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april 29, 2014

Captain Ed, famicom



Captain Ed is an uncommon famicom game. Incidentally,  Chrontendo wrote about it just a month ago or so. In his usual negative way, he calls it "an extremely strange game", "one of the least visually interesting shoot-em-ups I've seen in a while", and in his video he calls it "crap". (http://chrontendo.blogspot.se/2014_03_01_archive.html)

Luckily, I prefer to play games rather than superficially analyze them, and I played this game for 3 hours on Friday and another 2 hours on Saturday. I had a lot of difficulties with the last stages until I found a simple trick to beat the Medusa boss. The ultimate final boss was also tricky until I discovered that you can simply hold down the shoot button to have continuous fire until he dies.

The gamefaqs review didn't know either of this. Probably because he didn't have to replay the last stage for 2 hours... When you are game over and have to type in the 20 character hiragana password, your frustration level increases. I think it took me 5-10 minutes each time I had to type it in, although I did get better at it after a couple of times.

_
The video shows my gameplay and last stage. The game is a bit unusual to understand and I think it puts people off giving it a chance. I know it has put me off it for over a year now.  Clearly, this is one of the "weird Japanese games" that could mean just about anything. (if interested, see my review of Hana No Star Kaidou a few weeks ago. *shivers*)

Some basic information: you fly around and can shoot as well as hitting blocks to get hidden items. The red blocks take away some energy, and the yellow blocks takes away a little energy in the beginning of the game, but not on the last stages because you have a stronger shield. You can refill your energy either with hidden items or buy filling up at Gas. Important note about the gas station: TAP A to fill up, don't just wait.

After you have found a couple of warp areas and bought enough eggs and items from the shop (buy everything as you get money), you'll go to the boss stage automatically. Most bosses are simple and are basically just about shooting them straight up.

Did I cheat in the end...? That's like asking if it is cheating to use the pause glitch in Blaster Master. To most people that is a part of the game, unlike a cheat code that is by definition a cheat code. Should I not be allowed to press Select to enter the menu, if this is part of the game mechanics?

I was actually able to beat the Medusa without the trick on two occasions. The way to do it is because her balls after a while will enter a pattern of getting stuck from one corner to the other. But they are difficult to dodge until then.

Well, it certainly is a weird Japanese game, for those who appreciate those games as much as I do. The simple difficulty made me continue to play it until the end and certainly I enjoyed it enough to spend 5 hours with it, albeit the last of them in frustration.


Here is the 20 character password in difficult to read hiragana. I think it is cool, although unnecessary, that the password remembers your name too. My name is the top word up there.


Some bosses are Parodius funny, like this hardrocker. Watch out for his guitar.

The game also has some mini-games that allows you to make money. One of them is a simple betting cardgame that will almost guarantee you a profit, and another is some kind of beatmania game with a drum. My max profit for the drum game was 610$, please let me know if you get more than that.


You can usually get the game cheap. For 7$ or so I think it is well worth trying out.

And here is where airplanes come from.


april 27, 2014

Cobra Command, famicom


Helicopter games are rarely worth anything, no matter if they are scrolling or not. The only exception I can think of is Kyuukyoku Tiger (Twin Cobra). But that game is exactly like any airplane shooter.

For all Apple fans, I remember I played a helicopter game on Macintosh sometime in the early 1990s. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvh0agHVLHQ

Anyways, I played a bit of Cobra Command for a Famicom Friday, then read about how to play it properly and went back to play some more. It helps to learn what the game is about. First, you rescue hostages. You have to rescue all hostages in one area before you can continue on the level.  In the rescue hostages theme, the game probably takes from Choplifter, a simplistic game that does have its charm (also available on famicom, and is cheap like all helicopter games).

You can land on supply depots, as I did twice in the video. There you will get weapon upgrades or other upgrades. Go into the equip menu by pressing Select. The Start button is used to turn around the helicopter.


Most youtube videos have different colors for some reason, but this is how the game looks on my AV modded famicom.

Cobra Command has nice graphics, advanced levels, good looking enemies and stages, and a good strategy element. However, the controls are difficult. The helicopter is sensitive and quickly moves you into a wall for sudden death. And when you move helicopter forward it becomes strangely slow to the point that it will become difficult to avoid enemies. I try to counter that by tapping the forward button, but you can also fly backwards if you feel certain there are no obstacles.

