Neo Geo Pocket Bother

Am I allowed to run a site based around portable gaming if I don’t own a Neo Geo Pocket Color? Seriously, is there a rule against this kind of thing?

It’s not like I owned one at some point or another, then did that weird thing where I sell off my consoles only to buy them again later. 

never owned a Neo Geo Pocket Color.

In fact, I’ve never even held the thing. The two times I’ve seen one was on the wrong side of a display window. I hear tales of a ‘clicky’ analog nub. I remember it connected to the Dreamcast, which was actually pretty cute in a ‘being buried side by side’ kind of way. Oh, and it provided the owner with a daily horoscope, “I hope you like fighters. Lucky Numbers: 5, 7, 23, 54.”

I never picked one up because…it didn’t have any games I wanted. Even now, tempted by hot eBay deals, I find it difficult to take the plunge. I did my research, looked into the Neo Geo Pocket Color’s best games. Not a feeling was stirred. I’m not much of a fighting game fan, so I’m left with odd Metal Slug installments and like, a slot machine game. Am I being reductive? Absolutely, but when the one game that sparks my interest averages $100 on eBay, it’s hard to commit.

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Sneak King

I imagine the folks at Curve Studios as real risk takers; bungee jumping on weekends, sky diving after work, claiming Twilight Princess to be the best Zelda game. You know, adrenaline junkie kind of stuff.

That daredevil attitude certainly carries over to their games as well. Stealth Inc. , available for the Vita and PS3, is hardly a safe, bankable game. Doesn’t everyone hate stealth in games? While it has been done properly, stealth’s surge of popularity in the early 2000’s led to poor implementation across the board. ‘Stealth’ quickly became a dirty word, but complaints fell on deaf ears as it continued to show up in the unlikeliest of places.

Curve Studios may be ballsy in their approach, but they’ve certainly got the product to back them up. Stealth Inc. is an informed take on the genre, one that rights the mistakes others have made and iterate on.

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Throwback Thursday: Mole Mania

Whoa, am I committing to a regular feature every Thursday? Hardly. But, I’m certainly willing to try! Welcome to Throwback Thursday, the day where I talk about something old, and possibly yell at you to get off my lawn.

Released in 1997 for the Game Boy, Mole Mania was one of those Nintendo made games that never ‘caught on’. Put simply, Muddy Mole never achieved the same stature as Nintendo’s more revered franchises. Hell, Pit stands a better chance of being recognized, and 99% of people will call him Kid Icarus. Uni-browed protagonists was not what the people were craving at the time.

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But with box art like that, who could muster enough interest to bother playing it? Who wants to play as a protagonist that looks that clueless?

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Issue #3 of the Fun Factor Zine is Now Available! Download the PDF for free!

These guys know what’s up. Make sure to check out their podcast as well. Not handheld dedicated, but there sure is a lot of it!

Nintendo Fun Club Podcast

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OMG TWO COVERS!!!

Download the issue:

Fun Factor 3 Green Cover / Fun Factor 3 White Cover (left-click link to view in your browser or right-click, then “save link as…” to download!)

The cover story this issue is all about the unfairly ignored hardcore / niche games in the Wii’s library. We have write-ups featuring tons of our favorite RPGs, shmups, brawlers, point and click adventures, light gun shooters, SRPGs, rouguelikes, and psychological horror games on the system.

The issue also includes an overview of the Nintendo history of the Final Fight series, some of our favorite photos taken in Animal Crossing New Leaf, a piece comparing the cultures of Apple and Nintendo, a bit on the Wii U Summer Tour Chicago stop, and all the usual music and game reviews.

It’s a .pdf, so you can read it on your Mac/PC, iPad, Kindle…

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Way of the Glamurai

Flynn asks the demon to become an ally…

Naga: I want a Life container!

Comply

Naga: I need some cash money! 534 mecca!

Comply

Naga: Hey, I used to have a helmet like that…until my Mom got a job! Hahahaha

The demon has fled.

Burroughs: He’s got you there, master.

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But really, how can anyone take me seriously with  a getup like that? I might as well be carrying a foam sword and baggies of rice.

It’s not that I want to look that terrible, it’s that I have to. Despite a pretty decent cash flow, these damn blacksmiths can’t be bothered to craft anything halfway bad ass. I’m still wearing my pre-order bonus, the EB Games ‘power hoodie’! In a world mystified by guns, my promo sweater goes by unnoticed?

But it’s my helmet that takes the cake. Have you seen Flynn? The guy is his own hairdresser. He doesn’t even dare step into Naraku until his widow’s peak is juuuuust right. But unless he wants his head stomped in, dude’s got to throw on the most stereotypical armour ever created? Not only that, now he has got to deal with helmet hair? Damn.

Is it so wrong to want to look awesome? From afar I look great, lighting my surroundings with wild fire balls and lightning bolts. Step a little closer and it’s Nerd Town USA, population Flynn.

At least there’s always the Centaur. I keep him around just so I’m not the absolute worst looking thing around. Two horses connected at the abdomen? Yeah, things could always be worse I suppose.
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Heart Attack

A key component of magic is having you look one way while the guts of the performance are occurring elsewhere. This distraction allows the wonder of an illusion to take hold of us. Of course, misleading a person carries its own dangers, so it’s best if the end result leaves the desired impression.

Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale is an example of such trickery. Its title brings to mind battles between gigantic creatures, a town crumbling around their feet amid the chaos. In reality, the titular monsters don’t appear until the game’s final moments.

The monster epic you may have been expecting is instead a far more human story, one that managed to surprise me with its warmth.

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Broken up into over 20 distinct storylines, Attack is about a boy learning the ropes of his new hometown. Along the way you’ll meet an interesting cast of characters, children and adults alike, each with their own tale to tell.

Importantly, these characters aren’t plagued by the issues we associate with most video games. No one needs three pigeon feathers, and there’s no ‘moral’ choices to bluff your way through. There’s some pretty heavy stuff on display; a father raising his daughter after his wife’s passing, living up to expectations, feeling alienated. While the story is generally lighthearted, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for some genuine heart. The game is brief, but concise, and never dwells on anything for too long.

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As mentioned, Attack‘s story is divided into separate pieces. As you talk to the NPCs, new chapters open up or continue along. All chapters run concurrently, so there’s no need to worry about locking yourself out of a content. Regardless, it is an odd system, and since players can continue to play after the credits roll (picking up additional stories or continuing unfinished ones), it’s unclear why the story couldn’t have followed a more natural path. The game is constantly pausing to alert you of chapters opening and closing, saving in the process. The prescription of a name and number to each story in Attack feels clunky, and disturbs the flow of the game.

Behind the scenes of Attack, there’s a card based mini game that not only figures into the narrative, but also manages to impress on its own. By collecting glims, shining stones that litter the landscape, players can amass a collection of cards. Each card has either rock, paper, or scissors associated with it, as well as a strength stat. Players lay down five cards of their choosing, and their opponent does the same. The opponent’s cards are face down, and the game tallies your wins, loses, and ties. Two to three hints are provided (depending on your standing), and you are able to swap the positions of any two cards. Extra depth comes from cards that can beat its strength and weakness, but will lose to its own type (in this case, scissors beats paper and rock, but will lose to scissors). The mini game’s broader role in Attack‘s story is that victory leads to you becoming your opponent’s ‘boss’. In that role, the NPC will tell you more information regarding particular storylines.

It felt great to visit this quant little town, taking in its sights and citizens. Instead of a lifeless city that appears to revolve around your existence, Attack‘s world is one that remains in motion when you arrive. It’s clear that this place would have existed whether you ever showed up or not. Attack tells a lovely tale, and is certain to win you over. It may not be as vicious as the title implies, but the surprise of Attack‘s true tale is better for it.

Shin Megami Tense, eh?

As I write this, sweat pours down my face, gathers in my eyebrows, and annoys me to no end.

On one hand, my perspiration could be caused by the unusually warm weather coupled with my warehouse surroundings.

Or it’s the fact that Shin Megami Tensei IV has me thinking 15 moves ahead, hording healing waters like a mother.

Yeah, it’s been a pretty hairy day.

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Back in my Crossing to Bare post, I spoke on how the Animal Crossing franchise existed on the opposite end of the spectrum when it came to games I enjoy. Yet, in spite of my own grumpy ways, I fell in love with it. Same goes for Shin Megami IV, except its obstacle isn’t as easy to overcome. It makes me address the issue I have with game difficulty.

As many can attest, SMTIV comes at you hard, unleashing a whirlwind of hurt I haven’t felt in a long time. As a rule, when the opportunity rises I take the baby’s way out at the difficulty selection screen. Whether its easy, casual, or Ninja Dog Mode, it doesn’t matter, it’s what I’m doing. SMTIV doesn’t provide that option (that is, until you die twice, see the update at the end of the post!). Instead, as I die early in a tutorial mission, a pair of sunglasses slowly drop from above, and drape the game’s face as it whispers “Deal with it.”

The 28-year-old, father of two in me says, “Pull out, pull out! You’re in over your head! This isn’t easy enough for you!”, while the battle hardened, NES lovin’, child of the 80’s screams at me to persevere.

The quality of this thing is causing that inner child to win out. I’m understanding that Dark Souls crowd a bit better thanks to SMTIV. While the on-field enemies jump at me as soon as I open the door, I still have the means to pull off a victory. It keeps me on my toes, I don’t think I’ve ever tried to balance out my team as carefully as I am now.

I’m also getting Xenoblade vibes, but don’t get ahead of yourself, fellow Xeno lovers. What inspires these feelings is how evolved everything feels. Instead of a JRPG lost in that late-90’s explosion (or worse, the 2000’s implosion), SMTIV plays like a natural evolution. In battle, if an elemental attack is an enemy’s weakness, an exclamation mark takes place of the cursor, same goes for neutral attacks. There’s no guesswork, and really helps speed things along. As well, item gathering quests don’t need to be ‘taken on’, instead they are always active, and the game will notify you when a necessary item has been gathered. Whether you turn them in is up to you, so you’re never beholden to turn over sweet loots.

So, as I trudge forward, resurrecting my fallen warriors with my bounty of Play Coins, I’m actually enjoying these constant beatings. While I keep that sort of masochism out of the bedroom, it’s nice to be reminded how short sighted I can be in a game sometimes. Not everything in life is easy, and Shin Megami Tensei IV reminds you every chance it gets.

UPDATE: The wise Neal Ronaghan (friend and site director of Nintendo World Report) informed me that if I die twice, I’m offered an easy difficulty! This changes everything! Well, not entirely. While I’m likely to switch over, I think I’m still in for a hard time.