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  • Super Family Gelände (Namco, February 1998)

    Posted on August 30th, 2009 keving 4 comments

    A more well-rounded test of YouTube annotation. In a way I like YT annotations over subtitles for things like these because the annotations don’t get compressed with the video and don’t take up as much onscreen space, but the annotation-editing interface (while simple) is very time-consuming for projects like this. For that reason alone I might switch to more traditional subtitling in the future; not having to move between the mouse and keyboard all the time would save a lot of drudge work.

    Super Family Gelände (スーパーファミリーゲレンデ), as you’ll probably notice in this video, is the spiritual 2D ancestor to Namco’s We Ski (2008). The story mode is but a small part of the full game, which places the main emphasis on time trials and such as you blaze the eight slopes available. Since it’s only an option and not the main thrust, I suppose the developers felt safe in making the story as silly as possible — the chapters only get more amusing as time goes on, and you’re doing something different in each one, so it never gets boring. If there’s interest, I could make this story mode the next “running series” here after I’m done with The Phantom of Akihabara.

    This game bears a copyright date of 1995 but wasn’t actually released until February 1, 1998 — exclusively on the Nintendo Power service in Japan, no less. This has made it a pretty damn obscure title, which is a shame; I can’t imagine why Namco sat on it for three years. There isn’t a whole lot of depth, no, but the unique control scheme makes this game remarkably novel and oddly addictive — I’m usually not the sort of person who cares much about getting fast times in racing games, but I’ve been obsessed with time-attacking in this game ever since I discovered it in the earlier part of the decade. Give it a shot if you’ve got access to it.

    (In case you’re wondering: The Japanese took the German word gelände (meaning “terrain” or “field”) and use it to mean “ski trail” for some reason.)

  • [I ♥ The PC Engine] Nectaris

    Posted on August 29th, 2009 keving 8 comments

    2330Nectaris
    (ネクタリス)
    (Military Madness)

    Maker: Hudson
    Release Date: 2/9/89
    Price:
    5800 yen
    Media:
    HuCard (3 Mbit)
    Genre: Strategy
    PC Engine FAN Score: 22.62 / 30.00
    Kōgien: “This game’s main draw is its approachability for beginner players. All the complexities of the genre have been removed in an attempt to emphasize the core fun of the game. You cannot create your own units, but otherwise the game is very well put together.”

    A game that blazed trails (although Famicom Wars lended it the machete a few months previous) and eventually led to Advance Wars and the “console strategy RPG” genre at large, but wasn’t fully recognized for it until years afterward. The PCE FAN score seems shockingly low, especially when you consider the sort of games that outrated it at the time (such as Sunsoft’s loony RPG Out Live, coming soon to this column). VideoGames & Computer Entertainment gave it a “Best Military Strategy Game Award” in 1990, but that sounds like damning with faint praise, somehow. I mean, what other console military strategy games were released in 1990? Nobunaga’s Ambition?

    Nectaris

    Japan was no stranger to serious wargames by the end of the 1980s. Koei was going full-tilt with their historical sims and PC developer System Soft had the modern era covered with its Daisenryaku games — basically straight-on recreations of tabletop wargames, even more grognard-y than Koei’s stuff. Nectaris’ battle system is nowhere near on the scale of either of these games; there are fewer components to it, but every part of it is expertly polished and expertly balanced. And that’s what makes it a classic — the system’s so refined that even beginners can master it. (Intelligent Systems’ Famicom Wars was first with this general concept by about half a year, but I think Nectaris is far more polished than even that game, itself considered a classic in Japan.)

    Even if you ignore the in-game tutorial and feed the instruction booklet to the dog, it only takes a couple rounds to grasp how things work. Essentially, this is a very expansive game of rock-scissors-paper. Ground units are weak against air units; air is weak against anti-air artillery; artillery is weak against ground forces. That’s the basic rule of thumb, but each individual unit has its quirks as well, making it more than a simple “if A, then B” contest. Ground may be weak against air, but some ground units have such overwhelming defense that they can deal against airplanes well enough. You have to be aware of the potential surround effect, the support effect and the zone of control behind each conflict, but the way the game teaches you that without a hitch is remarkable — and also pretty much unheard of in the genre, anywhere in the world.

    Strategy-game maniacs need no introduction to the “zone of control” idea, but simply put, it means the hexes that surround any given unit. If you have allied units next to you when entering combat, the enemy unit’s actions will be restrained, making it easier to gang up on the guy. This means that neither you nor the enemy are free to move units around the map without a care in the world, and that little facet is what provides most of the depth behind Nectaris’ gameplay. Tactics like using one unit to stop an enemy, then sliding another one to the side to launch an ambush, are the bread and butter of the game. To this is added the “surround effect” (if the enemy has fewer adjacent hexes to escape to, its defense will take a penalty) and the “support effect” (if you have an ally adjacent, you get an attack bonus). There’s also the terrain effect, which the lovely battle screen makes self-explanatory at a glance.

    Nectaris Nectaris

    For a strategy game, Nectaris can get surprisingly exhilarating, especially when you gang up on hapless enemies with multiple leveled-up units at once. This holds especially true later on, when you might have three Hunters (the highest-level air unit) wiping out low-level enemy air fighters in one go, or tanks mowing down unarmored soldiers like some kind of Liveleak video.

    Not only do you see it unfold onscreen, but all the calculations are made for you on the bottom before anything happens, so if the enemy’s hopelessly outclassed, you get a rush when you see the numbers. I have an attack of 900 and they have a defense of 8? Hmm. Shame. That said, even weak units have a chance to hold their own (or at least not die) against tanks and such when leveled, and with each map easily graspable in the mind (and with no such thing as unit replenishment), you can’t help but really care about your little guys.

    Nectaris isn’t a fully-on strategy game and shouldn’t be compared to them. It’s a matter of scope, after all. Daisenryaku and the rest are very literally war simulators, giving you control over vast numbers of units across an entire ocean or continent or whatnot. Meanwhile, this was the first game you could call a “strategy RPG” — a small stretch of land, just a few units at any given time, the individual building blocks that get stacked together to create, for the first time, a war. It’s neat, it is.


    I am making my own YouTube videos now. Let me know if you think the subtitles (annotations) are annoying or helpful. There’s only one in this video, but…

    Nectaris was not a massive sales success — it broke 100,000 copies in Japan, which puts it in the same realm as a lot of early Hudson HuCards — but it was obviously a game well-loved by its creators, because it keeps on popping up over the years. The game was ported to the PC-9801’s MS-DOS flavor by System Soft, offering much needed mouse support; Hudson themselves created a native Win95 port in 1997 and released it for free on LOGiN magazine’s covermount CD.  (This is still playable on Vista, but if you asked me, the PC-9801 port still handles a lot better.)

    Neo Nectaris (1994) is the direct PCE sequel, one of those games Turbo users wistfully dreamt for but never had a chance of getting; this despite the fact that opinions are pretty mixed on that game in Japan. Hudson released Earth Light and Lunar Strike for the Super Famicom, both of which use the Nectaris system. Military Madness has been on Virtual Console for years now, of course, and a full-on WiiWare update is coming soon as I write this.

    Point bein’, it’s retained a faithful fanbase. And for good reason — it’s both a nifty introduction to the genre and one of its most well-polished examples, even 20 years on.

  • Hidden messagin’

    Posted on August 29th, 2009 keving 44 comments

    Programmers for 8-bit consoles, whether American, European or Japanese, stuck hidden messages — sometimes accessible, sometimes non- — in their games all the time.

    One of my favorite has always been the one thrown into Pachi-Com (パチコン), a very primitive pachinko simulation released for the Famicom in 1985 from Toshiba EMI. You can load the .NES ROM up in any hex editor to see a long message right at the top of the image, written in romaji:

    pachicom

    Nearly five percent of the entire ROM space is taken up by this inaccessible message, which I’ll take the liberty of translating:

    I’M SAYING WHAT I WANT FROM HERE ON IN !!

    Mr. GOUHARA from JPM planning does absolutely nothing but gives me all sorts of crap anyway. SHUT UP, YOU IDIOT!
    ———–
    DEG/NANA/KOYA from company “T” [presumably Toshiba EMI]
    You RETARDS say one thing, then something else later all the time. I worked ALL NIGHT working on what you told me to; don’t say to me “it was better before”! Who the hell do you think is going to play this, with its boring bonus stage and the balls that get stuck? If you use SELECT to put the JOY right, that’ll make it +1, you idiot! You’re a sound company; quit ignoring pachinko sounds and trying to put these weird sounds in instead! Do you WANT it to be this hard to hear the balls?! I’ve left the PREVIOUS sounds, so edit this if you want to hear it. Set hex address AFFC to 1FAF and AFC4 to E0EE to get decent sounds. (Tiger_V & Kugi) Company “T”, you idiots! GOU, you retard! Anyone can tell you what good sound is!
    ========
    Does company “N” develop with company “I”‘s PROS80? I’m AMAZED they can make stuff on that weird (3” floppy disk) machine! Do they trace the holes when drawing art, too? [i.e. Do they program graphic data directly without the use of any artist tools?] If you’re sick of tracing holes, I’ll sell Bear’s art machine (ROM) and debugger for 5 million YEN… Tel 03-864-6880 That’s cheap if you want pretty art!!!
    ——–
    Why did they take out the 6502’s decimal mode [from the NES architecture]? It’s a decimal computer… Did they mess up the mask cutting or something?
    ========
    Anyone who happens across this is a pervert! There’s another message in the MSX Pachi-Com… If you’re a pervert, buy it and see! It’s in Okinawan dialect, though!
    DON’T TELL ANYBODY YOU SAW THIS!!!
    by Y.S

    The secret message attached to Namco’s Erika to Satoru no Yumebōken, however, is much more infamous these days — and it’s accessible within the game, too. A cutesy, kid-friendly adventure that used the N106 sound chip Namco included with a few FC carts, the game has a long message (seen starting in 5:20 of the above video) that perhaps sets the bar internationally for this sort of thing.

    Its presence within the ROM image was known for a while, but it wasn’t common game-otaku knowledge until 2007, when hackers finally figured out how to unlock it within the game itself. The GDRI folks have taken an interest in it lately, too, because it establishes a link between Atlus and the games LJN released for the NES — the music that plays during the hidden message is taken from LJN’s The Karate Kid, although Erika to Satoru was coded by Atlus for Namco.

    It’s a long, convoluted code you have to type in, involving waiting half an hour after the game’s ending and then inputting all sorts of button combinations on both controllers at the right time, but it’s worth it to see the message, which I’ll again translate freely:

    Mmm, that’s a nostalgic song playing. Those were good times. Meanwhile, who the hell are these people with this project? I’m so glad it’s over. You think it’s nothing but good memories? Hell no! Let’s use this space to give out some thanks.

    First off, Kaoru Ogura, who ran off with some guy in the middle of the project. Yes, you, you bastard. Don’t show up at the office without showering after having sex 6 times the previous night. Next, Tatsuya Ōhashi. Yes, you, you bastard. Don’t give me your flippant shit — coming in late on the day we ship the ROM like nothing’s amiss. You can give me all the porn you want; I’m not forgetting that one. All that fucking weight you put on. No wonder you paid out 18,000 yen and still got nothing but a kiss out of it. Kenji Takano, Namco debugger. You are a part-timer; don’t dick around with the project planner. And finally, Kiyoharu Gotō, the biggest thorn to my side in this project. Yes, you, you bastard. Once I get a time machine, I’m sending you back to the Edo period. Go do your riddles over there.

    Ahh, that’s a load off…wait, no it’s not. Kiyoharu Gotō — yes, you, you bastard. Aaaagh, just disappear already.

    Come to think of it, some people were helpful to me, too. Mr. Okada, who took all the good stuff. I know all about your abnormal tendencies. Yamagishi, who swore off soaplands until the project was over. Go ahead, knock yourself out now. Iwata, who joined in midway and gave it all he had. Sorry I yelled at you. Keep hanging in there. Fujimura, Udopyu, you probably had it the worst of all. Thanks. I mean it. Gotō’s the one to hate here. Also, Takayama, Kudō, Suzuki, Makki, Kaneko, Aihara, Sato (the angel of my heart), Iga. Thanks, everyone.

    Yoko-G, good work. This game is dedicated to your wife’s birthday.

    If you type in another secret code after this message, you get a further note:

    Kazumushi, I’m sorry I couldn’t come back home much. I love you and always have. Hidemushi

    In late 2007, someone posted on 2ch’s retro-game board claiming to be one of the men behind the message. He had only a dim memory of how to unlock the message; the hackers took it from there to figure out the exact process. Here’s what he said:

    I’ll reveal here that I was Hidemushi’s co-worker at the time (don’t pry any closer, please). I heard all the stuff [written about in the message] from the guy himself, so it’s not fake. As obscene as it is I planned to take it to the grave without announcing it, but since someone peeked into the ROM and revealed the message, I went ahead and followed up with it. […] By the way, The Karate Kid is a NES game based on the movie released overseas. He was involved with the development of it. (Also, the girl we whined about who had sex N times the previous night programmed the mini-game events in The Karate Kid. She’s probably one of the few female programmers in the industry. Wish she didn’t have to tell me about how her boyfriend wipes the sweat off her back with a towel after every lay.)

    Aw, good times!

  • Black Tiger (Capcom, August 1987)

    Posted on August 27th, 2009 keving 2 comments


    Part 2 Part 3 Nicovideo account req’d. How to get one. Click the “…” balloon on the bottom to turn off scrolly comments.

    One of the two games that inspired SonSon II, which I covered last week. Yep, again.

    For a 1987 arcade game, this one has a great deal of RPG elements. The setting is pure, hard, manly fantasy, with you bashing up enemies and opening treasure chests and all of those stereotypically RPG-y things. You can also buy weapons, armor and medicine at shops, something that it seemed like every video game in 1987 fell over themselves to implement somehow.

    Remarkably, Black Dragon (the Japanese name for Black Tiger) and Sega’s Wonder Boy in Monster Land hit Japanese arcades on the same month, sharing a lot of the same RPG/action fusion elements. Sega’s game is a fair bit cutesier than this one, though, the game that served as the foundation for later titles like Magic Sword and the D&D series.

    SonSon featured a few hidden characters, but Black Tiger is packed to the gills with ’em — cows, Yashichi (and its cousin Sakichi), “Pow,” bamboo sprouts, barrels, dragonflies, the main character from Sidearms, and so on and so on and so on. There’s also a hidden octopus, which (rare for Capcom titles) made an appearance in this game and this game only. See if you can find it in the videos!

    The music of Black Tiger is another Tamayo Kawamoto work — a very interesting soundtrack, one that takes a common theme and produces variations on it as you go through the levels. Very movie-like for 1987.

  • Policenauts

    Posted on August 25th, 2009 keving 5 comments

    pn1243

    The English fan-translation for the PlayStation version of Policenauts is finally released. You can poke around the Internet for a while and you can find everything you need without much trouble. Ethically I shouldn’t recommend you do that because I do pro translation for a living. I’ll just cyber-turn my back to you and cyber-whistle while you do whatever you want as I’m not looking. That’s what I’m doing, right now. See?

    You can read a lot about the creation of the English version on this Something Awful thread where most of the main folks involved are posting and answering questions. It’s a very constructive and interesting thread. Meanwhile, on NeoGAF, someone is complaining about Hideo Kojima using the word okama in the script and it getting rightfully translated as “fag.” It’s like the difference between the BBC and Fox News sometimes.

    I rarely play fan translations because (cocks head back, looks over sunglasses, flicks cigarette holder) I don’t need them, dahh-ling. The stereotype in my mind was of people with their heads lodged up their arses chopping up Square games to match their homoerotic fanfiction-driven vision of what the story “should be.” This release is nothing like that. It is a great localization in every sense of the term, expertly capturing Kojima’s dirty, ribald vision of the future without coming out at all strange or awkward. I’d like to think Kojima would approve. The only complaint I have is that they should’ve done the Saturn version instead, since it’s neat to have the hypertext online encyclopedia (available in English on policenauts.net) accessible within the game by clicking on dialogue text, but I’m sure that would’ve made the whole project even more painful and delayed.

    Frank Cifaldi posted this question on the SA thread:

    Playing great fan-translated games like this and Mother 3 confuses me. I know Big Business is some voodoo art that I’ll never understand, but seriously, are the margins so low on something like a Policenauts translation that Konami would not profit from doing this itself or just paying you guys off for your work?

    I mean really, what is stopping this sort of thing from happening? Is it just a taboo that a big company can’t acknowledge “amateur” work as being valuable? There’s obviously a consumer demand here, and even if it’s not gigantic, surely it’s enough to make money?

    I don’t know, it just strikes me as weird. I would think translating Policenauts would be cheaper and less risky to Konami than most of the stuff they put out.

    Cheaper, yes, but not by much; it’s not like I rake in hundreds of thousands a year doing localization. It would be risky, though. Policenauts is a niche game, with a dedicated fanbase but not a large fanbase. There is not a “consumer demand” being demonstrated with this release; there’s a free-download demand. The US anime distribution industry failed to understand the difference between the two things and that’s why the US anime distribution industry is about a squillionth the size it was in 2004.

