Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Manual Stimulation: Burning Paper (GameBoy)

Stop me if you've heard this before: I first became interested in Burning Paper because of its brightly colored box art.

I also found its Bomberman-esque protagonist to be intriguing.

Thankfully, there's more to this 1993 Japan-only release than its snazzy cover imagery. In fact, I think its gameplay which reminds of Qix mixed with Space Invaders, is even more impressive than its box art. I might say the same of the Burning Paper soundtrack, which features some surprisingly top-shelf tunes.



The game's instruction manual, showcased here, is worth mentioning, too. It starts off a bit slowly, but once it gets going, it doesn't look back.



Honestly, though, even the blander pages of the Burning Paper manual are easy on the eyes thanks to the complementary green and orange inks its designers decided to use while printing it.



The booklet's first few spreads explain Burning Paper's story, controls, and--uh, whatever the right-hand page above details.



From there, it introduces players to the game's protagonist, Bomberman--I mean, Burningman--as well as its insect-inspired bosses.



Next, the Burning Paper instruction manual gives readers a glimpse of the enemies that inhabit this Japanese GameBoy game's bonus stages. Oh, and it offers up a rundown of its handful of collectible items, too.



The highlight of this impressively meaty booklet is the six-page salvo of enemy names, descriptions, and illustrations.



I don't know about you, but I think the first batch of baddies you encounter while making your way through Burning Paper's initial couple of stages are far better than the ones that come later.



Even so, this title, both developed and published by the little-known company, LOZC G. Amusements, is a delight. If you're still up for playing GameBoy games in one way or another, I'd highly recommend devoting a few minutes to this one as soon as you've got the time.

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts about Bubble Bobble Junior, Noobow, Peetan, and Snow Bros. Jr.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A few thoughts on Witch & Hero III now that I've put about four hours into it

The Witch & Hero series and I go way back (see this old post and this one, too, for proof), so of course I bought Witch & Hero III as soon as it hit the Japanese 3DS eShop late last month.

Since then, I've devoted just under four hours to the game's globe-trotting, witch-protecting adventure. For the curious, that's taken me through around 32 of its single-screen stages. Sadly, I have no idea how many the game contains. If I had to guess, I'd go with 50 or so. Even if it ends up being just 40, though, I'll walk away feeling like Witch & Hero III was worth the 400 Yen (about $4) I spent on it.

That doesn't mean I've found Witch & Hero III to be a perfect game thus far. As is the case with its predecessors, it has its flaws. Overall, though, I'm having a lot of fun with it--to the point I'd say it's my second-favorite of the series' three releases.

What do I like about Witch & Hero III and what do I dislike about it? Here are a few examples of both:

Finally, the action takes place on the 3DS' top screen--I've always found it strange that developer Flyhigh Works put the action of the first two Witch & Hero games on the 3DS' bottom screen. Someone there must've agreed with me, as the action in Witch & Hero III takes place on the 3DS' top screen where it belongs. To be honest, I can't say the game feels all that different as a result, but I'm glad its devs made the switch all the same.



The new enemies and environments are a welcome change of pace--If you thought the enemies and environments in the first two Witch & Hero games seemed a bit samey, you'll love all the new ones that pop up in part three. I especially get a kick out of the humongous boss creatures that appear at the end of certain stages. The series' previous entries occasionally tossed larger-than-usual baddies at you, but they were just blown-up versions of regular enemy sprites. Here, they're completely unique--and beautiful--creations that command your attention by taking up a surprisingly large portion of the screen.

That said, the handful of ice stages can die in a fire--I usually enjoy ice stages in games. Not here. That's mainly because Witch & Hero III's ice stages often feel like you're on a pinball table and stuck between 20 or more bumpers. It's funny the first few times you tackle a stage, but after that it's just annoying. The good news is Witch & Hero III features only a handful of ice stages, so my advice is to grit your teeth and get through them as quickly as you can.



I don't enjoy Witch & Hero III's soundtrack as much as I enjoyed the ones featured in earlier entries--This isn't to suggest the backing tunes that play throughout each Witch & Hero III stage suck. Some of them are pretty darn good, but many others are forgettable at best. I don't consider that to be a huge deal, and I don't think you should either, but I thought it was worth mentioning here anyway.

Thank goodness you don't have to control your partner this time around--At first, being able to move both the hero and the witch at the same time while playing Witch & Hero II was a thrilling change of pace from the series' first release. After a while, though, it seemed more cumbersome than anything else. My biggest fear going into Witch & Hero III was that it would double down on this back-of-the-box bullet point. (All of the game's promotional materials show two heroes, as well as the eponymous witch, on each screen.) Thankfully, it doesn't. Although you're fully able to control both heroes (one using the 3DS' circle pad, the other using its face buttons), you also can hand over control of the second hero to the computer. For me, the latter has been far preferable to the former so far.



