Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Come Back, Kururin!

Kuru Kuru Kururin Japanese GBA Box Art

Get talking about any game series that's not all that popular, and before long someone pipes up and says, "You know what game needs to come back? This one. You know. The one with the stuff." and it all deteriorates into a nostalgia filled soliloquies about some long forgotten game that you may or may not have heard of. It's kind of annoying, but the guy yacking is your friend, or at least smells nice, so you just let him prattle on for a while. Well, guess what, today I'm going to prattle on about why a fabulous game series featuring penguin-powered rotating sticks needs to make a comeback (Don't worry, I smell nice!).

The stick taking damage from hitting a wall
When you screw up and hit a wall,
not only do you take damage, but you
make that poor penguin cry.
So what is the Kururin series? As I just said, it's a game where you have this stick that rotates at a steady pace that you need to move through a maze. You don't control the rotation (outside of a few bumpers that can be used to reverse the direction that the stick is rotating), but you do control the stick's movement (up, down, left, right, diagonals). The game is actually pretty tough too because every time your rotating stick bops into a wall in the maze it loses health. Hit the wall too many times, and your stick explodes in an adorable puff of sparkly stars. Some levels have areas where you can regain health, others you just have to make due with the health you have. Even if you get proficient at a level, there are still best times to beat, not to mention your own personal bests, so there's plenty of reason to come back and play some more.

My first exposure to the game was via a Japanese version of the first installment in the series: Kuru Kuru Kururin, which is almost as much fun to say as it is to play.  It's also the only game in the series to see a Western release, and even then it was limited to Europe.  North America has yet to see a Kururin game localized for its market, and that's a shame.

Even more tragic is that the series only had two sequels: Kururin Paradise (GBA) and Kururin Squash! (Gamecube). These didn't even see a release outside of Japan. Since then the series' developer, Eighting, has been busying itself with a number of other projects that have nothing to do with cute penguins or rotating sticks. Granted it was a bit of a departure for them to go and make this game when you consider that many of the titles that they've put out have been either shoot 'em ups or fighting games. So, maybe they've had enough of these twirly sticky puzzle games.

So far so good on this run
This Kururin series is really
cute and colorful.
It's unfortunate because Kururin is the sort of series that I could really see flourishing in the current market. It has a super simple concept that both casual and hardcore gamers could sink their teeth into, and would work on any of Nintendo's modern consoles either poking around on the 3DS screen to move the stick, waving a Wii / Wii U controller to do the same, or just going the traditional route and using gamepad-like controls. Whatever the case, the hardware is more than capable, and the game is something that could really catch on. It would even make sense as a cell phone game, but given how much Nintendo seems against that I don't see the game heading to that platform anytime soon.

Anyway, Kururin is definitely one of those series that flew under a lot of people's radars way back when it first came out. Nonetheless, it's a game that deserves to live on. Hopefully one day Nintendo will indeed decide to resurrect it. If you haven't had a chance to play it, I highly recommend tracking down a copy. Any installment is fine, but it may be easier to play the GBA ones since you don't need to worry about region locking on that platform. Don't worry about the language barrier either, as menus are easy to navigate with even little to no understanding of Japanese. With that, get twirling those cutesy sticks, and see just how fun these games are.