Saturday, August 12, 2017

Photographic proof I may be more obsessed with the PC Engine than I am with the Wii at this point

And that's saying something, as I'm really into the Wii right now thanks to all the fun I'm having with Opoona and Tabemon. (Here are some Opoona impressions, for the curious.)

So what do I mean when I say I'm obsessed with NEC's little white wonder, aka the PC Engine? Well, I mean that beyond playing the many PC Engine games I've owned for years now, I've been buying new ones over the last month or two.

In fact, I've bought at least 12 PC Engine games in that time. All are HuCards. Most are RPGs.

Their titles aren't completely visible in the snapshots included to the right, so I'll spell them out for you (in order, from top to bottom) while also sharing little descriptions for those who aren't so versed in PC Engine HuCards.

War of the Dead--A post-apocalyptic RPG from 1989 that features battles focused on side-scrolling action rather than selecting options from drop-down menus. Oh, and War of the Dead's badass protagonist--a woman, amazingly--uses guns, grenade launchers and the like rather than swords and magic to mow down the ghoulies that get in her way. Given all of that, is it any wonder I've wanted to play this since I first pinged my radar?

Necros no Yōsai--I told you early I was really into HuCard RPGs right now. Well, here's another. This one was released in 1990 and offers players slightly more traditional battles than War of the Dead. I say slightly because they're (said to be) far more cinematic than what's typical for the genre and for the time. Not that I've played it yet, mind you. The Brothers Duomazov have, though, and I always trust their judgment.

Susano Oh Densetsu--Surprise! Another chip-based role-playing game. This one is based on the Japanese manga, Susano Oh, created by Go Nagai. Again, word on the street is Susano Oh Densetu isn't your typical RPG. Enemies are visible on the overworld screen and the fights they pick with you via your avatar seem to be pretty strategic. Toss into the mix the ability to use everything from axes to rocket launchers against your opponents, and you've got a game I'm very much itching to play.

Double Dungeons--I can't say I've been itching to play this HuCard dungeon crawler, but I have long thought it looked interesting, so I went ahead and purchased a copy when I came across a cheap one while perusing eBay recently. The differentiator here is two people can tackle a dungeon at the same time. I'll likely never have the opportunity to experience Double Dungeons that way, of course, but hopefully I'll enjoy my eventual playthrough all the same.

R-Type I and II--The R-Type II shown and discussed here isn't the arcade sequel (to the original R-Type, naturally) Irem released in 1989. Bizarrely, the company split the first R-Type into two parts while porting it to the PC Engine. Yes, that meant the game was released on two HuCards. Ridiculous, right? Still, I have fond memories of playing the North American version (on my beloved TurboGrafx-16) back in the day, so I picked up both Japanese chips during one of my impromptu eBay shopping sprees.

Gomola Speed--I've had my eyes on this strange, Snake-inspired PC Engine title for ages now, but it wasn't until I had a Twitter chat about it with Snow Kitten that I finally bit the bullet and bought a copy. It sports some great cover art, plus its gameplay looks like good, breezy fun, so I'll definitely give it a go sooner rather than later.

Daichi-kun Crisis: Do Natural--Here's a HuCard with which I've had an on-again, off-again relationship since I first became aware of it. My interest in it should be easy enough to understand once you glimpse its cover art, which shows an erupting volcano surrounded by a bunch of adorable cows. As for why it took me so long to add Daichi-kun Crisis to my ever-growing collection of PC Engine games: its gameplay looks, well, bonkers--and not necessarily in a good way. That's rarely stopped me from trying something, so here's hoping it pays off this time around.

Nazo no Masquerade--This is the kind of game I would've avoided like the plague before I started learning Japanese. (Read about my progress in this recent post.) Now, though, I use such titles as inspiration to keep me going. Not that I see myself successfully completing an adventure game like this one anytime soon. Still, I may boot up Nazo no Masquerade in the coming weeks just to see what I'm able to suss out, as I'm attracted to its "1920s mansion" setting.

Momotarō Katsugeki--No need to know Japanese for this game, which is a side-scrolling platformer starring that country's popular "Peach Boy." (Momotarō often is translated to Peach Boy.) Momotarō Katsugeki looks quite PC Genjin-esque to me, and seeing as though I've loved every PC Genjin (or Bonk) title I've played, I have a feeling I'll love this Hudson Soft-published effort, too--once I finally pop it into my trusty PC Engine Core Grafx II.

Momotarō Densetsu Turbo and Momotarō Densetsu Gaiden--These games also were made and published by Hudson Soft, and they also star the above-mentioned Peach Boy. They differ from Katsugeki in terms of gameplay, though. Both are Dragon Quest-esque RPGs full of turn-based battles and travels across exotic landscapes. The latter's supposed to be miles better than the former, so most would say I should start with Gaiden, but I'll probably do the opposite.

Have you played any of these PC Engine games? If so, let me (and others) know what you think of them in the comments section below.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Manual Stimulation: Penguin-kun Wars Vs. (GameBoy)

I hate to begin this post on a negative note, but I'm going to do it anyway: the Penguin-kun Wars Vs. instruction manual can't quite hold a candle to the game's eye-popping cover art or cartridge label. (Both can be seen in the previously published, "Surprise! The Year of the GameBoy Continues: Penguin-kun Wars Vs.")

That doesn't mean you should click away from this write-up. The Penguin-kun Wars Vs. manual has plenty to offer even though it lacks the wow factor of the rest of this Japanese game's packaging.

Before we get to the meat of the instructional booklet at hand, though, let's address the scan above, which is of its front and back covers. Rest assured I had nothing to do with the off-color splotches that dot its surface.

Sadly, that's the condition it was in when it landed on my doorstep some time ago. Which is weird, as otherwise this copy of Penguin-kun Wars Vs. seems untouched. Maybe it wasn't stored properly?

Regardless, those splotches basically are nonexistent inside the Penguin-kun Wars Vs. booklet, so let's not linger over them.

Moving on, boy, the penguin illustration above is adorable, isn't it? Stylistically, it reminds me of the similarly rough-hewn drawings that can be found in the manuals made for Bubble Bobble Junior and Penguin Land.

The text that sits behind that piece of art details the history of the Penguin-kun Wars series, by the way. Or at least that's what I was able to gather with my admittedly still-developing understanding of the Japanese language.

The pages above, on the other hand, detail the rules and controls of Penguin-kun Wars Vs., respectively.

The manual then moves on to explain the ins and outs of this GameBoy title's one-player mode.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

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

In light of the recent news (see 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