Friday, January 20, 2017

Five overlooked Sega Game Gear games you need to play as soon as possible

So few titles were made and released for the Sega Game Gear that it's hard to believe any of them could be considered overlooked.

The fact remains, though, that the masses basically ignored this brick-sized "portable" system, so it's probably safe to say they did the same to its meager (compared to its main competitor, Nintendo's GameBoy) games library while the bulky handheld was on the market from the early to mid 1990s.

And not only that, but the masses continue to ignore the system and its catalog. Think your average game fan turns his or her nose up at the GameBoy (and, believe me, they do) these days? At least they've likely heard of Nintendo's first handheld. The same can't be said of the Game Gear or the overlooked "gems" discussed here.

Alien Syndrome--I have a feeling a lot of people pass on this version of Sega's Alien-inspired run-and-gun shooter because they assume it's a turd. In reality, it's better than both the NES and Master System ports of the 1987 arcade game. Sadly, the Game Gear iteration of Alien Syndrome offers platers just four stages, but they're challenging--and fun--enough that most who give it a shot won't care. (Bonus: the Japanese release sports a superb piece of cover art.)

Berlin no Kabe (aka The Berlin Wall)--If you're a fan of single-screen platformers, you'll adore this portable reimagining of Kaneko's oddly named quartermuncher from 1991. Not only is Berlin no Kabe cute as can be, but its gameplay is a breath of fresh air. I mean, what's not to like about creating traps for a colorful cast of baddies by using a hammer to smash holes in the floor beneath their scampering feet?

Bubble Bobble--Here's another Game Gear title many folks likely ignore because they imagine it's not worth their while. Or maybe they think it's just a port of the Master System version of Taito's classic arcade game. Whatever the reason, those who own a Game Gear but have yet to pick up a copy of Bubble Bobble are doing themselves a disservice. This remake (of sorts) features miniaturized stages and full-sized Bub, Bob and enemy sprites, which results in a strangely unique--as well as strangely enjoyable--experience.

Ganbare Gorby! (aka Factory Panic)--Honestly, I'd consider this Sega-made oddity worth buying and playing even if it weren't much fun thanks to the fact that its protagonist resembles former president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev. Thankfully, it is fun. Although its box cover suggests its a puzzler, a more accurate way to describe it would be to call it an arcade-style action game. (Not enough info for you? You press switches to change the course of a series of conveyor belts, with the goal being to deliver products like bread and meat and medicine to needy citizens.) Ganbare Gorby! isn't groundbreaking, to be sure, but it's also not a bad way to waste a bit of free time.

Magical Puzzle Popils--Made by Fukio Mitsuji, the man who's chiefly responsible for giving the world both Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands, Magical Puzzle Popils (Popils: The Blockbusting Challenge in Europe) is the best Game Gear cart around in the opinion of yours truly. Unlike the aforementioned titles, Popils is a brain-busting puzzle game with eye-pleasing graphics and an ear-pleasing soundtrack.

See also: five overlooked GameBoy, Famicom, PC Engine and PlayStation games you need to play as soon as possible

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Nice Package! (Shining Force II, Mega Drive)

Although I've been a fan of Sega's 16-bit console--the Genesis in North America, and the Mega Drive elsewhere--since it first came out in the late 1980s, I only began "collecting" for it last year.

Even then, I've only got three Japanese Mega Drive games at the moment: the first Shining Force, the sequel highlighted here and the similarly styled ARPG, Landstalker.

All three titles have me wondering why it took me so long to start buying Mega Drive cartridges. After all, as the photos in this post hopefully show, as well as those found in the "Nice Package!" write-up I published about the original Shining Force, Sega produced some stellar packaging for its Japanese 16-bit games.

Now, I can't quite say I prefer Shining Force II's box art, above, to that of the first Shining Force, but I still like the former a lot. Maybe if Shining Force II's main illustration took up the entirety of its case's cover I'd find it more appealing?

