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Thread: Opinions on poorly documented imports

  1. #161
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    Default Tadaima Yuusha Boshuuchuu Okawari

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    Tadaima Yuusha Boshuuchuu Okawari for the Super Famicom was a game I picked up with absolutely no idea what I'd be getting myself into. The fantasy anime art lent itself to an RPG or strategy feel, and while I don't do as many RPGs as I once did, a good action RPG is something I tend to be down to play. Welp, as luck would have it, it was none of those things... it was a board game, and I do love me some video board games! All I needed was to find a little time to learn to play it!

    Now, I've played a load of video board games, so I was pleased as can be to see that Tadaima Yuusha Boshuuchuu Okawari has a lot of unique twists to keep things interesting. It's designed to be played by four players, and the computer will control any un-manned players. You begin by picking which character you want to be and naming them. Each character has their own look and class, which affords unique abilities as well as weapon/armor selections. You then select a map, which is populated with various cities, shops, outposts, and a castle with the map's master. You then select a target amount of NVP (some sort of victory points), which are earned through various methods, but predominantly by winning battles, the largest amounts from liberating cities and outposts. You then designate a number of years to play, and the player who achieves the target and has the most NVP at the end will win. So, time to start!

    You find yourself on a 16-bit RPG-style overworld map, and you have a handful of options. Roll the die, use an item or spell, and check equipment. Pressing Y will allow you to freely view the map, and pressing X will give you a secondary menu, from which you can stay still, pass, view the map's features from a menu, and check your and your fellow players' status/character sheets. Spells can have effects like causing an opposing player to lose a turn or teleporting them or other effects, but most often you're gonna roll and move.

    Moving is the first big wrinkle. You move much like in a grid-based strategy game, and the higher you roll, the farther out you can move. You can freely explore the map from here, but there are a few things you'll want to do before picking fights with strongholds and cities. First, hitting the inn doesn't just refill your health; you can hire mercenaries in them to form a party of up to three (you can go alone if you're an idiot). These have varying classes and abilities, so you want to be sure to hire a party that is capable, but you can replace folks you don't like later (or they might randomly ditch you). Next, hit the Pico bazaar, where you can upgrade weapons and armor, as well as purchase items like potions and magic. You can also occasionally randomly get hit up by a traveling merchant or wandering mercenary, but these stops are the only surefire way to get outfitted for the battles to come.

    Battles can randomly occur on the map, but are guaranteed at the cities and forts. These play out much like a Final Fantasy or Breath of Fire encounter, as you select your attacks/spells/items/run/etc. from menus. These last until either side is dead. Lose, and you'll go back to the nearest inn to the start, having lost some NVP. Win, and gain EXP, money, NVP, and even occasional items. Liberating cities and stronholds give massive NVP bonuses as well. Once a city or fort is clear, it stays free, so there is a limit as to large NVP quantities.

    The graphics look really great, with big character portraits, colorful sprites and backgrounds, and nice looking cutscenes. Games can be set to be rather short or massively long, like in Dokapon Kingdom, and there are several maps to play through. You can save at any time by pressing Start, which is convenient. Altogether, it's a fun board game, and the grid movement reduces the computer cheating that typically plagues these sorts of games when played in single player. It may seem a little daunting at first, but it's honestly one of the more accessible games of its kind I've played. I like it a lot.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 07-08-2016 at 12:50 AM.

  2. #162
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    Default Gunhed

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    Haven't updated this thread in awhile... still, decided to in my sleepless haze spend a little time learnificating myself a little more on the Famicom strategy game, Gunhed, which I've owned for years, but hadn't sat down and figured out yet. Most folks know that the Turbografx game Blazing Lazers is a localization of the PC Engine game called Gunhed. Other folks are aware of the kitsch classic international film, also known as Gunhed, which, aside from the title font, shows very little in common with that space shooter, starring a giant robot and some stranded commandos who must escape a deadly technological terror tower. It's odd, but an interesting watch, having gotten an english DVD release from ADV films. The Famicom game, ALSO called Gunhed, seems to be a predecessor story to that film, showcasing teams of giant robots going to war in a grid-based strategy title.

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    I'll have to apologize in advance for any inaccuracies, as my brother wasn't available to help translate, and there's scant information online about this game save that it exists, so you're pretty much at the mercy of what I've figured out so far here. Gunhed for Famicom appears to depict the war on the island with the tower shown in the film that resulted in the Gunhed being left inside. Up to four competing players can play as separate armies, or in my case, I played alone. The goal appears to be to collect the parts and build up a leveled-up Gunhed unit to infiltrate and conquer the tower at the center of the map and its defenses. This is easier said than done, as an underpowered bot will simply be immediately destroyed by the tower's laser cannons upon entering, so building up a proper destroyer is necessary.

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    The game begins by allowing players to choose sectors of the map on which to deploy your mechs. There are four types of mechs: scoutheds, assaultheds, commandheds, and the mighty titular Gunheds. These all have different allotments of weapons, movement range, armor, etc. Selecting a robot allows it to move by moving the cursor, or while the cursor rests on it, pressing B allows you to choose to use your overworld arsenal. Here, you can do such thing as launch long-range missiles, fire a circle of napalm, lay mines, self destruct, and more. These are limited and immensely powerful, but do not gain your forces experience points. By moving onto your opponents, though, you can trigger battle scenes, which are fights to the death.

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    First, a comparison screen pops up. Here, you can re-allot your experience in attempt to situationally prep your mech, spend new experience, and choose to let battles be automatic, semi-automatic, or manual. I prefer manual, where I can fully control my robot during battle, controlling its movements, firing, and switching weapons. Here, the two units move around a small field, jockeying for position and trying to blow each other to smithereens. Ammunition on specials is limited, so it's vital to win early and often, as the victor collects the spoils, taking not only experience points from your victories, but also replenishing health, ammunition, and gaining parts that can be used to build new units. The battles are pretty decent to play, being brief but fair, and bringing the right mech is vital, as even a powered-up scout is gonna get its asd whipped by a Gunhed.

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    Moving around the map, aside from opponents you'll encounter various structures and terrain types. Most buildings award parts and items when occupied, while terrain limits movement. Defeating all of your opponents will cause a new rival army to arrive, offering you the chance to continue empowering or losing your units. This seems to repeat until you're either wiped from the island or conquer the tower and its horrors. In some ways, it takes on almost a board game feel due to its singular map and objectives that guide its strategic gameplay, creating something in between the likes of Front Mission and Archon. You can save during your turn to continue later as well, as it takes quite awhile to build up a Gunhed badass enough to get the win.

    Gunhed is one of the better NES strategy titles I've played to date, and its franchise ties add a bit of intrigue for me. As far as accessibility goes, it isn't too bad, using english status screens and having very small kana menus on the overworld to memorize. I'd love to explore the multi-player on this one, though I doubt I'll find many takers on that front. Still, if you're a fan of the Gunhed film, franchise, or Famicom oddities, it's a fun little game to play around with, though it isn't one you'll finish in an afternoon most likely.

  3. #163
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    Default Mawatte Mucho!

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    It's been awhile, and it feels like it might be fun to pull out some more oddball imports that don't get attention even with all of the retro game content put there. I don't think I've ever known anyone to play Mawatte Mucho! for the Playstation, but it's a really fun one, and has completely english menus to boot.

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    After a cutscene in which an old magic monster is awakened and promptly does some princess kidnapping, a group of her loyal subjects set out to rescue her and bring her chibi butt home. There are initially five playable characters (and an unlockable sixth after your first clear) who travel through six levels with four stages each. Each character has his or her own unique speed and attacks, such as a knight with a sword, a sorceress with her magic staff, a... um... parrot... with a beak... and a mariachi musician with a guitar that can fire notes?

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    Each stage is set up on a square grid that can be zoomed in or out and rotated. The format recalls classic overhead action puzzlers such as Lolo or Kickle Cubicle, but has the unique, um, spin, in that you can rotate the tile you are standing on along side adjacent tiles by pushing the circle button, allowing you to comnect pathways to traverse the area. X allows you to use your character-specific attack, and square serves two functions. First, if you have a "jump" power-up (of which you can stock 3), it allows you to jump over a gap instead of rotating tiles. Secondly, it activates teleporters, which allow up to three total grids per stage with sub-areas. Each stage is littered with both enemies and treasure chests, which can be blue or red. Red chests contain power-ups- more time, jumps, a shield, life, 1ups, etc. Blue chests are your primary objective. Find all three in each stage to open the exit and clear the area. You get 90 seconds that can be extended with power-ups.

