A little look at… Galaxy Angel: Eternal Lovers

Rather than wipe the slate clean after the original Galaxy Angel and have Moonlit Lovers be a polished retread of the typical ‘Man+ladies+almost-magical-machinery vs Evil Things’ formula, the writers instead dared to asked the question ‘So what happens after these two idiots have finally admitted they love each other?’ and the result was a game that ditched the chase-the-girl aspect that normally goes hand-in-hand with these adventures and replaced it with an incredibly sweet story where friendships deepened and cute people were all really lovely to one another. This final entry in the first Galaxy Angel trilogy poses a different question - ‘What happens when (anime) relationships go wrong?’ and the answer, depending on who your favourite Angel is, ranges from daft to outright heartbreaking.

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To avoid giving any of the established characters a sudden uncharacteristic flaw or for Takt to change overnight from brave Mr. Positive to an unlikeable moron (take note, Resident Evil 6), the wrinkle in your star-crossed lovers relationship arises from two new characters introduced early on – the way Takt’s previously unbreakable bond with his Angel helplessly unravels is downright chilling, and while it would have been easier for the writers to bring in some super-hot ‘vixen’ type to steal Takt away it instead all plays out as an insidious string of ‘innocent misunderstandings’ deliberately designed to tear the team apart from the inside.  But even here things aren’t quite as they seem, with mysteries inside mysteries that eventually round out these unwelcome newcomers into full and interesting people, and managed to stop me from shrieking ‘MILFEULLE MADE THAT CAKE FOR TAKT, YOU WAFTY-HAIRED CUCKOO!’ at every opportunity.

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The good news here is that the game doesn’t leave you wondering why nobody else can see what’s happening to the happy couple for long, and before you know it the other Angels cotton on too – but sadly not before Takt’s relationship with his love is pushed to breaking point, and they’re left traumatised and in some instances unable to be around him without lashing out, or in Milfeulle’s case unable to remember anything at all about their time together. Eternal Lovers doesn’t deviate so far from the standard ‘Date your favourite’ formula that things don’t all work out in the end, but the lead up to this point is played absolutely straight and the thought of there even being a possibility of ‘Happily ever after’ not happening in a series that’s bold enough to follow through with a real (happy-anime ‘real’) relationship shocked me because it was so unusual.

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As always the game’s not just about endless chinwagging with adorable people, and Eternal Lovers once again brings a pile of exciting if not terribly in depth real-time battles to the table. The only thing to say here that hasn’t been covered before (and this might also apply to PC Moonlit Lovers anyway, if only I could buy it to find out) is that they really went to town on the graphics, with the PC release supporting 1080p out of the box and a whole host of fancy additional effects and shaders to really send this trilogy off with a bang. Of course there’s still no actual need for you to look at anything other than the overhead tactical display when you’re fighting, but in this case there’s no question you’ll want to have a peek at what’s going on anyway. While I remember to mention it – unlike the original Galaxy Angel, Eternal Lovers works just fine on Windows 10(!) without any fiddling needed.

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Galaxy Angel may have started out as not much more than a decent-but-budget ‘Space Sakura Taisen’ , but it certainly didn’t stay there for long (not even until the end of the first game, in fact). Over the course of the trilogy Broccoli refined their style, took a formulaic genre down some lightly-trodden paths, and created a series that I’m very glad to have played through. If anything you’ve seen or read about the series looks like your sort of thing I’d recommend getting started as soon as you’re able – just make sure you buy the complete trilogy in one go, because once you start you won’t be able to stop!

Build your own [case for a] Famiclone with FamiTsuku!

I love the idea behind this kit – a tiny bare-bones Famiclone all ready to install wherever your imagination and the included screws take you – tucked away inside a retro game case, disguised as a toaster, to the back of your dog’s collar – anywhere you can make it fit.

It comes with absolutely everything you need to get going too – the Famiclone itself works straight out the box with no assembly required (not that using any console looking as naked as the day it was born is a great idea) and with two decent-enough controllers, a power supply and composite AV cables (sadly no better output’s available) you’re not forced to spend any extra money to get the console up and running.

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When I started unpacking this little Columbus Circle the aim was to write a jokey little blog post about me being too lazy and inept to use this to its full potential – that I’d superglue it to a bit of wood I found in the garage and call my DIY Famiclone complete. The problem was when I turned it on I realised that the FamiTsuku doesn’t have any potential.

An idiot I may be, but I’m not quite the sort of idiot who buys a 3000¥ Famiclone and expects it to function as well as a Famicom Titler - but I was hoping for something that worked at least as well as my dinky little portable Famiclone – so something a bit temperamental that didn’t work with any games even slightly out of the ordinary, but anything that did load up would work well. Just a little something for a bit of big-screen Nintendo fun. Nope, not even close!

It took a few goes to get my trusty Kirby cart seated correctly (not a problem unique to the FamiTsuku) and then… MY EARS!

