Tag Archives: Namco

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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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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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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