Cosmic Fantasy is yet another Telenet Japan (one of the bigger companies pushing out games for the TurboGrafx-CD, and developers of the Valis games) franchise that the West only saw bits and pieces of. Specifically, this one game. Cosmic Fantasy 2 is also a Working Designs joint, who were US publishers/translators who were very selective with the games they chose to localize. They're best known for some early Sega CD games as well as Lunar, Alundra, Vanguard Bandits and a bunch of other fifth-generation JRPGs after FFVII sent demand through the roof. Telenet Japan and Working Designs also collaborated on Exile, a game we've previously covered. There are at least four other Cosmic Fantasy games for the PC Engine CD-ROM2 that never saw a localization, including a weird non-interactive spin-off that splices together all the cutscenes from the first two games and plays them without any gameplay parts in-between getting in the way (does Kojima know about this format?). Though I believe each entry is detached in the way most JRPG franchises are, they all seem to focus on that Star Ocean/Wizardry concept of a "primitive" fantasy setting that is juxtaposed with more overt science fiction elements. For instance, the spear-wielding rural hero of this game, Van, is depicted in something like a Starfleet uniform (or maybe something from Outlaw Star) on the US box art. (That's not the US boxart up there, by the way, I just think the Japan one is better. It has a sentient cat!)
Besides the curious theme combo, Cosmic Fantasy 2 seems like your run of the mill JRPG. Battles are turn-based and happen randomly whenever you're in a dangerous area, and the player is limited in what they can do until they level up a bit and learn new skills and magic. What's strange, and the Wikipedia entry for this game corroborates this, is that every enemy in the game just hits you with regular attacks. They have no spells, no status effects, no criticals and no area of effect attacks that hit the whole group. Each enemy just targets one member of the party and hits them, for an amount of damage generally defined by the strength of the monster and the defense of the party member. So it's perhaps not the most tactically challenging RPG out there. Still, though, you didn't see too many RPGs from 1992 with fully voiced anime cutscenes, so perhaps the care and craft that went into this game was put towards its presentation rather than its gameplay. But hey, let's not throw shade before we've had a chance to see the thing.
Please, If It's Sci-Fi Fantasy, It Should Be Spelled With a "Ph". That's More Science-y.
You know, it probably doesn't do a JRPG any favors to only play through the first half hour like this. I mean, most of them start pretty much the same way anyway. All the same, I think there are flashes here of the sort of game Cosmic Fantasy 2 might blossom into (though absolutely nothing regarding the game's sci-fi elements). It's fair to say that I have a soft spot for JRPGs like this, even when they get grindy and repetitive. Working Designs is a fantastic translation team too when they aren't making dumb pop culture jokes that become instantly dated, so I'm always curious to try out more games they worked on.
So as I end another edition of Octurbo, I'll leave you all with this to ponder: What's your Cosmic Fantasy? Wait, no, don't answer that. Abort, abort! We're done!
Cosmic Fantasy 2 full soundtrack (it seems the guy who uploaded this just burned the whole CD. That's totally something you can do, since most CD players recognize TGCD games as audio CDs with the exception of the first track, which is where the game's data is stored and should always be skipped over. Playing the first track leads to an error message that essentially says "yo, don't play this part, it'll probably ruin the disc and/or player". Sounds like they got a few audio-only cutscenes in there too.).
It's probably redundant by now to say that this is another weird game. If you took all of the text from Octurbo-CD so far and put it into one of those fancy infographic word clouds, the biggest words would be "weird", "strange" and "what am I even doing" by a considerable margin. Motteke Tamago is weird inside and outside, though, as its gameplay and its release history are equally unusual. Released as late as 1997, way into the 32-bit fifth generation, it is actually the penultimate game for the PC Engine (officially, at least), and was originally given away for free on the cover CD for the Tokuma Shoten magazine "Super PC Engine Fan Deluxe". Apparently, it was meant to be released a lot sooner during the PC Engine's heyday, but was never published for whatever reason.
