Posted on July 6th, 2010 6 comments
I wanted to write about Gunhed (aka Blazing Lazers) next, but since Gunhed was the official game of the 1989 Hudson Nationwide Caravan (ハドソン全国キャラバン), I probably better explain that first. The video above recaps the first 9 years of the event, winding up with some rare footage of the HDTV version of Bomberman Hudson worked with NHK to unveil at the 1993 show.
For a generation of Japanese dorks my age, summertime essentially meant the Caravan — watching it, participating in it, buying the official game of the event so you could get as much practice in beforehand as possible. The first installment of Hudson’s all-Japan competition/tour was held in 1985; Star Force was the official game of the event. That was followed by Star Soldier and Starship Hector in the next two years, but Hudson switched formats to the PC Engine from 1988 onward. The game they chose for the ’88 Caravan: Power League — apparently not a tremendously popular decision, so they went right back to shooters starting in ’89.
The format of the tournament was single-elimination, with the first few qualifying rounds played with a two-minute time limit and the quarterfinals onward played with a five-minute time limit. Gunhed, while a great game in its own right, was a bit of an unpopular choice because you couldn’t play the game in the time-limit Caravan mode on the standard home version. That was fixed with Super Star Soldier, the Kaneko-developed 1990 game.
In 1991 Naxat decided to hold their own multi-location tournament, the Summer Carnival, to compete with Hudson’s Caravan. The ’91 Caravan had Final Soldier (a brill game) and the Carnival had Compile’s PCE Spriggan (a similarly brill game). 1992 was a similarly bountiful summer, with Naxat’s ridiculous FC game Recca (and the terrible PCE game Alzadick) and Hudson’s Soldier Blade.
The Summer Carnival ended in 1993 with Kaneko’s NEXZR, and after that point, shooters began to lose their spot as the #1 genre in the mind of console-game kids. Subsequent Caravans used whatever the latest Bomberman game was for their competitions, except for three years’ worth of trading-card game events and one very odd year where they used Tengai Makyo ZERO for some reason. The Caravan breathed its last in 2000, by which time its position as a dominant game event in Japan was long gone; another Caravan was held in 2006 to celebrate Bomberman coming to the DS.
Considering how hot it gets in most of Japan during the summer, I can find no better way to pass the time than holding vast shoot-em-up high score competitions. It beats lying in front of the fan in your underwear all day.