Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Five more overlooked Famicom games you need to play as soon as possible

I've published a bunch of "overlooked games you need to play as soon as possible" posts over the last year and a half.

One focused on oft-ignored PC Engine games. Later write-ups focused on Japanese PlayStationGame GearGameBoyGameBoy AdvanceDS, and 3DS eShop games.

And of course another, which first went live all the way back in November of 2016, focused on overlooked Famicom games.

A recent Twitter conversation prompted me to take another look at that last post. Afterward, I thought of a few more great Famicom games people tend to pass on and so decided to chat about them here.

Don Doko Don 2--I know the Famicom is home to a ton of wonderful platformers, many of which do more to impress than this 1992 release. Still, I've long had a soft spot for it due to its adorable cast of characters, candy-coated visuals, and surprisingly appealing backing tunes. OK, so Don Doko Don 2's gameplay isn't as unique as it probably should be considering its protagonist wields a variety of hammers as weapons. It's loads of fun regardless, and for me that's more important than--or at least as important as--all of the above-mentioned bells and whistles when it comes to side-scrolling platformers.

Flying Hero--I've never been much of a fan of ArkanoidBreakout, or any of the copycats and pretenders that have followed in their wake over the last four or so decades. The lone exception to that rule is this Aicom-developed title. It switches things up just enough for the bat-and-ball gameplay at its core to feel refreshing. Usually, you control some sort of oval or rectangular "ship." Here, that's replaced by a pair of firefighters holding a net. With most Breakout clones, a ball bounces around the screen and destroys blocks or bricks. In Flying Hero, a third fireman ricochets across each stage in an attempt to rescue people from burning buildings. Combine those aesthetic updates with settings that include castles, forests, and even outer space, and you've got a great way to spend a chunk of your free time.

Hello Kitty World--A lot of people probably turn up their noses at this game because of its Sanrio connection and its childish, saccharine graphics. Well, those folks are missing out, as Hello Kitty World's basically a re-skinned remake of Nintendo's magical Balloon Kid. I hold that GameBoy side-scroller in high regard despite its disappointing brevity. Although I don't consider Hello Kitty World to be quite the gem that Balloon Kid is, I still think it's well worth checking out if you've got a Famicom (or some way of playing Famicom carts). This title's graphics and music are a step or two down from those showcased in Balloon Kid, but the gameplay's almost exactly the same. Still not convinced? Maybe my Hello Kitty World review can sway you to give it a chance.

Kiki Kaikai: Dotou Hen--I'm guessing a lot of people ignore Dotou Hen because they assume it's yet another home port of Taito's original KiKi KaiKai quarter-muncher. In fact, it's a completely unique offering despite its familiar visuals. The biggest difference here: the o-fuda scrolls Sayo-chan sends at oncoming enemies are no longer unlimited. So, unlike every other KiKi KaiKai (or Pocky & Rocky) game in existence, you can't just spam the shoot button while playing this Famicom Disk System release. That adds a welcome layer of tension and even strategy to what can otherwise seem like a brainless overhead shmup.

Onyanko Town--Truth be told, Onyanko Town has its issues. Its protagonist, the apron-wearing mama cat showcased in the screenshot above, often moves like her paws have been slathered in molasses. Its soundtrack is grating and shrill. And its visuals, well, the best you can say about them is they get the job done. Still, the overall experience is intriguing enough that I return to it rather frequently. I guess it's because Onyanko Town, which tasks players with tracking down a delinquent kitten while avoiding prowling dogs and fishmongers, tweaks the formula made famous by Namco's Pac-Man just enough to feel enjoyably unique.

See also: all previous blog posts about overlooked games you should play as soon as possible

Saturday, February 24, 2018

What kind of idiot buys Final Fantasy IV: The After Years WiiWare episodes in 2018? This kind!

I nearly did something really dumb earlier this week. Yes, even dumber than buying Final Fantasy: The After Years WiiWare episodes in 2018.

The dumb thing in question: I got this close to ordering a Japanese Wii just so I could buy a bunch of that region's Virtual Console releases before Nintendo stops letting people buy Wii Points on March 26.

