Saturday, December 30, 2017

My favorite games of 2017

If you had told me at the beginning of this year I'd play so many great games--so many great Switch games, especially--I would've responded by dramatically rolling my eyes.

As I've said a number of times in the last few months, I didn't expect to buy a Switch so early in its life--and certainly not before sometime in 2018.

Now I've got an actual "slew" of Switch games--so many, in fact, that I'm having a hard time keeping up with them. (On a related note, look for me to publish a bunch of "a few thoughts on" posts in the new year.)

Amazingly, I'm having a similarly hard time keeping up with all the Vita games I've bought since 2017 started. Who would've thought that'd be the case given the system's worldwide nosedive over the last 12 months? Certainly not me.

A couple of those recently acquired Vita games made a big enough impression on me that I'm including them among my favorite games of this year. They're joined by handful of Switch games, a trio of 3DS carts, and a PC title, too.

Golf Story (Switch)--In a year of surprising games, this probably was the most surprising of all for me. That's kind of funny when you consider Golf Story is just what its name implies: a digital Switch title that's one part golf, and one part story (or RPG). You're just as likely to be sent on a fetch quest or be asked to solve a mystery as you are to shoot a round of Scotland's national sport against an NPC. OK, so I personally don't think its writing is good enough to be compared to EarthBound, but that doesn't mean I think it's drivel. In fact, I'd say it's just fun--and weird--enough to bring a smile to your face more regularly than your average RPG. Even if that weren't the case, though, I'd call myself a Golf Story fan anyway thanks to how all of its components combine to create a unique experience that intrigues throughout its 15-plus-hour running time.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)--I've made no secret of the fact that I'm generally not a fan of three-dimensional Zelda games. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of them, but despite that they usually have a hard time holding my interest past the first few hours. Well, Breath of the Wild bucks that trend--or at least it has so far. I regularly get lost while wandering around its lush landscapes, I've got to admit, but it's yet to bring my progress to a screeching halt. Does this mean me finishing Breath of the Wild is a done deal? Unfortunately, it doesn't. Still, I think that result is far more likely than it was when I attempted to play through Majora's Mask, The Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess thanks to the intriguingly open-ended nature of this particular Zelda adventure.

Miitopia (3DS)--I was sure I'd get a kick out of Miitopia the second I laid eyes on it. Still, I was shocked when I enjoyed its demo as much as I did. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I put more than three hours into it before giving it a rest. I've now put more than twice that into the full game, and yet it continues to make me chuckle and otherwise turn me into a grinning idiot. There's no question this RPG is an odd duck, not to mention quite a bit more "casual" than what is typical of the genre, but for me, both of those qualities conspire to make Miitopia far more entertaining than it would be if it leaned toward the traditional. I do suspect Miitopia's schtick may wear thin sooner rather than later, but that's OK; I already feel like I got my money's worth out of it.

Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World (3DS)--I'm one of those grumps that like to grouse about how Yoshi's Island is the only good Yoshi game. I regularly grumble in this way even though I didn't exactly hate Yoshi's New Island. Well, this portable port of Woolly World is miles more impressive than that 2014 release, as well as pretty much every other Yoshi title I've played since the first. One reason for that is it's gorgeous--even on the low-res 3DS screen. Another is it provides a good amount of fun. Also, it eventually offers up a good challenge for people (like me) who don't necessarily possess top-notch platforming skills--something that can't exactly be said of every Yoshi title that's followed in Island's wake.

Project Octopath Traveler demo (Switch)--Yes, this is a demo. But like the Bravely Default demo Square Enix made available well in advance of that 3DS game's release, this one is both meaty and interesting enough to prompt someone like me to declare it "game of the year"--or at least one of my favorite gaming experiences of the year. The aspect of the Project Octopath Traveler demo that most stood out at me while playing through it recently (read my impressions here) was the battle system, which feels like a zippier version of the one featured in Bravely Default and Second. Really, though, every component of this teaser blew me away--even its much maligned "vignette" filter. I guess what I'm saying here is, barring some sort of disaster popping up between now and whenever it's released, expect to see the full game discussed in next year's version of this write-up.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Witch & Hero III hits the Japanese 3DS eShop just in time to be a GOTY 2017 contender

In late October, Circle Entertainment announced that not only was a third Witch & Hero game in the works for the Nintendo 3DS but it would be released by the end of the year.

Well, it just hit the system's eShop--but only in Japan.

Given my love of this odd little series of action-y tower-defense (or witch-defense, to be more accurate) titles, I bought this latest entry as soon as I was able last night.

I've only put about an hour into Witch & Hero III so far, which means I've conquered about six or seven of its stages, but that's been enough for me to know I'll continue to plug away at it over the coming days and weeks until I either beat it or burn out on it.

Curiously, this Witch & Hero game begins much like the first. At the moment, I control only the eponymous hero, racing around each level using the 3DS' circle pad and bumping enemies to death, Ys style, as they dare to approach and even attempt to kill the witch, who sits, petrified (literally, not figuratively), in the middle of the screen.

Based on the game's logo, as well as its teaser trailer, I know it won't ape the original release's gameplay for much longer. Or at least I hope it won't do so for much longer; I'm really itching to see how the developers at Flyhigh Works change things up this time around. (In Witch & Hero II, you can move the witch around the screen using the 3DS' face buttons, which admittedly makes things a bit more hectic than I'd like.)

Anyway, if you own a Japanese 3DS, you could do far worse than buy Witch & Hero III. It's only 350 Yen right now--after Jan. 10, it'll jump to 400 Yen--and it's already proving to be a lot of fun.

If you'd rather not jump right in to the series' third entry, pick up the first one. It's also only 400 Yen ($4 in North America), and until Witch & Hero III proves otherwise, I still think it's the best of the bunch.

Need to know more about it, and maybe Witch & Hero II as well, before handing over your hard-earned cash? Read my Witch & Hero review. Or read by Witch & Hero II review.

Don't fret if you lack a Japanese 3DS. Witch & Hero III is supposed to hit other regions' eShops sometime in early 2018. Keep an eye on publisher Circle Entertainment's Twitter account for news of its release.

Monday, December 25, 2017

And the winners of the 2064: Read Only Memories Vita codes are...

I promised I'd be giving away four digital codes for the Vita version of 2064: Read Only Memories today, and that's what I'm going to do.

Rather than prolong the suspense, let's just get right to it. Here are the winners:
  • Felipe Martins
  • Sera R
  • Shiftyweb
  • ZACH
If you're one of the readers named above, leave a comment here by, say, the end of the day on Wednesday, and then we'll figure out the best way for me to send you the code.

Sorry to those of you who didn't win. I'd give you all codes for this intriguing game, if I could.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A few thoughts on the Project Octopath Traveler Switch demo now that I've finally played through it

There's something hilarious--to me, at least--about the fact that I went against my original plan of waiting until 2018 to buy a Switch and instead picked up one in late September mainly so I could check out the just-released Project Octopath Traveler demo.

What's so funny about that, you ask? Well, although the first thing I did after turning on and updating my Switch was download the aforementioned demo, all it's done since then is sit on my home screen and look pretty.

I finally booted it up a couple of days ago, and now I can't put it down. Honestly, I'm completely mesmerized by this bite-sized preview of Square Enix's upcoming "HD-2D" role-playing game for Switch at the moment. Here's why:

I really appreciate how its story at least attempts to be more "adult"--Most of the RPGs Square Enix has made for Nintendo systems (handhelds, in particular) in recent years have featured stories that are more childish than mature. Based on this demo, it seems Project Octopath Traveler may buck that trend. To be sure, I don't know that I'd even describe the text encountered here as being R-rated, but it's certainly closer to that than the PG-leaning narratives usually found in the company's Nintendo releases, and for that I'm grateful.

Its visuals are the perfect blend of old and new--On the one hand, Project Octopath Traveler doesn't look too different from the kinds of games Square put out during the 16-bit era (see: Final Fantasy VI, Romancing SaGa 3, and Seiken Densetsu 3). On the other, it also looks surprisingly modern, thanks to its three-dimensional--yet still pixelated--backdrops and heavy use of bloom and other special effects. Put those two together and you've got a game that makes me want to cry due to its gorgeousness. Yes, the vignetting can be a bit much at times, but even then I love Octopath's aesthetic and hope producer Tomoya Asano and his team don't touch it between now and whenever the full game is released.

Yasunori Nishiki's soundtrack is a revelation--OK, so obviously I'm only talking about the music that's featured in the demo or that's been teased on line. Still, that small handful of tunes is more than enough for me to feel confident the full Project Octopath Traveler soundtrack will be a stunner. Which is a bit of a surprise, as composer Yasunori Nishiki is far from a household name at this point. I'm not at all sure he's going to give Project Octopath Traveler players something that approaches the ear-popping brilliance of Bravely Default's "Baby Bird" with the work he does here, but maybe that's for the best.

