Yep. It's that time again. Episode 17 is now available.
Let's face it, Chrontendo 16 had a pretty execrable set of games, saved only by a couple ringers from Konami and the delightful Otocky. Episode 17 sees Chrontendo on the rebound, with a few classic/historically important games mixed in the usual stuff. And only one game that I would classify as complete garbage.
We are at a pivotal point in the Famicom history. The first wave of lame post-Mario platformers seems to be subsiding a little, and a new generation of action adventure games is starting to wash up on the shore. A perfect example would be the release of two titles based on existing arcade games. We've seen arcade ports be rejiggered for home release before: Commando and Rush'n Attack featured additions and alterations to the arcade originals. But now we have examples of games being completely reworked for the Famicom. Pirate Ship Higemaru was a cute quarter muncher based around the concept of crushing pirates beneath barrels. Rygar was a Ghosts 'n' Goblins like scroller in which you slay your foes using a giant, death-dealing yo-yo. For the Famicom versions, both were transformed into epic, globe-spanning action adventure games with an emphasis on exploration. Some arcade developers were wising up to the fact that console video games should not be designed to suck up a steady stream of quarters, and that for home games, some players might desire a more immersive and extended style of game.
Of course, in the wrong hands, this can go horribly astray, as the Kinnikuman sequel demonstrates. That's right! They made a sequel to the horrible, horrible Kinnikuman wrestling game. As it turns out, Bandai keeps putting out these damned things. I suppose a DS or Wii release is inevitable.
Chrontendo Episode 17 also has a brief history of the beat-em-up game. Quite timely, since this episode covers the genre defining Renegade. Younger folks might not remember, but back when we used to play games in arcades, beat-em-ups were all the rage for a while.
So, what's the best game this episode?
Argos no Senshi/Rygar
Despite its technical issues (not to mention the fact that it doesn't have any sort of saving mechanism,) Rygar takes the gold medal. Just because it is so damned cool. I have a soft spot for the original arcade version, but this highly altered port takes the game into a more console friendly direction. As a very early "Metroidvania" game, Rygar wins points for letting you play as a yo-yo slinging badass out to save his kingdom from the villainous Liger. (Why are the main bad guys in these games always some sort of demonic or superpowered being as opposed to just a normal human causing all the trouble? Well, occasionally they are normal guys - see Cybernator for an example.) Please note: a Liger is an real world animal, simply being a Lion/Tiger hybrid. There's nothing that special about them, except for the fact that they're somewhat rare. Apparently mating lions and tigers is frowned upon in the zoo-keeping community.
More fine games:
Ai Senshi Nicol
Eventually, Konami is is going to have to stop making the other guys look bad. They've taken top honors on Chrontendo three times, and have had honorable mentions for pretty much every episode since they started releasing games for the Famicom. Eventually, they'll need to step down or at least share the spotlight with some other publishers.
Until then... Ai Senshi Nicol (Love Warrior Nicol) is another fine and somewhat overlooked top-down action adventure game in the vein of King Kong 2, with a heaping spoonful of Esper Dream thrown in for good measure.
Poor Capcom! If it weren't for Rygar stealing its thunder, this game would be notable as a simple arcade game being converted into an epic Zelda-esque adventure game for home release. You sail the seven seas - Dragon Quest II style - crushing pirates underneath oaken barrels, then docking on one the game's seven islands. You then proceed to depopulate the islands, killing any natives you encounter by throwing boulders at them. Yes, your character is a chauvinist asshole of the sort not seen again until Resident Evil 4 ("Filthy, poverty stricken Europeans are approaching! Where's my pistol?" Odd... that game is also by Capcom....)
Nekketsu Kouha Kunio Kun/Renegade
Technos Japan makes its Famicom debut with this port of their 1986 arcade release. The most historically important game this episode, if not the best, Renegade takes as its raw materials games like Irem's Kung Fu and Sega's Seishun Scandal, and from them creates a new, fully defined genre: the beat-em-up. Despite being a fine game, Renegade had its dick kicked in the dirt by Technos' superior follow-ups: Double Dragon and River City Ransom.
Some awful games:
Kinnikuman - Kinniku Ookurai Soudatsusen
I know my bitching about these awful Kinnikuman games from Bandai is beating a dead horse. These things are just so awful I can't help myself!
Relics - Ankoku Yousai
This interesting looking but unsuccessful Metroid-like title was discussed in great detail a couple posts back. The fact that there are only two really terrible games this episode speaks to the unusually high quality of games this time around. Don't worry, things will be back to back to normal soon.
This release from Namco has a nice, colorful cover. The game itself is about horse racing and betting imaginary money on horses. It's completely futile to try to understand Japanese gamer's fascination with horse racing video games, but Family Jockey was noteworthy enough to warrant an updated version being released for the Wii last year.
The second shogi game for the Famicom from SETA.
Igo: Kyuu Roban Taikyoku
A go game from Bullet Proof Software, this is seemingly a port of a Western computer game called Micro Go.
I have no idea what "Cocona" means, but this a rather uninteresting looking adventure game featuring a red-haired witch.
Fuuun Shaolin Kyo
An early fighting game for the FDS from Jaleco. It seems inspired by Konami's Yie Ar Kung Fu. The problem is that Yie Ar Kung Fu was released for the Famicom two years prior to Fuuun, and in terms of video games in the mid-80s, two years is a lifetime. If Fuuun had made any improvements to the Yie Ar Kung Fu formula, this game might have been more notable.
Tantei Jinguuji Saburou
The first game in this long running series from Data East. Another detective-based, Portopia inspired adventure game. Much like last episode's Sanma no Meitantei, there are some graphic adventure portions mixed in with the standard menu-based action.
The Monitor Puzzle - Kineco Vol. II
The second and final Monitor Puzzle game from Irem. Exactly like the first one, you assemble a puzzle of a moving image.
As you may have noticed, this episode came out in a reasonably timely fashion. With any luck, new episodes of Chrontendo will be appearing with more regularity than they have been over the last couple months. Episode 18 is shaping up to be quite nicely and will feature... more games from Capcom and Konami! And what about Nintendo themselves? They haven't exactly been prolific so far in 1987. Well, there is a new Nintendo release in Episode 18, but don't get too excited. In fact, the rest of 1987 will be sort of a mellow year for Nintendo published games, with a couple notable exceptions.
Feel free to head on over to archive.org and stream or download Chrontendo Episode 18.