The Perfect Oddity (Yumi’s Odd Odyssey)

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I never understood those couples that fought and fought, but always stayed together. I assumed they hated each other, but felt that need for a companion and didn’t bother putting in the effort to break up and start the process over.

Yumi’s Odd Odyssey makes that bond understandable. If you were to witness our time together, you’d mistake my punching of nearby pillows as a sign of anger. Perhaps my cursing would imply a hatred for Yumi and her outrageous outing (feel free to use that, Natsume, should the need to name a sequel arrive).

But behind all that outward facing frustration is a sick, disturbing adoration that is rare for me. It’s not often that I enjoy a game that I simultaneously want to tape to a brick and throw off a cliff. An odd odyssey indeed.

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One Traumatic Childhood (Yoshi’s New Island)

Each installment in the Yoshi’s Island series is so very painful. Not in that prideful, nostalgic, “What are they doing to my Yoshi’s Island!?” kind of way. Instead it’s this scary reminder that Mario was born into this mess. Even as a infant he couldn’t escape his fate. Those tears of his may bother you on an auditory level, but what of him? What about the boy behind those tears?

Anyways, Yoshi’s New Island is rad.

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For f’s Sake (Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f)

I feel like the token amnesiac hero of a JRPG when I play Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f. I wake up inside a beautiful world, at a loss for exactly why I’m there. Who are these people? Why does everyone already know each other? And what exact language are they speaking?

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But that’s all part of PDf‘s charm. Longtime fans can take the time to spit on me now, but every aspect of this series is new to me. Not that it cares, it makes no effort to explain its universe. Instead I’m forced to go with the flow, accept the fact that this Hatsune Miku…person…lady…thing is a pretty big deal, and get on with the button tapping.

For those as clueless as I was, Hatsune Miku is the female avatar of a popular piece of Japanese vocaloid software. This software allows users to write and perform songs without a singer, as the software is able to provide a voice to the lyrics (which is possible because the Japanese language isn’t as complex as far as pronunciation is concerned, there aren’t 15 different ways to pronounce different letter-couplings for example). As for the Project Diva series, it mixes Hatsune Miku (and some friends that bum along), the best tunes made for her, and a quick paced take on rhythm genre.

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While I may be lacking in knowledge of the larger “plot” surrounding its world and characters (the loading screens and intro movie imply everyone is super best friends), I’d argue it adds to the game’s surreality. For many, PDf is a game you have to decide to take the plunge with. With nary a vocaloid album in my collection, or a Miku body pillow atop my bed, I made the call to buy this bad boy, and I’m very happy I did. Project Diva f is one hell of a game.

With a tailor made video playing in the background, players press the corresponding face button when two matching icons meet on the screen. Failure to hit the notes correctly takes a toll on your health bar, ending the song should it empty. This is hardly surprising or unique as a mechanic, but the pace at which you’re tapping to the beat is flawless. You feel so in tune with the music, and there’s rarely a moment where it feels you’re hitting buttons at inappropriate times. It just shows an expertise with the genre, one that makes sense when you consider SEGA is one of the few companies that bother with rhythm games (and have produced some of its classic). The game mixes things up with touch screen notes, a feature that I have a distaste for. But fear not, Project Diva f is overflowing with customization!

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The aforementioned touch screen notes can be relaxed by a button press if you’re willing to pay the price. Nothing steep mind you, so long as you don’t value rankings. The game provides a bevy of items to use in the songs, some to aid and others to make the games even harder. The beneficial items will affect your score, but if it means I don’t have to smear my fingers along the screen I’m down for anything.

The customization doesn’t end there, though. There’s a lot of doll room kind of stuff, letting you play around with Miku’s appearance. I’m always happiest with a character’s final design that I rarely dive into this kind of content. But if you want to use the touch screen to poke at Miku’s head, you’re more than welcome to!

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But what good is all this if the songs aren’t up to snuff? The music in PDf brings me back to that fairy tale analogy. All the tunes on display here are new to me, and I have no idea what the subject matter is. But with that said, this is some catchy shit. While I may not have heard these songs before, I feel that’s a perfect fit for a rhythm game. It’s neat not knowing what’s coming up, getting caught off guard by a sudden change in tempo.

It all just seems a little insane, me sitting there mashing away, listening to my Vita as it speaks in tongues. It’s a very different experience, and one that I can appreciate. Taking today’s latest North American hits and implanting them within the game wouldn’t win me over as strongly as Project Diva f has. Plenty of games try to make me feel as if I’ve beamed off to another world, but PDf is one of the few that pull it off.