Motteke Tamago (which means something like "Take It Egg", which makes sense given you're grabbing eggs) is a multiplayer grid maze game superficially similar to Hudson's Bomberman. The player is a duck who has to run around a grid maze picking up eggs which then follow the duck. As long as the player keeps moving, the eggs will eventually hatch into ducklings who then make their own way to the player's coop at the corner of the screen. The opposing ducks (which can be human or CPU controlled, and there can be up to three of them) are also trying to do the same thing. The player can also create these little fried egg blocks to trap other ducks, and perform a dash (which requires a charge up) to blast through blocks (and other ducks) in their way. In practice it sounds straightforward enough, kinda, but there's many complications that can have beneficial or adverse effects on the player's chances of winning. Let's see how many I can show off...
Duck, Duck, Duck, Duck, Abstruse
That's Motteke Tamago, and it seems pretty darn cool. There's been a resurgence of late of great local multplayer games, and Motteke Tamago seems like ideal reboot material to join in on that bandwagon. The game's an odd combination of Bomberman and ChuChu Rocket, where it's all about resource procurement and management and keeping a fairly critical eye on proceedings to ensure no-one's getting a leg up over you. You can also decide to mess with other ducks, stealing their eggs and knocking them down or screwing them over in other ways. Actually, I guess it reminded me of that battle game in Diddy Kong Racing where you're collecting/stealing pteranodon eggs in those planes. Man, was Diddy Kong Racing a great kart racer.
Anyway, since I'm already reminiscing about other games, that's probably a good time to bring today's Octurbo to a close. This doesn't seem like the most attainable game, seeing as it was a bonus disc on a fairly obscure magazine that was already late to the party as far as where PC Engine's lifespan was at in 1997. Here's hoping Naxat Soft (or Kaga Create, as they're now known) see the sound financial sense in re-releasing an incredibly obscure game that was given away in Japan for free. Aww, I just made myself sad. At least there's always Motteke Tamago Ganbare Kamonohashi.
I believe this will be the last shoot 'em up I cover for this edition of Octurbo. There's only so much you can do with a screenshot LP of a shoot 'em up, given how functionally similar many of them are and the speed at which they move. The PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 is absurdly well represented in this genre, more so than any other of the core 16-bit consoles and I'm not sure why that is exactly, as the least technologically sophisticated console the TG-16 suffered the most from trying to keep multiple sprites on the screen at once and employing the various parallax scrolling techniques that are usually more prominent in these fast-paced games. I guess they just found a home here (and eventually in other marginalized consoles like the Saturn and Dreamcast).
Star Parodier is actually part of Hudson's Star Soldier franchise of sci-fi shoot 'em ups, and is to that series (and Hudson games in general) what Parodius is to Gradius (and Konami games in general). The big and really only main difference between the two franchises is that Star Soldier is a vertically-aligned affair, but beyond that Star Parodier kind of follows its better-known nutty inspiration to the letter, throwing all sorts of weird shit at the player and giving them a number of unusual spaceships to play as, each with their own idiosyncrasies. While the graphics are a little out there, the gameplay sticks close to the format of its more serious brethren, adopting similar power-ups and other systems. The game was actually developed by Kaneko, known for many prestigious contributions to gaming such as Gals Panic, rather than Hudson Soft themselves.
An interesting coincidence is that because this game belonged to Hudson it ended up being included with the rest of Hudson's library when it was sold off to another company after Hudson went out of business. That purchasing company just so happened to be Konami.
But hey, there's plenty more weirdness to get into today, and what better way than through screenshots (don't say video)? Seeing is believing, after all. Time is money, and what goes up must come down. A stitch in time sa- I'm just going to start this thing already.
"Satire Soldier" Would've Been a Better Name, But Then I Can Be Too Much of a Back Seat Punner At Times
Star Parodier isn't too bad, but it seems a little too easy and much of the insanity doesn't match up to Parodius. If anything, they're playing it way too safe (as in, lazy), with what seems to be a lot of stage ideas borrowed from Parodius and TwinBee. Seems kinda fitting that this game would default to Konami eventually.
