Barunba the game may suck, but Barunba the manual does not

I’ve voiced my dissatisfaction with the gameplay featured in Namcot’s horizontal shmup, Barunba, before (in this post, for example), but what I haven’t expressed previously, as far as I’m aware, is my fondness for that much-maligned HuCard’s instruction manual.

That fondness begins, of course, with said instruction manual’s cover image (below, right), which shows Barunba‘s always-grinning protagonist gunning his way through a plethora of what appear to be crimson-tinged baddies.

I have to admit, I originally thought the protagonist was piloting his bubble-shaped ship through the innards of another human being, a la Psygnosis’ Microcosm. (I didn’t realize the red blobs in the background were the exteriors of a couple of creatures rather than their interiors, obviously.)

Anyway, the manual’s first two pages can be seen below. I’m guessing they detail the main character’s (and his ship’s) colorful back story, or something like that.

The next pages, on the other hand, seem to describe the many components of the game’s globe-shaped ship.

Barunba‘s main madman is exposed in the next set of pages. Who’s that brute behind him? It’s unlikely I’ll ever find out, as I find the game as boring as unadorned oatmeal.

Speaking of boring, you may as well skip the manual’s next few pages. Thankfully, they’re the only yawn-inducing ones.

You know, if Barunba‘s in-game sprites even partially resembled the illustrations shared on the following pages it would be a far more interesting experience, in my opinion. But would it be a more enjoyable one? Probably not.

Alas, these are the manual’s last few pages. They wrap things up on a high note, though, thanks in large part to that image on the right, which shows the game’s protagonist (what is his name, anyway?) battling a boss who looks as though he could be related to Metroid‘s Ridley.

So, there you have it: Ample evidence that just because a game sucks its instruction manual doesn’t have to follow suit.

Note: This post will soon be published on my general gaming blog as part of that site’s “Manual Stimulation” (ha ha) series. Don’t worry, any future installments that relate to the PC Engine will be published here first.

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Taiko no Tatsujin amigurumi + PC Engine controller = one adorable photo

How’s this for a fluff post?

Actually, “fluff” takes on two meanings in this particular instance, as not only is this kind of a throw-away post (aka “a piece of pure fluff“), but it also focuses on something that’s literally fluffy: Yarn.

Specifically, it focuses on the adorable Taiko no Tatsujin amigurumi (below) that was stitched together by blogger Spelinnea.

I’m sharing this photo here, of course, because the crocheted Taiko drum (WadaDon) in question is holding a PC Engine Core Grafx controller.

To see more photos of this fuzzy PC Engine fan, check out this post on Spelinnea’s blog.

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Halloween-ish HuCards (and CDs)

It’s that time of year again–i.e., the time of year when I spend way too much time searching for games that will put me in a Halloween mood.

Thankfully, a good number of such games were released for the PC Engine during its heyday. Here are the ones I’ll be playing (or be thinking of playing, at least) in the run-up to this year’s All Hallows’ Eve:

Cotton (Hudson Soft/Success, 1993)–There are two main reasons this cute shmup would earn a regular spot in my PC Engine Super CD-ROM2 system over the next few weeks if I still owned a copy of it: 1) It stars a broom-riding witch who has to fly through all sorts of dark and dreary environs in order to collect a bunch of missing gems, and 2) Said witch is obsessed with candy. Really, it’s the perfect game for such a spooky-and-sweet season.

Dracula X: Chi no Rondo (Konami, 1993)–I couldn’t very well create a list like this and not include on it a game that not only features Dracula’s name in its title but also features said vampire as its main villain, could I? I’d mention Dracula X here even if it didn’t involve that old bloodsucker, though–thanks in no small part to its Thriller-meets-Sleepy Hollow opening slavo.

Jigoku Meguri (Taito, 1990)–True story: I used to rather dislike this pixelated platformer, which follows a portly monk as he makes a perilous trek through hell. I changed my tune after giving it another try a month or so ago (expect to see a post about this epiphanic experience soon), though, and now consider it to be an appreciably dour counterpoint to a similar-yet-much-more-cheerful Taito-developed title: Mizubaku Daibouken.

Splatterhouse (Namcot, 1990)–The protagonist of this bloody beat ’em up looks like Friday the 13th‘s Jason Voorhees. That alone makes me want to play it this time of year. The game’s grotesque baddies–like the chainsaw-weidling dude showcased in the screenshot above–and creepy soundtrack are just the blood-spattered icing on this ghoulishly rotten (in a good way) cake.

