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THE HIDDEN GEMS

DIVERS DREAM THE FIREMEN 2:


Divers Dream (JP: Dolphins Dream) was an
underwater exploration game localized and
released only in PAL territories. For a game of
PETE & DANNY
its kind it has a very game-y bent, unlike the The Firemen 2: Pete & Danny is a sequel to the
more free-roaming Aquanauts Holiday or End- SNES hidden gem which basically functioned
less Blue. Your mission is to explore sunken like a top-down shooter, except you were shoot-
ships and wreckage and recover well over 100 ing out pressurized water to put out the most
unique treasures, as well as scraps that you can malicious fire ever.
trade in for varying amounts of money. With
that you can purchase better diving equipment In this Japan-only sequel protagonist Pete re-
(you start off with a pair of swim trunks) and turns, now joined by his buddy Danny for two-
weapons (to fend off sharks and dangerous fish). These are also customizeable by player co-op action. You go around putting out several mysteriously-started fires all
the player. around New York City on Christmas Eve, which for some reason was a very popular
time and place among late-nineties video games. Theres a lot more visual variety in
The whole process of venturing ever-father into the sunken ships and caves, only to the games stages and the core gameplay remains the same.
surface with new treasure and buy even better equipment, is really addictive. There
is also a Free Mode so you can explore to your hearts content though, and even Compared to the first game, The Firemen 2s sprite work is sort of bland and dull,
during salvage missions you get to roam around very wide areas. but still totally serviceable, and its also kind of needlessly text-heavy, which will es-
pecially be a slog if you dont speak Japanese. Its still a totally worthwhile adventure.
Though the games cutscenes are pretty ugly and swimming animations are stiff
and basic, its still totally worth playing today. On the PS2, the sorely overlooked
Everblue 2 would employ a very similar game structure of diving and salvaging,
and I believe it was released in all regions.
RACING LAGOON
This was a seriously unique game that tried to
combine racing games with RPGs. It puts you
in the shoes of a Japanese street racer over the
FORGET ME NOT course of ten nights in the city. Each night you
can drive around challenging other drifters to
Forget Me Not was originally a home-made
game designed by a hobbyist on a version of street races (the games version of random en-
RPG Maker. It won a development prize and was counters), and if you win you get to take a part
remade for the PSX as Forget Me Not: Pallete. of their car to customize your own. You can end
a night by going to an obligatory Climax En-
counter and challenging a sort of boss, which
This is a beautiful game in terms of art direc- you must win against to progress.
tion, the top-down perspective and small and
but well-made sprites lure you into a nostalgic
atmosphere. The game revolves around an am- The progression is indeed RPG-esque, as there is a very involved storyline which
nesiac woman and the psychiatrist who is help- can be explored to a greater or lesser degree if you pay attention to various event
ing her recover her memories. The game has markers on the map. Driving up to these locations activates additional scenes which
two modes: in the first you explore and interact with the setting, and in the second may lead to side-quests or simply character interactions.
you shift into a sort of astral projection where you interact with objects to open
new paths and recover memories. Though its Japan-only, it can be played once you memorize the basic menus and
assuming you dont care about the story, as the map markers make progression
Presentation is neat and distinctive, as the character move in small, closed rooms fairly straightforward.
and hallways engulfed by darkness, but by opening new pathways you can help
fill up the void, mimicking the protagonists process of remembrance. It was also a
clear and obvious influence on the similarly haunting Yume Nikki. HYPER CRAZY CLIMBER
Hyper Crazy Climber is an excellent console re-
Sadly it was only released in Japan and knowledge of the language is essential to make of a Japan-only arcade classic, a 2D action
enjoy the game and progress. Hopefully it will get a translation someday. game where you climb massive vertical struc-
tures while avoiding various objects thrown at
you. This game added content in every sense,
JINGLE CATS with three playable characters (a boy, a girl,
and a cute bug-thing) and an exciting variety of
Jingle Cats: Rabupara Daisakusen no Kan (this stages (including a clocktower, a construction
may not be the full title, but its almost univer- site, and a giant beakstalk), with a boss encoun-
sally referred to as Jingle Cats) is the kind of ter awaiting you if you can make it to the top.
game that wouldve been a massive cult hit and There are lots of new obstacles and enemies
internet favorite if it had been released today. thematic to each stage, and the levels are all very beautiful and visually inventive,
The gist of it is that you take care of two cats in but the challenging high-speed action wont allow you to stick around and take in
a home and try to get them to like each other. the scenery. Obviously it requires no knowledge of Japanese to play, so get on it.
As the game adds more cats (each of them in-
dividuals with pre-set names and preferences),
taking care of them and making them get along
becomes more challenging. Apparently there is POPN TANKS!
some kind of backstory or end goal about raising a cat choir, but I dont know about Popn Tanks! is a very obscure Japan-only
that. game published by Enix. Its a tank combat
You scroll around a first-person 2D view of the houses rooms where the cats will be game, but with colorful environments, cutesy
doing whatever cats do. You can feed them, bathe them, pick them up and move anime characters, and blocky mini-tanks to pi-
them around, and have them interact with objects and each other. lot around various arenas. You can create your
own tank from scratch using various parts or
play through a story mode with one of the eight
The games presentation is seriously charming, everything is a cartoony, scribbly, characters. Obviously there is also multi-player,
and almost Art Noveau in its style, including the endearing cats themselves. Ob- either with the story characters or with custom
viously Japan-only, though once you get a hang for the menus and options (and tanks youve saved to your memory card.
memorize the cat relationship chart), it can be played successfully.
The games lighthearted tone and visuals are unusual for the genre, and gameplay
BOKU NO NATSUYASUMI: is tight and fast-paced, with battles usually over in less than five minutes. Though it
isnt compatible with the later DualShocks control pad, the ability to strafe makes it
SUMMER HOLIDAY 20TH CENTURY so that combat is smooth and exciting regardless. Story aside, no Japanese knowl-
edge is required to play.
Boku No Natsuyasumi: Summer Holiday 20th
Century is an isometric 3D adventure game
that takes you back to nostalgic summer vaca-
tions of your childhood. You play as a Japanese
child enjoying his break in his relatives country
home.
The game is divided into days of a month. Each
day you wake up and go on adventures, wheth-
er its exploring the environment, running er-
rands for other characters, swimming, playing, capturing bugs, or climbing trees.
At the end of each day you write down what you did in your diary, creating a lovely
page of child scribbles and drawings.

As a twist, the game is really about the protagonist as an adult reminiscing about
this idyllic period of his childhood, and at the end of the game you get to peruse
each diary page of your vacation.

The game uses pre-rendered backgrounds based on real-world photographs


which much look much more lush and inviting that you would expect, and it has an
amazing sense of place and a great degree of charm. Japanese knowledge will be
required if you want to get involved with the story to any degree, but otherwise it
can be played with help from a guide.

Its amazing that there is no one working on translating this game considering the
amount of praise it has received online over the past years, so hopefully someone
will pick it up eventually. The series is successful in Japan and has spawned sequels
for the PS2 and 3, as well as a PSP spin-off which has similar gameplay and visuals BOKU NO NATSUYASUMI
but puts you in the role of a parent raising a family.

FUURAIKI INCREDIBLE CRISIS


Fuuraiki is a cult-favorite adventure which Incredible Crisis is a weird Japanese game that
comes close to visual novel and dating sim was localized precisely so it could be marketed
games in terms of presentation. You play as a as a weird Japanese game. It stars a very av-
photographer traveling across Japans Hok- erage Japanese family of five who, as they go
kaido region by motorcycle on a work assign- about their day, find themselves in a series of
ment, but that doesnt mean you wont encoun- increasingly bizarre and ridiculous situations.
ter a number of girls on your journey who you These play out as back-to-back mini-games
can interact with and perhaps romance. The where you have to do things like snowboard,
dialogue-based gameplay and progression are survive a sinking ship, disco dance, or fend off
pretty much the same as your average visual alien invaders using one of the family members.
novel, but the games enveloping warmth and
sense of freewheling adventure have earned it a place around seekers of lesser-
The games frenetic pace and mini-game collection structure is reminiscent a less
known PSX gems.
hyperactive WarioWare, but with a sort-of overarching storyline and pre-set mini-
game sequences depending on which family member youre using. The presenta-
Obviously though, being the kind of game that it is, Fuuraiki is pretty much pointless tion is pretty good since each mini-game is crafted in a very self-contained way, and
to play without knowledge of Japanese. There was a very similar sequel for the PS2 the soundtrack, provided by the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, is excellent.
where you travel around the Okinawa region instead. The PS2 game Kita E is also a
travelogue type of visual novel where you travel by train.
On the other hand, its a pretty short game that can nonetheless become tedious
due to some annoying recurring mini-game sequences, and its sort of lacking in
replay value. However its a total blast the first time around.
RAKUGAKI SHOWTIME
Rakugaki Showtime is a Japan-only, Treasure-
developed beat-em-up/arena fighter with a
unique living scribble drawing aesthetic. A
JUGGERNAUT
Juggernaut is an all-but forgotten horror adven-
fourth-wall hand of God draws objects on an
ture game that was released in all regions. You
isometric arena, which you can pick up and
play as a young man whose girlfriend has been
throw at your opponent, using different kinds
possessed by a demon, and you must know
of throws to launch objects quickly, or in an
travel into her soul to save her.
arc, etc. You can also counter thrown objects
and perform special, character-specific moves.
There is an item that bounces around the stage The gameplay is a very straightforward first-
and can be picked up after hitting it enough person point-n-click deal where you travel from
times, which then allows you to perform your characters super move, much like room to room, examine objects, and solve an
a Super Smash Bros. Smash Ball. Though the rules of combat may seem basic, its undending series of (mostly easy) puzzles.
actually very fun and involved. However, if you have the patience for the typi-
cally slow pace of such games, Juggernauts atmosphere and unusual settings
make it worth your while. The games main gameplay gimmick is the ability to take
There are several unlockable characters, including a walking Cloud Strife parody
control of other peoples bodies, and certain areas or objects will require different
and Mischief Makers Marina Lightyears, since this is a Treasure game after all. You
bodies to enter or manipulate successfully. The dimension-jumping plot also leads
can also unlock and play as the games many mooks and generic enemies which
to a lot of delightfully bizarre situations, like browsing the Internet in the 2550s or
appear in single-player mode.
wandering into a village of undead residents who are all missing their eyeballs.

LONDON SEIREI If you liked something like D (PSX), another horror adventure that revolves around
puzzles, youll like Juggernaut. Like D, it has a pseudo-realistic but somewhat off

TANTEI-DAN art style, and also features a lot of FMV scenes which in our time look weirdly (and
interestingly) Uncanny Valley.
London Seirei Tantei-dan is a Japan-only JRPG
that would be my top choice for a PSX fan trans-
lation project right now. This Bandai-developed SOUL OF THE SAMURAI
hidden gem is visually gorgeous and strongly
Soul of the Samurai is a forgotten Konami-
reminiscent of Studio Ghibli films such as The
developed game that predates Onimushas
Castle in the Sky. It takes place in turn-of-the-
combination of survival horror gameplay and
century London, in the cusp of the steam age,
feudal Japanese setting. You can play as ei-
and you play as a young boy who fancies him-
ther a samurai or a female ninja and move
self a detective, going around town, solving
through fixed-camera 3D environments while
mysteries, and participating in turn-based fights with hooligans, policemen, and
fighting mooks. Though its not nearly as reli-
stray dogs.
ant on item conservation or stealth tactics
as a Resident Evil game, like Onimusha, the
The games presentation is a dream and the story goes in directions that
deliberate design choices prevent you from
you wouldnt expect once the world of spirits gets involved. It may be
being an all-out killing machine, and instead
one of the most charming and comfy JRPGs ever released on the system.
encourage you to employ strategy and fight enemies with caution. It has has
a lot of puzzles to break up the fighting, and like many survival horror games,
features two scenarios with minor difference depending on which charac-
MAGICAL DROP F: ter you choose to play as. It was localized and released in NA, so fret not..

DAIBOUKEN MO RAKUJYANAI!
Magical Drop F: Daibouken Mo Rakujyanai! N2O, NITROUS OXIDE
N2O, Nitrous Oxide is a scrolling shoot-em-up
continues the Magical Drop series of competi-
tive matching puzzle games (like Puyo Puyo that was never released in Japan. The game
or Puzzle Attack) with cute cartoon characters. featured music by The Crystal Method, and has
This entry redesigns the whole casts in a more some plotline about how aliens are trying to
realistically-proportioned nineties anime style build a sub-atomic particle collider, and your job
and offers a more involved story with unlock- is to enter these colliders and destroy all the en-
able characters, but the core gameplay remains emies or something.
the same. The cast is large (each character
represents one of the Major Arcana) and they all The gameplay was fun as hell. You are con-
have their own special moves and attributes. The stantly moving forward inside of a donut,
many character animations as they win or lose in and can move left or right along the inner
matches are endearing and visually attractive. walls as you travel forward. You start each level at a certain speed, and each en-
emy you kill makes you move faster. Also, if you take too long spikes start ap-
Magical Drop F is probably the best game in the series in terms of pres- pearing on the wall. It makes for some high speed action. If I recall correctly
entation and single or multi-player gameplay, and was the last game in there are about 40 levels, and a boss level every 5 levels. Great colorful visuals
the series before the original developers stopped producing the games. and the good electronic soundtrack work well together, and suit the gameplay.
Its Japan-only, but Japanese knowledge is obviously not required to play. A fun shoot-em-up, and a great game to play at any party with hallucinogenics.

