I’m not a huge fan of the mascot platformer genre, and I say that even though the game that made me put aside my home-computer-gaming ways and buy a console back in the late 80s was the original Sonic the Hedgehog.
I even bought the sequel, my first-ever video game pre-order, and I played both games through quite a few times, the sort of thing you do when you are pulling in about 900 bucks a month after taxes and your rent is $450 of that.
Life tip, kids: Don’t be TOO quick to move out of your parents’ house. Well, unless you really like hot dogs, ramen, and cheap canned pasta. I really should not have been prioritizing video games at the time, is what I’m saying.
I appear to have gotten off-track. ANYWAY, I did have a fondness for the first couple of Sonic games, and even played one or two Marios, but those aside I more-or-less ignored the whole genre.
And then, for some reason, I picked up a Klonoa game. This was much later in life, mind you, and my rent to income ratio wasn’t QUITE as dire. To be honest, it was a point where I was buying games just because suddenly I wasn’t worrying where the next package of Top Ramen was coming from and wooooooo disposable income!
Life tip, kids: Don’t go from a period of austerity to a period of being relatively stable and go nuts buying all the cool things you couldn’t afford.
Anyway, Klonoa is a character I really like, because he’s just so dang earnest about helping people. His games are also much more puzzle games – there are enemies, sure, but they tend to wander slowly around and not really try to attack you. You typically have all the time you need to look at a given screen and figure out how you are going to get from point (a) to point (b) and onwards to the end credits. Generally this is accomplished by rushing an unsuspecting enemy critter, grabbing it and carrying it over your head, and then using it as a springboard. Which makes it explode, but let’s not get quibbling about how many cute and relatively-innocent critters Klonoa has killed.
So, when I found out that there were Japan-exclusive Klonoa games, I made a point of picking them up on one of my trips over there, and that’s how I came to own a Wonderswan:
This picture represents the entirety of my Wonderswan collection. That’s one console (Skeleton Pink version), one copy Klonoa: Moonlight Museum, and one copy of the Card Captor Sakura game because felt like I needed to buy a second game. Total expenditure: Y300 (console) + Y1800 (Klonoa) + Y680 (Sakura) = Y2780. A bargain!
Curiously, the Wonderswan page on Wikipedia has called this color “Skeleton Red”, removing all references to “Pink”, since mid 2014 when it was changed by a Wikipedia editor for, presumably, not being manly enough. The Bandai-official name for the color is “スケルトンピンク” so I leave you to draw your own conclusions.
It’s a weird little console. One of a few attempts to take on Nintendo in the handheld market, it’s fairly beefy for its day and lasts forever on a single AA battery. It is sadly lacking a headphone jack, which makes actually playing games a frustrating experience at times – if you use the internal speaker, it has three volume levels: off, too loud, and WAY TOO LOUD, so I played through almost the entirety of Klonoa with the sound muted.
There is an adapter to plug in headphones. I neglected to buy one. It would be a bit of a trip back to the store to pick one up.
Anyway. I bought this thing mostly so I could play a game not otherwise available, and finished it this morning. It was a pretty good experience, even without audio. It’s your typical Klonoa story – he meets someone with troubles and immediately goes dashing off into peril to help them get their dreams back – and plays pretty much exactly like Empire of Dreams, with the notable omission of boss fights. I actually quite liked that, because the boss fights never really seem to fit in with the more thoughtful puzzle bits and most of the ones in EoD were profoundly forgettable. It’s cute and occasionally makes you think about its levels to the point where you feel smug for figuring them out, and what more could you ask really?
Also, because one of the unique things about the Wonderswan was that it could be held in either portrait or landscape orientation, some of the levels have you rotating the console and playing on a much taller field than normal. That would have been very handy for the levels in EoD where you are trying to climb up the screen as the bottom slowly scrolls up to kill you, so I wonder if that wasn’t originally intended as a WS game and moved to the GBA later.
I guess I’ll give the Card Captor Sakura game a try now. I’ve booted it and the opening screen has a reasonably-accurate chiptune version of Catch You Catch Me, so that’s at least one mark in its favor.
Follow-up: Card Captor Sakura wasn’t anything spectacular, so it’s going on the meh pile. It has an interesting hook in that it’s an raising simulator / RPG where you raise your stats by doing schoolwork and sports, but it’s all done through menus and really didn’t keep my attention past the first couple of in-game days.