Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Nice Package! (Daichi-kun Crisis: Do Natural, PC Engine)

I have a bit of a roller-coaster relationship with this HuCard, a bizarre PC Engine strategy game that was made and published by a company called Salio in late 1989.

After seeing its cover imagery for the first time a number of years ago, I quickly added it to my "buy this game as soon as possible" list.

Why? I guess I'm just a sucker for game box art that features anthropomorphic cows and exploding volcanos. Also, the "Do Natural" portion of this game's title intrigued me.

Daichi-kun Crisis' spot on my aforementioned wish list came into question after I encountered a few screenshots, however. Video footage of the game in action made me feel even less certain I'd enjoy playing it.

As for what caused me to change my mind once again--to the point that I picked up the copy showcased in this post--that would be this extensive YouTube tutorial of the game.

If you don't have the interest or time to watch it, the gist is that it shows Daichi-kun Crisis: Do Natural to be an oddly compelling mix of arcade-y action, life simulation and tower defense.

Oh, and you control a cow--the eponymous Daichi-kun--during all of the above.

Those other cows shown on the front and back covers of the game's manual? They're Daichi-kun's family members and they help clean up volcanic ash (one of your tasks while playing this HuCard) as well as defeat the monsters that rise out of it.

Two other creatures aid in Daichi-kun's battle to secure "Moo Cow Island," too--a crow named Alice and a bear named Goro.

I don't know all of this because I've played the game, mind you. Some of the details were gleaned from the YouTube video I linked to earlier, while I learned others thanks to this intriguing Daichi-kun Crisis FAQ.

I hope to experience the game for myself soon enough. In the meantime, though, I thought some of you might enjoy checking out its colorful packaging.

Also, keep an eye out for a "Manual Stimulation" post devoted to the Daichi-kun Crisis instruction booklet. I've already scanned it, so look for it to go live shortly.

See also: previous 'Nice Package!' posts about Bikkuriman World, Dungeon Explorer, Parodius Da! and Son Son II

Monday, October 16, 2017

Switch owners: if you're itching to play an interesting RPG on your systems, consider supporting Poisoft's Kickstarter for Order Land!

OK, so I'm a bit obsessed with the Nintendo Switch right now. The same happens to everybody after they get a new system, right?

Regardless, my Switch obsession currently has me looking left and right for both existing and upcoming games to play on the console.

Two examples of in-the-works titles I'm planning to buy for my Switch: The Longest Five Minutes and Penny-Punching Princess.

I'm also hoping to play the game discussed here--Order Land!--sometime next year. That'll only be possible if this just-launched Kickstarter ends in success, however.

Basically, developer and publisher Poisoft wants to release an English version of Order Land! for Steam, Switch and Xbox One in early 2018, but knows that doing so wouldn't be an easy endeavor. So, it launched a Kickstarter to help cover the costs of the localization.

The Order Land! campaign seems pretty modest as far as Kickstarters are concerned. Poisoft's goal is to raise just under $45,000 for the project, and a pledge of about $9 or more nets supporters a digital download code for the English version of the game. (Larger pledges offer rewards like posters, mugs, t-shirts and even 3DS and New 3DS systems.)

If you need to hear a little more about Order Land! before handing over hard-earned cash to aid its localization, the gist is it's a simulation RPG that offers players three intriguing modes.

One puts you on a throne and has you rule the game's world as its king. Another allows you to create and train heroes who protect the land.

The third option seems to be as close to a traditional role-playing experience as you're going to get in Order Land!, as it plops you into the boots and armor of a hero and sets you loose to explore your surroundings.

A few of the stretch goals associated with the Order Land! campaign would add even more modes to the game, which began life as a Japan-only 3DS eShop release.

One would let you play as a devil, while another would shine a light on the "back side of this world"--whatever that's supposed to mean. Sadly, I don't understand what a third, called "Ikusa no Kuni," would offer.

Should all of the above sound interesting enough to you that you want to take part, keep in mind the Order Land! Kickstarter ends on Nov. 11.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

If Nintendo put me in charge of a GameBoy Classic Edition, here are the 30 games it would include

Word on the street is Nintendo may be prepping a GameBoy Classic Edition--or "GameBoy mini," as many on the Internet like to call it--to complement its recent NES and SNES plug-and-play consoles.

Given the success the company found with those miniaturized systems, a similarly compact re-envisioning of its first handheld wouldn't exactly be a surprise.

What would be a surprise (or at least it would be to me): if Nintendo filled the memory of this as-of-now-imaginary GameBoy Classic Edition with worthwhile games.

After all, while the NES-inspired product featured a number of veritable classics, it also included some head-scratchers like Pac-Man. More surprising were the titles its omitted, like the first Dragon Quest (or Dragon Warrior, for old folks like me), Duck Tales and Bionic Commando.

Would I do a better job of cramming a GameBoy Classic Edition or GameBoy mini full of must-play games? I'd like to think so.

Admittedly, the brass at Nintendo probably would put the kibosh on a number of the carts I'd push for, but I won't let that keep me from discussing them in this post.

Alleyway--Most people pooh-pooh this "launch window" release as an antiquated bore, but I've always enjoyed it. Plus, even with its issues, I think it would be a perfect pick-up-and-play-when-you-only-have-a-few-spare-minutes title for a product like this.