This was, to the chagrin of any serious Star Soldier fan, the only CD Star Soldier game in the 16-bit era. The series would see a single N64 sequel (Star Solder: Vanishing Earth) and a few remakes for modern consoles. Konami being Konami doesn't seem to want to do much with any of its older properties these days, and I'm not sure the noble shoot 'em up has much market penetration these days anyway.
Still, this goofy little game did become available to the US and Europe eventually, via the Wii's Virtual Console. It's not terrible, and a lot easier than most games in this genre if you're someone like me who gets shot down so often that it becomes discouraging. Then again, you could also just play Eric Pope's new dream music shoot 'em up instead if you're in the market for one of these.
Couldn't dance around Ys forever. One of the greatest action RPG franchises ever made and still seeing new entries, Ys has been criminally underrepresented in the West until fairly recently (it's established a firm foothold on Steam, and I'd recommend trying Oath in Felghana or Origin). Each game in the core series features the red-haired swordsman Adol, who travels to some other region in Not-Europe to sort out their problems. He's essentially the fantasy anime equivalent of Winston Wolfe.
Ys IV, or at least this Ys IV, sees Adol make his way to Celceta on a new adventure, after a temporary layover in the town of Minea in Esteria (from Ys I and II) continuing right after the events of Ys III. Though there's a bit of a serial storyline going on between each game, it's fairly unimportant: Each new game introduces you to a brand new region with new people to meet fairly quickly after starting. The only constants are usually just Adol himself and his large, gregarious friend Dogi. Ys IV also goes back to classic Ys combat, which is to say that you run into monsters at an angle and they die. Not the most sophisticated combat engine, but it works better than it sounds.
If Iron Galaxy Created This Series, Would It Be Called "D Ys-y"?
Anyway, Ys IV starts proper as soon as you leave the Romun fort, and I've probably spent enough time looking at this game. Blame all those protracted intro sequences. Like any Ys game, there's plenty to like about it, from its excellent music to its extremely fast-paced but still tactical combat (which will eventually also include spell-casting) to its solid story and characterization.
It seems like if you wanted to play this particular Ys game, you might be better off tracking down a PSP copy of Ys IV: Memories of Celceta, which is Falcom's own retelling of the events of Ys IV: Dawn of Ys and Ys IV: Mask of the Sun. It also builds on the combat engine of Ys Seven, another PSP entry which comes highly recommended, and does a much better job fleshing out the region of Celceta and its denizens. It's also available in English, unlike this game, though apparently there's also a fan-dub of the voiceovers in addition to the script translation I was using. I can't even begin to imagine what that's like. Anyway, thanks for checking Octurbo today, and take it easy. Or Ys-y. Both, do both.
Ys IV OST: A Great Ordeal (all these Ys tracks are from the official CD OST for the game, released shortly before the game itself)
Strider probably requires no introduction at this point, given how often Capcom's acrobatic side-scroller comes up in Giant Bomb content, especially when @gvaranini is around. Strider was a 1989 hit in the Arcades before being brought to a whole bunch of home consoles. The non-linear NES version is the only truly divergent one; the others, like the Genesis and this PC Engine CD-ROM2 version, try to be as close to the original Arcade game as possible. Obviously, the CD-ROM format makes that a bit easier in some way, but then there's only so much the TurboGrafx-CD's tech could squeeze out regardless of the vast amount of storage space that CDs offer. If anything, the PC Engine CD-ROM2 port is probably less technologically sophisticated than the Genesis version.
The reason for Strider Hiryu's inclusion, beyond me wanting to play more Strider, is that it was a title in the "Arcade Card" range for the Turbo-CD. The system actually saw two RAM expansions in its lifetime; the first, the "Super CD-ROM Card", was required for most games produced after 1992, which was when the TurboDuo launched with its improved internal RAM. Anyone with an older PC Engine CD/Turbo-CD had to purchase a new system card with additional RAM to play these new TurboDuo-focused games. The Arcade Card came a little later, and was meant to provide enough additional RAM to allow near-perfect Arcade conversions. It's a bit of a cheeky lie, since the core TurboGrafx-CD processors and graphics cards couldn't hope to keep up with the Arcade games of the early 90s, but that extra boost of RAM (and having the redbook music and voice samples of the CD format) still helped a little. There's more to cover too, but we'll get into it with the screenshots.
