Inside Pulse 12

Retrograding Advance 02.20.03

What the hell is slash? -Attributed to about a dozen readers of my last column, referring to the tagline of my last column.

People, if you don’t know…be happy. Be very happy.

Good news and bad news. First the bad news. Seems Sega delayed Shining Soul until the 28th of this month. And they didn’t tell anyone until the 17th! ARRRRGH! Bad Sega! Stupid Sega! And of course, this means I can’t give you a review on the English version. However, I will warn you, across Japan the game has some pretty crappy reviews. A Bad Shining game? I’m sceptical…and afraid.

I’m upset that Pikachu came in DEAD LAST in the mascot poll, and even more upset that Madden, Grand Theft Auto and Final F’N Fantasy are listed so highly. I swear people, after 3 months of me on here, it frightens me to see people liking those piles of crap. But it’s your tastes, not mine, and it just means I have to remember I’ve saved a few misguided souls by giving them some info about good games, instead of just the most common ones.

Speaking of those intelligent souls, give a shout out to Lee Baxley. Yes, he still sadly still enjoys Square games, but he’s a great writer, an RPG freak, and an excellent writer. Welcome to the team!

This week, in honour of my quest reviewer Liquidcross, we’re going to take a look at the current competition to the GBA back in Asia, the Wonderswan Colour, and it’s current upgrade, the Swancrystal. Now it’ll never come to America, but back in Japan it has a good chance of hurting Nintendo in the pocket book? Why you might ask? A little franchise called Final Fantasy…

That’s right, In Japan, Wonderswan has locked up the rights to all the non-tactics Final Fantasy games. You know how we’re getting FF1 and 2 over here in the US and UK on the PS1? They’re ports of the Wonderswan versions. And currently Wonderswan has FF 1-4 released for the system. Yeah, I hate Square, but I can’t deny how having remakes of one of the most popular video game chains in the world gives the Wonderswan the ability to survive against the GBA.

And it’s not just Final fantasy rehashes Square has brought to the Wonderswan. It’s brought damn near every franchise they have to the system. Saga Frontier on a hand held system! Hataraku Chocobo! It’s crazy. Due to the feud Square/Nintendo had up until a few months ago, Square was willing to make another bone-head business decision and go with a system that had no name value and make games for it just to spite Nintendo. And remember how Sega did that with the Pocket Colour? That didn’t turn out too well…

But it seems Square wasn’t the only company fed up with Nintendo’s cruel domination of the hand-held market. Bandai threw it’s Digimon and Gundam series onto the Wonderswan, which isn’t surprising considering they invented the system. And with just those two companies and their main franchises supporting the Wonderswan, it managed to cling to life.

And now all sorts of companies are producing for it. Capcom doing Mega Man. Sammy is doing Guilty Gear. Square has put out a new member of the Mana series called Wild card’ for it. (To be honest, it looks and plays like Mana, but no word if it’s an official member of the franchise.)

With a little energon, and a lot of luck, we’ll eventually get the Wonderswan stateside. It’s got a lot of things better than either the GBA and GBASP and some problems as well. So let’s look at them shall we?

Take a look at the system!

As you can see from the above picture. It’s roughly the same size and style of the Game Boy Advance. (Wonderswan is Size 77.5 X 127.7 X 24.3mm.) But right off the bat you can see it has two D pads. And weird ones at that. Each D pad is divided into 4 parts. Like the old 8 Bit Nintendo joysticks. Which can get rather irritating at times. This is one of the big reasons nearly every game for the Wonderswan is a turn based RPG. It’s hard to do fighting moves and action games with controls pads like these. At the same time, if you have slippery fingers or bad reflexes, this is the kind of control pad you want. It’s just hard to get into the habit of using it. Once you have though, it’s just the same as any other control pad.

Another problem are the tiny buttons. Those who complain about the GBA button sizes will HATE the Wonderswan. Tiny buttons! And it feels like they is less space between them. I’ve compared it to my GBA, and there doesn’t seem to be much if any spacing difference, but I swear even my pliant fingers occasionally stumble over Guilty Gear on the Wonderswan.

So the controls aren’t as good as the GBA. What is there to enjoy? Well first of all, it goes 20 hours on ONE AA battery, the same amount of time the GBA runs on TWO batteries. That’s always a plus for you on the go gamers. As well, the graphics and sound blow the GBA out of the water. The GBA is 32bit, but prefers to act like a Super Nintendo. Whereas you have the Wonderswan which Square is porting games to the PS1 from. Think you’ll ever see a GBA game ported to another system?

Finally, you have the resolution. 224 X 144 pixels. Very very nice for a cult system.

The Wonderswan Color uses LED, but the Swancrystal uses the much better TFT style screen, so I’d advice getting that, although truthfully, between the two systems, the type of screen is the only real difference other than the SC has a minuscule amount more RAM.

