So the theme for week two is JRPGs, at least until I run out. My favorite genre is legendarily well represented on the Super Nintendo and fairly well catered towards on the Genesis too, but what about the TurboGrafx-16? Maybe it has some hidden gem that's the equivalent of Chrono Trigger or Secret of Mana. I mean, probably not, but it's worth checking what's out there anyway. Of course, I'm going to have to get a little creative with how I define a decent cut-off point in an RPG, but I suppose we'll fireball that slime when we draw near to it.
The first game on the list is NCS's Double Dungeons. I had absolutely no idea what to expect going in, so this ought to be a fun blog. Probably.
My Double Dungeons Get the Best of Me (Oooooh, Double Dungeons)
So that's the end of the first dungeon of Double Dungeons. Starting a new dungeon resets your level and equipment, as each one is constructed to be a standalone puzzle - kill weak enemies, go up levels, kill tougher enemies, earn gold to buy equipment, beat stronger enemies, buy best equipment, kill even more enemies, find the boss key and beat the boss. I can imagine this being utterly monotonous after... well, after the first dungeon, but it only gets worse:
Here's what the first dungeon (the one I just did) looks like. And here's what the final dungeon looks like. It's almost like one of those magic eye puzzles, only I don't have to stare at it for ten minutes before my brain starts hurting. That's a ludicrously enormous maze considering the required path to defeat is almost certainly identical to all the ones that came before it, at least according to those who have gotten that far.
Double Dungeons is an interesting idea. It reminds me a bit of Dungeon Hack, the Roguelike that uses Eye of the Beholder's engine, and Half-Minute Hero to an extent in that it kind of deconstructs the humble first-person dungeon crawler and turns it into some sort of odd puzzle game with a specific pattern to follow. But I can imagine that this would be a terrible game to try to play all the way through to the end, and an even worse one to LP. Moving on.
Rounding off a week of TG-16 staples we visit Hudson's big flagship series that has nothing to do with pyrotechnics: New Adventure Island. Oddly, considering how deeply involved Hudson was in the Turbografx-16 and much of its game library, this is the only outing of Master Higgins (or Meijin Takahashi, depending on your region) for the TG-16. It's a solid enough iteration in the series, releasing just after the first Super Nintendo game but before the last NES one, and largely sticks to its axe-flinging, fruit-eating roots. At least from what I played of it. But hey, we have a whole bunch of photographic evidence to support that:
The Name's a Misnomer; It's Actually More of an Adventure Peninsula
The Adventure Island games are, like Bonk, one of those early genre cornerstones that saw what Mario was doing and tried their own little angle on the same format. But just as was the case with the many variations of Tetris that never took off, there's no topping perfection. New Adventure Island is a solid platformer that, thankfully, does away with the strict life limit of its progenitor and basically lets you as continue as many times as you'd like, only ever losing your mid-stage checkpoint progress. The choice of new weapons with various abilities, a far cry from the first game's choices of crappy axes or slightly less crappy rocks, give it a neat Ghouls 'n Ghosts/Joe and Mac vibe too. It's an improvement on the first game in many ways, but doesn't sacrifice what made that game stand out beyond its unbearable difficulty. Still, it is odd that this is the only TG-16 game in the series. I guess being a TG-16 spin-off of a Nintendo series based on a Sega game is at least worthy of note.
Cadash is perhaps better known as an Arcade multiplayer action RPG, of which there aren't too many of outside of Shadow over Mystara and Gauntlet. It did receive a well acclaimed TG16 port, though, which appears to be quite faithful to the original cabinet, at least compared to the Mega Drive version. I haven't got MAME set up to make an informed case for or against it, so I'll give Taito the benefit of the doubt.
Though this first week was intended to get a few obvious TG16 staples out of the way, with a cursory explanation of why they won't be covered in detail, Cadash is one I might be reconsidering later on. That's if I ever figure out how to stop dying, I mean. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Keeping Up With the Cadash-er-ings (I'm Really Sorry for This One)
I forgot to cap it because I was too busy hating the universe and everything that exists within it, but Bob met an unfortunate demise on the following lava rock bridge trap before the boss and with him dies any motivation to keep playing. For now.
Cadash does have a certain proto-Dark Souls appeal to it, however, by the way it makes those first few experience levels come quick and easy: you get the sense with a little more patience and a bit of grinding, I'd be powering through that first dungeon and finding my way to a town where I might be able to upgrade my weapons/magic and buy a few herbs with all that gold I keep picking up. As a result, I don't feel like I'm quite done with this game, for better or worse. I'll put a big ol' asterisk next to it on the "TurboMento Maybe?" list.
I feel like I didn't play nearly enough of this to form a fair opinion, yet at the same time I feel like I've played way more than I would ever want to. Such is the paradox of the Alpha Zones.
