Friday, September 14, 2018

Seven game announcements from yesterday's Nintendo Direct that made me grin from ear to ear

I don't know about you, but I was far from thrilled by the E3 2018 Nintendo Direct.

Don't get me wrong, I loved seeing Fire Emblem: Three Houses in action. (Finally!) The footage of Daemon X Machina showcased during the above-mentioned presentation similarly blew me away. I'm not much of a Pokémon or Super Smash Bros. fan, though, which probably explains my lack of enthusiasm toward the company's most recent E3 extravaganza.

The latest Nintendo Direct, though--the one that went live yesterday? That was my jam.

I approached it assuming I'd get a fresh glimpse of the Yoshi Switch game that was revealed over a year ago as well as new details on titles like Pokémon: Let's Go, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and the upcoming Luigi's Mansion remake for 3DS. Oh, I knew that wouldn't be the full extent of this broadcast, but I also didn't think it would offer up much else--especially in terms of reveals that would wow me.

Boy, was I wrong. Not only did almost all of the following announcements came out of nowhere for me (the Animal Crossing and Katamari Damacy ones were rumored in the days and even hours leading up to the Direct's drop), but they also thrilled me to pieces. Keep reading to learn why.

A new Animal Crossing is coming to Switch in 2019--Given the earth-shattering sales of previous portable entries in this long-running series of "slow living" games, a Switch entry was the definition of a no-brainer. Still, many thought Animal Crossing would hit the system sometime in 2018, so its absence until now has made some of those folks (including myself) antsy. All is forgotten and forgiven with yesterday's news that the game is coming in 2019, right? Not quite, but it's a start. And, really, I put hundreds of hours into the Animal Crossing release most consider the worst (City Folk), so it's safe to say I'll be singing a decidedly positive tune by the time this next one is plopped onto actual and virtual store shelves in the coming 12 or so months.

All of the Final Fantasy love--You might think the news that both Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles and Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD are Switch-bound would've prepared me for the news that a bunch of other Final Fantasy games are coming to Nintendo's hybrid system, too. Nope, it didn't. When World of Final Fantasy Maxima was revealed, I responded with a pleasantly surprised, "oh!" I was unable to produce sound when Chocobo's Mystery Dungeon EVERY BUDDY! popped up, though, and the same was true when Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age waltzed onto the screen. Admittedly, I'm more than a bit bummed that almost all of the above seem to be digital-only releases (Final Fantasy XII is the only exception, according to word on the street), but I'm going to buy them anyway.

Katamari Damacy Reroll--I'm a firm believer that everyone could use some Katamari Damacy in their life. This Keita Takahashi-created series is so colorful, energetic, and wacky--not to mention fun--I'm sure it would make even the biggest sourpuss grin like the Cheshire Cat. (But, you know, in a less creepy fashion.) I do wish this release included a remaster of We Love Katamari as well as the first Katamari Damacy title, but Bandai Namco's probably planning to sell it separately. And you know what? I'll purchase it, too--as long as Reroll proves to be a solid effort.

Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn--I don't know how many of you are aware of this, but I adore Kirby's Epic Yarn. In fact, I love it so much I named it my favorite game of 2010. As such, I was beyond bowled over when it dawned on me that I'll soon be able to play an enhanced version of it on my 3DS. I'm sure a lot of people would prefer to see this on the Switch, but I think the 3DS is the perfect place for it. It'll fit right in with Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World and Hey! Pikmin, wouldn't you agree?

Luigi's Mansion 3--Although I can't say I was shocked to learn during yesterday's Nintendo Direct that the company is prepping a third Luigi's Mansion title, I was shocked to hear--and see--that it's so far along. Something else that shocked me: some folks are calling it ugly. Did we watch the same footage? I mean, sure, it's not the absolute best-looking game I've ever laid eyes on, but the same could be said of other Switch standouts like Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. At any rate, I can't wait to get my hands on Luigi's Mansion 3--even if nothing changes about its graphics between now and whenever it releases in 2019.

