Saturday, January 31, 2009

Episode 17 Is Finished

...more or less. I'll just need to tidy up a few things, and it will be posted in a few days. In the meantime, I mention that Episode 17, in conjunction with the April 1987 release of Nekketsu Kouha Kunio Kun/Renegade, will feature a very brief history of scrolling beat-em-ups. Renegade (and its successor, Double Dragon) laid down the ground work for the beat-em-up genre, which flourished from around 1987 to 1994.

Speaking of which, I've never felt the need to shill for an upcoming release before. But Sega's Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection looks to be invaluable to the old school console fan. Among the titles listed are all three Streets of Rage games, the Golden Axe games, and Altered Beast, as well as many non beat-em-ups.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Something a Little Different

The muses have inspired me to try things a little differently on this blog. Being away for so long made me cognizant of one little fact: I only post when a new episode of Chrontendo is ready. However, I'm aware this is not the best way to run a blog. Personally, I get all antsy when I blogs that I like post irregularly; I assume that others out there in cyberspace might feel the same way.

To this end, I've decided to post more updates and previews of upcoming episodes. After all, countless other individuals use blogs or Twitter or whatever to detail the minutiae of their lives every half hour. I figure I can put up something about videogames more frequently than once a month. (Going off on a tangent, one fascinating train wreck of a blog I discovered recently was that of faded TV celebrity Roseanne Barr. Not only are the entries often certifiably bat-shit insane, but also amusing frequent. A lengthy rant will be followed an oddball post or link a mere minute later. As a testament to the power of fame's spotlight to warp the minds of those caught in its glare, this blog is quite invaluable).

So... one charming little game I've played for Chrontendo Episode 17 is Relics: Ankoku Yousai (Relics: Dark Fortress). Relics has held a certain fascination for me ever since I first booted it up. Upon encountering the rather solidly designed space-suited character, the subterranean sci-fi environment, the black backgrounds, and the slightly eerie music, my first thought was, "Wow! An obscure Metroid rip-off! Fantastic!"

Bad hit detection and the infamous loading message

Disappointment and puzzlement quickly set once I attempted to actually play the game. Relics is vaguely Metroid like in structure - explore vertical and horizontal passage, find hidden passage, fight a boss, gain additional abilities - but in terms of mechanics, it resembles dragging a pillowcase of wet sand up a stairway. Your character is alarmingly sluggish and difficult to maneuver, and the game is beset with pauses while the next screen loads every few seconds.

Semi-destructible environments add to Relic's atmosphere

As it turns out, Relics: Ankoku Yousai is a sequel to a 1986 computer game released for the NEC PC-88, FM-77 and the MSX computers. Surprisingly, the MSX version had a European release, and seems to have a small following among MSX aficionados. Footage may easily be found on Youtube. Even more surprisingly, publisher Bothtec had announced Relics: The Absolute Spirit for the XBox a few years ago, but this title was never released.

Relics for PC-88 and screenshot of unreleased XBox game

All in all, the FDS Relics is a wasted opportunity. The MSX had an interesting premise, the FDS release looks quite nice and has great music. But horrible controls and programming render it virtually unplayable. And about the music - Relics is the first soundtrack from Masaharu Iwata, who would later go on to compose music for the Ogre Battle series, Final Fantasy Tactics, FF XII, and many more.

Relics will be covered in Chrontendo Episode 17, which will probably be done in the next week. Check back soon!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Finally....Episode 16 Is Here!

Yes, Chrontendo Episode 16 has been endlessly delayed. The delay was so epic, it had to be subdivided into a trilogy of delays: hard drive crash, holidays/heating problems, and software issues/loss of speaking voice. I'm not sure my voice has completely recovered yet, so I apologize for the rough vocals that accompany a couple of the segments. Head on over to and download or stream Episode 16.

Yet, it is finally here. And with hesitation, I'll reveal that it is sort of a "special" episode. First of all, a few episodes ago, I mentioned I'd do a brief wrap-up of 1986. This has finally arrived in the form of segment covering video games from 1984-1987. It's divided into four subjects: US computer games, Japanese computer games, arcade games, and console games. Naturally, it lives up to Chrontendo's typically low standards. Secondly, Episode 16 documents a very dark day for the Famicom, namely, March 27, 1987. While there have been quite a few bad games produced for the system, the powers that be contrived to concentrate a whole lot of sheer awfulness into that one day. March 27 even radiates a certain amount of horribilosity, and a few bad games were released immediately before and after. The stink of this day permeates the entire episode, which teeters dangerously close to being an all-kusoge episode. Luckily, a few good titles round out the collection.

Speaking of which, we will now place the laurels tenderly upon the brow of our favorite game this time around:

Green Beret/Rush'n Attack

Konami once again dominates this episode with this port of their 1985 arcade run and gun (or perhaps run and stab.) Armed with only a small combat knife, the titular characters takes on an entire Soviet-style military base in order to destroy a "secret weapon." While substantially reworked for the cosole release, Green Beret is somewhat old-fashioned by 1987 standards. No hidden items, RPG-elements, life bars, shops or cranky old men spouting mysterious advice; instead Green Beret is a pure example of simplicity done right.

Episode 16 is not exactly loaded down with quality games, but there are a couple other notable titles to be found.


It's finding games like this that make chronogaming worthwhile. Unlike pretty much anything else released for the Famicom or FDS, Otocky is a music-based shoot-em-up from Toshio Iwai, the man who created Electroplankton. Firing your weapon generates musical notes, thus you create the game's soundtrack as you play. This is the exact same idea behind the 2001 Dreamcast/PS2 title Rez; Otocky is very much a game ahead of its time. While not nearly as sophisticated as later interactive music titles, Otocky is loads of fun to play.

Goonies II

The other big Konami release this episode, Goonies II was an early NES favorite and one of the first Metroid-esque games released in the US. I will admit, I don't care that much for Goonies II. I find it suffers from repetitive, confusing levels and relies too heavily on finding quest items that are arbitrarily hidden throughout the game's huge network of caverns and basements. Still there is no doubt that Goonies II stands head above similar dreck such a Sunsoft's Wing of Madoola.

Bad games? Kusoge? Episode 16 is full of them, starting with the four titles released on March 27.

Super Boy Allan and Chisoko Tairiku Orudora

Two more games in Sunsoft and Ask Kodansha's "Chinou Game" series, the first being Adian no Tsue (the Zelda meets math problems title covered in Episode 13.) Super Boy Allen involves rolling logs and math, while Chisoko drops the educational elements and rips off Sunsoft's own Atlantis no Nazo (see Episode 8.)

Winter Games

Acclaim alert!! Actually, while this was released by the notorious Acclaim in the US, the earlier Japanese release was from Pony Canyon. And, of course, it was originally a Commodore 64 title, developed by Action Graphics and published by Epyx. Either way, it is a nearly unplayable variation on Konami's Track and Field, burdened with ugly graphics and heinous control schemes.

Nangoku Shirei!! Spy vs. Spy

Another US computer port, this time from Kemco and based on 1985's Spy Vs. Spy: The Island Caper. It's an inferior version of an inferior sequel to a decent title.

Lost Word of Jenny

The second Famicom game from Japanese toy manufacturer Takara, Lost Word is based around the popular-in-Japan Jenny doll. Jenny is essentially the Japanese Barbie, and originally was even sold under the Barbie name for a while. The Jenny game is a fine example of Kusoge. It features the standard overworld/sidescrolling platforming setup, and will provide hours of fun as Jenny gets attacked by dogs and repeatedly plummets to her death while jumping from one platform to another. Its about as fun as Takara's earlier Transformers game.
City Adventure Touch - The Mystery of Triangle

Another Pony Canyon release, this time based on the high school and baseball team themed manga Touch. City Adventure Touch is somewhat notorious in Japan for bearing absolutely no resemblance to the source material. The original manga was your typical quasi-realistic soap opera stuff. As for this game, I have no idea what the plot is supposed, but your characters roam around the city fighting elves and robots. Sadly, it was developed by Compile, though comes nowhere near the quality of most of their work. Much like Rare would later, Compile seems to occasionally turn out the quickie hack job in exchange for an easy paycheck.

Hana no Star Kaidou

An utterly baffling kusoge title from Victor Musical Industries. You control two 80s fashion victims/would-be pop stars, as they make their way from Japan to New York. Along the way, they mercilessly kill every human being that crosses their path, by singing them to death! Not the best way to build up a fan base.

Dirty Pair - Project Eden

From the animated feature of the same name, Dirty Pair concerns two sexy female space cops. Jump, fly and shoot your way through four dull levels, while picking up a variety of random objects such as perfume bottles and headbands. Like pretty much every other bad platformer, Dirty Pair features clunky controls and unspired level designs.

Damn! That's a lot of bad games in one episode! Fortunately, their are a few games in Episode 16 that are merely mediocre or have some interesting features.

Apple Town Monogatari

A port of a David Crane/Activision 1984 computer game, this oddball release is barely a game at all. The original US version was completely original and ahead of its time. An early god game, Little Computer People was a direct influence on The Sims. For this Japanese release, Square has stripped away much of the appeal and interactivity; the resulting game is pretty pointless. Still, ATM has cute graphics and sound, and exudes a certain "What the Hell?" charm.

Tobidase Daisakusen/3-D Worldrunner

The earliest Square game to get a US release (by Acclaim!) Todibase Daisakusen steals blatantly from Space Harrier, though is not nearly as fun to play. It is notable for a few things. It was created by the team of Hironobu Sakaguchi, Nobuo Uematsu, and Nasir Gebelli, who would later go on to Rad Racer and Final Fantasy. Also, it was had a special 3D mode and was sold with 3D glasses. Lastly, the game is quite impressive from a technical perspective and was certainly the most convincing use of pseudo-3D in a console game up until that point in time.

Law of the West

Yet another port of a US computer title, this time of Accolade's fondly remembered dialog based adventure game.

And there we have it, another 15 games. As for Episode 17, a big chunk of the work is already done. We'll definitely see some higher quality releases the the next time around. This includes one all-time classic from Tecmo, as well as unreleased-in-US games from Capcom and Konami. There will also be a few truly bad games, such as - brace yourself - a sequel to Kinnikuman/M.U.S.C.L.E.

For now, download or stream Chrontendo Episode 16 here.

What would an episode of Chrontendo be without a few mistakes? During Sanma no Meitantei, I refer to it as the last game being covered that episode. Whoops! There are two more games after Sanma.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Episode 16 is just about ready to be edited together, and will be posted shortly thereafter. Granted, this episode has taken a ridiculously long time to put together, but the cruel gods that govern this universe repeatedly placed obstructions in its way. I spent virtually the entire month of December huddling in a nest of blankets due to the non-functionality of my house's 50 year old heating system. I was able to have the entire thing replaced, and am now toasty warm -- but have contracted some sort of viral infection in my throat, causing me to lose my voice. That is now starting to return to normal, but I'm also having some problems with my video editing software.

Despite all of this, I plan to get Episode 16 up soon, with Episode 17 right around the corner.