Here You Go Again With the Strider Talk
That's Strider Hiryu for the PC Engine CD-ROM2. Possibly due to how late it came out in the system's life cycle, it was never ported to the US TurboGrafx-CD. A shame, because it doesn't seem like a particularly bad port, and gives fans of the series that extra level to play with. Then again, they'd probably be happier with the Genesis home version all told.
Still, at least the soundtrack's pretty good. Thanks for checking in (it's been a hell of a day around here) and shout outs once again to Game Cop.
On today's Octurbo, we're going to look at a game far less stupid. Well, maybe not far less. It's Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams, the originator of another strange but fairly well-regarded shoot 'em up franchise that saw its first home release on the TurboGrafx-CD. Remarkably, despite being a very Japanese "cute 'em up", both the Arcade and TGCD versions saw US releases. That's unfortunately less true for the many Cotton games that followed, many of which are considered some of the better shoot 'em ups for the PS1, Sega Mega Drive and Sega Saturn and these days come with the sort of legendary price tags you'd see on other Sega shoot 'em ups like Radiant Silvergun.
As for the plot of Cotton, the player is a purple-haired witch on a mission. A mission to eat as much candy as possible, and perhaps take down an eldritch horror or two if they happen to get between her and her sugar cravings. As would eventually become the case for many Touhou games, the player's "ship" is simply Cotton herself on a magical broom -- though she's unfortunately a rather large target, given the size of her sprite, so there's no clever tiny hitbox dodging here. Also, unlike Cotton's cutesy saccharine sequels, this game can be... well, kind of dark. Well, I guess we'll find that out soon enough. (Props also to the music! I don't know if rockin' guitars fit this magical witch girl game as well as they do something like Rondo of Blood or Lords of Thunder, but I'm not complaining.)
I'm Starting to Cotton Onto Turbo-CD's Anime Weirdness, But Not Onto Finding Better Puns
Cotton's a decent little shoot 'em up, and another one of those games that forces me to question whether the genre is inherently hard as balls or if I just suck at them. It is shockingly easy for Cotton to fly off her little broom while making dumb noises, and it was only through liberal use of the save state key that I was able to make it this far. I really don't care for the "power-down when you die" rule that these games tend to exhibit, because most enemies require a few seconds of constant fire before they explode and making the game considerably harder every time I die is not how you do difficulty curves. The constant downgrading is why I didn't much care for Cave Story either (well, that and its abstruseness).
It's certainly not bad though. I hear the 1999 PS1 port Cotton Original is the definitive version, because it takes the music from this game and the graphics from the Arcade original, which seems like a smart way to do a late port. And talking of the music...
No doubt a veritable jeopardy (the appropriate collective noun) of questions is flooding your mind right now. Allow me to employ my heretofore concealed telepathic powers and publicly reveal a few of them:
Why is Mento talking about that old Windows game that's on every PC?
Wait, why did Minesweeper get a Turbo-CD release?
Why is it Japan only?
Why that boxart?
Oh god I just woke up and I'm covered in blood. Nothing makes sense any more! Why did I kill them?!
I can help with the first four, a little. Minesweeper is an adaptation of the famous built-in PC game with a few, let's say, "fun" additions. Despite the inherent weirdness in this package, I've seen this happen enough times to a somewhat similarly-themed game by the name of Battleship. Many video game adaptations (and one movie adaptation, but let's not dwell on that) have tried over and over to glam up and intensify the Battleship format, presenting the armed naval conflict game in as many varied realistic and dramatic ways as possible. Sometimes the original board game ceases to be recognizable after the changes, becoming interchangeable with any number of submarine torpedo sims. With that frame of reference, a slightly more elaborate take on Minesweeper is explicable enough.
Then again, we are talking about a Japan-only CD-based adaptation here. I'm convinced that some of the more interesting games in the TGCD library were the odd PC game conversions (@arbitrarywater and the weird Dungeon Master remix I recently Octurbo'd helped sell me on that), but it's possible I might've just skipped ahead to the weirdest case of them all with this one.
I Was Saving This One For Sweeps, But
Well, I can't say they didn't try to do something interesting with this ubiquitous little puzzle game. Oh right! I forgot to say who developed this game. It was Arc System Works, the developers behind Persona 4 Arena and Guilty Gear. Yeah, those guys. We all had to start somewhere, I guess (though this is like their tenth game). The Japan-only version that was released on Game Boy was made by the same team too, though it had fewer modes.
It's all pretty weird, but I guess the addictiveness of Minesweeper explains why it's been added to every version of Windows, and I suppose it's natural people would want to play it on other systems. Hell, you can get Tetris and Solitaire on almost everything with a microchip in it. At least the Cook's Quest mode made a Tobal 2 RPG-type stab at an alternate way to play the game.
Did I really just write an Octurbo entry for Minesweeper?
Remember how Assassin's Creed had a fairly controversial premise? Setting up a protagonist that was a Middle Ages Muslim assassin fighting the encroaching western Crusaders and the Knights Templar who were in some way tied to ancient deities and a modern day conspiracy? Well, it turns out that Telenet Japan beat them to the punch by almost twenty years.
Exile is actually ZXR II, the sequel to a Japan-only computer game about a Middle Eastern assassin named Sadler who confronts a corrupt Caliph, takes down a bunch of Buddhist/Hindu deities and then travels through time to murder the present-day Russian and US presidents for some reason. The story doesn't get any less weird in this sequel, either. This game has so much religion, politics, drugs and violence that Nintendo of America would've had a conniption fit, which is probably why it was only localized for the Genesis and TurboGrafx-CD. The latter version was translated by Working Designs, one of the better localization teams of the 16/32-bit era, and given the excellent redbook audio and voiced cutscenes would appear to be the version to play if you don't understand Japanese. Apparently, the original home computer version for MSX/PC-88/PC-98 is a little longer, including a whole sequence where Sadler travels through modern NYC's subway fighting skateboarders and zombies.
It's certainly a game that piqued my interest. Fortunately, it's one of the better games I've covered this Octurbo too, employing a system not unlike ActRaiser or Ys III with side-scrolling action stages and more sedate overhead RPG areas where the player can restock on supplies and talk to NPCs to progress the story. But there's no need to take my word for it, because I've got a whole bunch of pictures for you all.
In a Grocery Store and Want Omelette Ingredients? Try the Exile
I continue being intrigued by this game, after playing it a little. The action stage controlled well and gave me a run for my money with that tricky boss. I don't doubt I'd have died several times in there without that starting money (and the save state button, if I'm being honest). Everything else about the presentation is impressive too, especially given that this game came out in 1991. The localized script is competent (which counts for a lot in this era) and the music's catchy. The boss fight music in particular reminded me of the boss music from Plok, though maybe that's a stretch. I do like Plok's music a whole lot.
Honestly, though, if I were to keep playing it would be to see where the story's going. I've already gotten the Cliff Notes version from the HardcoreGaming101 article on the series, but it sounds wild enough that I'd like to see it for myself. Exile saw a TGCD sequel that was also localized and released in the US, so maybe we aren't quite done with this series just yet.
If Bonk is the mascot for the HuCard era TurboGrafx-16, then Yuko of the Valis series may well be the CD equivalent. Developed by Telenet Japan, which would become one of the more prolific developers working on the TurboGrafx-CD via their CD-focused subsidiary LaserSoft, the first Valis game was originally released in 1986 for various Japanese home computers. It took a genre of anime that was known as "magical girl", established largely by mega-popular animes like Sailor Moon, and adapted the format into an action game, presenting the tale of an everyday student named Yuko who is forced to take up the titular magical Sword of Valis and fight supernatural monsters before whisked to a dreamlike world named Vecanti to combat the King commanding the beasts, Rogles (pronounced "rogueless"). Though the game itself was fairly basic (and, well, bad) the focus on scantily-clad heroines fighting monsters with a narrative told via anime-style cutscenes was fairly novel for 1986 and helped endear Valis to a generation of Japanese gamers. Valis was eventually ported to the PC Engine, and its sequels would all find a home on the PC Engine CD-ROM2. Two of them even eventually make their way over to the American TurboGrafx-CD: Valis II and Valis III. I'll be playing the former today.