Town--Talk about "out of nowhere." Did anyone see this coming--a Switch RPG from Game Freak that doesn't have Pokémon in its name? That's a big plus as far as I'm concerned, though I know not everyone will feel the same way. Of course, I tend to love the company's weird side projects--see HarmoKnight and my favorite 3DS game ever, Pocket Card Jockey--so I guess you could say I was destined to at least like this one, too. My only concern at the moment is that Town's likely to be a digital-only release. Which is fine in many respects (it likely means it'll be cheaper than your typical "boxed" game, for instance), but also suggests it may not have as much content as a retail offering.

Yoshi's Crafted World--First things first: I think this game's name is disappointingly lazy. That said, maybe the person or people who came up with it want it to remind people of the last Yoshi title, Woolly World? Whatever the case may be, all I really care about is how Crafted World plays, looks, and sounds (and in that very order, too). I obviously can't say how it plays, though the footage shown off yesterday certainly makes it seem like a worthwhile platformer. I can, however, say it looks quite wonderful. For me, the aesthetic is just different enough from Woolly World's to be completely enticing. Should the soundtrack live up to the gameplay and visuals, Yoshi's Crafted World should be a feast for the eyes, ears, and, well, fingers.

Did you watch yesterday's Nintendo Direct broadcast? If so, what did you consider to be the stand-out game announcements? Which ones thrilled--or even disappointed--you the most?

See also: the Japanese version of yesterday's Nintendo Direct

Monday, September 03, 2018

Manual Stimulation: Pizza Pop! (Famicom)

As a youngster, I regularly turned up my nose at Jaleco's NES offerings.

For me, they were way too rough around the edges. I preferred comparatively "cleaner" games like the ones made by Nintendo, Konami, and Capcom.

That's not to say there weren't exceptions. I bought and played the hell out of the company's Racket Attack, for example. (Don't take that to be an endorsement; it's not. The game's terrible, even if I have a soft spot for it.)

And I remember renting and enjoying its home port of City Connection on a few occasions, too.

Despite my anti-Jaleco bias, I'm sure I would've given Pizza Pop! more than a second look back in the day had it not been a Japan-only release.

Sadly, that wasn't the case, and so I had to wait until a few years ago to finally experience this wacky platformer (via emulation, of course).

Was it worth the wait? In some ways yes, and in some ways no. On the positive side, Pizza Pop! looks and sounds great. I particularly love its cartoonish aesthetic, though its boppy, poppy backing tunes are a ton of fun as well.

On the negative side, though, there's the fact that this game seems to revel in being annoyingly cheap (from a difficulty perspective).

Something that was without a doubt worth the wait, or at least worth what I spent on it, is this game's instruction manual. Why? For starters, it's full of color. This is especially true of its story spread (pages two and three, above), but it's also true of the ones that follow.

Sadly, that's one of the only places you'll find any unique illustrations in the Pizza Pop! booklet. You will encounter a number of screenshots throughout, however. They don't really make up for the lack of drawings, but in this kind of situation you've got to take what you get.

This manual's biggest missed opportunity, as far as I'm concerned, is that its pair of "character" pages (12 and 13, below) feature in-game sprites rather than line-art depictions of the game's enemies.

Oh, well, at least the baddies that fill the Pizza Pop! stages are a good-looking bunch.

What do you think of this latest entry in my "Manual Stimulation" series? Also, if you've played Pizza Pop!, what did you think of it? Share your thoughts in the comments section of this post.

See also: some photos of Pizza Pop's packaging

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Manual Stimulation: Lucky Monkey (GameBoy)

Does Lucky Monkey not ring a bell? Maybe you know this adorable platformer by its Western name, Spanky's Quest.

I'm not a huge fan of either title, to be honest. Not that it matters--developer and publisher Natsume could've called this 1991 release (in Japan, at least) Monkey Game and I'd still love it to pieces.

Why do I love it? For starters, it's cute--and as you should be well aware by now, I tend to like cute games.

Also, a lot of Lucky Monkey's enemies are anthropomorphic vegetables or fruits--something else that's long caught my attention.

