[I ♥ The PC Engine] Fantasy ZonePosted on July 14th, 2009 2 comments
Maker: NEC Avenue
Release Date: 10/14/88
Price: 4900 yen
Media: HuCard (2 Mbit)
PC Engine FAN Score: 22.47 / 30.00
Kōgien: “The hero Opa-Opa can walk on the ground. He collects money from defeated enemies to purchase power-ups from the shops. The game is surprisingly difficult and will not be finished easily by most players. A port of the Sega arcade game.”
The fourth port of Fantasy Zone to home systems, chronologically, after the Master System, MSX and Famicom. (It could be argued that the MS version is a sort of “parallel” to the arcade game, since both were developed simultaneously in 1986 and have a range of differences.)
Although this game looks very faithful to the original, the controls are a bit of a pain and the music is simply awful — not unfaithful to the arcade tracks, but just very poorly rendered on the PCE’s sound technology. Despite this, PC Engine FAN readers rated it surprisingly high.
This is the first PCE title from NEC Avenue, a satellite company of NEC’s formed in 1987 to be their record label. They worked on a great deal of PCE hardware and software, starting out with ports of Sega, Taito and Capcom arcade titles and moving on to girl-games as time went on. They also produced a bunch of game music soundtracks, including Koji Hayama’s Cho Aniki music collection — something that no gamer, really, should be without.
NEC’s internal software and accessory development was spun off to a new division, NEC Interchannel, in 1995, with Avenue remaining as a record label until ’98. Interchannel was exclusively a girl-game maker — until very recently, I think the only non-gal-game they published in Japan was Puyo Puyo CD 2, coincidentally their inaugural release — and they went independent in 2004 after NEC sold the 70% share it had in the outfit.
During the Avenue era, much of NEC’s internal software development was led by a man named Toshio Tabeta, a name infamous among PCE fans. He’s a talented man, and he produced some great stuff, but his reputation for perfectionism (perhaps speared by complaints toward this Fantasy Zone port) led to his titles getting delayed, and delayed, and delayed, sometimes into oblivion. Space Fantasy Zone, which was announced in 1993 and all but completed for the Super CD-ROM but was never released after four years on magazine “Coming Soon” lists, is the most classic example. Another one: Strider, originally announced as a HuCard but then bouncing through every possible PCE format there is before finally coming out as an Arcade Card-exclusive title in 1994. Not once, but twice, he made promises to magazines that “if my game’s delayed any longer, I’ll shave my head” — and then performed the act right in front of their cameras a few months later.
He’s a colorful figure, and he’s still in the business running Prototype, a Japanese outfit that mostly publishes ports of famous girl-games to home consoles and cell phones.
Compare this video to the arcade game, and I think except for the dual-layered scrolling, it’s a remarkably nice-looking port. Not a nice-sounding one, but still. Note that Level 2 of this game is the first time ever that a PCE title uses a shite-ton of sprites to mimic the effect of layered scrolling — a trick that got pretty common later on in the console’s life cycle.
Mind citing a source for that bit about Toshio Tabeta shaving his head over Strider? I and a few others are curious if this is what started the whole “someone killed themselves over Strider” rumor.
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