Tag Archives: reviews

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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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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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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PCE Review #7: Hany on the Road

Game: Hany on the Road
Genre: Platformer
Developer: FACE
Publisher: FACE
Format: HuCard
Release date: 1990

The titular protagonist in this game and in Hany in the Sky–a bizarre shoot ’em up that was released in 1989–takes a lot of crap these days for looking like an anthropomorphic condom. Although understandable, such point-and-laugh attitudes cause a lot of people to overlook these  games in general and this unique platformer–honestly, I’ve never played anything like it–in particular. That’s a shame, especially when it comes to Hany on the Road, which has players race through a series of scrolling, multi-planed (or maybe I should say “multi-roaded,” given the game’s title) stages in order to … actually, I can’t remember why you’re supposed to race through this game. I’m guessing it’s so you can rescue the protagonist’s kidnapped girlfriend, Lemon? Whatever the reason, the journey is plenty pleasant thanks in large part to the game’s attractive, colorful and delightfully varied graphics (each level pretty much has its own look) as well as its jaunty soundtrack. Hany’s travels aren’t without their travails, however; there are times when “the little condom that could,” as I like to call him, feels a tad slippery, for instance, and there are other times when he’s a bit too speedy. Also, his lone method of attack–a backflip kick–can be difficult to time, which likely prompts most people to play the game as I do: By jumping over or otherwise avoiding the game’s baddies–a number of whom are depicted in the cover art above–rather than confronting them head-on.

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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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