I'm attracted to more than Lucky Monkey's looks, though. I'm pretty fond of its soundtrack, too, which reminds me of the one conjured up for another Natsume joint, Shippo de Bun (Tail 'Gator outside of Japan).

And then there's the gameplay. I called it a platformer earlier, and while that's undoubtedly the best way to describe the action in Lucky Monkey, it's hardly a Super Mario Bros. clone.

Here, you take the eponymous simian through a series of tower-themed stages. To clear a stage, he (I think?) has to defeat all of its food-based baddies using balls that have been stashed away somewhere or other.

Actually, I'm not sure they're balls. After all, if you bounce them off the monkey's head a few times, they explode and shower the surrounding area--which includes some enemies, hopefully--with shrapnel.

So that's what you're getting from Lucky Monkey the game. But what are you getting from Lucky Monkey the manual?

Well, as you'll hopefully see as you go through this post, you're getting a rather nice example of a Japanese GameBoy instruction booklet.

I wouldn't call it a standout, mind you, but I wouldn't call it a turd either.

One of my favorite components of the Lucky Monkey manual: the little illustrations of the protagonist that line the top of each page.

The handful of (admittedly simplistic) other drawings that pop up now and then are worth ogling, too.

Also deserving of a thumbs-up, in my opinion: the blue-and-orange color scheme this booklet's designers employed during the printing process.

In the end, this one obviously could be quite a bit more thrilling, but even it its current state it's far from disappointing.

Or at least that's my opinion of Lucky Monkey's instruction manual. What do all of you think about it?

See also: photos of Lucky Monkey's packaging

Monday, August 27, 2018

Sushi Striker's retail release makes me wish Nintendo had done the same with some of the 3DS system's digital-only gems

When Sushi Striker was unveiled last summer, I was sure it would be an eShop-only offering.

After all, that's how Nintendo has treated this kind of game for the majority of the 3DS' lifetime.

So imagine my surprise when the company made it clear Sushi Striker was getting a retail as well as a digital release.

Naturally I went with the physical option--and then proceeded to enjoy the hell out of it over the course of 50-plus hours. (Seriously, if you tend to like action-puzzle games and you've still got a 3DS, pick up a copy as soon as possible. For more information, see my recent "five reasons I've fallen head over heels in love with Sushi Striker" write-up.)

Something I couldn't help but think while working my way through Sushi Striker's considerably beefy story mode (basically its only mode, if I'm to be honest): why didn't Nintendo sell boxed versions of some of its other 3DS eShop titles?

Which 3DS eShop titles am I talking about here? Pocket Card Jockey is one example. So is Rusty's Real Deal Baseball. And then there are the Pushmo, Dillon's Rolling Western, and BoxBoy! games, too. (Don't worry, I'm well aware of last year's physical BoxBoy! collection, but it only saw the light of day in Japan.)

Arguments could be made for retail releases of all these titles, if you ask me. For example, the folks at Game Freak--of Pokémon fame--made Pocket Card Jockey. That alone should have been enough for it to hit store shelves along with the eShop. (Something else that should've helped matters: the fact that Pocket Card Jockey is an absolute gem. I'd go so far as to say it's one of the 3DS' best games, in fact. To learn why I feel so strongly about it, read this post of mine: "If you own a 3DS, you need to buy and play Pocket Card Jockey right now.")

I thought a compilation of the three Mallo-centric puzzlers--Pushmo, Crashmo, and Stretchmo in my neck of the woods--was a sure thing, too, but obviously I was wrong. And I was wrong about Nintendo plopping to the first two Dillon's Rolling Western titles on a cartridge, too.

Of all the digital-only gems mentioned here so far, the one I can most understand not getting a boxed version is Rusty's Real Deal Baseball. Yes, such a product could've gathered all of its in-game purchases (which aren't insubstantial) into one package. Doing so would've required at least a little jiggering, though, and Nintendo probably decided that extra work wasn't worth it, especially given Rusty's undeniably limited appeal.