YUUYAMI TOORI KORKORO POST NIN


Though JP-only, Korkoro Post Nin is a game that
TANKENTAI anyone can play and everyone should play, a
simple but highly addictive puzzle title. The pro-
Yuuyami Toori Tankentai is a 2D horror adven-
ture released by Spike, which included members tagonist is a cute mail delivery girl who for some
of Human Entertainment, the studio behind the reason lives in a town made up of complex verti-
Twilight/Moonlight Syndrome cult games and cal mazes presented with 2D sprites and visuals.
Clock Tower, the originator of this type of experi- The goal of each level is to reach each of the red
ence. mailboxes in the stage, at which point you can
advance, but there are also other optional col-
It is presented in realistic and lovingly detailed lectibles.
environments that are in 2D but simulate depth,
breathing life into the Japanese suburbs of 1999 where a group of children and a You dont actually control the girl, though; rather you control the maze itself, which
dog explore the various urban myths that have cropped around at school. Game- can be rotated left or right in order to guide the mail girl to her destination. (Im sure
play is divided between gathering info on rumors at school, exploring the city at there are other puzzle games with this exact set-up but I cant think of another one
night, and interacting with parents and classmates in dialogue scenes that advance right now.) There are obstacles and enemies as well which will spell your doom if
the story. you run into them, but time limits will prevent you from planning out complex strat-
egies and instead force you to improvise as you get a feel for the games pacing.
During the game sections where you can actively move around and explore, the
large and detailed character sprites, motion-captured to convey a realistic sense of Its supremely addictive and entertaining and you dont need to know a word of
movement, travel across a 2D plane in a series of screens, investigating rumors. The Japanese to play.
dog that accompanies often has to stop to pee on a lamppost or gets tired easily,
but will warn you of incoming supernatural activity.
GUARDIANS CRUSADE
If youre obsessed with the Twilight/Moonlight Syndrome games or the original Clock Guardians Crusade (JP: Knight and Baby) is a
Tower you should definitely look into this game, although its JP-only and text-heavy. very innocent-looking and lighthearted JRPG
where everyone looks like a living toy. You
take on the role of Knight and go on adven-
tures all across the land, but soon enough you
come across a weird little monster (Baby) who
introduces the games monster-raising sim
elements, as you can feed and pamper Baby
in order to make him stronger and command
him to transform into different monsters in bat-
tle. These two are your only members of your
party, but instead of spells Guardians Crusade
features collectible toys, which can be sum-
moned in battle for various different effects, and
all have unique animations and attributes which
are one of the highlights of combat.

While a lot of the environments look super basic and the FMV scenes look rath-
er unfortunate today, Guardian Crusade has a lot of surprises in store, including a
GUARDIANS CRUSADE much more affecting story than you would expect, and a much more potentially
complex battle system that you could possible have predicted.
.

THE GRANSTREAM SAGA


The Granstream Saga is a fairly unusual JRPG in-
CHIPPOKE RALPH
tended as a spiritual successor to the Soul Blaz-
er/Illusion of Gaia/Terranigma trilogy of SNES
NO DAIBOUKEN
Chippoke Ralph no Daibouken: The Adventure
action-RPGs. This is a top-down 3D adventure
of Little Ralph is a side-scrolling 2D action game
about a fairly cookie-cutter young hero who sets
with varied and visually pleasant settings. You
out to save his floating island world of evil. The
play as a young warrior who is turned into a
downsides of The Granstream Saga are its ugly
small child by demons, but still ventures out to
character models and totally by-the-numbers
save his hometown armed with nothing but a
story which packs absolutely zero surprises for
sword and shield.
anyone who has played a JRPG before.
The game is a non-stop side-scrolling romp
But on the other hand, gameplay aspects of the game make it stand out, such as
through waves of enemies, and Ralph can only take two hits before going down.
the fact that combat is completely active-time, with a variety of useable weapons
Though the level of challenge isnt infuriating, it escalates at a good pace, and the
and spells, and while battles are always one-on-one and enemy variety leaves
game has a unique end-of-level scoring system based on picking up fruit which will
something to be desired, fights are generally very fun. Also, instead of buying new
keep more veteran players interested in retrying stages. The game is about three
weapons or spells, the heros magical artifact can read certain objects or metals
hours long, and playing it in Easy mode will prevent you from seeing the last three
and create new weapons or spells out of them, which encourages exploration in-
stages of witnessing the true ending.
stead of tedious grinding.
This is overall a very fun and well-built title, similar in presentation and gameplay
It was also developed partially by Production I.G., which means it has a lot of good-
to another hidden gem, Moon Crystal for the NES, but with much more fun boss
quality anime scenes for a game of its time.
encounters.
.
.

EHRGELZ: SUZU MONOGATARI


GOD BLESS THE RING Suzu Monogatari is an obscure Capcom game
developed by the director of the Breath of Fire
Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring was a pretty well- series. It is an isometric sprite-based JRPG where
known 3D fighter whose main selling point was you play as a girl tasked with recovering the
that it featured Final Fantasy VII characters in its Seven Bells of God, which have been scattered
roster. However the main reason why this game across the land. You accomplish this by explor-
is here is because it has a massively overlooked ing the town and speaking to its residents to ob-
single-player Quest Mode. tain clues, and while you can do lots of life sim-
type things such as fish and dig up treasure to
Quest Mode is basically a dungeon crawler with sell, you also participate in card battles.
fighting game combat. It has randomly-generat-
ed dungeons, monsters, treasure, and even a hunger stat. Basically, Ehrgeiz may Instead of turn-based RPG combat, Suzu Monogatari is a card game-based JRPG.
have accidentally turned out to be the best dungeon crawler on the PS1, or at least Im unaware of the intricacies of the system, but based on what Ive seen online it
a very interesting experience for fans of the genre. Its worth playing solely for this appears to be pretty basic and maybe inspired by hanafuda. You can tell that it was
mode. directed by the people behind BOF however, in the character and world design. Un-
. fortunately it doesnt look like the kind of game you could succesfully play without
knowing Japanese.
BAKUSOU DEKOTORA .

DENSETSU 2
Bakusou Dekotora Densetsu 2 is a game aimed SILVER JIKEN
at the dekotora or decorative truck subculture Before he achieved international cult success
of Japan, a group of hobbyists who pimp out with Killer7 and No More Heroes, Suda51 had a
their trucks with outlandish parts taken from great run of adventure games on the PS1, but
other vehicles and paint them with lavish de- perhaps his crowning achievement is Silver
signs. The scene became a national craze in sev- Jiken. This is a moody and noirish crime story
enties Japan due to a series of popular movies, about a series of gruesome murders commit-
but has now remained as a more niche interest. ted in the 24 Districts, and the special detectives
dispatched to solve them. The game has two
In this game two decorative trucks raise against each other on the highway to deliv- scenarios: in the Suda-written one you play as a
er their package first. Since youre driving a truck your top speed is fairly low, but you detective following the serial killers trail, and in
can use dirty tricks and even run over hapeless motorists to slow your opponent the other one you play as a journalist writing a
down. And obviously you can customize and decorate your truck to your hearts story on the murders.
content.
Silver Jikens presentation is top-notch, from the moody soundtrack to the excel-
The game has a pleasant retro charm that harkens back to the golden days of de- lent environments which combine a sense of end-of-century dread with a weird
kotora, with an enka soundtrack that suits the tense but colorful races across the Uncanny Valley plasticism to its character portraits and film reel-style storytelling.
Japanese countryside under vibrant blue skies. The whole thing is experimental in a way that is typical of Suda and obviously the
. story goes wildly off the rails at one point. However it is basically impenetrable with-
out Japanese knowledge.
.
ORE NO RYOURI:
WE COOKING TIME BOKAN SERIES:
Ore no Ryouri: We Cooking is a frenetic cooking BOKAN TO IPPATSU! DORONBO
sim where you play as a child prodigy chef who
is challenged by his rival to a great cook-off in Time Bokan Series: Bokan to Ippatsu! Doronbo
eight different restaurants. The story is present- is a vertical 2D shooter based on the classic
ed with cartoony 2D sprites in a unique style. Japanese Time Bokan anime series, about time-
travelling heroes. However in this game you
The gameplay consists of taking orders from play as recurring antagonist Doronjo and her
customers and the occasional food critic, and two dimwitted henchmen. (They made an ap-
cooking the respective dishes in a series of pearance as a playable threesome in Tatsunoko
first-person activities such as cutting fish or peeling onions, exactly like in Cooking vs Capcom.) Instead of aircraft you ride colorful,
Mama. However Ore no Ryouri throws in the nerve-wrecking time element of hav- oversized vehicles and go on a rampage de-
ing customers waiting in line, having to manage your resources in the from of cook- stroying everything in your way in lush and colorful worlds. Its great fun to be had
ing implements, and occasionally having to perform other tasks such as calling the for anyone and obviously you dont need to know a word of Japanese to play. The
police to pick up a drunk or stomping cockroaches in the kitchen. Its a very fun and sequel to this game, which is quite similar but features different characters, was ac-
fast-paced game thats easy to approach but hard to master, and requires no Japa- tually released in PAL territories as Time Bokan Yattaman.
nese knowledge to play. .
.
SKULLMONKEYS
FINGER FLASHING Skullmonkeys was a brutal hard platformer de-
veloped by the Neverhood, the same team that
Finger Flashing is a puzzle-shooter hybrid pre-
sented with 2D sprites moving on vertically- made The Neverhood. There is a password sys-
scrolling 2D isometric levels. You play as a wiz- tem so you dont have to play through in one sit-
ard girl or a bazooka-wielding boy and take on ting, but its still a damn hard game. It has an old-
waves of enemies coming down on you with school flavor, in that one hit kills you unless you
power shots based on rock, paper and scissors. have a power-up. The precision required for suc-
Naturally I dont need to explain which one beats cess gives the game an Adventure Island feel. I
which. The rules of this basic childrens game have never managed to beat the game, but I still
are applied here so you can chain shots and consider it the best 2D platformer on the sys-
destroy whole groups of enemies at once while tem. The game got mostly good reviews on re-
progressing through a handful of your typical- lease, but was largely ignored by most everyone. PSX gamers wanted 3D games for
ly-varied stages. Single-player campaigns are pretty fun and challenging, but the the most part, and Neverhood fans wanted another point and click adventure. The
game really comes alive in two-player showdowns where you can mess with your great claymation graphics and music and sound effects make for a pretty game. If
opponents performance to make it to the finish line before you do. you like challenging platformers, be sure and check this one out.
.
Though Finger Flashing requires no knowledge of Japanese to play, it has been fan
translated. It is also available as a PSOne Import on PSN (in Japanese) as FLASHING-
FINGER.
. DIE HARD TRILOGY
Die Hard Trilogy. Made by the long-since defunct
KYUIN Probe, the game was a mixed bag. The game
was divided into three games, each tied into one
Kyuin is a bizarre horizontal cute-em-up where of the movies from the original trilogy. The first
you play as a young boy riding a magical vacu- game was a fantastic 3rd person shooter, the
um cleaner that shoots energy pellets. The boy second was an unremarkable light-gun game,
himself is a 3D model superimposed on 2D back- and the third was a decent racing/action type
grounds and most enemies are detailed sprites. game. While the game got good reviews, most
This is very similar visually and in spirit to other gamers knew to avoid movie-license games, so
wacky PSX shooters such as Harmful Park and the game was mostly ignored. Its a shame too,
the Parodius games, which lots of unusual and since the 3rd person shooter game is damned
unexpected enemy types, varied and strange fun, and does a good job of mixing strategy with gunplay, and very good level de-
settings for stages, and powers inspired by gags sign.
or mundane, everyday objects. The challenge
level is low for shmup veterans, but that also makes it accessible to everyone, and Id recommend avoiding the sequel though, there the new developer decided the
youll mostly want to play it for the ridiculous factor. If you enjoyed this, definitely game would be more fun if you had to do all three game modes at random through-
consider trying Harmful Park and Sexy Parodius as well. out the game. Unless you really enjoyed the other two game modes.
. .

CRITICAL DEPTH SAIYUKI: JOURNEY WEST


Critical Depth, from SingleTrac, the same peo- Saiyuki: Journey West is a Koei-developed SRPG
ple who did Twisted Metal 1 and 2, and wikipe- that is often forgotten when discussing the PSX
dia claims it was done with the same engine. Its games that exist for this somewhat small genre.
car combat, except with submarines. This game It is based on the classic Chinese tale Journey to
was overshadowed by the Twisted Metal series, the West, which has inspired unending amounts
and promptly ignored. Then again, it really didnt of pop culture, including Dragon Ball.
do too much different than the TM formula any-
ways. That being said, its a fun game if you liked Play as a male or female protagonist and recruit
TM1 or TM2, and the ability to fight in three di- several were-beast allies to accompany you
mensions I feel adds to the combat. Obviously in battle. Aside from your main character, all of
not as great as the TM series, but a decent game your fighters can shift into more powerful beast
that didnt deserve the cold shoulder it got. forms in battle, and knowing when to transform (as transformation is temporary
. and greatly taxes the user) is essential to win. All characters also have elemental af-
finities which affect their strengths and weaknesses in battle.
WOLF FANG: The presentation is very similar to a game like Final Fantasy Tactics, with isometric
KUUGA 2001 sprites on 3D environments. Visually its somewhat more colorful, and certainly has
a more happy-go-lucky tone than FFT. Character skills and attributes are largely set
Wolf Fang: Kuuga 2001 is a really awesome in stone, and are not customizeable. Though the game does not put forth a huge
scrolling shooter/run & gun developed by Xing. challenge level, its demanding enough to keep SRPG fans entertained.
Its actually the sequel to the vertical shmup Va- .
por Trail that saw release over here a few years
prior. Slightly customiseable mechs to suit dif-
ferent playstyles and some animu voice acting SIDE BY SIDE SPECIAL
Side by Side Special is a Taito touge racing
make for a pretty awesome arcade experience.
game. Touge racers are Japanese games where
you race cars along mountainside roads, much
. like in the Initial D franchise, which is its own sub-
genre of racing titles in Japan due to its basis on
OH NO!
Oh No! is yet another of those supremely weird
real street racing and the sense of tension that
comes from constantly making tight turns and
moving along narrow paths.
Japanese games. For some reason, the father of
a typical Japanese family decides to go without Side by Side Special is similar to the Touge G Max
clothes and starts walking around in his under- games and features over 20 cars from various
wear. His son happily follows suit. Eventually the Japanese car makers with realism and fidelity as the main selling points. Races are
underwear craze seems to catch on around the exciting and stages are colorful in that nineties kind of way, including beach stages
neighborhood, so three underwear-donning where you race past sunbathing tourists and blue-sky mountain pass races. Defi-
men burst out of their homes and start parading nitely worth looking into for genre fans who have maxed out everything in Ridge
down the street. Racer R4 and similar titles.
In Oh No! you control three characters who
are constantly moving up a vertically scrolling 3D stage in urban Japan. You must
change the formation in which the three characters move to avoid obstacles, nab KURU KURU
tasty hamburgers (watch out for the dangerous puffer fish hamburgers), and even-
tually make it to the finish. The game also has a multi-player battle mode and a MAMAMARU
Love mode where boys duke it out with girls. Kuru Kuru Marumaru is a driving sim with a
unique, cartoony visual style that is very well-
The whole game is presented in a likeable cartoon aesthetic and the characters realized. You play as a teenage boy who wants
themselves move like flat paper cut-outs, similar to games like Paper Mario or Par- to obtain his drivers license to impress girls,
appa the Rapper, which is fitting for Oh No!s whimsical sense of humor. It requires basically. Unfortunately the seemingly normal-
no Japanese knowledge to play. looking driving school that he signs up for is a
. hellish training ground that will put him through
fifteen dangerous challenges such as driving
SLAP HAPPY along a mountainside while avoiding falling
boulders, venturing into underground caves, or
RHYTHM BUSTERS even driving along the sea.
Slap Happy Rhythm Busters is an excellent Ja- The game puts you in the drivers seat from the first-person perspective, so it is in-
pan-only 2D fighting game developed by Poly- deed closer to driving sims than racing games, and youll need to get a hang of
gon Magic. Though the combat is 2D, characters the controls before you can successfully pass even the basic tests. Obviously
are cel-shaded 3D models who drip style, de- there is a dating sim element as well where you romance many girls that the
signs obviously inspired by Shibuya fashion and protagonist is interested in; these are presented in neat visual novel-style char-
youth culture, and the entire game is shockingly acter portrait dialogues along the main characters colorful hometown. Decid-
similar visually to Jet Set Radio (with shades of ing which girl to prioritize will determine your ending once you clear the game,
The World Ends with You as well). It has an im- so while its not terribly long, it does boast some replay value. Aside from the
pressive roster (21 characters, many of them dating sim portions, Kuru Kuru Marumaru is playable without knowing Japa-
unlockable) for a brand new fighter, and the basic array of modes that you would nese. It also has a surprisingly large amount of voice acting for a PSX game.
expect from this kind of game.