These games are more strategic than they initially seem, I swear--If you only play the first 10 or so stages of Witch & Hero III, or the first 10 or so stages of the other two Witch & Hero titles, you'll likely wonder why I like them so much. To understand my fascination with them, you really have to go further than that. Eventually, it becomes pretty clear that to master these games, you have to balance a number of components: the witch's health meter, the health meters of the two heroes, the magic (or "blood") meters of all three characters, the "Holy Power" meter, and more. It all sounds a lot easier in theory than it is in practice, and it's one of the main reasons every new Witch & Hero release excites me a bit more than the last.

Get ready to deal with a lot of slowdown--On the one hand, it's cool that many of Witch & Hero III's stages feature more enemy sprites than ever. On the other hand, all of those slowly creeping sprites cause a lot of slowdown. Bizarrely, it hasn't bothered me much to date, but I have a feeling it will bother many who play the game. So, if slowdown is a deal-breaker for you, think long and hard before you plop down $4 on Witch & Hero III when it makes its way onto your region's 3DS eShop in the coming months.

See also: my Witch & Hero review and my Witch & Hero II review

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Eight old games I'm going to play (and hopefully finish) in 2018

I don't often set goals for myself regarding how many games I want to play or even "beat" in a given year, but I'm making an exception in 2018 in the hopes it'll push me to dilly-dally a bit less than I did in 2017.

The thing is, all but one of the titles listed below are RPGs, which means I'm unlikely to finish all of them even if I do somehow manage to start them by the end of the year. As such, let's just say I'll give it my best shot, OK?

At any rate, here are eight "old" games I'm planning to play (and hopefully) finish between now and Dec. 31, 2018.

Chocobo no Fushigi na Dungeon (Wonderswan)--Between March and July of last year, I published seven "Welcome to WonderSwan World" posts. I've published zero since. To get back into the swing of things, I'd like to play a WonderSwan game that doesn't tax my brain too much. I'm not entirely sure this Chocobo no Fushigi na Dungeon port fits that bill, but I'm willing to give it a go anyway. No matter what, it should prove to be less of a challenge than the WonderSwan versions of Makai Toushi SaGa (the first Final Fantasy Legend in North America) and Romancing SaGa.



Fragile Dreams (Wii)--This is yet another of those games I've meant to start for eons but have yet to get around to for all sorts of reasons. Granted, I was Wii-less for most of 2017, and that put a real damper on any plans I may have had for this intriguing, post-apocalyptic RPG. And then when I was reunited with my Wii, I used it to play Opoona and Tabemon rather than Fragile Dreams. Well, I doubt I'll ever finish Opoona, and Tabemon is the kind of game you put an hour or so into now and then when you crave something light and frivolous, so my Wii's disc slot should be free to accept a replacement.

Last Window (DS)--I wasn't sure what to expect when I started my way through Hotel Dusk back in the summer of 2015. After just a few hours with it, though, I was smitten. Combined, its atmosphere, characters, soundtrack, and aesthetic add up to something akin to perfection if, like me, you enjoy a good whodunit. I desperately wanted to gobble up its sequel the second I was finished with Hotel Dusk, of course, but I moved on to another game instead and have yet to return to my European copy of Last Window. Maybe I'll stick its cart into my 3DS as soon as I wrap up my Miitopia playthrough.

Mother 3 (GameBoy Advance)--In 2014, I finished EarthBound for the very first time. In 2017, I finished that game's predecessor, Mother, for the first time. Given that, I shouldn't be expected to finish Mother 3 until 2020. I don't want to wait that long, though, so I'm going to do my best to fit it into 2018. To be perfectly honest, I'd prefer to play the game in English, so I'm desperately hoping Nintendo finally sees fit to release a localized version of Mother 3 via the Switch eShop sometime soon. If not, I guess I'll have to break down and tackle the Japanese cart I've owned for a good while now.



Sekai wa Atashi de Mawatteru: Hikari to Yami no Princess (PSP)--If Sekai wa Atashi de Mawatteru doesn't ring a bell, maybe My World, My Way does? Hikari to Yami no Princess basically is an updated version of that Atlus-published (outside of Japan) DS RPG that puts you in the shoes of a pouty, landscape-altering princess. I'm always up for giving my PSP some love, and I thoroughly enjoyed the 10 or so hours I put into My World, My Way a couple of years ago, so I figure checking out my Hikari to Yami no Princess UMD over the next few months may well wind up being the best of both worlds.

Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS)--OK, so this isn't really an "old" game, but it seems like I've owned (and ignored) it for ages now, so for me it deserves to be included here. If I'm to be honest, I'd say the main reason I've dragged my feet on playing Shin Megami Tensei IV for so long is that all of the online chatter about the game being a bit of a nightmare has me spooked. Still, I spent good money to buy the damn thing, so I'm going to play it even if it kills me. On a semi-related note: I also want to boot up my long-overlooked copy of Bravely Second at some point in 2018.