In the end, I know all of my moaning and hand-wringing here is beyond pointless. The ship's basically sailed on the 3DS, and there's no way Nintendo is going to pump out retail releases of Rusty's Real Deal Baseball, Pocket Card Jockey, Dillon's Rolling Western, or any other "old" digital game this late in the system's life.

Still, I can't help but harp on those missed opportunities a bit. As things stand, each of the games mentioned above eventually may be lost to time because they were never embedded on a cart.

I guess this just means I have to buy a few used 3DS systems and then fill them with these gems before Nintendo shutters the eShop. (I'd need a few to ensure there are plenty of backups, of course.)

Do any of you wish you could've bought physical copies of some of the 3DS' eShop-only treasures? If so, which ones?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

A few thoughts on WarioWare Gold now that I've beaten its story mode

Those of you who've played this entry in Nintendo's long-running WarioWare series--or any of its installments, really--must be thinking something like, I hope you don't consider beating this game's story mode to be an accomplishment!

You're right, of course. After all, you can finish WarioWare Gold's story mode in just a couple of hours if you don't drag your feet.

I'm patting myself on the back anyway, though--mostly because I managed to do the above plus a bit more over the last couple of weeks despite the fact that Octopath Traveler has been monopolizing my free time since it came out in mid-July.

In fact, I've now put about four hours into WarioWare Gold. Even that's nothing to brag about, admittedly, but it's been more than enough to time to get a good feel for the game, and that's what matters here. Speaking of which, keep reading for my initial thoughts on this zany 3DS title.

The cutscenes are awesome--In fact, I'd go so far as to say they're the highlight of the entire package. The main reason for that is they're funny. Surprisingly funny, even. My favorite is the one starring 5-Volt (9-Volt's mom). In it, she becomes obsessed with a buff dude named Mr. Sparkles, who sells special frying pans--they're so heavy you basically have to become a bodybuilder to use them--via cheesy infomercials.

I actually love the voice acting--And that's not something you'll hear me say all that often. No joke, I usually either don't care about voice acting or actively dislike it (to the point that I turn it off, assuming that's an option). I adore the voice acting in WarioWare Gold, though--which is a good thing, as the game's crammed full of it. I'm especially smitten with Wario and the new addition to the franchise, the spunky and heavily browed Lulu.

I wish the game didn't force you to unlock so much of its content--I know this is typical of the series. Or at least that's what I've heard. (I've only played a handful of WarioWare titles to date: Smooth Moves and D.I.Y.) Whatever the case may be, I'd prefer it if this entry didn't make unlocking its "souvenir" mini-games, like Mewtroid 2 and Super Pyoro, such a chore. To do that, you have to rack up points playing the title's story and challenge modes--usually over and over again. Then you plop those points into a capsule machine and pray something interesting pops out. In other words, depending on your luck, you may get Micro Golf or Pro Bowl early on or you may have to wait quite some time to gain access to them.

I'm not sure how many more hours I'll put into it--Don't get me wrong, I've thoroughly enjoyed what I've experienced so far. That said, I'm not entirely convinced the rest of what's on offer here is going to be enough to keep me coming back for more than a few additional hours. If I could freely play all of its bonus mini-games, that'd probably extend things at least a little while longer. As things stand, though, I have a feeling my time with WarioWare Gold is about to come to a close.

Even if I quit right now, I won't regret my purchase--Probably. I think. Maybe? Why the hesitation? I don't often spend $30-plus on a game and then stop playing it after just a few days. Given that, I won't be surprised if I slightly regret buying WarioWare Gold down the road. Still, I had an absolute blast during the four or so hours I've spent with this game, so I'll do what I can to keep those feelings of remorse to an absolute minimum.

Have any of you played WarioWare Gold? If so, what did you think of it?

See also: 'five reasons I've fallen head over heels in love with Sushi Striker' and '10 things I adore about Octopath Traveler'

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Manual Stimulation: Lode Runner for WonderSwan

Of course a company made a Lode Runner game for the Bandai WonderSwan.

Why do I say that? Because almost every computer and console under the sun has welcomed some version of this classic puzzler-platformer during its lifetime.