    All right, you say, but why not release Policenauts on PSN and sell it for $15 or something?  Surely it could compete with the new Monkey Island or whatever, right? Maybe, but — and everything I write from here on in is speculation, I don’t know anybody who makes these decisions at Konami — you’re asking a publisher working in an industry that is even more megahit-driven than movies in many ways to try selling a product with very little profit potential that’s already been heavily pirated on the Internet. I call it “free download”; they’d call it “piracy.” Unfair, I know. (I like both the work of Corey Doctorow and his theory that free eBooks help, not hinder, physical book sales. But you try convincing an enormous Japanese multi-national corporation that there’s merit to that theory. While you’re doing that, I’ll be flapping my arms. Let’s see if I can fly to the moon before you win them over.)

    That’s my supposition, and it’d be nice if I were proved wrong. I spent my New Year’s vacation in 1999 playing the Saturn Policenauts and it’s still a fond memory. Looking back, I’d say it’s still my favorite Kojima game after all these years. And not just because of that girl’s ass, either.

  • SonSon (Capcom, 1984)

    Posted on August 23rd, 2009 keving 2 comments


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

    One of the two games that inspired SonSon II, which I covered last week. Capcom was born as an independent entity in 1984, when Irem founder Kenzo Tsujimoto left his company after a hostile takeover and created a new one chiefly with ex-Namco employees; this is their second game ever and the first one that Yoshiki Okamoto (fresh from Konami, where he did Time Pilot and Gyruss) created for them.

    In an interview segment aired on an episode of Game Center CX, Okamoto explained that SonSon didn’t start out as a Journey to the West-themed game, exactly. Instead, the concept began as simply a game that featured a pig (because Capcom thought that a pig character would be readily accept among American and European audiences) and a monkey (because they figured Japanese people would like monkeys more).

    I’m not sure it amounted to anything, considering I never heard of SonSon until I started collecting Famicom games in Japan. The Micronics-developed Famicom port is an awful, flickery mess, but the arcade game is much better.

    Like pretty much all Capcom titles in the ’80s, SonSon features the “Pow” and Yashichi symbols prominently. Okamoto stated that these symbols were part of an effort to give Capcom’s games something unique and immediately identifiable. That worked a lot better, I think. Some power-ups from this game, including the bamboo sprout, would themselves become regulars in subsequent Capcom titles as well. (The “Yashichi,” by the way, is meant to be a pinwheel. It’s named after Kazaguruma no Yashichi, a ninja that appears in Mito Koumon and uses shuriken with pinwheels on ’em as his weapon.)

    SonSon is a simple co-op shooter with deceptively complex scoring rules. The entire playfield is littered with non-random small foods worth 10-100 points each. Pick up six of these, and a “jumbo food” worth 1000-10,000 points appears depending on the point value of the small food you grabbed. “Pow” (which turns all enemies onscreen into jumbo food) appears in certain rare locations or if you eat 8 jumbo foods; the bamboo sprout shows up when you walk over certain locations. The Yashichi, worth 4000 points (it’ll sometimes display other point scores up to 10,000, but a bug prevents you from actually earning anything besides 4000 points), shows up if you can clear out a fortress within 20 seconds.

    Click on the above video to see what co-op play meant in 1984-era video arcades. Also click it to hear some early work from Tamayo Kawamoto, a lady who handled a lot of Capcom’s soundtracks around this era (Commando, Black Tiger, Legendary Wings, Tiger Road, Ghouls’n Ghosts, Forgotten Worlds, etc).

  • [I ♥ The PC Engine] SonSon II

    Posted on August 21st, 2009 keving 2 comments

    SonSon IISonSon II
    (ソンソンII)

    Maker: NEC Avenue
    Release Date: 1/27/89
    Price:
    5400 yen
    Media:
    HuCard (2 Mbit)
    Genre: Action
    PC Engine FAN Score: 21.98 / 30.00
    Kōgien: “A game based off the arcade title Black Tiger with new characters and rearranged content. The light, bouncy music and cute characters are nice. A basic side-scrolling action game.”

