Thursday, June 21, 2007

The All-Night Nippon Retrogaming Extravaganza

The three of you I've managed to retain for the last two months may remember a post I wrote on Penguin Kun Wars, a game released for the Famicom — Nintendo's Japanese version of the original NES console — that I was only able to play through the beauty of I've since revisited the collection of Japan-only ROMs available at the site. No single title managed to recapture the frustrating delight of Penguin Kun Wars, but below you'll get a good cross section of downright infuriating.

First up: Cool World. Yes, as in the 1992 Ralph Bakshi film, which I've always wanted to see even though it's notoriously bad. Though the film was released in the United States, the Nintendo video game version of it never made it out of Japan — and with good reason.

Well, that's a copyright for Paramount Pictures. That means it's at least officially sanctioned... by the movie house that made a bad, bad movie.

And then there's the title, right there on the very game I'm playing! That's encouraging!

Oh! A map! Well, "Cool World Street" seems as good as anywhere else to start.

This eight-bit monstrosity, as near as I can tell, is meant to be the film's female lead, Kim Basinger. I don't think even Alec Baldwin ever wished a fate on Basinger so unpleasant as being reduced to as crude a pixelated representation as this. I mean look at her — she lacks any facial structure and what features she does have float on her self-tanner face. It's just creepy.

And you don't think I can stop you, Ugly Pixelated Kim Basinger? "No way"? Way, Ugly Pixelated Kim Basinger. Way.

Okay, now I'm playing. Apparently I'm playing as the film's main character, Gabriel Byrne, thus making this the only video game existence or even future existence in which you can play as Gabriel Byrne. Also, poor Gabriel is apparently in a city with purple cobblestone streets. Like in the movie, I'll presume. Also, the streets of Cool World are apparently decorated with architecture depicting grimacing demonic faces and lined with nondescript anthropomorphic rodents, all of whom apparently want to kill me. Maybe I don't want to see this movie.

More mean faces. Also, rodents attacking me with pea-shooters from second-story windows. And a strange empty glass vial that I can't get to. Did I mention that I didn't have access to an instruction manual? Even if I did, it would presumably be in Japanese anyway. Jumping is difficult and I'm quickly growing weary.

Ooh! A club! Surely some patron inside will impart valuable information to me — and by me, I of course mean Gabriel Byrne. Also, let's hope they speak English. Oh, what's that? No combination of pressed buttons will open the door? Awesome! And I can't reach the police badge sitting up on the ledge for no apparent reason? I suppose that makes sense, given that the badge would probably grant my little guy some sort of invincibility or — God in heaven! — a weapon. Did I mention that Gabriel Byrne can't attack? That even Super Mario Bros.-style stomping doesn't seem to affect all the things that want to kill me? The rodents, by the way, are both relentless and identical and I don't understand why they won't leave me alone, aside from the fact that Gabriel Byrne is clearly not a rodent.

Well, okay. The rodent seem to have abated. I'll just walk around in this suspiciously rodent-free street. La tee dah, I'm Gabriel Fucking Byrne. And then—

BAM! In case the above screens don't properly explain the sequence of events, Gabriel Byrne was struck by a runaway black car, causing him to face forward and leap off the screen — a Super Mario-style death for a game that permits none of the fun or logic of Mario's universe.

Upon my initial failure, I immediately became discouraged with Cool World: The Video Game Based on the Hit Motion Picture and decided to switch to a different title. Fortunately, a new title arrives with just a few clicks. Given the crappiness of what was a mildly familiar video game-based-on-movie selection, I decided to go for new and different.

My pick: Jesus — Kyoufu no Bio Monster. Anything that includes the words "Jesus" and "Bio Monster" in the title has got potential, you have to admit.

Start please!

In the opening cinematic, the above monster leaps across the black background once or twice. When I say "leap," I just mean the static image of it — which, by the way, I'm assuming is the Jesus Bio Monster — slides across the screen in the style of cheap Flash animation, which of course hasn't been invented in 1989. So I'll forgive it. For what it's worth, it looks pretty good, considering the age of the game.

Okay, first real screen of the game. That awful man appears to be choking on a submarine sandwich. And he's nonetheless talking. In Japanese. I press the button. More text. Button. Text. Button. Text. Perhaps he's asking for medical assistance? After all, he does suffer from the unique condition of having an entire sandwich crammed into his bastard mouth. Button, button, button. Text, text, text.

