Although all of the games detailed in this post were developed by the folks at Namco/Namcot, don’t take that to mean that I dislike Namcot products. On the contrary, I consider some of the company’s games–especially classic ones like Dig Dug, Galaga, Mappy and Pac-Man–to be all-time favorites.
That said, the following trio of PC Engine releases are games that I’d love to call all-time favorites but can’t for a number of reasons.
1. Barunba (1990)
Why I want to like it: The game’s logo is pretty spiffy (I mean, it even has stars where the letters’ holes should be), as is its overall cover art, which showcases what seems to be Barunba‘s raison d’etre–its globe-shaped ship with its rotatable weapons.
Why I can’t: Unfortunately, said cover art is, by far, the best thing about this forced-scrolling shmup. Its graphics can only be described as ugly, and its sound effects are just this side of ear-splitting. The worst part of this pixelated package, though, is that it’s flat-out boring thanks in large part to some overly long and uninspired levels.
2. Pac-Land (1989)
Why I want to like it: I distinctly remember seeing this game for the first time in a local arcade. “It’s like Pac-Man mixed with Super Mario Bros!” I thought with equal parts amazement and wonder. Superficially, that thought was spot-on, as Pac-Land looks exactly like you’d expect a Pac-Man-based platformer from the 8-bit era to look.
Why I can’t: Then I played it. To say I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I’d be would be a massive understatement. The graphics are pretty dull, but I’d happily put up with them if the gameplay weren’t even duller–not to mention overly difficult. That rather brutal combination keeps me from playing it more than once or twice a year–and even then I only do so for a few minutes (which is how long it takes me to remember that the game is an absolute turd).
3. Wonder Momo (1989)
Why I want to like it: I hate to sound like a broken record, but Wonder Momo shares a number of traits with Barunba. Specifically, it has cute cover art … and that’s about it. OK, so it also has a cute protagonist.
Why I can’t: A cute protagonist doesn’t mean much, though, when the game she stars in is a complete and utter bore. It means even less when said game features iffy controls (Wonder Momo‘s jump kick is the worst offender here) and yawn-inducing enemy designs and backdrops.
I can’t publish this post without mentioning that I originally intended to include The Tower of Druaga, too, but after picking up and playing it for the first time in a number of months (if not years) I discovered that the game isn’t as bad as I thought it was. In fact, I now quite like it–although I can understand why many feel otherwise.