Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Nice Package! (Ninja Jajamaru-kun: Sakura-hime to Karyu no Himitsu, 3DS)

Although I've wanted a copy of Ninja Jajamaru-kun: Sakura-hime to Karyu no Himitsu since it was first announced for release, I wasn't willing to pay full price for one.

So, I bided my time. That patience paid off last fall--three-and-a-half years after it first hit the streets of Japan--when I came across an unopened copy of this 3DS title being sold for just $20.

Was it worth the wait--and my 20 bucks? I'd say so, though I've only played Sakura-hime to Karyu no Himitsu for a couple of hours thus far.

Thankfully, that was enough for me to see that this latest Ninja Jajamaru-kun sequel (you can read about earlier ones via is a real treat for the eyes, at the very least.

It's fun, too, don't get me wrong. Sakura-hime to Karyu no Himitsu's platforming action isn't going to win awards for its uniqueness, but it's crisp and solid and enjoyable enough. That's more than I was expecting from it, to be honest, so I'm happy with my investment.

All that said, I wouldn't have minded if Jaleco's designers had made the protagonist and enemy sprites larger. In their current state, they're a bit too small for my liking. Still, they're well drawn and nicely animated, so it's hard to complain too loudly.

With that out of the way, are you up for a little history lesson? The first tidbit I'd like to pass along is that Sakura-hime to Karyu no Himitsu actually began life (in 2006) as a DS game. And not only that, but it had a different subtitle at that point in time: Pen wa Ken Yori mo Tsuyoshi de Gozaru, which according to the folks at Hardcore Gaming 101 translates to something like The Pen is Greater than the Sword.

For whatever reason, Ninja Jajamaru-kun: Pen wa Ken Yori mo Tsuyoshi de Gozaru never saw the light of day. However, it's pretty clear that game lives on in Sakura-hime to Karyu no Himitsu, which hit Japanese store shelves (as well as that region's 3DS eShop) in 2013. Early screenshots of the DS title show off characters and environments that are nearly identical to comparable elements found in the 3DS release.

Also, you may have noticed that the cover art and cartridge label above sport "Hamster" logos. That's because although Jaleco developed Sakura-hime to Karyu no Himitsu and seemingly intended to publish it as well, those plans changed when the company was bought out by Game Yarou.

At some point along the way, Hamster Corporation stepped in and brought the game to market. I wish I could tell you when or why or how this intervention came about, but I can't.

As for Ninja Jajamaru-kun: Sakura-hime to Karyu no Himitsu's packaging, I, for one, think it's fairly nice. I especially like the colorful cover art. Curiously, copies don't come with a full-fledged instruction manual; instead, they come with a single sheet of paper that explains the game's controls and that's it.

Oh, well, I guess it's better than nothing--which is what you get when you buy a boxed 3DS game these days.

See also: previous 'Nice Package!' posts about KiKi KaiKai and Son Son II for the PC Engine

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Manual Stimulation: Pitman (GameBoy)

There are all kinds of reasons to own a complete-in-box copy of Asmik's Pitman, called Catrap outside of Japan.

For starters, it's simply a great game--filled with a bit of action and a lot of puzzle-solving. Also, it sports some adorable sprites and animations. (You can see both in this video.)

Oh, and its soundtrack is pretty nice, too.

Besides that, this GameBoy title's packaging is easy on the eyes. Shockingly, I think I prefer Catrap's cover art to Pitman's, but both are lovely. (See this "Another Year of the GameBoy" post for photos of Pitman's box and cartridge.)

Also lovely: Pitman's instruction manual, which obviously is the focus of this write-up.

My favorite aspect of the Pitman manual is its illustrations. (A total shocker, I know.)

I think my favorite of the whole bunch is the one that's found on the booklet's back cover, but the ones showcased on the pages above are snazzy, too.

At any rate, the Pitman instruction manual is stuffed to the gills with such art. Nearly every page is home to some sort of drawing.

Unfortunately, the following spread, which explains how Pitman's password and edit modes work, is one of those illustration-free sections of the manual, but the one above contains a slew so don't look for me to complain.

By the way, does anyone else get kind of a 1970s vibe from the art style used throughout this booklet? Which is funny, as I'm usually turned off by that sort of thing. Here, though, I think it's fitting and adds to the manual's charm.

So, what do you think? Are you now a fan of Pitman and its instruction manual, or do you think it's the definition of "meh"?

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts about Snow Bros. Jr., Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe and Totsugeki Ponkotsu Tank