Monthly Archives: February 2011

PCE Review #1: Rainbow Islands

Game: Rainbow Islands
Genre: Platformer
Format: CD-ROM2
Developer: NEC Avenue
Publisher: NEC Avenue
Release date: 1993

Most platformers follow in Super Mario Bros’ hugely successful footsteps and scroll horizontally. Well, Fukio Mitsuji’s arcade classic–technically the first sequel to Bubble Bobble–turns that tried-and-true tradition on its head and scrolls vertically, much like those odd overworld sections of Kid Icarus that caused you to pull out your hair by the handful. (Or was that just me?) As much as I like that mythological Famicom Disk System title, though, it has nothing on Rainbow Islands, what with its titular arcs of light–which can be used as weapons and as platforms–shimmering, Wizard of Oz-esque soundtrack (i.e., the main theme sounds an awful lot like “Over the Rainbow“) and varied assortment of enemies and environments.

See also: Introducing: PCE Reviews

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Introducing: PCE Reviews

To all of you who are thinking that “PCE” stands for PC Engine: You’re wrong!

I mean, you’re right in most cases, but in this particular case those three little letters stand for something completely different: Punchy, Concise and (hopefully) Entertaining.

Anyway, yes, this means that I’m soon going to start publishing reviews of all of the games in my collection. Don’t expect them to be feature-length reviews that end with multi-star recommendations, though; rather, expect them to be short, but sweet, “repositories of information.” (Kind of like the reviews found at gamengai.com and videogameden.com.)

I’m going to post the first “PCE Review” within the next few days and then do my best to keep them coming at a good clip until I’ve finished going through my still-growing PC Engine collection.

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An artful look at Bonk’s arcade cousin, Kaneko’s BC Kid

Like any good Bonk–or, PC Genjin, as he’s called in Japan–fan, I consider the character’s PC Engine outings to be (basically) the only ones worth my attention. As a result, I’ve ignored pretty much all of the spin-offs that have been released for the GameBoy, the Famicom and the Super Famicom–I’m just going to ignore the later atrocities–over the years.

I haven’t ignored all of the Bonk spin-offs, though; the arcade-only BC Kid, for instance, has always intrigued me despite the fact that it was developed by Kaneko rather than Red and Atlus.

Artist and blogger Curtis Bathurst seems to share my interest in BC Kid, at least as far as the game’s aesthetics are concerned. In this recent post, Bathurst critiques the game’s promotional art (right) as well as its in-game graphics.

Although he isn’t a big fan of either, he ends his post on a positive note saying, “I find it wildly exciting that there was ever a coin-op Bonk’s Adventure and I love rummaging through the ‘net in search of bits and scraps about the game.”

If you’re at all interested in graphic design–especially as it relates to the gaming world–I highly recommend heading over to Bathurst’s site and reading his post about this quirky quarter-muncher.

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Five favorites: CD cover art

For what it’s worth, coming up with a list of my five favorite pieces of PC Engine CD-ROM2 cover art was a lot harder than I thought it would be. (Also, it was a lot harder than coming up with my five favorite pieces of HuCard cover art–which I wrote about in this post.)

After much sweating, swearing and handwringing, though, I settled on the following:

Crest of Wolf (Hudson/Westone, 1993)–I tend to like cuter, more colorful imagery when it comes to cover art, but I’m making an exception in the case of this side-scrolling beat ’em up (which was called Riot Zone in North America)–mainly because of the skeleton with the bloody sickle, interestingly enough.

Gate of Thunder (Hudson/Red, 1992)–To be honest, I’m not even sure what this image is supposed to represent. Is that the “Hunting Dog” speeding toward the viewer, or is it some sort of hostile mother ship? I don’t know why I’m asking, because I’ll continue to lust after this piece of strikingly colored cover art regardless of the response.

Puyo Puyo CD (Compile/NEC Avenue, 1994)–OK, I know this choice is going to lose a few of you, but stick with me. Clearly, this piece of cover art isn’t as technically impressive as those mentioned above. It’s brighter and cuter than both of them combined, though, and that counts for a lot in my book. I’m especially fond of the cherry-red logo, which pops, shockingly, from the comparably subtle background imagery.

Sylphia (Tonkin House, 1993)–If you’re looking for a bit (or a lot) of drama in a piece of box art, look no further than the one created for this mythologically focused shmup. There’s the titular fairy in the foreground and a dragon and some Corinthian columns in the background. Oh, and swirling around all of it: Magic! Really, could you ask for anything more?

Ys I&II (Hudson/Falcom, 1989)–I had a really hard time deciding between the Japanese and the North American cover art for this classic RPG. In the end, I chose the latter because of its beautiful dawn-breaks-after-defeating-Darm backdrop. That said, you certainly can’t go wrong with the classy Japanese cover.

Contenders: Ai Cho Aniki, J.B. Harold Murder ClubMagical Saurus TourMonster Lair (North American version), NexzrRed Alert, Valis II and III and Winds of Thunder.

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Five favorites: HuCard cover art

Hundreds of games were released during the PC Engine’s lifetime, so it’s no simple task to come up with a list of the system’s best HuCard cover (or box) art.

As a result, it took more than a bit of hemming and hawing before I was able to settle on my five favorites:

Hany in the Sky (Face, 1989)–It could be argued that one of Face’s other bizarro releases, Hany on the Road, is just as deserving of a place on this list, but I went with Hany in the Sky because of its daring use of color–you don’t often see pink and teal box art–and its abstract nature.

Makyo Densetsu (Victor Musical Industries, 1988)–Don’t hold the following admission against me: I’ve never been a big fan of this game, better known as Legendary Axe in North America. I am a big fan of the game’s box art, though, in part because it brings to mind classics like Castlevania, Golden Axe and The Legend of Zelda.

PC Genjin (Hudson Soft/Red, 1989)–This piece of cover art is the polar opposite of the one above. Whereas Makyo Densetsu‘s cover art is dark and moody, PC Genjin‘s is bright, cheerful and, well, cute. (I especially like the blue dino in the background.) That’s not the only reason this game’s cover art is among my favorites, though; I’m also a big fan of its mixed-media sheen, for instance.

Parasol Stars (Taito, 1991)–Well, this particular piece of box art sure is colorful, isn’t it? It’s also more than a bit busy. Still, I like it. A lot. Not only does it do a great job of mirroring the game’s content, but it does so using a rather groovy and retro-tastic style.

War of the Dead (Victor Musical Industries, 1989)–I’ve never played this game, so I don’t know if it’s great or if it’s crap, but I want to play it regardless simply because of its cover art–which reminds me, in more ways than one, of some sort of long-lost Resident Evil spin-off (or maybe knock-off?). I think that about says it all, don’t you think?

Contenders: Columns, Deep Blue, Dungeon ExplorerGekisha Boy, Kato & Ken Chan, The Kung Fu and Power League.

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