Friday, May 12, 2017

Nice Package! (Puzzle Bobble, WonderSwan)

I've got to be honest here: I was more than a bit apprehensive about buying a black-and-white port of Taito's Puzzle Bobble.

The fact is, I'm generally not all that interested in black-and-white ports of games that usually are drenched in color. You know, like, the platformer--Bubble Bobble--that spawned this puzzler. Or Puyo Puyo. Hell, even Pac-ManBomberman and Adventures of Lolo come to mind.

Still, I've had some good times with the pair of Bubble Bobble titles that were published for the GameBoy in 1990 and 1993. Also, I'm surprisingly fond of Rainbow Islands: Putty's Party, as I explained in my most recent "Welcome to WonderSwan World" write-up.

So, when I came across a rather cheap complete-in-box copy of Puzzle Bobble for WonderSwan a couple of months ago, I bit the bullet and bought it despite my initial reservations.

Am I happy I with my purchase now that I've spent some time with this seemingly gimped conversion of Taito's classic coin-op? Yes, I am.

I don't want to say too much about why that is in this post, though, because I'll cover a lot of that ground in a future installment of "Welcome to WonderSwan World."

What I'm willing to say here: Puzzle Bobble's WonderSwan port both looks and sounds better than you're probably imagining (you can see and hear what I'm talking about in this YouTube longplay of the game). Also, it's surprisingly enjoyable to play.

This iteration's graphics and gameplay aren't solely responsible for why I'm glad I added this title to my growing collection of WonderSwan carts, however. Just as responsible: its packaging, of course.

The best part of owning a complete-in-box copy of Puzzle Bobble for WonderSwan, in my humble opinion, is its cover art. Although not as amazing as the illustration conjured up for the game's Neo Geo Pocket Color port (see it here), it's basically on par with the one plastered across the front of the Puzzle Bobble Super Famicom box.

Going back to Puzzle Bobble's WonderSwan cover imagery, while looking at this post's first photo, you may notice it sports both a Taito as well as a Sunsoft logo.

That's because, unlike the original arcade release of Puzzle Bobble, which Taito developed and published, Sunsoft published this one--at the beginning of July in 1999.

Sunsoft didn't develop it, though. A company called Yoshidayama Workshop handled that task.

Don't worry if Yoshidayama Workshop doesn't ring a bell; before I started doing my research for this post, I'd never come across its name either.

Which makes sense, as according to GameFAQs, Yoshidayama Workshop only ever developed a small handful of video games. Besides this portable Puzzle Bobble, it also produced two other WonderSwan titles (Meta Communication Therapy: Nee Kiite!, released in 2000, and Wonder Classic, released in 2001) and a Japan-only GameBoy cartridge called Itsudemo! Nyan to Wonderful.

I can't speak to the quality of that trio of games, as I've never played any of them, but I can say Yoshidayama Workshop did a pretty good job down-porting Taito's Bubble Bobble-inspired puzzler to the WonderSwan hardware.

I wish I could say the same about the designers who created this title's instruction booklet. Sure, it's colorful, as a glance at the photo above should make clear, but it's also devoid of the kinds of illustrations that pop up in every other Bubble Bobble or Puzzle Bobble manual I've seen to date.

Oh, well, it's hardly the end of the world--especially when the rest of this Puzzle Bobble release's packaging is so stellar.

What do you think of the box, cartridge and manual shots shown throughout this post? Also, what do you think of this version of Puzzle Bobble? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

See also: previous 'Nice Package!' posts

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Now that I've finished StreetPass Mii Plaza: Monster Manor, let's talk about how brilliant it is

I've played most of the StreetPass Mii Plaza games Nintendo has made available to 3DS owners since early 2011, and I've had a blast with pretty much all of them.

The ones that have given me the most joy in that time: Battleground Z, Find MiiFlower TownMii ForceMonster Manor and Ultimate Angler.

Besides Find Mii and Monster Manor, though, none of the just-mentioned titles were able to hold my attention or maintain my interest for more than a month or two.

The Prope-made Monster Manor, in particular, has enthralled me since I first bought and downloaded it. I can't estimate how much time I devoted to it in 2013, 2014 or 2015, but I can say it was almost singlehandedly responsible for me dumping more than 39 hours into StreetPass Mii Plaza in 2016.

I've also put a good number of hours into it this year. The reason: I wanted to finish the climb to Monster Manor's top floor before Nintendo pulls the plug on StreetPass (or, you know, before StreetPass encounters completely fall off a cliff).

Well, I did just that a couple of weeks ago. And now? I'm sort of depressed, to be honest. I was so sucked into this bite-sized adventure that I basically never wanted it to end.

As for what prompted me to develop such feelings about Monster Manor, well, the short answer is I loved--and continue to love--every aspect of it.

I love its deeper-than-it-first-appears gameplay, which bizarrely, yet successfully, combines elements of Tetris with those of a bare-bones RPG. I love the ghouls you encounter in the titular mansion's haunted hallways. I love the creatively designed and upgradeable weapons you find hidden in treasure chests that are tucked away in its rooms. I love its appropriately spooky--as well as jaunty--soundtrack.

And of course I love that it can be played in short spurts. Hell, I'd say it's supposed to be played in short spurts--whenever you get a handful of StreetPasses and whenever you have a few spare minutes. At any rate, games that don't ask for much of a commitment are the ones that are most compatible with my life at the moment, which only added to Monster Manor's appeal.

Sadly, as much as I love this digital morsel of a video game, and as much as I loved slowly but surely making my way through its 50 stages, I can't imagine I'll ever return to it now that I've seen its credit roll.

I know I could pick it up again down the road by StreetPassing myself (assuming Nintendo doesn't make that impossible by disabling the app entirely), but right now that sounds about as appetizing as returning to my aborted playthroughs of Hometown Story or Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley. (That's overstating things a tad, of course, but I'm sure you get the drift of what I'm saying here.)

Oh, well, at least I was able to experience Monster Manor in all its glory once.

How about you? Have any of you finished, or at least spent some time playing, Monster Manor? If so, share your thoughts and impressions in the comments section of this post.

Another option: share how you feel about the fact that we're unlikely to see games like this on the StreetPass-less Switch.