If you can learn the controls and accept them, the game is enjoyable. I read that it has only 6 stages and is beatable without being overly hard. You start with four lives and get more from the supply depots. If you die all lives, there are 2 or 3 continues. I only played the first stage though. I rate the game "decent".

The Japanese version has Japanese text. From what I read on gamefaqs, some hostages give you messages but these messages are virtually useless. So I rate the famicom game 95% playable. As you see in the video, all the names of items in the menu are in English.

april 24, 2014

Kamen no Ninja & Fudou Myououden, Famicom



Full title is Kamen no Ninja: Akakage, and Fudou Myououden is also known as Demon Sword in the US. None of the games were released in Europe. I've played and written about a game called Ninja Crusaders for Famicom earlier. It was a lot of fun so I hoped these two ninja games would be fun, too.


Kamen no Ninja
Here is some information about Kamen No Ninja from a GameFAQs walkthrough:

Kamen no Ninja: Akakage is a relatively straightforward platformer for the Famicom. The enemies are pretty simple, the stages are short, and to top it off, you have a wide variety of great weapons/items to use! The game is quite linear with the exception of one point late in the game, so you really only need to keep moving right to beat it. Even the boss enemies (the ones with health meters) can all be defeated with the same strategy or the same couple of weapons in your arsenal. Nonetheless, this really isn't a bad game, so I would recommend it to any 2D platformer fan.
-- http://www.gamefaqs.com/nes/578587-kamen-no-ninja-akakage/faqs/58865

Personally, I don't like this kind of simplistic platformers. The graphics are simple, just walking from left to right doesn't really do it for me. The music becomes annoying after a while and the game doesn't feel very well thought-out. But as the article says, it's a decent game if you like this kind of games. You can currently buy it in our webshop, link here. When I played, I got tired of it pretty quickly. Here's a YouTube clip I recorded:




Fudou Myououden

The second game was much more exciting! Fudou Myououden is an extremely challanging game, with significant inspiration from Ninja Gaiden. The enemies are thrown at you from every direction. The game is also 3M big and the stages are long. You have unlimited continues and collected magic is saved after you die. With a password you can also keep everything you've collected.

The game is still really hard. For this reason, the game was remade for the american audience. Instead of dying after just one hit, you got a health bar. The stages are made shorter and six stages were removed. The game felt somewhat slower though, and some enemies were easier to beat. My guess is the US version couldn't store as much data, so some had to be removed.

To use magic, press Start and then Down button. Unfortunately, I didn't understand this until stage 1-3, after desperately fighting my way ahead for two hours. After I discovered this, things got easier. By then, I had learned a lot of timing, as you can see in the beginning of the following video:



I made it all through stage 1-4 without any problem but at 2-1, I gave up. I've seen that walkthroughs on YouTube are about 55 minutes long, and that is probably the time spent without dying. For a Famicom game, it's a really long game.

To compare it with Ninja Crusaders, which can be completed in 20 minutes without dying, a more realistic time is about 6-10 hours. So I guess Fudou Myououden therefor would take at least 30-40 hours, and getting enemies thrown at you all the time becomes exhausting. You will need luck and good powerups to complete the stages.

It is a good game in many ways, it has nice graphics, good sound, great controls, fun powerups and the magic adds a strategic element. Reading other reviews, I notice people saying a combinaion between the easier US version and the more good-looking, longer japanese version would be better.



It's funny how I made it to the end of the stage during my last attempt seen in the video, but died when I went back.

To complete the Japanese version you really need to improve your ninja-skills. You'll have to learn exact timing, be an expert at collecting powerups, struggle with mini bosses to get higher magic. But what's most important is to play, play play, and die, die, die. I think people who enjoy Ninja Gaiden might enjoy this. This game was recently sold, but keep an eye out in our Webshop or make a request.

Fudou Myououden is kind of a sequel to another game called Legend of Kage which is much shorter and easier. So if you enjoy ninja games, that is also a game I can recommend.