Keith Courage in Alpha Zones is an example of what happens when you take an anime/manga with an established world (in this case the admittedly obscure Majin Eiyuuden Wataru) and try to recontextualize its characters, setting and lore through a very basic video game effigy. You get awful, bizarre products like Dragon Power or Street Combat. It also leads to aberrations like "Kid Ying" and "Doctor Yang". I'm not necessarily some Japanophile purist who insists everyone use "Aerith" and should always switch to the Japanese voice track when applicable, but all the same these games were made objectively worse by trying to separate themselves from their source material for the questionable benefit of a late-80s/early-90s western audience that had yet to encounter anime in any mainstream venue. It doesn't help that Keith Courage isn't a particularly good game either.
Keith Courage in Alpha Zones isn't actually all that bad. It has a very humane game over penalty, a curious system where you can grind during the easier Keith-on-foot stages to buy weapons and power-ups for the mech suit stages and the controls are reasonably responsive. These mech stages have been a little arbitrary so far, since the goal is to head downwards and that requires a lot of "leap of faith" dives into the darkness onto fun things like insta-death spikes and Cthulhu only knows what else. I don't doubt the game will ratchet up on the bullshit-o-meter as it finds innovative ways to make the game even more artificially difficult.
So overall Keith Courage is not terrible, but not exactly a convincing reason to buy a brand new console either. Here's the Kappa to this little adventure: if I want to Beta game, I going to have to be Delta better hand than this. Phi on you, I say! (I Nu, I Nu, these puns are Psi-worthy.)
Yep, I'm doing a screenshot LP of a pinball game. Spoilers: this might be a short one.
NAXAT/Compile's Alien Crush is widely regarded to be one of the better pinball video games for the TurboGrafx-16, if not the 16-bit era entirely. As will be immediately obvious, the game takes its artistic inspiration from H. R. Giger's xenomorph designs for the movie Alien.
I've always felt (and Alien Crush embodies this philosophy) that a video game version of pinball should be able to pull off tricks that a physical pinball table would be incapable of performing. It's taking advantage of the platform to present a real-life activity in a manner that cannot be enjoyed otherwise - it's why I much prefer, say, Mutant League Football over Madden, because the latter is just too close to watching a regular football game on TV (just with more wonky physics and fast food price-gouging).
There's a rival philosophy that states that a video game adaptation of a pinball table ought to be as close to the real thing as is humanly possible, but I figure you might as well find an actual pinball table to play on at that point. There are no pinball video games quite as visceral as the real thing, after all, with all its sounds and blinking lights and the tactile sense of moving the flippers and surreptitiously nudging the table. On the other hand, you're not paying hundreds of dollars for gear maintenance and carnauba wax for a simulation either.
Anyhoo, this is way too much pre-amble. Talking of visceral...
Alien Crush Sounds Like the Prequel to My Stepmother is an Alien
So, yeah, as is the case with shmups like Blazing Lazers (also a Compile joint!), this sort of genre doesn't lend itself well to lots of informative screenshots.
Pinball has its own set of esoteric jargon relating to score zones and combo multipliers into which I've never sufficiently invested myself to an extent where I can really start to appreciate these games, and specifically the difference between a really well conceived pinball game and a gimmicky one that's only maybe fun for a few minutes (which is all of them for me right now). But I can certainly respect any genre like pinball or MOBAs or MMOs or Monster Hunter or what have you that can inspire such devoted in-the-know discussion, even in spite of my own perpetual outsider status. It's how video games can simultaneously be an in-depth, dedicated hobby as well as light, ephemeral entertainment (and maybe art too, though I'm still not sure where I stand on that debate).
Anyway, sorry this one was so short. Felt I ought to cover Alien Crush, but had no idea how to do so without posting the same image of a table over and over and explaining what I did different each time. I bet that would've been a fun read.
JJ & Jeff is a reskinned (I'm not sure that nomenclature even applies here) version of Kato-chan and Ken-chan, an absurdist scatological platformer featuring two Japanese comedians/TV hosts that's largely known for its poop gags. It's also one of the most well-known TurboGrafx-16 games as a result, so it's perfect for a quick glance if not a full TurboMento-12. Because honestly, playing this game is kind of a chore.
I've Covered Some Crap Games, But This Takes the Urinal Cake
Kato-chan and Ken-chan isn't quite as awful as I'm letting on. It's a game that rewards experimentation and memorization and I can respect that aspect of it at least, if very few of its other prominent facets. You know, the ones involving butts.
It deserves acknowledgement though, and not just because it's "that one infamous TurboGrafx-16 game with all the farts". It takes risks and has a strong comedic auteur sensibility to it which sets it apart from the many generic platformers that were around in the 16-bit era. Far too many games of that era were content to ape Super Mario Bros. without trying to forge their own path. Of course, I really don't like playing it, which is perhaps a bigger detriment than just being a bit derivative. Next game.
Welcome to Day 2 of Octurbo. I probably won't stick to a daily schedule; the idea was to do this whenever I had an hour free to make it all happen. Still, spreading it out seems like it would preferable to dumping two or three on everyone on the same day. My boredom needn't correlate to everyone else's irritation, after all.
