Posted on June 30th, 2009 11 comments
Maker: Naxat Soft
Release Date: 9/14/88
Price: 5200 yen
Media: HuCard (2 Mbit)
PC Engine FAN Score: 22.66 / 30.00
Kōgien: “The pinball table is laden with aliens which you must defeat through your ball control. Fulfill the required conditions and shoot the ball into the alien’s mouth to reach a bonus stage. The enormous table is divided into two vertical screens.”
A couple of firsts in PCE history here — the first game from Naxat Soft, and by relation (since they coded a lot of their PCE games), the first of several classic titles on the system that Compile was involved with. (The TG16 release of Alien Crush has a Hudson Soft credit, but I don’t know how they got into the act, unless they were responsible for redrawing the US version’s title screen — the only difference between the two cards.)
I could write an MBA thesis about Compile — the company that made its new employees wear pink shirts for the first year on the job — but I want to save that for later so I can discuss Naxat Soft/Taxan/Kaga Electronics. At the late ’80s, there was only Kaga Tech, an electronics distributor that used “Taxan” as their US/Europe consumer brand. Largely they worked in monitors, and I remember all the Apple IIs in the middle-school lab sporting off-brown Taxan amber-screen jobbies. They went into the video-game biz big in 1988, taking a surprisingly hardcore approach to the console industry. Naxat released games like…well, Alien Crush; Taxan licensed classics like Star Soldier and commissioned the chronically underappreciated KID shooter Burai Fighter exclusively for America. The Naxat label survived through the 16-bit generation before losing its way on the PlayStation and releasing everything from soccer simulations to ridiculous fighting game Killing Zone; they changed names to Kaga Tech in 1998 and gradually descended into girl-game purgatory.
The PCE was Naxat’s canvas of choice; they put out 50 games on the thing and were one of the few third-parties in Japan to throw a bone at the PC-FX, albeit a rotten mahjong one. Their debut effort is, I feel, a game that defines the early PCE better than most other titles — dark, dank, not appetizing to casuals, more rewarding as you plunge more and more time into it. The game’s a little bare-bones by modern standards — one two-screen pinball table, four bonus stages that are all kind of the same thing; Devil’s Crush improved mightily on those faults — but in many ways, it’s the most impactful release of the TG16 launch era. Everything oozes atmosphere, from that cute hive-mind thingie on the bottom screen to the bonus-screen music, which uses a bass instrument that sounds like it came off an Atari 2600. Can’t get enough of it.
I wonder if NEC should’ve pushed this a little harder in America. Aliens wasn’t that old back then, either. The game has some programming issues that could’ve used fixing — it’s disorienting when the ball flits between screens rapidly, and the sound effects have a tendency to horn in on the music channels, ruining the song — but it’s still an amazing piece of audiovisual work.
Alien Crush is perhaps famous for its ending — a silly, 5-second-long one, accessible only by spending approximately 12 hours straight, no saving or passwords or nothin’, to max out your score. Instead of inlining that video, I want you to view this general gameplay clip, which should give some clue to both the game’s primitive pinball simplicity and that atmosphere I keep harping on.
Posted on June 28th, 2009 No comments
Maybe it says something about fans of MMORPGs when Sony Online Entertainment holds a weekend-long Fan Faire and the first thing people complain about on their forums is that there was not enough food.
Gentlemen, it’s a nerd convention, not the Steakountry Buffet.
Here’s a picture of the woefully nourishment-denied EverQuest II fanbase attending one of the panels, as floated across twitpic:
Posted on June 27th, 2009 11 comments
Mashin Eiyūden Wataru
(Keith Courage in Alpha Zones)
Release Date: 8/30/88
Price: 4900 yen
Media: HuCard (2 Mbit)
PC Engine FAN Score: 19.48 / 30.00
Kōgien: “A game themed after the TV anime of the same name. The peppy music and animation are enjoyable. Play is divided into two sections: the Wataru part where you gather information and purchase items, and the largely battle-oriented Ryūjin-maru part.”
I hate this game so much! Nobody likes it! It’s so crummy, it makes my eyes turn red and my nose ooze pus! I hate the inane action, the tinkly music, the cheap deaths, everything! Nobody in Japan likes it, either, because thanks to its release in the early region of the original anime’s TV run, it shares only a passing resemblance story-wise to the show it’s based on.
Mashin Eiyūden Wataru, the anime, ran from April 15, 1988 to March 31, 1989 on NTV. The very short version of its plot: 9-year-old Wataru Ikusabe is taken to the God Worlds when he visits a pond known as Ryūjin-ike, or Dragon God Pond. In the middle of this land lies Sōkaizan (創界山), the Montain of the Creation of the World. The evil emperor is holed up in there, ruling over the mountain with some other gods, and Wataru has to pilot the Ryūjin-maru robot to get back the mountain’s seven symbolic rainbows and restore peace to the land. He requires forty-five episodes to accomplish this, but you only need a few hours and the debug-mode cheat, you lucky man.
If anime dorks know this series, it’s strictly because a 21-year-old Megumi Hayashibara got her first really big voice-actress role in it, playing the girl that Keith Courage calls “Nurse Nancy.” If video game dorks know this title, it’s strictly because it was localized into the worst pack-in game ever devised.
Why all the hate? Just look at this video, depicting the final level of the game. Note how many enemies require multiple hits for no reason. Marvel at how the game doesn’t scroll vertically unless forced to at gunpoint, making spikes (which end your game immediately with a single scrape) invisible to you until it’s too late. Be amazed at the fact that, once again, if you were a launch-day adopter you would’ve been paying over $300 in 2008 dollars in order to purchase a TG16 with this pack-in.
The Legendary Axe was right there, people! Why?!! *turns into robot, cuts metallic wrists*
Posted on June 26th, 2009 2 comments
Nihon Break Kogyo is apparently no more. The Yokohama-based demolitions firm was an Internet sensation about five years ago because one of their contracted part-time employees (who’s now a full-time professional musician) created a “company anthem” that totally rocked. You may remember it from the below video:
NBK commissioned this anthem in 2002 as part of a new PR package for its clients; it got into the hands of Tamori sometime in late 2003, he introduced it on TV, and it became a huge hit, even winding up on a Taiko Drum Master disc.
Their site suddenly went offline June 19. People assumed they had simply been done in by the poor economy, but the truth is far stranger:
“The 43-year-old president of a subsidiary that handled management rights for the NBK anthem, and his mother, a 65-year-old that had been with the company since its founding and ran all of its accounting, conspired together to embezzle the majority of the outfit’s money. A paper company that the woman’s new husband was president of was also involved in it. They were exposed in January this year, but they took the company for at least 500 million yen [$5.22 million] over the past three years — and that’s just what they’ve found so far. The company’s total yearly income only averaged 150 million yen, so they were in no shape to continue functioning.”
The company’s 20-person staff were all laid off in January, leaving only the president and founder, who’s preparing to sue the perpetrators in civil court. The article states that the mother-and-son team handled all of the royalties from the song, which means NBK itself never saw a single aluminum 1-yen piece from the massive, stereotypically Japanese boom.
Shame. The song’s pretty “I was diddling with my Casio” in style, but you can’t deny it’s catchy. There was a period in 2004 where you couldn’t walk ten feet in Akihabara without hearing this melody wafting through the air, offering a slight (very slight) respite from the hateful Sato Musen and Sofmap jingles of death.
Posted on June 26th, 2009 No comments
360 ：名無しさん＠十周年：2009/06/26(金) 07:29:08 ID:ewvqKG6bP
I don’t get any of this
Someone explain it in Gundam terms
386 ：名無しさん＠十周年：2009/06/26(金) 07:30:05 ID:Q9LxEgMI0
Char dies in battle in Episode 1
Posted on June 25th, 2009 2 comments
Hello, Magweaselers. Today I want to talk to you about Mr. Takanori Hashimoto, 7th dan in professional shogi over in Japan.
Here’s what Hashimoto looks like:
Posted on June 25th, 2009 4 comments
The next game chronologically on the ol’ PC Engine release docket is Mashin Eiyūden Wataru — better known to us red-blooded U.S.Americans as good ol’ Keith Courage in Alpha Zones, the worst pack-in game ever packed-in to anything.
While playing (more like wading my way) through Wataru, I ran through a mental exercise in my mind: What, if any, better game available at the time of the TurboGrafx-16’s August 1989 launch would have been a more suitable pack-in? Well, if we’re counting the entirety of Japan, quite a lot. R-Type, for example. But that’s a 4-megabit HuCard. Let’s say that NEC wanted to keep the pack-in game to two megs to save money. What then? This is an extremely important decision, you know — the pack-in gives your audience their very first impression of the console, and it better be a good one, or else they won’t see any point in buying the thing. (Let’s ignore the fact that NEC thought Bikkuriman World was a great launch title for the Japan market.)
