Sunday, February 5, 2012

Your Pre-Superbowl Update.

One of the things that led me to start Chrontendo was the number of mysterious, obscure and bizarre sounding Famciom games that were never released in the US. Once every single official Famicom release was dumped and made readily available online, everyone suddenly had access to all these strange sounding titles.  One that always stuck out for me was Jesus: Kyoufu no Bio Monster/Jesus: Dreadful Bio-Monster. What in God's name could that game possibly be about? Jesus and a "bio-monster?" A bio-monster named Jesus? What the heck is a "bio-monster," anyway? Why does the word "bio" keep turning up in Japanese game titles? (Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa, Bio Senshi Dan.)

Well, with Episode 43 we'll finally reach March 1989 and with it, Jesus: Kyoufu no Bio Monster.  At last our questions about this game will be answered! Sadly, Jesus... is nowhere near as weird as the name suggests. It is simply another Japanese adventure game; though it is a relatively high-quality game originally released by Enix.  The Jesus of the title is not the well-known Jesus, but simply a space station named "Jesus." Not addressed in the game is why anyone would name a space station that. In fact, the space station plays very little part in the game and is rarely mentioned. My dreams of playing some nutty Japanese game with a gonzo take on Christianity have been shattered.

You suffer from a bad case of anime hair.

The plot of Jesus: Kyoufu no Bio Monster is lifted from a very secular source: the 1978 Dan O'Bannon/Ridley Scott film Alien. In Jesus the xenomorph was hiding out on Halley's Comet, infiltrated a space ship, then killed everyone on board.  The hero, some anime dude with hair that alternates between red, pink and purple, explores the hallways and storage areas of an empty spaceship while occasionally encountering the creature. Eventually he defeats the monster, though methods too absurd to repeat here (I'm not kidding: the secret weapon used against the creature is jaw-droppingly dumb.)

Jesus: Kyoufu no Bio Monster has its strengths -- great music by Koichi Sugiyama, of Dragon Quest fame, and art design by Shintaro Majima, who later became the head of Arte Piazza, the guys responsible the DS Dragon Quest ports, among other things.  Yet it still suffers from the same problems that plague so many other Japanese adventure games of the Famicom era.  On the surface, Jesus appears to offer a non-linear and open-ended experience. You can wander around the ship freely, looking for clues and items. But in reality, the game enforces a strict, linear, series of events, mostly through a series of triggers, which are often hidden.

The game is not subtle about its influences.

For example, at one point you encounter the alien in a freezer. If you had entered the freezer earlier, you would have noticed a valve to release some liquid coolant. The game originally forbids you from opening the valve, instead advising you it would be too dangerous to release the coolant. By this point you already know the alien is sensitive to cold and have armed yourself with some sort of freeze ray gun.  Once you encounter the alien in the freezer, it's pretty obvious you are going to need to open that valve.  However, again, the game does not allow you to turn the valve.  So instead you use your freeze ray again. However, the freeze ray has suddenly run out of power.  It is then screamingly obvious that you are going to use the valve to release the coolant and freeze the alien.  Yet, once again, if you try to open the valve, the game advises you it's too dangerous, despite the fact that there is a cold-sensitive alien standing there about to bite your head off.  No matter how many times to try to open the valve, the game refuses to do so.

Those of you with experience in adventure games might be trying to think of a logical solution to this puzzle. Maybe there was an item you forgot to pick up, like an environmental suit to protect you from the coolant. Or maybe searching the room will reveal a control panel to activate a blast shield to seal off the part of the room you're in.  However, the actual solution is nothing like that. Instead you need to use your freeze ray again, despite the fact you already tried to use it once and were told it was non-operational. Once you try to use the freeze ray for the third time, the game will suddenly suggest you use the coolant valve instead. Then, and only then, will the option to turn the valve be unlocked. You can't just figure out that the valve needs to be turned, you need to figure out how to get the game to tell you to turn the valve.

This style of puzzle perfectly sums up Jesus: Kyoufu no Bio Monster and all the frustrations it produces.

Episode 43 will be a little heavy on the adventure games. We will also cover Hikaru Genji - Roller Panic, a game staring a popular 80s Japanese boy band, as well as Ankoku Shinwa: Yamato Takeru Densetsu and little something you may have heard of called Shadowgate.

Episode 43 is totally a real thing and will be happening before too much longer. Check back later.


Kevin "k8track" Moon said...

Great to see you back, Dr. Sparkle, and I hope you and your family are healthy and doing well. I look forward to the next episode.