Amazing Penguin--I have to imagine a lot of folks who owned a GameBoy in the late 1980s and early 1990s aren't aware of this game's existence. That's too bad, as Amazing Penguin's gameplay--equal portions Pac-ManPengo and Qix--sets it apart from all the humdrum puzzlers and platformers that flooded store shelves during the system's reign.

Balloon Kid--This Balloon Fight spinoff is a tough cookie and a painfully short experience, but it deserves a spot here due to its unique gameplay (it's a side-scrolling platformer in which its main character is nearly always floating beneath a balloon) and its female protagonist.

Bubble Bobble Part 2--None of Taito's handheld Bubble Bobble titles hold a candle to the arcade original, but that doesn't mean they're all stinkers. Part 2 (Bubble Bobble Junior in Japan) is the best of the bunch by far, with adorable sprites and sprawling stages.

BurgerTime Deluxe--I've long loved the original BurgerTime game, but there's no question it's often brutal. Thankfully, this GameBoy sequel is miles more accessible. It also looks great and features a surprisingly ear-pleasing soundtrack. Bonus: the Japanese BurgerTime Deluxe packaging and instruction manual are splendid, too.

Catrap--Yet another often-overlooked game that really should be played by everyone who comes within a foot of a GameBoy system. Not only are its cat-eared protagonists (you can switch between the girl or boy at the beginning of every stage) cute as can be, but the time-bending, brain-melting, puzzler-platformer action at its core is completely brilliant, too.

Dig Dug--You just know that should a GameBoy Classic Edition ever be made, Nintendo's more likely to include Namco's portable, black-and-white Pac-Man port instead of this one. Which would be a shame, as the puzzle-heavy "New Dig Dug" mode included here (and not found anywhere else) is a breath of fresh air.

Donkey Kong--This may well be the best game ever made for Nintendo's first portable console. If you've never played it, it takes the arcade original's straightforward barrel-jumping action and transforms it into the puzzler-platformer to beat all puzzler-platformers--and that includes the many Mario vs. Donkey Kong titles that followed in this 1994 release's footsteps.

Dr. Mario--Truth be told, I've never been a huge Dr. Mario fan. I know a lot of folks like it, though, so that's why I'm including it here. I also think it's a good counterpoint to the far less flashy Tetris.

Final Fantasy Adventure--It would be easy to give this game's slot to another thanks to the presence of Link's Awakening (see below), but I'd campaign against that tactic for a couple of reasons. For starters, not everyone loves Link or Zelda. Also, Final Fantasy Adventure's ARPG gameplay is different enough from its aforementioned competitor's to be worth a go even if you're a Zelda veteran.

Final Fantasy Legend II--Purists probably would prefer to include the first Final Fantasy Legend title here, but I think its sequel is the better, more interesting, game. Either title should be seen as a welcome addition to this line-up, though, as it's decidedly lacking in traditional RPGs.

Gargoyle's Quest--This was one of my most-cherished cartridges back when I first owned a GameBoy thanks to how it combines exploring an RPG-ish overworld with conquering side-scrolling action stages. And it was among the hardest to let go of when I stupidly sold my system and collection of GameBoy cartridges a number of years after I bought them.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Manual Stimulation: Noobow (GameBoy)

Up until the early part of 2013, I had only a passing interest in Nintendo's GameBoy.

Oh, I owned one as a kid--got one as soon as I possibly could after it hit store shelves in the summer of 1989, in fact--and I loved it as much as anyone can love a bulky electronic gadget with a green-and-black screen.

After I sold my GameBoy system and catalog of carts a few years later, though, I rarely looked back. It just wasn't an experience I felt like revisiting, you know?

So, what happened in 2013? I came across a small blog post about the game highlighted here: Irem's Noobow.

That post included a short video of Noobow in action. I was hooked a second after I hit "start."

Over the next few months, I searched the Internet high and low for other Japan-only GameBoy games that had escaped my attention and that might appeal to me as much as Noobow.

All of that digital sleuthing resulted in me discovering import gems like PeetanPainter Momopie and Osawagase! Penguin Boy. (OK, so that last one actually earned a Western release--as Amazing Penguin.)

Once I became aware of those titles, too, there was no going back. In the years since, I basically made it a goal to obtain complete-in-box copies of those Japanese GameBoy games and a slew of others (like Astro RabbyBurning Paper and Cave Noire).

Curiously, each of the games I've mentioned so far were sold with stellar instruction manuals packed inside their colorful cardboard boxes.

Noobow's manual isn't as stellar as some of the others linked to at the bottom of this post, but I think it's still pretty nice.

Chiefly responsible for me calling it "nice" is that it sports a number of adorable illustrations of the eponymous Noobow, who apparently began life (and I believe continues to serve) as a mascot for a line of merchandise.

Strangely, this booklet doesn't contain even half as many illustrations as Noobow's outer box does, but at least almost all of the ones stuffed inside the manual are unique.

Also worth celebrating: the Noobow manual features three full pages of item drawings and descriptions.

If this is your first visit to this site, or if you haven't been visiting it for long, you need to know I love old game manuals that feature item drawings and descriptions.

Admittedly, the item drawings showcased here are on the rough side, but that just adds to their charm, if you ask me. (For another Japanese GameBoy manual that features rough item drawings, check out my post about the booklet made for the system's Bubble Bobble port.)

