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Posted by Bryan Ochalla

You're all waiting with bated breath for the English fan translation of Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love to be released, right?

Don't tell me this is the first you're hearing of it. I wrote about it back in May--in a post titled, "Coming soon-ish to a DS near you: a fan translation of Irozuki Tincle no Koi no Balloon Trip"--for crying out loud.

Unfortunately, we've still got a bit of a wait before the patch is finished and made available to the hand-wringing masses. In the meantime, here's an interview with the guy who not only got this project off the ground but is seeing it through to its release.

I can't share his name in this post for reasons that should be obvious. I can, however, share the handle he tends to use for his fan translation work: joesteve1914.

With that out of the way, let's get to the 10 questions I recently asked joesteve1914 about this tantalizing project as well as his responses to them.

The Gay Gamer: Why did you decide to translate Irozuki Tincle no Koi no Balloon Trip? Are you Tingle fan from way back? Or maybe you're more of a general DS, Nintendo or Zelda fan?

Joesteve1914: I'm a big Zelda fan. I've loved the Legend of Zelda series my entire life, and I've played almost every game in the series. When I learned of the Tingle series, I was instantly intrigued since Tingle is one of my favorite characters. (Not many people share that opinion!) I played Freshly-Picked Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland and liked it, so I wanted to experience its sequel as well.

The Gay Gamer: When did you start this project? You launched its blog in early 2013, but based on your first posts, it sounds like the project began before that?

Joesteve1914: Yeah, the blog was something I thought of a few months after I started working on the game. If we're being really technical here, I suppose the project started on July 31, 2012, at around 5 pm EST. That's when I posted in the RHDN forums asking for help with hacking the game, since I had never done ROM hacking before. I basically spent the next two years trying to learn about ROM hacking in my spare time. I didn't have the help or the knowledge to start a long-term project like this until the beginning of 2014. So realistically you might say the project started “for real” in 2014.

The Gay Gamer: How many people have worked on or are currently working on the patch? Also, can you explain what each person on the team has worked on or is working on now?

Joesteve1914: In total, around 13 people have contributed to the project so far. At the moment, our team consists of five people. First up we have our translators, waldrumpus and DaVince.

DaVince joined in early 2014, right around the time a major development occurred that made the translation of the script a realistic possibility. He translated the first “page” and some other miscellaneous stuff in the script. He also sometimes stops by our Slack channel and helps us with localization decisions (names, how to translate puns, etc.).

As for waldrumpus, he joined in August of 2014. Like me, this was his first time working on a fan translation. Despite this, he went on to translate nearly 90 percent of the very lengthy script by himself. The dedication waldrumpus has had over the last few years has been amazing. He also is going to be involved in the editing process and will be there to assist the other editors if they have questions.

Next up we have chir-miru, who's been helping out here and there since 2012. At the beginning of the project, chir-miru and I both worked on hacking, which included figuring out how to edit the script and the graphics in the game. We parted ways for a while, but chir-miru came back in 2016 and helped out with some graphics editing.

Zell0s joined in July of 2016 as a graphics editor. He’s been a great help to the graphical side of the project. He did, by my estimate, nearly half of the graphics in the game himself before he left the project this year. We also have masterofzoroark on the graphics side of things. He joined in June of this year. He's been a great help in recent months, too--especially as we near the end of the graphics editing. Finally, we have Pandamanu, who very graciously did the English graphics for the chapter scrolls in the game. There’s around 44 of those, so this was a big help and sped the project up a lot.

And then we have our script editors. We’re still assembling this team, so that work hasn’t really begun in earnest yet.

Although not part of the team, these next few people have also been a huge help to the project. There’s DarthNemesis, who coded the awesome script dumper and extractor (I can’t even imagine editing the text manually), as well as FShadow, who created the new English title logo.

There’s also Auryn, Kelebek, Normmatt and FAST6191; they have given advice and assisted me with some of the more difficult (at least for me!) hacking.

The Gay Gamer: What has been the biggest stumbling block to the project so far? Or what has been the biggest problem you've encountered since you kicked it off?

Joesteve1914: For me personally, the biggest stumbling block in general has been my inexperience with rom hacking. When I started this project back in 2012, I had no experience whatsoever in hacking; in fact, I decided to learn rom hacking for the purpose of translating this game.

