Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Inter-Holiday Greetings!

We are poised in the tiny space between Christmas and New Years, so I thought I'd quickly dash off a brief post.  I hope everyone had a cheerful Christmas, despite the severe weather much of the country has been experiencing.  Here in the blessed realm of Northern California we've been (for the most part) lucky.  Despite heavy rains and howling winds, I haven't seen much locally in the way of flooding or overturned trees, compared to the last big storm five years ago.  December 25th was one of those eerily dark winter days.  Even at noon, with the curtains open and the Christmas lights lit up, a weird gloominess had settled in; it looked more dusk than daylight.

For anyone out there in Japan, I hope you were able to get your hands on the traditional KFC dinner.

My own Christmas celebration didn't turn out quite as planned.  My father-in-law suffered a minor heart attack on Christmas Eve, and we were told he would be undergoing "heart surgery" on Christmas.  This turned out to be not quite true.  When I spoke to his nurse on Christmas night, I learned he only had a couple stents inserted.  Anyway, Christmas dinner was scheduled to take place at my house. My wife's family wanted to delay it until later on Christmas evening, and then, on the afternoon of the 25th, asked if they could come by on the 26th instead.  As a result we ended up doing Christmas dinner twice.  Not what I was planning, but, hey, it happens.

Bubble Bobble?  On the Master System? No way, dude!

Those of you who listened to Chrontendo 35 know that our next episode will be Chronsega 6, covering summer/fall 1988.  It's going to be sort of an odd episode: heavy on ports of arcade and computer games, including a surprising number of non-Sega titles.   Yep, just as Sega is getting ready to pull the plug on the Master System in Japan, they start getting third party support.  Of course, Sega would continue to promote the console in the US, Europe, Brazil and other parts of the world.

So -- have a nice New Years. Please keep in mind the dangers of drinking and driving.  I'll post something more substantial in a few days from now.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Grateful Turtles and Peacock Kings (Updated!)

(12/23/2010: Apparently some dudes want to watch this on their iPads or whatever, so I've re-encoded the H.264 version with AAC audio, which is actually the standard for MP4 AVC.  Let me know if there are any problems.  Also: Merry Christmas and happy holidays!)

Let's get the important news out of the way first.  Chrontendo 35 is ready to download or stream on

Pardon me for engaging in some personal chatter for a moment, but a few posts back Kevin Moon/K8track made a comment about the Ad Hoc fried chicken recipe.  Ad Hoc has become quite famous for their fried chicken nights, and the recipe is supposed to be one of the best.  I've finally decided to try making it, despite not really being much into deep frying.  The "secret weapon" in the recipe is the elaborate brine the chicken soaks in, which makes the chicken almost too juicy.  Still, it turned out exceptionally delicious.  As my wife said while eating it, "I don't want it to end!"

And something else new: a commenter on Youtube suggested I upload Chrontendo episodes in 60 frames per second H.264 format. That's certainly not a bad idea.  I'm all one for newer technologies, and H.264 is pretty promising.  So, if you want the high quality 60 fps video, just download the H.264 MP4 file instead of the AVI.  Thus you will be able to see the fast flickering effects sometimes employed, such as the shadows in Bayou Billy.  And despite being slightly smaller than the AVI file, the quality is just about perfect.  I suppose most video players can handle MP4, but if you need one I recommend VLC.

Previously I had noted the end of Konami's "Exciting" sports series by pointing out it was no huge loss.  Well, perhaps I spoke to soon.  Konami didn't so much stop making the Exciting sports games as they just changed the name of the series.  I noticed that this episode's Konami tennis game bore the title of Konamic Tennis.  Konamic is a rather goofy portmanteau of "Konami" and "dynamic."   But other than the name, Konamic Tennis is really no different than any of Konami's previous FDS sports games, and even has an "Exciting Mode" among the game play options.  Then it turned out that the Japanese title for Track and Field II was Konamic Sports in Seoul, and that of Blades of Steel was Konamic Hockey.  So the Exciting sports games still live, under a new name.

As you know, every episode we single out one particular game as the best, most interesting, or historically important game.  So moving right along, this week's MVP game is...


That's right.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  No game really sticks out this episode of being worthy of taking the top prize.  It's not that there aren't some decent games this time around. It's just that nothing here really qualifies as a great game.

