Posted on February 26th, 2010 2 comments
Well, do you? Like, you know, without hiding the magazine between a couple of newspapers or something? Do you have the guts, the bravery to look the (female, did I mention she was female) clerk in the eye and say This, please! No, I don’t need a bag!
Me, I can. That’s because every PC Engine mag looked like this by the end of 1993. I got experience!
Posted on February 26th, 2010 4 comments
Release Date: 4/14/89
Price: 5200 yen
Media: HuCard (2mb)
Genre: Action (or, according to the box, “ESP Adventure”)
PC Engine FAN Score: 16.83 / 30.00
Kōgien: “Use supernatural energy balls to defeat enemies as you proceed. Your abilities can be powered up with special items. An action game with adventure-style conversations and puzzle solving.”
Energy is arguably the most so-bad-it’s-good game ever released on the PC Engine. It’s certainly one of the most harshly reviewed. Famicom Tsushin gave it 4/5/6/3 for a total of 18 points. Marukatsu PC Engine, Kadokawa Shoten’s monthly PCE mag, was a bit kinder with its 5/5/6/4 rating, but I can count on one hand the number of times Marukatsu gave out scores below 5/10, so the presence of a 4 up there indicates we’re into deepest, darkest kusoge territory with this one.
Like a man in arseless chaps taking your order at McDonald’s, Energy does not offer the best of first impressions. The game’s a loose port of Ashe (a PC-8801 title released by Quasar Soft), and for whatever reason, the developers thought it’d be a smart idea to copy the original’s habit of scrolling on a flick-screen basis as opposed to smoothly following the action. That wouldn’t be so bad, either, if it weren’t for how slooooooowly the game switches between screens — something that’s aggressively agonizing when not playing on an emulator with fast-forward.
But that’s not the only way Energy makes you wait around. Everything seems to have a delay built into it here, similar to how the Colecovision made you wait 15 seconds before starting a game for no obvious reason. Beat a boss, and it takes about ten seconds for the program to notice and trigger the ensuing level or cutscene. So it is with the barriers in some rooms (top left screenshot), which only disappear several seconds after all the enemies onscreen are killed. You have to mash down the I button for about half a second to skip through dialogue, even. It’s just weird — as if the game’s always just a couple of instructions away from crashing and freezing — and it makes you appreciate how much more serious hardware companies were with third-party quality control over in the US.
The controls are similarly wonky, often for no apparent reason. Your hero, an intrepid member of the “Demon-Busting Squad” (討魔隊) eradicating hideous monsters from a destroyed Tokyo, jerks around like a jackrabbit in heat whenever caught against a platform or wall, requiring a needless head start to jump up to a higher spot. Even more egregious is a point where you must travel through a long vertical section by executing a super-jump…somehow. I haven’t quite figured out how to trigger this super jump, and neither has anyone else judging by my Internet search, so instead you must hop around at random for half a minute before the game finally offers you forgiveness and propels your character upward like some kind of deus ex machina.
But I suppose the real comedy is reserved for those who know Japanese. That way, you get a crystal-clear view of just how Mystery Science Theater-like this title is. Imagine the silliest episode of whatever Power Rangers season was on when you were eight years old, and that’s the plot of Energy. Three fellow “Demon-Busting Squad” members have gone MIA in Tokyo, and they rejoin you in ghost form for the final battle after a very silly telepathy-enhanced cutscene. Everyone calls you a “defender of justice” (正義の味方) in the dialogue, which sounds just as stilted in Japanese as it does in English. Some NPCs advertise Masaya’s other games instead of offer you valuable advice. There’s a cute idol-singer sequence halfway through for no reason.
It’s pure camp, in other words, and gamers in tune with that sort of vibe will dig Energy immensely for the hour-ish it takes to complete. It’s the Earth Defense Force 2017 of its era, is the most succinct way to put it.
Despite all that, Energy has really good music. (This stirring tune plays while you are riding on the back of some hideous, badly-drawn sea creature across two screens of instant-death water — fast-forward to around 5:15 in the above video to witness this triumphant scene.)
It always seems like the worst kusoge have the most memorable soundtracks. The music in NCS’s PCE games is really identifiable, by the way, isn’t it? Just like how you can immediately tell a Konami or Capcom NES title by sound alone.