Friday, August 13, 2010

Episode 31!!!!

At last! It's here! I have no idea why this one took so long. Maybe it was the History of Adventure Games segment; cutting it in half certainly sped things up. I think it may have just been due to laziness and the fact that I get easily distracted. But you know what to do! Go to and stream or download it!

First up - about the Adventure Games bit: because we've seen so many of the damned things, and because this episode has three - including fan fave Princess Tomato - I decided to try to get some historical perspective on the genre. So nestled in the soft folds of Episode 31 are the first two parts. Together they rush through the development of Western and Japanese adventure games up to the mid/late 80s. Parts three and four will cover the "golden years." Which means Lucas Arts era stuff in the US and games with naked women in Japan. Perhaps we'll find out if the guy from Pia Carrot actually puts the moves on his cousin. Combined, these 4 parts will be quite lengthy. So lengthy that I had to trim two games off of Episode 31! Yep, only 13 games this episode.

One thing that concerns me is that the adventure game segment won't look so hot when streaming the video, due to some of the games' text being on the small side. Everything is perfectly legible in the full size version, but the compressed streaming version makes the text look a little fuzzy. Hopefully y'all can deal.

Episode 31 is not exactly chock full of great games, but there is one that stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom

Don't worry. A simple game of Rock, Paper, Scissors will take out these wimps.

Ok, this game is sort of awful. But in a lovable, charming way. Kind of like Mel Gibson. And I have to admire Hudson for putting this out in the US. Obviously, Japanese adventure games never took off over here (except among the pervert set) but at least Hudson was willing to give it a shot, unlike Nintendo. As I point out in my comments this episode, those raised on Lucas Arts style adventure games might not be too fond of Princess Tomato. Many of the puzzles simply consist of talking to characters over and over again until the games decides to open up the path to the next area. And absolutely no justification is ever given as to why you can't, for example, go down the hallway until you've spoken to Orange Princess. And having to constantly "look" and "check" your surroundings multiple times just aggravates the frustration. Look in the garbage bin once: there's nothing there. Look a second time: Oh! There's there's something in there!

I'd be remiss to not mention America's sweetheart, Percy. I don't think Princess Tomato would have any sort of cult following without him. He's a bumbling little imbecile, but we still love him to pieces. Also, as mentioned in the comments earlier, Octopus Prime has a cool text & screenshot Let's Play for Princess Tomato here. And there's another one here. So despite the game's many flaws, it's still a weird and wild game where you challenge an anthropomorphic bowl of salad to a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors ("Put up you fingers!")

Video gaming's greatest heroes!

In terms of good games this episode, we have a couple options.

Final Commando - Akai Yousai/Jackal

This might not be the most awesome boss we've seen in a Konami game so far. But it's pretty damned close.

A quick run of this game's various titlings: the original arcade game was called Tokushu Butai Jackal (Special Forces Jackal) in Japan and Top Gunner in the US. So naturally, when it came time for a home port, Konami released it under the names Final Commando in Japan and Jackal in the US! Oh, Konami, you crazy bastards! Also weird is that the US version has been expanded a bit. The levels are actually horizontally wider in the US cart, and there is an extra level. So for once, Japan got the bone.

Captain Tsubasa/Tecmo Cup Soccer Game

This isn't exactly the most subtle crotch shot I've seen in a sports game.

A completely original soccer/RPG game. You move your player around the field with the d-pad. But when it comes time to pass, shoot or evade opposing players, a little DQ style menu pops up that allows you to choose your action. All the actions play out with these very slick little animations of the characters running, kicking, etc. It's difficult to describe in words, but it's sort of like Blitzball from Final Fantasy X. Only not so annoying. I wonder if other sports games used this particular mechanic? I'll guess if there are any, we'll eventually come across them.

Sensha Senryaku - Sabaku no Kitsune/Desert Commander

A cool, though very simple military tactics game. Desert Commander, with its easy to use interface and speedy battles, is a breath of fresh air after the likes of Neunzehn and Fleet Commander. My main complaint is that Desert Commander is just too short. The NES and Famicom versions are identical, except for the fact that your headquarters is embellished with a nice big fat swastika in the Japanese cart!

I've noticed that I seem to negatively compare every single military tactics game we've encountered so far to Military Madness. Now I'm worried that I've built that game up to the point that when we finally reach Military Madness in some upcoming episode of Chronturbo, you guys will be expecting it to cure cancer and walk on water. It's good, but not that good.

Also, I dunno... maybe Freedom Force?

This is a US only Zapper game from Sunsoft. Noteworthy for the lengthy animated intro which has nothing to do with the game itself, as far as I can tell. And your character's name is 'Rad Rex" (and for bonus goofiness, your job title is "Terminator") It's the typical "shoot the bad guys but not the hostages" deal. I'd like Freedom Force better if grenades and machine guns didn't shave off half your life bar, and/or there was some way to refill your life bar besides the non-existent health packs.

The terrible games this time around are:

Kamen no Ninja Akakage

Another winner from the guys behind Hokuto no Ken! Only this time you play as a ninja who wears a gigantic frickin' red scarf! I thought ninjas were supposed to be silent assassins who vanished into the shadows. One illustration of Shouei System/Bear's apparent lack of programming know-how is that there can only be one type of enemy on the screen at once. Whenever you enter an area where a new type of enemy appears, any existing on-screen enemies will simply vanish into thin air!

Another well known ninja.

Deep Dungeon III

Another damned Deep Dungeon game! For this one, Square nixed the DOG imprint, and released it on a cartridge under their own name - a sure sign the FDS is dying. I guess DD III developer Humming Bird Soft saw Final Fantasy's sales figures and decided to add a four member party and character classes to this one. However, they forgot to not make it another dull, repetitive, Wizardry clone. And, lest I forget, there's a town, complete with inns and shops, in this game. But naturally, it's... inside a dungeon! For God's sake, what is this obsession with dungeons? Not everything has to be in a damned dungeon!!


Oh great, another port of an ancient action RPG. Elysion has been blessed with a high quality fan translation. But that won't prevent it from being an unplayable slog. It's one of those old-school RPGs where enemies give 9 experience points, and it takes 500 experience points to gain a level. And when you look at a walkthrough, it highly recommends you get up to level 8 before venturing out too far. Ha, ha! Wonderful! *hits cartridge eject button*

Major League Baseball

Family Stadium? No, I don't see any resemblance and have no idea what you are implying.

LJN learns a valuable lesson here. It's better to blow your development budget on an MLB license, as opposed to putting money into the game itself. After all, it's the box art that sells the game, right? Rather than wasting valuable time and money making a decent game, instead have Atlus rip some sprites out of Family Stadium, slap them over a crappy physics engine and call it a day. The important thing is that you have you have the names of real life MLB teams and the MLB logo on the box. An important truth has been discovered that future publishers would never forget.

Also this episode:

Namco Classic

Who knows why, but Namco decided not to call this "Family Golf." Just another golf game, I'm afraid.

Famicom Tantei Club - Kieta Koukeisha

It finally happened: Nintendo produced there very own Portopia clone. Just like Mukashi Banashi, this was released on two discs sold separately.

Meitantei Holmes: Kiri no London Satsujin Jiken

History's greatest green-haired detective.

Towa Chiki releases their second Sherlock Holmes game. This one is not nearly as bananas as 1986's Sherlock Holmes: Hakushaku Reijou Yuukai Jiken, covered in Chrontendo 13.


A heavily altered port of a Virgin Interactive Commodore 64 game based on the James Clavell novel.

Whew! What a relief. I'm already looking forward to Episode 32 with... Blaster Master! And the History of Adventure Games parts 3 & 4! Until then, head over to and check out Episode 31.


Anonymous said...

Thank you soooo much. :)

garsh said...

What did you mean about Jackal being "like Contra turned on its head"? You alluded to the NES Contra port being "cut down" from the arcade version. What's missing? Or are you maybe referring to the NES port from Famicom?

CJ Lowery said...

I hate to be that guy, but it's actually Octopus Prime, AKA Jeff, AKA the nicest man on the internet AKA also the only guy worse at Street Fighter IV than myself.

Anyway, this episode could not have came at a better time, as the ladyfriend and I do need something to watch during a dull family visit tonight. Thank you again!

Doctor Sparkle said...

CJ! Right you are! Corrected. Though I don't see how an episode of Chrontendo could make one's night any less dull.

Garsh - By Contra being cut down, I meant the US NES release was missing lots of stuff, like between-level cutscenes, that were in the Famicom release. When I played the Jap. version of Contra for Episode 28 I learned it was much cooler.

Jackal was just the opposite. The US version had stuff that wasn't in the Japanese version for the FDS.

garsh said...

I Agree, Doc, I love the added environmental effects in the Famicom version. That's the one I've been playing ever since it was translated. I'm thinking about buying a "reproduction" cartridge of that version to play on a real NES.

It didn't occur to me you might have meant that --instead of comparing NES and arcade (like it came across to me) until I'd already typed my initial question. Surely nobody could accuse either home version of cutting anything significant from the arcade.

Chris Osborne said...

We've hit a sad part of my Chrontendo watching. No longer will the wife and I be able to watch a new episode just because we feel like it. Guess I'll have to get my fix on the Sega and TurboGrafx stuff on my own since she has no interest in those.

gagano said...

Great episode. Also, I was wondering what PC 9801 emulator you were using.

gagano said...

Great episode. Also, I was wondering what PC 9801 emulator you were using.

qaylIS aka Nicolas Deußer said...

Nice episode, I especially liked your rundown of the adventure games in the west and the east, from the first computer days (these ancient mainframes really take you back) to these weird sierra games. Informative and Entertaining, they way I like your show.

Doctor Sparkle said...

The adventure game segment got really long really quick; hence it getting chopped in half. And let me tell you, the world of old Japanese computer games is so vast and unexplored, with thousands of weird titles out there. Anyway, the second part should be pretty cool, as it will feature games with better graphics and actual music!

And, in terms of PC-98 emulators, I've had good luck with two: Anex-86 and T-98 Next. Both have English interfaces, and are easy to use once you get the hang of it. Sometimes a game will play in one but not the other. Both require ROMs for the BIOS, etc.

gagano said...

Thanks, I've been trying to explore the mysterious world of retro japanese computers, and the pc 9801 is the only system that I've really had trouble with.

Doctor Sparkle said...

Well, here's the broken English run-down on T-98 Next:

gagano said...

Thanks doc. You wouldn't happen to know were I could find BIOS would you?

qaylIS aka Nicolas Deußer said...

@ gagano
Hmm, I don't know how it is in the US, but I think it would be problematic to answer the BIOS question, cause it is pirating if you get the BIOS from any source. This is the reason why most Emulators don't have the BIOS build in for the platform it emulates.
But on the other hand, the Emulators are a thorn in the eye of every manufacturer of consoles, so they bend the market to their liking.
This field is a very complex one, and I am sure I didn't hear the last of it, so the only thing I recommend is caution.

Doctor Sparkle said...

Well, the answer in these situations is that I don't know anything about the legality of distributing the PC-98 bios online, and that the only 100% legal way to get roms is to dump them yourselves. And maybe even that isn't legal in some countries! After all, supposedly you can't make a copy of a DVD for you own use.

On the other hand, some European emulations sites claim to have roms and bios for download. Googling "pc98 emulatori" will bring up several. Perhaps its legal it Italy? Not being able to read Italian myself, I can't speculate.

gagano said...

Fair enough. Thanks for all the help.

Tork said...

That Carrot Hermit and the clover juice puzzle was the worst part of Princess Tomato. It really gives you no indication that you have to go to him next before returning to the maze. Instead you get a message at the location where the Dice-O-Matic should be, and you end up wondering what the hell you should do.

I still like the game, but they should have just had the village chief say, "Oh, by the way, go talk to the hermit for reasons I won't go into." (And the hermit only takes the clover juice at that point. He'll turn it down before then.)

Doctor Sparkle said...

Oddly enough, the maze was one of the few times where talking to Percy came in helpful. After failing to find any sort of exit to maze, I asked Percy, who advised me to head back to the village. I'm beginning to think that Percy was the brains of that team.

Chris Sobieniak said...

- The Famicom Mini thing for the Game Boy Advance was also copied over to the US version as "Classic NES Series" or something like that, but obviously wouldn't have Famicom Tantei Club in it's roster of titles.

- Captain Tsubasa pretty much follows the same shonen sport genre that we've seen over and over and over, so I don't have to get into further details about that! Strangely I like how the substitute for Tsubasa is that douche bag Aryan you mentioned here, but I guess they had no choice when it came to Americanizing these properties (really, Robin could've been a Latino instead).

- Interesting hearing about "Softporn Adventure" coming out back in the early 80's. Doesn't surprise me at all! The whole "dying" part in these adventures games kept reminding me of the opening to the Tom Hanks film "Big", though I had never myself gotten into playing those type of games at all, but can understand the annoyance of going through them just to get froze in a trap. That "Rance" game has some pretty nifty music!

- The world of Princess Tomato kinda reminded me of some works where the artist might create such worlds where humans and anthropomorphic characters co-exist with or without such boundaries when it comes to relationships and all that. Some of the works of Johji Manabe like "Drakuun" may bring this to mind.

qaylIS aka Nicolas Deußer said...

knock knock...youre still there Doc, haven't heard of you for over a week.

Doctor Sparkle said...

Yeah, I'm back at last.

The whole humans and veggies thing still creeps me out. If vegetables can reproduce and have human offspring, does that mean the veggies and farmies are related? Is eating a vegetable cannibalism? Is that why the game takes and anti-vegetarian stance? It's like Goofy and Pluto or the fact that Hello Kitty has a pet cat: it just seems wrong.

Anonymous said...

So Doctor Sparkle,

I've been watching your series and reading your posts from the start, and i know that i'm still not up to date, seeing as these posts were made about a year ago,

in this episode, you cited the robot golfer's name as something other than what it appeared onscreen as. i believe it was written as Nakanoshima, or something.

but it just reminded me of something i wanted to run past you;
To encourage you to take a cursory overview of Japanese pronunciation.

in no way am i complaining; i'm very tolerant to cross-lingual mispronunciations, but i just figured it would behoove you in your project.

It is not something inaccessible; it would take ten minutes to familiarize yourself with the scheme, and then a couple of charts (one for each syllabary, or "alphabet").
You may not know _what_ you are saying, but you will always pronounce it correctly.

This is because Japanese is phonetic; you do not need to guess whether an "A" is long or short, it is always pronounced the same way.

Just thought i'd run it by you, and hopefully present it as something accessible to you, and helpful in Chrontendo.

Thank you so much for the series.
Eventually, i am hoping to undergo a chronological project of translating all yet-untranslated Famicom games. should the project materialize, and should you be interested, i'll be sure to let you know.

looking forward to catching up with your blog to the modern day.

killias2 said...

"I've noticed that I seem to negatively compare every single military tactics game we've encountered so far to Military Madness. Now I'm worried that I've built that game up to the point that when we finally reach Military Madness in some upcoming episode of Chronturbo, you guys will be expecting it to cure cancer and walk on water. It's good, but not that good."

Well, if anyone likes the Langrisser/Warsong games or Advance Wars, they should really check out Military Madness. The resemblance is really obvious, and this whole line of tactical games is really quite good.

What is the originator anyway? Is it Desert Commander? That seems to have basically the same battle system. Is there some PC title I'm missing?

Doctor Sparkle said...

As far as I know, the Dai Senryaku series kicked off the whole military tactics genre in Japan. It came out for Japanese computers in 1987, I think. But the genre is one of oldest on PCs in the West. It just slowly evolved over time.

And guess what game we'll be covering in the next Chronturbo?