Oh, something else. I assume Mr. Sandwichmouth passed away. Apparently I'm on some sort of space station. It certainly looks like the kind of place someone would name a Bio Monster after my lord and savior.

I can read that! Something is 20,000 years old. Maybe that's the year? Maybe that's a cost? Must I collect 20,000 submarine sandwiches to kill the fat man? To kill the remaining crew? Am I the true monster? And is that my mane of unruly scarlet hair? I'm the anime Brendon Small. I'm the Captain of Outer Space.

Oh, hello! A new man to talk to. You seem stern and powerful, like Dennis Franz. Again, so much talking. But at least now I have three choices. I'll be lazy and pick the first one.

Shit. That first option was apparently Japanese shorthand for "Please, I'd rather speak to another obese member of the spacecrew, only one without a sandwich humorously lodged in his mouth." And boy can this one talk. I think I've realized how the Jesus Bio Monster was allowed to wreak so much havoc on the good Space Station Japanimation: Everyone sits around blathering on instead of following the example of every other video game ever and just killing the thing. How diplomatic. Button, button, button. Text, text, text. At this point, I've been playing for nearly ten minutes.

Finally! Not a man! That pink, fanny-shaped hairdo leads me to believe this lass is my lady love. And what a girlfriend to have! I suppose beggars can't be choosers and those stuck in space need to jump on the first thing that isn't choking on a sandwich. Rather than treat me with a conjugal visit, Princess Fanny Hair seems to be talking a lot. Button, button, button. (By the way, I would make fun of her outfit, but I think I saw something remarkably similar being sold at American Apparel today. That's not a joke.)

WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?! Fanny Hair leans in for a kiss and there's some kind of robotic big fuming at our feet? Seriously, what is that thing? I want to kill it. I want to kill something. Hell, I want the Jesus Bio Monster to eat me. Also, nice leg warmers, Fanny Hair. I'll pick the first available option again, and hope that one translates as "Kill the horrible thing."

FUCK! It's Dennis Franz again. Goddammit, I'm beginning to think this endless series of text windows is the game. Like, maybe the choices offered lead you through the game Choose Your Adventure-style. Of course, with all the text in Japanese, I am unable to make any sense of anything. Fine, you fooled me, Jesus — Kyoufu no Bio Monster. I mistook you for a game when you were actually a stupid book masquerading as a game. Utterly defeated and angry, I decide to give one more untranslated game a shot, suspecting that the game totally would have gotten good had a persevered over another dozen conversations.

A last shot, picked only because it was directly above Bio Monster: something with the tragic name Ikki.

Just one player for me, thanks. Also, this blog cannot reproduce sound, but anyone reading this should know that selecting "one player" resulted in a cheery, very Japanese and unexpectedly long intro jingle. I'd imagine they were trying to compensate for the fact that I didn't have anyone to play along with. And I appreciate that, Sunsoft.

Yep, that's right. Just me. I'm getting ready.

Oh! I already died! See, there I am in the bottom right quadrant of the screen, with a little halo over my head. How sad. The little man who doesn't move the way I wanted him to and only throws boomerangs in the direction the computer wants him to was somehow slain by marauding ninjas mere moments after setting foot into this lovely Japanese garden. Well, surely my Ikki skills will improve with another try, right?

I mean really — what the hell was that? That wasn't a game. I derived neither fun nor joy from Ikki. Six hundred lousy points and little men slain by ninjas in less than three minutes? Gah. GAH!

And then I stepped away from the computer for a few moments and collected myself.

This has been the second installment of Drew being frustrated by Japanese games intended for Japanese children. If any of you all think you'd fare better braving the Japanese psyche, I encourage you to test your skills at


  1. At that point in the story of "Cool World," the character of Holly Wood is not yet Kim Basinger (at least not in live-action form) and is a stunning Jessica Rabbit-esque cartoon. Maybe that'll ease the burden a bit. And the movie does have its charms, but it's still really really odd.

  2. ジーザス恐怖のボイオ・モンスター = Jesus terror of the Bio Monster
    ちじょう20000キロナートル = 20 000 kilo Naator on the ground (?)

  3. or rather "Jesus - bio monster of terror"

  4. Thanks. This is helpful... If only someone could explain why the monster's name is "Jesus," however. In my mind, it's actually meant to be spoken like "Jesus! Bio monster of terror!"