Actually, the first part of that plan wouldn't have been the dumbest decision in the world. Used Japanese Wiis aren't too expensive at the moment, after all. What would have been pretty dumb, though: dropping a load of cash on a ton of games I already own in physical form.

In the end, I decided picking up a used Japanese Wii wouldn't be the best use of my hard-earned cash.

I still had the Wii eShop on the brain, though, and that prompted me to start thinking about the North American Virtual Console and WiiWare titles I could purchase with some of the money I previously planned to plop down on the aforementioned imports.

My first thought was to grab some of the old games I've stupidly overlooked since they first hit the Wii eShop--like Phantasy Star for the Sega Master System, Monster Lair for the TurboGrafx-16, and Kirby 64 for the Nintendo 64.

I actually bought two of those games--Monster Lair and Kirby 64--yesterday. Along with those titles, I bought all of the Final Fantasy IV: The After Years WiiWare episodes I'd previously passed on.

Thankfully, I only had to buy three of them--for a total of 1,400 Wii Points ($14). I went in thinking I'd have to pay for all but the initial three episodes and maybe Rydia's, so discovering I'd nabbed three others at some point was quite a thrill.

Why did I waste $14 on all this, especially considering I own Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection for the PSP, which includes the entirety of The After Years?

The only explanation I can offer up is it didn't feel right to me that my "copy" of the WiiWare version of The After Years would forever be incomplete if I failed to pay for the rest of its optional content.

Also, I'm more likely to boot up my Wii than my PSP at this point in time, strangely enough. And then there's the fact that I've already completed the game's first three chapters (the prologue as well as Ceodore's and Kain's "tales")--not that I can remember anything about them now.

The question is: will I ever work my way through all of these colorfully titled episodes ("The Eidolons Shackled" and "The Vanished Lunar Whale" among them) I just picked up, or will they forever remain unplayed?

Your guess is as good as mine. I'm certainly going to give it my best shot, though. Final Fantasy IV is one of my all-time favorite games, so I'd really like to experience this direct follow-up--and sooner rather than later.

Have any of you played the WiiWare version of Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, or even one of the versions released for the PSP, PC, or mobile? If so, what did you think of it? And based on that experience, do you think I've made a wise move or gone off the deep end?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Manual Stimulation: Moguranya (aka Mole Mania, GameBoy)

As you may have guessed from my many "Year of the GameBoy" posts, as well as a good number of my "Nice Package!" write-ups, I now own a lot of Japanese GameBoy games.

For me, a big part of the joy of owning Japanese GameBoy games--complete ones, especially--is being able to flip through their instruction manuals.

Something I've learned while paging through my many Japanese GameBoy game manuals is that the ones Nintendo packed inside its own "silver box" releases are a bit disappointing.

Moguranya's manual, highlighted here, is one example. A few others (which have yet to be featured in "Manual Stimulation" posts but will be soon enough) are GameBoy Donkey Kong and Hoshi no Kirby.

None of these GameBoy manuals are terrible, or even close to it. They're all colorful and feature some nice screenshots and illustrations. Still, they feel ... lacking.

Like, it's hard for me to go from the Bubble BobbleBurning PaperGhostbusters 2, and Snow Bros. Jr. manuals to the ones I just mentioned and think, "yeah, these are an improvement."

The only "silver box" Japanese GameBoy manual I can think of that impresses me the way the above-mentioned booklets do is the one Nintendo produced for Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru (aka For the Frog the Bell Tolls).

Even it could be better, though--in my opinion, of course.

As for the Moguranya (aka Mole Mania) instruction booklet showcased here, like I said, it's very nice overall. I like the pops of color and cute little design elements (especially the paw-print stamps that accompany each page's header).

The illustrations that are found here and there are lovely, too, of course. Unfortunately, there are only a handful, and a couple of them are re-used.

Taken as a whole, though, it's hard to label Moguranya's manual a dud. I'd find it a lot more impressive, though, if Nintendo's artists and designers had seen fit to fill it with even a few more adorable illustrations.

Thankfully, Moguranya's gameplay more than makes up for its somewhat meh-tastic instruction manual, so I'm not going to beat myself up for buying a complete copy of it anytime soon.