Non-Stop Jill Ride (Drill Dozer)

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; Drill Dozer is the best Game Boy Advance release, and remains GameFreak’s greatest work.

W…why didn’t you stop me? There’s no way that’s the first time you’ve heard anyone say that. There’s been others…right?

Whoa. Wow…alright, let me process all this. A lot of emotions going on right now. Maybe what’s best is if I explain myself. But be warned; my adoration of Drill Dozer is so strong that you may end up feeling the same way…without even playing the game.

I’m of the mind that GameFreak really needs to stretch their wings more. Of course, I like so many others need my dose of Pokémon every couple of years. But if it comes at the cost of less wholly new ideas, then I’d be more than happy to sit a year out if it means more experiments like HarmoKnight.

What kick started this feeling was Drill Dozer, a game that couldn’t be further away from their pocket monster work. What impresses me most is how far the studio managed to take the drilling concept, one that is nothing more than turning your drill clockwise and counter (through the R and L button, respectively). GameFreak builds on this not by layering on extra abilities, but by building better levels and enemies. Your comfort with the mechanic grows along with the game, and when you feel like the time has come to settle in, Drill Dozer throws another creative obstacle at you. In time you’ll be latching onto enemies and spinning your drill in the opposite direction to launch yourself away, and speeding through the tubular innards of a boss, spinning your drill left and right to work your way through its system. It’s amazing how varied Drill Dozer remains throughout. It reminds me of Punch-Out!! in that sense, as your abilities remain the same from the beginning straight through to the end. The game grows with you, and it’s hard to not be impressed.

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Trail Blaz’r: An Interview With Mike Engler of Aksys Games

Mike Engler’s humility surprises me. Not that anyone deserves an inflated ego, mind you. It’s just that as an editor, he’s been behind the localization of some of my favourite games. With a resume that lists works such as Retro Game Challenge and Muramasa Rebirth, it’s a wonder he could show any worry over the quality of his work.

But for Mike, a self confessed Localization Drone (as well as Text Monkey, and Text Magician), Aksys Games’ upcoming visual novel, XBlaze Code: Embryo, is a far cry from the projects he’s handled before. Not that he’s unprepared; Mike has had his hands in the BlazBlue series of fighting games, a world that XBlaze serves as a prequel to. Set 150 years before the BlazBlue games, players take on the role of Touya Kagari, a high school sophomore whose adventure unravels some of the greater mysteries of the BlazBlue universe. Even those unfamiliar with BB will enjoy this tale of multiple factions seeking out the power that created the universe. XBlaze is announced to release this Summer for the PS3 and Vita.

I got the opportunity to speak with Mike about XBlaze Code: Embryo, as well as some of his past work.

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It’s great seeing Aksys continuing to release visual novel games with XBlaze Code: Embryo. Other publishers are joining in on the fun, so I’d like to know what you feel sets XBlaze apart from games like Virtue’s Last Reward and Danganronpa?

Mike Engler: Probably the biggest thing is that, unlike Dangan and VLR, which I’d consider adventure games, XBlaze is more of a pure visual novel. While there is a certain level of player interaction in XBlaze, it is far more subtle, with the results of the player’s choices not always immediately apparent until they get further into the story.

Another difference between XBlaze and its ADV compatriots is the presentation of the story scenes. They tend to be far more dynamic and play out more like an animated feature; with multiple camera angles used to give a sense of movement.

I have to add that all three games mentioned are worth playing, so grab them all for a couple of months’ worth of entertainment.

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Episode 59 – Hockey Hair of the Kong

My buds at the Nintendo Fun Club Podcast had me on their show, and we had a great time! Listen to us kinda sorta wave goodbye to online enabled Wii and DS games, rants about how ugly the original Donkey Kong Country games are, and why the NES’s Castlevania would be much better with a sword.

Nintendo Fun Club Podcast

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Left-click here to listen in your browser or right-click, then “save link as…” to download the episode!

News:

Aqua Moto Racing Utopia coming to Wii U

Nintendo switching off Wifi for Wii and DS

Games: Bravely Default, Inazuma Eleven, Weapon Shop de Omasse, Ice Hockey, Castlevania, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams

Music:

The Bouncing Souls – We Love Fun (unofficial Nintendo Fun Club theme song)

Ice Hockey – Title Theme

Propagandhi – Dear Coach’s Corner

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