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    Posted on June 16th, 2009 keving No comments

    In case you are a furry and/or Russian, this weblog now has an official LiveJournal syndicated feed to befriend.

  • [I ♥ The PC Engine] Power League

    Posted on June 16th, 2009 keving 2 comments

    Power LeaguePower League (パワーリーグ)
    (World Class Baseball)

    Maker: Hudson
    Release Date: 6/24/88
    Price:
    4900 yen
    Media:
    HuCard (2 Mbit)
    Genre: Sports
    PC Engine FAN Score: 21.16 / 30.00
    Kōgien: “A baseball game whose main draw is its bountiful selection of modes — versus, open, pennant, watch, and edit.”

    The first in what would eventually become a six-game-long series of Hudson PCE baseball sims. Also the only baseball title to see release on the TurboGrafx-16. (World Class Baseball has been on the Wii’s Virtual Console since 2007.)

    power-league-j-002 power-league-j-003

    This, alongside Jaleco’s 1987 Famicom release Moero!! Pro Yakyū (Bases Loaded in the US), established the “realistic” genre of baseball games as they existed in the 8/16-bit era, running in competition with the “toon” style represented by Family Stadium and (eventually) Konami’s Jikkyō Powerful Pro Yakyū series. The original Moero!! is infamous in Japan these days for being a bug-ridden mess, but its “like playing a TV broadcast” approach still made it a million-seller on both sides of the Pacific — probably why Hudson decided to clone it for the PCE instead of attempt to compete directly with Namco.

    The original Power League presents the field from a straight-on overhead view, an approach also taken by Sega’s Tommy Lasorda Baseball and by no other game in the history of mankind. Hudson switched over to a more traditional three-quarters view for the next game, which is appreciated, ‘cos the overhead viewpoint makes the game look pretty damn ugly. I don’t know how related it is, but the fielders are ridiculously slow with their relays, too — infield hits are extremely common off ground balls that are hit anywhere west of second base. (Things improved pretty quickly in the next game, though.)

    In its pursuit of realism, the Power League series has two unique trademarks — the edit mode, and the fact that every batter in the game takes a kannushi stance, keeping a very loose grip on the bat until the moment they swing (an extremely Japanese thing popularized by Hiromitsu Ochiai in the ’80s). Later Power Leagues would offer much more extensive editing, but this being the era before the PCE had any kind of memory storage, the first game only lets you change your teams’ starting members and batting order. Still, that’s a lot more than World Stadium allowed.

    This first game also has a very amusing bug, which wasn’t fixed for World Class Baseball. Place a pinch-hitter in for your pitcher and run through the inning. You’ll be asked to pick a new pitcher; instead, press I and II simultaneously, and you’ll see a phantom nameless pitcher throw a ball that goes straight down to the ground and stays there, essentially freezing the game and requiring a reset. Great for throwing the game with when you’re losing big.

    Finally (and most importantly, maybe): the first Power League has the best in-game music of the series, rivaled only by Power League V in 1992. Baseball games from this era, if they weren’t trying to copy the cheerleading you hear in real Japanese matches, had these crazy, frenetic soundtracks that sounded like something out of CBS Sports’ audio library. I adore ’em.

  • [I ♥ The PC Engine] R-Type II

    Posted on June 16th, 2009 keving No comments

    R-Type IIR-Type II

    Maker: Hudson
    Release Date: 6/3/88
    Price:
    4500 yen
    Media:
    HuCard (2 Mbit)
    Genre: Shooting
    PC Engine FAN Score: 22.60 / 30.00
    Kōgien: “The sequel to R-Type I on the PC Engine. Input the password given at the end of I to bring your power-ups over from the previous game. Not a port of the R-Type II arcade game.”

    The second half of R-Type, which received a two-part release on the PC Engine due to technical or economic reasons. This should naturally not be confused with R-Type II, the “real” sequel Irem released in 1989.

    3013

    As discussed in the R-Type I entry, this card contains only Stages 5 through 8 of the original arcade R-Type. Once you finished the four stages included with R-Type I, you received a password that you could type into R-Type II in order to begin Stage 5 with your Force and all power-ups intact as they existed at the end of Stage 4. You were free to begin at Stage 5 without entering a password, of course, if you didn’t mind starting with zero power-ups whatsoever. (Would you like to start at Stage 5 of any 1980s shooting game without any power-ups?)

    I’m repeating myself at this point, but R-Type was the first “killer app” the PC Engine enjoyed, one whose arcade-perfect qualities attracted a lot of attention from gamers nationwide and no doubt helped the system establish a fairly large user base. Having your system-selling game come out five months after the system itself was released would be seen as an unbelievable marketplace blunder in the modern game biz, but having the second part of it come out another two months after that? Gamers back then were extremely patient, I suppose.

    r-type-ii-j-001

    Considering that this is the second half of a full game, it goes without saying that R-Type II is a ridiculously difficult shooter. The final page of the R-Type I manual tells players to “polish up your skills and watch out” for R-Type II, and it is not clowning around when it says that, either. Back in the day I could get to Stage 5 about half the time and never made it farther than the opening of Stage 6, which means that I’ve technically never played more than half of this HuCard without cheating. (snif) R-Type II plays running demos of Stages 5, 6 and 7 if you don’t start a game, but the Stage 7 demo looks pretty much like a TAS to my eyes. Never in a million years would I be able to copy the moves shown off during it.

    It still goes without saying that R-Type demonstrates a sort of raw power that you really just don’t see among the rest of the PCE’s library at this point. Those giant centipedal things that occupy Stage 5, for example, are still impressive, to say nothing of the impact they must’ve had on the Famicom generation of the era. It was a great port, and it set the stage for the shooter/action arcade ports that would form the “HuCard golden age” for the PCE’s next couple years.


    Nicovideo account req’d. How to get one. Click that “…” word balloon on the bottom to turn off scrolly comments.

    In case you missed it last time, here is a TAS of the full PCE R-Type, including the password interstitial in between HuCards.

    If you already saw that, however, how about another diversion? Here’s a comparative overview of the Stage 1 tune from all manner of R-Type ports:

    • Arcade original
    • PC Engine port, which I consider a fuller, deeper improvement on the original
    • Commodore 64 port, which does its own thing and I respect that
    • Game Boy port, which is hard, metallic and Game Boy-like
    • Sega Master System port, which proves that although the 8-bit technical wizards at Compile accomplished a great many things in their time, they completely failed to make the AY-3-8910 sound any good