External links:
* http://lvls.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/cultural-anxiety-demon-swordfudou-myououden-nesfamicom/
* http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/legendofkage/legendofkage.htm

originally posted by Japanspel at swedish blog japanspel.wordpress.com, translated by Kristin Loman.

april 21, 2014

Go Go Tank, for game boy


Go Go Tank was released in Japan by the end of 1990. It isn't very common, but was released in the US too, and you can usually find it for cheap.



The Japanese version is completely in English.

The gameplay is simple to explain. You are an airplane and have to move blocks so that the tank can move all the way to the right in the level. You can't control the tank otherwise.

_

As you might notice, the tank has a health bar the goes down every time it bumps into something. So while you don't have a time limit, you can't take forever.
You can actually pick up the bouncing letters to get different powerups.

It is a nice idea that is original as far as I know. The graphics are nice without slowdowns or flickering, and all the planes and things look nice. The music is varied too. The main problem is the control of the plane. It always flies upwards and also always moves in the direction it is facing. Trying to pick up the blocks is difficult sometimes, and placing them right takes some attempts. Aiming your bomb is hard too. So it can be a frustrating game to play.

What got me through it was knowing that there are only 10 levels of the game (I know because the manual said so). So it isn't like Adventure Island, where the levels just go on and on and on. Getting through all 10 levels took me 3,5 hours, with the last two levels taking 1 hour each. The game has infinite continues and isn't too hard after all.

It is a nice little challenge, and I recommend you to try it out if you can get it cheap. Be prepared for some frustration though. I rate it 2.5/5 because of the frustration level... Most reviewers (mobygames, gamefaqs) give it a higher score, so you might like it more than me.

With two carts and game boys, you can also play this game 2-player coop.

This is the end screen. That's it.

april 12, 2014

ASO (Alpha Mission), for famicom


The game ASO: Armored Scrum Object is a game no one has bought from me in my two years. The game is uncommon (I've only had it twice), is a shooter and entirely in English, so for my Famicom Friday yesterday I was curious about why it is so unpopular.

ASO game was released on the NES as Alpha Mission. On eBay it regularly sells for hardly anything, CIB (Complete In Box) 7$. Since this is a common NES game there are lots of reviews of it. Most of them are hateful it because it is too hard.

Maybe it is another misunderstood game that I need to rescue. It looks cool doesn't it?

I have to admit I bought it by mistake. I thought it was rare and expensive, like these similar looking shooters I once had.
Metal Storm here is worth around 100$, Gun Nac at least 30$. I never understand quite why some games are so much more expensive than others, but I have to follow along and price my games according to market value.

When it comes to vertically scrolling shooters ("shmups"),  I find most of the pure shmups repetitive, dull and uninteresting. There are a lot of simplistic vertical scrolling shooters on the NES/Famicom, such as Exed Exes, Argus, the classic Xevious, Hector '87, Gyrodine, Exerion, Galaga, Dragon Spirit, Star Soldier and Star Force.

I do enjoy shooters if they have some strategy element, like Zanac and Guardian Legend that I have blogged about before. Or Gradius or Twinbee that I have mentioned many times. These are games where you have to think out a strategy and not just madly shoot your way around.


I read that it has a strategy element to it so I thought that maybe I would find some amusement in it.

_

After around 3,5 hours I had found a strategy that took me to stage 5, as you see in the video. A useful strategy is to equip the shield and then collect get E to keep the shield strong. At boss battles I switched to fire that killed them quickly. 

A little explanation of the useful icons: You collect the E icons which will give you energy, up to a max of 24. When you have energy, and possibly collect the airplane icon, you get special items you can use. Change this by pressing Select, navigate to your choice, and press Select again. I soon discovered that the "sheeld" was very useful, while the other special weapons only last for a short time and should be reserved for boss fights.

The M and L icons improve your gun and your missiles. The K icon is useful because it allows you to continue with all upgrades if you die. The W warps you forward. The F icon shows all nearby powerups. S increases speed. Then there is the rare special icon you see at 05:50 that restores your energy to full.

