Creator: Tasogare Frontier
Genre: Platformer

Happy 2010, everyone! I'm going to start off the year with a quick look at Tasogare Frontier's quaint Mega Man clone, MegaMari. It's a cute, well executed platformer, albeit the game is extremely difficult. This is also one of a handful of spinoff projects from the Touhou Project works of Team Shanghai Alice, hence while you'll quickly notice that MegaMari's characters are all from that universe.

In this particular game, players take control of Marisa Kirisame, who has managed to anger Patchouli Knowledge by constantly taking books from her library. As such, Patchouli has gone and hidden the books in a heavily defended castle. If Marisa wants to read any more of these tombs, she's going to have to bust her way in, fighting several tough bosses (also from the Touhou universe) along the way. She isn't going it alone, though, as Alice Margatoid is coming along to lend Marisa a hand.

The game plays exactly as a classic Mega Man title would, so anyone familiar with that series will be able to jump right in here. As I mentioned earlier, this game can be really tough, so players will need some patience here. While this is a platformer, MegaMari is still based on the same universe as a bunch of bullet hell shooters, so boss fights actually utilized these kinds of attacks quite often, filling the screen with bullets that players have to dodge while trying to beat a boss. It can be very difficult.

Nonetheless, MegaMari is a pretty fun little romp well worth tracking down.

Duo Princess

Creator: Easy Game Station
Genre: Action RPG

One nice thing about the doujin soft community is that sometimes they spot a particular game that was really good, created by a large commercial game developer, but unfortunately the game never got a sequel to carry on the spiffiness of the original title. Seeing this lack of a sequel, doujin game makers will sometimes take it upon themselves to create one. A fine example of this is Easy Game Station's Duo Princess.

As a follow up to Square-Enix's relatively obscure PSOne action RPG Threads of Fate, Duo Princess recasts that game's spunky main character, Mint, with her sister Maya as the pair go off on a new set of adventures. While the original game was more akin to classics like Illusion of Gaia, Duo Princess takes a slightly different approach to action RPGs, favoring gameplay mechanics like that found in games like Ys: The Ark of Napishtim.

The game looks pretty decent with graphics comparable to somewhat hi-def PSOne games, with some nice boss encounters and the like peppered throughout it. All the while, players get two choices in how they can go about clobbering monsters. Either they can get up close and personal with some melee fighting via Mint, or they can go the ranged, magical approach with Maya.

At the end of the day, Duo Princess is a very straightforward, very traditional action RPG, but it's nice that it tries to bring back a little remembered classic from the PSOne in the process.

Magical Battle Arena

Creator: Fly System / Area Zero
Genre: Fighting

Anime is a very popular source from which doujin circles will draw their inspiration. Sometimes it may be one specific series, and in other cases it will be several. Magical Battle Arena is one such example of the latter, as it includes characters from Nanoha, Card Captor Sakura, and Slayers.

The game's story revolves around a group of female magicians being summoned from their respective dimensions against their will, and being forced to fight in a tournament, where the winner will be allowed to go home, and is granted one wish. However, as the story unfolds, it turns out that there is a lot more to these battles than was originally let on.

Magical Battle Arena is a 3D fighting game with very large battlefields. I would compare it to some of the Dragonball games that have come out over the years, and let players either fight up close in a melee situation, or from miles away, blasting each other with magic. Personally, I like the magic since it's a little bit more grandiose, and focuses on their characters magical strong points, but to each their own.

The game is quite well done, with high production values, and a solid fighting system. Definitely recommended for fans of the anime series represented within it.

Higurashi Daybreak

Creator: Twilight Frontier
(Home Page)
Genre: Action / Fighting

A little while back, I discussed Melty Blood, and how it was an early example of doujin circles working together (in this case software creator French Bread, and manga circle Type-Moon) to create a game that was not only popular with doujin fans, but also found a wider level of appeal among the general public. Today I want to discuss another game to do this: Higurashi Daybreak. The game was a runaway hit in Japan as more and more people discovered it, leading to major magazines and web sites starting to discuss it. Higarashi Daybreak was a result of a collaborative effort between Twilight Frontier, and 07th Expansion, the creators of the visual soft manga on which this game is based. Moreover, the game proved popular enough for Alchemist to eventually come along and port the game to the PSP, PS2, and DS.