Suikoden (PlayStation)--Konami's Suikoden series has never really been on my radar. To be frank, the visuals of its PS one releases, especially, never appealed to me, and that's basically prompted me to steer clear of them. At least, that was the case before social-media mutterings and PSN sales collided and convinced me to pick up digital copies of Suikoden I and II via my beloved Vita. I've read that Suikoden II is the better of the two games, but it just seems wrong to me to begin a series with its second offering, so I'm going to start with the original.

Super Mario RPG (SNES)--Can you believe I've never played this one? Hell, I can't believe it myself. And I can't even tell you why I've never played it. I recall being excited about it when it was announced, but I have no memory of why I failed to buy it after it hit store shelves. Maybe it was too expensive? Or maybe a bunch of other appealing SNES games came out around the same time and I forgot about it once I was done with them? Whatever the case may be, I really--and finally--want to experience what Super Mario RPG has to offer before 2019 arrives.

Are there any old games you want to put at least some time into by the end of this year? If so, share their names, and why you want to play them, in the comments section of this post.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Eight games I finished in 2017

I played a lot of games last year--even more than the 20 I highlighted in my "how I spent my time in 2017" post--but I didn't finish or "beat" too many of them.

Specifically, I completed a grand total of eight, and one was a demo. (A meaty demo, to be sure, but a demo nonetheless.) Here they are:

Dragon Quest VII (3DS)--I spent more than a decade longing to play Dragon Quest VII before I picked up its 3DS port in late 2016. In fact, I distinctly remember spotting a discounted PSone console and a copy of the game while shopping at Target in the early 2000s and struggling with whether or not I should buy both in one fell swoop. I passed in the end, but I think that made me even more eager than I would've been otherwise to play this portable remake. Sadly, all of that anticipation meant bubkes when I finally booted it up. Although I enjoyed a lot of what it offered, that enjoyment was constantly tested by bouts of boredom and fits of annoyance. Basically, Dragon Quest VII too often felt like a drag. As such, I'm glad I stuck with this game until the end, but I can pretty much guarantee I'll never pick it up again.



Golf Story (Switch)--If you would've told me before I started playing it that Golf Story had enough content to last more than 17 hours, I'd have responded with an eye roll of epic proportions. Although this game has its fair share of issues--it doesn't do a great job of explaining how things work, for instance, and it's surprisingly buggy (or it was before it was patched)--its captivating story and charming visuals do a lot to mitigate them and make those hours fly by (or at least they did in my case).

Kirby: Planet Robobot (3DS)--After devoting nearly 100 hours of my life to the Dragon Quest VII 3DS remake between late 2016 and early 2017, switching over to Kirby: Planet Robobot was the gaming equivalent of a breath of fresh air. Not only did it take me just nine hours to reach Planet Robobot's end credits, but the overall experience was so breezy and light that I wouldn't be surprised if I grinned the whole way through. On a related note, it was such a nice change of pace to play a game that didn't feel the need to artificially prolong its experience.



Mother (Famicom)--I've been itching to play the original Mother ever since I finished--for the very first time, I might add--the series' second release all the way back in early 2014. I actually started Mother a few years ago, but walked away (for reasons I can't remember) after just a couple of hours. Halfway through 2017, I decided to take another stab at it. This time, I got so sucked into it that I played little else during the two-week, 20-plus-hour period I spent with the game. In fact, the experience left such an impression on me that I now think I prefer Mother to its (admittedly far slicker) sequel.

Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World (3DS)--I don't know how I did it, but somehow I finished two 3DS platformers back to back in early 2017. I'm not suggesting this is some kind of amazing feat, mind you; it's more that I usually don't like to play, let alone "beat," two games of the same genre in succession. I guess it says a lot about both Planet Robobot and this portable Woolly World port that tackled them around the same time. I'm going to "blame" Dragon Quest VII for enabling this accomplishment, as after putting almost 100 hours into that slog of a game I desperately needed a peppy palate cleanser--or two, apparently. As for which proved more satisfying, I'm going to have to go with Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World here, if only because it offered up more of a challenge. (I've never been the biggest fan of cake-walk side-scrollers.)



Project Octopath Traveler demo (Switch)--I waited a long time to tackle the Project Octopath Traveler demo--especially when you consider it was what prompted me to buy a Switch in 2017 instead of in 2018. Why I dilly-dallyed is beyond me, although I have a feeling I did so because I knew playing it would make the wait for full game borderline unbearable. And guess what? I was right. This bite-sized preview of Project Octopath Traveler blew me away even more than I thought it would thanks to its eye-popping visuals, thrilling battles, and top-shelf soundtrack. Given that, I sincerely hope the finished product hits store shelves in my neck of the woods as early as possible this year.

