Name: Little Magic
Format: Super NES
Little is just the word I would use to describe this game - small, but perfectly formed.
This excellent puzzle game from Altron was originally only released in Japan but Gideon Zhi of Aeon Genesis Translations has released a full patch for the game allowing us English speakers to experience this great puzzle game.
As with all that is Japanese, the game is weird. But the game is so wonderfully weird that you cannot help like it. The story begins:
May is an apprentice mage.
At Magic School, she made a lot of friends and studied.
Today is the day of the final exam.
Master Juno took her to the test location.
Juno was worried because May couldn't use Magic very well.
May was nervous as well.
The scary teacher said "Begin the Test"
For Master Juno too, she must do her best.
Yesss. Quite. Anyway, you play as May, trying to pass the test on the last day of magic school. You journey through... well... lots of levels. I don't know the exact number because I haven't finished the game yet, but I'm only half way through and it's already becoming very difficult. The nearest game I can compare this to is the original Game Boy classic puzzler, Molemania. Except whereas in Molemania the block pushing, burrowing tunnels etc. was spread over loads of screens, in Little Magic, each level is only one screen, viewed from above in 2D. I prefer this, because you can be sure that everything you need to solve the puzzle is right in front of you. There is no trekking to the other side of the level to get a crucial item.
The basic premise is that you have to use May in each level to get a Magic Stone to the Magic Stone pedestal. The playing field is arranged with tiles, and you move around one tile at a time in any one of the 4 compass points in a similar manner to the Final Fantasy games on the Nintendo consoles. If you can push the Magic Stone to the Magic Stone Pedestal and get May to the May pedestal (each type of pedestal is clearly distinguishable, thanks to primitive but clear graphics) and you have finished the level and it's on to the next. There are, as ever, complications. The Magic Stone can only be pushed - not pulled, which means that you can easily put one in a position making completion of the level impossible. Luckily, pressing Select gives you a suicide feature which makes you lose a life, and then the level will restart with everything back in it's original place. Losing lives is never too much of a worry, though, because if you lose them all you are simply given a password to continue the game from the level you left off at.
The really ingenious element of the game is the magic wand. Unfortunately, there's no fireball spell for you - all you can cast is a bubble. This bubble will, after a short time, explode, and if it is placed next to the Magic Stone, it will push the Stone one space away from the explosion. This means that if you need to push the Stone in two directions, but pushing in the first means you can't access the right side for the second push, the solution is to leave a bubble for the second push and then do the first push into the bubble. It sounds complicated, but the game explains it very well, and more importantly, breaks you in gently. Of course, it gets harder - sometimes you need bubbles to last longer when you set them and then scoot around the level for ages to get into position. If you press the button for "bubble" again while facing a bubble, it will expand. There are three sizes of bubble, and if you leave one on it's own it will progressively become smaller and eventually pop. If you cast bubble on the biggest size of bubble, it will explode quickly. Eventually, once all this is take in, you will be using bubbles to push other bubbles into positions where they can explode to push the Magic Stone into the blast of another bubble. But it is all presented very simply, and the hard levels put in the game at a time when you will be able to handle them. Some levels are very deceptive - one easy looking path proves to be impossible, while an almost impossible to see way through the obstacles is correct. I am pretty sure that there is only one solution to each level, but if you can prove me wrong, let me know.
It gets so much harder after the beginning 10 or so levels. You encounter water, (which the Stone and Bubbles float on, but May doesn't), Lava (which acts just like water except the heat makes bubbles expand instead of contract, forcing you to think backwards), platforms which disappear after you stand on them once, tiles which don't let you use magic bubbles, enemies, blocks to push, ice which makes you slide until you hit something, mines and fire which destroy the Magic Stone... and I'm only half way through the game. I'm sure it gets even harder after that. I have got to stage 40 so far, and I'm sure there are probably that many again left to find. The patch is officially a beta patch because Gideon Zhi has never managed to get to the end of the game. If anyone reading this does, please take a save state before completing the last level and send it to Gideon (the website is below) so that he can verify whether the game is perfectly patched.
Overall, if you enjoy puzzle games of the Block-pushing kind rather than the falling blocks kind, I would highly recommend you picking this up. It emulates perfectly with Zsnes and the English patch (not that it is necessary; it's very obvious what to do) is available at the Aeon Genesis website below. The ROM may be a little hard to find, but most big databases should have it. Have fun.
TehBesto wins the prize for the best correction message ever: "btw, you misspelled "weird" twice near the beginning. And it looks weird that you put weird in two weird sentences back to back. Weird."
Found out about the game and downloaded the patch at http://agtp.romhack.net
Thanks to lolaleigh and TehBesto for corrections.