I’ve had a lot of problems in terms of hacking that I’ve had to overcome, but the most major one would be figuring out the game’s text engine; specifically how to fit in more text, since English takes up more space than Japanese most of the time. Thanks to the help of Kelebek, we now know that the game uses an unconventional way of determining the length of text. Long story short, it ranges from extremely painful to impossible to expand the amount of text displayed manually. Fortunately, DarthNemesis’s text editor makes editing the text as easy as editing a .txt file.

The Gay Gamer: Have you been pleasantly surprised by anything while working on this translation?

Joesteve1914: I think what surprised me the most was the support and encouragement we got from people. Seeing hundreds of people view the blog every day, as well as the comments that people leave, is very encouraging. I’ve even received a few offers to donate money to the project! Unfortunately, if we accepted anything we’d be asking for a cease-and-desist letter from Nintendo.

The Gay Gamer: I'm guessing you've spent a lot of time playing Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love over the years. What do you like most about it?

Joesteve1914: I like the gameplay the most. It’s a very strange game, as I’m sure anyone who has heard of it knows, but underneath all the quirky Tingle-ness is a game that pays tribute to--or parodies, depending on how you look at it--several classic game genres.

This ranges from point-and-click adventures, to dating sims, to Final Fantasy-style JRPGs, to dungeon-crawlers and much more. The way it merges all of these genres into a Tingle-Wizard of Oz mashup is both amazing and hilarious.

The Gay Gamer: On a related note, why should someone want to play a translated version of Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love? Which aspects do you think will appeal most to your average gamer, or what parts of the title will please them the most as they play through it?

Joesteve1914: Let me start by saying if you’re one of those people who absolutely hates Tingle, you should give this game a chance. I guarantee you will find yourself smiling, if not laughing out loud, when playing this game. The gameplay is addictive and fun without being overly complex or frustratingly unfair. (Hello, Rosy Rupeeland!) There’s also a lot of references to other Nintendo games, especially The Legend of Zelda series. If you’re a Nintendo or Zelda fan--or both--I can’t recommend this game enough.

In terms of the story, I think you’ll be surprised. The game has a heartfelt story and message behind all of its weirdness. The characters are memorable and you’ll definitely find yourself getting attached to them. But don't worry, the game is still a Tingle game, so the humor and the aspect of never taking itself seriously that Rosy Rupeeland had are still here.

The visuals are great as well. They’re not the most advanced on the DS, but they have a certain charm and they're very well done. Once again, if you've played Rupeeland, it’s in the same style as that game.

Also, unlike its predecessor, this game’s soundtrack is pretty great. Each song is well done and they all fit the game’s atmosphere perfectly. There’s a few Zelda songs in there as well.

The Gay Gamer: How far along is the project? Your most recent comment on the subject seems to suggest it's about 80 percent done, but I think you said that last fall. Can you give an update as to where things are now?

Joesteve1914: I'd say it's probably somewhere around 85 to 90 percent done. The script is virtually done, with only a few parts left untranslated, and the graphics also are almost done. Then we have the editing of the script to do. After that we just need to do a beta test, and then the first complete patch will be released.

The Gay Gamer: Do you have any idea as to when an initial patch will see the light of day? Is such a thing possible by the end of the year, or will folks have to wait until sometime in 2018 or beyond?

Joesteve1914: We set a goal of 2017 for the initial release, and that's still the plan.

The Gay Gamer: Is there anything else you'd like to pass along about this project that I haven't yet asked about?

Joesteve1914: Only that we hope everyone reading this gives our patch a try. It’s been a long time coming, and we’ve poured a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it (not literally, of course). I can assure you the patch will be well worth the wait.

Learn more about the Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love English fan translation, and stay on top of its progress, at tingletranslation.blogspot.com.

See also: previous 'ten questions with...' posts featuring auntie pixelante, Peter Bartholow (of Indivisible fame), Dudedle Studio, the guys who created Wizorb and the makers of THE 'DENPA' MEN 2
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Posted by Bryan Ochalla

Given my love of the original Bubble Bobble, you might assume I've adored this pseudo-sequel since the first time I played it. (Don't let its name fool you; Rainbow Islands is the real follow-up to the aforementioned classic.)

In reality, I've attempted to play--and enjoy--Bubble Bobble 2 a number of times since its release 24 years ago. Sadly, each attempt (made via emulation, I have to add; I haven't yet gotten up the nerve to drop a few hundred dollars on a game I've long struggled to like) ended with me shaking my head in disbelief, wondering how the masters at Taito could've screwed up so badly.

What do I mean by "screwed up"? Consider Bubble Bobble 2's graphics. Anyone who tries to tell you they even approach the kaleidoscopic adorableness of Bub's and Bob's first foray into the "cave of monsters" is someone you shouldn't trust, in my humble opinion.

