Tag Archives: imports

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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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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PCE Review #10: Street Fighter II’ Champion Edition

Game: Street Fighter II’ Champion Edition
Genre: Fighting
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: NEC Home Electronics
Format: HuCard
Release date: 1993

Nowadays, this port is the definition of “meh-worthy,” thanks in large part to Capcom’s milking of the Street Fighter franchise. Back in the day, though, it was a marvel, as it proved, once and for all, that NEC’s pint-sized–and basically 8-bit–PC Engine could compete graphically with its 16-bit competitors (those being the Mega Drive and Super Famicom, of course). Admittedly, the music and sound effects took a pretty big hit in the transition from arcade to (20-Megabit) HuCard, but everything else is pretty much spot-on–it even includes the barrel-breaking bonus stage that was cut from the Super Fami version of the game. All that said, I rarely play Street Fighter II’ Champion Edition. In part, that’s because I’m not the world’s biggest fan of one-on-one fighting games, but it’s also because I have yet to pick up the six-button controller that was released alongside this title and is a required purchase if you want to get any enjoyment out of it at all.

See also: Previous PCE Reviews

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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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