We do have some reasonably good games, however, so let's take a look at those.

Mad City/The Adventures of Bayou Billy


What kind of idiot would go mano-a-diente with a fucking crocodile!?

They can't all be winners, and Konami's first beat-em-up is a bit of a misstep compared to its last few big action games.  Bayou Billy is one of Konami's least loved 8-bit games.  In fact, it's hated far and wide, mostly for its "lack of balance," tediousness, and patchwork-like quality.

Bayou Billy's ending.  It really exists!

However, the original Japanese game, Mad City, is fun and breezy by comparison.  Enemies go down in 3 or 4 hits, the driving levels are much shorter, and at no point are you required to fight alligators*.  For reasons unknown, Konami substantially ramped up the difficulty for the US version of Mad City.   Perhaps it was an effort the lengthen the game and give it more "value."   As a result, even the weakest minions in Bayou Billy now take around ten hits to kill, and the vehicular segments have become grueling endurance tests.   In this episode we actually play through a translated version of Mad City, and even get the see the alternate endings!

Ancient Ys Vanished


Thrilling RPG action.

The beloved Falcom action RPG gets its first console port.   Unfortunately, the job was handed to Advance Communication, the same guys who made the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde game.  The results are pretty disappointing, at least to anyone who's played a better version of Ys, such at the TurboGrafx 16 disc or Ys Eternal.  Since Ys exists in so many different forms, we include a whirlwind tour of the many different releases of this game.

Konamic Sports in Seoul/Track and Field II

This console only sequel to Hyper Olympic/Track and Field relies on the same button mashing formula as its predecessor. Some of the same events return, some new events are added, and the character sprites are bigger.  No surprises here, but a decent amount of fun can still be had.

Super Pinball

Giant robots everywhere. Even in pinball games.

Now here is a surprise!  A nice little pinball game from Coconuts Japan.  It's no Devil's Crush, but it's better than Moon Ball Magic.  With a total of 6 different screens, including 4 "hidden" ones, and various little mini games thrown in, Super Pinball is actually quite enjoyable.

While there may not have been any great games this episode, we have no paucity of terrible games.

Matou no Houkai: The Hero of Babel

 He even jumps like Simon Belmont.

The one game this episode that rubs me the wrong way,  Matou no Hokai is from the good folks at Carry Lab, who had previously brought us Mystery Quest, a clever little game which owed a huge debt to Super Mario Bros.  Matou no Hokai, on the other hand is a terrible little trifle that shamelessly rips off the Castlevania games.  And when I say "rips off..." I don't mean "inspired by...."   So blatant is its debt to Castlevania that not only do you get powerups by destroying wall-mounted torches and smashing blocks in walls, but the first boss is the goddamned Grim Reaper!   He even throws sickles at you!

To get an idea of what Matou no Hokai is like, just imagine Castlevania with all the good parts taken out (atmospheric graphics, great music, fun boss battles) and all the bad parts left in and magnified (stiff controls, annoying and hard to hit enemies), and then throw in some brand new problems (clunky menus, the fact that one minute into the game you have to grind for XP.)   Needless to say, I don't like this game.

Super Dyna'mix Badminton

From VAP and sometimes Nintendo collaborator Pax Softnica, we have this incompetently made badminton game.  Just how lazy were the game's developers?  There is an option to choose the sex of your player, but apparently no female player sprite was ever created:  All players are represented with the same masculine looking sprite.  Considering that the box art used the image of a pretty young blond woman, this omission is a little odd.

Kujaku Ou


Killer Mermaids.

Based on a manga, animated film, and live action Kung Fu film (!), Kujaku Ou is another poorly executed attempt to combine a Portopia style adventure game with an RPG (see also, Square's Cleopatra no Mahou.)  SMS aficionados might think Kujaku Ou looks a little familiar -- it was reworked as an action game and released by Sega as Spellcaster.

And the rest:

Reigen Doushi/Phantom Fighter

When I started Chrontendo I had no idea that I would encounter multiple games based on jiang-shi AKA Chinese hopping vampires.  Yet, back in Chrontendo 22 we had Kyonshiizu II, adapted from the Japanese version of Hello Dracula.  Now we have Reigen Doushi, the official licensed game of Mr. Vampire, which is pretty much the greatest movie ever made.  Improbably released in the US under the name Phantom Fighter, the game itself is nothing special.  But it is kind of cool to play as a Lam Ching Ying.

Kame no Ongaeshi: Urashima Densetsu/Xexyz

You ride into battle on your flying lobstermobile.

Another obscure game that received a US release despite its heavy Asian subject matter.  The Japanese game is based on the legendary turtle-saving fisherman Urashima Tarō.  Much like Toei's Mr Gold from Episode 33, the plot of this Hudson game essentially just "Urashima in space."  Hudson was apparently at a loss on how to market this in the US, so they changed the title to some random gibberish and renamed the hero as "Apollo."

Xexyz is a pretty slick looking game that alternates between platforming and shootemup stages.  Developed by Atlus, it resembles 1987's Bio Senshi Dan; both titles are near-misses.  Some weird jumping mechanics,  a few bugs,and general lameness in the shmump levels prevent Xexyz from achieving greatness.

Maniac Mansion

A port of the classic LucasArts adventure game -- but not the version you are used to seeing.  Two years before LucasArts and Realtime developed their own version for the NES, Jaleco took a stab at it themselves.  The 1988 Maniac Mansion was only released in Japan, and didn't experience the same censorship issues as the later US release.  However, Jaleco's game suffers from a general lack of personality in the graphics, and the fact that multi-screen rooms are compressed down to a single screen in size.   While hardly an ideal port, it is kind of cool to see an alternate version of one of the NES' most popular games.

Kick and Run

A harmless little port of a virtually forgotten Taito arcade soccer game.  After having played this, I wonder if this formed the template for Soccer League: Winner's Cup from last episode.  The two games look and handle very much alike.

Eggerland - Souzouhe no Tabidachi

Remember how we had a new Eggerland game last episode?  Well, here's another, this time for the Famicom Disk Writer.  This shorter, easier game is the budget release in the Eggerland series.


Our requisite Sengoku-era strategy game.   This one's from Irem and looks pretty well made.  If you want to see way more Hototogisu than I can offer, this guy has a 30+ part Let's Play on Youtube; though it lacks any commentary.

Famicom Meijinsen

 Pretty good graphics for a shōgi game.

shōgi game from SNK.  I don't know how well it plays shōgi, but it has lots of options and charming graphics.

Konamic Tennis

The aforementioned tennis game from Konami.

Another episode down!  Next up is Chronsega episode 6.  Then its back to Chrontendo for what's going to be one whiz-bang episode.  Until then, don't forgot to check out episode 35 over at Archive.

*There seems to be some confusion whether they are alligators or crocodiles.  The manual calls them crocs, an animal not found in the Louisiana Bayou.  On the other hand, they seem to aggressive to be alligators.  Maybe Gordon, the "Gangster King of Bourbon Street," had crocodiles specially flown in to put in the swamps surrounding his mansion.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

So Blogger Ate My Post

Well, I had a very detailed and insightful post almost ready to go up, comparing the US and Japanese versions of The Adventures of Bayou Billy/Mad City.  It also talked about the weird Jiang-shi game Reigen Doushi/Phantom Fighter.  But, as I was editing in some screenshots, an unfortunate series of keystrokes erased the post, the auto-save kicked in, and now it appears to be permanently lost.

So for the moment, you'll have to be satisfied with this link to the latest Youtube "preview" which looks at the first level of Bayou Billy and its Japanese equivalent, Mad City.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Back to Our Regular Schedule

Chrontendo Episode 34 is now out!  Head on over to and download or stream it!

This post is going to be short.  Why?  Well, I sliced off a bit of my thumb, making it difficult to type.  Let's get right down to brass tacks, shall we?

Besides 15 games, there is a mini-history of Atari/Tengen.  Or rather, sort of a corporate history of Atari, Atari Corp, Atari Games, Tengen and so on. Since we have our first Tengen game this episode, I felt it best to clarify the backstory behind the two companies calling themselves "Atari" in 1988.

This episodes MVP:

Famicom Wars

Nintendo's entry into the military simulation genre easily outclasses similar games from Bandai, Irem, Soft Pro and rest.  I've already mentioned how great Famicom Wars is; the franchise would only get better in later games, such as Advance Wars.

Also, now that we've covered Famicom Wars, it means the next game scheduled from Nintendo is none other than the Greatest NES Game Of All Time!  I can hardly wait!

Other good games this episode:

Legendary Wings

Notable as the game Mega Man's staff was forced to work on in exchange for Capcom green-lighting Mega Man 2.  It's a pretty decent shoot-em-up in its own right - it features a bit more variety than 1943, but is not nearly as creative as R-Type or Salamander/Life Force.  It also suffers from an incredibly anti-climatic final boss.

Eggerland: Meikyuu no Fukkatsu

The third game in HAL's Sokoban-like puzzle game, and the first to be release in cartridge format.  While some sources conflate this release with The Adventures of Lolo, they are actually two separate games.

Moero!! Pro Yakyuu '88/Bases Loaded II

OK, this is not really a fantastic game, but compared to all the horrible baseball games I've been wading through recently, it's a breath of fresh air.  At the least the CPU's batters will not get a great hit out of every single pitch you throw at them.

The bad games:

Soccer League: Winners Cup

So instead of a lame baseball game this episode, we have a lame soccer game. This Data East release doesn't even assign a function to the B button, that's how no-frills it is.

Bakutoushi Patton-Kun

Sort of a pointless tank combat game, notable for only one thing: its rather surprising profanity laced loading screen.  Other than that it's a not-very-good take on Namco's Battle City.

Big Challenge! Judo Senshuken

Alright, I couldn't exactly figure out how to play Judo Senshuken.  It's a one-on-one Judo game, and looks like it might behave similarly to a Sumo wrestling game.  Yet after several failed attempts to produce any sort of noticeable onscreen action by pressing the buttons and dpad, I gave up on this one.  Still, just looking at it, I can't believe this game is any good at all.

The Rest:

The majority of games in episode 34, aren't quite "bad" yet aren't quite special enough to be considered "good."   Still, there are some interesting games here.


One of the three debut games from Tengen - the other two being US releases of existing Namco games - Gauntlet is a port of Atari's 1985 arcade mega-hit.  Missing, however, is the 4-player co-op and the many, many speech samples.  The resultant game is ugly and not very exciting, though it served its purpose of giving kids a taste of the Gauntlet experience at home.

Dragon Ball: Daimaou Fukkatsu

After the horrible first Dragon Ball game, Bandai and Tose attempt to redeem themselves with this sequel: a card-based, board game/RPG thingy. It certainly has more aesthetic appeal than the first one, but is still likely to be pretty boring to anyone who's not a huge Dragon Ball fan.  (I'll let you in on secret: I am not a huge Dragon Ball fan.)

Mitokoumon II: Sekai Manyuuki

From Sunsoft, this wacky sequel to the 1987 action-adventure game sends the TV show's characters on an around-the-world trip to fight crimes in the wild west, Hawaii, Italy, and so on.  Just like the first Mitokoumon game, there's lots of horrible sounding (but technically impressive!), garbled synthesized speech.

Tatake!! Ramenman

Yet another TV show tie-in game, this one features a Kinnikuman character who received his own spinoff anime series and movie.  This Human-developed title looks like a Japanese take on King's Quest with a bit of one-on-one fighting thrown in. Tatake!! Ramenman is not the typical Famicom action-adventure game, but is too slow and boring to be of too much interest.

Asteka II: Taiyou No Shinden/Tombs and Treasures

Seeing the names Nihon Falcom and Compile in the credits might get you excited for a moment, but this port of a 1987 Japanese computer game just isn't that hot.  HG101 has already gone into sufficient detail about its shortcomings.

The Money Game

The second wealth accumulation/stock market simulator game for the Famicom!  It looks a little rough around the edges, but its sequel was considered good enough to get a US release under the name Wall Street Kid.


A super-simple action RPG from Pack-in-Video.  It's not bad - it simply lacks anything special to distinguish it from the many other Famicom RPGs of the era. An English fan translation exists.

Final Lap

A unremarkable port of Namco's arcade F1 racing game.  The original was noted for its impressive (by 1987 standards) 3D graphics.  The Famicom port obviously takes a huge hit in this area, and doesn't bother to add anything interesting in its place.

There we have it. Enjoy!  Incidentally, I was trying to pratice a certain amount of discipline in recording this episode and make it a little shorter than average.  The final product is around 60 minutes, so this didn't quite pan out.

As always, check it out on