Monday, December 16, 2013

Wagyan Paradise (SFC) Review

Received: May 16th, 2013 / Written: December 15th-16th, 2013
Year: 1994 | Developed and Published by: Namco | [|O|]
Blogger's Note: I know I implied at the end of my depressingly negative Karate Champ review (if only 'cause it was the first time I ever gave a game a score below a 5 in my blog, and I was trying to cope with that) that my next video game review would be Super Mario Bros. 2, and I wanted to talk about that game so badly before the end of the year (especially since Super Mario 3D World has come out recently); but I'm having some trouble with that at the moment, so unfortunately there won't be a review for that game until early '14.  =(  I am truly sorry for that inconvenience.  In the meantime, I'll post a few more video game reviews until that moment.
Some of the most beautiful underwater-
looking effects you'll see in Nintendo's 16-bit
power machine  =)
There's a funny story as to how I came to be acquainted with these three games.  Sometime shortly before the Summer of '13 started, I was browsing on eBay for the Super Famicom version of Super Adventure Island II (since usually the Japanese copies of it are less expensive than the localized versions), so I entered in the search bar "SFC Adventure Island".  When the results turned up, I was like, "Oh, that's right, it goes by a different name in Japan, I forgot!"  In the Land of the Rising Sun Adventure Island is known as Takahashi Meijin no Bōken Jima.  But there was a Japanese copy of the first Super Adventure Island, which I already had for the SNES; but I had noticed it was bundled with a couple extra games I never heard of before then.  They were Super Wagyan Land and Wagyan Paradise, and being the curious gamer that I am I looked up some gameplay footage on YouTube; and a few minutes of footage were enough to convince me to try them.  I was sold!
So I looked for a bundled order exclusively Wagyan-related, which included the two games I brought up as well as Super Wagyan Land 2.  Mostly I order one Super Famicom game at a time (which I'm thinking is a big mistake), but for this case I wanted to make an exception.  I thought it would be great to try them all at once, so I bought the 3-in-1 bundle in a heartbeat.  Basically, I bought these games on a whim, which actually turned out to be one of the best whim-based decisions I've made in a long time, for they quickly became some of my favorites... errrrm, two of them, but I'll get to that shortly.  =)  Definitely worth the wait!  So what is Wagyan, you may ask?
Flying beside a gorgeous sunset
A Wagyan is a kind of mecha-dino creature that resides on an island comprised of other Wagyans, who have the ability to stun enemies with their loud "Wah" and "Gah" sounds (which is part of the reasons they're named what they are when you think about it).  Wagyan began life in 1987 as an attraction character for a Japanese-exclusive amusement game by Namco, but the first video game based on that would appear on the Famicom under the name Wagyan Land in 1989 (which surprisingly got a Game Gear treatment two years later, making it the only game in the series that ever got released on a Sega platform).  The action/puzzler hybrid did really well enough that it got a sequel in the form of Wagyan Land 2 for the Famicom in 1990, which implemented the power-ups for the action portions of the game and was the final game in the two that had alternative routes, leaving the rest of the series as a linear experience.  In 1991 the series finally graduated to the 16-bit console with Super Wagyan Land available for the Super Famicom, which I looked up was essentially a collection of the areas and boss battles from the first two games and was the first title in the series to utilize a password system.  Good thing too, because passwords are what you may need to finish the Wagyan series to begin with; save for one of course.
