Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland is a wondrously weird game. The character that first appeared in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask has been divisive since his introduction. He was designed to be weird for weirdness sake and I’ve always been on the side of Zelda fandom that enjoyed his company. Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland never made it to American shores, but it was released in Europe, which means playing it isn’t hard. This version is in English and the DS is region-free so there’s no additional work needed outside of purchasing a copy.
The game begins when Uncle Rupee, a magical character in the shape of the universe’s currency appears before Tingle, a single, 35 year old man with little direction in life. Uncle Rupee promises Tingle entrance to a world unlike his own, a theme park of sorts, if Tingle can scrounge up the necessary money. And so Tingle dons his familiar green onesie and sets out to quench his thirst for excitement.
One thing I really like about this game is how it adheres to the concept of money. Everything requires coinage. Tingle’s stack of Rupees represents his health so if they ever deplete, its game over. Reason enough to always have a good amount handy. The characters that occupy Tingle’s world, all want dough too. If you visit a vendor, you have to pay them before they’ll open shop. Even having a conversation with them requires Tingle to cough up Rupees.
I found this annoying at first because nobody told you how much they wanted; you had to make an offer and hope you didn’t overspend. Once I got accustomed to this mechanic and the going-rate for things in the world though, I began to “know” how much something would cost. Lowballing characters could result in lost Rupees if they rejected my offer but still took my money. However, when I successfully came in under a suggested amount, I felt like a wheeler and/or a dealer.
This concept of cash rules everything around me was also a large hang-up of mine because of its correlation to the combat. It seemed to me the major source of income early on was fighting enemies to harvest the recipe ingredients they’d drop, make soups, and sell the end product. Enemies weren’t too prevalent and I spent a lot of time entering areas, fighting and harvesting ingredients, exiting to allow the enemies to respawn and repeating over and over. I didn’t find this gameplay loop enjoyable, especially when the combat was nonexistent.
Brushing up against an enemy created a cartoonish dust cloud fight which lasted until one of us croaked. I could tap to speed up the process, but I honestly didn’t notice much impact. Wrangling multiple enemies into the fight multiplied the amount and quality of items that would drop so I always tried to fight groups rather than individual enemies. Finding groups was hard though; I typically found a close-knit group of enemies and returned to them over and over again when harvesting ingredients. Mercenaries could be bought for extra oomph in combat, but many times, they ruined my attempts at gathering enemies together. They’d either trigger battles when I was trying to set something larger up, or wipe out an enemy before I could get another into the fight.
Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland was a humorous game, but in my opinion its primary gameplay mechanic was both its reason for being and its Achilles heel. The game’s devotion to the concept cash is king was distinguishing, but I didn’t enjoy the repetitive gameplay loop I had to go through early on to get ahead. The art design was fantastic and the characterization was top-notch so there are solid reasons to import the game. Heck, being able to say I own/played a game from another country is cool in itself.
February 13, 2012
Situated between the modern Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden II, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword provides a gaiden, or side story, to the series with one notable difference from those games – it’s portable. Dragon Sword was released for the Nintendo DS on March 25, 2008 and it tells of the continuing struggles of the elite ninja, Ryu Hayabusa.
Set six months after the first game, Dragon Sword sees Ryu’s native Hayabusa Village rebuilt and life returning to normal when a fellow villager and disciple of Ryu’s, Momiji, is kidnapped by the Black Spider Ninja Clan. As Ryu seeks Momiji, he discovers the plans of Obaba, leader of the Black Spider Ninja Clan. She wishes to empower the evil fiends with the Eye of the Dragon, a mystical jewel that would entail certain doom for humans if the fiends were able to obtain it. Ryu’s quest for Momiji requires the collection of eight dark dragonstones; each transporting him to the next one and eventually to Momiji.
Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword, like its predecessor, was headed up by Tomonobu Itagaki and his [former] elite ninja development studio Team Ninja. They deserve recognition for not losing the fast-paced action the series is known for in the transition to a portable, even more so considering the game makes heavy use of the DS’ touch screen.
The only buttons the game utilizes are for character movement, guarding, and pausing/opening menus; everything else is handled through touch. Slashing an enemy with my stylus resulted in Ryu quickly attacking. If I slashed upwards, Ryu would launch the enemy into the air and another upward slash would see him launching after the enemy to pummel it back into the ground. Ryu’s vanilla combo contained five fast attacks and I could decimate most enemies if I was accurate. Because he streaked around the arena, attacking multiple enemies was simple to do, and reminiscent of Batman’s melee in the Rocksteady developed Batman games.
