Sunday, January 20, 2008

Episode 6! Early!

Amazingly, Episode 6 is ready only a week after Episode 5! This is certainly a record for me, but the fact is that I had been working on 6 quite a bit while finishing 5. The time I've take off from Chrontendo in December and January has served to bolster my enthusiasm for the project, and I seem to be working much faster than normal. Additionally, I'm beginning to learn how to edit these things together more quickly.

On to Episode 6! Not as eventful as Episode 5, the new episode still contains a lot of interesting games. December 1985 saw Famicom titles hitting the shelves at a furious pace. A wide variety of publishers are represented, and the soon-to-be-legendary Square makes its Famicom debut (with a game they themselves did not develop).

Most valuable game:

Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken
- The second Famicom game from Chunsoft and Enix, Portopia was destined to revolutionize the Japanese gaming industry almost as significantly as Super Mario Bros did. An enhanced port of a Chunsoft's 1983 game for Japanese computers, Portopia established the genre of "point and click," menu-based adventure games. Your goal is to solve a murder mystery by questioning suspects and witnesses and by examining various locations for clues. This is done by using the d-pad to navigate a column of "move," "talk," and "examine" options. The success of this game inspired numerous copycats over the next few years, and would eventually lead to such mainstays of the Japanese gaming scene as "Visual Novels," dating sims, and hentai games.

This game also features the most striking introduction sequence on a Famicom game so far. Rather than the typical title and menu screen rising up from the bottom of the screen, Portopia begins with the sound of an approaching police siren. The title then appears one character at a time, accompanied by a typewriter sound effect. This highly original title screen demonstrates how Chunsoft was beginning to push the gaming envelope in Japan.

Also of note:

Thexder - Longtime Enix rival/partner Square makes its Famicom debut with a port of this Game Arts 1985 computer game. Eventually, Thexder would be released for Apple and Commodore computers and would pick up quite a following in the US. While I personally do not like this game, I do find the ideas behind the game quite interesting. With its vertical and horizontal scrolling, long passageways filled with enemies, and emphasis on exploration in order to find the various items squirrelled away in its nooks and crannies, this game looks forward to later, better titles such as Castlevania and Metroid.

Lunar Ball - Known as Lunar Pool in the US, this Compile developed title manages to make a fun and creative pool video game. Seemingly inspired by miniature golf courses, Lunar Ball features a wide variety of unusually shaped tables. Factor in adjustable friction for the tables, and craziness ensures.

Bokosuka Wars
- While frustrating and unfair, this game does get points for being creative and interesting. Essentially an early strategy action game, Bokosuka Wars is somewhat misunderstood in the West, and has been labeled as one of the worst games for the system. In fact, once the principles behind the game are understood, it is quite playable and challenging. Unfortunately, the frequency with which this games kills you in a random fashion will undoubtedly cause many players to throw thier controllers at the screen in disgust.

Obake no Q Tarou: Wan Wan Panic
- The US version of this game, Chubby Cherub, has been rightly pilloried for its ugly graphics and unappealing protagonist. The Japanese version, based on a popular manga and anime series, makes a bit more sense and is a little more difficult. While hardly a classic, this game is still noteworthy as the second side scrolling platformer for the system.

Galg - Or Zenou Senkan Galg, as the box art says. This somewhat mystifying game is a vertical shooter crossed with an RPG. Much like Tower of Druaga, there are various hidden objects and power-ups throughout the game which can be found by performing specific actions. Unlike Druaga, this game has not been well documented in the West. To the casual player, it appears to be an unexceptional and repetitive shooter.

Terrible, Terrible games:

Dough Boy
- You will have Front Line flashbacks while playing this ridiculous war game from Kemco.

- An Irem port of the well-known US computer game. Unfortunately, Irem seriously botched this version, and the Famicom release of Spelunker finds itself on various "worst NES games" lists. Perhaps most notoriously, your character cannot fall a distance any greater than around half his own height without dying. Regardless, this game was released in the US by Broderbund.

Also covered this episode: BurgerTime, Ikki, Volguard II, Star Luster, Choujikuu Yousai Macross, 1942, and Karateka.

Chrontendo Episode 6 may be downloaded at here.


Chris Sobieniak said...

Interesting notice Namco released this previously (reprogrammed) or the FC, while Data East's US subsidiary released it later for the NES. I used to play this on the Intellivision myself, though I also noticed the ColecoVision had one too though I didn't play as a kid, but seeing how it looked, it was quite good for it's time.

Noticed Pony Canyon did this game, but it was released through the US subsidiary, FCI (Fujisankei Communications International). FCI never had great games, and one I can probably talk about shows up much later (having to get the game from my mom thanks to a shopping channel showing it off one night).

Feel glad I didn't get stuck with this growing up!

Interesitng Namco made this but Bandai ends up selling it anyway (of course they had a stake in the Macross licensing at the time). Technically, Big West owns Macross as a property (the rights to the TV anime series itself though was in red tape though for a number of years between them and the animation studio Tatsunoko who produced the show).

The series this is based on was a very well remembered Japanese manga/anime creation from Fujiko Fujio (a psuedonym for two manga artists, but more info can be found on Wiki about this). Much like a later game, "Dragon Power", this one got re-modded into "Chubby Cherub" for the NES release.

Jonothan said...

I just discovered that Ikki, reviewed in this episode, is getting/has gotten a 7th-gen remake in the form of Ikki Online:

Doctor Sparkle said...

It seems the nostalgia induced thirst for retro style games is reaching its logical conclusion. When a remade version of Super Pitfall comes out, that's when I head for the hills.

Rodneylives said...

On FCI never having great games, Chris Sobieniak is mostly correct except for one thing: Zanac. Of course that's probably due more to developer Compile than anything else.