Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Shippo de Bun's stunning packaging puts a new spin on the old phrase 'nice piece of tail'

I know this post should be included in my long-running "Year of the GameBoy" series, but I've got to cut the cord on it at some point (I launched it back in early 2014), so I figured now was as good a time as any.

Plus, any write-up about this Japanese title deserves a unique headline, if you ask me. Shippo de Bun is one of the best GameBoy releases around, after all.

Not that I knew this myself until a few years ago, mind you. Back in the summer of 1991, when this game first hit store shelves in North America and Europe--as Tail 'Gator--it completely avoided my radar. It wasn't until I came across its brilliant Japanese box art, showcased in the photo above, that it made any kind of impression on me.

Shortly after I figured out its name, I plopped it into the search bars on auction sites like eBay and Yahoo! Auctions Japan--and nearly fainted.

Anyone who collects GameBoy carts won't be surprised by that news, I'm sure. Why? Because copies of both Tail 'Gator and Shippo de Bun--complete-in-box ones, in particular--often cost a pretty penny these days.

Still, I was determined to own a Japanese copy of the game, so I kept my eye out for a reasonably priced one--and snapped one up earlier this year.

Am I glad I did, now that I've had a few months to ponder my wallet-withering decision? You bet. Like I said in my first attempt at this post's header, I think Shippo de Bun's packaging alone is worth the price of admission.

Couple that with the fact that Shippo de Bun--or Tail 'Gator, whichever you prefer--is an absolute blast to play, and I'd say the game is a must-own for anyone who owns and still plays a GameBoy (or GameBoy Color or GameBoy Advance) and has the needed funds.

If that doesn't quite describe you, I'd still recommending finding a way to experience some version of this game. It plays similarly to old-school single-screen platformers like Don Doko Don and Parasol Stars, but with a number of twists.

For starters, stages in Shippo de Bun take up more than a single screen. They only scroll sideways, though, not up and down, and most seem to cover about three screens.

Also, you don't capture or trap enemies in this Natsume-made game and then use them as weapons against their surviving co-conspirators, as is the case in most examples of the genre. Here, you whack baddies with your tail until they croak. You use the same appendage to crack open safes, which litter each level and provide vital power-ups.

Finally, your goal while playing Shippo de Bun isn't to clear each screen of enemies, but to find--in a safe, unsurprisingly--the key that opens a door that sits on opposite your entrance point.

It's all a lot more enjoyable than it probably sounds. Bolstering Shippo de Bun's appeal: it looks great and sounds even better. Seriously, the soundtrack that accompanies the alligator protagonist's trials and travails is among the best ever produced for a GameBoy cartridge. It's bouncy and jazzy and even a bit rock-y.

My only complaint about Shippo de Bun's packaging: its designers reused the same art for its outer box, manual cover, and cart label.

Oh, well, at least a few original illustrations can be found on the inside pages of its instruction booklet. Don't worry, you'll be able to give them a good, long look in a future installment of my "Manual Stimulation" series.

In the meantime, what do those of you who've played either Tail 'Gator or Shippo de Bun think of the game? And what do you think of the Japanese version's packaging?

See also: previous blog posts about the packaging produced for Burning Paper, Noobow, Peetan, Snow Bros. Jr., and Tumblepop

No comments: