Bonsai Barber (WiiWare)
If I didn’t know Zoonami was a British company I’d think this game had been developed by the Japanese. It’s the first Western game I’ve laid eyes on that perfectly captures the bizarre, yet endearing tone of many unusual Japanese games, much to its credit.
The premise is that you’re the new barber at a village populated by vegetables who all like rather bizarre “hairdos.” This might sound a bit daft – and it is – but it’s actually quite fun trying to do styling using the Wii Remote’s tilt sensor to control the attitude of your scissors or clippers and B button for cutting.
The talking fruit and veg (sounds only – the actual conversation is text-based; no doubt due to ease of localisation and the 40MB WiiWare limit) have their own personalities and desires when it comes to getting their foliage trimmed. Your cuts are based upon a variety of styles and even after a few weeks play you’ll still be seeing new ones. You can tease out branches with the comb and add colour with the paint brush. If you really like your creation you can take a photo for the album which can then be sent on to a Wii friend to view whether or not they have the game.
Your cuts are rated from 1-5 stars and will reflect upon how close you come to the selected style pattern; reflecting how much your client likes the job you did. You can practice on a potted shrub if you’re feeling the need for extra training (or just to have a nice decoration on the waiting room coffee table). Also on the table is a nice album containing profiles on all the customers, a datebook with the clients you’ve seen (and the ability to schedule three clients of your choice in advance), awards won for achieving various milestones, photos you’ve taken, newspapers delivered and postcards and gifts from your appreciative customers (the latter also show up as messages in the main Wii messenger).
The character design is quite appealing and they all have their own little quirks. Cuts are wisely rationed out with only five appointments per day, each taking about 15min. It’s a nice relaxing routine to get into, which gets changed up a bit by having the odd bout of rain, power outages, flies and sprouting apples that have different effects on the game. This title has done pretty well in the States and Europe and I have no doubt the same is true in Japan.
It’s clearly a good fit for Nintendo and Zoonami should be applauded for bringing something fun and unique to the Wii.
RYGAR (Virtual Console Arcade)
Rygar is not the name it actually has in the Japanese Wii shop where I bought it (that’s something like Warrior of Argos), but the name I remember it having in American arcades when I played it back in the day. Classic side-scrolling action from Tecmo where the goal is to run a gauntlet of bizarre critters from sanctuary to sanctuary with only your spinning yo-yo blade standing between you and oblivion. As with Tecmo’s other VCA titles the conversion is flawless and you can fully remap buttons as well as set the number of starting lives, difficulty and points for awarding extra lives. This one stands alongside Ninja Gaiden as Tecmo’s greatest arcade game and should not be missed.
Dragon Spirit (Virtual Console Arcade)
Another in the seemingly endless series of Namco games to grace the Virtual Console. As with all Namco VCA releases you can remap the buttons and choose the starting number of lives and points required to earn more, but unlike Tecmo’s releases the difficulty bar is fixed. In this game it’s a little on the high side, but not too bad. Dragon Spirit looks and sounds absolutely fantastic, so if you’re a fan of vertical shooters definitely give it a look. Until Namco sees fit to release their arcade games outside of Japan, folk in North America or PAL territories will just have to settle for the sub-par Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary collection in the meantime.