The Starship Damrey (3DS)--Admittedly, it's pretty easy to finish a game that only lasts for a few hours. Still, a lot of people probably passed on The Starship Damrey due to its far-from-stellar word of mouth, so I'm going to pat myself on the back for making it through its creepy, corridor-stalking adventure anyway. I'd personally say it's well worth experiencing even now if you're open to buying and playing 3DS games in 2018--especially if you wait for publisher Level-5 to discount it. It's currently $7.99 (on the North American eShop), which I think is a bit rich for a four-hour game, but that regularly drops by about half, so keep an eye out for a sale if you're at all intrigued. Not yet convinced? Read my Starship Damrey review.



Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)--Before I booted up my copy of Super Mario Odyssey for the first time, I worried it might not live up to the brilliance of the Super Mario Galaxy titles. After watching its end credits and starting through its post-game content, I couldn't help but wonder why I was so skeptical. For me, Odyssey bests the Galaxy efforts in almost every area. Just as importantly, in my opinion, is that Mario's latest adventure is one that never lets up. Right when you think a kingdom is about to overstay its welcome, another opens up and begs to be explored. If your playthrough is anything like mine, the whole thing will be over before you know it.

Did you finish any games in 2017? If so, which ones? Share their names as well as a few thoughts on them in the comments section of this post.

Friday, January 05, 2018

My most popular posts of 2017

Before I start cranking out forward-looking content for 2018, let's take one last look at 2017.

Specifically, here are this blog's 12 most popular posts from last year (arranged in order of most views to least). If you see a headline that doesn't look familiar, check it out. Who knows, you may have missed a real gem.

1. Five overlooked GameBoy Advance games you need to play as soon as possible

2. Ten questions with the guy chiefly responsible for the English fan translation of Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love



3. The best 3DS eShop games you've never played (or, 10 overlooked 3DS eShop games you need to try as soon as possible)

4. Nice Package! (Mizzurna Falls, PlayStation)

5. If Nintendo put me in charge of a GameBoy Classic Edition, here are the 30 games it would include

6. Five favorites: Famicom leading ladies



7. A few thoughts on Golf Story for Switch now that I've put about eight hours into it

8. Five overlooked Nintendo DS games you need to play as soon as possible

9. Nice Package! (Bubble Bobble, Famicom Disk System)

10. Don't mind me, I'm just completely obsessed with Nintendo's Mother at the moment



11. In honor of the 28th anniversary of GameBoy's Japanese release, here are a handful of my all-time favorite GB games

12. My 10 Most Influential Games: Balloon Kid (GameBoy)

I'm not finished with my "most influential games" series, by the way, although I did forgot about it for a while. The same is true of my "Welcome to WonderSwan World" series. Look for new entries for both to be published soon.

See also: my most popular posts of 2016

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

How I spent my time (with video games) in 2017

The 2016 version of this post focused entirely on Nintendo 3DS games. There was a good reason for that: aside from a few "retro" titles, I only played 3DS games that year.

That certainly wasn't the case in 2017. Of the 20 titles listed below, only seven are 3DS releases. Five others are Switch games, three are for Vita, and the rest are divided between the Famicom, GameBoy, DS, and Wii.

With that out of the way, here are the games I put the most time into over the last 12 months:
  • Dragon Quest VII (3DS)--43 hours, 50 minutes
  • Mother (Famicom)--23 hours 30 minutes
  • Opoona (Wii)--20 hours
  • Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World (3DS)--17 hours, 45 minutes
  • Golf Story (Switch)--17 hours, 15 minutes
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)--16 hours, 45 minutes
  • Dragon Quest Builders (Vita)--12 hours
  • Miitopia (3DS)--10 hours, 45 minutes
  • Kirby: Planet Robot (3DS)--9 hours
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)--7 hours, 45 minutes

As strange as this may sound, I have a strong feeling 3DS, Switch, and Vita games will dominate the 2018 version of this post as well.

I don't expect the 3DS to lead the way as it did in 2017, though; if I had to guess, I'd say the Switch will move into the pole position this year, followed by the 3DS and then the Vita.

If you know how much time you spent with various games in 2017, please share the details in the comments section that follows.

Monday, January 01, 2018

What a fabulous way to kick off 2018: the Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love English translation patch has been released

Eight months ago, I published a post that declared an English (fan) translation of Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love for the Nintendo DS was nearing completion.

Well, a patch containing that translation was released last night, just in time to close out 2017 with a wonderfully fabulous bang. (Download it now at tingletranslation.blogspot.com.)


I plan to start through it this coming week, and I'll do my best to share at least a few thoughts on the experience here by the end of the month.

In the meantime, those of you who are curious to learn more about the Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love fan translation should check out my interview with the guy chiefly responsible for getting the project off the ground.