Regarding the mysterious choice of name for "Jesus: Kyoufu no Bio Monster", perhaps there is a secret bowling mini-game starring a purple-clad John Turturro that you can somehow unlock. Maybe try using the freeze ray a few more times?

parish said...

Obviously, to activate the Turturro minigame, you'll need to lure out that particular bio-monster by recruiting the eight-year-old into your party... dude.

GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I actually played pretty far into that Jesus game when the translation was first released. "I'm going to figure out what this nonsense is all about," thought I to myself (thought I). And, really, I was enjoying it well enough, even though progressing seemed to revolve around entering every room and interacting with everything until I found the necessary trigger. It was reasonably atmospheric. But, no surprise, at some point I couldn't find the next trigger and just sort of gave up.

In conclusion, as far as these things go, I preferred Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom. The End.

Doctor Sparkle said...

Pederasty fans should take note that the subject will be touched upon during the discussion of another game in Ep 43: Hiraku Shinwa.

It is REALLY easy to get stuck in Jesus: Kyoufu no Bio Monster because you didn't inspect some particular crate and thus failed to find the hidden trigger. A walkthrough or an extraordinary amount of patience is required. Obviously, I used a walkthrough.

plsburydoughboy said...

Er, I can't wait? Pederastry, huh, dunno if I want to know what that is >__< And after everyone here clamoring you release the next ep fast. Be careful what you wish for, I guess.

matt.mcneely said...

The little I knew about Jesus: Dreadful Bio-monster going into this episode led me to believe it would be a bit of a let-down. Oh well. Should be interesting seeing how you visually represent the frustrating nature of the game in the video.

Chris Sobieniak said...

Hearing about that Jesus game made me think of the horrid OVA out there called "Roots Search" (don't ask).

Doctor Sparkle said...

I went online and took a look at Roots Search, and Jesus: Kyoufu no Bio Monster does seem a little like that.

However, I did love Roots Search's ending which seems to be ripped off directly from Lucio Fulci's The Beyond!

Kamiboy said...

The shocking truth behind the name of the station need not be any more extraordinary than it being named after a spanish person whose name is pronounced Hesus.

If only NES games had voice acting, then we could settle the matter once and for all.

Kamiboy said...

As for the prevalence of the loan word Bio in Japan. Well, the thing is the Japanese display a bizarre and incomprehensible affinity towards a whole host of foreign words that often are rarely employed in their language of origin.

From the top of my head I tally things such as Atelier, Panzer, Dimensional or my favourite variety, Super Dimensional.

There are many more that for the moment escape me. A surprising number of random german words for an example.

Niahak said...

Hey Dr. Sparkle,
I'm actually the guy that fan-translated this one. I'm glad to see such a well-written overview of it (I, too, was taken aback by the name and purchased it for that reason alone). I share many of your opinions on this one: good atmosphere, poor execution.

Just in case anyone IS interested in slogging through this one, I've been working on a re-translation effort to get around the character limit. Should be out in a few months. It also has a PC98 sequel, which I know very little about.

@Kamiboy: Since the name is in katakana, the mystery is already solved since it's phonetic. It is absolutely *that* Jesus (Jiizasu).

Doctor Sparkle said...

Niahak - Very cool! Fan translators like you are doing a huge favor to the retrogaming community by making these games accessible to more people. While, the game was pretty flawed, I'm glad an English version exists.
Nice to hear there's a new version coming. I assume it will be closer to the game script you posted online?

Kamiboy - Don't forget about the most infamous Japanese loanword of all: lolita! On the other hand, I hear that words like otaku and hentai have radically different connotations for the Japanese than they do for westerners.

Deep down in my heart, I hope that someone at Enix was actually a huge Jesus Lizard fan.

Anonymous said...

Ah, when I saw the name of this title I got excited and thought I would see another Shin Megami Tensei type game... Ya know, in Shin Megami Tensei 2 for the SNES, you actually interact with folks from the Bible and even fight Yahweh at the end of the game as a final boss... pretty crazy stuff.

qaylIS aka Nicolas Deußer said...

Don't look down on the japanese who lend words from german. I just say Zeitgeist, Angst, Kindergarten, Weltenschmerz, Wunderkind, Schadenfreude or the always (in)famous Blitzkrieg. What creeps me out is the wrong pronounciation which often follows, especially when it comes to names. Okay, I understand that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe gets the short-end of the stick, when english speaking people pronounce the "th" like they use to, and not like it was originally intended. And I can get that the correct pronounciation of Immanuel Kant can offend some people. Though it is also hard to accept that the japanese lend german words without asking...but at least they try to spell them correctly =)

Doctor Sparkle said...

Let me tell you, in the US, schadenfreude is the loanword success story of the last decade. Not that long ago, it was a semi-obscure word that you would encounter only occasionally. Now, I see it all the time. I think its usage exploded during the real estate collapse and the subsequent financial crisis.

In my town, everyone pronounces Goethe to rhyme with "Katie." There was a guy named Charles Goethe who was a local bigshot, so there is a park, street, etc, named after him. I assume his family altered the pronunciation to Gay-tee after they came to the US. Sort of similar to the song Danke Schoen, in which schoen is pronounced in in the Yiddish fashion, like "Shayne."

Kamiboy said...

The Japanese use of foreign words that I am talking about is different in nature than things like German, French etc. words becoming household expression in English.

That sort of language cross pollination is an ancient concept. Japan has a huge, huge staple of such imported words used in everyday language.

But the phenomenon I am referring to is different from this. It is more of a case of mostly anime and game titles being adorned with a repertoire of random foreign words that are not loanwords per say, because they are not meaningful part of everyday language such as schadenfreude or lolita complex.

The motivation for their use is harder to explain. They seem to be used not to convey any meaning, because they seemingly have not one on their own, but are there more for the sake of aesthetics.

Throwing in Bio is one such example. Panzer is another. Dragoon is yet another. The word Valkyrie in the title of products not always belays the presence of Nordic mythology in said title. There are better examples of this that escape me for the moment.

qaylIS aka Nicolas Deußer said...

Yo Doc, I know you are a regular reader of Harcordegaming 101, but there is a possibility that you haven't seen this...and also there might be some other people who didn't see it. Its a Famitsu Poll of the 100 most beloved Famicom games: Check it out people!

GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Wasn't there discussion of that list in some previous Chrontendo episode? There certainly was of SOME "top hundred" list, and it seems likely that it was that one.

qaylIS aka Nicolas Deußer said...

That was the Top 100 Games list, not specific to consoles...but I just saw that I misread the post at HG101, it is a repost of the 2003 list, cause it isn't posted anywhere anymore. HG101 reposted it, because they believe next year will be an new list from famitsu for their 30th anniversary. Nevertheless, interesting list...I mean, Spelunker is on place 23...WTF? and what about Gradius 2? It is on the 100th spot. Thanks Japan, deep look inside your minds.

Matt said...

Hey, Filler here. I discovered your videos a few weeks ago when doing a Pia Carrot related search and I just finished catching up to the latest episode. I have to say, great job! I love your roundups and contextualizing of these classic games, and really just the sense of continuity the chronological play-through gives. A big thank you for tackling this monumental project and for the recognition you give fan translators. I especially appreciated the good showing you gave WtPC. Though now that I think of it, you neglected to mention the multiple endings for Hoshi wo Sagashite which I always thought was a neat thing for that era of game. Anyway, just nitpicking. :) You're really making a great contribution with these. I'm looking forward to episode 43!

mpx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mpx said...

Hello :)

I foud some missing things in your chronology list

Les Chevaliers du Zodiaque is missing...

Daiku no Gen-san has european release in 1992 as Hammerin Harry

International Cricket is missing...

Over Horizon was released in Europe

Parasol Stars full name is Parasol Stars: The Story of Bubble Bobble 3

Here is list of PAL only NES games:

mpx said...

Also here is full release of Codemasters/Camerica

Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy, April 1991
Firehawk, September 1991
Aladdin Deck Enhancer incl. Dizzy the Adventurer, November 1992
Quattro Arcade
Quattro Sports
Quattro Adventure
Big Nose the Caveman
Big Nose Freaks-Out
Linus Spacehead's Cosmic Crusade
Micro Machines
Ultimate Stuntman
Stunt Kids
Bee 52

Some games are missing in yout list

mpx said...

Some games made by Hacker International are missing from list

The Professor said... ME!!!

matt.mcneely said...

I second The Professor's comment. We need an update.

Doctor Sparkle said...

Hey Filler, I'm glad you liked it. Hopefully, we'll be seeing Pia Carrot 2 soon?

MPX - Thanks for the info. I'm going to have to tackle all those unlicensed games at some point. However, I know my list of unlicensed games is far from complete, so this sort of information is really helpful. I'll update "The List" when I get a chance.

Matt said...

Heh, unfortunately not right away. :( I thought we were further along but we discovered a bunch of untranslated script. This year is a possibility. FYI: You may have seen it already, but if not you may want to check out the progress video I posted to YouTube. It's on my projects page (WtPC2). It contains translated game-play for the first 10 minutes or so.

Your videos are inspiring me to look at some Famicom projects too. We'll see what crops up in the future.