Creator: Kenta Cho
We can't really have much of a discussion about doujin soft without the name Kenta Cho coming up from time to time. He's one of the first game makers to really rise to prominence in the field over the last decade, putting out a number of interesting games at a steady pace. One of his early efforts was the side-scrolling shooter Tumiki Fighters (2004).
"Tumiki" is a variation on the word "tsumiki", which means building blocks. In the game the player takes control of an airplane made of these blocks, and blasts up wave after wave of enemy ships also made of blocks, with a nice boss fight at the end of each level. Unlike his other games, Tumiki FIghters does not use random enemy or level generation. It's a far more structured experience with a defined ending.
Like Kenta Cho's other games, Tumiki is a very solid experience. The controls are bang on, the visuals have a more abstract look to them, and the music is appropriately peppy electronic fair in this instance. The game provides a very respectable challenge with a lot of incoming enemy fire both during the stage and the boss fight at its end.
If you're unfamiliar with his work, Tumiki Fighter is as good a game as any to see what Kenta Cho is capable of, and there is the added advantage that this game is available not only on Windows, but also for the Mac and Linux (the game even got a commercial release on the Wii last year via Majesco). Check the links below for download files for your respective OS if you feel like giving this game a shot.
Tumiki Fighters Windows
Tumiki Fighters Mac
Tumiki Fighters Linux
Creator: Kenta Cho
Watched Paprika for the first time in a while today. I've always been a sucker for Satoshi Kon's work, but this film in particular is a favorite of mine. The existential themes discussed in it are quite interesting, and the way the imagery walks a very fine line between the dream world in which much of the movie takes place, and utter madness is brilliant. The only real downside is that after watching it, I've got the parade song stuck in my head now. It's a good track, but after it's been repeating in my mind for a few hours it gets a little annoying. ^_^;
Creators: Team Gris Gris
Genre: Action Adventure
What a pretty game we have here. In the tradition of side-scrolling action adventure games like The Adventure of Link Team Gris Gris bring us Tetrabash. A fun little romp that has players hacking up monsters while hunting treasure and other assorted goodies.
Sporting very high production values that utilize cel shading the game has a nice, cartoony feel to it, and a somewhat cute vibe thanks to the use of bright colors, and very anime-inspired character design. At the same time, Tetrabash also sounds great with solid sound effects, and a nice, orchestral soundtrack that reminds me of some of Sqaure-Enix's action adventure outings like Brave Fencer Musashi and Threads of Fate (I was actually a bit surprised to see that Squeenix still has an official site up in English for Threads of Fate despite the game having been released almost a decade ago).
The action is all straightforward enough. Players control Tetrabash's protagonist, Radish Mercury, having him hack up various badguys while platforming around levels in search of treasure, and the occasion item that will either make him stronger, or unlock the areas to come. All the while he gains experience for defeating his foes, thus gaining levels, and getting a little stronger as he goes. The controls are very responsive, and Radish behaves quite well on-screen. About the only thing players will need to get used to is that whenever he swings his sword, Radish shuffles forward a tiny bit. So, if players aren't careful they may find themselves accidentally bumping into enemies and taking damage as they are fighting.
The story telling elements of the game are quite kanji-heavy, so a lot of people will have difficulty keeping up with the narrative in the game, but the action itself is easy enough to follow. If you want to give Tetrabash a try, Team Gris Gris has a short demo available for download on the game's official site. Grab it here and give it a shot.
Genre: Shoot 'Em Up
Schmups are usually known for their fast pace, as players weave through constant barrages of enemy fire, while players still have to blast up wave after wave of incoming bad guys. It's a very visceral experience. PlaDzmA certainly has all this, but it tackles the whole power-up thing a little bit differently. Instead of collecting them as one goes through the level, players acquire credits in each level that can be spent at a shop between stages. Here one can snap up new primary and secondary weapons, and even new ships, among other goodies. It's a bit reminiscent of Area 88 / UN Squadron on the SNES in that regards. Thankfully, much of the writing in the shop is in katakana, so if you can read that, there shouldn't be much difficulty in discerning what weapon does what before purchasing.
PlaDzmA isn't terribly long, with only a handful of levels, but they are fun and stretch out for quite some way before reaching a boss. The combat also scales quite well as you progress through a stage. It starts off slow, and gradually builds up as you progress. By the end, players will find themselves weaving all sorts of incoming fire while trying to get in some shots on their enemies. As all of this is going on, there are two bars on the right hand side of the screen that gradually fill up as players blow up more and more baddies. As the bars fill up, they can help you get extra ships, as well as replenish your special attack. I thought this was a pretty neat way of getting extra lives, and bombs, as opposed to chasing down icons zigzagging across the screen.
It's definitely worth spending some time with this schmup. It's well laid out, looks and sounds very good, and makes for a nice way to kill an hour or so when you have some free time to relax. Rezetia has a link for downloading a demo of the game on their site (linked above) if you feel like giving the game a whirl.
I've been interested in the homebrew scene out of Japan for quite some time, but always found it difficult to track down information about these games in English when trawling the internet. A few of the big hits like Milky Blood, or the latest Kenta Cho creation get some mentions in the mainstream gaming press, but consistent, in-depth coverage is pretty rare. I'm hoping this blog will help to change that to some degree.
Doujin Gamer is aimed at getting the word out about these great games, and exposing Western audiences to them in greater number. This is more of a fan site than a news site, so posts will be lengthy discussions of specific titles more than anything else, but if I come across some interesting tidbits of news I'll try and mention it here as well.
For those who only have a very basic idea of what doujin is, a quick overview is probably in order. Basically, doujin is fan made content in a specific field in Japan, where the two most popular mediums to come about have been in manga and games. In so far as games are concerned, groups of like-minded programmers, artists, musicians, scriptwriters, and so forth join into groups (usually referred to as circles) to develop a game, or on occasion people go it alone in creating one.
Most of the popular genres that we see everyday on the various consoles are covered by the makers of doujin soft, but schmups, fighters, and RPGs do tend to be made more than other genres. One interesting thing you'll notice is that these homebrews help keep some genres alive that might otherwise have died as commercial developers abandon them for more profitable pastures. Thankfully doujin soft circles do what they do because it's a very special hobby to them, and not because they're in it for the money. As such, it's become a good place to look to for schmup fans, and other genres that don't get a lot of play in mainstream gaming these days.
Anyway, I'm going to leave it at that for now. I hope you find this site useful, and a lot of fun too.