Saturday, July 31, 2010

Moving Forward

Chrontendo 31 will be ready one of these days. But I am working on it! Really! It's just that my mother-in-law just had knee replacement surgery, and my wife's birthday was yesterday. We've also been trying to organize around the house a bit. So any delays have nothing to do with Starcraft II or anything like that (which I doubt my graphics card would handle anyways.)

Also, my wife dragged me to see The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which was not quite as bad as I feared.

One little treat in store is that we'll see a few scenes from the original PC-88 version of Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom. And let me tell you, that game is really horrifying looking, and is quite different than the NES game you all know and *love*.

You will be tormented by the "hit" button, which can never be used on Percy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Nintendo Co., Ltd.: Purveyor of Fine Visual Novels Since 1987

When one hears the term "visual novel," the first thing that comes to mind is probably not Nintendo. The monolithic Japanese company is normally associated with family-friendly platformers, collections of mini-games aimed at casual gamers, and a series of fanciful cock-fighting simulators that have enslaved the minds of America's youth. Whereas, "visual novel" leads one to think of games where the main objective is to engage in romantic overtures with a series of very young ladies.

Your cousin? Have you no sense of shame at all?!?

But if we look at Nintendo's output from late 1987 to late 1989, we'll find a conspicuous absence of cute and cuddly hop and bops, and a whole lot of games in which you spend your time talking to folks by selecting options from a menu. The predecessor to visual novels was the Japanese menu-based adventure game, or as I have dubbed it, the "Portopia clone." Other than a few Hal/Pax Softnica developed sports games, Nintendo of Japan went about a year releasing only Portopia clones: the two Mukashi Banashi disks, the Nakayama Miho dating sim, and, as we'll see in Chrontendo 31, two disks of Famicom Tantei Club. Later in 1988, the monotony was broken with Intelligent System's Famicom Wars and Super Mario Bros. 3.

Typical Nintendo product as of 1988.

This obsession with adventure games continued into 1989, with RPG Mother from Ape/Pax Softnica being the only major Japanese Nintendo release that wasn't a Portopia Clone. Perhaps the release of the Game Boy shook Nintendo from their rut. After 1989 Nintendo would still dally with menu-based adventure games, but never with the single-mindedness that they did during that two year period. This was perhaps the oddest stretch of time in Nintendo's history of a game developer.

And... as of 1989.

It just happens that we are going to have two other Japanese adventure games in Episode 31: a murder mystery game from crap-meisters Towa Chiki and, more notably, the offbeat Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom from Hudson. Princess Tomato has two major points of interest: firstly, it's one of the very few Japanese console adventure games to released in the West, and secondly, it's just plain nuts.

Is that all these games ever think about?

In light of all these adventure games this episode, I'm going to try to work in a "History of Adventure Games" feature into Ep. 31. However, the episode is progressing slowly, despite the increase in free time I had.

Elsewhere on the web, Chris Osborne, formerly of Junk Into Treasure, has moved his video game site to Chris is actually chronogaming the US NES releases, and is currently working through the 18 bazillion US launch titles.

Also, Pre-Sonic Genesis has reached Phantasy Star II, a game that, unlike most of the stuff I cover, people still care about today. And.... Chronogamer at Atari Age has reappeared after a few months of silence. So, along with I ♥ The PC Engine, the chronogaming army is growing stronger!

I made a casual reference to Sonichu a couple posts ago, and by an weird coincidence, at the same time, humor site published an article on the 20 Biggest Internet Losers.* The article itself is not that eye-opening, but they did give Sonichu creator Chris-chan the place of honor, as both the illustration in the header, and the final entry in the article itself - implying that he is, in fact, the biggest loser on the Internet. So "congratulations," Chris. While I do have quite a bit of sympathy for the guy due to the relentless harassment by his "fans," at the same time I sort of have to agree with's assessment.

Chris' True and Original creation.

Catch you later. Until then, Episode 31 keeps chugging along.

*Missing from the list: people who write exclusively about 25 year old video games.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Your Weekly Update

I think I have a new personal style god: Colonel Decker from Jackal.

C'mon -- the 'stache, the black rimmed glasses, the beret. Is he rocking a soul patch? This guy has got his look down pat. Sadly, my own heritage precludes me from ever growing such a mustache, so Decker's look is more of an unobtainable ideal.

What this is all leading up to, is that Chrontendo Episode 31 will be featuring, along with 14 other games, Konami's classic drive-'n'-gun Jackal. It's sort of like Capcom's Commando, only you get a Jeep and unlimited grenades/missiles.

Naturally, the name Jackal, and those thick rimmed glasses, remind me of the most famous Jackal.

Did it ever bug you that one of the world's most notorious international assassins/terrorists looked like this? I always thought assassins would look cooler. Take away the shades, and he's the guy behind the counter at your local deli. Though in real life, Carlos was not a very good assassin, regardless of what the Bourne novels or Far Cry 2 may have led you to believe. Maybe Golgo 13 is wrong about the life of a professional assassin being glamorous.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Few Words

Now that we've gotten the newest episode of Chrontendo's less popular cousin out of the way, it's back to more old fashioned, nutty Famicom goodness. "Highlights" of the next episode will include some Japanese mystery adventure games, gruelingly primitive JRPGs, a Soccer game from Tecmo unlike any sports games we've encountered so far, a military strategy game, and a beloved adventure game featuring anthropomorphic vegetables. I think you know which one I'm talking about, boss.

In the meantime, CJ Lowery has started his own chronogaming site, Pre-Sonic Genesis, which focuses on, surprising enough, Genesis games released before Sonic the Hedgehog. Somehow the Mega Drive/Genesis managed to exist for almost three years without a single game featuring that attitudinous erinaceomorph. So this means that while I'm stuck playing shitty pseudo-sequels on the SMS, CJ will be dealing with the likes of Space Harrier II, Phantasy Star II and Alex Kidd in Enchanted Castle. On the other hand: Super Hydlide.

A little somethin' somethin' for all you furry fans out there.

In less positive news, I was going to link you to an interesting Retrogaming site called Junk Into Treasure, which, among other things, had a Chrontendo episode list. However, that site has suddenly disappeared, replaced with a little shop that sells pillows and purses made out of recycled fabric. What happened?

Sonichu has some info for you.*

More bad news. While I'm not any sort of comic book geek, I was saddened and surprised to hear of the passing of comic writer Harvey Pekar. His long running American Splendor series is undoubtedly one of the greatest comic book runs in the (relatively) short history of the medium. I can't think of any other comics writers who could match Pekar's honesty, humanity or insight into the lives of everyday Americans.

Also, a Chrontendo message board has been suggested. What do the readers of this site feel about this? Does anyone have any suggestions is regards to a host? Proboards? Or is there anybody out there better?

Lastly, in other news: AAAAAAAHHHHHHH! AAAAAAAHHHHHHH! Take it away! Take it away!!

*If you haven't already heard of Sonichu, do yourself a favor and do not proceed any further. There are some corners of the internet, like Sonichu and Pokegirls, that it is best to entirely avoid.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy Fourth/Chronsega Five

Happy Fourth of July! It seems like some folks have been getting a head start on the holiday this year; I noticed quite a few fireworks going off on July 3rd and even a few on the 2nd. I myself have parties to attend on both the 3rd and 4th, so it's one non-stop celebration this weekend. Assuming that you're not too drunk/hungover to operate a computer, head on over to and pick up Chronsega Episode 5.

The crazy thing about Chronsega is that it covers 17 games! 17!! That's two more than every single other installment of Chrontendo/Chronsega. And it still clocks in a few minutes less than most episodes of Chrontendo. As mentioned earlier there are lots of sequels/pseudo-sequels this time. Opa Opa makes a total of three appearances. Let's do a quick rundown.

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars

Yep, this really happens in this game.

Sadly, not a real sequel to Alex Kidd in Miracle World, but a port of the very first Alex Kidd title, an arcade game from '87. It's way simpler than Miracle World - no Shellcore, janken, motorcycles, helicopters, or even any real boss battles. What does the game have, then? Naked men shooting skulls out of their asses.

Opa Opa/Fantasy Zone: The Maze

Probably not the game you were expecting.

The second weirdest Opa Opa game (Galactic Protector taking top honors), ditches the scrolling shoot-em-up action of the first two Fantasy Zone games. Instead, we get a relatively straightforward maze game. You know, the early 80's Pac-Man clone type of game. The second you boot this thing up, the incredibly ugly title screen lets you know that Opa Opa was not a product of Sega's A-Team of developers.

Galactic Protector

In the future, the Earth will be protected by an orbital Opa Opa the size of China.

Speaking of which - this oddity has Opa Opa defending Earth, Saturn and Jupiter from a unending series of runaway asteroids and small planets. The astrophysics behind this incredibly unlikely situation are never explained, nor do we ever learn how Opa Opa was upgraded with the Death Star like weaponry he displays in this game. The main appeal of Galactic Protector is the series of goofy faces made by the planets under Opa Opa's protection. This was one of the few games to use the Sports Pad -- the Master System's rotary control.

Wonder Boy in Monster Land

Probably the best sequel we'll see this episode, Monster Land takes the basic gameplay concept of the first game - side-scrolling platforming - and adds some RPG elements. At the same time, it pretty much strips the Wonder Boy character of his identity, and has seemingly no connection, plot-wise, to the first game. This the second time we've covered Wonder Boy in Monster Land; it made an appearance, as Bikkuriman World, in Chronturbo Episode One. Its a pretty decent game, and I enjoyed it until the very end, when a needlessly lengthy and frustrating bit of platform jumping made me pull out my hair. I got so pissed I never finished the game.

Space Harrier 3D

Our last sequel is really just the earlier Master System port of Space Harrier with new enemy and boss sprites. It could be quite interesting, but there is no option to play it in 2D until you've beaten the game in 3D.

Other than the aforementioned sequels, a few other titles stand out this episode.

