Thursday, December 12, 2019

Six reasons I'm thrilled I finally got off my butt and played Last Window: The Secret of Cape West

I've had a copy of Last Window for ages. I honestly can't remember when I bought it, but this old post says I picked it up shortly after its European release in 2010, so I guess it's been about nine years?

Why did it take me so long to play it? For starters, it took me a long time to play its predecessor, Hotel Dusk: Room 215, too. That Nintendo DS game came out in early 2007, yet I didn't start my way through it until the summer of 2015. (Check out my thoughts on Hotel Dusk.)

That playthrough took me just over 17 hours, by the way. My recent-ish Last Window playthrough took just under 15 hours.

On a related note, I loved nearly every minute of the 15 or so hours I spent with now-defunct developer CiNG's Hotel Dusk sequel. Here are the main reasons why:

Kyle's not the only one with a pissy attitude

Kyle's pissy attitude--If Last Window's protagonist, former detective Kyle Hyde, were an actual person, I probably wouldn't like him very much. He grouchily reacts to almost every situation with suspicion, annoyance, and alarm. That wouldn't sit well with me in real life. Within the context of this game, though, it's not such a big deal. Actually, I found it eye-rollingly and even endearingly humorous whenever I encountered it here.

The hilariously dramatic "Game Over" scenes--Few events in the world of video games tickle me as much as botching a puzzle or interaction in Last Window (or Hotel Dusk) and then seeing Kyle's head drop, the screen darken, and the words "Game Over" burn into the screen. Why is this funny, you ask? Because these "Game Over" scenes usually pop up after you've done something that barely qualifies as dramatic, like putting your foot in your mouth during a conversation. Kyle's over-the-top reactions seem ridiculously silly in such cases.

Kyle and his daily cup of joe

The in-game cafe's coffee obsession--My second-favorite component of Last Window, after its predictably sublime soundtrack (see below for more on that), is its head-scratch-worthy obsession with coffee. Kyle regularly visits Lucky’s Cafe, which is conveniently situated on the ground floor of the Cape West apartment complex he calls home. On several occasions, he actually parks his butt in a booth and orders something to eat and drink from proprietor Sidney or his daughter, Claire. This is when you're hit with a charmingly fetishistic description of how the cup of coffee that eventually comes out of the kitchen was sourced, prepared, and savored. It's weird, not to mention a bit unrealistic (Lucky's is an aw-shucks diner set in 1980), but it's also pretty cute.

The lounge-y, jazzy soundtrack--Just like its predecessor, Last Window is crammed full of laid-back tunes that set the perfect mood for a week, or at least a few hours, of sleuthing. It also serves as a fitting accompaniment to the game's chill aesthetic, setting, and overall vibe. Actually, the same qualities that make the Last Window OST a joy to listen to while playing the game make it a joy to listen to when you're done with the game, too. In fact, I often put it on while I'm working, reading, or simply looking to relax and wind down for the day.

No, this is not supposed to be an example of Last Window's Christmas setting

The Christmas setting--Yep, Last Window takes place around Christmas. It begins right before that holiday and ends just after it. The game hardly shoves that fact down your throat, but there's enough evidence to it lying around to make it obvious. As a total sucker for (almost) all things Christmas, I appreciated the subtle shout-outs while working my way through this point-and-click adventure.

The intriguing mystery--Oh, right! The story. How could I forget about that? Well, although I wouldn't say Last Window's story is as captivating as the one that drives its predecessor, I would say it more than does the trick. And I'd make a similar statement about this sequel's cast of characters. They're not as colorful, interesting, or mysterious as their Hotel Dusk counterparts, in my humble opinion, but they're also not complete duds. My favorite of the bunch: the stuffy stick-in-the-mud landlady named Mags.

Do I consider any aspect of Last Window to be a dud? Not really, though I did encounter the occasional puzzle I couldn't solve without assistance. That's par for the course with me and this kind of game, though, so I won't hold it against this one.

See also: a somewhat gay review of Chase: Cold Case Investigations ~Distant Memories~ (3DS)

Sunday, December 08, 2019

10 Nintendo DS games I want to play in 2020

I don't know what got into me this year, but whatever it was pushed me to play more Nintendo DS games than I've played since the dual-screened system's heyday.

I'll chat about those DS titles in an upcoming post. What I want to discuss today are the DS titles I'm hoping to buy and play in 2020.

Again--I've heard this CiNG-developed game pales in comparison to the rest of the company's DS releases, like Trace Memory and Hotel Dusk, but I want to play it anyway. I've loved every other title it put out before filing for bankruptcy in 2010, including the aforementioned ones, so I think it would be only fitting for me to try Again, too--even if it proves to be a disappointment in the end.

The Dark Spire--Those of you who still follow the DS probably know why I've yet to play, or even buy, this Success-made dungeon-crawler. For the rest of you, the reason is complete copies of The Dark Spire go for a pretty penny these days. Still, it's intrigued me for so long that I'm planning to bite the bullet on it sometime in the coming year--bank account be damned.

Japanese cover art for The Dark Spire

Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings--For reasons I can't remember, I avoided nearly all of the Final Fantasy and Mana games Square Enix brought to the DS. (The sole exceptions: Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light.) I guess the word of mouth on them must've been bad? Regardless, I've long thought they looked brilliant. Revenant Wings, especially. I have little idea as to how it plays, but that's rarely stopped me before.

Flower, Sun, and Rain--I bought this DS port of Grasshopper Manufacture's second-ever game (originally released in Japan for the PS2) shortly after it was discussed while recording an episode of The Nichiest Podcast Ever. In other words, it's been sitting on a shelf, sadly unplayed, for quite some time. Here's hoping I can make it the second Grasshopper-made game I've ever played--after another of its DS titles, Contact--as soon as possible next year.

Infinite Space--I've got to be honest here: I don't actually know much about this one. I know it was made (in part) by PlatinumGames. I know it was published by Sega. And that's basically it. OK, so I know it's set in space, too--hence the second part of its title. Whatever. I've heard and read such good things about Infinite Space that I couldn't help but buy it when it was reprinted a couple of years back. The current idea is to get off my butt and finally play it within the next 12 months. Fingers crossed.

North American cover art for Knights in the Nightmare

Knights in the Nightmare--Is it strange that I want to play this 2009 release even though I've never played any of Sting Entertainment's other "Dept. Heaven" titles? I suppose so. The thing is, I'm not the biggest GameBoy Advance fan in the world. (Gulp!) And though I love the PSP, I rarely pull mine out these days. In other words, it's unlikely I'm going to play the series' first two entries--Riviera: The Promised Land and Yggdra Union--anytime soon. So why not skip right to the more-accessible-for-me third (or fourth, according to the people who call the shots) entry?

Magical Starsign--Here's a game I bought after asking folks on Twitter to name some underappreciated DS titles. I'd always liked how it looked, but I'd also heard rumblings that it was boring. When a few of the aforementioned social-media acquaintances suggested otherwise, though, my wariness toward this Brownie Brown-developed role-player dissolved like a Kool-Aid packet into water. Helping matters: even new copies of Magical Starsign are fairly cheap at the moment.

Magician's Quest: Mysterious Times--You might think that, given my love of the Animal Crossing series, I'd have played this Konami-published knockoff by now. Well, I haven't. That's mostly because I've never liked its aesthetic, if I'm to be honest. Still, I'm in such a DS mood these days that I'm seriously considering games that previously failed to attract my interest. Magician's Quest may have to wait until late in the year to be played, however, as Animal Crossing: New Horizons is sure to take up all of my life-sim bandwidth from spring to autumn.

North American cover art for Mystery Dungeon

Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer--Full disclosure: the only reason I don't already own this iteration of the vaunted Shiren the Wanderer series is its hideous North American box art (see above). Also, this isn't the kind of game someone like me is even going to attempt to play through in Japanese. (That region's cover illustration is leagues better than ours, naturally.) I'm going to push my prejudices aside, though, and nab a copy soon so I can see how it stacks up against the other Mystery Dungeon games I've enjoyed to date.

Nostalgia--This is another game I've waffled on buying for ages. Still, I'm thinking of flopping over to the "buy" side of things in 2020 for two reasons. One is that Red Entertainment, of Tengai Makyou fame, had a hand in making it. Another is that the similarly talented Matrix Software helped with its development, too. I have a feeling Notalgia won't live up to the pedigrees of either company, but I'm willing to take a chance on it anyway.

See also: '15 Nintendo DS games you should think about starting in honor of the system's 15th anniversary'