If you'd like to see what this game's outer box and cartridge look like, by the way, you can do so in this post of mine. It also includes a couple of photos of GameBoy Donkey Kong's box and manual.

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A few thoughts on Space Dave! now that I've put nearly 10 hours into it

I've got to be honest: my initial impressions of Space Dave weren't great.

You see, one of the things I liked most about this game's predecessor, Woah Dave, was its simplicity--and I mean that in terms of its graphics as well as its gameplay.

That's not how I would've described Space Dave's graphics and gameplay after booting it up for the first time a few weeks back. Actually, I'm not sure I'd describe them that way now.

After all, this Switch eShop game's visuals are a strange, and often kind of off-putting, mix of really blocky and somewhat less blocky backdrops and sprites. (Think Atari 2600 on the one end, and NES on the other.) Also, there's a lot more going on with Space Dave's gameplay than what was offered up in the relatively straightforward Woah Dave. (This is despite the fact you can boil Space Dave's premise down to "use whatever means necessary to clear each screen of enemies.")

Although it took me a while to develop an appreciation for Space Dave's looks, I came around to its deeper-and-more-strategic-than-it-first-appears alien-shooting action pretty darn quickly. In fact, just a handful of 15- or 20-minute stints was all I needed to realize it's not only a worthy successor to Woah Dave, but to the games--like Space Invaders and Galaga--that inspired it as well.

Here are a few reasons why I've since become so smitten with Space Dave that I've dumped just under 10 hours into it:

It's the perfect Switch game for when you've only got five or 10 minutes of free time--Sure, there have been times when I've spent 30 minutes or even an hour with Space Dave. Usually, though, I play it for 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there. If that doesn't sound like much, consider that you can make a good number--five? maybe 10?--of high-score runs in those scant few minutes. Or you can if you're like me and you abort a run if you die or stupidly allow a descending alien (à la Galaga) to crash into the ground and create a lava pit before you reach a certain point.

Space Dave also is a great game if you want to forget about time completely--That's because it's one of those "just one more level" kind of games. Or maybe I should say "just one more run" kind of games--as in, just one more run at a high score. I don't know how other people are playing Space Dave, but for me, every time I hit "start" I do so either to move up one of its online leaderboards or to top my previous best effort. It's possible to "beat" or finish the game--at least I think it is; I've yet to conquer it myself--but seeing its credit roll isn't my main goal. And yet I continue to plug away at it, day after day. In other words, prepare to become blissfully addicted if you decide to plunk down some of your hard-earned cash on Space Dave.

Its soundtrack is sublime--And not only that, but it perfectly complements the game's frenetic on-screen action. Admittedly, Space Dave's soundtrack is so similar to Woah Dave's that I had to ask creator Jason Cirillo if the two were one and the same when I interviewed him a couple of weeks ago (related aside: they're different), but don't take that to be a criticism. For me, Space Dave's music is one of its many highlights. It (and its accompanying audio) makes me feel like I'm playing the game in a packed arcade during the 1980s--and that's only ever a good thing.

I've had a blast trying to discover all of its secrets--At first, Space Dave's gameplay can seem pretty basic. (Not as basic as Woah Dave, mind you, but still basic enough.) You can move Dave left and right, you can make him jump and even hover, and you can shoot at the aliens that flit and twirl overhead. Give it a bit of time, though, or "cheat" and do a little Internet sleuthing, and you're sure to discover some of the secrets that make playing Space Dave even more thrilling--and strategic--than it was initially. One example: if you leap into the wave that erupts from one of the game's POW-like "SPACE" blocks, it'll temporarily make you invincible as well as boost the power of your weapon.

If you'd like to know about more of Space Dave's secrets, tricks, tips, and advice, by the way, stay tuned. I'm prepping a blog post that'll cover all four.

In the meantime, I'd highly recommend buying Space Dave if you've got the dough ($9.99) and if you've got room on your Switch. It's a wonderful evolution of single-screen arcade shoot 'em ups like Galaga and Space Invaders. Plus, if you're like me, you'll probably still be playing it this time next year. How many games can that be said about these days?

Note: both Woah Dave's and Space Dave's names actually end in an exclamation point, like this--Space Dave! That can make writing about either game a bit of a nightmare, though, so in an attempt to make my life (and yours) a little easier, I axed the exclamation point throughout this post.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Haggar the whore-ible (or, enjoying the carnal pleasures of the sexy, gay, Final Fight-esque brawler, Strange Flesh)

I don't often write about "adult" games here.

Of course, I don't often play such games, either, and that's not because I'm a prude or because I otherwise turn my nose up at them.

Actually, I love playing games that titillate--especially if that titillation is aimed at the LGBT community.

Unfortunately, few games featuring content that's both adult and gay ever ping my radar. Besides the one discussed here, the only others that have done so in recent years are the steamy visual novel, Coming Out on Top, and the surprisingly sexy bullet-hell shmup, Sugar Shooter. (I've also written about the beef-tastic JRPG called Ana Holic!, but I've yet to play it.)

Given all of the above, it shouldn't be surprising to hear I was more than a bit excited when I first became aware of Strange Flesh (via this eye-opening--not to mention NSFW--teaser image) just before its release in late October.

At least, I was excited until I discovered the game was an old-school beat 'em up in the same vein as Double Dragon, Final Fight, Golden Axe, River City Ransom--you know the drill.

You see, although I've long been intrigued by side-scrolling brawlers like the ones I just named, I've rarely enjoyed playing them. Or maybe I should say I've only enjoyed playing them to a point. A few stages in, I'm bored to tears and ready to tackle something--anything--else.

Still, I decided to give Strange Flesh a chance. An hour or so later, I walked away. Not because I'd grown tired of it, as I seemingly always do with these kinds of games, but because I'd beaten it.

Granted, Strange Flesh only offers up four stages, so finishing it isn't the most noteworthy of accomplishments. I actually appreciated its brevity, though. Far too many games these days--free or otherwise--require you to dedicate hours upon hours to them. Encountering one that asks for about 45 minutes of your time is refreshing.

You know what else I found refreshing about Strange Flesh? Its graphics, soundtrack, and gameplay. All three components are so convincingly "late 1980s beat 'em up" it's hard not to be astounded by them.

Actually, that statement needs to be amended just a bit. After all, while the bulk of Strange Flesh acts, looks, and sounds like a game that came out alongside Golden Axe and Final Fight, neither of those quarter-munchers (nor any of their counterparts, as far as I'm aware) feature gameplay, graphics, or music that could be considered "adult."

Strange Flesh, on the other hand, is full of such content. Hell, you'll see something eyebrow-raising every few steps as you play through this PC game. (Download it or launch its browser version at greatestbear.com.)

After you punch, kick, and tackle the game's "figments" and "projections" (all of the action here takes place in the player's mind), you, uh, "finish them off," too--and you do so in various ways that would make most moms blush, or worse.

Speaking of which, a little disclaimer: if regularly witnessing pixelated depictions of gay sex (some of which are kinkier than others) turns you off, you should stay far away from Strange Flesh.

Which isn't to say that's all there is to this title. The core gameplay is both smooth and satisfying, even when controlled via keyboard-button presses. (Note: this is how I played through Strange Flesh. Three times.) In fact, I'd go so far as to say that if Strange Flesh were fornication-free, it would be well worth a look by all fans of the genre.

As things stand, though, it's hard to give it a blanket recommendation. Although I'm sure some straight folks will get a kick out of it, many more likely will find it disgusting or distasteful. I have the feeling the same could be said of a sizable portion of the LGBT community.

Still, I can't be the only person in the world who finds the idea of playing a pervy, gay Double Dragon clone thrilling. To anyone who feels similarly, I say: give Strange Flesh a try.

See also: Strange Flesh's spot-on instruction manual

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Nice Package! (Nangoku Shounen Papuwa-kun, GameBoy)

No one's ever going to accuse Dragon Quest publisher, Enix, of jumping on the GameBoy bandwagon.

After all, it took the company over three years to release its first GameBoy title--and even then it was a game, Dungeon Land, someone else developed.

It took another year-plus for the game highlighted in this post to see the light of day. Admittedly, Enix didn't make it either. (Bizarre factoid: Enix only ever published the two titles named here for the original GameBoy.)