Combat does not stray far from the Street Fighter mold, with several basic charac-
ters taking on the roles of typical fighting game archetypes, but many others are BATTLE KONCHUUDEN
more esoteric, like a pair of twin girls fighting by sitting on top of each other, or a Battle Konchuuden is a Jaleco-developed mon-
man who, after losing a certain amount of HP, bows out and sends in his wolf to ster-raising RPG which revolves around captur-
fight. ing and training nearly 60 different species of
common bugs, which is a very popular pastime
The Rhythm in the games titles comes from special moves which eve- among Japanese children. Indeed, you play as
ry character can perform, which will introduce a short rhythm-based seg- a Japanese boy in an overhead 2D sprite world
ment for the player which will result in maximum damage if performed right. reminiscent of Pokmon, and you start out with
Overall its a very fun game for people who enjoy the funky-fresh style of a single bug which you can then pit in battles
games like JSR and TWEWY, or people interested in obscure PSX fighters.. against other critters. Once you defeat a bug,
you can add it to your collection.

SENTIENT
Sentient is one of the most bizarre, fascinating,
The battles in this game look a lot better than the overworld, with fully 3D models
for the bugs which look quite detailed, as do the stages where they fight, such as
patches of grass or dirt which are brought to life in an uncanny way. Battles are turn-
and potentially engrossing games to be found based where bugs move along a grid on the floor like in an SRPG, but this is more
on the PS1, a port of a Windows game of the about positioning than strategy, and once the bugs clash you can coordinate but-
same name. In Sentient you are a technician ton presses or mash Square to defend yourself and emerge victorious.
sent to a space station orbiting an alien sun that
currently has two problems: its orbit is failing, Japanese knowledge is required to play. In many ways Battle Konchuuden seems
bringing it ever close to the sun, and its crew is basic compared to other similar games of its time, but it can be very addictive for
suffering of radiation disease, which is lethal. The bug enthusiasts or people who would like to reminisce about a childhood of dig-
game has an unseen time limit during which ging around in the dirt.
you must fix one of these problems to avoid a
faster Game Over.

However, Sentient goes far beyond that. In a space colony with 62 different charac- ACONCAGUA
Aconcagua is an incredible adventure game
ters, all of which you can interact with and befriend, the possibilities are infinite. The
game is full of possible plot lines or side-quests (many of which are red herrings), with a unique premise and great production val-
you can experience twelve different endings depending on which aspects you pri- ues. It begins when a plane crashes into Aconca-
oritize, and the combination of NPC actions and interactions is basically infinite in gua, the tallest mountain in South America and
its scope. part of the Andean mountain range. The survi-
vors of the crash are all people who in some way
The character models leave much to be desired, looking like digitized real-world are another were following Pachamama, anoth-
faces pasted on stocky polygon models, and the whole game looks kind of washed- er survivor, a revolutionary woman who is head-
out and dingy compared to the Windows original, but this also gives it an interest- ed for her home country of Meruza to spark a
ingly surreal feel. Interaction is handled through classic adventure game text parser revolution that will hopefully topple the brutal
dialogue commands, which can seem unnecessarily long-winded at first but clearly dictatorial regime. But now that said regime has
allows you to interact with Sentients world to a fuller degree. This is a potentially made sure that Pachamama never reaches Meruza, the survivors must pool their
obsession-causing game if you can get past its clunkier aspects and see into the skills to survive and make it off the mountain with their lives.
mind-boggling array of possibilities it offers, as a sort of outer space social survival
sim. Aconcagua is a third-person 3D adventure game where you can switch between
your playable characters at any moment; each have different abilities which will
come in useful at different points. The game mostly consists of solving puzzles and
SAMURAI DEEPER KYO finding items, and interestingly the characters feel like they have real agency in how
the game progresses, as you need to make puzzle solutions make sense to them--
Samurai Deeper Kyo is a 2D weapons-based not just to you--by having them communicate. This makes them really feel like vir-
fighter, based on the anime/manga series of tual characters with thoughts and emotions.
the same name. It plays out in the Tokugawa
period of Japan and features a host of sword- Released late in the consoles life, Aconcagua still looks pretty great for a PS1 game,
fighters, ninja, royal soldiers, and many other which some particularly amazing setpieces and a rousing orchestral soundtrack.
less orthodox characters of the time. Visually Its plot is refreshingly mature and told in a relatively level-headed way for a video
it can be somewhat reminiscent of The Last game, but still sporting an action movie bent, making it a spiritual predecessor to
Blade, but the characters are a lot more anime- games like Uncharted (but without going into full-on fantasy toward the end).
ish and boast modern touches, and while there
are some nice-looking stages, they dont really Though the game is JP-only, the voiced cutscenes were done in English (and oc-
reach the level of detail and beauty of the Last casional Spanish) for realisms sake, which can help players figure out solutions to
Blade games. puzzles with occasional help from a guide.
Still, this is a very entertaining fighter with a good amount and variety of characters,
certainly a huge treat for fans of the franchise. It features an assist system like the
Marvel vs Capcom games and also has a Sudden Death mode, which is exactly like
it sounds, and can actually be pretty exhilarating with a friend.