Based on the soft sound novel Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, the game's story revolves around one of the series main characters (Rika Furude) stumbling across a pair of magatama (a type of bead originally from Japan's ancient past). This pair in particular possesses magical properties. One is red, and the other is white, and if two people possess them, they'll fall hopelessly in love. As such, a competition erupts in Higurashi as to who will get to have them.

Action plays out in a bit of a hybridized action / fighting game fashion where players can either fight up close, and personal for some melee combat, or fight from a distance with ranged weapons. I actually like the ranged battles more for no other reason than to watch the cute characters blasting each other with what are sometimes some rather oversized weaponry, all the while thinking what sensationalist news media types would say if they saw such a game released over here. It's a fun, fluid fighting system made all the more exciting by the fact that it is all done in a 2 vs 2 style that you can play with friends, or with computer controlled players. There are about a dozen characters to choose from in Higurashi Daybreak, and then it's up to players how they want to combine them for fights.

Visually the game goes for a cel shaded look, and it's actually the first time 07th Expansion took a stab at making a 3D game...and a very good first attempt it is. The settings are reasonably simple, with straightforward anime-inspired character designs, but it works.

Ultimately, though, it's the action that makes Higurashi Daybreak work, and it's made all the better by its multiplayer options. It's just an all-around fun game.

Hinokakera: The Fragments of Innocent Sinner

Creator: Reddish Region
(Home Page)
Genre: Fighting

Today's game that we're taking a look at is Reddish Region's (aka Akaishi Ryuuka) Hinokakera: The Fragments of Innocent Sinner, a 2.5D fighting game. It's an interesting potpourri of fighting game conventions all squished under one roof that actually work surprisingly well together. Taking place in a post-apocolyptic world, players will have eight characters to choose from (with a few more added in thanks to content updates that have trickled out since the game's initial release).

If you like fighting games with all sorts of gauges in it, then you'll probably love Hinokakera. The game has three of them: a guard gauge, break gauge, and an energy gauge. As you might expect, the guard gauge is for defense, and is depleted as a character is attacked while defending themselves. Once the gauge is completely used up, players can unload a guard crush on that character. The break gauge fills up over time, and is what you'll need topped up in order to use the most powerful attacks. Finally there is the energy gauge, which is more of a tug-of-war meter between the two characters fighting. As they inflict damage, and other special attacks they get more energy in their favor.

There is plenty of opportunity for massive combos and juggling in the game the way Hinokakera has its moves set up. Just about every character's move list practically invites players to try and pummel their opponents with one hit after the next. To counteract this, there are some interesting defensive measures in the game including the ability to sidestep attacks, and three different blocking methods.

Hinokakera is a fun little fighter that has been getting some nice, steady support since it first came out. Personally, I like the frenetic approach to the fighting in the game, and the aesthetic is quite nice as well. It's certainly an above average entry into the genre.

Ether Vapor

Creator: Edelweiss
(Home Page)
Genre: Shooter

Usually when someone makes a shoot 'em up one of the first things that they decide is whether they want it to be a horizontal or vertical scrolling one. In the case of Edelweiss' Ether Vapor, it seems that not only could they not make up their mind on this, but they even made a camera system that swoops between these and any other angle that they thought might be cool on the fly while progressing through a level.

This is by far the big standout feature in Ether Vapor. One minute the action will be as a vertical shooter, then suddenly it's a side-scroller, and then the camera may swing behind your ship for an over-the-shoulder perspective. It's a very cool function that makes for some really epic battles, especially during boss fights. On top of this, there are various weapon systems to lay around with, cool looking enemies, and gigantic bosses.

The game looks great, too. Besides the aforementioned awesome bosses and enemies, the environments are beautiful, and if you're even remotely interested in grandiose anime-inspired battles, Ether Vapor emulates them to a tee with massive laser blasts, launching huge swarms of missiles, and other equally over-the-top onslaughts of weaponry.

If you want to take a break from the more traditional bullet hell approach to shooters that has become so popular in recent years, this is definitely a game to check out if for no other reason than it's crazy camera system. It's certainly no gimmick, as the rest of what Ether Vapor has to offer is equally amazing. You can download the trial over here.

SUGURI Perfect Edition Sale

Just noticed that Rockin' Android has the schmup SUGURI Perfect Edition on sale at the moment for $13.99US (usually goes for $19.99US). Not a bad deal. If you're interested in picking this one up on the cheap, now's the time as the sale is only until December 11th. Here's a link to the game's page on their site: