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Game OVA Episode 6: Bubblegum Crash

I've been looking for something to help me through the hot 'n' humid summer months and what better way to beat the heat than to stay indoors watching questionable anime and playing questionable games based on said anime? For a rundown of this little project, check out the first episode.

The Property

No Caption Provided

A staple of any early anime fan's VHS collection, Bubblegum Crisis helped codify an image of anime being this cool and occasionally violent underground sci-fi amusement park for teens and adults that greatly contrasted from the mostly kid-friendly animation being produced for western audiences (ironically, often by Japanese animation studios working on contract). Its broad appeal world-wide can be partly contributed to its familiar story structure and themes for sci-fi genre fans of the late '80s: the OVAs liberally borrow from near-future dystopian sci-fi like Blade Runner and Terminator for its premise of an all-female mercenary force called Knight Sabers, empowered by cutting-edge exosuits, who protect a 2033 Mega Tokyo by hunting down rogue "Boomers": androids frequently posing as humans that, in the wrong hands, can become effective assassins and heavies due to their superhuman strength, hidden weaponry, and total lack of empathy. Man, if you were to tell me Boomers were responsible for the world's dismal state in ten years' time I don't think I would be at all skeptical.

Even the name Bubblegum Crisis is evocative: said by its creator Toshimichi Suzuki to be a metaphor for how its setting's fragile peace is about to burst, like bubblegum, due to rampant technological advancement it instead brings to mind the colorful confectionary that matches the bright hues of the Knight Saber suits, juxtaposed against the anime's darker themes, bursts of violence, and mostly nighttime setting. (Also, not to put too fine a point on it, but as an action sci-fi show aimed at young men (shounen) with an all-female cast, it sure does conceive a lot of scenarios where they're nude or close to it. Not going to say that didn't also contribute to its appeal.)

Bubblegum Crisis was written by Toshimichi Suzuki, created by his animation studio Artmic in conjunction with AIC (Anime International Company), and produced by Youmex, a Toshiba EMI subsidiary. The character designs came courtesy of a young Kenichi Sonoda, the self-professed gun-nut that would find solo success with Gunsmith Cats, while the exosuits and other mechanical designs were the product of an equally young Masami Oubari, who'd go on to direct the Fatal Fury and Battle Arena Toshinden anime among others (he also directed two episodes of Bubblegum Crisis). Artmic made a handful of other OVAs prior to their dissolution in 1997 including possible future Game OVA candidate Detonator Orgun and the notorious five-part series Genocyber, which almost needs to be seen to be believed (but, uh, not if you're the squeamish type).

However, what we're actually focusing on today is the short-lived sequel series to Bubblegum Crisis: Bubblegum Crash. As a direct continution that ties up some of the loose threads of the original run you can't really watch Crash without seeing Crisis first, so while the bulk of the following anime and game reviews will be focused on Crash I'll be sprinkling in bits of Crisis lore where appropriate.

Major Characters:

  • Priscilla "Priss" Asagiri: Moody and hotheaded, Priss is a loner who tends to act recklessly. When not on a mission she performs as the lead vocalist for the rock band "Priss and the Replicants" (yeah, yeah, we get it). Her VA, a real-life singer, is frequently performing songs in the backgrounds of montages and other major scenes. As a Knight Saber, Priss is the team muscle and vanguard that uses a railgun and laser rifle at range and "knuckle bombers" (explosive knuckle dusters, essentially) for close-quarters fighting.
  • Sylia Stingray: A genius scientist and tactician, Sylia acts as the Knight Sabers' leader and was the one to create all the armored suits the Sabers wear. She's a business tycoon outside of her mercenary work, the profits from her many enterprises helping to subsidize the expensive gear of the Knight Sabers along with their mission payouts. Her father was a major researcher for massive tech conglomerate Genom - the man responsible for the Boomer androids - until he was assassinated by the upper management, and part of Sylia's motivation for creating the Sabers was to fight against their ruthless corruption. Her Knight Saber suit is geared for flight, and she uses her aerial manueverability to control the battlefield and direct the others.
  • Linna Yamazaki: The "normal" one of the group, who was recruited to the Knight Sabers due to her exemplary physical skills from her background as an aerobics instructor and professional dancer. Despite being relatively more down-to-earth than the rest of the team, she's obsessed with earning money and willing to take on any mission if it pays well enough. As a Knight Saber, she tends to approach enemies with hand-to-hand weapons like laser ribbons and knuckle bombers, using her speed and agility to close the distance unscathed.
  • Nene Romanova: The bubbly and ditzy Nene is the youngest member of the team. Her day job involves being a member of the AD Police, a special division of the metropolitan cops set up to handle Boomer-related crimes: she's effectively the Sabers' mole on the inside of the city's elite law enforcement branch. A talented hacker, she's called upon whenever a situation calls for electronic warfare or data recovery. As a Knight Saber, she mostly serves as a distraction, maintaining distance to use remote hacking on her robotic foes.
  • Mackie Stingray: Sylia's younger brother and an inveterate horndog. He acts as support for the Knight Sabers, working on mission control at Knight Saber HQ or driving the truck that carries their gear and motorcycles. He's also capable of fighting in his own armored suit in an emergency.
  • Leon McNichol: A loose cannon detective in the AD Police as well as a womanizer, he has a love/hate relationship with the obstinate Priss due to being a fan of her music. Despite his jackassery, he can be a valuable ally to the Knight Sabers albeit often unknowingly.
  • Daley Wong: Leon's partner in the AD Police. Competent and personable, Daley's a rare case in early anime of a heroic openly gay male character. In Bubblegum Crisis he has an easygoing working relationship with Leon, flirting with him out of jest, though that aspect of their friendship is played down in Bubblegum Crash.
  • Fargo: An underworld informant that works with Sylia, often being the one to surreptitiously arrange new missions for the Knight Sabers. A running joke is that he keeps setting up meetings in date spots, like a Ferris wheel or drive-in movie theater, assuring Sylia that they make for less conspicuous rendezvous.

The Anime

No Caption Provided

Bubblegum Crash was written by a returning Toshimichi Suzuki, created by Artmic only this time with Artland as their collaborators, and released in three OVA episodes across the second half of 1991 starting just a few months after the eighth and final Bubblegum Crisis OVA. As with Crisis, it was curtailed early in its run due to various legal troubles behind the scenes between Artmic and their original production partners Youmex.

Bubblegum Crash is set several months after the end of Bubblegum Crisis, in the year 2034, and sees the former Knight Sabers having all but disbanded and gone their separate ways (besides Nene) with the lack of business. However, a new Boomer threat rears its ugly mechanical head and the Sabers are once again called back into action.

(I've summarized the events of the eight episodes of Bubblegum Crisis at the bottom of the blog, but as they're not wholly essential to following Crash I'll be spoiler-blocking them.)

Episode 1: "Illegal Army"

Already, this show is jumping on board the then-burgeoning CGI train with a 3D model of Mega Tokyo. It looks expensive, because they spend a few seconds looking around it while a voiceover re-introduces the near-future world of Bubblegum Crash and its reliance on Boomers: androids built to take on the majority of dangerous and difficult physical labor, as well as perilous space exploration. (C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate, etc.) It also reiterates that, for the most part, people are happy with Boomers (unlike the Boomers of today) due to their utility and the way they make life easier for the younger generations (also unlike the Boomers of today). It's only when those Boomers go berserk, or are being controlled by a villainous sort, that they become a nightmarish menace. It doesn't help that Boomer endoskeletons are very not human once the outer layer of flesh has come off: many even have sharp animal-like teeth that aren't apparent in their human form. It's not apparent why this is, but it sure is grotesquely flashy when they burst from their human shells and grow a foot taller.

The episode then moves to a bank robbery performed by a group wearing armored suits: at this point it's impossible to tell if they're humans in exosuits or automated Boomers. They slip the AD Police by crashing their getaway vehicle and flying away with a chopper built to accommodate their suits, making it clear they have some serious support on their side. We're also shown that in the time since Bubblegum Crisis, cheaper model Boomers - which are more humanoid except for their metallic skin, rather than those that switch from near-human to monster forms - are now everywhere in Mega Tokyo; a faulty one serves Leon a cup of coffee powder as he complains about the risk-averse new ADP chief.

Our four heroines. Clockwise from top left: Nene, Sylia, Priss, and Linna.
Our four heroines. Clockwise from top left: Nene, Sylia, Priss, and Linna.
The new AD Police chief. Anally retentive, overly cautious, and ultimately ineffectual. Certainly resembles a particular POTUS from 1991, huh?
The new AD Police chief. Anally retentive, overly cautious, and ultimately ineffectual. Certainly resembles a particular POTUS from 1991, huh?

Ten minutes in, the show suddenly remembers it's supposed to be about the Knight Sabers, so we get caught up with what the four gals have been up to: Priss Asagiri is still focusing on going pro with her music (she has a new huskier VA now by the way, since the previous had also quit to focus on her music); Linna Yamazaki has switched careers from physical fitness to being a stockbroker, befitting her avaricious streak; Sylia disappeared after her businesses were relocated by city zoning; Team Mascot Mackie is studying abroad in Germany; and Nene is still with the AD Police and is the only one longing for the Knight Sabers to return, though they've mostly given up the exosuit vigilantism - she suggests chasing the bank robbers, but Priss and Linna don't see the point without a payout. Right on cue, the villains hit a second bank. Working with Leon, Nene digs up info on these armored thieves: they belong to a PMC of globe-trotting mercenaries called the Illegal Army who were supposedly wiped out on their last mission in the Philippines, including the death of their C.O. Colonel Landa. The next scene shows Landa is alive and well: he now has Boomer parts integrated into his body and is working for some shadowy associate to steal top-secret AI tech kept in these banks, using the gold bullion thefts as a smokescreen.

Sylia surreptitiously communicates with Nene through an arcade game that she wants to talk to the whole team in her hotel room. Dreading an official break-up of the Knight Sabers, Nene freaks out but is quickly assured by Sylia that their work will continue, especially now that the most recent suit upgrades are finished. Their next mission of course involves the bank robbers, and Sylia fills in some gaps in an expository scene: the villains are looking for four pieces of AI tech that will only work when all pieces are combined, and have two of them already due to the robberies. Sylia has already set up traps for the remaining two pieces, though given the mercenaries immediately steal another one without issue it's not clear what these failsafes are. As if to honor the old status quo, Priss and Linna immediately quit their jobs: Priss growing ever more agitated by her scummy manager for trying to turn her into an idol act covering songs that aren't hers, and Linna for losing a pile of money on one of the bank companies that was hit by the robbers. At the 33-minute mark of the first of these OVAs, the Knight Sabers finally get into their suits and prepare to fight the mercenaries head on as they close in on the final piece of AI tech. Cornering the mercs in a trap after planting some fake information, the Sabers quickly dispatch all the mercenaries except for Landa, who proves to be more formidable. Taken down by a surprise attack by Sylia, Landa intends to self-destruct with a bomb powerful enough to destroy half of Mega Tokyo but Nene and Priss work together to find the self-destruct mechanism and, well, destruct it. The day is saved, but the question remains: who hired Landa and his goons, and for what ultimate goal?

One of the few new characters added to Bubblegum Crash is this news announcer dude, a not-so-subtle nod to cyberpunk icon Max Headroom. He even does the jittery head movements.
One of the few new characters added to Bubblegum Crash is this news announcer dude, a not-so-subtle nod to cyberpunk icon Max Headroom. He even does the jittery head movements.
Yeah, I wasn't kidding about this show's issue with the male gaze. Unless, of course, there's something about saunas that makes them perfect for dropping exposition. At least this sauna comes equipped with monitors, which I'm sure won't make sense if I think about it too much.
Yeah, I wasn't kidding about this show's issue with the male gaze. Unless, of course, there's something about saunas that makes them perfect for dropping exposition. At least this sauna comes equipped with monitors, which I'm sure won't make sense if I think about it too much.