UMIHARA KAWASE: SHUN


Umihara Kawase Shun is the second game in
the Umihara Kawase cult series of platformers,
where a schoolgirl has to navigate surreal plat-
form worlds by a using a fishing rod to grapple
onto higher ground or swing across chasms.
She will also have to negotiate fish-like enemies
wandering around the stage, and the whole
game has an odd but endearing fish theme.

The series is best known for its tether-based


gameplay and grappling physics, which are
very original for the genre and fun to master, though they also provide a high level
of challenge. Stages have multiple exits and there is a variety of paths to uncover.
Compared to the first game, the amount of enemies is lower to allow the player to
engage more with the platforming aspects, and the graphics have only been mildly
improved, but retain their oddball charm.

Upon its original release this game was sponsored by the Mitchell fish company and
features commercials in between levels. The latter Second Edition, also for the PSX,
adds a handful of new stages and removes all Mitchell branding from the game, so
it may be preferable. UMIHARA KAWASE: SHUN

LITTLE LOVERS: FIRE WOMAN MATOIGUMI


SHE SO GAME Fire Woman Matoigumi is sort of a distant prede-
cessor to Persona 3 in its combination of school
Little Lovers: She so Game. Its a mixture be- life/dating sim aspects with turn-based RPG
tween a board game and a dating sim, every combat. You play as a male transfer student
player is a student in high school and the objec- who gets beat up on his first day trying to stop a
tive of the game is getting the heart of the girl group of abusive ruffians. However this incident
you pick at the start of each game. gets him the attention of the Matoigumi, three
schoolgirls who use their magical fighting skills
Like other board games, it features minigames, to protect the weak and vulnerable, and he is
although they are not that good like the ones asked to join the group for his courage.
in Magical Date. Most of the fun in the game
comes from making the other players fail in getting the girl spreading rumours or As a member of the Matoigumi, its your job to wander around the school grounds
using cards to impress the girl. after class checking if anyone is in trouble, and confronting bullies, stalkers, and ruf-
fians in simplistic turn-based fights. The whole game is presented in a top-down 2D
view with expressive sprites for the characters.
ADDIE NO OKURIMONO: You improve your stats by joining various different clubs and after school activities,
TO MOZE FROM ADDIE and there are 11 different date-able girls in school. The dating sim aspect of the game
is pretty barebones, with few options beyond walking girls home from school, giv-
Addie no Okurimono: To Moze from Addie is a ing them presents on their birthday, and saving them from harrassment. Though
JP-only puzzle-adventure similar to latter titles you can romance multiple girls at once, youll have to choose one to get her ending,
such as the Professor Layton series. The story is accompanied by an FMV sequence. Theres even a character called Otaku Joe who
about a young girl named Addie who is given a holds the stats on every girl and can tell you how much each of them likes you at
broken music box by her friend Moze, who will the beginning of every month.
be moving away tomorrow as his parents are
divorcing. After falling asleep while playing with Though every aspect of this game is fairly shallow and simple, they combine to
the music box, Addie wakes up in a strange re- create an original and entertaining experience that would be more developed by
sort town populated by people who look exactly games in the next generation. However, it is JP-only and there is no translation effort
like the residents of her hometown, but they all go by different names and dont planned as far as I know.
seem to recognize her.

The game has wonderful watercolor-style portraits and scenes, and the general at-
mosphere is very nostalgic and dreamlike. Unlike in Professor Layton, where puz- VANARK
Vanark is a 3D rail shooter very similar in style
zles are unrelated to the overarching story, each word puzzle in this game serves
directly to solve a problem encountered during the game and move the plot along. and gameplay to Star Fox 64, where you control
The games story has clearly done its research in terms of psychology, and many a group of spaceship pilots defending the hu-
concepts from the field will be recognizeable to people who are familiar with them. man Mars colony from an alien invasion. In each
stage you play as one of the characters and
Recently, a translation group has taken up working on this game, so lets hope that shoot your way through 3D stages full of mon-
turns out smoothly. struous alien combatants, and the occasional
boss.

Vanark also features a few deep space free-flight


GERMS
Germs, a legendary lost game that was un-
missions which put it close to a type of space
combat sim, though the core gameplay remains the same. You can also control the
earthed a couple years ago by a Japnese on- pilots themselves in between missions, moving through the inside of the mother-
line seller and then uploaded online by the ship, interacting with other characters, triggering cutscenes, and engaging in oc-
combined efforts of /vr/. Germs is a first-person casional action sequences doing things like disarming bombs.
adventure/shooter similar in style and presenta-
tion to LSD: Dream Emulator (but not as outright The story is very involved and developed for a game of this genre, and while its not
psychedelic) where you play a reporter investi- exactly the most riveting thing in the world, its entertaining and definitely feels like
gating a strange series of incidents in a city and a bonus to all the rail-shooting action.
eventually encountering mutant monstruosi-
ties.
SHINSETSU SAMURAI SPIRITS:
The game received an extremely limited run, which is why it was believed to be lost,
and in some ways it feels unfinished, especially in the occasional faceless character
model or nonsensical dead end. It is however worth playing for its unique sense of
BUSHIDO RETSUDEN
Shinsetsu Samurai Spirits: Bushido Retsuden
atmosphere and general off quality if youre the adventurous type.
is a turn-based RPG based on SNKs Samurai
Spirits (Samurai Shodown) fighting game series,
which features various warriors and monsters
NEUES
NEUES its a rising sim where you have to help
duking it out in medieval fantasy Japan. This
game was notoriously delayed many times,
a robot girl to become human. Every week you originally announced at the height of Samurai
have to decide a schedule for you and for the Shodowns popularity, and eventually released
girl, you can investigate the forest, collect plants, with only two of three planned scenarios, which
teach your robot girl about religion, singing, would have covered the three main SamSho
dancing, etc.. games.

The story is presented like a visual novel and At the beginning of the game you can choose to play as one of six characters--Haoh-
there are many characters whose story will be maru, Nakoruru, Genjuro, Galford, Ukyo, or Cham Cham--and progress through a
revelead as you progress within the year that 2D sprite-based overworld of towns, monsters, and turn-based battles, complete
lasts the game. with equippable weapons, armor, and accessories, which is to say it is a traditional
RPG modelled after Final Fantasy. The story only has minor changes depending on
It can be quite hard and unforgiving without a guide (it has some hidden stats), but which character you play as, and eventually you can recruit secondary party mem-
its worth a shot because its quite unique and darker than the Wonder Project series. bers, which may be other protagonists you didnt choose or additional characters
from the series.