Heck, I'd go so far as to say I prefer the aesthetics of the Rainbow Islands Famicom port to those of the game discussed here, and that particular home version of the official Bubble Bobble successor isn't exactly known for being a looker (especially when compared to its quarter-munching counterpart).

Another visual aspect of Bubble Bobble 2, aka Bubble Bobble Part 2 outside of Japan, that's kept me from warming up to it as much as I thought I would when I first became aware of it: its sprites. They're all out of whack in terms of size. Specifically, Bub and Bob appear to have gained a few pounds since their initial go-round, while their well-known adversaries seem to have been zapped by some sort of futuristic shrinking ray.

That's not the end of the world, admittedly, and if you're like me you'll get over the questionable art direction in time, but even then it remains one of the ugliest Bubble Bobble games around.

The worst offender when it comes to Bubble Bobble 2's looks, though, is its lazy backdrops. Although a couple of them are nice enough, they stick around for so long they become boring. This is especially true of the yawn-inducing, column-filled environment that opens the game. It barely changes while you progress through the first 10 levels, and when you finally make it to the 11th, the sky color switches from blue to coral and that's it.

Later stages offer backgrounds that are far more interesting, thankfully, but even they tend to overstay their welcome.

The good news amidst this deluge of negativity: all the complaints I've leveled at Bubble Bobble 2 so far are merely cosmetic. (That's not to say I can't think of a few others, such as its lackluster soundtrack and its abundance of flicker.) Even better, they irk you less and less the more you play the game--or at least that's been the case for me. As an example, I currently consider the Bub (or Bob) sprite to be kind of cute, which is worlds away from my initial, horrified response to it.

Also, Bubble Bobble 2 is an enjoyable enough single-screen platformer even though it's far from the most attractive one around. That's largely because of how bizarre it eventually shows itself to be.

A case in point: after nearly putting you to sleep with 19 straight stages populated by a few stray clouds, columns and bushes (as well as a bunch of baddies, of course), the game whisks you away to what looks like a brick-lined dungeon to battle what I can only describe as a xenomorph riding a motorcycle. (See screenshot above for evidence.)

How this fits into Bubble Bobble 2's overall story, I cannot say. I can say, however, that it served as a turning point in my relationship with this odd duck of the Bubble Bobble series.

After encountering that Alien-esque boss--as well as the enemy that looks like a mashup of a Star Wars AT-ST and a Zen-chan as well as the one that seems to be made up of a skeletal head, a chain-link body and bony little legs (again, see screenshot above)--I developed an appreciation for Bobble Bobble 2's unapologetic wackiness.

I'd still rather play the original Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands or Parasol Stars, mind you, but I think it's safe to say I'll toss this 1993 release into the mix now and then thanks to my most recent--and mostly positive--experience with it.

See also: previous 'Second Chances' posts about the Famicom ports of Chack'n Pop, Don Doko Don and Rainbow Islands, as well as Bubble Bobble Junior for the GameBoy
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Posted by Bryan Ochalla

And that's saying something, as I'm really into the Wii right now thanks to all the fun I'm having with Opoona and Tabemon. (Here are some Opoona impressions, for the curious.)

So what do I mean when I say I'm obsessed with NEC's little white wonder, aka the PC Engine? Well, I mean that beyond playing the many PC Engine games I've owned for years now, I've been buying new ones over the last month or two.

In fact, I've bought at least 12 PC Engine games in that time. All are HuCards. Most are RPGs.

Their titles aren't completely visible in the snapshots included to the right, so I'll spell them out for you (in order, from top to bottom) while also sharing little descriptions for those who aren't so versed in PC Engine HuCards.

War of the Dead--A post-apocalyptic RPG from 1989 that features battles focused on side-scrolling action rather than selecting options from drop-down menus. Oh, and War of the Dead's badass protagonist--a woman, amazingly--uses guns, grenade launchers and the like rather than swords and magic to mow down the ghoulies that get in her way. Given all of that, is it any wonder I've wanted to play this since I first pinged my radar?

Necros no Yōsai--I told you early I was really into HuCard RPGs right now. Well, here's another. This one was released in 1990 and offers players slightly more traditional battles than War of the Dead. I say slightly because they're (said to be) far more cinematic than what's typical for the genre and for the time. Not that I've played it yet, mind you. The Brothers Duomazov have, though, and I always trust their judgment.