This episode mostly serves to reintroduce the elements of the show, from the politics surrounding Boomer integration into Mega Tokyo society to the personalities and combat prowess of the Knight Sabers (I'm glad they finally gave Nene more firepower at last; it was getting comical how every enemy they fought was too much for her to handle). Colonel Landa feels like he was lifted right out of the Universal Soldier movies (were it not for the fact that the first of those came out the following year): he's shown to be a hardass and ruthless, but he paused on killing Leon because he resembled a soldier he fought alongside with which we're shown in a sudden flashback. He might have made for a more compelling foil, exploring how can effectively be half-human and half-Boomer, if he hadn't croaked. Otherwise, this is a pretty standard onboarding type of episode that spends most of its time setting up a big antagonist later on than telling a complete self-contained story of its own.

Episode 2 "Geo Climbers"

The episode starts with two protégés of Dr. Stingray (Sylia's father) discussing Genom's newest invention, Adama: a second-generation Boomer (so a Gen Xer?) close to realizing Stingray's dream of a world where Boomers and humans could be friends on equal footing. Yuri, the more obviously evil looking of the two, has his colleague Haynes and his research team executed by a Boomer firing squad so he can take Adama for himself. The Knight Sabers are enjoying a break in Geo City, a new up-market urban development created beneath Mega Tokyo, and encounter Yuri on his way to a meeting with military heads to show off a powerful crab-like Boomer he's been working on. It goes berserk almost immediately and tries to attack Yuri and his guests, forcing an emergency shutdown: we then understand why Yuri has a dire need for a more advanced AI like Adama for it to be effective. In a briefing, Sylia explains that Adama - officially blamed for the murder of Haynes - was built to be a pacifist that would react negatively to any commands to hurt others, and that it's more likely his supposed self-emancipation was set up by a third party who wanted the tech for themselves. Since we literally already saw that happen, I'm not sure how revelatory this scene is supposed to be, though it does suggest that Adama's sapience might be behind its rebellious behavior.

Because of the short series run, the Knight Sabers never had the chance to fight their greatest nemesis: The Cyber Funker.
Because of the short series run, the Knight Sabers never had the chance to fight their greatest nemesis: The Cyber Funker.
Adama's a childlike robot with a precocious attitude. I want to believe his clothes were designed to be an Urkel parody. Especially since Urkel had a robot clone in that show, if memory serves.
Adama's a childlike robot with a precocious attitude. I want to believe his clothes were designed to be an Urkel parody. Especially since Urkel had a robot clone in that show, if memory serves.

Adama quickly escapes from Dr. Yuri's lab after Yuri has a mysterious phone call with his benefactor, the same voice instructing Col. Landa, and the experimental Boomer wanders into the seedier parts of Mega Tokyo looking for a subway to Geo City. Sold to a fence by some unscrupulous bystanders, he escapes again and finds Priss patrolling the sewers looking for him. Of course, Priss doesn't immediately recognize the timid Adama, reasoning that she's looking for a more imposing Boomer model. She realizes who he is just as Yuri's Boomer goons find them, leading to a chase. Adamant about getting on the subway to Geo City, Adama leads Priss out of the sewers and onto a train, narrowly escaping from Yuri's Boomers. However, one manages to get on-board: before she can overpower Priss, Adama manages to hack her mind and change her into an ally. Adama and Priss discuss the latter's hatred of Boomers as they move through Geo City but are ambushed by more Combat Boomers and Adama is captured. A gunfight breaks out and Adama once again saves Priss with a timely distraction, allowing her to destroy the last of the Boomers. The episode really does spend half an hour on this cat and mouse BS, but it does give Priss and Adama opportunities to bond as they prove their value to each other.

It turns out Adama's goal was to reach the supercomputer for his lab so he can provide video proof of Yuri's murder of Haynes, taken from the lab's cameras. Yuri then tries to kill Priss with his crab-bot with one last gambit to take back Adama's priceless AI. Nene and Linna arrive to fight it off as Priss and Adama escape. However, it gives chase and Priss is forced to recover her armor from Sylia's aerial transport and finally destroy it. Sylia, meanwhile, goes to arrest Dr. Yuri but is forced to execute him when he pulls a gun on her: she is then taunted by the benefactor remotely, who witnessed the whole affair and has since downloaded all the data he needs on reproducing Adama's AI. Sadly, Adama himself took too much damage from the fight and passes away (or his memory is deleted, or whatever the robot version of death is); he makes Priss swear to prevent his AI to be used for destruction.

I feel like this lady Boomer and her bandana has to be based on some movie character, but I've no idea who. It's a striking character design regardless, which seems counter-intuitive for what is supposed to be an inconspicuous murder-robot.
I feel like this lady Boomer and her bandana has to be based on some movie character, but I've no idea who. It's a striking character design regardless, which seems counter-intuitive for what is supposed to be an inconspicuous murder-robot.
Yuri's Crab-Bot. Also, Nene's exosuited ass too I guess.
Yuri's Crab-Bot. Also, Nene's exosuited ass too I guess.

Seems like every sci-fi show has to have that one episode where the main character with the biggest grudge against the show's frequent antagonists is shown another side of them that changes their perspective a little. The Enemy Mine plot, as it were. Adama was a cute little guy who broke the fourth-wall occasionally, and I feel just a tad manipulated when he bites it during the finale. Felt cheap and predictable, though at least allowed for some character growth from Priss. Of course, it's essentially rehashing the same relationship she had with another sympathetic Boomer character, the "sexaroid" (sigh) Sylvie from Episode 5 of Bubblegum Crisis, which likewise ended in tragedy and caused Priss to reflect on her robo-prejudice. At least the crab robot was kinda cool?

Episode 3 "Melt Down"

Shit is rapidly hitting the fan as Boomers all over Mega Tokyo start going berserk, operating under new programming that has them rebelling against their human owners. Most of them are minor incidents involving construction and service models, though at some point three military Boomers awake from cold storage and decide to raid the AD Police building. The Knight Sabers theorize that the culprit is the same behind the previous two episodes, and we have our first appearance of Mackie in the Crash timeline as he calls in with some data on stopping the AI from a colleague of his and Sylia's father. He also asks that Sylia joins him in Germany once the current crisis is over so they can work together on advancing their father's Boomer research, which would once again mean a temporary cessation of Knight Saber activity.

Coming full circle with the faulty waitress Boomer from the beginning of the run, depicted here just before she pours hot coffee down her boss's throat. Kinda brutal, honestly. Then again, given the name of the place (as seen here reversed on the glass door), he should be thankful that it's only coffee...
Coming full circle with the faulty waitress Boomer from the beginning of the run, depicted here just before she pours hot coffee down her boss's throat. Kinda brutal, honestly. Then again, given the name of the place (as seen here reversed on the glass door), he should be thankful that it's only coffee...
I'd read that the show was influenced by, among others, the 1983 fantasy movie Krull which was one of my favorites growing up. I made a weird squeaky noise when this familiar beast appeared on the side of a building.
I'd read that the show was influenced by, among others, the 1983 fantasy movie Krull which was one of my favorites growing up. I made a weird squeaky noise when this familiar beast appeared on the side of a building.

Arriving to help the AD Police stop the assault on their building, the Knight Sabers handily deal with the military Boomers as Leon in his armored suit deals with the other rogue Boomers making their way to the armory. However, this assault was purely a distraction for the AD Police and Knight Sabers both: a large Boomer is heading for the city's central data-bank, which controls the flow of information throughout Mega Tokyo, and with it an army of reprogrammed Boomers of all shapes and sizes. They merge to form a truly monstrous Boomer parasite that latches itself onto the data-bank and starts spreading outwards. However, even that is just another distraction: the true goal of the culprit is to take a massive subterranean drilling machine to the city's heart, the nuclear fusion reactor.

Despite the power plant director's promise that the multiple barriers surrounding the facility makes it invulnerable to harm, the drill machine - which Leon's partner Daley calls "Brumm Bar," somehow with a straight face - easily breaks through the first wall. The Knight Sabers arrive, and discover that the plot was cooked up by none other than Largo: the exceptionally powerful Boomer that was the closest thing to a series villain Bubblegum Crisis has (confirmed to be the new form of expired Genom executive Brian J. Mason). Three Largos then attack the Knight Sabers as the drill machine continues on, turning into monstrous new Boomer prototypes. Sylia breaks off from the trio to find the true Largo, leaving the other three to fight these terrors. Unfortunately, the Sabers are no match for Largo's prototypes, each designed based on the combat data taken from the Knight Sabers' previous battles. Priss in particular ends up in a bad way, pierced multiple times by projectile shards of metal.

One of Largo's three Super Boomers, and the one that engaged Nene. Can't have too many laser eyes.
One of Largo's three Super Boomers, and the one that engaged Nene. Can't have too many laser eyes.
I don't think the show adequately explained why Largo became this weird goo mummy. It's not like nanomachines ever came up as a plot point. I guess if you get called 'corporate slime' enough times it sticks...?
I don't think the show adequately explained why Largo became this weird goo mummy. It's not like nanomachines ever came up as a plot point. I guess if you get called 'corporate slime' enough times it sticks...?

What follows between Sylia and Largo can only be described as a... psychic battle? As Largo's tendrils entrap Sylia in a dream world as he drones on about humanity destroying the planet Earth even though the Boomers could save it if they were the ones in charge, as they'd be able to weather any climate change. The embattled Knight Sabers eventually get the upper hand on their opponents but get snatched up by the same psychic tendrils: their calls reach Sylia through the dreamscape (seriously, what's going on?) and it's enough to shake her out of her nude reverie (any excuse...), allowing her to completely destroy what's left of Largo's current bio-mechanical form. His grasp on the others weakened, each Knight Saber eliminates their respective foes and the drill machine grinds to a halt mere feet away from the power plant core. The episode - and the series - ends with Sylia boarding a plane to Germany to join Mackie with new resolve to make her father's dream happen, while the other Knight Sabers badger a grateful Leon and Daley for a free meal.

I can appreciate that the creators of the show probably felt pressured to wrap up the series only three episodes into this new arc, given the ultimatums they were facing: had it continued on, they could've added more episodes before this finale to build up Largo's new powers and see various stages of his plan put into action. Like, maybe an episode that explains where the hell this enormous driller comes from. The part where he takes the Adama AI to create what is basically a diversion away from a suicidal plan to wipe out Mega Tokyo for the sake of a Boomer-controlled future is ridiculous plotting in retrospect. In any case, how would destroying Mega Tokyo necessarily help this plan of his to take over the world? Anyway, it's probably best not to overthink all that, or the part where his gloopy ass was able to psychically take over the Knight Sabers briefly.

A closer look at the Knight Sabers. L-R that's Linna, Sylia, Nene, and Priss suited up.
A closer look at the Knight Sabers. L-R that's Linna, Sylia, Nene, and Priss suited up.

Of course, this wasn't truly the end of the Knight Sabers. A reboot was made in 1998 called Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 that ran for twenty-six episodes, giving the serialization and developing character arcs of the four Knight Sabers a lot more room to breathe. The characters were all visually redesigned too, with Sylia undergoing the most drastic changes. Despite being set in a later year, the show reset the continuity rather than resuming from Crash, establishing new roles and motivations for the cast. In addition to that reboot, there were two spin-offs that focused on the AD Police: the first was a three episode OVA series made during Bubblegum Crisis's run and was set several years before the Knight Sabers appeared, following Leon's early days as part of AD Police and their struggles dealing with tougher rogue Boomers, while the latter premiered just as Tokyo 2040 ended and consisted of twelve episodes following a whole new set of characters. Finally, there's Parasite Dolls from 2003 - the most recent Bubblegum Crisis spin-off - that follows another branch of the AD Police as they combat Boomers and dig deeper into Genom's secrets. It's apparently much darker and more brutal.

I'm not sure I'll be watching any of the above any time soon, but I am glad that this property finally got a full season after all the troubles these early OVA episodes went through to get made and it sounds like plenty of other creators were inspired to explore the same setting. Turns out killer robots posing as humans are kinda fun to write stories about, who knew? Besides Ridley Scott, James Cameron, Hideo Kojima, and god knows how many others?