The second-to-last page of the Noobow instruction manual (see below) is supposed to be reserved for jotting down passwords, by the way. Whether or not the text a previous owner scribbled onto mine actually is a password, though, is up for debate.

Now that you've taken it all in, what do you think of the Noobow GameBoy instruction manual?

Also, if any of you have played this 1992 release, what do you think of it?

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts about Astro Rabby, Bubble Bobble Junior, Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru, Snow Bros. Jr. and Tumblepop

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A few thoughts on Golf Story for Switch now that I've put about eight hours into it

I don't know about you, but I think it's almost comical that the first game I played on my new Switch was Golf Story.

(Yes, a digital copy of Splatoon 2 came with the system, but I quickly sold it. Don't worry, I'll likely buy a physical copy of it down the road.)

As for why it's so funny this was my first pick-up for Nintendo's latest console, I sort of have a reputation for liking old and quirky games, right? Well, Golf Story has quirk to spare, and there's no doubt it looks like something that could've come out of the 8-bit or 16-bit eras.

So, I guess what I'm saying here is: I doubt there could be a better game to ease me into Switch ownership.

It's certainly done its job in that regard. After all, like this post's header makes clear, I've already spent more than eight hours playing Golf Story--and at the expense of the recently released Project Octopath Traveler demo, no less. (It wouldn't be an overstatement to say Square Enix adding this bite-sized version of its upcoming, Romancing SaGa-esque RPG to the Switch eShop is what pushed me to buy the system now rather than early next year.)

Would anybody become as engrossed as I have with this game if they were given a chance to play it? I think a good percentage of folks would, but not everyone.

To figure out if you're more likely to be in the yay or the nay camp, read my impressions of Golf Story's first eight or so hours.

Warning: this is not a golf simulator--Do you love serious golf games? The kind that mimic the club-and-ball sport down to a T (or, you know, a "tee")? If so, you might want to avoid Golf Story for the time being. To begin with, it's a fairly silly take on the Scotland-born pastime. Also, it would be a stretch to say it forces you to play gobs of golf. Yes, the eons-old sport is Golf Story's focus, and nearly every inch of its overworld (for lack of a better word) is a fairway or green or bunker, but you spend a lot less time making your way through multi-hole courses than you might think. In other words, if you're looking for something that's more like Electronic Arts' PGA Tour series and less like Sony's Hot Shots Golf efforts, this isn't the download for you.

That said, if you've enjoyed any of the early Mario Golf games, you should enjoy Golf Story, too--I say that mainly because Golf Story's gameplay feels a lot like that of the original Mario Golf and Mario Golf: Advance Tour. For those of you who've never experienced those titles, that means Golf Story's controls are arcade-y and accessible and, for the most part, intuitive--assuming you've played at least one other video game version of the sport before you picked up this one.

A little clarity would be greatly appreciated--Notice how I said "for the most part" at the end of my last sentence? I did that because, as fun as Golf Story is, it doesn't always provide the player with all the information he or she needs to enjoy it to its fullest. On more than one occasion, I've found myself in a situation where I wasn't completely sure what I was supposed to do or how I was supposed to do it. At first, I thought I was to blame, but eventually it dawned on me that Golf Story's sometimes-vague text was the real culprit. Thankfully, I've always gotten myself out of those jams, but I obviously would've preferred not getting into them in the first place.

I don't really agree with people who say this game is "EarthBound-esque"--Sure, Golf Story is goofy. And weird. But is it as weird and goofy as everybody's favorite cult-classic RPG, EarthBound? Not in my mind. Plus, the vibe here is completely different. Shigesato Itoi's seminal work often feels like a dream--or a nightmare. Golf Story is far more mundane and down to earth. It's odd in parts, no question, but don't expect it to display the kind of amusing, head-scratching edginess that's front and center in all three of Nintendo's Mother titles.

I'm not a huge fan of Golf Story's soundtrack--It almost kills me to say this, but I don't much like the music that accompanies your trip around the pixelated Australia that serves as this title's setting. At best, the tunes are forgettably ho-hum; at worst, they recall something you'd hear at a low-rent Renaissance fair. That's hardly the end of the world, of course, and the music here isn't exactly keeping me from enjoying my playthrough, but I also wouldn't have minded a more compelling and ear-pleasing soundtrack.

Don't be surprised if you encounter a few bugs or glitches here and there--On the fence about whether or not you should buy Golf Story? You may want to stay there a little while longer. Why? If you play it now, you'll likely run into one or more bugs or glitches--some of which could cause you to replay a chunk of the game (or worse). For example, I've regularly gotten the pompadour-sporting protagonist stuck while trying to run across a bridge. Jiggling the Switch's left analog stick a few times always frees him, but it's annoying all the same. Another bug I've experienced a couple of times: the camera getting screwed up if I try to scope out a hole before taking a shot. The worst glitch I've encountered, though, has been when I've hit a ball, or thrown a disc (you play disc golf in this title, too), and it's become jammed in a tree or behind a non-player character. On these occasions--yes, it's happened more than once--the only option has been to reset the game.

The good news here: developer and publisher Sidebar Games is prepping a patch as we speak, so hopefully it will take care of all of the bugs and glitches I just mentioned, as well as the many others discussed in this Reddit thread.

Given all of the above, you might think I'm less than enamored with Golf Story at the moment. On the contrary, I'm thrilled with it. Sure, it's got its flaws, but it's such a blast overall that I'm finding them easy to overlook. I especially like the game's relaxed attitude and almost languid pace. Although there's a point to all of its swinging and putting and chipping, it never really puts any pressure on you. You're free to explore its evocative environments in whatever manner and at whatever pace you prefer, and I'm finding that particularly refreshing.  

Are any of you playing Golf Story? If so, what do you think of it? Do its positive attributes outweigh its negative ones for you, too, or is the opposite true for you?

See also: 'OK, who's got some Switch game recommendations for me?'

Sunday, October 08, 2017

A few thoughts on the Nintendo Switch now that I've spent a couple of weeks with one

It's been about two weeks since I got a Switch, so I figure now is as good a time as any to share my thoughts on Nintendo's latest piece of gaming hardware.

Something I need to note before I continue: I've only used my Switch in handheld mode so far. In fact, I haven't even taken its dock, which lets you to play games on a TV, out of the box. I'll probably free it from its (beautifully decorated) cardboard prison around the time I get my hands on Super Mario Odyssey, but even then I can't see myself using it all that often. That's how much I prefer playing games "on the go" (which in my case usually means while sitting on the couch or lying in bed) to staring at a TV screen these days.

Anyway, I've spent a good amount of time with the rest of the Switch hardware since it arrived on my doorstep late last month, so here are my impressions of the main unit, Joy-Cons, user interface, eShop and more.

It's smaller than I imagined--For whatever reason, before I bought my Switch I was under the impression it was pretty bulky in its portable form. So, imagine my surprise when it turned out to be the opposite of huge. No one is going to call the thing "tiny," of course, but it's plenty small for the occasional car and plane trip. Would my tune be different if I commuted with my Switch? Perhaps, but the fact is I've only ever played my original 3DS on the bus. I've never once taken either of my 3DS XL systems or my pink-and-white Vita to work, and I'm pretty sure the same will be true of my Switch by the time its hold on me, or the portion of my life that's spent using public transportation, comes to a close.

The huge screen is a huge plus--Truth be told, I've never been a size queen. In fact, even now I'd rather play games on my original "flame red" 3DS system than on my pink-and-white 3DS XL. Still, I'd be lying if I said I wished the Switch's screen were smaller. It's nice to not have to squint while reading text, for example. Granted, I don't think the increased screen size--and improved screen resolution--will really hit me until I play a game like Super Mario Odyssey or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on it. Assuming I react to that experience like I think I will, I may never hook up my thus-far-ignored Switch dock.

I like how solid it feels--This is the aspect of the Switch that surprises me the most, to be perfectly honest. Before I held the system in my hands, I thought the Joy-Cons might seem a bit loose or wobbly. Thankfully, they don't. In fact, I often forget the controllers are detachable--that's how snug everything feels when Switch is in its handheld form. I know some folks will say, "of course the Switch is solid--Nintendo made it!" Well, Nintendo also made the original 3DS hardware that features a floppy hinge and a scratch-prone upper screen, so one should be forgiven for worrying the Switch, with its far more complicated design, may follow in its footsteps.

The UI is sleek and snappy, but still leaves something to be desired--Although I'm a big fan of the user interfaces Nintendo's designers created for the 3DS, Wii and Wii U, I appreciate that they went with something a little sexier and a little less kiddie or cutesy this time around. Plus, the Switch's user interface (UI) isn't just sleek; it's also noticeably faster than the Wii and 3DS UIs. (I can't speak to the speed of the Wii U user interface, as I've sadly never experienced it.) Unfortunately, a game system's UI needs to be more than elegant and brisk. It also needs to be functional, and that's not how I would describe the Switch UI at the moment. Why can't I move my game and demo icons? Why can't I display them in various ways (other than in a straight line), or make folders to contain them? And why can't I change the background of the system's home menu like I can on my 3DS? I have a feeling  an upcoming update will allow all of this--and hopefully more--but, boy, it sure would've been nice if it had allowed it right out of the box.

I hope the eShop gets an overhaul (and soon)--Much like the Switch UI, the system's eShop is sleek and snappy--and not entirely satisfying. I'm sure some people think the 3DS eShop is a jumbled mess, but I'm not one of them. I like that it offers visitors plenty of opportunities to find and discover games and demos. You don't have to know exactly what you're looking for when you make your way to the 3DS eShop. With the Switch eShop, though, you've got a tab for recent releases, a tab for best sellers and that's about it. If you want anything else, you have to search for it. Again, I'm pretty confident this will change in the future and the Switch eShop will become quite a bit more dynamic, but the question is: when? Here's hoping Nintendo gives us a more user-friendly, and publisher-friendly, digital store soon.

Now that I've shared my thoughts and feelings on the Switch, what are yours? Those of you who've spent at least a little time with the system: do you agree with what I've said here, or do you disagree? Regardless, let me know your opinions on the matter in the comments section of this post.

See also: 'A few thoughts on Golf Story for Switch now that I've put about eight hours into it'

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

OK, who's got some Switch game recommendations for me?

Now that I own a Nintendo Switch, and especially now that I've finally unboxed and booted up my snazzy new console, I'm on the lookout for games to play on it.

I've already got Golf Story (look for a blog post full of impressions shortly), and I pre-ordered Super Mario Odyssey right after I bought my Switch. Oh, and I'm also planning to buy Stardew Valley shortly after it's added to the system's eShop.

Other than that, though, I'm pretty clueless as to which Switch games--digital ones, especially--I should consider picking up once I have the funds.

That's not to say I don't have my eye on any Switch titles besides the ones mentioned earlier. A few that have caught my attention to date: Blaster Master ZeroKimikoNamco MuseumSnipperclips and Thimbleweed Park.

Those of you who've played some or all of the just-mentioned games: what do you think of them? And would you recommend them to a Switch noob like myself?

Speaking of recommendations, please point out in the comments section below any other Switch games--digital or otherwise--you think I might enjoy.

UPDATE: a number of people have shared Switch game recommendations with me here as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

The suggestions that have most intrigued me so far: Neo Turf Masters, Slime-san, Super Bomberman R and VOEZ. All of these games are now taking up space on my ever-growing "buy these Switch games as soon as possible" list--along with the titles I mentioned earlier and no-brainers like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Should you have any positive or negative thoughts on them, let me know.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Why, yes, I am still plugging away at Opoona (Wii)

Or at least I was plugging away at it before I became obsessed with the classic Famicom RPG, Mother, and before I got my hands on a Nintendo Switch. (You can read about my experience with the game otherwise known as EarthBound Beginnings in this post, by the way. And you can reach about my recent Switch acquisition here.)

Regardless, during my last Opoona check-in, I crossed the 20-hour threshold.

That may surprise some of you, as I've made no secret of the fact that this ArtePiazza-made RPG has frustrated and annoyed me on a number of occasions since I first booted it up a couple of months ago. In fact, I detailed most of them in a recent blog post, "A few thoughts on Opoona (Wii) now that I've finally played it for a couple of hours."

Despite its shortcomings, I've enjoyed my time with the game overall. Its combination of intriguing battles, a delightful art style and a brilliant soundtrack tend to outweigh its confusing environments and awkward camera angles.

I say "tend to" here because right around the time I hit the 10-hour mark in Opoona, its negative attributes abruptly overtook its positive ones. That's when it dawned on me that I likely got myself stuck due to a bit of miscommunication (which isn't an entirely unusual occurrence while playing this overlooked Wii game, I'm afraid--thanks in large part to its often-iffy localization).

I won't bore you with all of the details, as they'll be little more than gobbledygook to folks who've yet to experience Opoona, but here's the gist: at one point in the game, you're sent to a place called "Blue Desert" to complete a job. (These are kind of like, but not exactly like, fetch quests in other RPGs--although here they sometimes require you to complete mini-games.) Unbeknownst to me, one of that location's many residents helps you unlock additional jobs, although you have to chat him up and do something for him before he'll assist you in that way.

Although I remember talking with him, I don't remember him telling me he'd grant me access to another job. Or maybe he told me, but shortly thereafter I walked away from the game for the night and promptly forgot the conversation. Regardless, I left Blue Desert before taking him up on his offer--which would have been all well and good if weren't for the fact that you're not allowed to return to the area at that point in the story.

As for why leaving Blue Desert before lending the aforementioned guy a hand caused me to get (temporarily) stuck, that would be because you need the job he opens up to advance to one or more other areas of the game's world.

Thankfully, after a lot of stumbling around, just as much awkward Internet sleuthing and somewhere between five and 10 additional hours of gameplay, I got myself unstuck and pushed forward with my sometimes-aggravating Opoona adventure.

In fact, I've since pushed it forward to the point I'm pretty sure I'm nearing its end. For those of you who've played (and finished) Opoona: is that possible?

I honestly hope it is, because although I've enjoyed a fair bit of my Opoona playthrough, I'm not sure I could handle, say, another 10 or 20 hours of annoying camera angles and needlessly confusing text.

Who knows, though; I've certainly put myself through worse over the years. In other words, don't be surprised if I drop yet another blog post in the near or even distant future in which I celebrate the fact that I conquered Opoona and all of its unfortunately irritating components.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

A few thoughts on the Monster Hunter Stories 3DS demo after putting about five hours into it

Just over a month ago, Nintendo plopped a demo for Monster Hunter Stories onto the North American 3DS eShop.

I promptly downloaded it, of course. And I say "of course" here because I've been curious about this Pokémon-esque Monster Hunter spinoff since it was released in Japan last fall.

That's not to say I promptly played through its demo. Although I put maybe 30 minutes or an hour into it shortly after my download finished, I didn't really dig into it until a week or two later (mainly because I was obsessed with Mother at the time).

As of now, I've played it for nearly five hours. Based on what I've read on line, there's still a few hours of content left for me to explore. Rather than wait until I hit that wall to write up my thoughts on this Monster Hunter Stories teaser--which is what I'd normally do--I decided to jot down and share them now.

Why the rush? Well, for starters, I'm really enjoying the demo--even more than I expected to, if I'm to be honest. Plus, I'm pretty sure nothing's going to pop up in the next hour or two that will change my opinion of Monster Hunter Stories.

With that out of the way, here are some of my thoughts on this surprisingly generous demo:

It looks absolutely lovely--I've liked Monster Hunter Stories' art style since I first laid eyes on it way back when. OK, so I wasn't initially all that keen on the design of Navirou, your odd-looking Felyne sidekick, but I eventually came around to it. I've always found the game's human designs appealing, though. They're cute without being generic or anime-esque, if that makes sense. I also really dig how the designers at developer Marvelous used a lot of bold, saturated colors while crafting Monster Hunter Stories' vast environments.

Its battles are more enjoyable than I thought they'd be--No one is going to accuse Monster Hunter Stories' fights of being confusing or complicated. In fact, they're little more than rock-paper-scissors bouts. That's fine with me, though, as it keeps them moving along at a good clip--which can't be said of all modern RPGs, that's for sure. My only worry is they might become boring while playing the full game. Considering that's rarely been an issue for me before, though, I don't see it impacting my decision to pick up a physical copy or not.

It chugs a bit on an original 3DS system--I don't know how the Monster Hunter Stories demo runs on other 3DS hardware, but it slows down and stutters now and then on an original unit. It doesn't do so all the time, and it's hardly that annoying, but I thought I should bring it up anyway. The question is: does the full game chug a bit on early 3DS systems, too, or does it perform better than this demo? Thankfully, I can play the former on my New 3DS if need be, but I'd prefer to play it on my "flame red" unit.

It's convinced me to buy the full game--Don't take this to mean me picking up a boxed copy of Monster Hunter Stories is a sure thing. I'd certainly like to do that, and soon, but the fact is my recent Switch acquisition is going to force me to be pretty picky with my game purchases for the foreseeable future. I still want quite a few 3DS titles--many of which I wrote about in this post from April, although I highlighted two others here and here--after all, and then there are Switch and retro games to consider, too.

Oh, well, even if I don't buy the retail version of this Pokémon wannabe, it won't be because I disliked its demo. How about you? Have you played either the Monster Hunter Stories demo or full game? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments section that follows.

See also: 'I tried the Hey! Pikmin demo and I think I liked it'

Friday, September 29, 2017

Mark your calendars, folks: March 27, 2018, is the last day you'll be able to add or buy Wii Points

I know what some of you are thinking: why the hell should I care if I can't buy Wii Points or add them to my Wii account after March 27, 2018? And, really, maybe you shouldn't care. If you don't own a Wii (or Wii U), or you own one but no longer use it, the fact that you'll no longer be able to buy or add Wii Points to your account after the above-mentioned date shouldn't bother you much.

If you do still own a use a Wii (or Wii U), though, you might appreciate the reminder that the Wii Virtual Console offers a lot of NES, Master System, Genesis, TurboGrafx-16, SNES and Neo Geo gems. (Don't take my word for it, check out this impressive list of North American Wii Virtual Console releases.)

Anyway, this news certainly bothers me. OK, so "bothers" may be too strong of a word, but it definitely saddens me a bit. That's because I still use my Wii fairly regularly. And not only that, but there are still a good number of Wii Virtual Console and WiiWare games I'd like to buy and play.

For instance, I've long meant to purchase Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom for the NES and Super Mario RPG for the SNES via the Wii Shop Channel. Also, Shining in the Darkness for the Genesis and Monster Lair for the TurboGrafx-16. (I own an actual copy of that last game, but you just know neither it nor my PC Engine Super CD-ROM2 system will last forever.)

As if that weren't bad enough, there are a ton of Japanese Virtual Console games I'd like to purchase before Nintendo pulls the plug on the Wii Shop Channel. Granted, doing so will require me to pick up a Japanese Wii, and I'm not sure that's in the cards at this point, but the point stands.

I mean, just look at some of the great games that have been made available via the Japanese Wii Virtual Console and nowhere else. Mizubaku Daibouken, Parasol Stars and Star Parodier for the PC Engine. Pepenga Pengo for the Mega Drive. Twinkle Star Sprites for the Neo Geo. Clock Tower, DoReMi Fantasy and Sutte Hakkun for the Super Famicom.

Is it really possible I'll buy a Japanese Wii as well as all of the above-mentioned Virtual Console titles  before March 27, 2018? (Technically, I wouldn't have to do the latter until January 31, 2019, but I'd have to purchase Wii Points for them by the earlier date.) Possible, sure, but I wouldn't call it likely. As always, though, I'll give it my best shot.

How about you? Will any of you spend your hard-earned cash on some Wii Points between now and the end of March so you can pick up a few final Wii Virtual Console games?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Anyone else planning to pick up The Alliance Alive when it hits North America in early 2018?

Actually, I'm not "planning" to pick up The Alliance Alive when it's released here this coming March, as I've already pre-ordered a copy via Amazon.

In case this is the first you're hearing of--or reading about--The Alliance Alive, it's basically a semi-sequel to another FuRyu-made 3DS RPG I found so appealing I bought it twice. (See my post on my Japanese copy of The Legend of Legacy, as well as my post on my North American copy of the game, for visual proof.)

Although different groups of developers and designers made The Legend of Legacy and The Alliance Alive, they're surprisingly similar, SaGa-esque games. Both are RPGs that allow players to select from a bevy of unique protagonists and then set them loose on a decidedly open-ended adventure.

One notable difference between the two games: The Alliance Alive provides a pretty traditional overworld for players to explore, while The Legend of Legacy offers up a single hub town and a series of maps that can be gradually unlocked.

To be honest, I'm not all that interested in owning the art book, CD soundtrack or keychain that will come packed inside the launch edition's sure-to-be-bulky collector's box (see above), but it seems there'll be no other way to buy a physical version of game early on, so I guess I'll have to stash away everything but the cartridge once it all arrives on my doorstep.

Anyway, that's where I stand on The Alliance Alive at the moment. How about you? Have any of you pre-ordered it, or are you planning to purchase it either before or after it's released in the West?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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

Although this year's Tokyo Game Show was a bit of a snoozefest, at least one good thing came out of it as far as I'm concerned: it prompted me to remember a few long-awaited games that had fallen off my radar.

Unfortunately, it also prompted me to wonder if some of those games, discussed below, will ever see the light of day. Here's hoping they do--and sooner rather than later.

2064: Read Only Memories (Vita)--The Vita port of MidBoss' LGBTQ-friendly cyberpunk adventure game has been a long time coming. After all, the original PC versions came out two years ago, while the PS4 port came out over eight months ago. Sadly, the developer ran into some problems with 2064: Read Only Memories' Vita version late last year and has barely said a word about it since. Considering it's now working on bringing the game to the Switch, I can't say I'm all that confident I'll ever be able to play it on my pink-and-white Vita. At least I now own a Switch. I'd rather add 2064: Read Only Memories to my Vita's home screen, but I'll add it to my Switch's instead if that's my only option.

Coven and Labyrinth of Refrain (Vita)--Admittedly, Nippon Ichi, which developed this dungeon-crawler and published it in Japan last summer, has never suggested a North American localization of Coven and Labyrinth of Refrain might be in the cards. A Western release has long been rumored, though, so I'm including it here anyway. It's possible the powers that be at NIS are waiting for the PS4 port of the game to hit Japanese store shelves in just a few days to reveal their overseas plans for Coven and Labyrinth of Refrain. Even if that's true, though, it's possible they'll give us just the PS4 version. I'll choose to stay positive and hope both it and the original Vita cartridge earn a trip to our shores.

Picontier (3DS and Switch)--Of all the games mentioned here, Picontier is the one I've been waiting for the longest. I'd also say it's the one I'm most keen on playing. Why? Because it's a portable life sim that sports some wonderful sprite-based graphics. Also, I've thoroughly enjoyed a number of the digital titles publisher Circle Entertainment has brought to the 3DS eShop so far--Witch & Hero and Witch & Hero II, in particular--and this one looks similarly worthwhile. The question is: when will it finally find its way onto my 3DS (or my newly acquired Switch, I guess)? A demo popped up at Tokyo Game Show 2017, which could mean the full game is just weeks away. Or it could mean fans like me have to wait a good while longer. Fingers crossed it's the former.

Stardew Valley (Switch)--Although I've never put more than a few minutes into a "real" Harvest Moon game (The Lost Valley doesn't count), I've long been intrigued by Yasuhiro Wada's decades-old series. By most accounts, this copycat is nearly as good as, and possibly better than, anything Wada and company have put out over the years. Whether or not that's the case, I'd really like to give Stardew Valley a try. It seems to be a perfect fit for the portable Switch, so that's the version I'll pick up whenever it ventures onto that console's eShop.

VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action (Vita)--Like 2064: Read Only Memories, I've been waiting for VA-11 HALL-A's Vita port to drop for ages. Unlike 2064: Read Only Memories, I know this Vita port is either finished or nearly finished, as its physical Japanese release is set for mid-November. That suggests VA-11 HALL-A for Vita's North American release is imminent. The only problem with that: I'm not interested in buying a digital copy of this game. Instead, I want a boxed copy, which means I have to wait for Limited Run Games to do its thing. Oh, well, I've waited this long, what's another month or two, right?

BONUS ROUND: Tasukete Tako-san (Switch)--I've been slobbering over this GameBoy-inspired "platform RPG" since it was announced way back when as a Wii U title. Well, I'm even more interested in it now that developer Christophe Galati has moved the game, which Nicalis is publishing here as Save Me, Mr. Tako, to the Switch. Thankfully, Tako-san's supposedly still on track for a late-2017 release. In the meantime, I'll re-watch its most recent trailer whenever I feel antsy.

Are there any long-awaited games you wish would be released already? If so, let's chat about them in the comments section of this post.

See also: 'the best 3DS eShop games you've never played'

Sunday, September 24, 2017

And they said it would never happen: I (finally) got a Switch!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Instagram likely already know this news, but for the rest of you: I finally got a Nintendo Switch!

Shocking, I know. Especially since I never bought a Wii U despite regularly saying I would do just that. Also, back when Nintendo revealed the Switch, I declared I likely wouldn't purchase one until its price dropped to at least $250. I've also suggested on more than one occasion that I'd prefer to wait for the inevitable hardware revision to be released before I pick up a Switch.

Well, all of that went out the window after a Super Mario Odyssey Switch bundle was announced during the most recent batch of Nintendo Directs. (Read this post for some of my thoughts on those broadcasts.)

That's not to say this bundle caused me to go weak in the knees or anything like that. I'm probably as interested in Super Mario Odyssey as the next Nintendo fan, but I'm not so interested in it that I'm champing at the bit to own a pair of "Mario red" Joy-Con controllers or a Super Mario Odyssey-themed carrying case.

However, when I realized this bundle was going be pretty widely available--you can still pre-order it via couldn't help perk up a bit.

So, I pre-ordered it. Within days, maybe even hours, though, I discovered Walmart had almost surreptitiously started selling a Splatoon 2 bundle.