Susano Oh Densetsu--Surprise! Another chip-based role-playing game. This one is based on the Japanese manga, Susano Oh, created by Go Nagai. Again, word on the street is Susano Oh Densetu isn't your typical RPG. Enemies are visible on the overworld screen and the fights they pick with you via your avatar seem to be pretty strategic. Toss into the mix the ability to use everything from axes to rocket launchers against your opponents, and you've got a game I'm very much itching to play.

Double Dungeons--I can't say I've been itching to play this HuCard dungeon crawler, but I have long thought it looked interesting, so I went ahead and purchased a copy when I came across a cheap one while perusing eBay recently. The differentiator here is two people can tackle a dungeon at the same time. I'll likely never have the opportunity to experience Double Dungeons that way, of course, but hopefully I'll enjoy my eventual playthrough all the same.

R-Type I and II--The R-Type II shown and discussed here isn't the arcade sequel (to the original R-Type, naturally) Irem released in 1989. Bizarrely, the company split the first R-Type into two parts while porting it to the PC Engine. Yes, that meant the game was released on two HuCards. Ridiculous, right? Still, I have fond memories of playing the North American version (on my beloved TurboGrafx-16) back in the day, so I picked up both Japanese chips during one of my impromptu eBay shopping sprees.

Gomola Speed--I've had my eyes on this strange, Snake-inspired PC Engine title for ages now, but it wasn't until I had a Twitter chat about it with Snow Kitten that I finally bit the bullet and bought a copy. It sports some great cover art, plus its gameplay looks like good, breezy fun, so I'll definitely give it a go sooner rather than later.

Daichi-kun Crisis: Do Natural--Here's a HuCard with which I've had an on-again, off-again relationship since I first became aware of it. My interest in it should be easy enough to understand once you glimpse its cover art, which shows an erupting volcano surrounded by a bunch of adorable cows. As for why it took me so long to add Daichi-kun Crisis to my ever-growing collection of PC Engine games: its gameplay looks, well, bonkers--and not necessarily in a good way. That's rarely stopped me from trying something, so here's hoping it pays off this time around.

Nazo no Masquerade--This is the kind of game I would've avoided like the plague before I started learning Japanese. (Read about my progress in this recent post.) Now, though, I use such titles as inspiration to keep me going. Not that I see myself successfully completing an adventure game like this one anytime soon. Still, I may boot up Nazo no Masquerade in the coming weeks just to see what I'm able to suss out, as I'm attracted to its "1920s mansion" setting.

Momotarō Katsugeki--No need to know Japanese for this game, which is a side-scrolling platformer starring that country's popular "Peach Boy." (Momotarō often is translated to Peach Boy.) Momotarō Katsugeki looks quite PC Genjin-esque to me, and seeing as though I've loved every PC Genjin (or Bonk) title I've played, I have a feeling I'll love this Hudson Soft-published effort, too--once I finally pop it into my trusty PC Engine Core Grafx II.

Momotarō Densetsu Turbo and Momotarō Densetsu Gaiden--These games also were made and published by Hudson Soft, and they also star the above-mentioned Peach Boy. They differ from Katsugeki in terms of gameplay, though. Both are Dragon Quest-esque RPGs full of turn-based battles and travels across exotic landscapes. The latter's supposed to be miles better than the former, so most would say I should start with Gaiden, but I'll probably do the opposite.

Have you played any of these PC Engine games? If so, let me (and others) know what you think of them in the comments section below.
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Posted by Bryan Ochalla

I hate to begin this post on a negative note, but I'm going to do it anyway: the Penguin-kun Wars Vs. instruction manual can't quite hold a candle to the game's eye-popping cover art or cartridge label. (Both can be seen in the previously published, "Surprise! The Year of the GameBoy Continues: Penguin-kun Wars Vs.")

That doesn't mean you should click away from this write-up. The Penguin-kun Wars Vs. manual has plenty to offer even though it lacks the wow factor of the rest of this Japanese game's packaging.

Before we get to the meat of the instructional booklet at hand, though, let's address the scan above, which is of its front and back covers. Rest assured I had nothing to do with the off-color splotches that dot its surface.

Sadly, that's the condition it was in when it landed on my doorstep some time ago. Which is weird, as otherwise this copy of Penguin-kun Wars Vs. seems untouched. Maybe it wasn't stored properly?

Regardless, those splotches basically are nonexistent inside the Penguin-kun Wars Vs. booklet, so let's not linger over them.