These combos weren’t the only attacks at Ryu’s disposal. He also had some projectile attacks that were handy for dealing with weaker enemies. One attack I have a problem with is the ultimate technique. To pull it off, I had to furiously scribble on the screen, charging up this powerful attack. When initiated, projectiles targeted nearby enemies and did massive damage. It seemed hazardous to my DS’ touch screen using these attacks, but they were very helpful in clearing out rooms of weaker enemies. This attack seems at odds with the design philosophy of the series however. For a series that demands a high level of skill to succeed, the reckless ultimate techniques seem counter to that philosophy.
It took me around five hours to complete Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword and I had a good time with the game. The combat was fast-paced and easy to execute. Slashing arenas of enemies was a blast and the eventual boss fights provided a change from the fodder, both in scope and strategy. The plot unfolded as one would expect, but the occasional breaks from action for plot development were still appreciated. Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword takes full advantage of the unique capabilities of the Nintendo DS and because of the stellar implementation it remains a fantastic action game.
January 6, 2012
I’ve been playing a lot of Pokemon HeartGold in my free time lately. One thing that I like about it is the user interface. Because it’s on the Nintendo DS it can take advantage of the system’s touch screen. Now you think it working fine would be a no-brainer. A menu heavy role-playing game on a system with a touch screen should work well, and HeartGold does. I guess my whole point in bringing this up is because of how little Game Freak utilized the touch screen in Pokemon Diamond/Pearl.
In that generation of Pokemon games the touch screen was used terribly outside of battles. The normal action took place entirely on the top screen while occupied on the bottom screen were twenty or so mostly useless doodads. The bottom screen was a Swiss Army knife of crap. Navigation of menus could sometimes be done through the bottom screen, but the icons were so small and positioned as to be nearly useless. On the other hand, the bottom screen was utilized well in battles.
In battle there were four options. Instead of the prompts being of equal size and therefore of equal importance, the battle option was very prominent. After selecting it, the next choices are what moves to use and these are evenly divided between a Pokemon’s four options; even when using an item or switching to another Pokemon in battle, the user interface is easy to use.
HeartGold makes no improvements of the user interface in battles but menus outside of battles are totally revamped. In HeartGold (and SoulSilver mind you) the menu is readily available on the bottom screen. Thanks to this improved accessibility, and the navigation that’s miles ahead of where it was in Diamond/Pearl, I play the game nearly exclusively with a stylus. I remember thinking to myself when I played Diamond that buttons were much faster thanks to the poor implementation, not so in HeartGold/SoulSilver.
I grew up on Pokemon games so I have a lot of love for the series, hence this article. Plus, I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately and thought I’d write about it. At this point HeartGold is two years old and it’s not even in the most current generation of Pokemon games any more, Pokemon Black/White take that honor. I haven’t played those yet (my thoughts on those two are a whole other article haha) so I wonder what kinds of improvements – if any – were made in those games.
December 6, 2011
Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits. It’s a game about digging to the bottom of sometimes infinite voids, and while it isn’t packed with enough content to fill the void left by major releases, its fast-paced gameplay and moments of surviving by just an inch are apt enough to fill the void in between other things.
Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits is an action/puzzle game for the Nintendo DS. It was developed and published by Namco and released on November 30, 2004, about a week after the DS was released.
A spiritual successor of sorts to the arcade game Dig Dug, my objective was to dig deep. I had to dig through rocks shaped like squares and composed of different colors. I needed to be careful so the rocks wouldn’t drop on me while also keeping an eye out for oxygen tanks as I had a limited supply of oxygen. The gameplay was easy to grasp, tough to master, and fast-paced; I found it very fun.
Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits is light on content. There are three single player modes and they’re just slightly different from each other. Mission driller is the primary mode; here I was tasked to dig through increasingly deeper stages and was rewarded with minimal amounts of conversation and unlockable characters. In pressure driller mode I had to escape an enormous driller while also attacking it with ammunition I had to pick up and then fire at it. The third single player mode was a time attack mode where I had to complete stages as quickly as possible.
The game also has multiplayer, but it requires each person to have a copy of the game so that was out of the question for me. Its gameplay is easy to grasp and it can get frantic so I would’ve liked the option for single-cart multiplayer to try it out, but it’s not present.
The single player modes were challenging. It was easy for me to complete the early levels in the modes, but I needed to evolve my techniques to make headway, something I had a hard time doing. I gather the ideal way to play Mr. Driller is to zigzag through the stages. Doing this makes it easier to gather pickups and prevents rocks from falling onto my character as they would join with rocks of the same color or get caught on other rocks. I had to train myself to dig horizontal when my inclination was to dig vertical.
