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  • Baraduke (Namco, July 1985)

    Posted on November 4th, 2009 keving 6 comments

    With its most recent version upgrade, Nico Nico Dōga now allows inline movie linking from any site, including Magweasel. (Until now, you could inline nicovideo movies only on Japanese blog domains that had agreements with the site; that requirement’s been removed.)

    This means that I can now link lovely, long, full-sized TAS and classic video-game clips (of which Nico has about a million) without requiring you to fill out a complex Japanese-language form in order to get an account. Great news for everyone, I think you’ll agree. (Don’t forget to click the “…” balloon on the lower right to turn off scrolly Japanese reader comments.)

    To celebrate I want to talk about Baraduke, a 1985 game that Namco never ported to anything until Namco Museum Volume 5 in 1997. The game was designed by Yukio “Takky” Takahashi, who also worked on Genpei Tōmaden and later contributed to assorted D3 Publisher games; the programmer was Yoshihiro “Kissy” Kishimoto, who later became famous as the chief mind behind the Family Stadium series. Yuriko Keino, who (along with Junko Ozawa) revolutionized the concept of “game music” in arcade titles like Dig Dug and Xevious, handled sound in this game; Ozawa herself is the voice behind “I’m Your FRIEND-O” at the beginning.

    As you watch the above video, you’ll probably note that Baraduke looks a lot like Metroid, from the atmosphere to the color of the hero. This game came out a year before Metroid, and considering the similarities (including the twist at the ending if you stick around for it), you can’t help but wonder if Nintendo took at least a weensy bit of inspiration from this game.

    This runthrough is all about getting as high a score as possible, which means two things: the player racks up extra lives like a fiend (since they’re transformed into points at the end), and he also shoots down the first 20 Paccets he sees, which unlocks hidden pickups — actually unflattering portraits of Kissy and Takky — worth a total of 30,000 points. That’s nothing to sniff at in Baraduke, which is pretty frugal with the points, but shooting all these Paccets means going without any shield upgrades whatsoever for the opening of the game, which makes things extremely difficult around Floor 10 or so. (This was one of the few arcade games, really, where enemy bullets were as quick as yours. That makes things seem nearly impossible for beginners, then and now. If you don’t believe me, try it.)

    Here’s the second half, starting at Floor 31. Note how the largest level in the game (31) is immediately followed by the smallest (32). Also note the Pac-Man stage a little before the halfway mark.

  • Hidden messagin’ part 2

    Posted on November 3rd, 2009 keving 4 comments

    Poking around GDRI tonight led me to another extensive hidden message tucked inside an 8-bit cartridge game by the programmers. This time, it’s been discovered in Gun Nac, a Compile-developed vertical shooter released 1990 in Japan and 1991 in America.

    gunnac1
    Poking open the NES version of the ROM reveals a charming little piece of ASCII greeting between $01FF10 and $01FFFF. Take a look at the same place in the original Japanese Famicom version, though, and things look different:

    gunnac2

    1990-06-21 Almost time for the master-up [i.e. to go gold]; I guess this’ll probably be my last job on the FC. We had 4 months to work with, so there’s nothing really standout with this game, but I think it’s gotten pretty playable, so, well, I guess that’s good enough. I wonder where I might run into you next time?

    Aww. :’)

  • [I ♥ The PC Engine] P-47

    Posted on November 3rd, 2009 keving 3 comments

    P-47P-47

    Maker: Aicom
    Release Date: 3/20/89
    Price:
    5200 yen
    Media:
    HuCard (2 Mbit)
    Genre: Shooting
    PC Engine FAN Score: 20.69 / 30.00
    Kōgien: “You control a P-47, a real-life fighter plane. The game, which unfolds in nondescript fashion, is simple and easy to get to grips with. The backgrounds aren’t flashy, but are pretty in their own right.”

    We last heard from Aicom about half a year ago (in PC Engine time) when they developed Makyō Densetsu for Victor. P-47 is the first title they ever published themselves; they’d go on to produce three more PCE games before getting bought by Sammy sometime in late 1990. The company was officially closed by Sammy in 1992, but a few ex-staffers created another independent outfit named Aicom soon afterward. In 1996 this new Aicom got investment money from SNK and Takara, changed their name to Yumekobo (夢工房), and became more-or-less a developing sub-contractor for SNK, similar to joints like ADK and Sacnoth. They closed in 2000 after releasing their final game, SNK Gals’ Fighters for the Neo Geo Pocket Color.

    P-47 P-47

    It’s appropriate, in a way, that this obscure outfit decided to kick off its game-publishing efforts by releasing an obscure port of an obscure arcade game. P-47 hit Japanese arcades in June of 1988 from Jaleco, coded by their occasional development partner NMK. It is, in short, the quintessential Jaleco game — nondescript, rundown, reminiscent of many other contemporary titles, and easily forgettable. The 2000 edition of Kougien, the phone book-sized Japanese tome that lists nearly every console game released since 1982, criticizes P-47 for its “bland proceedings” — and when Kougien actively criticizes a game in its capsule description, you know there must be some big problems with it.