So, who is responsible for the development of this appealingly unique puzzler? That would be Daft.

Don't feel bad if this is the first you're hearing of Daft. I was completely in the dark about the company before I started researching this write-up. (I always assumed Enix both developed and published this version of Nangoku Shounen Papuwa-kun.)

If you're any kind of "retro gamer," though, you've probably at least heard of one of Daft's other products, though--that being the quirky Super Famicom platformer, Hameln no Violin Hiki (aka Violinist of Hameln).

As for Nangoku Shounen Papuwa-kun, it's based on Ami Shibata's 1991 manga series of the same name. To be frank, I know nothing about said series and, as such, have no idea as to why the powers that be at Daft or Enix decided to translate the IP into a puzzle game for Nintendo's first portable game system.

What I do know: Nangoku Shounen Papuwa-kun is a fun little brain-teaser.

This is no Tetris or Puyo Puyo clone, however. In fact, I can't think of another puzzle game that plays anything like Nangoku Shounen Papuwa-kun.

Explaining how it works through words isn't an easy task, so check out this gameplay footage--or this footage--if you're curious to know more.

The good news: it only takes a few minutes of puttering around to figure out what you're supposed to do. After that, it's smooth sailing.

Another piece of good news: even people who don't know a lick of Japanese should find Nangoku Shounen Papuwa-kun both accessible and enjoyable.

With all of that out of the way, what do you think about the game's outer box, cartridge, and instruction manual, all of which are showcased throughout this post?

I especially like its colorful cover art. In fact, that's what initially drew me to the game--well, that and the Enix logo printed along its lower edge.

Have any of you played Nangoku Shounen Papuwa-kun? If so, what do you think of it? Even if you haven't played it, though, what do you think of the game's packaging?

See also: previous 'Nice Package!' posts about Bubble Ghost, Burning Paper, Noobow, Peetan, Penguin-kun Wars Vs., and Shippo de Bun

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Ten questions with Space Dave! (and Woah Dave!) creator Jason Cirillo

So many amazing indie games are hitting the Switch eShop these days that it's getting hard to keep up with all of them.

A relevant case in point: although I adored Woah Dave!--a frantic, Mario Bros.-esque platformer released for 3DS, PC, PS4, Vita, and Wii U back in 2014 and 2015--I totally blanked on its spiritual successor, Space Dave!, until right before it hit the Switch eShop late last week.

Oh, well, all that matters now is it pinged my radar just in time. And, boy, am I glad it did, as I've become thoroughly smitten with Space Dave! in the four-plus hours I've spent with it thus far.

Don't worry, I'll share some impressions of the game in the next week or so. Today, though, I'm sharing the contents of a little tête-à-tête I recently had with its creator, Jason Cirillo.

Before we get to that, I need to make something clear: although proper references to both Woah Dave! and Space Dave! end in exclamation points, I'm going to remove them from here on out in an attempt to make this post as readable as possible.

The Gay Gamer: After the success of Woah Dave, I’m sure a lot of people felt, as I did, that you’d follow it up with a direct sequel. What made you go off in a different direction and make a game inspired by the fixed-shooter genre instead?

Jason Cirillo: The initial idea was that these games would all be arcade homages brought into the modern era. Woah Dave, for example, pulls systems from some of my favorites like Mario Bros., Bubble Bobble, and Space Panic. I wanted to do another homage-style game that pulled from an entirely different set of games. That's kind of how Space Dave was born. Some of the inspirations, like Galaga and Space Invaders, are fairly obvious, while some others, like Gaplus and Missile Command, might not be. There might be more games in this series that are totally different genres as well, who knows. There might also be a direct sequel to Woah Dave yet to come. It would have Woah Dave in the title.

The Gay Gamer: Did any more modern games serve as Space Dave’s inspiration?

Jason Cirillo: I'm not sure there's a specific title, though the more modern tower defense genre has crept in there quite a bit. Japanese bullet-hell shooters also were inspiring, though I don't do much of the fancy bullet patterns like they do.