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    The fourth stage of each area is a boss fight, and these call to mind the boss fights in the 16 bit Bomberman games. Only the last boss presents any real challenge, but once you figure him out, even he is a pushover. For an experienced player of these kinds of games, there really isn't much challenge at all, save maybe some tension with time limits here and there or the odd control issue. These are the lone frustrating part of the game, as there are two really finnicky irritants. First, using square to activate both jumps and teleporters can lead to you jumping when you mean to activate the teleporter, and it will absolutely happen unless you are squared up in the center of the teleporter tile. Throughout most of the game, it's not really a big deal, but on a couple of later stages when there are more enemies and you're in a hurry (especially with the sorceress and her obscenely long attack animation), it is really infuriating to rush to a teleporter barely in time, then accidentally jump, giving an enemy a chance to catch up and whack you. Second is that there are invincibility frames when rotating tiles as they rise into the air and spin. This can be used by the player to help avoid damage in a pinch, but can drive you nuts while you're jamming on the attack button while an enemy just keeps spinning tiles.

    Overall, Mawatte Mucho! is a really fun little game for fans of old single-screen action puzzle games. It's short and easy, but very accessible to english speakers. I should mention it has a versus mode, but it's honestly garbage. The idea is to be the first player to open all chests in the arena or have the most when time runs out, but the characters are not at all balanced for this mode of play, with the mariachi guy being grossly overpowered with one of the fastest attack animations coupled with an extra tile of range. Still, if you enjoy stuff like Lolo, Kickle Cubicle, Solomon's Key, etc., there's a really fun time with a game that still seems to be pretty under the radar.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 09-16-2023 at 02:16 AM.

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    Default Calcolo

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    I like Twinkle Star Sprites. That competitive matchup with shooting and light puzzle elements has given me a lot of great memories with friends over the years, so several years ago, I went on a search to find games that offer a similar feeling. I found a handful, but my favorite (aside from Twinkle Star Spritesitself) may just be 1997's Calcolo on the original Playstation.

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    Calcolo offers a familar appearance; side by side play fields with bubbles dropping down from above, and a singular floating character on each side ready to fire away. What we have here definitely leans heavier into the puzzle side of things, with each bubble carrying a number on it. That digit must be matched with the same number of the same integer in a row horizontally or vertically to make it disappear, ranging from 0-7. In effect, two 2's, three 3's, four 4's, etc. Getting chains will cause garbage drops on your opponent's side and give you power-ups, of which you can stack up to three levels. Sounds pretty standard Puyo Puyo-esque...

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    Where we get spicy here is in how you manipulate those bubbles. Each face button corresponds to a direction. Shoot up to delay or pop bubbles, left or right to move them over, or down from above to speed them to the ground. This shooting element makes for a far more competitive and frantic experience that is magnified by the power-up attacks. These are character specific assaults activated by R1, and can have wildly different effects. Some clear space on your own field, some enlarge the opponent's sprite to make them obscure their own vision and make control horribly unwieldly, one reverses the opponent's controls temporarily (which, while ineffective against a CPU foe, can be devastating against a friend), and so on. This ramps up an already fast-paced competitive puzzle/shooter into a chaotic rumble, and is all the better for it!

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    Calcolo is one of my favorite oddball PS1 imports, and is one of the few games to at least scratch that Twinkle Star Sprites itch. The single play game is solid, but get together with friends of a similar mind, and you're set for a fun evening with plenty of trash talking. A couple of places have discovered it over the years, but it's a game still under the radar to most, and I like to think a few folks around here might dig it.

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    Last edited by celerystalker; 09-18-2023 at 11:06 PM.

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    gettin right back into it eh?

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    Yeah, I've been sidelined for a long time, and have a lot of stuff I'd like to talk about that most folks around me aren't all that interested in. Now that I'm starting to feel like an actual human again, I'd missed folks like you, Aussie2B, Emperor Megas, Cornelius, Nz17, RP2A03, and more that were always fun to talk weird games with. I hope you got out of Wal-Mart! I had to change careers, because the retail life managing those stores was no longer compatible with my body. I'm in insurance now, and it feels a lot better being at a desk working human hours!

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    Default Ruruli Ra Rura

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    The PC-FX doesn't get a lot of attention in general, and when it does, it's usually either to make fun of it or to talk about the few really sought-after games like Zenki. Ruruli Ra Rura is one of those oddball games that on another system like the Playstation or Saturn wouldn't earn a second look, but on a system starved for action and adventure, it becomes suddenly more interesting. I have no idea if I typed the name correctly. Google it, and you'll find about five differing takes on the title, making it a bear to search. Why it matters, though, is that it is the sole metroidvania on the PC-FX, making it imminently worth a peek.

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    Fortunately, Raru-whatever is rather accessible even to non-japanese speakers such as myself, as it really only has a couple of menus to figure out. You start as a green-haired samurai who must save the kingdom from an evil wizard, exploring and attacking with kicks and slashes. Capable as he is, he can't take on this world by himself, and will need to recruit 7 additional playable characters (!), each of whom has their own unique attacks and abilities. The frogman can swim and jump high, cat girl can climb, ninja girl can dash, fairy can fly, etc. Couple these with character-specific power-ups, and you have a fairly robust set of tools to take on your journey.

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    It all sounds like a pretty full-featured adventure, and to an extent, it is... but where the game will frustrate most is in its clunky controls. Each character has multiple jump variations based on how they are standing and the direction pressed, making platforming far more of a challenge than it ought to be. You can only change characters, save, and use special items for recovery and permanent stat boosts at tents by pressing select. The top choice is character select, second is special ability assignments for buttons IV, V, and VI, the third choice is item use, and last is save. Once you wrap your hands around those simple menus and obtuse controls, the only real barrier is solving puzzles without being able to read clues as to where to go. I still found them to be doable, although I did run into a couple of spots where I wandered aimlessly for awhile, and others where I had to figure out what certain abilites do to know how to approach a barrier.

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    Rururirawhatsit is a game that, while I think most would pass on on another console, gains a lot by being something different and playable on the PC-FX. The 8 playable characters are pretty neat, and the cutscenes, as in most PC-FX games, are just aces, and full of '90s anime flavor. It may be more notorious now as the game where Link's voice actor from Ocarina of Time voices the main character of a goofy game, but I'd say that if you have a PC-FX, it's very worth your time. If not, I wouldn't go buy one just for this. I really enjoyed it, though!

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    Last edited by celerystalker; 09-23-2023 at 12:51 AM.

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    That's one of only 10 or so PC-FX games that still elude me. Yeah, the whole R/L thing with the title romanizations doesn't help. I think this was the first PC-FX game to get any kind of English fan patch, but it's incomplete and just translates the menus, I believe. And of course, the PC-FX is awesome in that it'll play burned CDs of patched games. I ripped my own copies of Pia Carrot and Zeroigar, patched them, and played them in English on my PC-FX. I really should dig my PC-FX out and play it again, especially when I never fully completed Zeroigar. And I should get on acquiring the remaining games I'm missing, though I imagine that'll be a pain now that Yamatoku isn't selling internationally anymore. Got any recommendations for stores or sellers who carry Japanese games with reasonable prices and shipping fees to the US? eBay seems like a wasteland of overpriced Buy It Now-only imports these days.

    It's great to see this topic revived! Even with retro gaming booming and a bajillion YouTubers out there, it seems like almost nobody is talking about obscure imports like these.

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    I'm glad to be able to post again! I think you're about the only other PC-FX fan I know of, so it's good to have someone to talk with. I didn't realize Zeroigar had a patch! I have an original copy, so I've only played through it in Japanese, but I'd love to know more about the story. It's simple enough to piece together with the cutscenes, but I'd like to see the nuance in it, as there was clearly a lot of care put into it. Ruruli Ra Rura took me ages to track down a decent copy. It was a long time ago, but I think I ended up forking out around $100 or so for it on ebay after not being able to find it anywhere, searching import shops with every alternate spelling I could imagine. Zenki is the one I've never owned and would like to try, but at the price, it's not something I've been willing to bite on.

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    Default Battle Pinball

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    Not to be confused with the SNES game of the same name, Battle Pinball is one of the few 3DO games I've imported over the years. I enjoy a good head-to-head game with friends, especially those off the beaten path, so this one really appealed to me in concept. Head to head pinball isn't exactly a new idea... there are real pinball tables set up with flippers at each end almost like air hockey, and even NES games like Rock 'n Ball had similar modes, even supporting up to four players. So what makes this different?

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    The gimmick here is that it is not a single, double-ended table in Battle Pinball, but rather side by side individual tables that do not interact directly. There are four selectable characters, each with their own unique table and scoring features. These tables are pretty simple combinations of ramps, bumpers, and targets, which I assume was necessary to maintain balance. Each player gets 3 balls, with a goal of being the player to have the higher score after all balls have been played. The boards are bright and colorful, with fun themes like Halloween, UFO, and, uh, a mole guy?

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    That all sounds fine and good, but parallel-play pinball hardly qualifies as "battle pinball," right? That's why we have power-ups. Completing table objectives such as hitting lit-up ramps, knocking down entire groups of targets, or long bumper chains rewards you with special power-ups. These can have various offensive and defensive effects such as blocking off a section of the board, a flashing hand that temporarily obfuscates the ball's position, a cannon to re-launch your ball should it slip between you flippers, or even temporarily shrinking your opponent's flippers. This adds the much-needed wrinkle to turn a simple game into an entertaining one.

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    There is a single-player mode where you can take on all four characters to get an ending, a single-player vs CPU practice match mode, and the meat of the game, 2-player head to head. Single player is all too easy to clear, so it really doesn't add a lot, which can be seen as a weakness. Also, the physics are... I mean, I'm not sure that is even the right word. The ball can feel a little floaty, and almost feel like there's lip at the end of your flippers when you let the ball roll down to try and take a precise shot. It isn't game breaking, and you can adjust to it, but as video pinball game physics go, what's here isn't great.

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    Negative points addressed, Battle Pinball still comes out as a pretty fun time with friends. The format and power-up attacks aren't quite like anything else, and it has never really been done again in this way, even if other titles like Pinballistik on PS3 do offer their own nifty take on the idea... and it's a much more enjoyable experience than other "interesting" 3DO explorations of pinball like Pataank! If you have a friend you'd play Bust A Move or Twinkle Star Sprites with, this might just give you a reason to daisy chain some controllers.

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  15. #171
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    Quote Originally Posted by celerystalker View Post
    Yeah, I've been sidelined for a long time, and have a lot of stuff I'd like to talk about that most folks around me aren't all that interested in. Now that I'm starting to feel like an actual human again, I'd missed folks like you, Aussie2B, Emperor Megas, Cornelius, Nz17, RP2A03, and more that were always fun to talk weird games with. I hope you got out of Wal-Mart! I had to change careers, because the retail life managing those stores was no longer compatible with my body. I'm in insurance now, and it feels a lot better being at a desk working human hours!
    oh yea i am glad to see you back on here.

    and yes i left walmart a little while ago now and frankly,, havent been back since, even to shop. but thats a story for a different topic

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    Default Secret Mission

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    The CD-i is definitely a niche beast unto itself, and seems to be most often referenced for its role in the Nintendo/Sony drama of the '90s, the odd Nintendo-licensed Zelda and Mario games, and for just how awful it is. I'm not here to make a case for whether or not a CD-i is worth owning, but I do want to talk about a PAL exclusive that seems to only be known in very small circles, and that's Secret Mission.

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    Secret Mission is a traditional point and click adventure from Microids that falls right in line with the games of its era on PC. You play as "Jeff," an American secret agent in the early 1950's cold war. You fly into Opalia, a small, volatile country being manipulated by both the US and Soviet Union for its strategic value and position. You are immediately struck on the head by an assailant that himself is instantly shot down by a sniper, and taken to your hotel room by an unknown carrier.

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    Upon waking up, you are called downstairs to meet up with a Russian femme fatale who tells your now amnesiac self that you are actually a Russian double agent here in Opalia to feed false information and aid in a coup that will make the country a puppet Soviet state. Completely bewildered, your American contact also reaches out to you and saves your life from another attack. This is your premise- Who are you? Whose side are you really on? Why is everyone trying to kill you? The only way to get to the bottom of things is to play along with both sides, a double agent who honestly doesn't know where his loyalties lie. Oh, and along the way, you need to pick up everything that isn't nailed down and put it in your seemingly bottomless suit jacket pockets.

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    Now that we're in this mess, how do we navigate it? With utterly slow controls, of course! You can control Jeff with either the packed-in remote or the controller (I always go controller). Everything works pretty much as it should, but instead of a cursor, you control your character directly, walking up to each person or object with which you'd like to interact until a picture appears in the top right corner, at which time you can press button 2 to pull up a command list that you can scroll through by pressing up or down, and selecting with button 1. Items in your inventory can be combined, examined, used, or given, and are of course used to solve the myriad puzzles allowing you to advance through the story. The difficulty comes from how slowly Jeff moves, coupled with some wonky barriers as you try to walk around objects in a room. Positioning yourself in the exactly correct spot to be able to interact with the person or object you're trying to engage can be a little more annoying than it probably ought to be, and even by the mid-'90s standards of its time, Secret Mission still requires a good deal of patience.