Bonk's Revenge is, of course, the sequel to Hudson's Bonk's Adventure - or PC-Genjin, a pun that doesn't quite work as well in a different language on a renamed platform - which I covered back in May. While Bonk is perhaps famous for being the mascot and face of the TurboGrafx-16, I didn't particularly want to cover any direct sequels for TurboMento-12. Wasn't really in the spirit of the feature to keep it so narrowly-focused. But hey, this is Octurbo, so now there's no excuse. As a direct sequel, I'll be focusing most of my attention on changes between this game and its predecessor.
Revenge for What? Didn't He Win the Last Game?
Bonk's Revenge is every bit the platformer the old Bonk was. The designers, Red Company, wisely decided not to mess with the formula too much and simply threw in a few tweaks and graphical improvements. I didn't get too far into the game, but it seems the level numbers have been dropped for a more freeform sort of progression. I also wonder if I'm skipping a lot of levels by playing on the medium difficulty's "Four Stage Game" (I wasn't going to beat the whole game in one sitting anyway).
Really, the game's just more Bonk. Nothing more (well, a little bit more), nothing less. Though a decent enough game, it doesn't seem like it would be worth covering something so similar to Bonk's Adventure yet again. Next game.
Hey, it's the first episode of that thing I just threatened to do.
Blazing Lazers, also known by its punchier Japanese title of Gunhed, is a shoot 'em up from Compile and widely considered to be one of the best, if not the best, shmups on the TG-16. Considering every third game for the system was a shoot 'em up that seems like high praise indeed, but then it's only to be expected from Compile. Those guys knew what they were doing with this particular genre.
I couldn't really go on with a TurboGrafx-16 feature without highlighting a game from its most populous genre, but as we'll see in just a moment there's a few (mostly self-evident) issues pertaining to crafting a screenshot LP of a shoot 'em up.
What the Blue Blazing Lazers iz Going On?
Blazing Lazers really is a lot of fun. It's not particularly challenging, since lives and power-ups are being tossed liberally in your direction, but I imagine there's a difficulty curve in place to take care of that. Like my gaming hero Shinya "Kacho" Arino I'm absolutely awful at shoot 'em ups, so I don't think I'll be playing much more of this. I can certainly recognize the craft put into it, though. I imagine this helped set the precedent that continued to the much loved Dreamcast/Touhou era of shooters that cap out your offensive abilities early to let you concentrate on simply avoiding enemy projectiles with your tiny, vulnerable hitbox.
Good stuff, but I've expounded on at least four reasons why I don't ever intend to cover these games for TurboMento-12. Moving on.
Greetings, fellow webizens of Immense Incendiary. As you may already be aware, I've been posting screenshot LPs of TurboGrafx-16 games throughout the year as part of a feature I tentatively dubbed TurboMento-12, a name it got stuck with in lieu of anything better.
The goal of TurboMento-12 was twofold: A) I wanted to show off the library of a console very few of us ever got to see, either due to its age, its non-European exclusivity or everyone's wise decision to stick with their SNESes and Mega Drives during that era, and B) Because I wanted to see for myself what I had missed out on. I don't feel like I've quite managed that with the paltry nine games covered so far, even adding in the three more to come.
So what Octurbo is, is an excuse to quickly run through a whole mess of TG16 games that are still out there. These won't be full playthroughs: I'll probably stick to whatever constitutes the first "world" of each of these games and then hastily move on. Through this I can show off a lot more of the TG16 library as well as hopefully narrow down the three final games I want to beat for TurboMento-12.
I apologize in advance for spamming your notifications with new blog alerts. I have no clue how many of these I'll get through, but I'm going to be pretty busy with them this month.
Just so I'm not constantly copy/pasting tables, I'll link back to this "Table of Contents" blog after each entry and keep track of them all here:
On the very last day of September, it's time for a new TurboMento-12! I'm going way, way off the beaten path today with Westone's Blue Blink. It's a game with some pedigree, as Westone are the developers behind Sega's super popular (well, 20 years ago) Wonder Boy series, and Blue Blink itself is adapted from the very last anime Osamu Tezuka ever worked on, about a boy, a magical blue donkey and their ragtag group of friends searching for the boy's kidnapped father. So, yeah, it's a 16-bit anime license platformer. But a good one!
I want to thank the translators Gaijin Productions and Zatos Hacks for creating the English patch. There isn't a whole lot of text in the game, but when searching for TG16 stuff to cover I figured if someone bothered to translate something it's probably worth playing. Blue Blink certainly got some curious ideas and looks fantastic for a game that pre-dates the Super Nintendo. But hey, why don't we just have a series of consecutive images do the talking? And then maybe I do some more talking underneath them in the captions?
Blue Blink and You'll Miss It
In Part 2, the game decides to get serious. Or at least as serious as an anime about a magical blue donkey with pink hair can get, which turns out to be very. No worries though, because I finally discover a few things that make the game a lot more manageable.