I also prefer Shining Force's side spine to that of its sequel.

Both games' cartridges sport rather snazzy labels, thankfully, with Shining Force II's on display in the snapshot below.

One area where the Japanese Shining Force II ably competes with the SRPG series' initial entry is its instruction manual.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the section of the Shining Force II manual that showcases that game's colorful cast of characters.

The back side of Shining Force II's Japanese case probably is the least impressive part of its packaging, but that's OK. Most of the rest of it is nice enough that it's easy enough to overlook.

See also: previous 'Nice Package!' posts

Monday, January 16, 2017

If you could only buy three of these 3DS games, which ones would you get?

Now that we've all (mostly) got the excitement surrounding "Nintendo Switch Presentation 2017" out of our systems, let's chat about something else.

Today, the "something else" consists of helping me figure out which of the following six North American 3DS games I should buy this week.

What can I say? I have a few "free" bucks to blow, and I want to blow them on a few more titles for my favorite handheld.

I really only have enough to pick up three of the 3DS games mentioned below, though, so keep that in mind while coming up with your suggestions.

Corpse Party--I actually pre-ordered the North American 3DS port of Corpse Party well in advance of its just-in-time-for-Halloween release date. I canceled it before the game hit the streets, though, as I knew I wouldn't be able to play it by the end of the year. I also wasn't a huge fan of its $49.99 asking price. I'm still not a fan of it, to be honest. Still, I'd really like to play this iteration of Team GrisGris' iconic survival-horror title, so I'm including it here as a possibility.

Kid Icarus: Uprising--I know it's bizarre that I've yet to play this long-time-coming sequel to one of my all-time favorite NES games. At first, my disinterest was due to all of the online whining about Uprising's quirky controls. Later, it was due to there being too many new 3DS titles coming out that I wanted more than this "old" one. Now that the system's time as a "relevant" system is nearing its end, though, I'm itching to pick up a few of the gems that were released early on in its existence.

Kirby: Planet Robobot--Although I used to turn up my nose at the Kirby series, that all changed after I finally played my first real entry. (That would be Epic Yarn for the Wii, by the way. Previously, I'd played--and loved--Canvas Curse for the DS, but that's hardly a traditional Kirby game.) I've read only positive reactions to Planet Robobot, so I figure I should consider giving it a go, too.

Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World--I've got to be honest here: I'm pretty sure I'll buy this 3DS port of Woolly World whether or not any of you suggest I do so. Yoshi games have long had a hold on me, even when they've ended up being stinkers. That said, if some of you really hated the Wii U version of this title, let me know. After all, the portable iteration surely is going to look worse than the original, and I doubt it's going to play better, so I probably should pass on it if the consensus is it's a turd.

River City: Tokyo Rumble--I've been on the fence about Tokyo Rumble since it was first announced for North American release. As for why I've failed to buy it until now, that would be because I'm just not sure I'll enjoy its gameplay over the long haul. In the past, brawlers have bored me to tears, and even though this new River City title is priced well enough, that won't mean much to me if I tuck it away after putting just a few hours into it.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers--The last thing I need right now is another JRPG in my backlog. None of the ones currently residing there are set in modern times, though, and only a few are dungeon-crawlers. So, Soul Hackers is as deserving of consideration as any other 3DS game discussed in this post. The question is: does it deserve to be bought?

So, what do you think? Which of these 3DS games should I get?

UPDATE: I've made my decision, and the games I'll be ordering are Kid Icarus: Uprising, Kirby: Planet Robobot and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers.

Although I initially thought I would choose Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World over Kirby, I went with the latter in the end because it's currently cheaper than the former ($33 compared to $40), and I have a feeling Yoshi will see a similar price cut (even if unofficial) in the coming months. Also, based on what many of you said here, on Facebook and on Twitter, it sounds like Planet Robobot is a better, more enjoyable platformer than Woolly World.

Anyway, thank you helping me with this dilemma. Hopefully I'll be able to share impressions of all of these titles soon!