All that's left is to talk about the one Bubblegum Crash game I was able to find:

The Game(s)

No Caption Provided

The only branded Bubblegum Crash game is unexpectedly from the adventure genre: one I haven't been able to show off yet, for obvious language barrier reasons. However, it did receive a fan translation that I'll be using to make progress. It came out exclusively on the Japanese PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16) on December 6th 1991, a few weeks before the final episode of the OVA was released. Naxat were the ones to publish this game: they primarily worked on the PC Engine, but also put out games on many other systems too. They're best known, in my view at least, for creating the character of Dorabocchan, also known as Spike McFang. The developer, Spiel, is a company with a few sporadic releases up until the late '00s; according to GDRI, they did most of their work in the eroge domain. Surprisingly for both its system and its developer, this game is very PG-rated.

As a Japanese-style adventure game, it's a largely story-driven affair that requires the player to interrogate the right people and interact with the right objects to move the story forward, which will happen mostly on its own once the right flags are met. If you've played an Ace Attorney or perhaps one of the Hotel Dusk or Danganronpa games, it has a similar structure where it'll suddenly lurch forward into Cutscene City once you've completed your investigation into any given area. (I am also aware that there's a PC-98 adventure game called Crime Wave that uses the Knight Sabers, if not the Bubblegum Crisis/Crash name, but that's a little beyond my abilities to cover here. For one, it doesn't have a fan translation I can use.)

The game does have a few other surprises in store, though I can't say they ultimately improve the experience. Best that I just show you:

Both the creators of the show and the publishers get credit here. The cityscape at night is a nice touch, though it doesn't make this text any easier to read.
Both the creators of the show and the publishers get credit here. The cityscape at night is a nice touch, though it doesn't make this text any easier to read.
The Illegal Army hit the first bank, Groly (it's supposed to be Glory) Bank. Here they are making a Groly Hole with their rifles.
The Illegal Army hit the first bank, Groly (it's supposed to be Glory) Bank. Here they are making a Groly Hole with their rifles.
Nene, keeping up with the latest news as always. She's the protagonist for most of the game, as the closest thing to an investigator on the team.
Nene, keeping up with the latest news as always. She's the protagonist for most of the game, as the closest thing to an investigator on the team.
Daley and Leon here, looking pretty much the same as they do in the show. I realize now I forgot to take screenshots of either of them. The game has an odd selection of verbs to use - the group of icons on the right - as you have both a 'talk' and 'listen' prompt. You have to figure out which one moves the conversation forward, and it's not always the one you expect.
Daley and Leon here, looking pretty much the same as they do in the show. I realize now I forgot to take screenshots of either of them. The game has an odd selection of verbs to use - the group of icons on the right - as you have both a 'talk' and 'listen' prompt. You have to figure out which one moves the conversation forward, and it's not always the one you expect.
Now on an investigation at Groly Bank, Nene takes one look at the trash bins here and refuses to go near them again. She's a pro, everyone.
Now on an investigation at Groly Bank, Nene takes one look at the trash bins here and refuses to go near them again. She's a pro, everyone.
The aforementioned Groly Hole. Not only is that blue thing an important clue, but you have to use the Move command to shift a plate off that green object on the left. The green object here in the middle is apparently nothing but trash though. Highly selective evidence taking is all part of the AD Police's protocol (by the way, Nene's day job is actually as a traffic director, not a detective).
The aforementioned Groly Hole. Not only is that blue thing an important clue, but you have to use the Move command to shift a plate off that green object on the left. The green object here in the middle is apparently nothing but trash though. Highly selective evidence taking is all part of the AD Police's protocol (by the way, Nene's day job is actually as a traffic director, not a detective).
Flashing your badge at NPCs can sometimes unlock the way forward. Other times they just call the cops out for being useless. Relatable!
Flashing your badge at NPCs can sometimes unlock the way forward. Other times they just call the cops out for being useless. Relatable!
The map system has this annoying quirk where all the game's locations are available from the outset. There's at least twenty places I can go, half of which never factor into the story at all. In most cases, Nene will say something like 'I don't need to be here' and that's your cue to leave, but it's still a hassle finding the next thread.
The map system has this annoying quirk where all the game's locations are available from the outset. There's at least twenty places I can go, half of which never factor into the story at all. In most cases, Nene will say something like 'I don't need to be here' and that's your cue to leave, but it's still a hassle finding the next thread.
Ah, a Xander Cage fan I see.
Ah, a Xander Cage fan I see.
I'll save some of the middle steps here. Nene asks some black market types about the robot parts she found at the bank, giving us this lead into battle suits.
I'll save some of the middle steps here. Nene asks some black market types about the robot parts she found at the bank, giving us this lead into battle suits.
They're NATO battle suits, turns out, and Nene has the bright notion that she's going to hack into their database from the AD Police supercomputer. Incidentally, this is a really irksome device to get working: first you have to MOVE the power switch on the left, then USE your badge on the screen so it can read it like a QR code, and then MOVE the keyboard at the bottom to access the system. You can't USE hotspots: that button is purely for inventory-based interactions. The game has some interface issues, is what I'm saying.
They're NATO battle suits, turns out, and Nene has the bright notion that she's going to hack into their database from the AD Police supercomputer. Incidentally, this is a really irksome device to get working: first you have to MOVE the power switch on the left, then USE your badge on the screen so it can read it like a QR code, and then MOVE the keyboard at the bottom to access the system. You can't USE hotspots: that button is purely for inventory-based interactions. The game has some interface issues, is what I'm saying.
This dork with the skin condition is a local ne'er-do-well hacker that Nene apparently needs to hire if she's going to get anywhere. I guess all her hacking ability from the show went out the window at some point. I'm also loving how she keeps yelling shit like this out loud.
This dork with the skin condition is a local ne'er-do-well hacker that Nene apparently needs to hire if she's going to get anywhere. I guess all her hacking ability from the show went out the window at some point. I'm also loving how she keeps yelling shit like this out loud.
To win the hacker over to my side and get the classified data I need, I have to buy him one of the newest systems. Why do these all sound so familiar...? And why don't they have an AM-Downs Party yet? Or a Pear ][c?
To win the hacker over to my side and get the classified data I need, I have to buy him one of the newest systems. Why do these all sound so familiar...? And why don't they have an AM-Downs Party yet? Or a Pear ][c?
As I'm faffing around, the mercs hit another bank. At least the bank manager is keeping a stiff upper lip.
As I'm faffing around, the mercs hit another bank. At least the bank manager is keeping a stiff upper lip.
Turns out the mercs are also hitting bank safes, since they have AI tech inside that when combined could... wait, you know all this already, don't you? From reading the episode synopses above? Why don't I skip ahead a bit.
Turns out the mercs are also hitting bank safes, since they have AI tech inside that when combined could... wait, you know all this already, don't you? From reading the episode synopses above? Why don't I skip ahead a bit.
Oh wow, the developers really did watch the show then.
Oh wow, the developers really did watch the show then.
We eventually meet with the other Knight Sabers. It's pretty much the same scene from the show, only we're in Linna's apartment instead of a restaurant.
We eventually meet with the other Knight Sabers. It's pretty much the same scene from the show, only we're in Linna's apartment instead of a restaurant.
Anyway, we now get to be Linna for like five minutes. She's able to get into the Stock Market and get some tips on why Zone's stock price has suddenly risen. They're developing new AI tech, donchaknow.
Anyway, we now get to be Linna for like five minutes. She's able to get into the Stock Market and get some tips on why Zone's stock price has suddenly risen. They're developing new AI tech, donchaknow.
Somehow, Nene convinces Priss to drop everything and come to the Zone lab to check it out. We're now Priss for a little bit.
Somehow, Nene convinces Priss to drop everything and come to the Zone lab to check it out. We're now Priss for a little bit.
But first! We get this little scene with Leon and Colonel Landa. Did someone say 'fighting mini-game'?
But first! We get this little scene with Leon and Colonel Landa. Did someone say 'fighting mini-game'?
That's right, the game has a turn-based combat mode where you trade blows using these menus. There's no appreciable difference between these two options incidentally. Leon gets his ass kicked either way in this unwinnable fight. As a game designer and also a monster, I always find it best to teach players new systems by giving them a challenge they cannot possibly overcome, leaving them wondering if they did something wrong.
That's right, the game has a turn-based combat mode where you trade blows using these menus. There's no appreciable difference between these two options incidentally. Leon gets his ass kicked either way in this unwinnable fight. As a game designer and also a monster, I always find it best to teach players new systems by giving them a challenge they cannot possibly overcome, leaving them wondering if they did something wrong.
Players reeling from the first battle, not realizing this would be one of those adventure games with obnoxious action sequences, are immediately thrust into another one as they chase down one of Landa's goons as Priss on her motorbike. It's a simple enough game: just avoid the missiles by veering left and right.
Players reeling from the first battle, not realizing this would be one of those adventure games with obnoxious action sequences, are immediately thrust into another one as they chase down one of Landa's goons as Priss on her motorbike. It's a simple enough game: just avoid the missiles by veering left and right.
I say simple but I guess my reflexes ain't shit these days.
I say simple but I guess my reflexes ain't shit these days.
For no particular benefit, the mini-game has you randomly select turns on the freeway with a 50/50 chance of losing your target. Fortunately, you can just take the same junction again.
For no particular benefit, the mini-game has you randomly select turns on the freeway with a 50/50 chance of losing your target. Fortunately, you can just take the same junction again.
The next mini-game almost defies belief. You have to help Priss to catch up with the armored suit by swapping the tiles of this roadmap to lead her directly into it. It's Pipe Dream, everyone, only the characters wander around of their own accord instead of following the path. It's 180 seconds of completely arbitrary fun.
The next mini-game almost defies belief. You have to help Priss to catch up with the armored suit by swapping the tiles of this roadmap to lead her directly into it. It's Pipe Dream, everyone, only the characters wander around of their own accord instead of following the path. It's 180 seconds of completely arbitrary fun.
Posted without comment.
Posted without comment.
After a little more investigating, we finally meet up with Sylia and it's off to the big finale at Stephan Lab, the fake AI location Sylia set up in the episode.
After a little more investigating, we finally meet up with Sylia and it's off to the big finale at Stephan Lab, the fake AI location Sylia set up in the episode.
Did you guess the final part of the game would be an enormous dungeon-crawl with zero RPG elements, zero auto-mapping, but absolutely tons of random encounters nonetheless? Congrats, you're as much of a psychopath as the developers.
Did you guess the final part of the game would be an enormous dungeon-crawl with zero RPG elements, zero auto-mapping, but absolutely tons of random encounters nonetheless? Congrats, you're as much of a psychopath as the developers.
The encounters play out just like the Leon battle from before, but you have the advantage of swapping out your character at any time. However, if just one Knight Saber dies, it's an instant game over and you're put back at the start of this very long dungeon-crawl sequence.
The encounters play out just like the Leon battle from before, but you have the advantage of swapping out your character at any time. However, if just one Knight Saber dies, it's an instant game over and you're put back at the start of this very long dungeon-crawl sequence.
As well as the armored suits, you also have to fight random Boomers wandering around the corridors. These guys are a little easier to deal with at least.
As well as the armored suits, you also have to fight random Boomers wandering around the corridors. These guys are a little easier to deal with at least.
Rooms contain one of three things: a switch to open all the rooms on the current floor, which you obviously need to find first; an elevator switch to allow travel between floors; or absolutely nothing, like this room and 99% of the others.
Rooms contain one of three things: a switch to open all the rooms on the current floor, which you obviously need to find first; an elevator switch to allow travel between floors; or absolutely nothing, like this room and 99% of the others.
Eventually, you'll reach Landa and have to fight him in a climactic battle. The trick is to bring out Nene first so she can use her scanner, which reduces enemy accuracy and increases your own attack power. Then you can just whale on everything with your combined might, as long as you don't let one get too hurt.
Eventually, you'll reach Landa and have to fight him in a climactic battle. The trick is to bring out Nene first so she can use her scanner, which reduces enemy accuracy and increases your own attack power. Then you can just whale on everything with your combined might, as long as you don't let one get too hurt.
With Landa defeated, the Knight... Cabers? Fabers? leave their signature behind to let the AD Police know that they'll forever be too sucky at their jobs.
With Landa defeated, the Knight... Cabers? Fabers? leave their signature behind to let the AD Police know that they'll forever be too sucky at their jobs.
Narrator: There was no next game.
Narrator: There was no next game.