    It’s not without its charms, however. There’s something unique about its visual feel, for one — the plain, unadorned, almost empty graphic style, perhaps an attempt to evoke a World War II “look.” Maybe NMK’s art team was playing too much Xevious and thought it was a good shooter to take its visual cues from. Some people have good things to say about the music, but I think the PCE port dulled whatever charms (nonexistent, in my opinion) the soundtrack may’ve had in the arcades. (The two-megabit port also dropped some of the original game’s bosses, all of the cutscenes between stages, and the two-player co-op feature. One wonders, again, why Aicom bothered.)

    If there’s any one point about P-47 anyone can agree upon, it’s that the game’s not too tough — especially by the standards of the era. The port, especially, is very quick to power your little bomber up and pack it to the gills with 1ups and extra continues. To prove it, click on the above to see a Nico-video documenting this port, start to end, in about 20 minutes.

  • Heads up

    Posted on November 2nd, 2009 keving 1 comment

    All of the fun of failing to execute Dragon Punches against jerkily-animated Americans is now available to the nation’s masses of Wii owners — Fighting Street is out now on the USA’s Virtual Console.

    It costs 800 Wii Points, which not even I can recommend spending on this, and I — if you recall — ♥ the PC Engine.

  • [I ♥ The PC Engine] Kaizō Chōjin Shubibinman

    Posted on November 2nd, 2009 keving 4 comments

    Kaizo Chojin ShubibinmanKaizō Chōjin Shubibinman
    (改造町人シュビビンマン)

    Maker: NCS (Masaya)
    Release Date: 3/18/89
    Price:
    5200 yen
    Media:
    HuCard (2 Mbit)
    Genre: Action
    PC Engine FAN Score: 21.16 / 30.00
    Kōgien: “The breezy music and unique synthesized voices are impressive, especially the “Let’s go!” shouts and other high-quality samples. Two players can fight at once, and you can join together to fire a combo Shubi-beam.”

    Alongside Langrisser and Chō Aniki, Kaizō Chōjin Shubibinman is NCS’s flagship title. It’s certainly the most popular series they released on the PC Engine, at any rate.  It spawned two sequels on the PCE, the first of which came out for the TG16 in 1992 under the name Shockman and the second a Super CD-ROM² exclusive that hit Japan in early ’92. A fourth game, Kaizō Chōjin Shubibinman 0,was completed for the Super Famicom in 1994 but wound up never coming out in cartridge form, instead getting distributed on Satellaview in 1997.

    9 3

    Being a parody of the tokusatsu genre, Kaizō Chōjin Shubibinman has a somewhat outlandish plot. The Akūma Gang has arrived on Earth in a giant meteor to enslave humanity — starting with your sleepy hometown, of course, as sort of a warm-up — and local eccentric inventor Dr. Gōtokuji has invented a suite of cyborg technology named Shubibinman to combat the threat. Unable to find any candidates willing to put up with his crap, the good doctor instead rounds up the first two people who don’t run away from him — Tasuke, a kid who works at the fish market next door, and Kyapiko, a high-school girl with a highly (highly) unlikely name.

    To protect the planet, and to get their normal lives back, they fight their way across the game map to the Akūma Gang’s fortress in a system not entirely like what you saw in the NES game Clash at Demonhead. You’re only four stages away from beating the game, technically, but beating those stages in a straight shot is nigh-impossible without the enhancements you earn by going through side levels, saving townspeople, and earning cash to extract power-ups from Dr. Gōtokuji’s arms. (Why he doesn’t just give you them is a mystery, especially since he’s not charging you much for each bonus — like, no more than a few hundred yen or so. This must have been pre-inflation Japan.)

    The stages themselves are strictly 8-bit in their platform-y design. You’ve got a sword and (later on) the power to fire a charged “Shu-bi-beam” at enemies. The game allows two player co-op, and this makes things a great deal easier — your combined Shu-bi-beam kills all (yes, all) bosses in a single hit, and torching your partner with a beam sends his burning body running around the screen damaging enemies. It turns a really challenging one-player game into a party-time cakewalk for two.

    Despite the fantastic music (which stays very true to the classic tokusatsu roots), the first Shubibinman isn’t what I’d call a classic. In fact, to put it more harshly, I don’t think there’s much of anything here that couldn’t have been done on a Famicom in 1987. Things improved rapidly with what we know as Shockman, though.

    One thing I should mention before I forget it again is that NCS (and not Hudson oddly) was the first developer to implement digitized drums on the PC Engine. They debuted that sound engine with Motoroader, and it immediately makes their stuff sound unique compared to the rest of the HuCard library at this point.