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    Secret Mission definitely has its flaws and frustrations. However, when compared to the contemporary CD-i library, there's a lot of meat on the bone here. The premise is genuinely pretty interesting with Jeff not knowing whose side he is on, and the setting for a point and click hasn't been done to death even since. It's not as good as the Lucasfilm or Sierra classics, but does legitimately have some strong qualities, and those Lucasfilm classics aren't on the CD-i anyway. As a fairly obscure import, it's actually still relatively inexpensive, and I'd give it a solid recommendation to CD-i owners. Anyone else play this?

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    Last edited by celerystalker; 09-23-2023 at 12:42 AM.

  17. #173
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    Default Spiral Wave

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    Here's a PC Engine HuCard I don't see making the rounds in conversation much. As a matter of fact, when a friend showed me his "complete" ROM set on his Turbo everdrive, Spiral Wave didn't make the list! So... what is it?

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    It's an odd duck is what it is. Spiral Wave is a space opera Space Harrier RPG, which sounds awesome... and it is... sort of... You control a hotshot starfighter pilot who must travel from galaxy to galaxy with your trusty anime girl ship's computer to right wrongs and chase away/annihilate bad guys. You move between planets to discover the story, and eventually you hit action scenes. These play out like stages in a game like Space Harrier or Burning Force, flying into the screen to shoot bad guys for experience points. At the end of each, you'll fight a boss, progress the series of events, and so on.

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    After solving the problems in each galaxy, you'll have the opportunity to warp to the next, and occasionally make a choice along the way. You get to use your experience to upgrade and replace your ship a few times, making combat much easier along the way with boosted shields and firepower. It comes together like a sort of anime Star Trek in feel, with more focus on action than exploration.

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    With english menus, the ability to save to the memory on a Duo unit, and a fairly understandable progression, there's a lot to like with Spiral Wave. However, it does have issues. For starters, the combat starts out at its most difficult, getting much easier as the game goes on. Your first ship has a weak gun and no shields, causing you to die in one hit. It's easy enough to dodge, but if you don't shoot down enemies, you won't earn the energy/experience you need to keep moving and upgrade. This can make getting started frustrating. Also, enemy patterns don't really vary much throughout the game, nor do the space backgrounds, which can make things feel a little same-y after awhile. Thankfully, it's not so long as to really beat you over the head with repetition, and it has some catchy chiptunes for the ride. If you could have landed on planets for some run and gun or vertical shooting stages, it would've added enough variety to make Spiral Wave a cult classic. As it is, it's a neat little curiousity if you've played all of the better-known PCE stuff already.

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  18. #174
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    Quote Originally Posted by celerystalker View Post
    Secret Mission definitely has its flaws and frustrations. However, when compared to the contemporary CD-i library, there's a lot of meat on the bone here. The premise is genuinely pretty interesting with Jeff not knowing whose side he is on, and the setting for a point and click hasn't been done to death even since. It's not as good as the Lucasfilm or Sierra classics, but does legitimately have some strong qualities, and those Lucasfilm classics aren't on the CD-i anyway. As a fairly obscure import, it's actually still relatively inexpensive, and I'd give it a solid recommendation to CD-i owners. Anyone else play this?
    I've never heard of this game before, but I do like adventure games so I'd want to look into this game at some point. A quick search on google shows that it's also available on the PC with a DOS version, while this seems rarer and more expensive to find than the CD-i version, it doesn't require owning a CD-i console so that's probably the route I would take to play this.

    I do appreciate these posts you're making with obscure games. I may not play every game you document but they're still interesting to read about.

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  20. #175
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gameguy View Post
    I've never heard of this game before, but I do like adventure games so I'd want to look into this game at some point. A quick search on google shows that it's also available on the PC with a DOS version, while this seems rarer and more expensive to find than the CD-i version, it doesn't require owning a CD-i console so that's probably the route I would take to play this.

    I do appreciate these posts you're making with obscure games. I may not play every game you document but they're still interesting to read about.
    Thanks, I appreciate it! I'd love to hear your thoughts on Secret Mission if you play it. It's a bit slow, but I really liked the story quite a bit, and I've never gotten to talk to anyone else who's played it!

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    Default Muscle Ranking vol. 1

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    Muscle Ranking, or Kinniku Banzuke vol. 1, may sound familiar to folks who watched G4TV about 20 years ago. There was a localized version of the game show we saw as "Unbeatable Banzuke," in which contestants would attempt various ridiculous athletic physical challenges. This is a video game adaptation of that program, featuring 8 challenges to determine... um... how our muscles rank?