I liked Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits’ gameplay. It was simple and fast-paced, but it became very challenging. I was able to complete the game, but I found little reason to play afterwards. I could play as other characters and get different conversations, but that wasn’t that appealing. I did find the gameplay enticing enough to play post completion just competing for higher scores however. It’s fun while it lasts and it’s fun to play afterwards for small chunks of time and with complete copies selling for five bucks on the internet that sounds like a good deal.
October 18, 2010
Final Fantasy III is very traditional; then again, it originally came out in 1990. Within the first hour I had all of my party members and knew the ultimate goal I was aiming for. Luneth, the primary protagonist falls in a hole right away and finds out he is one of the chosen four, destined to save the world. His town elder knew this and when you return back to your hometown, they send you off with a few paragraphs. There isn’t the need for excessive exposition here. All you need to know is what the end goal is, what you’re doing in the current dungeon/town, and how to win battles.
It seems that Final Fantasy is renowned for being a series that one can turn to if they want a detailed or captivating story, and in this aspect, Final Fantasy III is very disappointing. The dearth of detail in the story turned me off; it’s a reason I play video games, and specifically, RPGs. The characters were stiff and lacked detailed personalities, the story was eventful, but nothing ever seemed impactful, a good job wasn’t done on making it seem like every action was necessary. Most of my time spent was zoning out and just battling to progress, and that’s the way I ended up playing the majority of it. I’d plug in a podcast, nothing against the soundtrack which I liked, and play it in bed before falling asleep, and I had a lot of fun playing it like this as I usually do with handheld games.
The battle system is simple, lacking complexity, which works. Battles are easy to understand and with the ample amount of job classes, there is a variety of strategies available. Final Fantasy III did a good job of requiring me to try out multiple classes. Some dungeons would contain enemies that would resist physical damage, presenting the need to have your party deal nonphysical damage, via magic with mages or summoning, um… summons with, um… summoners. There were quite a lot of situations like this where you had to move out of your comfort zone; whereas I would usually keep my party full of physical attackers and a white mage for healing, I experienced many different jobs, and by the end of the game, I had a diverse party, with at least half of my party being a class I wouldn’t ordinarily pick.
One complaint I did have in regards to battling was the amount of grinding required towards the end. Throughout most of the game, I’d wager I was a level or two above where I needed to be, and it stayed like this up towards the final dungeon. After losing to the final boss a couple of times, I fought enemies within the last section of the game for at least five hours to level; this difficulty spike is not uncommon with games like this, but was nonetheless annoying when I knew the outcome of the game and only wanted to complete it at
this point, granted I handled the final boss ably, but still! This aspect also brought up another annoyance, the save system. The ability to save anytime on the world map is practically a requirement, however there is also a quick save option that allows you to save anywhere, but the save will be deleted when you return. Instead of implementing the ability to save anytime and keep that save, the developers have opted to keep the original spirit of the game intact, for instance, let’s say you’ve been grinding for an hour in the final dungeon and stumble upon an enemy that wipes you out, there went that progress. While this is aggravating, it’s also something that makes you adapt and from that point on, I was exceptionally cautious, and in a way, this difficulty is enjoyable and helps in keeping the game feel as it originally did.
There was no emphasis placed on totally remaking the game for today’s audience, which probably would’ve aged it in different ways as it’s been on the market for four years now, it’s the original Final Fantasy III, slightly redid. If you can appreciate a game designed in 1990, check out Final Fantasy III; it provides a lengthy quest that is sparse with detail, but a fun battle system that is easy to watch the time fly by with.
September 7, 2010
I’ve had fun playing Metroid Prime Pinball. It’s a strange game, and while some might say it would be better off not existing as a Metroid game, at least it’s a quality pinball game. Samus Aran’s ability to transform into a ball lends itself well to a pinball game, even though it is a shallow reason for one. The game is essentially a retelling of Metroid Prime, minus any exposition or context. All the tables are based off of the worlds from Metroid Prime and you fight the same bosses. The music as well is from Metroid Prime, although here it is slightly remixed. Unlocking new tables is confusing, unless what the manual says is correct, but I never pay attention to those things… Anyways, to unlock new tables you collect a certain amount of artifacts, like you did in Metroid Prime, and you’ll get the ability to play on new tables, which isn’t that confusing as it turns out.
