Thursday, April 06, 2017

Nice Package! (Landstalker, Mega Drive)

Sega's (or maybe I should say Climax Entertainment's) Landstalker is one of a small handful of games that really defined the 16-bit era for me.

As much as I loved the 8-bit systems--oh, boy, did I (and still do)--the color and resolution bumps showcased in games produced for their 16-bit successors blew my teenage mind.

If you aren't old enough to have lived through the transition from 8-bit to 16-bit gaming, compare the Famicom port of Konami's TwinBee to Pop'n TwinBee for the Super Famicom. Or compare, say, the battles in any of Enix's first four Dragon Quest titles to those in Tengai Makyou II: Manji Maru for the PC Engine Super CD-ROM2 system.

When Landstalker was first shown off in the gaming magazines I pored over as a youngster, I compared it to the likes of Square's Final Fantasy Adventure and Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Those titles were (and continue to be) gorgeous in their own right, of course, but back when Landstalker was released, especially, its aesthetic looked light years beyond what they offered up.

To be honest, I can't say I enjoyed playing Landstalker as much as I enjoyed playing Final Fantasy Adventure or A Link to the Past (the isometric perspective in Climax's effort often makes things awkward), but that's a different story.

At any rate, I'll always have a soft spot for Landstalker. Which I guess helps explain why I recently picked up a complete-on-box copy of the Japanese Mega Drive version of the game. (And before that, I bought copies of two other great Mega Drive games: Shining Force and Shining Force II. I guess I should add Shining and the Darkness to the pile ASAP.)

Would I have picked up a copy of Landstalker even if I hated the game? Given its eye-popping packaging, probably.

Hell, the cover art alone is worth the price of admission in my humble opinion, though its cart label (above) certainly is no slouch.

The Landstalker Mega Drive manual is a looker, too, as the photos included in this post hopefully prove.

Even the back of this Japanese game's box, below, is easy on the eyes.

Speaking of which, I love that someone at developer Climax named Landstalker's isometric engine. (That would be "Diamond Shaped Dimension System," or "DDS 520," for the curious.) Sadly, I don't believe they ever used it for another Mega Drive or Genesis game.

Are any of you Landstalker fans? If so, what are your favorite aspects of this 16-bit RPG?

See also: previous 'Nice Package!' posts

Monday, April 03, 2017

Manual Stimulation: Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe (GameBoy)

Considering how well Nintendo's GameBoy sold outside of Japan, the number of quality titles that never left the handheld's home country amazes me.

Technos' Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe: Ohanabatake wa Dai-Panic is a great example.

Its gameplay is difficult to describe, as it's unlike anything I've played before or since. If forced, I'd probably defer to something like "single-screen arcade action," but of course that doesn't give anyone much of an idea as to what they'll experience should they pick up and play a copy of this 1994 release.

Would calling it a cute tower-defense game help at all? That's basically what Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe is, although even that doesn't completely do its gameplay justice.

For some additional detail, read this 2014 write-up of mine: "Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe: Ohanabatake wa Dai-Panic is both a mouthful and an eyeful." I'd say more here, but I want this post to focus on the game's adorable instruction manual.

And it is adorable, don't you think? That's mostly due to its wonderful illustrations, of course, but I'd say it's also due to the pastel hues its designers used while printing it.

Actually, it's a good thing those pastels are present, because they really spruce up a few of the manual's handful of humdrum pages and spreads.

The map seen on the page below shows off the many different lands that host Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe's stages, by the way.

One cool thing about this game's stages is you can tackle them in whatever order strikes your fancy.