Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Surprise! The Year of the GameBoy Continues: Penguin-kun Wars Vs.

In light of the recent news (see japanesenintendo.com for more info) that publisher City Connection is prepping a "modern remake" of Penguin-kun Wars--to be called Penguin-kun Gira Gira WARS--for the Nintendo Switch, I decided now was as good a time as any to publish a post about the original portable version of ASCII Entertainment's one-on-one battler.

If this is the first you've ever heard of Penguin-kun Wars, it's an arcade-style game that stars a handful of animals (specifically, a bat, a cow, a rabbit, a rat and, of course, a penguin) who, for some reason or another, come together to toss balls across a table at each other.

You, the player, choose and then control one of the above-mentioned creatures in a timed battle against another animal, with the goal being to get all 10 balls onto your opponent's side of the table before the clock runs out. Should you fail to accomplish that task, the next best thing is to ensure there are fewer balls on your side of the table than there are on your opponent's when the buzzer rings.

Not all animals are treated equally in any version of Penguin-kun Wars, by they way. For example, the rat moves quickly side to side but throws balls slowly. The cow, on the other hand, lacks foot speed but is fast to recover when hit by a ball. (Sorry, I forgot to mention earlier that characters are knocked unconscious when pelted by said projectiles.)

It's hardly the deepest of experiences, mind you, but it's good, clean fun while also being pretty darn cute, so it's an easy title to recommend even with its shallow gameplay.

Penguin-kun Wars began life--in 1985--as an arcade game, by the way. That same year, ASCII published home ports for both the MSX and the Famicom. The portable port discussed and highlighted here, which added multiplayer tournaments via the Game Boy Video Link to the mix, didn't see the light of day until early 1990.

Unlike the Famicom and MSX iterations Penguin-kun WarsPenguin-kun Wars Vs. wasn't a Japan-only product. In fact, Nexoft brought it to North America as Penguin Wars, while Nintendo handled its release, as King of the Zoo, throughout Europe.

Considering every other version of Penguin-kun Wars is crammed with color, a GameBoy conversion could've been a major disappointment. Like Bubble Bobble Junior, Tumblepop and Snow Bros. Jr., though, Penguin-kun Wars Vs. is surprisingly easy on the eyes despite being a black-and-green affair. Actually, I'd go so far as to say the sprites showcased in the latter game look better than either of its homebound counterparts.

Unfortunately, Penguin-kun Wars for Famicom bests this on-the-go effort in the area of gameplay due to the portable title's somewhat stutter-y frame rate. Don't let that scare you away from it, though; it's still perfectly playable--it's just not perfect.

Granted, I'd probably recommend this game for its packaging alone. I'm especially fond of its cover art, though the interior of its instruction booklet has its moments, too. Speaking of which, you can virtually flip through the entirety of the Penguin-kun Wars Vs. manual in this "Manual Stimulation" post of mine.

In the meantime, have any of you played Penguin-kun Wars in some form or fashion? If so, I'd love it if you're share your opinions of the experience(s) in the comments section of this post.

See also: previous 'Year of the GameBoy' posts

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