Does it do right by the anime? I'd say so, for the most part anyway. The benefit of the adventure game genre, like RPGs, is that you can squeeze in a lot of text and character moments that helped define the show's personality. It's not just focusing on the Knight Sabers in action, like a shooter or brawler would, but exhibits the way the team interacts with one another outside the suits as they go about gathering information or, in Priss's case, rushing in and picking fights she probably can't win. However, the parts of the game that aren't adventure puzzles really aren't all that great: they feel like the half-assed action mini-games you saw in something like Full Throttle or early LucasFilm joints like the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade tie-in (which I love, but I'll say the mini-games aren't part of the reason why). It's also incredibly short, way too annoying towards the end with that labyrinth, and only covers the events of the first episode instead of all three or, better yet, a whole new story pulled from whatever notes the showrunners had in mind for episodes they would've made had the show been allowed to keep going. Ultimately, like most video game tie-ins, it meets a baseline level of fanservice instead of something cool and distinctive worth celebrating on its own merits. And will someone teach Nene how to use a damn computer? She's meant to be an expert hacker, sheesh.

Addendum

Wasn't sure where to stick these, but here are my rundowns for the eight Bubblegum Crisis episodes. Consider this bonus content?

Episode 1 "Tinsel City": After helping to stop a runaway Boomer, the Knight Sabers are called in by the USSD (a government military branch) to find and rescue a technician, Frederick, and his younger sister Cynthia. They are thought to be abducted by rogue Boomers. Priss runs afoul of the group after asking around the seedier parts of downtown, and is taken by them to an unpopulated harbor region in development called Aqua City. She learns that Frederick is working with the group of Boomers, and they prepare to eliminate her for her snooping until the rest of the team shows up after getting clued in to a Boomer sighting near Aqua City from the AD Police radio chatter. The group defeats the Boomers, but Frederick turns out to be a significantly more powerful variant capable of technopathy: merging with Aqua City's electronics and infrastructure, he transforms to a gargantuan size until he is destroyed by Priss from within. A satellite weapon bombardment annihilates what's left of Frederick and most of Aqua City, possibly including Cynthia (another experimental Boomer). Review: See, the problem here is you went full Akira on your first episode, leaving little room for future episodes to go. (Just to clarify something here: the Akira movie came out in 1988, but the manga had been around longer.)

Episode 2 "Born to Kill": In the aftermath of the previous episode, the Knight Sabers are curious about the two new types of Boomer they encountered: Cynthia, whose remains were recovered from the wreckage, was constructed to be a conduit for the orbital satellite weapons helping to direct their shots. Meanwhile, Genom and the higher-ups at AD Police work to cover up the incident at Aqua City. One complication for Genom is Irene, the fiancée of a dead Genom researcher and Linna's friend, who demands answers from Genom executive Brian J. Mason, owner of the whitest name in any anime. For Irene's trouble, she is stalked and killed by one of the female Boomers that Mason uses as his bodyguards, her body thrown at a pursuing Linna and Priss as a warning. As they have already been hired to look into what happened to Cynthia's remains, Linna and the other Knight Sabers decide to dig deeper into this conspiracy by gearing up and assaulting a disused Genom laboratory that mysteriously sprang back into action shortly after the Aqua City explosion. After engaging and eliminating all the female Boomers and an advanced, red "Super Boomer," the facility is destroyed along with what's left of Cynthia. Given the human cost tied to the tech, Linna is for once fine about losing out on the payment. Review: Kinda heartbreaking what happened to Irene, despite never having met her before. I briefly wondered if she wasn't named for the Ninja Gaiden heroine, who also has a bad habit of getting kidnapped and dying, though that's probably a stretch. Anyway, if you've read this far you know Mason's one to watch.

Episode 3 "Blow Up": Some time later, a combat Boomer runs amok downtown and all the Knight Sabers are inconvenienced in some way - Priss gets a ticket for speeding to the scene, one of Sylia's stores is torn up by collateral damage, Linna's car finally gives up the ghost, and Nene is reprimanded for letting a dangerous driver (Priss) go through a safety checkpoint. The culprit is once again Brian J. Mason, and after he tears down Priss's apartment building and kills her friend, a single mother, in the process, Priss gears up for a revenge mission. The other Knight Sabers refuse to let her go alone, figuring Mason's too dangerous to let run rampant, and so they all head to Genom HQ to take him in. While fighting a few more combat Boomers and Mason himself in an armored suit, he catches a glimpse of Sylia's face after overpowering her - confirming what he expected about these vigilantes - and Sylia is forced to kill him, avenging her father in the process. The team leaves as Leon and the AD Police show up. Review: I did say Mason was one to watch, but they sure did despatch him in a hurry. I did love that the Sabers' main motivation here was getting pissy enough about various setbacks that they assaulted the biggest building in Mega Tokyo and murder its most devious executive. How many more female friends of the team do we need to fridge, incidentally?

Episode 4 "Revenge Road": Revenge Road concerns a man named JB Gibson whose vehicle was attacked by a motorbike gang while driving down the highway. He took some injuries, but his girlfriend Chloe was so traumatized she went into catatonic shock from the event. Gibson has since dedicated himself to vengeance on all the city's motorbike gangs by tricking out his vintage "Griffon" speedster with various high-tech upgrades and weapons, including ex-military neural link tech. After knocking Priss off the road after she gets caught up in one of these attacks, she investigates this road vigilante and determines that he has a connection with Raven's garage, where her bike is maintenanced and where Mackey apprentices to its curmudgeonly owner, Doc. Eluding the cops as they raid their apartment, Gibson and Chloe escape in the Griffon in a high-speed chase that becomes more dangerous when the car's AI tech rebels against its driver and injures his eyes. The Sabers narrowly rescue Gibson and a now-lucid and panicking Chloe just before the sentient car hits a police roadblock and is eventually destroyed by gunfire trying to drive away. Review: We actually have a SFC game with a very similar plot as this on the wiki: Gekitotsu Dangan Jidousha Kessen: Battle Mobile. I figured the game was doing a Mad Max riff (which the show is definitely doing, given the dude's name) but maybe the devs drew their inspiration from this episode instead. Anyway, the show didn't kill off the ancillary female character this time, though they left their fates uncertain beyond "they both went to jail" which, given the wife was catatonic almost the whole time, seems entirely unfair. I think you'll find it was his murder car, not hers.

