Posted on August 3rd, 2009 1 comment
Release Date: 12/23/88
Price: 4980 yen
Media: CD-ROM² (46.26MB + 71 audio tracks)
PC Engine FAN Score: n/a
There is very little I can say about this prehistoric CD title without having to further explain the entire Bikkuriman boom that struck Japan in the late ’80s. If this sounds like a boring wall of text to read through, you’re right. Skip if you like, but take these two facts home with you: This is the last PCE release of 1988, and it’s also Hiroi Ōji’s first game credit — he’s listed as associate director thanks to his involvement with the Bikkuriman anime.
The English Wikipedia entry for Bikkuriman is not particularly easy to understand, so here is my take on it instead: Bikkuriman is the name of a family of trading-card stickers packed in with chocolate candy and released by Lotte starting in 1977. 18 different Bikkuriman sets exist, the most recent being devoted to Japanese pro baseball players, but for the most part the term “Bikkuriman” is used to refer to Sets 10, 11 and 14, launched between 1985 and 1993. These sets, “Demons vs. Angels” (悪魔VS天使シール) and “Super Bikkuriman” (スーパービックリマン), triggered a massive boom in Japan, spurred on by anime and manga tie-ins that spawned both this game and PCE launch title Bikkuriman World.
Sets 10 and 11 featured stickers depicting otherworldly gods and monsters, most of them with names and character designs that formed terrible Japanese-language puns. They had a massive backstory behind them, based loosely off mythology and the Bible, and this story was told in paragraph-size snippets on the back of each sticker. You could also play a very simple game with the stickers, but for the most part kids sought them for the collection aspect.
In the “Demons vs. Angels” set, the demon stickers were generally far more common than the angels; for every 40-yen chocolate packet with an angel sticker inside, there’d usually be three with a demon packed in. Further complicating things were the “Heads,” boss-like characters that served as the leaders of both sides of this pretend heavenly war; these stickers had extra gimmicks like reflective backgrounds or holograms, and you’d usually find about two or three of them in a display box of 40 Bikkuriman packets, making them rare draws.
As everyone knows today, Japanese kids love nothing more than collecting ’em all, and the resulting boom was pretty dizzying. At the set’s height in 1988, Lotte was selling 13 million 40-yen packets every month; the company later estimated it grossed the equivalent of a billion dollars off Demons vs. Angels’ thirty-one series before the fad finally subsided. Kids from rich families would frequently buy entire display boxes in one go for a chance at more Head stickers; this led to stores limiting sales and the coining of the slang term otona-gai (大人買い, “grown-up buying”), which was added to Kōjien in 2008. Rare stickers, from contest prizes to special editions given out at baseball games, go for hundreds and occasionally thousands of dollars today. It got to the point where Japan’s Fair Trade Commission brought up questions about Lotte’s short-packing the Heads and angels, accusing the candymaker of giving kids a way to gamble for a chance to get cards they could sell for real money; Lotte responded by making all the card types equally common starting with series 17.
Bikkuriman Daijikai, then, is a database CD-ROM that lets you browse through all the stickers released in these sets through the end of 1988, when they were up to series 13 and approximately 500 different creatures. There’s some art and basic backstory info for each entry, and that’s about it. The only real game here is the quiz questions you have to get right before you’re allowed to “unlock” the Head cards.
Japan pop culture lesson over. It’s pretty boring from this vantage point, of course, but if you’re interested in what it was like to be a Bikkuri-maniac 21 years ago, here’s a taste: