I will get this out of the way. I know people have different stances on this, but I use emulators on occasion. Yeah, some times I'll download a ROM, hook up my Dualshock to a USB adapter, and play some old console games on my computer. However, I only really use this if I'm thinking about purchasing an old N64 game. Because many things have changed over the years in video games, I want to atleast know if something I want to check out will still be fun for me. I don't really have to do it for first party Nintendo games, since alot of their formulas are timeless (heck, they're still used to this day), but for other games, I have to be sure that the game is more than just "good for its time."
However, instead of my usual "try before buying" approach, I found myself just downloading some ROMs of Japanese N64 games. The only import game I really own is Sin & Punishment Successor to the Earth, and that was released worldwide on the Virtual Console, just with more menu translations. There is some cool looking stuff from Japan, so this last weekend, I downloaded 5 ROMs (though only 4 I was really able to play), and stumbled through the Japanese text until I grasped the overall concept. Some quicker than others.
Bakuretsu Muteki Bangai-O
Or just Bangai-O.
This was definetely the most import friendly game I played out of the bunch. There's very little menu options and stuff that you need to know, and the story is completely silly and can be ignored. Which is good, because the game is fun. It's definetely Bangai-O.
Before this one, I had played Bangai-O Spirits on the DS. Very challenging game, but extremely fun, with over a hundred stages and multiple weapons to use in tackling challenges. That, and so many bullets.
Interestingly, just about every sprite in this game are the EXACT same in Spirits. The buildings, the projectiles, the fruit, even your Bangai-O is the same, despite the official art in both games being different models. That, and no multiple weapons like in the DS game. Instead, you just have two types of shots, your super 100 missle attack (which was called the EX Attack in Spirits).
One thing that I do like about this is the default controls. You use the D-Pad and Control Stick to move and shoot as if it was a dual stick shooter. Z is for your super attack, and L switches between your two shots. The control stick isn't analog, as you can only aim in 8 directions, and you can also shoot by pressing the C buttons. But I was perfectly fine with just using the control stick. And because the shooting and aiming are independant, there is no lock on.
And another thing, there are only 44 levels in Bangai-O, and you have to complete them inorder. Whether or not this was because of my familiarity with the gameplay, but the first few levels in the game were super easy. It only took until about 10 levels or so for the game to start killing me, and last I left off was on level 21, which was already getting even more hard. So the game does get challenging, and the difficulty is actually progressive, instead of all over the place like in the DS game.
Definetely a fun game. Tons of explosions, it's challenging, I like the dual stick shooter like controls. Good game. Treasure's pretty much on top when it comes to their SHMUPS.
This one's pretty easy to compare to the animes that revolve around a popular game with kids, like Yu-Gi-Oh or Beyblade or whatever. This one isn't based on anything in real life. Basically take Pokemon, and instead of capturing other creatures, you customize your robot with different parts and participate in battles with people who also have their own robots. That's Custom Robo. And like Pokemon, the RPG text and stuff isn't the focus.
I know that there are localized Custom Robo games that came out on Gamecube and DS, but what I particularly like about this one is how the polygonal look of the Custom Robos seems to make sense. They are pretty much toys, customizable action figures that fight. Kinda like Star Fox 64, the official art is made to better reflect the actual look in the game. When you aren't in battle though, everything else is just sprites with polygonal backgrounds.
It's an interesting game. Unfortunately, I couldn't really find a FAQ for this game, where as the sequel Custom Robo V2 has some. Oh well, it didn't take to long for me to grasp how the system works. It's fun, though I'd assume it gets better as you progress and unlock more parts to use on your Robo.
I'll probably check out the DS game or something, but I definetely like the blocky look they have here, and a very simple and fun combat system.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Okay, going into this, I knew it had to be a bad game. Why did I bother with this then? Well, because the interesting this about this game is that it pushed the system it was onto to do things that would've been easier on something like PSX. Cutscenes and voice work from the anime, something that the N64 isn't necessarily known for doing well.
They did get the VAs from the anime in this game, and it works. As for the cutscenes, they are a mix of polygons and sprites. However, alot of these are shorter than the actual scenes, and much like everything else in the game, they aren't FMVs. Just large sprites and what not.
The main game though, the gameplay...well, it's rather sucky. The game is basically a 2D fighter, a very clumsy and boring one. The only way you can make it not boring is if you input specific commands that make sequences play out like in the anime. For instance, in the first battle, when Shinji first uses the Eva, if I recall, you rotate the control stick about 360 degrees and you can make him trip. Then, you let the angel break his arms, detach the cable from Unit 01's back, and then stab him in the head before throwing him into a building. Then he goes berserk, you have to tap the A and Down C buttons rapidly to break the AT field, before pressing A+B while running inorder to tackle the angle and stab him to death. Just like in the anime.
Unfortunately, the stuff you need to do to pull it off isn't even done well. Not a whole lot of the various commands are explained, the only specific one you are told is how to break the AT field. Other than that, it's just slow and clunky.
Not every level is like that though. Alot of them are more like minigames that more easily replicate a scene from the anime, and even though it isn't frutstrating like the main fighting, most of them are super easy. I would've much prefered the whole game be just context minigames, but it would probably take even less time to get through it, since most of the time spent is just struggling with the sub-par gameplay. If Evangelion wasn't an anime, then I think making a Dragon's Lair esque game with the series story and scenes would've been much more acceptable. Besides that, the game is kind of a waste.
I do applaud the devs of this game though for putting this on an N64 cartridge, when it would've been much easier to replicate the scenes from the anime on a disc based system. Then again, if they did, I doubt the gameplay would be better. It's weird, because I somehow enjoyed my time with the game, even if I was frustrated with how bad parts of the game played. Probably worth owning just for the novelty factor.
Wonder Project J2
This is the game that I unfortunately was unable to really play. I could only see a little bit of story segment before the ROM froze on a black screen. So I just stuck to watching a few Youtube videos. Out of all the Japanese games I checked out, this was the most intriguing.
This game is in a genre that's more exclusive to Japan, known as Virtual Life Simulators. In this game, a girl robot jamed Josette is told by her creator that she has been entrusted into your care, as he's grown quite old and shortly after telling her passes away. She moves to a new island, and it's your job to take care of her, and teach her to be more human. You have a list of tasks, known as achievements, and you need to do stuff on this list that will help Josette in her interaction with other humans. Kind of a modern Pinochio, only with a girl robot, who already looks human enough that she doesn't need a transformation, just lessons.
It looks neat. In a way, I guess this serves as a good excuse for a character to not be intelligent when it comes to behavior, since she is only a robot. It's not really like Western games that try to make everything dynamic and interactive or something, like the game changes based on your decisions. Maybe that's what I like about this game, that there is actually an end goal to it, unlike virtual pet games or things of the Animal Crossing variety that don't really have an end. It's got more of a JRPG vibe to it, as in there's always a plot you're gonna follow that will be the same.
Now, the previous games I checked out because I heard of them one way or the other. So how did I find out about Wonder Project? Well, it was in the N64 Top 10 on GameFAQs for a few days, and it piqued my interest. From what little I saw, the people who played and liked the game were very passionate about it. Heck, there's a translation patch for it as well. I'll probably understand it more if I can actually find a way to play it, but until then, I think this is a genre I could get behind. Could be fun.
Okay, so this isn't a Japanese only game, but this particular version of the game is interesting.
The game was originally gonna be called Red and Black, or Aka to Kuro, in Japan, however, it was changed to make it look like every English game title that is pronounced by the Japanese. So, it went from Aka to Kuro, to Pafekuto Daku.
However, when the game boots up, after seeing the Nintendo and Rare Logo, when the N64 logo starts spinning and turning into a metallic PD, instead of a bluish color, it turns red. And when the title appears, the screen flashes red as the Japanese logo zooms out into view. Very flashy intro. Aka to Kuro should've been the title over there, definetely. Also, Joanna's face in the Japanese version is different, most likely to make the game appeal more to Japan. But then again, FPS games and Japan don't necessarily go together. And I prefer Joanna's original face.
Short stuff on this game, not a whole lot, but there aren't any super massive changes beyond that. It's still PD.
And that's it. I'll say, this experience has piqued my interest in import games alot more. Something I'll probably think more about in the future.