No joke, I think I prefer Project Octopath Traveler's battle system to Bravely Default's--And this is coming from someone who loved Bravely Default's battle system to death. Why? Project Octopath Traveler's is a lot snappier, for starters. Also, it's also more visceral, if that makes any sense. I feel a real jolt whenever one of my party members unleashes four strikes in a row against a foe while playing this demo. The battles in Project Octopath Traveler seem to be more dynamic than those in Bravely Default, too, due to subtle camera movements and some of the aforementioned graphical effects. Again, fingers and toes crossed that Asano and his crew don't mess with this aspect of the game before the final product sees the light of day.

I'm kind of surprised enemies remain static while fighting, but I also can't say it bothers me--I've seen a number of people complain about this on line, and although I can't fault their critiques, I also can't agree with it. Or at least I can't say the lack of enemy animations is keeping me from enjoying Project Octopath Traveler's battle scenes. Who knows, though, maybe the full game will surprise in this regard by adding a hint of movement to boss encounters or something like that.

So, that's how I feel about the Project Octopath Traveler demo after putting more than three hours into it. If you've played through it, too, share your thoughts, opinions, and impressions in the comments section of this post.

Friday, December 22, 2017

A few thoughts on VA-11 HALL-A (Vita) now that I've put nearly five hours into it

Besides Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, most of the games I've played in recent weeks and months try their best to sound, look, and even feel like ones that were released in the 1980s and 1990s.

Golf Story and even the Project Octopath Traveler demo for the Switch are two examples. The Vita port of Undertale, which I finally started a couple of weekends ago, is another. And then, of course, there are the just-hit-the-PlayStation-Store pair of 2064: Read Only Memories and Papers, Please. (OK, so I've yet to start those last two titles, but I'm planning to do so in short order.)

As successful as those games are at replicating their "retro" forebearers, VA-11 HALL-A outdoes all of them. How so? Find out by reading my impressions of this saucy, cyberpunk-y visual novel.

I adore the game's PC-98-esque graphics--I've loved the PC-98 "look" ever since I first traipsed across it many moons ago. (If you've never heard of the PC-98 before now, it's a lineup of Japanese 16-bit and 32-bit personal computers that dominated the domestic market in the 1980s and 1990s.) To see what I mean, check out this old NeoGAF thread, which is crammed full of luscious PC-98 game screenshots. Anyway, VA-11 HALL-A does magnificent job of looking like it was made during that era, and I couldn't be happier about it.

It has a glorious soundtrack--If I had to single out one aspect of VA-11 HALL-A as being head and shoulders above the rest, its soundtrack would be it. It's filled with the kind of music you want to listen to even when you're not playing the game. I don't know if it should be described as synthwave, synth-pop, ambient, or something else entirely, but it doesn't really matter. Calling it "blissful" is as spot-on as any other label you could slap on it. (The complete VA-11 HALL-A soundtrack is available on line, if you're curious.)

The story is surprisingly captivating--I honestly didn't expect to enjoy VA-11 HALL-A's story as much as I'm currently enjoying it. I expected it to be weird, and kind of wacky, too, but I didn't think it would be as interesting and even poignant as it is. As things stand, I never seem to tire of this game's nearly endless stream of text. I've rarely, if ever, said that about a visual novel before I tackled this one, which to me suggests VA-11 HALL-A is a pretty special example of the genre.

It seems I may be playing it incorrectly--Or at least too rigidly. Sadly, I didn't realize that until just the other day--which means I've been playing the game this way for more than four hours. Oh, well, I may as well continue along this current path until I reach VA-11 HALL-A's end credits. I'll do my best to approach my digital bartending duties as designer Christopher Ortiz seemingly intended during any subsequent playthroughs. Which means I won't be so robotic about always serving patrons what they say they want. (I thought that was the point, but it sounds like you're supposed to be creative in how you respond to customers' drink requests.)

Have you played some version of VA-11 HALL-A since it first released (for PC) back in 2016? If so, what are your impressions of it?

See also: a few thoughts on Golf Story, Super Mario Odyssey, and Yomawari: Night Alone

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Raise your hand (and leave a comment) if you want a copy of 2064: Read Only Memories for Vita

I recently interviewed MidBoss' Matt Conn about the just-released Vita version--as well as the upcoming Switch version--of 2064: Read Only Memories. (Keep an eye out for this one-on-one, by the way; I hope to publish it before the year wraps up.)

Shortly after he kindly answered my questions, Conn sent me four codes for 2064: Read Only Memories' Vita release.

Well, it's the time of year to give things to the people you love, so I'm giving these 2064: Read Only Memories codes to the folks who read (and especially comment on) this blog and push me to keep updating it.

All you have to do to win one of these codes is leave a comment (on this post) about why you're itching to play this version of the game. Oh, and leave that comment between now and midnight on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas day, I'll toss all of your names into a hat (really!) and the first four I pull out will get a 2064: Read Only Memories Vita code.

I'll announce the recipients here as well as on Facebook and Twitter that same day, so check out at least one of them on Dec. 25 to see if you're among the lucky winners!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Happy 6th anniversary, PS Vita!

I've got to admit I was a bit surprised to read, shortly after I woke up this morning, that today marks the sixth anniversary of the Vita's Japanese release.

It just doesn't seem like Sony's second handheld made its debut all the way back on Dec. 17, 2011, does it?

Granted, it's possible my perspective on the matter is a bit skewed because I took my sweet time in buying the company's PSP follow-up. In fact, I waited until early 2015 to get one--the beautiful "light pink and white" Vita only sold in Japan.

Although I can't quite say I prefer the Vita to its predecessor, nor can I say I prefer the Vita's library of games to the PSP's, I can say I'm a huge fan of the more recent portable and its extensive catalog all the same.

Hell, all you need to do is look at my lengthy "now playing" list--discussed in my last blog post--for proof.

Note: I stole this lovely photo from the official Japanese PlayStation Twitter account

For even more proof, consider that both Undertale and VA-11 HALL-A will be included in my upcoming "favorite games of 2017" write-up. Romancing SaGa 2 may sneak in under the wire, too, though I need a bit more time with it before I make a decision one way or the other.

And then there's the fact that a couple of weeks ago I bought boxed copies of two Japan-only Vita releases I've had my eye on for ages--SaGa: Scarlet Grace and Yuusha Shisu (aka Hero Must Die).

Given all of the above, I doubt I'll toss my Vita aside anytime soon. On the contrary, I expect to play it nearly as much as I play my Switch (and even my many 3DSes) in 2018 thanks not only to all the great titles that were published for the system this year but all the ones I picked up--and have yet to play--previously, too.

Are any of you still showing your Vita some love? If so, which games are you playing on it these days? And do you think you'll continue to use the system next year and beyond?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

I'm pretty sure I've never attempted to juggle as many games as I am right now

There's no question 2017 has been a good year for people who enjoy playing video games.

I wish I could say the same for my wallet--or the storage on my current go-to systems, the Switch and Vita, for that matter.

Speaking of which, look at all the new-ish games I'm attempting to play on my Switch at the moment: Elliot Quest, Floor Kids, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Slime-san, Super Bomberman R and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Admittedly, I'm more likely to play some of those Switch titles than others. For example, I doubt I'll devote too much more time to Elliot Quest from here on out, and the same probably could be said about Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime and Slime-san.

Still, the point stands that I'm juggling a lot of Switch games right now--and things are only going to get worse in that regard in just over a week, which is when I'm pretty sure I'll be getting Skyrim as a Christmas gift.

Over on my Vita, I'm struggling to spend time with a bunch of titles that were recently released for it, too.

Among them are four "hot off the presses" ports--2064: Read Only Memories, Papers, Please, Undertale, and VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action--although I'm also doing my best to wrap up my on-again-off-again playthrough of a game that came out ages ago, Yomawari: Night Alone. And this list will grow even longer on Friday once Romancing SaGa 2 finally hits the North American PlayStation Store.

Finally, I'm playing a couple of games on my laptop at the moment as well: Doki Doki Literature Club and Strange Flesh. And a copy of the curious 3DS RPG, Miitopia, just landed on my doorstep, so I'll be digging into that this weekend, assuming my schedule and attention span allow it.

Honestly, I can't remember the last time I was swimming in so many recently released games.

How about all of you? Are you feeling similarly overwhelmed--in a good way, mostly--by all of the great titles that have come out this year?

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 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

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