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    Given the format of the TV show, one would expect a collection of mini-games, and, well, yeah. That is exactly what we get with Muscle Ranking vol. 1. The good news is, this was put out by Konami, whose Track & Field series provides a nice template for athletic mini games, which is precisely what happened. You can compete in each of the 8 challenges in practice mode, a la carte, or all together as your primary game mode. You can select from a group of pre-existing characters, based on real contestants and Japanese celebrities, or design your own character to compete alone or head to head against the CPU or another player. So the real question comes down to a simple, "what are the events, and are they fun?"

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    The events include:
    Struck Out, a pitching game in which you try to knock out 9 tiles before accruing 4 misses.
    Daruma, where you try to smack out circular sections of a stack with a hammer without knocking them over.
    Hustler, a billiard trick shot challenge.
    Monster Box, a sort of high jump game where you jump off of a spring board in attempt to clear the increasigly high box without damaging your genitals.
    Tug of War, which should speak for itself.
    Kick Target, where you kick a soccer ball at targets to hit as many as possible before too many misses.
    Shot Gun Touch, where you run, launch a ball into the air, and try to touch it before it hits the ground.
    Brain Panic, a quiz of sorts where a group of numbers is flashed on screen for a few seconds, and you have to try to list them in order from memory.

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    The "are they fun" part comes with a pretty solid "yes" on my end. The games have clear, easy to follow instructions both on the loading screens and in a separate menu, and more importantly, are never convoluted or overly button mashing-centric. Most games utilize a couple of meters, not unlike a golf or bowling game, which I personally find greatly preferable to wearing my hands out smashing my controller. There are a couple of events that do require some quick mashing, but the duration expected is graciously very brief. Monster Box, for example, only demands about 2 seconds of mashing per attempt, and controls pretty much exactly like the long jump event in classic Track & Field. Shot Gun Touch requires mashing, but lets you hit multiple buttons at once to greatly increase your meter quickly without having to alternate, and only for a total of about one full second. Brain Panic, which at first concerned me in thinking it may be a Japanese-language quiz, thankfully is only numbers to copy, so even it is easily accessible to western players. Hustler, the billiard game, is by far my least favorite, as you can't rotate your view, making lining up those trick shots needlessly difficult.


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    The menus in Muscle Ranking are both in English and Japanese, the controls are simple and easy to comprehend, and the presentation with silly, overly enthusiastic hosts and simple, colorful graphics works nicely. It's not on the level of Sega's Decathlete, but if you enjoy the world of silly Japanese game shows, Muscle Ranking is good fun and dirt cheap, but definitely more fun with friends. It has a sequel based on the follow-up program to Kinniku Banzuke as well, Sasuke (Ninja Warrior), but I'll leave that for another time. Anyone play this or have memories of the show?

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    Last edited by celerystalker; 10-01-2023 at 07:15 PM.

  22. #177
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    Huh, and here I had been assuming that Kinniku Banzuke = Ninja Warrior. I never knew Ninja Warrior was just a spin-off. It probably doesn't help that I do have a copy of Kinniku Banzuke: Road to Sasuke but none of the other Kinniku Banzuke games. And I somehow missed Unbeatable Banzuke back in the day but did watch Ninja Warrior, which I really liked (but American Ninja Warrior doesn't appeal me to at all).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie2B View Post
    Huh, and here I had been assuming that Kinniku Banzuke = Ninja Warrior. I never knew Ninja Warrior was just a spin-off. It probably doesn't help that I do have a copy of Kinniku Banzuke: Road to Sasuke but none of the other Kinniku Banzuke games. And I somehow missed Unbeatable Banzuke back in the day but did watch Ninja Warrior, which I really liked (but American Ninja Warrior doesn't appeal me to at all).
    I loved watching Ninja Warrior (the Japanese one) with my dad back in my 20s. It was a lot of fun rootung for some of the regulars like Nagano Makoto or the squid fisherman guy who pretty much never cleared the first obstacle. My brother and I used to watch Unbeatable Banzuke and Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (the western edit of Takeshi's Castle), and it was a lot of fun as well. Those shows are the whole reason I own Kinniku Banzuke games, as it was just a fun time as a young adult, and then I'd find myself watching Code Monkeys or something after... back before the world got so serious about everything.