The tables are simple, but fun to play, and with time easy to get good at; the same can be said for the bosses; they take time to figure out strategies, but once you do, it’s hard to lose. Having bosses, to me, seems out of place in pinball, but it’s done well here; it ties itself well to Metroid Prime, breaks up the standard goal of focusing on points, and differentiates itself from other pinball games. That said the game can get repetitive. After only a few hours, I had seen all the tables that were unlocked had to offer, and progressing seemed like it would take more luck than skill and so went my enthusiasm. I would end up dying quite early, and I would think I didn’t have enough artifacts unlocked to continue on, so I’d restart. But as I learned the tables and my grasp on my purpose became clearer, it was evident I would need equal amounts of skill and luck, as is often the case with pinball.
Artifacts come from succeeding at minigames and beating the bosses. The minigames are quite simple; the wall jump for example transports you to a separate area where you alternate the L and R buttons to wall jump, eventually reaching an artifact. Others are played on the board such as activating an enemy battle; space pirates, shriekbats, metroids and other familiar creatures will populate the board and you are tasked with defeating them all within a time limit. You’ll see all the minigames relatively soon, and then they become rote, although there being two types of tables: normal tables and boss tables, play strategies get significantly altered. The game comes with a rumble pack, and that’s pretty much that. It doesn’t seem very powerful and it makes a loud noise every time it rumbles, which can be distracting; it just doesn’t add much to the experience.
Metroid Prime Pinball piqued my interest initially because pinball games are somewhat of a rarity, as I played more I began to get burned out as it seemed like beating the game would require more effort than I cared to put in, once I got to the later tables though, I regained my ambition and trying for the ultimate goal, beating the game, became exciting again. As I do with most handheld games anymore, I played Metroid Prime Pinball in bed before falling asleep each night. I thought it offered enough fun in the relatively short bursts I played it, yet enough content to satisfy longer play sessions. It’s a competent and fun pinball game, its ties to the Metroid universe might as well be nonexistent, but it does nothing to foul the name of the series. Samus’ Morph Ball ability may be a shallow purpose to play a pinball game, but at least it’s a worthwhile pinball game.
July 26, 2010
Avalon Code’s premise is initially, very awe-inspiring. The world is going to end soon, but there is a book, The Book of Prophecy, that can capture anything and will remake whatever it contains. Once captured, you can adjust the properties of that thing, be it a person, a key or an enemy and alter it to solve puzzles or assist in battles. Most everything related to The Book of Prophecy is fun and unique; however the actual gameplay was tedious and turned me off after a few hours.
With The Book of Prophecy you are tasked to scan anything that you possibly can. The theory is that the book will aid in the creation of the new world and remake whatever’s inside. But this also adds a clever puzzle element to the game. Whenever you scan something in, it gets its own page. Each thing has a nine by nine grid which contains traits that make that thing up. So a flower for instance might have something forest or nature related and a fire creature might have an evil trait as well as something fire related. This led to some clever, albeit simple, puzzles early on like having to attach a forest element to a key to open a lock. These traits come in different shapes and piecing them in is reminiscent of Tetris. Every time something is added or subtracted, the page is reassessed and it leads to a short load time, which can add up when just experimenting and ultimately turned me away from changing the properties of anything I came across, unless it was necessary
Outside of The Book of Prophecy you control a male or female character and travel between towns and dungeons, interacting with NPCs and fighting monsters. Rather than a turn-based battle system, Matrix Software opted for real-time action, which makes sense with The Book of Prophecy. Whenever I saw an enemy I generally scanned it in and then began to adjust the enemy’s traits, looking for something that would drop it’s hit points and then I’d attack; the game will pause when you’re using The Book of Prophecy, which takes up the bottom screen. Combat is simple, attacking with either your left or right hand, and enemies respawned as soon they died which discouraged me to even bother fighting them after a few times.
As far as I got, each dungeon progressed the same. They were divided into individual rooms which had tasks and time limits. You were given a task, such as light all candles, and once completed, the door to the next room would open; there were interesting tasks that required The Book of Prophecy but the majority of them were simple. Ultimately this made dungeons feel like a collection of minigames and this turned me off more than anything else I saw in the game.
I only clocked in three hours so I wasn’t able to see what Avalon Code has to offer, but it didn’t hold my interest in that short amount of time. The game is backed by an interesting gameplay mechanic that sets it apart from other games, but Avalon Code’s gameplay became tedious quickly. If it counts for anything though, I am still looking forward to playing more of Avalon Code at some point.
May 20, 2010
Before picking up Picross DS, I had only heard of picross through snippets in magazines and until I played it I had no idea why it received these mentions, when there had only been one game released in the US. Once I had got it, I was instantly hooked. I’m a fan of Sudoku and crosswords and for those who have never played picross, it compares to those games favorably to those kinds of games.