Moving on, boy, the penguin illustration above is adorable, isn't it? Stylistically, it reminds me of the similarly rough-hewn drawings that can be found in the manuals made for Bubble Bobble Junior and Penguin Land.

The text that sits behind that piece of art details the history of the Penguin-kun Wars series, by the way. Or at least that's what I was able to gather with my admittedly still-developing understanding of the Japanese language.

The pages above, on the other hand, detail the rules and controls of Penguin-kun Wars Vs., respectively.

The manual then moves on to explain the ins and outs of this GameBoy title's one-player mode.

This next handful of pages (above and below) explain the Penguin-kun Wars Vs. multiplayer tournament mode, which, as you probably can tell, utilizes the Game Boy Video Link.

Sadly, I can't tell you how good or bad that mode is, as I've never played it. I can say the single-player mode is a lot of fun, though--if you tend to enjoy fluffy, arcade-y games filled with cute characters.

Speaking of which, the Penguin-kun Wars Vs. cast is highlighted on the manual's final pair of pages. The penguin's name is "Penguin-kun," while the cow is "Ushi-kun" and the rabbit is "Usagi-kun." The bat is "Koumori-kun" and the mouse is "Nezumi-kun."

Those of you who know a bit of Japanese yourselves probably are giggling--or groaning--a bit at those names, as they're basically just "Cow-kun," "Rabbit-kun" and the like. Oh, well, at least the doodles that accompany their introduction are easy on the eyes.

See also: previous GameBoy-focused 'Manual Stimulation' posts
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Posted by Bryan Ochalla

In light of the recent news (see japanesenintendo.com for more info) that publisher City Connection is prepping a "modern remake" of Penguin-kun Wars--to be called Penguin-kun Gira Gira WARS--for the Nintendo Switch, I decided now was as good a time as any to publish a post about the original portable version of ASCII Entertainment's one-on-one battler.

If this is the first you've ever heard of Penguin-kun Wars, it's an arcade-style game that stars a handful of animals (specifically, a bat, a cow, a rabbit, a rat and, of course, a penguin) who, for some reason or another, come together to toss balls across a table at each other.

You, the player, choose and then control one of the above-mentioned creatures in a timed battle against another animal, with the goal being to get all 10 balls onto your opponent's side of the table before the clock runs out. Should you fail to accomplish that task, the next best thing is to ensure there are fewer balls on your side of the table than there are on your opponent's when the buzzer rings.

Not all animals are treated equally in any version of Penguin-kun Wars, by they way. For example, the rat moves quickly side to side but throws balls slowly. The cow, on the other hand, lacks foot speed but is fast to recover when hit by a ball. (Sorry, I forgot to mention earlier that characters are knocked unconscious when pelted by said projectiles.)

It's hardly the deepest of experiences, mind you, but it's good, clean fun while also being pretty darn cute, so it's an easy title to recommend even with its shallow gameplay.

Penguin-kun Wars began life--in 1985--as an arcade game, by the way. That same year, ASCII published home ports for both the MSX and the Famicom. The portable port discussed and highlighted here, which added multiplayer tournaments via the Game Boy Video Link to the mix, didn't see the light of day until early 1990.

Unlike the Famicom and MSX iterations Penguin-kun WarsPenguin-kun Wars Vs. wasn't a Japan-only product. In fact, Nexoft brought it to North America as Penguin Wars, while Nintendo handled its release, as King of the Zoo, throughout Europe.

Considering every other version of Penguin-kun Wars is crammed with color, a GameBoy conversion could've been a major disappointment. Like Bubble Bobble Junior, Tumblepop and Snow Bros. Jr., though, Penguin-kun Wars Vs. is surprisingly easy on the eyes despite being a black-and-green affair. Actually, I'd go so far as to say the sprites showcased in the latter game look better than either of its homebound counterparts.

Unfortunately, Penguin-kun Wars for Famicom bests this on-the-go effort in the area of gameplay due to the portable title's somewhat stutter-y frame rate. Don't let that scare you away from it, though; it's still perfectly playable--it's just not perfect.

Granted, I'd probably recommend this game for its packaging alone. I'm especially fond of its cover art, though the interior of its instruction booklet has its moments, too. Speaking of which, you can virtually flip through the entirety of the Penguin-kun Wars Vs. manual in this "Manual Stimulation" post of mine.

In the meantime, have any of you played Penguin-kun Wars in some form or fashion? If so, I'd love it if you're share your opinions of the experience(s) in the comments section of this post.

See also: previous 'Year of the GameBoy' posts

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