can make scans such as the ones showcased in this post somewhat hard to see.

My advice: click on them to blow them up a bit--or a lot. That'll make them far easier to enjoy.



Something else I love about the Peetan manual: the wonky screenshots that are scattered throughout its 15 pages.



That's nothing new to the world of GameBoy instruction booklets, of course. Most of them feature at least a few screenshots that could, at best, be described as fuzzy or hazy.



Oh, well. Not every Japanese GameBoy manual can be as eye-popping as the ones made for Bubble Bobble Junior, Pitman, Snow Bros. Jr., or Totsugeki! Ponkotsu Tank, right?



Plus, Peetan's booklet includes something not found in any of the just-mentioned ones: an entire page about something called an "EGG BONUS."

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts devoted to Astro Rabby, Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru, Penguin-kun Wars Vs., and Tumblepop

Sunday, November 05, 2017

A few thoughts on Super Mario Odyssey now that I've put about 10 hours into it

There's no question the Nintendo Switch has taken over my gaming life since I finally nabbed one in late September. (Read my early impressions of this hybrid console here.)

Not only has it prompted me to dump nearly 20 hours into Golf Story (for some thoughts on this intriguing indie, see this post) in the ensuing days and weeks, but it's also prompted me to dump about 10 hours into Super Mario Odyssey.

I'd say that's more than enough time to form some solid opinions of the latter game, wouldn't you?

Speaking of which, here are a few impressions of Super Mario Odyssey given what I've experienced of it so far.



The Cappy-tossing mechanic is the best thing that's happened to the Mario series in some time--As the headline of The Guardian's Super Mario Odyssey review states, "controlling a sentient hat has never been so fun." Not only is it an absolute blast to simply throw Cappy here and there (in a way that's thrillingly reminiscent of tossing water bubbles in Mizubaku Daibouken), but it's even more satisfying to chuck him at an object or being to see if Mario can "possess" and control them.

That said, I kind of wish some of Super Mario Odyssey's many costumes also acted as power-ups--There's no question Cappy is a cool addition to the long-running Mario series. Still, his presence isn't enough to keep me from missing the power-ups that populate previous games like Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D World. The same is true of Odyssey's plethora of collectible costumes. Changing Mario's look is nice and all, but it would be even nicer if at least some of them provided the mustachioed icon with a unique ability or two. Maybe that's what Nintendo will give us with Super Mario Odyssey 2?



The different art styles offer a welcome change of scenery--If you ask me, too many modern Mario games look alike. That's especially true of the two-dimensional New Super Mario Bros. titles, of course, but I'd argue it's also true of the more recent three-dimensional efforts like Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D Land. Odyssey throws a wrench into the works by providing a handful of worlds (kingdoms, actually) that veer off in different directions, aesthetically speaking. Personally, I would've preferred it if every kingdom sported a completely unique art style, but I also can understand why Nintendo's designers and developers thought that might be a bit too shocking for your average Mario fan.

I don't understand why this game includes question mark blocks--In almost every Mario game I've played before this one, smashing a question mark block often causes a power-up to pop out. In Odyssey, the same action usually nets you a coin. If you're "lucky," you get a life-enhancing heart instead. Whoopdidoo, right? Granted, I still break (nearly) every question block I encounter, but I'm not sure I'll continue to do so as I edge closer to the game's end credits.



The lack of in-game information regarding handheld-specific moves is frustrating--Even more frustrating: the lack of handheld-specific moves, period. Although you can play Super Mario Odyssey with your Switch configured as a full-on handheld (as opposed to a TV-connected or tabletop console), doing so means you won't be able to pull off a number of Mario's many moves. That's beyond disappointing, in my opinion. To be sure, it hasn't kept me from completing at of the game's worlds, but I have a feeling it'll eventually keep me from grabbing some of its moons.

Sure, many of the game's moons are basically handed to you, but that doesn't bother me--I've heard some folks say Super Mario Odyssey contains too many moons. (This title's version of Super Mario 64's and Super Mario Galaxy's stars.) I've also heard people complain that too many moons are easily acquired. I can't disagree with the latter, but I also can't say it bugs me all that much. Actually, I like that you can nab a good number of moons with very little effort. Not only does it make grabbing the tougher-to-reach moons all the more electrifying, but it allows beginners (or people who have a hard time with three-dimensional games) to feel like they're accomplishing something, too.



I can't believe I'm saying this, but I kind of miss the 3DS' 3D capabilities here--I'm one of those weirdos who rarely uses the 3DS' 3D capabilities. In fact, the only time I can remember turning it on for more than a few minutes was when I traipsed through Super Mario 3D Land. Why'd I make an exception for that game? Because it made certain platforming sections a lot less frustrating. I'm pretty sure 3D functionality would prove similarly helpful while playing Super Mario Odyssey. Oh, well, you can't have everything. And, honestly, I don't wish the Switch had a 3D screen--even if it made leaps in Odyssey a little easier.

Super Mario Odyssey's inconsistent use of music is curious--And I don't necessarily mean curious in a bad way. Sometimes ambient noise is preferable to an annoyingly catchy jingle while playing an atmospheric game such as this. That said, I'm kind of surprised so many kingdoms are music-free experiences. I would've expected those without backing tunes to be few and far between, but at the moment it seems like every other locale lacks a soundtrack. Still, I'd say the silence is better than the incessant "wah wah" effects that fill the levels of many other recent Mario titles.

Have you spent any time with Super Mario Odyssey? If so, what do you think of the opinions I've spouted off here? Share your own in the comments section below.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Let's celebrate the 30th anniversary of the PC Engine's launch

It's almost hard for me to believe NEC Home Electronics and Hudson Soft launched the PC Engine all the way back on Oct. 30, 1987.

I say "almost" because I have fairly vivid childhood memories of ogling photos of the diminutive console that were published in North American gaming magazines around the time of its Japanese release.

Considering it's been a good, long while since anyone's mistaken me for a kid, I'd say 30 years seems about right regarding when I first became aware of--and fell in love with--the PC Engine.

Of course, you don't have to be a decades-old fan of the PC Engine celebrate the 30th anniversary of its launch. Even those of you who are just discovering the system with this post can and should join in the fun.

After all, the PC Engine was home to some of the wackiest video games ever to see the light of day--in my humble opinion, of course. Actually, it was home to a lot of games, period. Some were amazing, some were atrocious, but most continue to be worth at least a quick look if you tend to enjoy games made with pixels rather than polygons.



Hell, I'm still becoming acquainted with the PC Engine and its vast catalog myself. For proof, see this post about the 12 HuCards (that's what the system's credit card-sized game carts are called) I've picked up this year alone.

Itching to learn more about this deliciously odd little console? Read my write-up about five overlooked PC Engine games you should play as soon as possible. And when you're done with it, head over to this follow-up--which details five more overlooked HuCards I think are well worth even a few minutes of your time.

I'd also recommend taking a look at my post about the best PC Engine game manuals I've seen (so far). And if that write-up trips your trigger, you'll probably enjoy looking through all 27 PC Engine manuals I've scanned and shared to date.

Are any of you PC Engine fans, too? If so, let the love flow in the comments section that follows.

See also: 'Seven ways you can celebrate the 27th anniversary of the PC Engine's release'

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A late 'Game of the Year' contender approaches: Witch & Hero III is coming to 3DS

A bit of news you may have missed late last month: Circle Entertainment slipped into its flurry of Tokyo Game Show 2017 tweets the fact that Witch & Hero 3 is in the works for the Nintendo 3DS.

That announcement made me happier than any other dropped during the formerly illustrious Japanese gaming event. If you're wondering why, consider that I named the first Witch & Hero one of my favorite games of 2013, and I did the same with Witch & Hero II last year.

Sadly, the only things known about Witch & Hero III at the moment are its title and Circle's goal to release the game before the end of the year.

A few other details can be gleaned--or at least guessed--from the tiny screenshots included in the above-mentioned tweet, thankfully. One is it looks like more than one "hero" will join the titular witch on the battlefield this time around. Another is the game may include a second witch as well, if the shadowy figure that's positioned second from the left on the game's logo is any indication.

Should that first assumption prove to be true, I can't say I'll be thrilled, to be perfectly honest.


Despite enjoying Witch & Hero II overall (as per my review), I preferred the original to it in the end because I found controlling both the witch and the hero cumbersome. Controlling a witch and two heroes--or, gulp, two witches and two heroes--in Witch & Hero III may push me over the edge.

I'll buy it regardless, of course. Hell, I'll likely buy it twice--once on my main North American 3DS, and once on my main Japanese one.

The real question in my mind at this point: will Circle bring the game to the Switch, too? If so, I suppose I'll have to buy it a third time.

You know what I'd like even more, though? A Switch port of the original Witch & Hero. The game doesn't need to be displayed across two screens, plus this would put one of my favorite 3DS eShop titles (check out this recent-ish post for nine more of them) on my current go-to games console.

If you're curious to read more about why I'm such a fan of the series' first effor, by the way, you can do so in my Witch & Hero review.

Other than that, are any of you also excited about the impending release of Witch & Hero III?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Dear Nintendo, please greenlight Switch sequels to these games

Now that the Switch is not only a reality but a runaway success, I can't help but daydream about all the games Nintendo could greenlight for it.

I say greenlight here rather than make, by the way, because I know Nintendo doesn't develop all of the games it publishes. The Kirby series, made by HAL Laboratory, is a good example. Game Freak's Pokémon series is another.

We already know new Kirby and Pokémon games are being prepped for Switch, of course, so no need to beg for them here. New Animal Crossing, Fire Emblem, Metroid, and Yoshi Switch game are in the works, too.

What more could a Nintendo fan and Switch owner want? Plenty. Personally, I'd like to see sequels to all the following games come to the hybrid console at some point in its lifetime.


Balloon Kid--Nintendo can be so weird sometimes. How else would you describe the company's decision to follow up 1985's classic Balloon Fight with 1990's great-but-should-have-been-even-greater Balloon Kid--and then never again return to the helium-supported series? Given that, I can't imagine Nintendo's prepping another Balloon Fight--or, better yet, another Balloon Kid--game for Switch, but I'd sure love it if that were the case.

Drill Dozer--Here's another surprise. I mean, I doubt this Game Freak-made platformer set the sales charts on fire in the months following its 2005 release (in Japan; it came out a year later in North America), but it's become a bit of a cult classic in the ensuing years. As such, I could see a good number of Switch owners welcoming a new Drill Dozer with open arms. The question is: does anyone want to make such a game? (Note: I'll accept a "no" answer if it's because Game Freak's busy producing another Pocket Card Jockey title.)



Endless Ocean--One of the great tragedies of the Wii era (in my personal opinion, of course) was that Endless Ocean didn't become even a tenth of the worldwide hit Wii Sports and Wii Fit became. Considering the console's casual-leaning ownership base, I really thought a game that tossed players into the ocean and then set them free to explore to their heart's content was a million-plus-seller in the making. Well, not only didn't Endless Ocean sell millions, but it sold so poorly Nintendo decided against paying developer Arika to produce a sequel for the Wii U. Here's hoping the company's bigwigs come to their senses and give the thumbs for Switch title.

F-Zero--Now that Nintendo seems interested in Metroid again, could it similarly revitalize its long-ignored F-Zero series? I have my doubts. Still, I can't help but hold out hope the Switch is home to the first F-Zero title since GP Legend and Climax hit the GameBoy Advance in 2003 and 2004.



Hotel Dusk--What's less likely than an F-Zero Switch game? A new Hotel Dusk for the hybrid system. That's mainly because CiNG--the developer behind that 2007 point-and-click adventure (read some of my thoughts on it here) and its 2010 sequel, Last Window--filed for bankruptcy seven years ago. Still, some of that company's former employees recently came together to make Chase: Cold Case Investigations ~Distant Memories~ for the 3DS. Although most who played that eShop title considered it a disappointment (myself included), I'd give its devs another shot if they could rope Rika Suzuki (Hotel Dusk's and Last Window's writer) into the project.

Ice Climber--I may very well be the only living soul who'd like to see Nintendo release an update to this masochistic Famicom and NES game. Sadly, I think an Ice Climber sequel would've fared best on the dual-screened DS (imagine it: pixel-based graphics, a jumping mechanism that doesn't make you want to yank out all your hair, and mountains that go on for days), but since that failed to happen, I'll ask for it to be made for Switch. To be honest, I'm not even sure how such a game would play out, although one thing's a must: Nana and Popo would have to be easier to control this time around.


Kid Icarus--I've wanted a "real" Kid Icarus sequel since I first played the original NES game as a kid. Uprising was nice and all (not that I've played it), but what I'm talking about here is a two-dimensional side-scroller that takes the 8-bit title's blueprint and expands upon it. Sure, a SNES sequel à la Super Metroid would've been perfect, but the same could be accomplished on the Switch, so that's what I'll wish for here. (For more on why I love Kid Icarus, read my "10 Most Influential Games" post devoted to it.)

Luigi's Mansion--Considering 2013's Dark Moon seemingly met with sales success all around the globe, I have to imagine Nintendo's already hard at work on a follow-up for Switch. If not, I hope they get on it soon, as I thoroughly enjoyed what I've played of the series' first two titles.


Mole Mania--Nintendo's failure to give this GameBoy classic a second chance is right up there with its failure to properly follow up Balloon Kid and Drill Dozer, in my humble opinion. Of course, the original release was met with disinterest around the globe, so I guess I can't criticize the hesitation too harshly. Still, Mole Mania's now widely considered an overlooked gem, so why not throw its many fans a bone by giving them a Switch sequel? Even an eShop-only effort would suffice, if you ask me.

Panel de Pon--For some dumb reason, the powers that be at Nintendo think the masses--outside of Japan, especially--would rather play Tetris Attack or Puzzle League than the syrupy sweet Panel de Pon. Is the assumption here that Westerners hate games that are slathered in pastels and star adorable fairies? If so, I respectfully disagree. I'll forgive the company its trespasses, however, if it offers up a new Panel de Pon for Switch that harkens back to the Super Famicom original.

BONUS ROUND: Tomato Adventure--Now that nearly everyone is burned out on the Mario & Luigi series, Nintendo should give developer AlphaDream a break and have it produce another Tomato Adventure. This time, though, they'd better release the game outside of Japan.