I don’t plan on publishing any more posts on this particular blog, but …

… that doesn’t mean I’m finished writing and publishing PC Engine-focused posts altogether.

In fact, I’ve regularly published PC Engine-focused posts on my other, more general, gaming blog, The Gay Gamer, since I stopped doing so here late last year.

Sorry, I’m only telling you about it now. I would have done so sooner, but I honestly thought I’d continue to publish posts on this blog for some time to come.

Trying to maintain two blogs at once, though, has become more than I can handle, so I’ve decided to put all of my energy into The Gay Gamer, which not only regularly features posts about the PC Engine and its games but also features posts about pretty much every other “retro”–as well as current–game system under the sun.

Don’t believe me that the PC Engine gets plenty of attention on my other blog? Here are just a few recent examples:

* “Bubble Bobble + Chack’n Pop + Parasol Stars = single-screen platformer perfection
* “Manual Stimulation: PC Genjin (PC Engine)
* “My kind of art
* “Second Chances: Pop’n Magic

I’m sure some of you will balk at visiting The Gay Gamer because of its name. Just know that it welcomes people of all colors, genders and sexual orientations and that a good percentage of the folks who visit and comment on the site are not, in fact, members of the LGBT community.

Anyway, I sincerely hope some of you will check it out at some point, especially if you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read here. And if not? Thank you for supporting this blog during its far-too-short (in my opinion) existence. I’ve greatly appreciate it.

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PCE Review #11: Barunba

Game: Barunba
Genre: Shoot ’em up
Developer: Namco/Zap Corp
Publisher: Namcot
Format: HuCard
Release date: 1990

There are a number of reasons to like this odd, side-scrolling shmup: Its box art is lovely (as is its manual), its bosses are huge and its gameplay offers up a few surprises that help it stand out from the pack. Sadly, there are many more reasons to dislike it–most of which have to do with the aforementioned gameplay. (Two that don’t: The great majority of the game’s enemies and backdrops are at best boring and at worst ugly, while its sound effects are the definition of “grating.”) Specifically, although the globe-shaped ship gamers control while playing Barunba impresses with its rotatable weaponry, the rather cumbersome rotation aspect actually gets in the way more often than not. As such, most folks are likely to keep their guns aimed straight ahead as much as possible. Also, although each of the game’s five stages are surprisingly extensive (e.g., long), most of them become a drag well before you reach the end. So, with three bullet points in favor of Barunba and four against it, what’s my final verdict on this Namcot-published HuCard? I’d say it’s a curiously unique but disappointingly flawed game that’s worth playing only if you find it on the cheap or if you’re fairly obsessed with the shoot ’em up genre.

See also: Previous PCE Reviews

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Second chances: Fantasy Zone

I know a lot of people who absolutely love Fantasy Zone. Until recently, though, I didn’t share their adoration of this arcade classic.

Oh, I wanted to. After all, it was made by the folks at Sega (always a positive in my book–well, as long as we’re talking pre-2002 Sega) and it’s chock-full of color. Also, I’ve always been fond of the game’s oddly named protagonist, a sentient spaceship who answers to Opa-Opa.

So, what’s kept me from lusting after this pastel-splashed shmup? Its controls were the biggest hurdle–in particular, Opa-Opa’s odd sense of gravity and momentum that takes some getting used to if you were brought up, as I was, on more traditional side-scrolling shoot ’em ups, like DariusGradius or R-Type.

Another control-centric issue that has long impeded my ability to accept Fantasy Zone into my heart: Dealing with the aforementioned issues while taking out the game’s thieving enemy forces is the definition of challenging.

A few weeks ago, after reading through The Brothers Duomazov’s review of the PC Engine version for what must have been the hundredth time, I decided to erase my previous opinions of the game from my memory and give it a second (maybe third) chance.

Although I’d be lying if I said this latest experience with Fantasy Zone was smooth sailing, er, flying, from the get-go, I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the title a lot more than I had in the past. Sure, I died a lot–I’m pretty sure I saw the “game over” screen too many times to count before I made it to the second stage–but I didn’t much care thanks to my newly minted appreciation of the game’s uniqueness (not to mention its odd, and other-worldly, assortment of environments and enemies).

Can it now be said that I, too, adore Fantasy Zone? Yes, I think it can. As for whether it also can be said that I’m any good at it, though, is another conversation entirely.

See also: Previous ‘second chances’ posts

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Three more PC Engine games I want to like, but can’t

A few weeks ago, I published a post about three Namcot-made PC Engine games that I want to like but can’t. Well, here are three more such games–although, in this case, only one of them was produced by the folks responsible for Pac-Man.

1. Batman (1990)

Why I want to like it: It’s a Batman game. Duh! Also, I rather like the look of the Batman sprite and the top-down view of the action–a welcome change from all of the side-scrolling efforts (like this one and this one) that flooded the market following the success of Tim Burton’s 1989 film.

Why I can’t: It’s pretty darn boring. It starts off well enough, but after a few levels your eyes glaze over (or at least mine did) due to this Sunsoft-developed title’s dreary, repetitive environs and yawn-inducing gameplay.

2. Deep Blue (1989)

Why I want to like it: Well, there’s the game’s box art, for starters, which intriguingly shows a fish-shaped ship firing at a gigantic octopus. And then there are its in-game graphics, which are–in screenshots, at least–similarly intriguing thanks to their gritty, somewhat-realistic sheen.

Why I can’t: Unfortunately, those gritty, somewhat-realistic graphics are awfully repetitive in action. That’s the least of this Pack-in-Video-made title’s problems, though. Much more offensive than its graphics is its gameplay, which pits your slow, underpowered fish-sub against hordes of speedy, zig-zagging gill-breathers that are nearly impossible to avoid.

3. Marchen Maze (1990)

Why I want to like it: Anyone who has been visiting this blog for more than a day or so likely knows I’m a sucker for cute games. Well, this Alice in Wonderland-esque release definitely fits into that category thanks to its bubble-blowing, pigtailed protagonist and a cast of “baddies” that include sunglasses-wearing mushrooms and pink, wind-up-toy penguins.

Why I can’t: This game may be cute, but it’s no cakewalk. In fact, it’s frustratingly–and often cheaply–challenging. You’re constantly being barraged with bullets and other obstacles that send you over the brink (each stage is a platform that floats in space) and eat up one of your precious lives.

It should be noted that none of the above-mentioned games are terrible. On the contrary, each of them contain one or two or even three elements (such as graphics, music or overall concept) that make me think they could be completely enjoyable–if only they didn’t contain a number of flaws, too.

See also: ‘Three PC Engine games I want to like, but can’t

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You don’t look a day over 20, PC Engine

The PC Engine is celebrating its 24th birthday today.

For those of you who are a bit mathematically challenged, that means the sleek little system was “born” on Oct. 30, 1987.

I’m sure I’ve told this story before, but in case I haven’t: I’ve been interested in (some would say obsessed with) this console ever since I laid eyes on it in an early issue of either Electronic Gaming Monthly or GamePro magazine.

Although I acquired a TurboGrafx-16 shortly after it was released, I didn’t add a PC Engine to my collection until two years ago.

It should go without saying that the system is now one of my most-treasured pieces of gaming paraphernalia.

Anyway, please join me in raising an imaginary glass of bubbly to the “little white wonder,” as I like to call the PC Engine, for surviving its awkward teen years and for blossoming into the beautiful 24-year-old we know and love today.

Also, join me in playing a few of its most noteworthy games. Some of the ones I’m planning to spend time with this afternoon: Air Zonk (aka PC Denjin), Bomberman ’94Final Match Tennis and Parasol Stars.

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