Archive for the From Japan Category

Top 100 NES/Famicom Games List – All in One!

Posted in Editorials, From Japan, Hidden gems, Nerd Culture, NES, Retro Gaming, Retrospectives, Top Games Lists with tags , on March 23, 2012 by satoshimatrix

Over the past several months, I’ve been publishing segments in an overarching top 100 NES games list. Now that I’ve finally finished, I figured I should give to you guys an unabridged complete listing to find every game in one post. This allows you to Control/Command+F search through this whole list. Let it load for a few minutes though -it’s long. I hope you enjoy!

Arguably the most beloved console of all time, the Nintendo Entertainment System, commonly abbreviated as NES, is now well over 25 years old. With over two thousand games produced worldwide for the legendary hardware, the NES, despite its age, has an eternal staying power. As retro gaming continues to grow in popularity, more and more gamers flock to Nintendo’s first home console to get their gaming fix.

To help these gamers out, I’ve decided to focus my energy to create a comprehensive top 100 NES and Famicom game list. Yes, there are already plenty of NES top 10’s, top 25’s and even top 100 lists all over the net. So why should you care about my top 100 list?

My aim here was to make a unique list that goes beyond simply my picks and my thoughts about them. This list was carefully crafted based on my experience of well over seven hundred individual titles for both the NES and Famicom. My criteria for this list was based on three factors – Overall appeal, uniqueness, and how well each have aged.

This list will include every kind of software ever written for the hardware, whether it be NES, Famicom, unlicensed, prototype, homebrew or Hong Kong original pirate – if it was sold in some forum, it’s fair game for this list. The only type of games I have excluded are hacks of existing games. While many of these are incredible, I may at some point in the future write a separate list for these alone.

Of course, with a system like the NES which saw well over 700 titles in North America alone, there can never be a true definitive top 100 that will be universally true for all players. The bottom line is this list is merely a collection of my opinions, so feel free to disagree and tell me what you’d add in your list instead. For those who may be interested in tracking down copies of the games I mention, I am including a general price range for loose carts and what I am calling the NES difficulty meter.

Since many NES games can be a real test of player’s patience and skill, I am ranking every game on its overall difficulty using a simple scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is brain dead easy and 10 is….well,  Battletoads. A 5 on this scale means it’s average difficulty with perhaps some challenging elements, but nothing the average gamer should get stuck on for too long.

I’m also including many links to videos and other online information sources. Links are indicated by orange words. Please open these links in a new tap/window so you don’t have to navigate away from this article.

So without further ado, I hope you will enjoy the Top 100 NES/Famicom Games List!

Continue reading

Advertisements

Capcom taking votes for upcomming Rockman figures

Posted in From Japan, Megaman Classic, Retro Gaming on April 3, 2011 by satoshimatrix

A few days ago, Capcom Japan announced that the planned XBLA/PSN Megaman Universe has been canceled. However, Capcom Japan is offering something pretty cool for Megaman fans to somewhat make up for the loss of Universe.

The Japanese Capcom Rockman community forum is hosting a public poll with suggestions for upcoming Rockman figures. Votes are anonymous without any logins needed and it seems you can vote from anywhere in the world.

You can vote for three figures. If the character you want a figure of isn’t listed, you can type it in the text box provided, but remember to type the name in Japanese. The menus are in Japanese, but there’s a lot of katakana and should be pretty easy to figure out. Below the character voting box, it asks your age range, then your favorite Rockman series (Classic, X, DASH, etc.) The figures will probably be Japan only, but that shouldn’t stop you from hitting an import shop once these publicly voted figures hit.

I’m personally excited about the prospect of getting more DASH/Legends figures, although Zero series Ciel or Leviathan are fine too.

link here:

https://monitor.capcom.co.jp/question/panel1/rockman/rockman.cgi

Arcana Heart Review (PS2)

Posted in From Japan, Hidden gems, PS2, Reviews on February 6, 2011 by satoshimatrix

Everybody was Moe Fighting

As videogames continue to evolve and become more and more complex, it’s becoming less and less possible to accurately tell what a game is going to be about simply by looking at the cover. Some RPGs look more like action games, shooters look like turn based stategy, even the cover art of some sports titles can give the wrong idea. Indeed, the days of looking at a game’s box art and knowing exactly what to expect have passed.

And then there’s Arcana Heart.

Arcana Heart manages to entice grown men to play a fighting game starring a cast of schoolgirls ranging for 14 at most to just friggin’ 8 year olds. How? With the promise of all things shamelessly moe. If you don’t know what moe means, look it up right now as I’ll continue to make reference to the word throughout this review.

This is a fetish fighter that will attract you to it even if you don’t have any particular moe fetish.

Well, the ploy worked and now I own Arcana Heart. With that out of the way, how is the actual game? Let’s find out.

Premise

Arcana Heart is a hardcore four button Neo-Geo style fighter with an elaborate enhancement system that on tournament levels, really sets Arcana Heart’s balance and depth leagues apart from other fighters.

Story

Once upon a time in the land of the rising sun, a group of game creators needed a new idea for a successful arcade fighting game in a sea of pre-existing fighting games. Their final idea was to group lolicon girls that beleive in love and peace and have them try to beat the shit out of each other. the team brought the idea to the the president who then proclaimed  “brilliant! Also make sure to throw in inappropriate levels of sex appeal and magic and shit!” and thus Arcana Heart was born. Oh, you wanted to know the story in the game itself? How silly of me.

In ancient times, the Elemental world and our world were joined. No one knows why or when, but at some point in the past, they split. Now we live in our world, and the Arcana live in theirs. Behind the scenes, the Ministry of Elemental Affairs (MEA) has been working to protect the boundary between words, for they know if the worlds ever merges into one again the results would be disastrous for humanity. Now, in the skies above Tokyo, a dimensional rift is beginning to form, and the boundary between worlds is in danger. Humanity’s only hope rests with the Maidens young girls who can communicate with the Arcana.

Graphics

Arcana Heart is a pretty drop-dead gorgeous fighting game. The first time I played it I couldn’t believe the PS2 was producing such beautiful high resolution character sprites on the order I would expect to see only in next-gen games like BlazBlue. The animation is truly excellent and there’s a lot of colorful, flashy environmental effects to be seen.

The character designs themselves are over-the-top moe oozing fanservice for every type of moe fetish there is. There’s an underage schoolgirl who fights for love and justice, to  a katana wielding schoolgirl, a gothic-lolita possessed by a doll, a Chinese female robot with giant robotic breasts and a underage witch-in-training, just to name a few. JAPAN.

Audio

Sad as it is, none of the music except for the vs battle theme is very memorable in the least. None of it’s bad or irritating, but you will find yourself wishing there was more care put in to the music.

As for the voice acting, most of it was cut from the English release, but the girls’ voices can still be heard in battle, shouting their basic Japanese taunts that mean silly things such as “Can you take the heat of my passionate spirit?!” or “The power of love gives me super strength!”

Even the game’s well produced opening theme song is far more plain and generic than many other games. Here’s the opening song. Judge for yourself.

Gameplay

Arcana Heart offers eleven playable characters with their own movesets, speeds, strengths, advantages, and disadvantages, all the things you would normally expect.  The game is a four button Neo-Geo style arcade brawler with three main attacks and a special attack button. By preforming button combos you can unleash special moves.

In addition to character movesets, but there’s this thing called the Arcana System. Like any game’s super moves, the Acana system can be completely ignored by novice players, but for those willing to learn it the system offers incredible depth. Unlike most game super moves, the Arcana ones are diverse and some are quite easy to pull off.

After you select your character, you can select any one of several enhancements called Arcanas which infuse that character with special traits. Some give elemental attacks such as fire or lightening, but others grant passive abilities such as the ability to teleport around the screen or slow your rate of decent while falling.

These are preformed with your usual button combination and the large number of different sets greatly adds to the replayability and lasting appeal of what otherwise would be a decent if shallow fighter.

There’s a heavy emphasis on aerial combat in Arcana Heart as you can toss your opponent easily twice as high as in other fighting games and fight mid-air Dragonball Z style.

Control

Here are the default controls. These are vital to learn if you want to have a hope in hell at playing the single player. They can be reassigned as you like.

Left Stick: Movement, scroll through menus
D-pad: Movement, Scroll through menus
Right Stick: Unused
□: A Attack (weak)
Δ: B Attack (medium)
O: C Attack (strong)
X: S Attack (special)
L1: Arcana Force (A+B+C)
L2: N/A
R1: A+B
R2: Throw (A + S)
Start: Pause
Back: Unused

Frustration

Unfortunately, Arcana Heart breaks one the carnal rules of arcade fighting games – it is not friendly to first-time players. Button mashing will result in confusion as the button required to harness your Arcana super move is also a dash move which homes in on your opponent and is by default, mapped to the X button, which is likely to be the first button players will reach for.

Playing with a full-sized arcade stick is pretty essential as is clearly remapping the controls to buttons that make sense to you. Doing this has the added benefit of further teaching the basic controls, which absolutely have to be learned for success in the single player in even the easiest difficulty.

Availability & Price

Arcana Heart usually floats around $20-30 for the North American version. The English version includes everything the Japanese version has including the ability to switch between chipset revisions (Arcana Normal vs Arcana Full), but it lacks the voice acting found in the Japanese version.

History

Arcana Heart was developed by a small software company called Yuki Enterprises, who had previously worked in concert with SNK-Playmore for the development of Samurai Shodown 5, one of the final games developed for the legendary Neo Geo MVS and AES platform.

When the Neo Geo was at least retired in 2004 after the extremely long fourteen year console cycle, Yuki Enterprises changed their company name to Examu Inc and began work on a brand new fighting game for the newer and more powerful Arcade ex-BOARD archetype. Two years later, that game was released in Japanese arcades until the title Arcana Heart.

In order to stand out from the competition, arcade game makers have often had to think of ways to turn heads and attract players. Some games use flashy graphics, huge bezels or generally giant cabinets. Examu’s stategy was to focus on attracting the moe otaku crowd by using only the most fetishy moe characters they could think of. It worked.

Arcana Heart soon became a break out hit and was featured in many fighting game tournaments in Japan. Less than a year later, a patch for the arcade game called Arcana Heart Full was released to combat complaints of character balance issues and bugfixes. Given the massive popularity, a PS2 port was soon in development that eventually found its way to store shelves in North America thanks to Atlus.

There’s since been two sequels, but neither have yet been localized.

Original Advertising

Here’s the trailer for the US version of Arcana Heart. Try not to cringe.

Overall
Good

  • Outstandingly beautiful 2D graphics
  • One word. Moe.
  • For players willing to learn the Arcana System, there’s more depth in Arcana Heart than just about any other fighting game out there

Bad

  • The game’s barrier of entry is rather difficult to overcome. This is a deep and involved fighter that casual fighting game fans and button mashers stand no chance at.
  • Atlas completely removed all the Japanese voices from the story mode turning what was a semi amusing plot points into a drab and boring wall of text.
  • Forgettable music
  • Not to beat a dead horse, but the game has no tutorial to teach players just how the hell to play the game.

Conclusion

Arcana Heart is a hardcore gamer’s fighter through and through. It’s visually amazing, using high res sprites and zooming techniques right out of the Samurai Shodown series, but make no mistake, this is anything but a casual game. If you aren’t willing to learn the complexities of the fighting system, steer clear of this series. If you have expereince with Guilty Gear of Melty Blood or other doijin fighters though, this one might be worth a look, and I’m not talking about the girls. Perverts.

Data

Platform: Arcade, PS2

Genre: 2D Fighter

Release Date: April 10, 2008

Developer: Examu Inc (formally Yuki Enterprises)

Publisher: Atlus

Also from the developer: Samurai Shodown V

Also try: Melty Blood, Big Bang Beat, Guilty Gear

Game Length: ~35 minutes once you learn how to play it

ESRB: T for partial nudity, sexual themes, violence and batshit insane Japanese moe content up the vazoo

Buy/Skip: It really depends on what you’re looking for. Refer to the review above.

Pocket Monsters Black Import Review (DS)

Posted in DS, From Japan, Imports, Reviews on October 19, 2010 by satoshimatrix

 

The fifth generation of Pokémon arrives on the DS

 

Last year, I imported Pocket Monsters HeartGold and reviewed it far before it was localized. This year I continue the trend with the newly released Pocket Monsters Black version. Keep in mind I am not completely fluent in Japanese, so some errors may spring up. This is the impressions and opinions of a long time western fan of the series and nothing else. While I am covering the Black version, all that I state here should apply to the White version as well.

Fifteen years ago, the first pair of Pokémon games, Red and Green, were released in Japan and became massive hits. Since then, Pokemon had grown into a huge fad that has subsided somewhat since the turn of the millennium. Nevertheless, those who have stuck with the games for the long haul have continually found many reasons to return to the new titles again and again even though the fundamental basics of each new game remain untouched since the days of the black-and-white Gameboy.

Last year, Game Freak gave us fantastic remakes of the two best games in the series, Gold and Silver, with Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver. These updates featured many incredible enhancements, most notably vastly superior audio and visuals to any game in the series before it.

This year, Game Freak gives us a brand new pair of Pokémon games, the first two in what is being called Generation 5, as it is the fifth time new, never before seen Pokemon had been added and await eager trainers worldwide.

By now, it’s an absolute foregone conclusion that these games will receive fantastic reviews and sell boatloads when they are localized. The question for the moment however, is if you should import one of these Japanese text-heavy RPGs or wait for the western release. Read on to find out.

Story

Black and White have just as much story (or lack thereof) as any previous games. You start out in your small village and receive a beginner Pokémon and set out on a journey to become a Pokémon Master by challenging and defeating other trainers, gym leaders and eventually the elite four and current champion.

Along the way, you will encounter yet another evil organization, Team Plasma, whose goals involve “freeing” Pokémon from their human trainers. Of course, you being a lone beginning trainer will eventually defeat and disband the evil PETA wannabes, but let’s pretend for now that they’re imposing and mysterious. Seriously. Their leader is a guy named “N”! I wonder what his name in the English version will be? Ah well. Did someone say smooth criminal?

Graphics

At first glance, the graphical upgrades for Black and White over those from previous games are minor. By and large, the game still basically looks the same it always has as far back as generation 1 on the original Gameboy.

The game is still has a square title based overworld where everyone moves like chess pieces and cannot travel on angles. Pokémon still face off in battle as they always have with yours in the lower left and the foe’s in the upper right.

That said, this is without a doubt the best looking set of Pokémon games ever. The overworld is now rendered completely in 3D, making every location look as the special 3D areas from Platinum and HeartGold/SoulSilver. On the overworld, there are many new effects, such as light shimmering on the surface of water, leaves flying through the air, water dripping from walls and ceilings of caves, and much more. In addition to those changes, many areas now feature fully three dimensional spaces and do some interesting camera angles as you twist up a large bridge, the interior of builds or climb a spiral staircase.

Pokémon are still sprite based, but are no longer static. In battle, all Pokemon now animate as they did in Pokemon Crystal, but to a much greater degree. Now, Pokemon has no idle sprites whatsoever. Even in battle, the screen will pan around when no input is made, making the battle seem much more alive and in tune with battle scenes in other modern RPGs.

Something else I feel I should point out is for the first time, the games now make full use of Japanese Kanji. In every previous game, Hiragana and Katakana were used exclusively, allowing Japanese children who had not learned many Kanji characters to easily play the game. As a student of the language myself, this change is very off-putting as the game doesn’t sublimate the Kanji with the Furigana aid. You can change this off in the options, but by default, expect to see many Kanji characters this time around in the import versions.

On a technical note, for those who were hoping it would be fixed from HeartGold/SoulSilver, I’m sorry to have to inform you Black and White operate in 30 frames per second as the previous Gen 4 games did. As such, expect occasional jerkiness and slowdown when accessing areas with high polygon counts.

Audio

For the most part, the audio this time around is quite strong. The bump in quality isn’t as pronounced as it was in HeartGold/SoulSilver, but I’m still really enjoying the score thus far. That said, many of the early tracks remind me of Diamond & Pearl’s somewhat forgettable tracks. Nothing is standing out overly bad, but as of the writing of this review, I have not encountered any tracks that have compelled me enough to wear headphones as HeartGold and SoulSilver’s tracks did.

Even with gen 5’s visual updates, the sound effects still seem primitive. As always, Pokémon shout their 8-bit cries rather than scream their names as in the anime. Considering what an amazing job GameFreak did arranging the music, it’s sad to hear the 8-bit screeches that play during it. I still hope that someday this changes. New cries sound just as primitive as those of the first 151. Ouch Game Freak!

Gameplay

The heart and soul of every Pokémon game is the gameplay, and Black & White are no different.

Part of what makes Pokemon so good is that there are layers and layers of depth if you choose to explore.

