Hello there, long time no see!
I was going to some loot posts but I didn’t, because of 100% pure lazyness and procrastination. In the end, all purchases sort of blurred together and I couldn’t be bothered, considering the amont of loot posts lately I felt like another one wasn’t really necessary right now…perhaps?
Anyway, today I want to talk games. Hidden gems, in fact, with hidden being the operative word here.
You see, sometime in late December last year I picked up Tokimeki Memorial for PC Engine – yup, the original. I really prefer the later Saturn version of this one but:
1) it is cheap.
2) it contains a PCE only unlockable.
Actually, to be fair, all different versions of TokiMemo seems to have some unlockables that aren’t available elsewhere, but I digress.
After putting it off for some months I sat down and gave it a spin. And, whelp, it feels decidedly more spartan than the Saturn version, or what I remember from it. Character sprites, while good and sharp, have some odd colors here and there (might be caused by the composite signal). Backdrops have certain digitized photo look to them which I’m not very fond off, and the “painted on detail” is…actually not detailed enough. 😛
And music? Music is…okay. I like the PCE sound but the game’s soundtrack isn’t all that to be honest. It’s fun hearing familiar tunes played back as they once were intended but really, later versions does it much better.
Lastly, I just can’t help but feel I’m having no real way of planning out the weeks in the game. It was a while since I last touched the Saturn version but I want to remember it being much better at visually indicating if a test was coming up or if I had a date on one day…or just showing anything really.
But don’t get me wrong – the PCE version is still very much playable. And it’s still fun. In the beginning anyway, as TokiMemo can get pretty dreary after a while when you do the same thing all over again. But it mixes things up enough for it to keep it interesting. And it’s easy to forget just how much content there is in TokiMemo.
My mission was simple. Unlock a specific mini game by being active in the computer club and playing close to three full years.
Okay…well…simple maybe isn’t the right word but it doesn’t sound that hard either. You just have to man up and play the game (almost) to completion.
However, I was off to a bad start as I wasn’t entirely sure about what I needed to do at first. Maybe it didn’t help I opted to continue from where I left off after my little test run instead of starting a new game either.
Anyway, after doing a double check in the instructions I quickly joined the computer club and began to slowly but surely raise those stats.
Speaking of which, this is a good time to try and win the heart of Yuina Himoo, the mad scentist girl, since you’ll be in the same club and all.
And, maybe you’re wondering, what is this PC Engine only little secret? It’s a mini game – “Force Gear“, a caravan styled horizontal shooter with some heavy vibes from other Konami titles. It’s not very long, the controls are a bit clunky, the end boss is hard but it’s quite fun and the music is nice. It’s quite charming actually, and it’s obvious that more work has gone into this game than you’d expect. HG101 wrote a little piece about it here.
So is it worth picking up TokiMemo just in order to play Force Gear? I’d say that depends on how much you like Tokimeki Memorial. There are alternative options for those not wanting
to do a full run through an old dating sim presented in moon runes – these options are either finding an ISO with Force Gear already unlocked or unlocking it with some kind of cheat device.
Well in the game, on the first culture festival I demonstrated some kind of love compatibility computer software. Compatibility with our blue haired genius is deemed to be “normal”.
MISSION STATUS: Could go better.
I spend the year trying to get her on a few dates, as well as raising more stats…and taking care of (read: dating) the girls that approached me because of said raised stats.
Christmas was spent alone as I wasn’t allowed entry to pretty boy Ijuin’s mansion. Appearance stats probably too low. How sad.
Second culture festival: Twinbee Returns unlocked. Shame it’s not a very great looking game. Also, I’m terrible at it. But it’s something at least. Situation with Himoo is good. She secretly has the hots for me. I think. Though she called the game I made stupid.
MISSION STATUS: Making progress.
Even after raising the good look-stats a bit, christmas was alone. Again. Ouch.
And then finally, the third culture festival! Will this be it? Will I unlock what I’ve been seeking?
No. Himoo performed a live hacking demonstration and took over a military satellite instead. I guess that’s something. Oh and she totally has the hots for me now.
Sometime here, the me in the game also said something about sending a game in for a competition. Huh. Oh well.
MISSION STATUS: Failed?
Decided to keep playing, with this being the last year and all.
And then, after the new years eve – the results for that earlier mentioned game competition is in. 3rd place? Can’t remember but surprise, surprise – screen goes black and Force Gear starts!