The Gay Gamer: Do you think someone has to be a fan of old, fixed-shooter games like Space Invaders to enjoy Space Dave? Or, what are the aspects of Space Dave that you feel will or could appeal to people who maybe have never even heard of Space Invaders?

Jason Cirillo: I think it helps to be a fan, though I don't think it's necessary. I playtested the game with lots of people who aren't necessarily big retro game players, and they enjoyed it a lot. Lots of them like Space Dave better than Woah Dave. I don't think you'd have had to have heard of Space Invaders to enjoy it. Not to be cheeky, but in 1975, the entire world hadn't heard of Space Invaders. That proved to not be a problem for its eventual release!

The Gay Gamer: Which aspects of Space Dave did you create, and which aspects did other people create?

Jason Cirillo: I am the creator and director of the game, and I coded the original prototype of the game. I also did the music, sound, and graphics. When we went to console, we brought in a programmer familiar with the environment necessary to port it to work on Nintendo Switch. Our programmer, Garrett Varrin, is known for his work on Shütshimi as well, and he not only coded the Switch version, but he also lent a lot of great ideas to the game itself and really added a lot to the fun factor. The game definitely would not exist without his fantastic work on it.

The Gay Gamer: Did you encounter any particular challenges while planning, designing, or developing Space Dave? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?

Jason Cirillo: The big problem was just trying to not be a straight-up Space Invaders or Galaga clone. I wanted it to clearly and unapologetically be inspired, like Woah Dave was, but I wanted it to be new. Making it feel new was the challenge. But I enjoyed that challenge a lot. I tried to overcome it by going back to what made Woah Dave work. I looked for opportunities where strategies could be developed and implemented. Putting in new gameplay elements that players could learn to use to their advantage was one way, like having the ground you walk on be a volatile element was a big part of that. Making stronger enemies that can more easily kill you become stronger allies to work for you was interesting, too. There's a fair amount of risk and reward in the game that makes it feel fresh.

The Gay Gamer: What are you proudest of when you look at and play the finished product?

Jason Cirillo: I'm proud that I made a game that I liked and that I wanted to play and stuck by that as my mission. Really, that's the only way I know how to make games. I'm always proud of finishing a project and seeing it in the hands of people who are having fun with it. That's always a really good feeling.

The Gay Gamer: I know Space Dave just came out, but how is it selling so far? Is it matching your expectations, exceeding them, not meeting them--or maybe something else entirely?

Jason Cirillo: It's doing way better than we expected, to be honest. Woah Dave also did really well--frankly, also better than we expected--so I think I expected there would be a little cultish following for Space Dave. Still, I'm blown away with how well it's actually done so far.

The Gay Gamer: Do you have any plans to port Space Dave to other systems at this point, such as PS4 or 3DS?

Jason Cirillo: No solid plans for other consoles at the moment, but I am very open to it. We're probably bringing it to Steam.

The Gay Gamer: How about Woah Dave? Is there any chance it’ll follow Space Dave onto Switch sometime soon?

Jason Cirillo: When we get a lot of demand, we listen. And we have gotten a lot of requests for Woah Dave on Switch. So, there's a really good chance.

The Gay Gamer: You recently asked people on Twitter which other genres they’d like you to explore in future Dave games. Did that help you at all? And did you already have an idea as to which other genres you’d like to tackle before you sent out that tweet?

Jason Cirillo: Yes, the responses I got from that question on Twitter did help. Some really fun ideas there for sure. I have a few old arcade games I'd like to pull from in another Dave game, though I'm not sure I am ready to spill the beans just yet on that. I'd love to just go berzerk in the third installment and have a lot of fun with it.

See also: previous 'ten questions with...' posts featuring auntie pixelante, Peter Bartholow (of Indivisible fame), the guy chiefly responsible for the English fan translation of Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love, the guys who created Wizorb, and the makers of THE 'DENPA' MEN 2

Monday, January 29, 2018

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm so obsessed with Miitopia that I've got to quit it cold turkey

It isn't often that I find myself having to quit a game cold turkey to escape its clutches and move on to other titles.

In fact, the only games that put me in that awkward position before Miitopia were Animal Crossing (all of them) and Pocket Card Jockey.

Oh, and maybe Tomodachi Life.