For reference, I’ve scanned in two relevant pages from the Sears Wishbook: Holiday 1989, which devotes five pages to the NES, three to the Genesis and Master system, four to Atari’s assorted systems (sheesh), and a single spread to the TG16. Given that Sears put out their wishbooks around October, this is a pretty good outline of what was available for the Turbo at launch. If you were NEC’s US video-game project manager, which game would you throw into the system box?
The answer’s actually pretty simple. The $59 games are all three megabits, so those get cut out immediately. That leaves Keith Courage, Victory Run, The Legendary Axe, Alien Crush, and China Warrior. Hmm. To me, the choice is between Legendary Axe and Alien Crush, and between those two I’d take Legendary Axe ‘cos it’s fast action, it’s pretty fun, it looks demonstrably better than anything the NES could manage, and it’s from a genre that has universal appeal. (I always thought it was a mistake for Atari to make Pole Position II the pack-in for the 7800. Not the greatest mistake they made with that platform, but…)
My guess is that NEC USA had a similar conversation going on internally but went with Keith Courage because their main partner Hudson, and not a third party, coded it. Life can be unfair like that sometimes. NEC made up for it with their 4-in-1 TurboDuo CD, but by then it was far too late.
(PS. What’s worse — spending $199, or $341.31 in 2008 dollars, for a TG16 with Keith Courage, or spending a total of $589, $1012.28 in ’08 dollars, for the right to play Keith Courage…and Fighting Street?)
Posted on June 23rd, 2009 8 comments
Release Date: 8/12/88
Price: 4900 yen
Media: HuCard (2 Mbit)
PC Engine FAN Score: 23.25 / 30.00
Kōgien: “A truly excellent tennis game, one that was later actually ported to arcades. A variety of ways to enjoy the game, from the multitap four-player matches and RPG-like quest mode to single matches against some very unique players.”
Hey! Where do you think this music comes from? An RPG? A fancy medieval military situation? Pfft! Whatever! If you said “an arcade port of a tennis game,” then you win the glory, the immortality, the genteel comfort that arises from knowing so much about tennis games.
Namco’s PCE library is chock full of arcade ports (they didn’t put out an original game until ’89), but this is a bit of a different case. World Court is a port of the Famicom title Family Tennis, released over there in December of 1987, the first of a long line of tennis games that can be traced all the way to 2007’s Smash Court Tennis 3 on the PSP. It could be argued that Family Tennis was the first video-tennis title of the 8-bit generation that both was fun and looked recognizably like tennis. I owned Nintendo’s own Tennis as a child, hated it, and still played it to death. I was a child, so I had a tolerance for this sort of thing.
Like the baseball titles of the era, all the players in the game have names that are highly reminiscent of real athletes, but not enough to elicit lawsuits — Ivan Lendl becomes “Condle” こんどる, and Mats Wilander is “nirande-ru” にらんでる, Japanese for “staring at you.” Horrible puns are the order of the day here.
This PCE port, besides featuring nicer graphics, allows for 4-player doubles via the Multitap, making this the first title on the system that could be called a multiplayer “killer app” with a straight face.
But the real highlight of the PCE World Court, in my uncultured opinion, is undoubtedly the cheapo RPG mode they threw in. The fact there’s an RPG in World Court should give you some idea of how intensely popular role-playing was as a genre on Japanese consoles around this time. (It’s also amusing to think that this is the PCE’s second RPG chronologically after Jaseiken Necromancer.)
The RPG mode is, to say the least, pretty forced. You are the hero of the land of Ohanahan (a spoof of Aliahan, the world Dragon Quest III is set in), and you must go out on a quest to eliminate the evil tennis overlord who’s stolen a mystical tennis ball and passed out pieces of it to his underlings. Instead of random battles, you have random challengers who you run into on the world map; you have the right to refuse their challenge (ie. run away from battle), but sometimes it fails and you’re forced to play a game of tennis anyway. There is no experience system, so instead you power up by earning money from tennis games and purchasing equipment in towns — rackets increase your serve velocity; shirts make it easier to refuse matches (how does this work?! Am I wowing the dude with my rad ’80s tennis gear?!); and shoes bump up your running speed.