A brief detour before we go any further - I do own and enjoy a Blaze/AtMark portable Mega Drive, even though the sound’s slightly off. The iconic tinkle made when Sonic collects a ring isn’t quite right, and Columns block-dropping effect doesn’t hit the mark the way it does on genuine hardware. These differences are noticeable to those familiar with the originals, but hardly an affront to humanity and something a newcomer would have to listen out for to notice. The sound on the FamiTsuku is not slightly off. The noises expelled from this device are the sort of thing you’d hear in a horror movie just before blood starts dripping out a demonic Famicom’s cart slot and the sleeping owner’s strangled by possessed controller cables. It’s not an issue only for the picky retro gamer, or something you could eventually learn to live with - it’s like listening to Beethoven played by an orchestra of clown car horns.

Graphics suffer a similar issue too, with a strange artifacting present on tile edges that’s not the result of simple composite cable fuzz – the image quality itself is actually surprisingly clear, and if it hadn’t been for these other insurmountable problems I’d have been happy to use this on my modern TV. For the record I did check all my cable connections and the cart itself several times, and just for once I can say with some certainty ‘It’s not me, it’s you’ – this device is either faulty (although nothing jumps out at me as being anything other than as intended) or simply badly designed.

Then I suppose we’re on to the quality of the hardware itself - all giant globs of hot glue, brittle-looking ribbon cables, and a power LED that’s connected to the PCB with little more than hopes and fairy wishes. Turns out you’re not putting this thing inside a box of your own making to show off your creativity and love for the format, you’re doing it because anything less will see this fragile thing broken within a week.

There is a small silver lining here and that is at least now I don’t have to worry spending any time in the garage collecting an assortment of cuts and grazes while I go about creating a fancy box for this thing, because the only place it deserves to go is in the bin. I don’t like being negative but I feel the FamiTsuku is a complete waste of time and money, and I wish I’d saved my cash for an AV Famicom instead.

Dreams can come true! Here’s 8Bit Music Power… the book!

I finished off my blog post on the original cartridge hoping that the stellar soundtrack contained within would one day end up on a CD or in some other more readily-listenable format, because the music was good enough to stand on its own and deserved better than to be mistaken for a retro collector’s gimmick – as you may expect when the staff list reads like a ‘who’s who’ of classic gaming. I never expected the Magical Chiptune Genie to grant my wish but they have – and then some!

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We should of course start with the most important bit here – the music. You’ll be pleased to know that the original album’s available in full (mp3 format), including the semi-hidden ‘00’ track and two all-new exclusive remixes too. Everything sounds exactly as it did on the original cartridge, retaining that lovely raw sound of fuzzy noise and clear beeps that made the original tunes such a joy to listen to. At this point even if you only wanted the music files bunged on a CD you’ve already got more than you hoped for, and for around half the RRP of the cart too. But this fabulous ‘enhanced CD’ isn’t done handing out treasure yet, with an .exe containing an auto-loading (Japanese language) VirtuaNES/ROM mash-up (ever so slightly altered to show ‘for Sound Book’ on the title screen) , a plain .nes ROM to use in your favourite emulator of choice, the music stored in .nsf for use in any chiptune emulator you please and even a few tracks in .mml format for the more technically minded/musically capable among you. I think it’s fair to say that whatever you were hoping for musically from this release, it delivers.

But wait, there’s more! The cherry on top of all this digital content are .png files of fourteen beautiful illustrations from the book, all at high high resolution (1500x2100+). The vertical orientation of the images makes them pretty rubbish PC wallpapers, but perfect for your phone.

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The book? Oh yes, there’s a full colour eighty page book included too even though the CD has already more than justified the sticker price (2000 yen plus tax). You’d have though RIKI would have run out of content at this point considering the wealth of goodies lurking on the CD, but there’s a nice mix of behind the scenes information, ‘roundtable’/interview style content, illustrations, pixel art and a peek at some work-in-progress images. It’s all neatly split into relevant sections so if you only want to look at pixel art (including base sketches and animation sheets/alternative palettes), or if you only want to read about 8Bit Music Power itself, then you can. The entire production’s infused with a clear passion and infectious enthusiasm that’s obvious and enjoyable even if you can’t read a word of Japanese.

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This release is absolutely the perfect follow-up to the original and now out of print cart – the pricing is more than reasonable (about $20USD/£15 GBP new from Amazon Jp – yes they do ship internationally) and it makes full use of the CD+book format to create something that’s both everything a newcomer could possibly need while still being more than worth owning even if you do already have the cartridge sitting in your Famicom’s cart slot. Just as the original rose far above and beyond the usual homebrew fare – the sort of thing that you honestly wouldn’t look twice at if it weren’t for the novelty of being on your favourite old format – this book-sequel-collection-everything also exceeds every expectation and more than fulfils its duties as both a worthy companion piece as well as an all-in-one catch up for anyone without the cart or unable to play it. Buy it. Then buy another for a friend. Then preorder stablemate Kira Kira Star Night DX and look forward to whatever RIKI decides to create next.