Our young hero traversing this breathtaking
The following year in 1992, Wagyan continued its series in the slowly dying Famicom with Wagyan Land 3, which took place in a space-like setting (and enabled you to take control of the bosses should you have played in a 2-player versus mode) and concluded itself on a cliffhanger (just like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug would end up doing two-plus decades later), leading up to the first 16-bit sequel Super Wagyan Land 2 for the Super Famicom in 1993 (yeah, try making sense of that title sequence).  While it is mostly linear and it allowed you to use equipment to aid yourself in certain stages (thanks to the help of Dr. Devil, who is not the villain this time, hard to believe) there is one hidden path which must be accessed to reveal the true complete ending.  Oh, great, something else to look forward on there.  =|  Which all leads up to the final Wagyan installment available during the '90s (until the series revived itself briefly with a Japan-exclusive Nintendo DS entry Hirameki Action: Chibikko Wagyan no Ōkina Bōken in 2009); the game known as Wagyan Paradise which Namco made in 1994 as the Wagyan series' swansong for the Super Famicom, which I'll go over today!  =)  YAY!!!!!!  =D
Takuto shouts "Wah"
At present I've only played the three 16-bit iterations (though I do plan on importing the DS game one of these days), so I can only share how I felt about the three.  The first Super Wagyan Land I really love, I think it is a very wonderful game, and I was surprised that I loved it as much as I did considering I didn't have much expectations for it.  No lie, I was completely addicted to it the first time I played it and it gripped me to the end, and like Alcahest and DoReMi Fantasy: Milon no DokiDoki Daibōken before it, I almost beat it the day I got it (and like the other two, I was at the final boss fight)... which pretty much says how many hours I put into it (two and a half or three, if I remember correctly), as it's a very long game (I'll get to why in a second).  =O  But I beat it eventually and I can say that it was very well worth it.  =)  Super Wagyan Land 2, I didn't like as much; and at first I thought I was going to like it more than the first one, but how wrong I was.  =(  Despite the improved visuals and slightly better sound samples, it just didn't feel as gripping as the earlier game; I probably would've liked it more if not for the certain stages that had three bosses awaiting for you in three various buildings, I thought it dragged the experience a lot.  I don't hate it, but overall I think it's okay; I've still yet to beat that one, but this is my impression of that one for the time being.

Between stages you get to see this quaint
little design as to what to expect for each
area  =)
Which brings up another question: how come these games never saw the light of day in the West, as they seem like very colorful platformers?  See, here's the thing: these games are part action and part puzzler (they range from easy and simple to challengingly difficult; none can be paused).  I don't mean like The Lost Vikings where action and puzzling must be handled simultaneously, no-no,  but more along the lines of the first ActRaiser (for example purposes; I know it's simulation and not puzzling there, but bear with me), in that there are segments where action occurs as well as separate segments where puzzling occurs, and here's the thing about the puzzles: some of them involve kanji, the Japanese form of text, and some of those puzzles are relatively difficult for the inexperienced and gamers unfamiliar with the language, particularly the shiritori (the game where you must correctly guess the image of the word beginning with the last syllable that the previous word ended in; they're manageable with some notes in hand, or in my case a laptop on your lap as you play, though it does educate a little; I had done a lot of guessing the first time I played Super Wagyan Land when it came to these, and that was a while before I started taking notes).

While these puzzles would've been altered or removed altogether to have garnered a Western release, it's these puzzles themselves that make the series what they are, so eviscerating them would've been no good; which is why Westerns never got to experience these games.  And it's such a shame too, for they're definitely interesting games to play because of that.  Fortunately, Wagyan Paradise doesn't include shiritori (but it does have its own good set of challenges, and a few kanji-relevant puzzles).  =)  Let us commence at once!

Some time after the events of the previous adventures, all was fine Wagyan Land and the world itself.  As Rati, a slender bird that travels around the world, is surveying things to make sure everything is fine, he notices the unthinkable: the Wagyan tree has collapsed down on itself.  Geez, that redwood just can't catch a break, can it?  =/  It was also the subject of attack in the previous games.  So Rati decides to fly towards it to see what it wrong.  Meanwhile,
every Wagyan resident notices it, including the protagonist of the last two 16-bit games father Wagyan (who knows sports a fancy mustache and smokes a pipe... interesting turn of events), the mother Mrs. Wagyan (I guess she's enrolled herself in the Mrs. Jonathan Brisby School of women who've got no first names and take their husbands' names to support them), and their two children, who are the heroes of this installment, big brother Takuto and little sister Karin.  They insist that they all go and help out the tree, find out the source of its problems, and try to fix it all their own; but Mrs. Wagyan will have none of that and believes there are other, more professional characters that can fix it.  Yeah, as if that's ever stopped anyone before.  So what do the kids do, then?
Sneak out when everyone's asleep of course!  I mean, it's not a cute, lighthearted adventure game unless the kids help solve the problems without adult supervision.  If I'm not mistaken, that's happened in pretty much all The Land Before Time DTV sequels.  =|  So Takuto and Karin wander over yonder and meet up with Rati at the top of the recently slanted tree, who agrees to take the two should they master his challenge (which they do).  It's off to a brand new adventure and save the tree that represents all of Wagyan... again=<  I'm just kidding, their adventure will take them to various parts of the planet, and little by little they will solve the problems and rectify the wrongs that the Nummers clan have caused.  And who is the leader of Nummers clan?
This menacing figure right here!  He and the Wagyan clan go a long way back, and it was not at all a positive experience for them.  He plans to end their lifestyles and end their happiness; will Takuto and Karin succeed in taking this guy down before he gets his way?  Play and find out!

Ice, ice, baby!
Wagyan Paradise, like the other titles in the series, is divided in two genres.  The first is platforming, which you'll do for the majority of the game.  From the start you get to choose to play as either Takuto or Karin, and their characteristics vary in terms of gameplay.  They both move, jump, and stun enemies with their "Wah"s and "Gah"s, and while they're stunned you can use them as platforms.  Takuto walks at a decent pace but cannot glide farther (which is done by holding down the B button); Karin, on the other hand, has a great gliding ability but walks really slow.  Each character has got their strengths which compensate for the others' weaknesses, but I always choose to play as Takuto because he can at least go faster.  In each stage there are stars to collect, as well as power-ups, for you may need it if an enemy shoots their sound projectile at you (in which case you lose one power-up).  As is the norm for the series, your characters dies in just one hit.  For some games it breaks them while for others it makes them, and in the case of Wagyan Paradise, it definitely makes it!  =)  The gameplay, simple though they may be, is really intuitive and versatile.  There are even areas where you do things other than platforming, but more on that later.

But what really makes this game is its puzzle sequences, or "mini-games" if you prefer, and they range from easy to slightly challenging.  There are eight in total, and at the end of most stages you'll encounter one enemy who will challenge you with any one of the following:
In this challenge you must correctly guess the name of the magnified image which is consistently rotating.  You have a wide range of guesses, and getting it wrong detracts you one of five seconds each.  You must score the requisite amount to pass; oh, did I mention that you must accomplish this in four or five tries?
Oh hi, Pac-Man cameo!  =)  Also, this game gets brownie points from me for the Nummer in the penguin costume!  =3
This challenge is a fun one.  In the center is a really big image, surrounded by four other images in circular fashion.  You must match it exactly with the one that is equal to it (in direction) while the other three will face the opposite direction.  In some cases it's pretty obvious which one is the right one, but in others you'll have to really pay attention to get it right.  Get the requisite amount (or more) right in the allotted time, and you'll pass.
This one's a slightly harder one.  In the bottom you'll see an image and the kanji pertaining to it will pop up, but there's a catch: they must unscrambled (Yoshi-style) and put in the right order, each one in the allotted time that you're given.  With the shorter words it'll be easy, but with the bigger words (maximum amount of kanji six) you may be struggling a little until you got them right.  After a certain amount of time passes, you'll be given a hint, which will ease this one's difficulty a bit.  Get the requisite amount (or more) right in the time remaining, and you will pass.
This is the first challenge you'll be contending with (as Rati's test) and it will pop up once more.  In the bottom you will find a group of kanji that form up a word which you must match with any one of the images on top.  Getting one wrong will detract five seconds from you, so choose wisely.  Should you get as many blue squares as required (or most or all of them as best you can), you will pass.  It's a bit challenging, but it's worth it in the end.
Love the Super Famicom button set-up, and that female drill sergeant I always find humorous (especially the funny bit of conversation with the winner if you win), she just cracks me up!  XD
And now it's time for a fun one!  =)  This is a simple one, but a fun one at that.  You have three buttons in front of you (Y, B, A) and at the top some notes will play.  Your goal is to follow the notes in the exact right order, and the farther you go the more complicated the notes become and should you get enough sufficient squares (or manage to get as many as you can), you'll go through.  =)  Makes me think of a charming, lighthearted moment that is so endearing and appealing:
Hahaha, that's always a classic!  =D
"I am a beefy Nummerian Van Damme clone, prepare to face my pecs and abs should you be so unfortunate enough to win!"
This is one's a pretty easy one, unless you're distracted and not paying attention there's no way you could lose.  All you have to do is click on the number that the bottom says until the final turn is over; should you wait long enough the enemy will move their mouse and pick the number themselves.  While it's easy to play, I will admit some focusing will have to be done, especially since many numbers are so near each other they almost look the same.  So it's easy but not entirely.  It's fun but will require paying attention.  You know the drill, get the requisite amount of squares right, and they'll let you pass.  Next one!
This one's another easy fun one!  =)  A form of blocks will construct themselves in the center, and you must have it connected by a matching block that's its exact shape.  There are five pieces going round and round it in a circle, and once the word "Hit" is on the shape that you want, click on it and it will go down.  Mind you, they'll be rotating at a swift pace, so pay close attention.  Get the required am--, oh I think you've got it at this point.  =)
Here is the last one; on the right-hand panel will be a number concealed by six blocks.  It's your job to correctly guess the number; from time to time a couple blocks will rotate exposing a bit of the number leaving you a clue.  Should you feel confident, click on the number you think is right.  Also, in the final battle, you get to choose three of the challenges out of a possible eight.  Sweet!  Have fun!!!  =D
James Cameron's The Abyss is a really great
movie, but it's got nothin' on this
Now let's talk about the music, and it is good!  =)  The sound quality is really pleasant for the ears to the listen to, for a lot of the songs sound catchy, with a few that sound either ambient or soft and slow for a few.  The intro sequence sounds sweet, bouncy, and charming, and a lot of the songs sound incredibly lighthearted and enjoyable.  The sand theme is slow and ambient, the ice theme is lightheartedly chilling, the underwater themes are marvelous, the volcano theme is imposing, the flight theme sounds slightly Western, and a few of the fortress themes sound soft and mysterious.  The boss themes vary and are all good in their own right, and the final boss theme sounds really epic.  =)  The sound effects are really decent, for Takuto and Karin's sounds are different, the star sounds are cool, and as a bonus, there is even a sound effect lifted straight from Namco's Japan-exclusive arcade coin-op Libble Rabble (as a really cute nod to that game, it's played whenever you open a chest inside the sunken ship level)!  =D
Neon-like lights abound, and they impress
Another thing about this game, the visuals are absolutely gorgeous!  Oh, my God, this has got to be one of the best-looking Super Famicom games I've ever laid eyes on!  Yes, it's one of those visuals that are more colorful than they are detailed, but for the details that are there; good God do they count!  =)  I am in love with this game's look and feel, it's got the semblance of a really good pastel-toned anime, and here's another thing; it's also got some of the best pastel colors I've seen in 16-bit games that implemented that visual type (alongside the likes of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose!, DoReMi Fantasy: Milon no DokiDoki Daibōken, and TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure) times a hundred!  Each area has got its own distinct detail, and what's awesome about these areas is that (aside from the fact there is a huge amount of parallax scrolling, some of the best I've seen) they've also got a wide range of color schemes that match and seamlessly blend in with the surroundings (even the characters and enemies)!  Oh, I just can't get enough of these visuals!  =D
Would you look at those dazzling reflecting
lights!  =D
Where to start?  How about the stage with some neat lighting and shading effects on the tree as you bounce and traverse from each branch?  Or how about the first underwater stage where it's all consumed in a turquoise hue with multi-scrolling layers following and the shimmering lights shining down from time to time?  There are a couple inner volcano areas where red is abundant everywhere, and everything blends in that.  There is this base area almost full of windows by your side with reflecting lights everywhere, and it is very astonishing!  The next one that takes place at dawn is bright outside, but the characters and enemies are darker.  The ice area is serene and white, and there is one underwater area in a sunken ship where from time to time giant eel fish passes by the portholes and leaves a bright illumination.  Little attention to details here and there are what make this game.  Ohhh, it's one of those times I wish I could go over everything but I can't, you just have to see it for yourself to believe it!  =D
You mean like how you went over everything in Mickey's Dangerous Ch----?
Don't EVER bring up that mediocre insult to Mickey's name EVER AGAIN!!!!  >O<
Ooooh, touch-eeee!
Hmmph!!!  >=(  Anyway!
It's details like this that absolutely make
Wagyan Paradise come to life!  =)
Another neat thing about the game is how it's told in a story-like fashion, with in-between screens showing small detailed versions of what area you will be in.  The characters Takuto and Karin have got really round and adorably likable designs, and they're really charming characters (especially the victory animations).  =)  The animations are really smooth, and the enemy designs are varied, especially the bosses.  Many of the bosses are Nummers, and many of them have different roles or looks; some are soldiers, some are generals, one is a female drill sergeant, one of them is a robot, there's one who dons on a penguin suit (it's just so cute), and the final boss has got a really good enemy design, et al.  It's games like these that prove that you don't need a lot of Mode 7 to create a great-looking Nintendo 16-bit game!  =)
So, what is the challenge value of this game?  But first, here are some bonus games for ya:
After some stages you'll be given a chance to partake in one of three bonus games, a chance to get extra lives, and here they are right now!  =)
First bonus will have your character balance themselves riding on a ball towards the goal.  You've got three chances, but get to the goal and you'll get extra lives (including the chances you did not lose).
Second bonus is a chance to earn some lives by sliding yourself over.  At the starting line you must hold down on the gauge bar until you feel satisfied, and then your character will be sliding on over until the gauge gradually empties itself.  Don't overdo it though, otherwise you'll fall off the ice and not get any points.  Good luck getting up to 50, for its right at the edge of the ice.
Third and final bonus is pretty self-explanatory.  =)  You start out with a hundred balls, and you must try to get them inside the "In" box which moves automatically.  Once it's in it will signal the top, motioning through it like a roulette until it stops.  If it lands on the Wagyan symbol a life will pop up, but if not then you get nothing.
Sand, sand everywhere
And you know what the best part about these bonus games is?  They're entirely optional!  That's right, you don't even have to do them.  I mean it's not like you need all the lives, especially since you start off the adventure  with twenty, and the fact that for the most part the game is relatively easy; but I feel it's so nice that you are given a choice whether to accept the bonus or not.  =)  It's nice to do the bonus games, don't get me wrong, but a lot of the time I'll choose to just continue the adventure.  For that matter: twenty lives??  That sounds a little too generous, don't it?  I thought so too at first, but then I played Rushing Beat Shura (the Super Famicom version of *moan* The Peace Keepers, most ironic beat'em up name ever!) last month, and was surprised to find that you begin that game with thirty continues (each of which is the equivalent of one life)!  So yeah, that makes Wagyan Paradise's twenty-life starter seem reasonable by comparison.

Oh, if only you could see this tree rotate in motion  =)
In the battle events, I said before that the difficulties with each mini-game widely vary from easy to hard.  The easy ones are fun and manageable, while the slightly challenging ones take a bit of effort to do.  The ones that I personally have trouble with are the concentration event with the magnifying lens and the one where the word pops up in the bottom where you have to correctly select the image that matches it; I guess it doesn't help any that I can't read much Japanese.  =(  But even then, they're still manageable if you stick with them and persevere long enough.  The dialogue the enemy or characters say can be sped up (continuously with the Select), but be careful not to press Select at any time during the event otherwise you will forfeit and have to start over.  Unlike the last two 16-bit games where you picked up from the nearest checkpoint after you lost a life to the boss, you start exactly at the boss battle again once you lost.  I find that to be very convenient.  =)
Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!