Among the new changes, you can now encounter two wild Pokemon at once. However, you still can’t catch a Pokémon until one of the two wild Pokemon have fainted. This works like any other double battle, but it’s a cool concept that shakes things up a bit. There’s even a three on three battle which is quite speedier than multiple one-on-one battles.

Unfortunately, there’s only a handful of triple battles in the entire game and double battles seem to be missing entirely. Expect to see the same ol’ one-on-one encounters as always.

The Battle Menu is arranged in the same manner HeartGold and SoulSilver’s was, with a large fight option up top with the items bag, run and switch Pokemon options below. Game Freak even went to the effort to label them in English. How swell.

Control

Very little has changed from the Gen 4 games:

D-pad: Movement

Touchscreen: c-gear menu, options

A: Confirm selections
B: Cancel selections
Y: Item shortcut
X: Menu
L: Cycle menus left
R: Cycle menus right
Start: No function
Select: Reorganize items

The only real difference from HeartGold and SoulSilver is this time around, the touch screen is used to run the c-gear, which, from what I can tell, is a mode that allow other players to be able to see you’re online and offer trades and battles at any time, no matter if  you’re in a Pokemon Center or not. Of course, having Wifi enabled all the time severely hampers battery life, so I play with c-gear off. In the top left corner, there is a digital 12-hour clock, even in battles!

Outside of battle, the  Y button can now be used to cycle through several shortcuts for everything from using items to checking the Pokedex. When deep in menus, the X button acts as a “cancel all” command, equivalent to pressing B several times.

Frustration

The game’s frustration depends largely on your proficiency with reading Japanese and ability to solve simple logic problems. I have read many comments for people getting stuck in the third town early on. The game tells you perfectly clearly where to proceed, but for those who cannot read Japanese, expect to get lost without the aid of a walkthrough. As you progress, you will find the gyms all have their leaders missing and you will have to go off and find them before you can even enter their gym!

Also point of frustration is that none of the previous Pokemon appear at all until you’ve beaten the elite four, meaning you will have to use new Pokemon and expose yourself to the risks involved of raising creates you don’t know.

Availability & Price

Pocket Monsters Black and White are only available in Japan right now. Import prices vary, but don’t expect to pay less than at least $50 USD for a copy. Pokemon games usually sell for more than other imports.

Keep in mind that the original DS and the DS Lite are region-free, but Black and White will only play on the Japanese DSi and DSi LL.

Import Friendliness

As the games are completely in Japanese, they are for the most part easy to figure out. Being able to read and understand basic Japanese kana definitely helps, but is not absolutely necessary to enjoy the game. Remember these are children’s games, so they shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out even if you can’t read a word of Japanese.

History

As these games are brand new in Japan, there isn’t too much for me to put here. What I can say is that these games are evolutions of Diamond and Pearl – they look basically the same, but are greatly expanded. If Diamond & Pearl were remade with Black and White’s engine, you’d see some pretty crazy stuff. I can only hope Game Freak will use this engine for Gen III remakes of Ruby and Sapphire, but something tells me they won’t. Bastards.

Overall

Good

-It’s Pokemon!

-Highly impressive Visuals…in a Pokemon game!

-TMs can be used infinitely

-Incredibly lengthy game at around….500 hours? No joke.

Bad

-You will occasionally still need to carry around an HM slave. C’mon GameFreak, this this flaw already. HM use out of battle should be done with key items, not moves!

-You won’t see any of your favorites until after you beat the game for the first time.

Conclusion

The Legacy of Pokémon stretches back nearly two decades, back on the original Gameboy. Since then, the turn based strategy games with unbelievable personalization, hidden depth and replay value have continued to evolve, offering many slight changes to better the experience. The resulting games in Black and White are every bit as much finely crafted works of art as they are entertaining videogames. The legacy of Pokemon is grand indeed. I can’t recommend these games enough. They are easily better than even HeartGold and SoulSilver. If you had asked me last year, I wouldn’t have said such a thing was even possible. I’m still shocked, in fact. Black and White are just that incredible. Import one of these. Now.

Data

Platform: Nintendo DS, DSi

Genre: Turn Based RPG

Release Date: September 19, 2010

Developer: GameFreak

Publisher: Nintendo

Also from the developer: Pokémon HeartGold/Soul Silver, Pokemon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum

Game Length: ~500 hours+

CERO Rating: A

Import or wait: Import