Then the bad icons: The C that takes away all your energy. The inversed K that takes away ALL your ships powerups. The R warps you back (this can actually be useful so you can collect more powerups). Looking at my video, I now realize the inverted E takes away some energy. The C and especially inversed K must absolutely be avoided! It isn't too hard to avoid the negative powerups actually. The inverted K will only appear after you have maxed out one weapon, so after maxing out just be more careful. When your plane is already strong, you have less reason to go around collecting powerups.

Most complaint that the game is bad because it is too hard, except one reviewer who found the game boring because it was too easy http://www.gamefreaks365.com/review.php?artid=1602. I think that is because he played on PSP, PS3 or emulation. On the original NES/famicom hardware, shooters are harder because:
  1. The composite video (or worse: antenna!) on NES makes it harder to see bullets
  2. The NES controller can't move well diagonally. Look at my video how I mostly move back-forward or right-left.
The game only has 6 stages and then it loops, but the stages keep on counting up to 13 before going back to 1. It might get harder the second time. I think that 3,5 hours of gameplay isn't much for an old school games to make it to stage 5 out of 6. With some practice I probably could make it to stage 6 and then maybe beat the boss there.

Well, I enjoyed it enough to keep me amused for 3,5 hours of a Friday, which is more than most games do. I think I would enjoy keep playing it, as it seems like a game one could master and beat in a short amount of time. Playing to stage 5, as in my video, takes 15 minutes. Looping it once would probably only take 20 minutes. Perfect for a quick fix.

I also enjoyed that the game isn't unfair or has insane enemies. Most enemies and bullets can be avoided without having the die EVERY time you first encounter them (as you would in Salamander / Life Force). The gun turrets on the ground only seem to shoot once, so you don't have to worry about a cheap shot when you are flying over them. The tracking bullets that appear later seem hard at first, but I think they only change direction twice and can be avoided with some practice. I don't think the game has cheap deaths. 

Another complain is that you start slow. Well, you are slow in Gradius too, and the solution is to get speed ups and other powerups, and then avoid dying. The game only gives you three lives and no continues so you do have to avoid dying. According to gamefaqs, there is a continue cheat but I couldn't get it to work and the cheat has three "thumbs down" so I think it is fake.

ASO / Alpha Mission isn't the deepest game but it doesn't deserve the univeral hatred it has. I don't think it is worse than similar NES shooters. 

For some more reviews, see:

april 06, 2014

Magical Taruruuto Kun, game boy


After some bad gaming experiences with impossible famicom games (also see review of Demon Sword on our new Swedish language blog, japanspel.wordpress.com) I went back to my trusted game boy.

There were two platforming games with the name Magical Taruruuto Kun on famicom, and the first game is popular, looking like Super Mario Bros 3. However, with the many worlds and levels I think it would be too long for me to have time for. There is also one platforming game on Mega Drive and one on Super Famicom. I read a favorable review of the mega drive game so I might try it out (it is short and sweet!), but game boy is my console of choice.




Usually I don't like to play what I call "generic platforming games", but the box backside has a picture of Godzilla and a helicopter and that looked interesting. Also I hoped the game wouldn't be too long, and thankfully game boy games are usually short. This game is just 4 or 5 stages and they aren't too hard. (unlike the last game boy game I wrote about, Castlevania Adventure, also short but oh so hard)

I haven't played much of the famicom game, but I do know that in that game you play as Taruruutu Kun himself. He uses his long tongue to eat fruits. But in the game boy game, you play as the boy. When you have collected 20 fruits, Taruruutu Kun will appear. You can then press Select to bring up a menu with things he can do.
  • Choice 1 returns you to the game. 
  • Choice 2 transforms him into something helpful, either he freezes all enemies or he collects fruits or he attacks enemies. It may depend on where you are on the stage.
  • Choice 3 will give you bow and arrow, or other things. Again, it seems to be different depending on where you are on the stage.
  • Choice 4 will play a mini-game. I think this may give you an extra life but I am not sure.
When you have Taruruuto Kun and collect another 20 fruits you will get an extra life. You also get extra lives from touching frogs.

It is easy to collect extra lives. Just collect fruits and frogs and you will quickly have 15 or more extra lives. Even when you die you are often brought back to a place where you can immediately get an extra life and more fruit, so the game is very kind to you. Should you die all your lives, you can use up to 3 continues. (I know because I was game over once)

The stages have hidden areas for bonus stages. Simply walk into them, or in one occasion on the last stage you have to duck, and you will enter it. They will give you up to 50 fruits. It is like Super Mario Bros with game genie.

I think that Taruruuto Kun is an anime for kids, like Doraemon that I wrote about in my "mega drive platforming games" blogpost two weeks ago. It plays cute and doesn't challenge you much and that is a potential downside. But it is what it is.


_

The shooter stage was a bit tricky because the helicopter is so big, but after a couple of tries I found a good strategy. None of the bosses are too difficult either. The endboss gave me some difficulties but turned out to be easy once I figured her out. It took me around 3 hours to beat the game from start to finish but if I had understood the controls, the extra life scheme, and had been more lucky figuring out stuff (for example, you can hit some projectiles instead of jumping over them) I would have done it in less than an hour. A good gamer might do it in less than 30 minutes on their first time playing.

When it comes to gameplay, it plays well. The controls are response, the graphics work nicely without slowdowns, the sprites are big and clear. The music is nice too. And the game has originality with the Select screen and a shooter stage. So I rate it 4/5.  If you can find it for 5-6$ I think you should check it out. It being short is just how games are on the game boy.

With early game boy games like this one from 1991 one always need to consider that the first model game boy had a blurry graphic and is difficult to play on, so games that are easy to play today on a super game boy with RGB cable were much harder back then. Only when the Game Boy Pocket was released you could play with a better screen. My favorite handheld console for game boy games is the Game Boy Color anyways. More comfortable than GBA or GBA SP.



april 05, 2014

Hana No Star Kaidou and Romancia, for famicom


I had another famicom friday...

First I played Hana No Star Kaidou. Chrontendo called this one of the worst famicom games, but he has been wrong in the past, so I thought it might not be too bad.


I was wrong.
This blog explains why: http://plaingamreviews.blogspot.se/2012/09/hana-no-star-kaidou-famicom-1987-victor.html
If you just put the game in and start playing normally, you will NEVER finish it. You'll get stuck at the end of stage 1 because there is a wall there and you can't get past it. The reason for this is explained in the blog post. Sort of like Takeshi No Chousenjou - designed to be impossible without a guide.

Personally I prefer playable games.

At least it seems to have a continue function, unlike the next game: Romancia.


Harcore gaming wrote a nice article about it: http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/romancia/romancia.htm
This game is labeled "action/RPG", but just like the previous game it is somewhat like a cryptic adventure game. The box looks very used so whoever owned it mustve tried really hard.

This is one of the reasons why I enjoy used games, you can almost feel what the previous owners felt about them. Crappy games are usually in good condition (such as Super Pitfall).

The articles mention that an unofficial translation was made easier, or should I say playable. In the original you don't know what to do and have to find your way through with the help of friends or a guide. Maybe some enjoy games that punish you, but it won't be enjoyable if you don't know Japanese. For example: If you talk to the wrong person, or talk to him too many times, you will either die or make the game unwinnable.
It's the quintessential 80s "obscure for the sake of obscure" RPG, and while trying to outwit it is somewhat amusing, it's also extremely difficult to actually enjoy. - hardcoregaming
I basically agree, except that I don't know why people use the word "extremely" so often.

But do give the amateur translation a try, because they removed some of the harder unwinnable tricks.

There is this FAQ for the amateur translation: http://www.gamefaqs.com/nes/578491-romancia/faqs/52973. You can read stuff like:

From here on out, DON'T KILL ANYTHING! You've done good deeds,
which are represented by GOLD RINGS. If you kill an enemy, you'll lose a gold
ring. DON'T LOSE YOUR GOLD RINGS! If you do, you'll be sorry! Trust me, you
won't be able to finish the game, so don't do it!

Romancia is not a long game. Maybe that's why they made it so hard. They figured they would save space (and chips, making it cheaper) by making a shorter game and so they had to make it super difficult. The game is so hard and you have no continues, I think hardly anyone would beat it without save states on an emulator with a walkthrough.

Also see: http://strategywiki.org/wiki/Romancia

After playing games like these, I sometimes consider buying a smartphone to play apps on instead, I think many games are actually better these days. But there are so many of them. With the old games I know that I will have played them all some day.