MISSION STATUS: COMPLETE. Almost.
As you can see, it’s a bit of work to unlock this “hidden” feature. The only thing that remains at this point is to finish the game so that Force Gear will be playable straight from the omake menu in options.
And I did – even if a “bomb” did go off and lowered the relation level with the girls. BUT HOW DID IT EEENNNND?
This felt quite good actually. Regardless how much I suck at Force Gear, I have been wanting to at least try it for quite some time. And, I mean, it’s a transforming mech sidescrolling shooting game with Gradius vibes in an overly fluffy pretty girl game…does it get any cooler than that? 😀
Alright, first loot post in 2012!
There’s games, books, music and anime both in LD & Blu-ray. Yup, think we have all bases covered this time…
The How to draw Manga-books came from the same Amazon purchase as the collectors edition of REDLINE, since I wanted to reach the amount needed for free shipping. As far as how-to-books goes, they’re neither bad nor great. They feature some interesting inteviews but they don’t teach you any techniques besides “draw more” :p
And as for REDLINE, haven’t watched it yet. I’m thinking of watching it the first time with some friends for maximum effect.
Moving on then, to music! Let’s just get those Sailor Moon CDs out of the way first. One turned out to be some sort of drama cd, but giving it a quick listen,
Usagi’s voice is all I can hear. Upon closer inspection there are songs in there, they just start after 1 or 2 minutes of the characters talking. Weird that they didn’t separate the tracks. The full OP & ED is included though so it’s not that bad I suppose. As for the other one, it refuses to play. I’ve tried that disc in, basically, everything that I own that can play a CD and it just doesn’t work. Weirdest thing is, the CD looks pretty good too. No big fingerprints, hardly any scratches…but there seem to be some kind of…something just around the inner area. Maybe that’s it. I’ll need to see if I can clean it somehow.
Aside from Sailor Moon, there’s also two albums from Mariko Nagai, who I discovered late last year through youtube and the anime Yawara!. There’s mostly good early 90’s j-pop in there and some slower songs as well. Good stuff!
Lastly, there’s an album by the group Pink Sapphire. A “tv-sized” version of their song “P.S. I Love You” is played in the main menu of the first Galaxy Fraulein Yuna game, so that’s where I heard it. Sadly, it also has some kind of playback problem during the first track. Wonder what I can do about that…
1st OP for Yawara! The song is “Miracle Girl” by Mariko Nagai
“P.S. I Love You” by Pink Sapphire
On to the games, then. There’s Bomberman ’94 for the PCE (HuCards are totally rad), which needs no introduction since it’s well…Bomberman. Same goes for Daytona USA. Then there’s JetMoto, which I have fond memories of playing the PC-version I borrowed from a friend when I was younger. And finally there’s Racing Lagoon, which is this rather interesting tuning-racer mixed with a healthy dose of RPG-elements (complete with an over world mode and “enemies” that forces you into a quick battle should they hit you with their car), from Squaresoft, of all companies. Now, the character CG models haven’t aged well at all, the driving feels floaty and slightly off but the music is, for the most part so far, bloody fantastic. Oh, and then there’s Noël – Not Digital, because I could. I’m not very good at these kind of games (Noël 3 on the Saturn gave me a bad end, oops!) but I’m strangely attracted to them.
And with that we move on to the last group, the LaserDiscs. Last time there were 5 of them, this time it’s only 4 but all very good. With this I can add Idol Defense Force Hummingbird to the list of completed series, and Bubblegum Crisis, Birdy the Mighty & All Purpose Cultural Catgirl Nuku Nuku gets another one each.
Hummingbird is probably the only anime in my LD collection so far, with the possible exception of the Dirty Pair TV-series, that I haven’t watched in any shape, way or form before actually getting it. As a whole, it’s a pretty nice series, but the later two episodes, while trying to build up tension and be all serious-like (well, not really) wasn’t as enjoyable to me as the first two. Specifically, episode two is my favorite by a clear margin. It’s the most consistently animated, having lots of good key frames, introduces two new likeable characters and out of all four LDs is the only CAV one. Which is weird since both episode three & four clocks in about 30 minutes as well. Also, 3 & 4 has a different art direction where the girls doesn’t have the same colorful hair and the drawing style is slightly changed as well. Still, quite enjoyable for what’s it worth. : )
Also, yes, my bedsheets have an elephant-theme going on. You are now jealous.