    Who came up with this cover art? It’s got, like, nothing to do with the actual game. It shows someone who vaguely looks like a cooler version of Goku from Dragon Ball, complete with his magic cloud and stick, dispatching a blue demon under the watchful eye of the Siddharta Buddha. Meanwhile, the dude you’re controlling in the game is plainly a stocky little monkey whose head is over half of his height. The manual calls this guy SonSon but everyone in-game calls him Son Goku, the Japanese rendering of the name Sun Wukong. Total rip! Inconsistencies in my children’s action video games! Oh, how they irk me!

    Son Son II (J)-003 Son Son II

    Things improve quickly once you get over NEC Avenue’s playing fast and loose with the ad material and actually load the thing. There is, in fact, a very interesting history behind the game. It was actually developed over at Capcom, with Yoshiki Okamoto himself getting a planning credit in the ending’s staff roll. (You can tell this right off from the music, which is pure Mega Man-goes-Oriental.) It’s very loosely the sequel to SonSon, the 1984 arcade game that was Okamoto’s debut effort for Capcom, but it borrows its gameplay style wholesale from 1987’s Black Tiger, swiping the basic platform action, the weapon upgrade system, and some of the enemies. NEC Avenue called it “Black Tiger reborn in a new-character version” in the print advertising, but it’s not a port so much as an expanded Metroid/Castlevania-y take on the original.

    The game’s divided into seven stages, each divided into several maps you flip between by going through doorways. Mr. Sun has to power-up his weaponry and find the keys and such required to reach the boss, occasionally running into other characters from the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West, the work that Dragon Ball very loosely parodied for its first few years. Killing enemies earns you Zenny, the magical currency that all Capcom games used around this time, and Zenny buys magic and other assorted upgrades — although some of that stuff’s also found by breaking secret walls.

    There’s very little that really stands out with SonSon II; the graphics and gameplay are in lockstep with the standards of the day and the game doesn’t try much of anything outside of Principles of Okamoto Design 101. It is, at least, expertly made, and the challenge level ramps up on a nice, slow, yet engaging clip. I like it a fair bit, although history has all but buried it as far as Japan-based nostalgia is concerned.

    Here’s a basic sort of playthrough. Anyone who’s played Black Tiger might be in for a bit of culture shock — the game’s colorful, cutesy, and everything that Capcom’s arcade original wasn’t. If you’re interested, there’s another playthrough showing a cheat code in action that swaps around character sprites to extremely humorous (?) effect.

  • Future Debuts WoW-Only Magazine, Possibly Redefines Print Media’s Future

    Posted on August 20th, 2009 keving 1 comment

    http://www.gamesetwatch.com/2009/08/future_debuts_wowonly_magazine.php

    I spent a lot of the evening writing this when I wasn’t busy doing translation stuff! Check it out! I really think it is the future of print mags! Not lying!

  • Lagrange Point (Konami, 1991)

    Posted on August 19th, 2009 keving 4 comments

    In the 22nd century, mankind built a set of outer-space colonies at one of the Lagrange points between the Earth and its sun. The three colonies — Satellite Base, Land 1 and Land 2 — was quickly filled with a large population of orbiting immigrants, building a new society and a true “second Earth.”

    Several years later, however, a mysterious, mutated life form escaped out of a Land 2 biochemical laboratory. The life form quickly spread across all of Land 2, killing countless citizens and mutating nearly all the plants and animals. It was no accident. Three of the five boardmembers of ISIS — the private firm running the colonies and its associated space ports — were staging a coup d’etat of the entire complex, and the mutant outbreak was only the beginning.

    Calling themselves the Bionoid Three, the three boardmembers — Oregi, Ledesma and Weber — formed an army of mutants they called the Creature Force. Tania, one of the remaining uncorrupted boardmembers, was quickly captured by Creature soldiers, but Togo, the sole ISIS leader left, formed a resistance group and declared full-scale war against the mutants.

    All this was going on unbeknownst to anyone on Earth, which had sent two investigation teams to the colonies without a response. Now Jin is leading expedition number three to Land 2. Will he survive?

    Lagrange Point is arguably the most large-scale RPG ever released for the Famicom. Just Breed is larger in size and Konami’s own MADARA was cut from the same cloth, but I think Lagrange wins over both for its complex SF plot, its well-detailed graphics (the enemies, at the least, are easily SNES-caliber) and the unique, trippy sound the onboard FM chip provided.

    Much of Lagrange’s plot was worked out as part of “Game Kobo,” a reader-participation feature launched to celebrate the 100th issue of Tokuma Shoten’s Family Computer Magazine. Famimaga and Konami solicited all kinds of stuff from readers for the game, from enemy character designs and dialogue for random colony residents to music, plot details, and even the name of the game itself.

    This was just at the point in Japanese game history where creators outside of the industry were beginning to contribute to games. Character designs were handled by Fujihiko Hosono, at the time a kid’s manga artist but now more well-known internationally for the much more mature (and interesting) Gallery Fake. Two members of REBECCA, an ’80s rock band in Japan, worked with Konami Kukeiha Club on the soundtrack. The resulting game easily won Famimaga’s FC game of the year in 1991, and even if the magazine wasn’t so directly involved with its development, you could see why they made the choice.

    The above video leads to part 1 of the first TAS I’ve seen for the game, taking you through all the prettier parts of it in just over and hour. Part 2 and Part 3 are also available. In order to get around the onerous level-grinding you’d normally need to equip the higher-power weapons in the game, this TAS takes advantage of an interesting bug. In battle, the bug’s triggered by confusing an enemy capable of landing several attacks in a turn; if this confused enemy kills a fellow enemy with attack no. 1, subsequent attacks in the chain will kill some unseen, nonexistent enemy that, for some reason, gives you $9,999,999 and about 40 experience levels in one go. Go about 12 and a half minutes into Part 1 to see it in action.

  • [I ♥ The PC Engine] Vigilante

    Posted on August 17th, 2009 keving 6 comments

    VigilanteVigilante
    (ビジランテ)

    Maker: Irem
    Release Date: 1/14/89
    Price:
    6300 yen
    Media:
    HuCard (3 Mbit)
    Genre: Action
    PC Engine FAN Score: 19.65 / 30.00
    Kōgien: “Use a variety of moves to rescue your lover Madonna. You can also steal a nunchaku from the enemy and attack with the weapon. A hardcore action game in the style of Kung-Fu Master. The pretty backgrounds are impressive.”

    Am I high, or does the hero of this game — the kung fu fightin’ street tough who cleans up the dirty streets of ’80s action-movie New York with his bare fists and feet of fury — look almost exactly like Gohan from Dragon Ball Z? Check this out:

    vigilante1 vigilante2

    See? See?

    Vigilante is Irem’s first self-made PCE game after having Hudson port R-Type for them. They did not treat the home market all that seriously at this time, not releasing another PCE game at all until December of ’89, but what they did release on the system was technically competent and they occasionally produced honest classics, such as Ninja Spirit.

    Simply put, Vigilante is Kung-Fu Master remade for 16-bit arcade hardware — and, of course, to be as painfully ’80s as possible. Through five stages, you are punching and kicking through a massive horde of (mostly white and fetish-gear-wearing) street punks, occasionally picking up a pair of nunchaku that give you the equivalent of long-range, rapid-fire punching. Like in Irem’s original 1984 hit, mindless enemies swarm all over your Vigilante from both sides of the screen at all times, coming in like so many chocolates down the conveyor belt, and your job is to play kung-fu Lucille Ball and land attacks on all of them before they can sap your energy.

    Vigilante Vigilante

    Japanese people often write online that the PCE port of Vigilante is a great deal easier than Irem’s 1988 arcade original, but I definitely don’t see it. I do think that there are fewer “special” enemies spawned in the home port — there’s only one black guy with a chain in the entire PCE game, although he shows up at least once per level in the arcade. But the real challenge lies in that constantly-running conveyor belt of bad guys, and that part of the gameplay hasn’t changed at all.

    Vigilante had the honor of getting displayed pretty prominently in the TurboGrafx launch advertising. Its graphics are pretty nice; fairly close to the arcade, although naturally they lose the original’s multi-layered scrolling. This is actually the first three-megabit game on the PC Engine — Space Harrier came out a little while before this at 4 megabits — and unlike that Sega arcade port, you can definitely see the extra space being put to use visually. (The music is terrible, but it wasn’t great in the original, either.)

    There are many videos of this game on YouTube, but once again I’m going with a Nico-video because it’s recorded off a real PCE, it’s all in one part, and I’m too lazy to go clicking on multiple video links, you know? (Looking back on the vid, I’m amazed at how little energy you take off the bosses with each individual attack. I tried playing it safe against them and often came in danger of running out of time as a result.)