In a perfect world, there would be more publishing houses like XSeed. The Torrance based company has brought a plethora of unique Japanese titles to our shores- from KORG DS-10, the DS synthesizer simulation, to the Wild Arms series, which blends Wild-West mythos into a JRPG framework. Looking into 2009, two titles have us captivated:
Retro Game Challenge
Despite all the now-gen pageantry shown at last July’s E3, we spent a disproportionate amount of time beguiled by a niche DS title. Known to Japanese gamers as Game Center CX: Arino’s Challenge, the title is indirectly tied to a long-running television series. The popular program chronicles the challenges faced by Arino, as he attempts to complete a classic game within a single day, typically with comical results. While the series is still trying to find a western distributor, players can enjoy Retro Game Challenge this month, without any knowledge of the game’s origin.
The title presents players with eight games inspired by recognizable NES favorites. Cosmic Gate is a Galaga clone, while Guadia Quest recalls Dragon Quest, with its block-based maps, and pop-up menu system. While at first we were apprehensive about playing inspired, rather than emulated, Famicon-era titles, the developers have thoughtfully included a few modern-era rudiments to maintain the player’s interest. For each game, players are forced with four challenges to overcome.
What sets Retro Game Challenge apart from seeming like a faked compilation is its amazing devotion to its subject. Players can browse through each game’s manual, which even include safety precautions in their attempt for authenticity. The bottom screen shows two young players, who scamper on their knees when changing cartridges; evoking memories of our Nintendo-drenched youth.
Muramasa: The Demon Blade
With the possible exception of Okami, Playstation 2 owners saw no title as artistically impressive as Vanillaware’s Odin Sphere and Grim Grimoire. Now, disenfranchised Wii owners, who have been on a recent regimen of down-graded next-gen ports and shovelware, have some eye candy to look forward to.
Known in Japan as Oboro Muramasa Yotoden, (or literally: The Hazy Legend of Muramasa’s Magical Sword) the game offers players the ability to hack and slash using the Wiimote or the classic controller. In the game, two protagonists, a male ninja and a female kunoichi dart around the screen with a speed that rivals the velocity shown by Ninja Gaiden’s Ryu Hayabusa.
Graphically, the title looks like an animated Japanese watercolor painting, with gorgeous backdrops depicting crashing waves, swaying waves of grass, and dense bamboo forests. One treetop sequence was beautifully illuminated by a hazy sunset, with light occasionally obscured by a passing tree. The scene was strong enough to stifle any discourse of the graphical limitations of Nintendo’s console.