For every positive event, there is always a subsequent negative one to balance it out. No, its not something I'd like to believe could be applied to everything in life, but it certainly rings true when upgrading to your next-generation video games. Sacrifices have to be made. Fix the gloriously shiny new PS3 into that “main console” space on your shelf, and you lose almost a decades' worth of games to play at reach. Pack your Gamecube away for a Wii, and you've got, well, pretty much a Gamecube still, but with a continuous sense of foreboding that someone doesn't trip the protruding wires and smash it to the ground as they walk past. And so on.
The worst casualty that we have had to suffer in the past few years is the Game Boy Advance. It was a lovely little console back in 2001 on its release, with a terrible little screen which didn't seem much of a problem back then; we stuck with it regardless that 90% of natural light would decimate the ability to see the damn thing, and we enjoyed it. At the time, it was the best handheld on the market. Sharper graphics and shoulder buttons were enough to draw veteran gamers into it's field, but most of all, it kept the spirit of the SNES alive: a painful sacrifice that had to be felt on the dawn of 3D and the N64. Working as both a place for newcomers to introduce themselves to those 16 bit classics, and for the kind of brilliant ideas that for some reason or another never existed in the early nineties turn into reality, it was both a step back, and a massive step forward for the industry. It was a love letter to those with fond memories of the classic era, with titles such as Super Mario Advance, A Link to the Past, and even sequels like Gunstar Future Heroes leading its way. A good time to be a gamer, for your modern, retro goodness.
Kuru Kuru Kururin was a launch game for the console back then, and it sparked the thought, why don't we make games that look like this anymore? The Nintendo DS does its job at keeping 2D alive, but much of it's library rests in the third dimension now. Not to knock the quality of Phantom Hourglass, but I don't know if we'll ever see another Minish Cap styled game again: a great loss for gaming. There's just something appealing to the eye with your traditionally vibrant, brightly coloured sprite-work, and to see that there is no main console out there which specifically caters to this in mind is quite saddening. Kururin is a far cry away from the complicated, 3D affairs we're treated to today, which is part of what I adore about this title. Simple, beautiful, and brilliant, is this classic take on the puzzle/adventure genre, and I doubt you'll find a much more addictive experience after slotting it into your SP and giving it a shot.
You can make your stick even brighter by decorating it with styles, and little animal things, who try to clamber back on each time they're knocked off by an obstacle.
Likewise, you'll probably never find anything out now that remotely resembles Kuru Kuru Kururin. The premise is easy enough to explain: in it, you play a continuously rotating stick and you're in a maze. The goal is to move your stick from point A to point B around the maze without touching any walls or obstacles, each hit taking away one of your three heart points. And that is all.
I could elaborate on the story associated with this game. You play as some kind of blue duck thing with big yellow lips who pilot's said rotating stick thing, which is called a Heririn. Remember that Japanese Virtual Console title, Gley Lancer, which was named that over here as a result of translational error with the letter 'R' in the Japanese language. The same can be applied to the obviously helicopter-characterised machine that will be piloted through Kururin's worlds. Somebody in Nintendo's localisation department may be making a few slight oversights here. But none of these details will actually draw out the quality of this title, however amusing it is to highlight company missteps.
Japan sequel Paradise always did seem a lot brighter. ie: more pink.
Now, I'm not usually the type to go out of his way to buy a puzzle game like this, which is why I found it so perplexing as to how this game sealed itself on my “must-buy” list a few years ago. Only screens of the game released in magazines proceeded my opinion of this obscure title, and now I can pinpoint what it was that made this such a sought after gem: it is incredibly easy on the eyes. Kururin has absolutely striking use of colour, you cannot deny. Holding it in the palm of your hand is like grasping onto a labyrinth made entirely of rainbows. Looking down at it is like the warmth of those rainbows are leaping out of the screen and massaging your face. Usually only having your stick and the scenery on screen means that it is often very minimalist in its style, but the primary-coloured paradise which will envelop around the scope of your vision always manages to relax and entertain, even when the game's levels become rather frustrating. Which is all you can really ask from a puzzler. It's the perfect wind-down game.
Kururin's visuals are gorgeous in their simplicity; a simplicity which can be juxtaposed with the gameplay itself. The basics have been explained and sound easy enough, but as progression is made and the levels become more intricate, you'll find that darker mixes of colour and a ramped up difficulty will walk hand-in-hand. And it can be very difficult indeed: later levels where you find yourself scattered inside the deep blues of space, navigating around a map pointy golden stars quickly jumps to your 'hardest things to play, ever' list. Getting around can be tricky, but from wondering whether you will be able to arc your way through those tiny gaps fast enough for the speed run, comes the real challenge. Its a real test of man's relationship to his D-pad; the amount of precision required to pull off some of the most rewarding moves is immaculate. If you thought speed playing the Super Mario Bros. series was a true test of your intricate, two-dimensional prowess, try playing this.
You'll quickly learn that jagged edges are a right old bitch!
I'll reiterate that not once does this game deteriorate into annoying realm of frustration, regardless of its immensely-difficult, puzzle-genre status. It seems that effort was made to make sure the length of levels was always made to be just right, in order to dodge around this always potential problem. Getting near the end of a stage, then having your Heririn shatter to pieces on the final corner, isn't usually a problem, as it means you'll get to play the stage again. Surprisingly, replays are actually a lot of fun. The parts you found difficult at the beginning of the stages become a breeze when the practice is put in, without loss of satisfaction upon its continual completion. That impossible bit you spend ten minutes trying to weave around at the beginning, eventually becomes an excuse to show off your ninja abilities every time you're trying to reach the next struggle inducing section. It's a kind of punish-reward system which works quite successfully, much like the game's trade off between difficulty and level design. Like any era which can be hard to accept the loss of, there is always a positive outlook on the other side.
It goes unsurprising that the sequels to this highly obscure, brightly coloured Japanese title never left their home country, which was disappointing to those who were fans. The Game Boy Advance sequel, Kururin Paradise, was much better than the first, offering trickier level design, more types of obstacle, and a couple of tweaks to the actual Heririn itself. One aspect that I have yet to touch on with this game is that you can control the speed of your stick by holding a face button (or buttons if you want to go even faster). This helps when you're quickly attempting to run a course from one safe zone to another, while you're slowly rotating into the walls around. In the sequel however, holding the R button allows you to alter the speed of which you rotate at, adding an extra layer of depth to an already challenging game.
This was the Japan-only Gamecube sequel, Kururin Squash, complete with boss fights and all! It looks awesome. It is on my list.
The emphasis on moving obstacles in Paradise was likely reason for this change; wrapping around cannonballs or the oddly corporeal ghosts as they move from one side to another would be impossible with the basic controls. Heck, it is impossible if you don't have the timing exact in the game anyway. Just try playing it on the harder difficulties, where the stick is longer and you only have a single life. Some of those later stages are nigh on impossible.
Different difficulties are present – put the game on easy and you're practically walking yourself through a straight tunnel, while normal mode offers a nicely paced level of challenge – but that isn't the extent of how far extras go. A significant proportion of challenge rooms are present, which save the best three scores, and are worth playing just so you can get a gold star on each of the boxes on the select screen. You're rewarded a perfect round for not hitting any sides, which injects extra life into the charming title. Paradise also had a number of mini-games to try out too, some stronger than others. Using magnets on each blade to repel coloured orbs into a tiny hole is one of the low points that I doubt will bring back extended plays, but the monotonous sounding lawn cutting, and games where you have to bounce your Heririn up the screen and collect coins are very welcome distractions. Single-cart multiplayer race modes are also available, which would be great if you happen upon three people who are into this game. And have three link cables. It's quite an extensive package.
It's quite an extensive package that can be picked up for a surprisingly little amount, as long as you have a local classic game store/importer you can trust. At a low price, it is a great recollection of when the 16 bit era began again. The Game Boy Advance was never about Super Mario Bros. 2, or F-Zero: Maximum Velocity. It was about spinning sticks through mazes. Something different, and something that fans will be grateful for.