Considering Miitopia shares a bit of Tomodachi Life's DNA, I guess I should have seen this current bout of obsession coming.

Instead, before I bought it, I imagined I'd traipse through Miitopia in a breezy 20 or 30 hours and then turn my attention to all of the Switch games that are piling up in front of me.

Well, I blew past the 30-hour mark some time ago. This weekend, I blew past the 70-hour mark.

To say Miitopia is one of those games that regularly prompts you to say, "just one more level," may be the understatement of the year.

Here, it's not simply about beating more more level; it's also about leveling up your party members one more time, or unlocking one more weapon or outfit, or wrapping up one more post-game quest.

Every time I think I'm satisfied with where I'm at or what I've accomplished, another outfit, weapon, or quest pops up to entice me to play for a few more minutes. And of course those "few more minutes" almost always stretch out to 30 and beyond.

I'd be fine with that if I thought the end was near, but I have a feeling it's not. As things stand, I'm pretty sure I could put at least another 30 hours into the game, and that's assuming I find a way to ignore the three post-game quests Miitopia offers up each day (after you've beaten its main campaign).

So, rather than spend the next week or two finishing Miitopia's last real chunk of content, I'm going to put it on the back burner--perhaps for good, perhaps nots--and turn my attention to the many Switch and Vita games I've been itching to play since early last month.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this, by the way--where you were so obsessed with a game you had to yank yourself away from it? If so, please share your story in the comments section below.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Eight Nintendo Switch games I'm looking forward to playing in 2018

Although I am by no means finished buying or playing 3DS or Vita games, there's little doubt in my mind that most of the money I spend on this hobby in 2018 will be directed toward Switch titles.

The eight Switch games discussed here aren't the only ones I'm looking forward to playing this year, by the way. They're just the ones I'm most itching to experience.

As such, don't be surprised if I eventually publish a follow-up post to this one that details some of the other Switch titles I hope to tackle by the time 2019 rolls around.

Bayonetta 2--I wish I could tell you why I've yet to try the first Bayonetta title. I've had an Xbox 360 for years, after all. The best explanation I can offer up is Microsoft's second console has never quite clicked with me, and as a result I've rarely felt like buying games for it. (The only retail Xbox 360 game I currently own is Deadly Premonition.) Well, I'll soon have my chance to try both the original Bayonetta and its sequel, and you can bet I'm going to take advantage of it. Here's hoping I find the gameplay in these titles as fabulously appealing as their saucy protagonist.

Dark Souls: Remastered--Here's another widely heralded game I've long ignored because of my lack of love for the Xbox 360 (and my lack of a PS3, period). That's not a comment on my interest in the title, though. In fact, I've wanted to see what all the fuss was about since Dark Souls first made a splash in 2011. Thanks to Namco Bandai's decision to bring the recently announced "remastered" version of the game to Switch, I'll be able to do just that this coming spring. What do you think: will I enjoy it, or will it completely overwhelm me?

Dragon Quest Builders 2--I considered writing about the upcoming Switch port of the first Dragon Quest Builders here, but I've chatted about that game (which I pre-ordered as soon as Amazon allowed it) enough on line, so let's talk about its in-the-works sequel. To be honest, I don't know much about it at the moment. As long as Dragon Quest Builders 2 offers up a few new twists on the original's charming, Minecraft-esque gameplay, though, I doubt I'll regret my purchase.

Gal Metal!--What can I say? I tend to like music and rhythm games. I even enjoyed Wii Music, for crying out loud. That lack of taste (some might say, at least) may serve me well after my copy of this curious import arrives on our doorstep in a few weeks. Although there's little question Gal Metal! looks great, there are a lot of questions surrounding its gameplay, which appears eerily similar to the much-maligned Wii game mentioned earlier. Granted, the move-your-Joy-Cons-like-drum-sticks controls at the center of Gal Metal! should be far more accurate than the ones showcased in Wii Music, but that doesn't mean they'll be fun. Oh, well, even if the game disappoints, I'll still have a snazzy piece of cover art to ogle.

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. (Heads up: a visitor named Dan kindly translated the entirety of this manual into English. Check out the spoils of his hard work here.)

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