Episode 5 "Moonlight Rambler": The episode starts with a group of women escaping what is shown to be a space station, with only two making it onto a shuttle down to Earth. Shortly after, the police are baffled by a series of "vampire killings": various female victims drained of their blood by an unknown assailant that strikes at night. In a complete coincidence, Priss has befriended another female biker, Sylvie, who has recently moved to town. Sylvie is both one of the women from the prologue as well as the vampire the police are looking for: she's actually a rare type of Boomer, a model discontinued due to their regularly-required blood transfusions and a quirk of their programming that lets them interface with the D-D, a superweapon mech. Cornered by some government Boomers and Leon in an AD Police armored suit, Sylvie is knocked unconscious which causes the D-D's AI to take over. After a tough fight with the Knight Sabers, Priss is forced to kill her new friend to prevent the D-D from self-destructing with a neutron bomb. Review: The show really got close to the yuri line with Priss and Sylvie's immediately intense friendship, and Priss seemed pretty distraught at the episode's conclusion (as we'll see in the next one). I guess the showrunners didn't want to suggest anything too explicit given they had a Moonlighting-style will-they/won't-they thing going on between Priss and Leon. At least the show is earning its police procedural bona fides with all these dead women.

Episode 6 "Red Eyes": Concludes the events of episode five, following Sylvie's companion Anri (another rare Boomer) and her new benefactor Largo, the latter also a Boomer with the powerful ability to link to satellite weapons directly. Largo has convinced Anri that the Knight Sabers are at fault for killing Sylvie and uses her to obtain vital information from within Genom for his own ends. At the same time, Largo sets up some new Boomer units to pose as the Knight Sabers, first having them steal some combat Boomers and later robbing a bank to thoroughly trash their reputation. All the Knight Sabers mobilize to fight the doppelgangers, except for Priss; torn up by guilt over Sylvie's death, she has quit the organization. Largo succeeds in reaching the main office of Genom with an ultimatum, asking for a piece of experimental interface technology that would give him control of weapon systems and make him unstoppable: Genom's CEO Quincy tricks him by having him meet a double of his, temporarily foiling his plans for world domination. Largo is then met by Priss, who is almost killed by a brainwashed Anri until Priss's regret about Sylvie reaches her and she sacrifices herself to save Priss from Largo. Priss is almost defeated by Largo and the tough Boomers he had imitating the Sabers, but finds an unexpected suit power-up from Sylia and saves the day. Largo is finally defeated by the combined efforts of the Sabers; it's implied at the end of the episode that it was Brian J. Mason's consciousness downloaded into a new Boomer body, using the tech he stole from Sylia's father to engineer a perfect robot form for himself. Review: Definitely the most eventful episode yet and the only one that felt like a two-parter. Largo's Boomer form was almost like a DBZ villain: you know the more human your inhuman antagonist looks, the more powerful he's become. Again, if you read the Crush rundowns first you know he'll be back soon enough.

Episode 7 "Double Vision": The penultimate episode picks up on a thread from near the start of the run. Reiko, best known as global singing sensation Vision, comes to Tokyo for a rare live concert tour. However, her actual goal is to assassinate the leader of Genom, Quincy, to avenge her murdered sister. That sister being Irene, who was killed by a female Boomer in the second episode to cover up a Genom conspiracy. Using a state-of-the-art spider robot, she lures Quincy to a location of his choice by abducting the visiting American scientist McLaren, who was instrumental in the production of a secret new Genom Boomer. That Boomer is then unleashed on Reiko and her crew, who are helped with the Knight Sabers who show up after learning about Reiko's true identity (Linna had already guessed who she was, being close to Irene, but she was kidnapped by Reiko's crew before she could get the word out to the others). Leon and the AD Police show up in the aftermath of the battle, unexpectedly arresting McLaren for his role in illegal research, rather than his kidnappers Reiko and her team. After talking to Linna about Irene's wishes, Reiko decides to abandon her quest for vengeance and resume her singing career. Review: I think I read somewhere that the showrunners were dangling Reiko around as a potential replacement for Priss, given they're the same character with slightly differing backgrounds, possibly because Priss's VA was making noises like she wanted out to focus on her music career. She got the last laugh of course, since there's only one more episode of Crisis left to go. Sadly, Reiko didn't sing a cover of Foreigner's Double Vision, despite the title.

Episode 8 "Scoop Chase": A cuter, more straightforward episode than previous ones, making it an odd choice for a finale though it's not like the original showrunners had a choice given the show's fraught production history. Focusing on Nene, the least respected of the team, the episode creates a small amount of peril by introducing Lisa, the American teenaged niece of the AD Police chief and a budding photojournalist, who is eager to make a name for herself by unveiling the identities of the enigmatic Knight Sabers while she's in town on a visit. A chance photo taken while the Sabers were fighting reveals the face of one of them - Nene, who Lisa knows from being embedded with AD Police - and Lisa is fascinated to learn more about them and why they do what they do. Suddenly, a megalomaniacal Genom suit decides to test the Knight Sabers by letting loose some advanced Boomers on AD Police HQ, with Lisa and Nene still trapped inside. The Sabers eventually defeat the Boomers due to some new upgrades, and Nene is forced to take on the Boomer that has taken over the building's main computer in a hacking battle before the whole building explodes. Seeing her brave resolve up close, Lisa decides to let Nene and the other Knight Sabers remain anonymous heroes. Review: A nice little showcase episode for Nene, following Linna's "Born to Kill" and Priss's "Moonlight Rambler," though perhaps it's too little too late for the pint-sized girl cop seeing as Bubblegum Crisis would end here, at least temporarily. I'm just glad they upgraded her Knight Saber suit to be half-decent in a fight, finally.

That's going to do it for this episode of Game OVA along with the feature itself. I might revisit it at some distant point in the future, though probably sooner than 2033, but I need to switch gears to something a little less text-intensive for the sake of my health and yours. Be sure to click that link to the first Game OVA episode (I'll put it here too) where I've added links to all six of these anime-fied beauties, in case you wanted to run the series or something.

Until next time, I'll be seeing you space cowboys...

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