I’d add NEC Avenue’s Horror Story and Human’s Laplace no Ma, a supposedly terror-ific dungeon crawler, to this list, but I’ve never played the former (important if I’m to know whether or not it’ll put me in a Halloween mood) and I don’t understand the language (Japanese) that’s likely required to make it through the latter.

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PCE Review #9: Wonder Momo

Game: Wonder Momo
Genre: Beat ’em up
Developer: Namcot
Publisher: Namcot
Format: HuCard
Release date: 1989

This game’s cover art is cute, as are its title and between-stage screens. Also, its main theme is appreciably jaunty, with a Mega Man-esque quality to it. Oh, and I basically got it for free (the person from whom I bought my PC Engine threw six games, including this one, into the package before shipping it). Sadly, those are the only positive things I can say about this particular HuCard. I have plenty of negative things to say about it, though. For starters, let’s go back to those graphics I mentioned in the first sentence of this write-up. Although I’d be hard-pressed to call them terrible, I have no such problem calling them antiquated and boring–especially when it comes to Wonder Momo‘s yawn-enducing backgrounds. As bad as the game’s visuals are, though, they’re works of art compared to its gameplay, which consists of the titular Momo high-kicking and jump-kicking one ambling, odd-looking enemy after another until she’s beaten enough of them to be whisked off to the next, claustrophobic stage. Every once in a while, a tornado whirls its way onto the scene, and if Momo touches it she turns into, well, I guess she turns into Wonder Momo. Regardless, she puts on a helmut, a pair of boots and wields some sort of hula-hoop-like weapon–and winds up barely more powerful than she was as Regular Ol’ Momo. Toss all of the above complaints into a blender and what do you get? You guessed it: A crappy beat ’em up that only should be added to your collection if your aim is to own each and every HuCard. Everyone else should avoid it like a pixelated plague.

See also: Previous PCE Reviews

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

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.

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PCE Review #8: PC Genjin

Game: PC Genjin
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Atlus/Red Company
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Format: HuCard
Release date: 1989

Most folks know this game, renamed Bonk’s Adventure before it was released in North America, for its hard-headed protagonist–who bravely served as the PC Engine’s entry in what I like to call the “Great Gaming Mascot Pageant” of the late 1980s and early 1990s. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course–that is the game’s main claim to fame, after all–but in my opinion it deserves to be known for much more than being a somewhat-competitive contemporary of Mario and Sonic. For instance, there’s the fact that PC Genjin began life as a comic (in the pages of Gekkan PC Engine magazine). I don’t know why, but I’ve always found that kind of cool. Then there’s the fact that it was developed by the abler-than-able folks at Atlus and Red Company (makers of Gate/Lords of Thunder and the Tengai Makyou titles). There’s also the fact that PC Genjin is, simply put, a fun and unique game–something that can’t be said about too many of the mascot-focused platformers released during the 16-bit era. The main reasons I find it to be fun and unique: For starters, the protagonist attacks his prehistoric foes by bashing them with his head. (He can do this while standing on the ground or while in the air, by the way; with the latter move resulting in a devilish dive-bomb.) Also, jumping and then rapidly pushing that same action button on the PC Engine’s pad causes PC Genjin to spin wildly and hover or float, if for just a second or two, above the ground. Finally, I’ve always appreciated the primitive nature of this title’s graphics. Considering most “mascot games,” including this game’s superior-in-many-ways sequel, are awfully slick in that area, PC Genjin‘s primordial departure from the norm could and should be seen by PC Engine and platformer fans as a pixelated breath of fresh air.

See also: Previous PCE Reviews

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Got $10,000 to blow? Buy me this ‘complete collection’ of TurboDuo systems and games

OK, you can buy it for yourself if you’d like. I certainly wouldn’t complain if you bought it for me, though.

Regardless of who you purchase it for, you’d probably like to know what this “complete collection” includes before hitting this eBay auction’s “Buy it Now” button (here), right?

Well, for starters, it includes one boxed TurboDuo system in mint condition and three unboxed TurboDuo systems in excellent condition. It also includes an Arcade Card (which allows you to play all of the system’s Arcade Card titles), a “Diving Board” card (which allows you to play imports) and 129 North American and 30 Japanese games.

Just a few of the games that could be yours ... if you've got $10,000 to blow.

Although I’m hardly the TurboGrafx-16 expert I once was, this auction’s asking price seems a bit high to me–especially since a number of the included games are “loose” (they don’t come with a case and/or manual). Also, this so-called complete collection lacks the most magnificent Arcade Card title of them all: Madou Monogatari.

(Via retro-treasures.blogspot.com)

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