Until next time.
I’ve got a pretty big loot post coming up, but before that I want to share my experiences with one of those scart to HDMI upscalers in a little mini review of sorts.
If you’re interested in reading more about scalers & gaming, here’s a great site to check out!
You see, the CRT TV I’ve been using for retro gaming & LD watching isn’t actually all that great. It’s a big, chunky 32” widescreen Sony WEGA CRT that 99% percent of the time only gets feed with 4:3 content. It’s got the wrong shape for the job, really. Also, when viewing a 4:3 image on it, it squishes the edges, ever so slightly. Once you notice it, you will see it every time though. It’s especially evident in horizontal scrolling games but also any time a movie or whatever pans horizontally.
One simple solution would be to get another CRT TV, and that is a solution I’ve been thinking of for a while but haven’t been able to go through with. There is two reasons for this:
1) People often don’t specificate what TV it is they’re selling. “Sony CRT” will be the most detailed description you will see. Also, almost never any pictures of the back or information about the inputs available. They will say if it has scart, because scart is important to people here, but s-video? Composite? Component? No. You simply won’t get that from 99,99% of all sellers looking to get rid of their old, fat TVs.
2) They’re big, heavy and generally cumbersome. I can’t lift one myself and in order to get to my room, you have to climb a set of stairs. Not fun with a TV.
So, I’m kind of looking to save space by getting rid of my current CRT and plug everything back into my LCD TV, the proper way this time. I used to just plug things in and it worked all right, didn’t notice much input lag, but with the PCE I got image problems with interlacing and artfacts in some games.
With a scaler, though, you let it take care of the image from your preferred video source and scaling it up to the native (or close to) resolution of your LCD TV.
Problem is a good scaler, like those home cinema ones, are disturbingly expensive. Though, brand name is part of what you pay for and there happen to be tons of Chinese no-name scalers listed on eBay. So, I tried my luck with one of these, a scart one because what isn’t directly connected to my TV goes into my scart boxes.
This isn’t a proper review, to get that out of the way, I didn’t actually play much with it, as I was more focused on how things would look, would it work at all.
The unit itself feels very solid. It’s got a metal casing and certainly weighs a bit. Setting it up couldn’t be any more simple; Scart goes into the scart socket in the back, HDMI cable goes into the HDMI socket on the front. Add power and you’re done. But what’s the end result? Well, here are some pictures I took:
Let’s analyse these, shall we? First up was Ridge Racer 4 running on my PAL PS1 through scart. The result is a bit odd. The image has black borders and isn’t centered. Also slightly squished. Ghost in the Shell was running on my NTSC-J PS one through s-video through scart and as you can see, the scaler didn’t like s-video. No color, just black & white. Although in full screen. PCE then? No. Won’t work. Don’t know why. Technically, it’s a NTSC-J composite signal put through one of those Xbox 360 scart connectors, but running it directly into the composite inputs in my scart switches didn’t change the fact that I got no image.
This highlights the biggest problem, aside from getting a proper image, everything is mercilessly stretched to 16:9. And for some reason, I can’t change the aspect ratio to 4:3 on my TV. Actually none of the two TV sets I’ve tried this on allowed me to change the aspect ratio to 4:3 once the scaler was powered on.
And therefore, it is to me quite useless. Sadly.
As I stated earlier, there are many many many no-name scalers available on eBay (but also Amazon). It might be worth a shot, but don’t be surprised if you get a similar result. : /
I was thinking of writing a few lines about the new anime season but I’m waiting for episode 2 of the shows I’m following, so that’ll have to wait. Instead, I’m going to do a little shoot-out here with two versions of the same game; 銀河お嬢様伝説ユナ (Ginga Ojou-sama Densetsu Yuna) or Galaxy Fraulein Yuna. I’m going to issue a 56k warning here 😀
I don’t have any proof, but quite I’m confident that a great many gamers and anime-fans haven’t heard of this particular title before. And I don’t blame them. With the third and last game released for the PS1 in 1998 and a series of OVAs released around the same time, Kagurazaka Yuna is indeed an icon of times past. There is a compilation of the first two games + sought after spin-off Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire released for the PSP in Japan, 2008, but I’m not really counting that.