Before making the transition to 3D, picross was played in a grid (5×5, 10×10 etc.) and to complete it you’d fill in boxes by the clues given to you on the outside of the rows and columns; once completed, an image is revealed. I would have been happy with more puzzles for picross but instead they went and added another dimension which changes the game dramatically, yet it still retains familiar elements that make it picross.
In Picross 3D you are now given a 3D grid, that you can rotate and “look into” to figure out the image. Each image is completed the same as it has been in the past: each row and column still has the numbers that tell you how many of those boxes you need to fill in. The controls are superb and allow you to maneuver the starting grid easily and without any confusion. The game has a great, and lengthy, tutorial explaining every aspect of the game clearly and repeatedly which will help new players learn invaluable techniques and practice using logic to complete examples puzzles.There are more than 350 puzzles, and if my experience with the game is any indication, it’ll keep anyone busy for a long time. Whenever I play, I typically do a handful at a time or pop in some music when playing for extended periods; I seem to play it every night just before bed. Once you finish with the included puzzles, you can get online to download more, for free, for what looks like will be a long time to come. Even whenever I finish everything, I foresee myself going back and starting a new profile to do it all again, the game has a good ability to allow you that opportunity; once completed, I can come back to a puzzle and not remember how to quickly solve it, or remember the image until it’s revealed.
And if you’re the type of person that likes creating in games, Picross 3D also scratches that itch. There is the ability to create your own puzzles and then share them locally or submit them for themed contests. Without a dedicated community to share with, I can’t see the creation being that much of a draw, unless you have a friend or two who are into that aspect of games.
For only $20 it’s hard not to recommend, and with the amount of puzzles included, it’ll remain in your DS for a long time, but if you’re not a fan of games like Sudoku or crosswords, check it out before running to the store, regardless I highly recommend getting Picross 3D.
March 28, 2010
New Pokemon games are out! Kind of; Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver released not too long ago and having played HeartGold a good deal, I feel experienced enough to talk about it. The games are remakes of Pokemon Gold and Silver, which happen to be my favorites in the series. I’d probably say Pokemon Red and Blue are the best since they laid the foundation, but Gold and Silver introduced a lot of things that I thought added to the formula and it was really my first chance to get sucked into the games as soon as everyone else.
You are given the choice of picking one of three Pokemon, which are creatures, like pets, that people fight with in the hopes of becoming the best and/or catching them all. Wait… if you’re reading this I’m going to assume that you know the basic story and mechanics of Pokemon games; these two areas haven’t evolved too much in the main games, and they’re still addictive. If you have tried a Pokemon game and it didn’t click with you, these games won’t convert you and if you’ve been waiting for the next hit, chances are you’ve already picked one of these up.
What I liked a lot about Gold and Silver were them bringing elements of the “real world” into the experience. They ran on a seven day schedule that allowed for special events on certain days and since it also had a 24 hour system, they could happen at specific times. Searching for Pokemon got a little trickier as the ones that seemed like a “night” Pokemon, would appear at night. I remember thinking about the games before they came out originally and was amazed that I’d have to stay up late to play them. Many elements that have been introduced since Gold and Silver have been adapted into HeartGold and SoulSilver like the online battling and online trading, as well as pretty much everything else. I’ve forgotten how the battling and trading worked out in Pokemon Diamond but so far I’ve found it to be halfway simple considering it’s a Nintendo game. I’ll finally be able to catch them all!
Unlike in Diamond, I find that I’m using the touch screen way more, in fact, I’m using it nearly exclusively. Most of the menus seem easier to use, though there are some exceptions like the PC system which I find is not quick to navigate. I love the pop-up book effect that the 3D in the game has but at this point I’m beginning to look less fondly on them not being totally 3D, or at least having the Pokemon be 3D. I could understand that they’d want to save that for the next set of games or, more likely, that having nearly five hundred Pokemon, and hundreds of moves animated and in 3D is too space consuming.
Easily the biggest addition is the Pokewalker. It’s essentially a pedometer that allows you to walk with a Pokemon to level it up and play two minigames that net you items and Pokemon. I’ve been using it ever since I got it and find it to be a fun diversion at work. You can also communicate with other players with it, but overall, it’s too simple to spend more than five or ten minutes with.
You already know if you interested in HeartGold and SoulSilver and I was on the fence since the games were announced but, deep down I knew I was going to get them simply because they’re new Pokemon games and thus far I’ve enjoyed all twenty plus hours I’ve sunk into HeartGold.