    As a game, Road to Sasuke is probably better overall, as it has a bit more to do. I like the sillier takes on Track & Field like these, Crash 'n The Boys, Daiundoukai, etc. It makes it easier in a group to laugh at yourself when you mess up instead of getting frustrated.

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    Default Dolucky no Puzzle Tour '94

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    Years ago, my love of playing Twinkle Star Sprites with friends prompted me to start searching for similar head to head experiences. I tried stuff like WarTech: Senko no Ronde, Calcolo, and more chasing after new intriguing competitive shooting experiences. One of the games I ended up grabbing to try was Dolucky no Puzzle Tour '94 for the Super Famicom, which from what I could find at the time, looked promising. How did it turn out?

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    Dolucky is a beefy little cat who served as a mascot for ImagineerZoom in Japan, and had at least three Super Famicom games in which he starred. Two were silly sports games, but Puzzle Tour '94 is actually a fairly unique little head to head, uh, puzzle game... but it has some shooting elements and power-ups that lend a little bit of that Twinkle Star Sprites magic to the proceedings. You go head to head against the CPU or another player, trying to cause them to be knocked out first... but this is no falling block game.

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    Where things may look similar to your Bust A Moves or Puyo Puyos, things immediately turn in that your screen scrolls vertically like a shooter instead of staying static. There are three colors of blocks that you will approach, and matching 5 or more will cause them to disappear. You get to throw your blocks forward to make these chains, but you can scroll through which color you throw with A and Y, and throw with B. You're never waiting for the game to feed you the color you need. You can also force faster scrolling by holding the D-pad, allowing you to make chains and clear the area. The first player to have a block touch their boundary loses.

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    Sounds like a puzzle game, but this starts to feel more like a shooter with the way you attack your opponent. You don't clear chains and cause garbage to appear on the other side. No, instead you want to find question mark blocks, and open them by a chain touching the block. This will release a power-up, such as stopping scrolling for you (aside from manually doing so), causing your opponent to throw garbage instead of blocks for a short time, feezing your opponent in ice temporarily, or causing a bird to swoop down and try to carry them off- screen for a few seconds. Couple these attacks with stone blocks that must be broken by chains touching them, and you get a game centered around picking your spot, aggressively clearing your screen, and watching for a good moment to try to trigger an attack. In a final shooter moment, you also start each round with a bomb (and can find more in said power-up boxes) to clear your screen in a pinch.

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    All of this comes together as something in between shooter and puzzler, but leaning more heavily toward puzzler. The pace is fast and the gameplay feels good and fun, but it's not perfect. The power-ups I named are literally all of them. More variety would have definitely made the game less predictable, which would've been a plus. Secondly, power-up blocks are not quite frequent enough to keep things truly frantic, and if both players are conservative in their play style, rounds can last a little too long to be truly intense. Sure, you can play for high score, but in a game like this, who cares about score? You want to win by knocking your opponent out. The graphics are colorful, the sound is decent, and control is spot-on... there's a lot of fun to be had here. It just never quite hits those same highs as Twinkle Star Sprites, and isn't as frantic as Calcolo. I'd still recommend it as a great change of pace that might even feel better to players with more of a puzzle leaning than shooter, and it's given my friends and me a few great evenings.

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    Last edited by celerystalker; 10-03-2023 at 08:53 PM.

  25. #180
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie2B View Post
    That's one of only 10 or so PC-FX games that still elude me. Yeah, the whole R/L thing with the title romanizations doesn't help. I think this was the first PC-FX game to get any kind of English fan patch, but it's incomplete and just translates the menus, I believe. And of course, the PC-FX is awesome in that it'll play burned CDs of patched games. I ripped my own copies of Pia Carrot and Zeroigar, patched them, and played them in English on my PC-FX. I really should dig my PC-FX out and play it again, especially when I never fully completed Zeroigar. And I should get on acquiring the remaining games I'm missing, though I imagine that'll be a pain now that Yamatoku isn't selling internationally anymore. Got any recommendations for stores or sellers who carry Japanese games with reasonable prices and shipping fees to the US? eBay seems like a wasteland of overpriced Buy It Now-only imports these days.

    It's great to see this topic revived! Even with retro gaming booming and a bajillion YouTubers out there, it seems like almost nobody is talking about obscure imports like these.
    I see a copy of Ruruli Ra Rura (spelled as Rururi Ra Rura) on ebay in the first time in years, but it looks like they're looking for about $1000 bundled with Nirgends. Brutal. I don't know that a good import shop for vintage games exists anymore.

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