Aleste/Power Strike

The first title in Compile's mostly wonderful series of Aleste games. This is actually a trimmed port of an MSX 2 shooter. The intro and first level have been entirely eliminated, and the difficulty has been pumped up a bit. The constant barrage of enemies can be a bit grueling, an the fact that your power ups disappear after their timer runs out make Aleste less fun that later gamers in the series. For those not familiar with the Aleste games, please check out this extremely informative article on HG101. Later titles include the amazing Denin/ Robo Aleste in which the battles of Sengoku era Japan are fought with Mechs - it's essentially a SHMUP version of Nobunaga's Ambition.


It's just like Castlevania, only it's not good.

Not exactly a good game, but still quite fascinating. Sega's answer to Castlevania features a red-haired samurai who moves with the speed and grace of a Belmont. Only instead of a whip, Kenseiden's Hayato is equipped with a short little sword, and can't strike an enemy that isn't already all up in his grill, as the kids say. While certainly inferior to Castlevania in terms of "playability" and art design, at least this game features a protagonist that is proficient in climbing stairs without falling through them.

Hoshi Wo Sagashite...

You made your girlfriend cry and lost the game. Good job, you dick.

A sci-fi themed adventure game in the Portopia style. This is a Japan-only release, but we have thankfully been given an unofficial English translation, courtesy of Filler and Hung Dong. Instead of solving a murder mystery, in Hoshi we must learn to care for a rare baby alien, which resembles a lion cub with wings. This is accomplished by jetting around the galaxy talking to people.

Tensai Bakabon

Some NPCs are not particularly helpful.

One of the relatively few Master System games based on a licensed property. In this case, it's Fujio Akatsuka's beloved manga and anime series, which later got a more well known Famicom game from Namco. A pretty basic adventure game, combined with a side-scrolling overworld. While the game doesn't seem too great, it does have great graphics and sprites which look just like their manga counterparts.

And finally, this episode features a lot of standard Sega junk:

Rescue Mission

A decent escort style light gun game, in which three medics attempt to rescue wounded soldiers by penetrating hostile jungle territory in a god-damned railroad handcar.

Argos no Juujiken

Somehow the Master System Rygar manages to look way worse than the NES version.

The first third party SMS game! Published by the mysterious Salio, this is a substandard port of Tecmo's arcade game Argos no Senshi, known in the US as Rygar. A completely different game than the NES Rygar.

Solomon no Kagi - Oujo Rihita no Namida

The other Salio game, this time a port of the Famicom/NES version of Solomon's Key, another Tecmo game. Salio released just one more game, for the PC Engine, then vanished for good. Were they really just a front for Tecmo? Who knows? But the two titles they released were the only Japanese SMS games published by someone other than Sega. Rather than "Gold Cartridges," the Salio games ranked as mere "Silver Cartridges."

Reggie Jackson Baseball

Reggie sports some pretty massive guns in this game.

A virtually forgotten US sports game from Sega. It was later released as American Baseball in Europe, and never had a Japanese release. Today, it is mostly known as a dry run for Tommy Lasorda Baseball, the first sports game for the Mega Drive/Genesis.

Blade Eagle

A simple shoot-em-up, IN 3D!

Maze Walker/Maze Hunter 3D

Walk around in a maze and kill monsters with a metal bar, IN 3D!!

Poseidon Wars 3D

Sink battleships and shoot down jet fighters, IN 3D!!!

Family Games/Parlour Games/Party Games

Play pool and bingo, and shoot darts. Sadly, not in 3D. Family Games is, however, developed by Compile, and manages to be reasonably well made.

So there you have it. Another 6 months of games from Sega. Once again, the results are divided between the "pretty good but flawed" titles and the "Ehhh... who cares?" titles. My theory is that during this time period, much of Sega's top talent was being diverted to work on games for the Mega Drive, which would make its debut later in 1988.

The next Chronsega will bear witness to the flow of Japanese Master System games coming to a virtual standstill. There was a brief burst of activity in October 1988, followed by a single release in December, and then the last Japanese MS game in February 1989. At the same time, we will finally see a decent number of non Sega developed games hit the system, with ports of titles from Irem, Technos Japan, Data East and Nihon Falcom. The Master System will hang on in the US for a little while longer, but it's real legs were in Europe and Brazil. But for the most part, the Mega Drive is going to overshadow it's older brother very soon. Chronsega will start folding the Mega Drive into the mix a few episodes from now.

All of this is in the far-flung future however. Next up will be Chrontendo 31. For now, download or stream Chrosega 5 over at

Friday, July 2, 2010

Whatever Happened to Chronsega 5?

It was promised in June, but as of yet, nothing.... Sorry, but the finishing touches are being worked on now. Various real life factors have been coming up: my wife's car was hit while it was parked (the bastard drove away without leaving a note), my cat was bitten and had to go to the vet for some antibiotics, my mother has needed some assistance with her swimming pool, and I am currently doing a bit of painting in the house. And in a few days we have the Fourth of July! For those not familiar with US holiday customs - it involves barbecue and setting off fireworks. So it's sort of like Guy Fawkes day only it doesn't celebrate the torture and execution of a particular individual.

Oh, and of course, I spent 48 hours camped outside of my local movie theater waiting for Twilight tickets to go on sale. You guys did that too, right?

Well, anyway, check back in a couple days for the new Chronsega.