Valis II is one of the earliest CD-ROM games and, unlike Fighting Street (which was a mediocre port of an already mediocre Arcade game) or No.Ri.Ko (which was barely a video game), is a fully-fledged action game specifically created for the PC Engine CD-ROM2 console. It continues right where the first game ended, dropping Yuko into another conflict on Vecanti brought about due to the power vacuum left after slaying Rogles, instigated by Rogles' older brother Megas. What's odd is that Valis II is actually one of two games with that name: The other was released shortly afterwards on the many Japanese home computers that carried the original. It's hard to say which one is "canonical", as Telenet sourced out both games to separate subsidiaries, but most tend to go with the TurboGrafx-CD version because it came first.
Man, that's one heck of a history lesson. Really, Valis II is a game where you're a schoolgirl in a Wonder Woman outfit hitting giant monsters and weird cybernetic Dragon Ball Z rejects with a sword until they explode. I didn't mean to make it sound any more high-brow than that.
Is the Plural of Valis, Valii? Would That Make Valis' Numerous Heroines "Valii Girls"?
That'll be all from Valis II for today. While of historical note, it's not a particularly riveting gameplay experience, though I suppose there's still a lot more going on here than there was in my No.Ri.Ko playthrough (though it did also include a trip to a bizarre alternate dimension). I hear the two TGCD sequels get a lot better as the series evolved, though it's still mostly the same sort of affair. Not quite Castlevania, or even Ghouls N' Ghosts, but a fairly competent and acceptable horror-themed action game.
Though I recognize "competent and acceptable" doesn't make for good LPs. I'll have to dig deep for something a little more compelling next time. Or just more anime nonsense. Either's fine with me.
From Dungeon Exploring to Dungeon Mastering in just four days! We're making great progress on Octurbo this year. Dungeon Master: Theron's Quest is one of a number of adaptations of FTL Games's seminal CRPG classic, but this particular 1992 release really flies off the rails in comparison with the more faithful SNES adaptation released the year prior. Many aspects of this game confound me, though at the same time it's kind of neat to see a game I'm very familiar with get chopped and screwed like this.
The handful of folk who read these things might recall that I covered Dungeon Master some time ago in a multi-part Brief Jaunt. I stopped short of a full LP only because I was running out of ways to say "and then you press this hidden button for the next key", though mostly it was because I couldn't bear dealing with the terrifying purple worms of the fourth floor. That's when the gloves come off and shit gets real, as it were, and the game demands you put together a stronger team for the travails to come. Which essentially means "keep repeating actions over and over to go up levels for the necessary HP and stat boosts", since Dungeon Master was one of the first games to introduce a system of progression where skills increase the more you do them. Anyway, I'm getting off track. I'd suggest reading that Brief Jaunt LP first, because I'm going to be focusing on the changes made to that original version with this bizarre remix.
I Always Thought Dungeon Master Could've Used More Anime Cutscenes
I do kinda want to keep playing though, just to see what else has been changed. There's no denying that it's going to be easy street if all I'm fighting is low-level goons with a party that could trounce the final boss of the original game though, so there's little point in screen-capping all that. I'd have to assume that later dungeons give you weaker champions and stronger monsters to contend with, especially if it's going to be drawing from the extremely challenging Chaos Strikes Back, so maybe Theron's Quest just has a particularly weird difficulty curve.
All the same, I'm definitely intrigued by what FTL Games did here. I'm not sure the TGCD had a mouse peripheral like the Super Nintendo did (or if it did, they didn't sell too many), so maybe they figured it'd be better to make the game simpler because of how much slower and more detrimental using a controller would be. That they invented this whole story about Theron and finding armor pieces and multiple dungeons is interesting too, as if they wanted Dungeon Master veterans to give this new take a whirl. Curious stuff.
Theron's Quest intro (it really is almost five minutes long. That seems nuts for a cutscene made in 1992)