HOSHI NO OKA The games story, presentation, and gameplay were well-received especially by se-
ries fans, though long load times were cited as a problem. The PSX version (it was
GAKUEN MONAGATARI: originally released for the Neo-Geo CD) features an active-time bar for battles, which
keeps them from being strictly turn-based.
GAKUENSAI For a while there were rumors that Working Designs would bring this game to
Hoshi no Oka Gakuen Monogatari: Gakuensai. North America, but this never materialized and it stayed in Japan. Multiple transla-
This dating sim is quite popular in Japan among tion groups have considered tackling the game but as of today no-one has com-
PS minor games. pleted an English translation.

Your character arrives to his new school during


the time of the cultural festival and he will have
to help the different girls in the campus with the decorations for their classrooms
CLICK MEDIC
Click Medic is a zany take on hospital simulation
and clubs. developed by GameFreak of all people. You take
on the role of a fresh young doctor on his first
The production values might be kinda low for this kind of game, but its quite fun and day on the job. Gameplay is divided into two
finding different materials for the decorations make the game a unique experience. sections: first you meet and diagnose patients
based on their symptoms, and secondly you
take them to some sort of futuristic machine
TAIDAMA WAKUSEI where you can use micro-tools to enter the pa-
tients body and eliminate the virus responsible
KAITAKUCHUU! for their illness. (Viri are represented as cartoony
little critters that need to be zapped away.)
Taidama Wakusei Kaitakuchuu! is a Japan-only
take on stategy games like Age of Empires, but The entire game is played like a visual novel or adventure, including the virus-zap-
heavily simplified into games that last about 15 ping gameplay segment where you have to choose which routes to take inside a
minutes. Choose one of four teams, each one patients body to succeed in curing them. The hospital staff consists mostly of cute
made of three color-coded robots, and set off to girls who will interact with you in large anime-style portraits. There are other activities
colonize a planet in seven days, planting trees, that can be done around the hospital which revolve around general management
building houses, and interfering with the oppos- and equipment improvement as well. Knowledge of Japanese is required to play..
ing teams progress as well. You can view the en-
tire planets surface at any point, scrolling across
it to see your robots hard at work doing whatever it is youve commanded them.
Games last a period of seven in-game days and are over pretty quickly in practice. LOVE LOVE TOROKKO
There are also several different planets for you to conquer, each one with different Love Love Torokko (Love Love Truck) is a mine-
terrain, weather condition and special features that will force to adapt. cart-racing game with... dating sim elements?
A group of people are looking for a legendary
The game is pretty cute and very intuitive, so its not hard to get a hang for the con- treasure inside a mine and you play as a boy
trols and menus even if you dont speak Japanese. Multi-player is also a blast. who wants a piece of that pie. It takes two peo-
ple to operate a minecart by pushing the lever
like a see-saw, so you get to pick one of several
TORNEKO: THE LAST HOPE different girls to accompany you, which will ap-
parently determine which ending you get.
Torneko: The Last Hope is a modern roguelike
much like the Mystery Dungeon or Shiren the
Wanderer games. It stars the chubby merchant The story is very silly and lighthearted, with
Torneko from Dragon Quest IV and was sur- 3D anime-style character models and fairly basic but colorful environments. You
prisingly localized, under the subtitle World of race your minecart across the railways by rhythmically pressing buttons, jumping
Dragon Warrior. The gameplay is very straight- or switching rails to avoid falling off dead ends or to jump over obstacles or shots
forward if youve ever played a game of this from enemy minecart-riders. Theres not much else to the game beyond the single-
type: you travel through procedurally-generated player story mode, Im not sure if multi-player exists but it does seem to be available.
dungeons, fight monsters in turn-based battles,
and lose everything if you die. Torneko is a bit
more forgiving in the last case, but will still pro-
vide as much challenge as any classic Dragon Quest game. It has a good variety
BEALPHARETH
Bealphareth is an isometric, third-person dun-
of enemies to fight and items to find or craft, but dungeon environments are a bit geon crawler with fairly well-drawn sprites and
repetitive. consistent but nicely-realized medieval fantasy
environments to explore. Gameplay is seriously
The game is presented from an overhead view with somewhat compressed-look- addictive because unlike other games of its kind,
ing sprites, but it has occasional claynimation scenes in place of FMVs which are battling is completely active-time and you can
absolutely gorgeous and a total joy to watch. If for some reason youre a big fan of switch between characters in your party at any
Torneko or just appreciate roguelike games, be sure to pick this one up. time instantaneously, all of which have different
skills pertaining to their battle class. The sheer
amount of available weapons and monsters to
HAPPY DIET
Happy Diet had WiiFit beat by nearly decade at
be found makes it a great experience.

the time of its release. Its a diet management And obviously there is a dating sim aspect as well, in that every character who joins
and weight loss sim. However, it has a pleasant your party will be a girl, and you will be able to interact and romance with all of them.
cartoon presentation and a main character who Obviously depending on which one you go for youll get a different ending for them.
is a kid in a racoon suit to make things more Even if youre not interested in this aspect of the game its very much worth playing
palatable for the player. There are three modes: for fans of dungeon crawlers or action-RPGs. Unfortunately its Japan-only, and at-
in Diet Story, you help the titular main charac- tempting to play it blind would be quite the effort, though its certainly possible.
ter manage his diet in order to lose weight in
time for various events. In Own Diet, you input
your own data (height, weight, BMI, etc.) and
then manage your diet with the games helpful
TAIL CONCERTO
Tail Concerto is a 3D action-platformer starring
knowledge of nutritional balance. a furry police offer chasing a group of pirate kit-
ties while riding a mech that looks and moves
This game was also compatible with the Stepper Controller peripheral, which came surprisingly similar to Tron Bonnes. The whole
into play during Walking Mode, which set your user-created avatar (another kid game has a Mega Man Legends sort of feel and
in a racoon suit) to wander around 3D environments while losing weight thanks takes place in a world of floating islands popu-
to physical exercise. However this peripheral is optional and the mode can still be lated by cute anthropomorphic animals. You run
played while... sitting in front of the screen. Happy Diet may not help you lose weight, around on your bipedal mech capturing felons
but its an interesting curio for those fascinated by game history. in bubbles and jumping across great chasms.
Unfortunately the game isnt D-pad-compatible
and the analog controls can sometimes lead to
SOOKYUGURENTAI
Soukyugurentai is fairly well-known among
frustrating platforming hell, especially in the last stages.

shmup fans but deserves to be tried by every- However its a cute little game definitely worth a look for Mega Man Legends fans,
one. It starts off hovering over amazingly de- with a couple really cool stages but mostly bland boss fights. Its the kind of game
tailed futuristic Earth cities, with 3D models and you could probably 100% in a day, so dont spend too much money on it if youre
layering providing a fantastic illusion of depth, not going to emulate. Solatorobo: Red the Hunter for the NDS was a spiritual sequel
and travels ever-farther into space where even set in the same world.
more visual wonders await. Its a very attractive-
looking game, cinematic in a way that current
AAA titles arent, almost telling a story without
words.
SONIC WINGS SPECIAL
Sonic Wings Special is a vertical console shmup
that combines aspects of the first three Sonic
Choose from three different ships and take on a space invasion with the games Wing games, bringing together a total of 14 pi-
trademark homing laser web which lets you destroy multiple enmies at once with lots, each with an extra unlockable aircraft. Co-
correct timing. Its a fairly challenging game for shmup novices but once you get a op multi-player is also a possibility but the sec-
hang of the homing laser range it becomes a total blast to keep playing until you ond player can only pick someone from the
succeed. same team as the first players character. The
game is fairly zany and light-hearted, with char-
This game got an arcade release and near-perfect Saturn port as well, which was acters such as an American cyborg and a talking
localized as Terra Diver. In either case you dont need to know Japanese to play a dolphin. Different characters and combinations
shmup. have different endings, as well.

The stages and planes in Sonic Wings special can look somewhat dated, as they are
GAKKOU DEATTA basically taken from games that were mainly from the previous console generation,
but the variety in characters and stage paths, not to mention secret characters with
KOWAI HANASHI S alternate versions of stages, makes it worth playing. It also has a pleasant sense of
humor and a number of instances of entertaining Engrish.
Gakkou Deatta Kowai Hanashi S is an enhanced
port of a Super Famicom game. Its a visual novel
in a pure sense of the term with very little direct
interaction; you just click through dialogue and TOBAL 2
Tobal 2 was the sequel to Tobal 1 which was
scenes, continuing the story. It is a compilation
of fifty different scary stories and urban legends released in all regions. Tobal 2 is an extremely
set in and around Japanese schools and featur- complex fighter rpg under the guise of a typical
ing students, though the stories have recurring 3D party fighter. The art was designed by Akira
characters. Toriyama which adds nice flair to the game. The
graphics are top notch for the ps1 and there are
The reason why this game may be worth playing to someone who doesnt know 2 soundtracks for the game. One for the Quest
a word of Japanese is because its so hilarious to just look at. It features a full cast a mode and one for the Arcade mode. In game
real-life actors who were motion-captured for the scenes of the game, with incred- combat plays with the speed of Virtua Fighter
ibly cheap-looking special effects tacked on. The resulting reaction is usually humor and the technicality of Tekken.
as opposed to horror. In that sense it is similar to the cheesy FMV games of the early
90s like Night Trap, which havent aged well at all. The fact that this game is divided There are literally over 200+ characters although some are just pallette swaps, but
into bite-sized, manageable stories also helps it be accessible to a non-Japanese still many characters have just frames and their own movesets. EVERY character
speaker. you meet is playable. In the Quest mode you play in a dungeon crawler type setting
and descend dungeons while managing stats like stamina and defense while man-
aging inventory space and the most useful equips. You unlock characters pokemon
SUZUKI BAKUHATSU
Suzuki Bakuhatsu is a game where you play as
style by throwing gems at enemies near death. There are even random encounters
in some dungeons. The arcade mode plays like any typical fighter. You take on all
the main characters and view an ending.
the daughter of an explosives defusal expert.
Everything in her life is rigged with explosives,
and the core gameplay consists of disassem-
bling literally EVERYTHING in order to access
the bomb while the timer ticks down. By rapidly
RISING ZAN:
searching for screws to unscrew and bolts to
unbolt, you strip away layer after layer until the
SAMURAI GUNMAN
Rising Zan: Samurai Gunman is essentially the
bomb is revealed, culminating in a pulse-pound-
missing link between the clunky 3D beat-em
ing wire-cut with seconds to spare.
ups of the 5th gen and the fast paced beat em
ups of the sixth generation that started with
Or something. I still havent played the game but it looks cool and you could prob-
devil may cry.
ably figure it out.
Speaking of devil may cry, this game came out
two years before the first game, yet has an al-
POPOROGUE
PoPoRoGue is a Japan-only JRPG and the direct
most scary number of elements that feel like
they were taken directly from that game (and later title godhand, made by many of
sequel to PoPoLoCrois Monogatari for the same the same people). A hero in red wielding a sword and a gun at the same time fights
console. This is a series of isometric, sprite-based his way through a wacky and anachronistic wild west, interrupted by cut-scenes
JRPGs with a great fairytale style of art design, a where people say silly stuff and minigames and set pieces where people do silly
classic Western fantasy setting, and very mem- things.You have a powerup mode that makes your character very fast and changes
orable, light-hearted characters from all walks the background music to his themesong, you have arbitrary ratings at the end of
of life. In PoPoRoGue, protagonist Pietro has every stage to rate how sexy and cool you were (instead of stylish) and the char-
already defeated the Ice Demon from the first acter even has a tendency to yell LETS ROCK before kicking ass.
game, and is welcomed home as a hero. How-
ever, he soon gets bored of a normal boys life Speaking of the game itself, this is where the missing link moniker comes in. Put
and sets out in search for adventure once again. simply, while the controls make a valiant effort compared to how jank ps1 3D beat
em ups were, they still have some issues. You move via tank controls because ps1
PoPoRoGue has the same turn-based tactical combat system as the first game, game, the lock on is pretty finnicky and the camera has a tendency to not cooper-
where you move around a grid-based area and attack with skills or magic. It has no ate. However besides that most of the elements that made devil may cry such a hit
random encounters, as enemies are present on the overworld and can be avoided. a few years later are there. You can freely combo between a variety of sword, gun
Enemies will even chase you if you flee a battle! Also, dungeons are procedurally- and jumping moves, and while the game starts out pretty easy it ramps up the dif-
generated, and interestingly, all your secondary party members can be hired out as ficulty fast, with multiple playthroughs on a harder mode or to get a better ranking
mercenaries to carry out missions and return to you with rewards. is encouraged.

PoPoLoCrois II also exists for the PSX, but it is actually the third game in the series. While the combat is a little clunky, the game oozes a very specific kind of charm,
best personified by the goddamn original theme song they made for the game.

NIGHT STRIKER
Night Striker is a Japan-only scaling 3D shooter NEKKETSU OYAKO
with a presentation and layout similar to F-Zero, Nekketsu Oyako was a Japan-only PSX launch
where you pilot a high-speed futuristic vehicle title intended almost as a tech demo to demon-
through a future metropolis. The game is entire- strate the consoles capabilities for handling a
ly sprite-based and uses scaling to simulate 3D traditional arcade beat-em-up game. However
as you move through sci-fi cities, open fields, and its also a very fun game on its own right. An evil
over water in different stages. Overall it looks like organization has kidnapped the mother of a
a high-end SNES title, but if that doesnt bother family of four; now the father, son, and daughter
you the special effects and sprite art are compe- set out to fight hordes of enemies on very color-
tent. ful, JoJos Bizarre Adventure-esque city streets
on their quest to save her.
The daughter of some important scientist has been kidnapped and a special task
force is dispatched to recover her. You shoot down enemies while strafing or drift- The gameplay is nothing surprising for fans of beat-em-ups and the three playable
ing to avoid damage; your striker vehicle has shields which collisions or damage will characters (sadly, Mom does not become playable after rescuing her) sport good
chip away at, but are recharged at the end of every stage. You can also find shield variety and are all totally viable. It was ported to the Saturn some time later, but sur-
power-ups and recovery items. prisingly the technical differences arent so great as for there to be a truly superior
version, and the PSX original handles transparency better. Its definitely one of the
beat-em-ups worth hunting down for the PlayStation, along with titles such as Panz-
er Bandit and Captain Commando, as the console didnt receive many other arcade
ports.

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