Following the original Lode Runner's 1983 release for the Apple II, the Commodore 64, and a few other machines, it also found its way onto the Famicom, the PC Engine, the Super Famicom, the PlayStation, and even the GameBoy.

Given that, this 2000 offering from Banpresto (though Aisystem Tokyo developed it) isn't too surprising.

But is it any good? And even more importantly, especially given the focus of this post, is its instruction manual any good?

I've barely spent any time with Lode Runner for WonderSwan to date, so I can't say too much about its gameplay other than it's definitely Lode Runner. (This review, from someone who's clearly played a lot more of the game than I have, suggests it offers up at least a few unique components in this area.)

That's a very good thing as far as I'm concerned, by the way. I've had a blast playing different versions of this game ever since I first tackled Battle Lode Runner for the PC Engine way back when, so I'm always up for more.

As for the Lode Runner for WonderSwan manual, it's right in line with the title's gameplay and graphics. Which is to say it gets the job done but isn't exactly spectacular.

Its opening handful of pages probably have you thinking otherwise thanks to the colorful illustrations splashed across them.

The Lode Runner for WonderSwan manual is decidedly less vibrant after that, unfortunately. Its remaining pages sport some nice borders, headers, and screenshots, but no more drawings.

At least they provide some helpful information--assuming you know Japanese, of course. The spread above explains Lode Runner for WonderSwan's trio of gameplay modes (story, select, and edit, basically).

The next couple of pages explain how you can upload your level creations and download those made by others, I believe--but don't quote me on that. (If any of you have a better understanding of this text, please let me know in the comments section below.)

Lode Runner for WonderSwan's instruction booklet wraps up with a page full of tips for in-need players. Once again, though, I can't share the details. Sorry about that.

At any rate, what do you think of this particular manual? Is it a new favorite, or is it so boring you've already forgotten you ever laid eyes on it?

See also: previous posts about WonderSwan game manuals

Friday, August 17, 2018

Manual Stimulation: Double Dungeons (PC Engine)

I pretty much ignored first-person dungeon-crawlers until I tackled the original Etrian Odyssey back in 2007 or so.

Given my love of RPGs, that probably seems a bit odd. So what's the deal? I'm not sure, to tell you the truth. I've never really thought about why I tend to avoid (even today) first-person dungeon-crawlers. The only reason I can come up with at the moment is I like seeing my party members.

Did all of that change after I played and loved Etrian Odyssey? Not exactly--which is to say I still vastly prefer more traditional (Japanese) RPGs to these labyrinth-obsessed offshoots.

What prompted me to pick up Double Dungeons, a 1989 release that's about as "labyrinth obsessed" as you can get?

The main reason is I was on a real PC Engine kick when I picked up the copy that gave me access to the manual you see here. Also, it was dirt cheap, which always helps.

It's a good thing this HuCard can be picked up on the cheap, too, as it's not exactly the most stunning dungeon-crawler around.

Sure, Double Dungeons offers up an intriguing gimmick--two people can explore a level simultaneously (although not side by side, sadly)--but most who try it won't find it thrilling enough to overcome the title's otherwise-dull gameplay and graphics.

Still, you've got to give developer Masaya credit for attempting something unique with this typically staid genre.

You've also got to give credit to the artists and designers who worked on Double Dungeons' instruction manual.

It makes buying a complete copy of this game well worth the price of admission, as you're likely now aware.

I'm especially fond of the backdrop that frames Double Dungeons' story on the manual's second page.  I also like the strangely sweet illustrations that sit in the corners of pages four and seven.

Line drawings of the title's enemies would've made the package even more appealing than it already is, in my opinion, but that ship sailed long ago.

Plus, the folks who pieced together the Double Dungeons how-to booklet included the requisite--for me, at least--depictions of the game's items and accessories (see pages 14 and 15, above), so you won't hear me complaining too loudly about it being a stinker.

What do you think of this edition of "Manual Stimulation"? Is it the most delicious thing you've ever seen, or is it a total dud?

See also: 'the best PC Engine game manuals (I've seen)'