Tag Archives: Japan

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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Speaking of rare PC Engine hardware, what happened to this monitor?

Did you know that the folks at NEC announced both the PC Engine DUO and the PC Engine LT (the laptop-esque portable mentioned in this post) at the Tokyo Game Show in 1991? Well, they did.

At the same event, NEC also displayed a four-inch, clamshell monitor that could be attached to the aforementioned DUO to turn it into what the writers at TurboPlay magazine called “the ultimate portable machine.”

In this article (from the August/September 1991 issue of TurboPlay), it’s suggested that the monitor, below, had been released two years prior with a price tag of approximately $600. That assertion seems questionable to me, as that would mean it was released in 1989–the PC Engine’s second year on the market.


So, I have a question for any fellow PC Engine fans out there who may come across this post: Was this monitor really released in Japan in 1989, or was it released alongside the DUO and the LT?

Regardless, it’s a rather fascinating peripheral–especially given its release date–isn’t it?

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A little PC Engine LT love

At least once a year, I become a wee bit obsessed with the PC Engine LT.

I’ve wanted one of these sexy, laptop-esque portables ever since I saw a photo of one in an old issue of either Diehard GameFan or Electronic Gaming Monthly (or maybe it was Super Gaming, an EGM spin-off) magazine as a youngster, but I’ve never bought one because they’re so darn expensive.

That hasn’t kept me from dreaming about the day I throw caution–and my credit card–to the wind and purchase one, though. Until that day arrives, I’ll waste my time reading blog posts about and watching YouTube videos of NEC’s little gray wonder.

Speaking of the latter, the following video–produced by YouTube user futurematt5–is helping me get through my most recent phase of PC Engine LT obsession. (I wonder if that’ll be considered a diagnosable and treatable disorder when the DSM-5 is published in 2013?)

Here‘s part two of the video, by the way, and here’s (actually, go here and here) a series of videos in which futurematt5 attaches the PC Engine LT to the Super CD-ROM2 peripheral. Oh, and here‘s a fabulously porn-ish video that features “high-quality footage and close-ups” of the system.

Anyway, here’s to hoping that next year at this time I’ll be posting my own photos and videos of the portable system that futurematt5 says is the gaming world’s equivalent of an eccentric uncle.

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PCE Review #6: Pro Tennis World Court


Game:
Pro Tennis World Court
Genre: Sports
Developer: Namcot
Publisher: Namcot
Format: HuCard
Release date: 1988

Pro Tennis World Court is widely known–to 16-bit afficionados, at least–as “the tennis RPG.” There’s a good reason for that: Along with the expected singles and doubles modes, this Namcot-published game features a “quest” mode that tasks players with wandering the Final Fantasy-esque lands of the creatively named (or not) “Tennis Kingdom” in search of the “Evil Tennis King.” (I’m not making this up–check out this blog post for more on this title’s sad excuse for a backstory.) Before you can challenge this lizard-like baddie (he’s green) to a Nadal-Federer-ish face-off, you’ll have to vanquish a number of his minions in tennis matches of varying lengths. You’ll also have to upgrade your equipment (rackets, shoes and shirts–which boost your power, foot speed and ability to refuse challenges, respectively) using the winnings you receive after beating the aforementioned, randomly-encountered foes. All in all, it’s an enjoyably unique, if slightly unpolished (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you approach your first NPC), experience. You’ll have to be patient if you want to eke every last ounce of fun out of the game, though, as it starts rather slowly. Thankfully, things speed up appreciably once you update your gear a bit. Even then, Pro Tennis World Court (World Court Tennis in the States) never feels quite as slick as another well-known PC Engine title featuring fuzzy, yellow balls–Final Match Tennis–but its quirkiness at least partially makes up for it.

See also: Previous PCE Reviews

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Would this have prompted more Americans to purchase a TurboDuo?

Probably not, but it couldn’t have hurt.

The folks at NEC (or TTI) would have had to redo the commercial’s song, though, since I can’t make out most of what’s being said in the current version.

I can hear, “let’s spend the night together!” at the beginning, for instance, and the next thing I can make out is, “together having fun”–which comes just before the oh-so-cheerful chorus. The only other part I understand is the last line: “Look on the bright side of your life!”

All that said, I’ve watched the darn thing about 10 times now, so clearly it can be enjoyed quite a bit despite the language difficulties.

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