The sound is the big difference between the Swan and the GBA. The Swan’s sound is incredible, wheras the GBA can crackle sometimes at full blast. The Swancrystal’s cound is well….crystal clear, while the GBA’s speaker is ill placed and rather sucky.

The final thing to cover is that the Swancrystal only has a 16 bit processor compared to the GBA’s 32. This means there will occasionally be slowdown in faster, more graphically intense games. I only use mine for RPG’s, but from what a few others have told me, it’s a problem with some games.

So there you go, A look at another system 99% of you don’t care about and will never play, but as I’m geared for people interested in learning and seeing what cool stuff the Japanese get that we don’t…here’s another system for you to tinker with. I still feel the GBA is superior to the Swan, but if you’re big into sound and pretty pictures, even with slowdown, this is your system. Just make sure you can read Japanese.

Now for a reader review on a game for the system. And to be honest, if any of you email me a well-written review on any game for the Swan or Neo Geo Pocket Color, I’ll put it in a future edition of Retrograding ADVANCE. Why you ask? Because any website that has readers voting for games I wouldn’t force a serial dog rapist to play listed as some of the best franchises ever made needs people willing to enlighten them about SNK vs Capcom: Cardmaster’s Clash and Romancing SAGA. Anyway’s here my good friend Liquidcross and his review.

Here you go, folks: My handy-dandy first impressions/review of Rockman EXE WS for the SwanCrystal/Wonderswan Color.

The Rockman EXE series (better known as Mega Man Battle
Network
in the US) makes its first appearance on Bandai’s handheld
console with Rockman EXE WS. Rather than being an RPG, however,
this game is a side-scrolling action game, much like the Mega Man
games of old.

Gameplay

Instead of selecting bosses, you progress through levels in a linear
fashion, blasting baddies along the way. About halfway through the
level, the path will split, and take you to a new sublevel, where
you face a boss at the end. For example, one path might take you
to MagicMan.EXE, and the other would take you to PharaohMan.EXE.
You have no way of knowing right away who you’re going up against,
but the levels aren’t randomized, so if you come back later, you’ll
know exactly where to go.

Battle chips factor into the game as well. Various enemies in the
levels will drop them, just like in games past. However, if you get
a life recover battle chip, it won’t immediately recover your life;
you need to equip and activate it like any other chip.

The the only fault the game has is the control scheme. The Wonderswan’s
separated D-pad (the “X” pad) takes some getting used to, but it
gets the job done. The problem is the upper D-pad (the “Y” pad).
You can assign battle chips to each of the four buttons, and active
them on the fly. You can also swap them out on the pause/menu screen,
just like you would with weapons in any other Rockman game. The
problem is…you won’t be able to move and jump when you use a chip!
You have to take your thumb off the “X” pad, which moves your
character, to hit the “Y” pad! I can see that since the Wonderswan
doesn’t have “L” and “R” buttons, there was really no other way to
activate the chips quickly, but I would’ve rather had to select one
on the menu screen, use it with the B button, then switch back, for
no other reason than using chips in boss fights. More often than
not, you’ll find yourself just using your regular blaster in boss
fights, and using battle chips in the levels themselves, when you
have a little more leeway.

Sound

For the love of God, spend the extra money and buy a Wonderswan headphone adapter! You’ll want it for this game. The music is some of the best I’ve heard in a WSC game. Like other WSC games, the samples are somewhere between 8- and 16-bit, but in this case, the melodies are nice and clear, without the “clicks and pops” that are found in many other games.

Graphics

Any screenshots you may have seen definitely don’t do the game justice.
The graphics are clean and sharp, and look fantastic, especially
on the SwanCrystal. The animation’s pretty good, too. The WSC isn’t
as powerful as the GBA, but this game does animate very well indeed.
Bosses and special effects are well done, too, and the overall art
style matches the other Rockman EXE games perfectly.

Fun Factor

Aside from the aforementioned control issues, this game is enjoyable
to play. (The control issues are the only thing that really brings
the fun factor down.) It’s great to see enemies you previous fought
on an RPG battlefield coming after you in realtime, while you’re
jumping from platform to platform. Even the heavy Japanese text won’t
sway most gamers; it’s only really there for the story, and c’mon,
we already know the deal: Rockman.EXE is fighting to save the ‘Net.
It’s always the same thing.

Ratings

Gameplay – 7
Sound – 10
Graphics – 10
Fun Factor – 7

The 411

It has its flaws, but Rockman EXE WS is a fun platformer that
belongs in any Wonderswan owner’s library. If you’re a Rockman freak,
like me, then you definitely can’t pass this one up. ;)

Final Score: 8.0