With artist Akitaka Mika at the helm, Galaxy Fraulein Yuna is a classic multimedia franchise, including everything you would expect; games, anime, CDs…the lot.
The plot revolves around the cute but somewhat ditzy 16-year old Kagurazaka Yuna, who just happened to win an intergalactic beauty contest (the Ginga Ojou-sama contest – hence the name) and with that suddenly became an idol, with all that entails. However, not only does she receive fame, but also the title of “Saviour of Light” and must do battle with evil forces – in this case, her rivals from said competition, who have had their hearts “stolen by darkness”.
And that’s the gist of it. Sounds corny to you? It is. But I think the game’s straightforwardness works in it’s favour.
The series started out on the PC Engine, with the first game released in 1992. It saw a re-relase (the one I have) with some additional content in 1995 and also a sequel. In 1996 the first game got a re-make on Saturn titled “Remix”. So, you’d imagine that the Saturn version is quite the upgrade from the, by then, 4 year old original version. After all, the Saturn is known as a 2D powerhouse and the large number of high quality adventure, visual novels & digital comics in it’s library certainly speaks in it’s favour.
But you’d be wrong. And in this comparison we will see why. Before we get to the screencaps, let’s compare the opening:
Now, I used Magic Engine (PCE) and SFF (Saturn) respectively in order to grab some screencaps, from the beginning to the first battle with jealous rival Kaede. I used emulation because I’ve got both systems hooked up to a CRT-screen at the moment and we all know how well that goes with photography. Right.
PC Engine-version (1992 – quite small so enlarge them in your browser or something)
While the Saturn version features anime-cutscenes in the more modern style the series adapted as it series went on, everything is a mess. Let’s be honest here, the Saturn never had any luck with FMVs (I blame bad codecs) and when they replaced the pixel art cutscenes with the handrawn ones, we’re well on our way to artefact central. Speaking of artefacts, around all character portraits, there’s this almost halo-like pixelation, or what looks like the result of a poor job with the magic wand tool in Photoshop. Not to mention that many character portraits are re-used from the PCE-version, and thus doesn’t match with the newer character design. Other casualties includes the backgrounds, which now looks like they were made in MS Paint – and I’m not joking. The map-screen, which is displayed when you change location in the PCE-version, is absent and so is almost the whole GUI. We’re left with a very bare bones interface with only a semi-transparent blue bar for text and character portraits.
While I appreciate that the game now runs in full screen, it all looks so amateurish. The battle system also gets an “upgrade”. What used to be merely a rock-paper-scissors kind of thing now also has 3 quickly changing stats (attack, shield & evade) which needs to be timed correctly for maximum effect. The idea itself is good but the result is lacklustre. It makes my eyes spin. Also, the grainy FMVs make their comeback during the battle.
In fact, the only thing that can actually be seen as an improvement in the Remix-version is bigger character illustrations and the sound, and even then it’s not a very big difference. Voices sound maybe a little less compressed and the music is no longer chip-generated, but whether that’s a good or bad thing is debatable. This time, it’s a bad thing because no one seemed to care enough about the music to really make it any better. The PCE version actually sounds a bit more distinctive.
If you think I’m hard on Galaxy Fraulein Yuna Remix, it’s because an improved version of a game released on 32-bit system, should not be inferior in almost every single way to the original version, released 4 years prior on what essentially is an 8-bit system. If they just had actually sat down and harnessed the power of the Saturn, it could’ve turned out a great remake.
Now, I do enjoy this particular franchise, and some day I should really pick up the third game for the PS1 or Saturn…and maybe the PC-FX version, should I manage to get my hands on one of those.
Omake content! (Season backdrops from the Saturn version’s calendar mode.)
And that’s that. See you next post!
Edit: Corrected the part about the Dirty Pair LDs.
Earlier today I picked up a package that was in transit during Christmas. You probably know what to expect by now…
No games this time but an Arcade Card DUO for my…well, DUO. Others in the same group is a bgm collection sort of from the All Purpose Cultural Catgirl Nuku Nuku OVAs, as well the soundtrack for Bubblegum Crisis episode 4 & 7 (I think I should collect all these, I have them as mp3s but they’re good) and finally yet another installment in the Namco Game Sound Express-series. I wonder if I haven’t gotten all the GALAXIAN 3-related ones now – Namco makes (and made) some good music, after all.