There is something very charming about this mode, despite its lame RPG elements and loony, in-jokey dialogue (the humor of which is sadly erased in the poorly-written TG16 localization). It’s mainly the quick pace, I suppose — you can warp between previously-visited towns at will, and none of the tennis battles take more than a couple minutes to resolve. A good player can wrap everything up in a couple of evenings, and the gameplay — like I said, this is the first really fun 8-bit tennis game — more than keeps your attention.
I’m a bit torn over which video to include with this entry. YouTube is more convenient for all of us, I know, so I’ll just paste this video of some sample gameplay. I’d really like to attach this Nico-video, though — it shows a player fighting the last boss without collecting all the pieces of the magical tennis ball, which means that the tennis overlord’s serves are ridiculously fast. Hilarious to watch.
Posted on June 22nd, 2009 5 comments
Release Date: 7/15/88
Price: 4900 yen
Media: HuCard (2 Mbit)
PC Engine FAN Score: 23.06 / 30.00
Kōgien: “An upgraded Space Invaders-type game, but one with a lot of depth. The power-up system, where you rescue and join with fighters captured by the enemy, is in this game as well. A passable arcade port.”
Namco’s second PCE game, and another well-done arcade port that would’ve been perfect if the staff had just a little more than 2 megabits of space to work with. (The PCE port lacks a fair bit of animation and the interstitial alien cutscenes, but includes a hidden “Second Quest” of sorts that has different endines and power-ups dropped by enemies. Access it by holding Up and pressing Run on the title.)
Galaga ’88’s Wikipedia page is remarkably detailed and more complete than even the Japanese-language one. To it I’ll only add that the PCE port plays very close to the arcade, as close as is really possible given the comparatively cramped screen. (The home game is a bit more difficult than the 1987 original simply because the horizontal TV screen means there’s less empty space between you and the aliens.) Like Yōkai Dōchūki, the game’s from the golden age of Namco — nearly every one of their System 1 arcade titles have a lovely, refined, avant-garde audiovisual sense that is like nothing games saw before or since.
(In many ways Namco valued style just as much as gameplay during this era. You can see this in the bonus stages, where you get just as many bonus points for just sitting there and enjoying the Galactic Dancin’ as you would’ve received for a perfect performance.)
More console-recorded super playing. Take a look at this video if you don’t what I’m talking about in the previous paragraph. Then take a look at the X68000 port, which has an exclusive Arrange Mode with Namco characters of all sorts making cameo appearances.
(Buttons I and II both fire in Galaga ’88, making rapid fire easy and also kind on the fingers.)
Posted on June 19th, 2009 3 comments
I really didn’t know a lot about the Ethics Organization of Computer Software before they got mentioned in The Phantom of Akihabara. By sheer coincidence, they’re front-and-center in the Japan news media right now thanks to RapeLay, so I thought I’d discuss what they do for a bit and how it relates to the current state of Japan’s eroge business.
Before the EOCS (usually called “Sofu-rin” ソフ倫 in Japanese) was established in 1992, there were not much regulation at all of Japan’s adult game industry. There were occasional controversies, such as when 177 was brought up within Japan’s House of Representatives, but largely the industry enjoyed a remarkable amount of freedom. This all changed with the 1991 release of Saori, an adventure game which features non-censored depictions of (among other things) lesbian incest, fauther/daughter incest, and the game’s heroine taking a piss. A Kyoto middle-schooler was caught shoplifting Saori, causing a news sensation in Japan when the game’s content was fully examined. The developer and publisher had their offices raided by the police, and the president at the time was arrested for the sale of indecent images.
In response, adult-game publishers stepped up their own standards (starting with blurring sexual organs, just like adult video-makers had to do) and limited sale to people 18 and over. There was no unified system, however, and things got worse for the industry when the southern prefecture of Miyazaki banned the sale of several titles in 1992 that did not explicitly state “18 or over” on the box. (One of these, Cybernetic Hi-School, was produced by GAINAX, the Evangelion company. They fought Miyazaki prefecture all the way up to Japan’s supreme court, but lost the case.)
In response, the Japan Personal Computer Software Association (JPSA) requested that adult game publishers establish a cross-industry system to more effectively deal with legal challenges. This led to the founding of the EOCS in August ’92 and the creation of a standard “18+ only” sticker for game boxes. The EOCS initially rated software 18+ or general-audience, but introduced a 15+ rating in June 1994 for games that had some objectional content (such as underage drinking) but no graphic sex. EOCS member companies are obligated to have all of their software rated by the outfit, including any non-adult-oriented stuff they release.