Most areas you'll explore will end in a boss fight, but there are a short number that will let you off scot-free, which is a refreshing breather as it will have you take a break from boss battling until the next area.  For the most part this game is a platformer, and the platforming stages are all well-designed and fun to navigate, even though they aren't overly complex.  While the majority will have you go straight and/or go all around the area, there is a small number where your Wagyan character finds themselves in a vertical scrolling segment.  And that's another great thing too; depending on the area you'll find yourself in a different situation; most areas you'll be platforming, but there are even times when you'll be swimming around, sliding yourself down a hill from an avalanche or lava coming after you, a couple times you'll be flying on Rati, and there is a literally a stage where you submerge yourself down the abyss, among a few examples.  All that helps keep the game experience feel fresh as you progress.  =)
This little guy is a friend  =)
The gameplay is really fun and intuitive, simple though it may be.  Namco even threw in some special spins on it for certain areas; for example, in this one dark room save for the blue light coming from below you there are times when you have to move forward by shouting the sounds on a tube, which will encase said sound in a bubble once it comes out the other side so you can ride on it.  Another instance is during the ice stage, where your character can still make the sounds to stun enemies, however in here they will become frozen thereby becoming platforms you can jump on (I liked when that happened in Super Wagyan Land, so I was glad to see it come back here).  =)  I liked the various ways this game tried to challenge you, it's really ingenious.  Now as great as the platforming segments are, they wouldn't be complete without the mini-games themselves; which as a whole in my opinion makes Wagyan Paradise the very game that it is: a truly enjoyable experience!
This stage, like Wagyan Paradise, is on fire!!!  =D
This is one of those rare times when I talk about a game and have little to nothing to say as to what I didn't like about it.  It's one of those nearly flawless experiences for the Ninendo 16-bit console for me, and one of the most succinctly colorful games too.  Even though it's got a password system, it can be beaten in one sitting (and out of the three Wagyan games I've experienced, this one's the easiest and more manageable); as far as I'm concerned it's an hour and a half's worth of fun (though those that are more experienced at this game than I might be able to beat it in less time).  =)  With that said I do acknowledge that this game (and the series itself) may not exactly be import-friendly--particularly due the fact that there are some mini-games with kanji in it--nor might it be for everyone.  But if you're willing to give it a shot and decide to persevere and stick with it long enough, I promise you it is worth every penny.  If you're only going to play one Wagyan video game though, then make it be this one.  =)  In my book, this is one of my Top 5 favorite Super Famicom games of all time (it's fun, it's engaging, it's in-depth, it's lighthearted, and it's cute), and it's a really fun game to play during the Summer, and I always enjoy playing it every now and then.

 ( >'.')>TO EACH THEIR OWN<('.'<)
P.S.: Initially I was going to make a 3-in-1 special talking about all three Wagyan games during the Summer, but I'm glad I didn't go through that otherwise I don't think I would've gone into much detail for Wagyan Paradise=)
P.S. 2: Since I brought Pac-Man up, I'm sure some of you might be wondering what my thoughts were on Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures.  My thoughts on the show, from what little I saw of it were: ehh!  It's average kiddie fare, in my opinion; it's got good designs (especially the four classic ghosts, I mean wow) and it's colorful (with some serviceable CGI), but it doesn't take itself seriously.  That wouldn't be such a bad thing if it took the audience seriously, but it doesn't!  I mean how am I supposed to take that show seriously if it doesn't take me, the viewer, seriously?  =(  Honestly, that show is not for me, but I am aware that it's found itself an audience, so to each their own.  Also, I miss the classic Pac-Man look.
P.S. 3: I just had to throw in that Wander Over Yonder clip, I had to!  XD  As a devoted fan of that Craig McCracken animated show I felt obligated to sneak that clip in my review; also, it's one of my favorite moments from the show--takes me back to the days of Dexter's Laboratory=)  Best Show of 2013, hands down!
P.S. 4: Funny how the kin in this game are able to swim but Wagyan himself could not in the preceding titles.  As Phelous of once humorously touted and jokingly thumbed up: "Great continuity!"  That, or the children are a little more evolved than their parents were.  Hmmm...
P.S. 5: As far as sequels are concerned, what did I think of Thor: The Dark World, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugLoved theeeeem=)
Thank you for reading my review, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought!  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and take care!  =D
Hey, I didn't know Spike was in this game!  =O

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