This same bundle--featuring a copy of Splatoon 2 as well as a set of neon green and pink Joy-Cons and a Splatoon-branded carrying case--has been available in Japan for some time now, but Nintendo of America's never even breathed a word about it since the game's late-July release, so I assumed it wouldn't be an option for me. (To be honest, I'm not entirely sold on Splatoon 2. I am, however, sold on the pink and green Joy-Cons.)

Anyway, everything changed once I knew about the availability of this Splatoon 2 bundle. I kept an eye on it for a few days and after it became clear it wasn't going to sell out immediately, I canceled my pre-order for the Super Mario Odyssey bundle and pre-ordered this one instead.

It arrived yesterday, but I've yet to even open the box, let alone turn on the Switch and give it a go. Don't worry, I plan on doing that soon, though perhaps not for a few more days. I want to wait for the screen protector I just bought to arrive (and be applied) before I put this lovely piece of hardware through its paces.

Once that's out of the way--watch out! The first thing I'll do is make my way to the Switch eShop and download the Octopath Traveler demo. (See the latest Octopath Traveler trailer and read some of my thoughts on it here.)

After that, I've got to decide what I'm going to do with the Splatoon 2 download code that's packed inside the pretty box seen throughout this post. I want to play the game at some point, don't get me wrong, but at the moment I think I'd rather use whatever money I could get for it on something else (like a physical copy of Super Mario Galaxy).

Do any of you have a Switch? If so, what do you think of it? Also, do you have any advice or recommendations to share with a newbie like myself? If you do, please share them in the comments section below.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

I don't know about you, but I'm going to buy the hell out of Gal Metal! for Switch early next year

Early this month, DMM Games revealed it was working on a rhythm game for the Nintendo Switch.

Although its name, Gal Metal!, intrigued me, that's about where my curiosity in the upcoming title began and ended.

That's mainly because the initial Gal Metal! teaser trailer made it out to be a drum-centric rhythm game, which generally isn't my cup of tea.

My interest did a 180 this morning, though, after watching the game's latest trailer, released to coincide with Tokyo Game Show 2017.

Admittedly, I'm still not all that keen on a rhythm game that makes you pretend-play the drums. But I'm willing to overlook that little "issue" because the drum-heavy game plops you into the patent-leather shoes of one member of a five-girl metal band.

The band in question apparently has to use their musical skills to save the world from invading aliens, by the way--which only enhances the game's appeal in my eyes. Other aspects of Gal Metal! I find appealing: its art style and the music showcased in the video above.

Is it possible the game's motion-focused gameplay will be a Wii Music-style dud in the end? Of course. I certainly hope that's not the case, though.

We'll find out one way or the other when Gal Metal! hits the streets--and Switch eShop--of Japan this coming February.

DMM is said to be prepping a boxed version of Gal Metal!, by the way, so look for me to buy that iteration should early previews not label the Tak Fujii-backed title a total stinker. (Fujii is an eccentric ex-Konami producer.)

Has this in-the-works Switch game pinged your radar? If so, let me know, and let me know why it's got you excited, in the comments section below.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Nice Package! (Dōbutsu no Mori+, GameCube)

My last blog post celebrated the 15th anniversary of the first Animal Crossing game's North American release.

Of course, as any Animal Crossing fan worth their salt will tell you, although that 2002 release was the first of the series' many entries to see the light of day in the Western world, it was the second to hit store shelves in Japan.

This game's predecessor in that region was 2001's Dōbutsu no Mori (Animal Forest, basically) for the Nintendo 64. The game showcased here, Dōbutsu no Mori+, followed just eight months later.

Surprisingly, Dōbutsu no Mori+ is more than just a simple, straightforward port of the Nintendo 64 original. For starters, it bumps up the earlier title's resolution from 320-by-240 pixels to 640-by-480 pixels. It also introduces a number of new characters--including the Able Sisters, Kapp'n and Tortimer--as well as adds new locations (like the island and the museum), Famicom games, fish and bugs. And it lets players to expand their homes beyond the limits of what was allowed in the Nintendo 64 cartridge.

Further changes and enhancements were made to the game when it was localized for Western markets, and even more were made for the 2003 Japanese release known as Dōbutsu no Mori e+. (Look for a "Nice Package!" post about that GameCube import shortly.)

Anyway, as nice as the North American Animal Crossing's packaging was and is, I far prefer the Japanese counterparts--outer sleeve, disc, memory card and instruction manual--shown here to it.

I'm especially fond of the Dōbutsu no Mori+ instruction manual, I've got to say--especially its cover. The interior pages are pretty nice, too, although I wouldn't have minded if Nintendo's artists and designers had made them a tad more whimsical.

I also really like the art that's splashed across the adorably tiny Dōbutsu no Mori+ disc. The haniwa (gyroid elsewhere) that graces the label of the packed-in memory card is a nice touch, too.

Another nice touch of the Dōbutsu no Mori+ packaging: the image of Booker that sits along the bottom edge of the game's outer sleeve.

For those of you who've never seen a Japanese GameCube game in person, this cardboard sleeve slips over a small plastic case that houses the game in question's disc and manual. Also, the case is clear, so if you situate the manual properly, it almost gives the game an alternate cover.

With all of that out of the way, which part of this Japanese game's packaging appeals the most to you?

See also: photos of the Dōbutsu no Mori Nintendo 64 packaging