And then some more LaserDiscs. First off, the final two episodes from Aozora Shoujotai (801 T.T.S. Airbats). This marks the second OVA series that I’ve completed, the first one being YUA with only 4 episodes. And that’s one of the nice things with OVAs – they’re pretty “easy” to collect thanks to the small number of episodes.
I threw in episode 8 of BGC in there as well. I’d like to complete that series too but thanks to their age (and/or popularity, perhaps?) they can be a bit tricky to track down. Rakuten had a few more but at the moment I thought I’d just concentrate on my favorite episodes. Couldn’t get my hands on ep. 7, sadly.
Lastly, I picked up two LDs from the old Dirty Pair. I’ve seen a bit of before (mostly the OVAs) but not everything. Wasn’t sure exactly what these LDs would contain – it was hard to dig for info. Now with them in my hands, I can see that both of these (Dirty Pair Masterpiece Compilation +1 & Dirty Pair Complete +1) contains episodes from the 80s TV-series. However, the episodes they contain seem to be a bit random and doesn’t correspond to the order in which they aired. According to wikipedia anyway.
I wonder what the +1 stands for though…hmm.
This is my latest haul. The artbooks are by Makino Ryuuichi and Kikuchi Michitaka (also known as Asamiya Kia) respectively. They’re both very nice, though Ryuuichi’s got plenty of saucy content I wasn’t aware of. I don’t really mind though :p
The LD for Gundam 8th MS Team (contains the first two episodes) came with a nice folder/booklet & fold out poster to go with it, which can be studied below.
Other than that, there’s two more soundtracks from Namco Game Sound Express-series as well as some games for PC Engine & one PS1 game : ) That ought to keep me busy….I hope?
…56k warning? 😀
I was thinking about saving some money for a while now. That didn’t happen. In my defense, things were pretty cheap :p
There’s a store in Stockholm called SuperMotaro and it’s a really, really nice place. As it would happen, me and a friend just happened to find ourselves at walking distance from said store, so I dragged him there.
The Saturn joystick is a bit roughed up (found in the “sales bin”) but only costed me 10 SEK. (!!)
As for the PCE games, I just wanted to try a HuCard-game and I’ve been this close to picking up Graduation before, but on the Saturn. So, yeah.
…and that’s about it. 🙂
After hearing a rattling noise inside my Duo-R, as if something was loose, as well as wanting to see what shape the capacitors were in*, I opened it up. Turned out the noise came from a loose bit of plastic of unknown origin and the capacitors looked fine to my untrained eyes. However, one of the small stick-things that keeps the CD-unit in place had snapped, some glue did fix that though. The box the unit came in was a bit roughed up, perhaps that was the cause…?
Anyhow, I thought I’d post the pictures I took of the inside of the unit, should anyone find it interesting :p
Unit seems to work fine otherwise, I need more games for it! 😀
* A common problem for normal Duo’s are that the capacitors go bad. Duo-R and RX’s are usually not effected as often and are generally seen as more reliable but you never know…
A PC Engine Duo-R was waiting for me when I got home today. Mmmmmmm yes. There are some slight scratches not visible in the picture but overall it seems to be in very good shape, sans a faint yellow tint :p
What really surprised me is how “small” the system actually is, just slightly bigger than the old PlayStation.
I wanted to get another system, preferably something 16-bit…ish (I know wether the PCE is a true 16-bit console or not is technically debatable). At first I was after the Model 1 Mega Drive but that dang CD-add on is somewhat elusive, not to mention expensive :> Then I went to hunt down the Super Famicom. I was this close to getting one. But then, suddenly I couldn’t contain my desire to own a PC Engine any longer and, even though it might’ve been the most expensive of the three, I quickly took action. Truth to be told, I’ve wanted one pretty much since I “discovered” it’s existence a year or two ago. Ah well, I can get the others some other time.
I bought it through Game of Japan but weirdly enough, they sent me Galaxy Fraulein Yuna 2 instead of the first game : / Hmm…I don’t really mind, I mean, The Galaxy Fraulein-games aren’t exactly expensive or hard to find*…not to mention I already have the first one…on the Saturn. AND what a horrible version that is! That, however, is a rant for another day.
* With the possible exception of Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire, but whether or not it’s really a part of the Yuna-franchise, I don’t know.