Konami Announce PC Engine Mini

After Nintendo, SNK, Sony, and Sega have entered the classic console market; it’s Konami’s turn, who today announced a PC Engine mini, PC Engine CoreGrafx mini, and TurboGrafx-16 mini, although no release date nor price. The western versions come pre-installed with Alien Crush, Dungeon Explorer, New Adventure Island, Ninja Spirit, R-Type, Ys Book I & II, and more to be announced. The Japanese version comes with Akumajou Dracula X: Chi no Rondo, Dungeon Explorer, THE Kung Fu, PC Genjin, Super Star Soldier, Ys I & II, and more. Trailers added below…

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Latest Japanese Nintendo Videos 

This week’s new Japanese Nintendo videos include the Monster Hunter XX collaboration with Detective Conan, a Maison de MAOU trailer for the recent Switch release, a trailer for the the rogue-like 3DS game Dragon Fang, Virtual Console trailers for both Gaia no Monshou and Moto Roader II which are now available on Wii U and a trailer for BOX UP.

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Shōnen Ashibe GO! GO! Goma-chan puzzle game coming to 3DS 

Next week’s Nintendo eShop line-up includes the new puzzler Shounen Ashibe GO! GO! Goma-chan: Kyu~tona Goma-chan Ippai Puzzle from Furyu for ¥540 on 3DS, the localisation of PixelMaker as Dot Artist from Rainy Frog for ¥500 on both Nintendo 3DS and Wii U and a localisation of the RCMADIAX game Shoot the Ball from Cosen for ¥300 on both New Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. 

The Wii U Virtual Console also sees two PC Engine games with the fantasy turn-based strategy game Gaia no Monshou (Crest of Gaia) and the five-player racing game Moto Roader II both from Extreme for ¥617 apiece.

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Six Virtual Console games release on Wii U  

City Connection have just released four Wii U Virtual Console games in Japan with the Jalaeco IPs Fire Fighting and Idol Janshi Suchie-Pai (both Super Famicom and both ¥823 each) and City Connection and Formation Z (both Famicom and both ¥514 each) along with the two already announced PC Engine games: Jaseiken Necromancer from Konami (¥617) and Langrisser ~Hikari no Matsui~ from Extreme (¥823). 

Today’s other new eShop releases include Blasting Agent Ultimate Edition from Rainy Frog (¥500) on 3DS and Back To Bed from Cross Function (¥1,000) and Rock ’N Racing GRAND PRIX from Cosen (¥500) on Wii U. Ice Station Z from Wobbly Tooth (¥500) was also announced for 3DS next week. A ton of new trailers added below…

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Four Wii U games releasing next week! 

After several weeks of almost no games, the Japanese Wii U eShop sees four new games next week with Back to Bed from Cross Function for 1,000 yen, Rock ‘N Racing GRAND PRIX from Cosen for 500 yen and the PC Engine games Necromancer from Konami for 617 yen and Langrisser ~Hikari no Matsui~ from Extreme for 823 yen. Nintendo 3DS sees just BLASTING AGENT ULTIMATE EDITION from Rainy Frog for 500 yen.

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Bomberman ‘93 review 

When the earth settles on the gravesite of the Wii U; arguably the most celebrated publisher on the failed platform is ironically Konami Digital Entertainment who released a whopping 94 Virtual Console titles in just a four year span. Three of these games have Bomberman in the title.with this game (Bomberman ‘93) being the third (behind Bomberman ’94 and Panic Bomber). Originally released back in late 1992 on the PC Engine, Bomberman ’93 is fondly remembered as being one of the better Bomberman games. How it holds up is a whole new question however.

Typical of most Bomberman games, there are two game modes: Normal and Battle. Normal sees six planets each with eight stages. The final stage on each planet features a boss with the final planet hosting three bosses. The premise is simple: blow up the enemies, find the exit and get the ‘f’ outta there! It’s not quite as repetitive as it sounds as there are a number of power-ups (including walking through walls and bombs as well as the usual) to shake things up with a number of variances in enemy movement helping provide a somewhat considerable challenge.

It’s the Battle Mode where Bomberman shines most and Bomberman ’93 is no different. Playable with up to five players (any combination can be human or computer), you then choose which stage (out of eight) and how many wins until victory (up to five) and it’s game on! The rules are simple: destroy or be destroyed! Each round has a three minute time limit and a number of power-ups (no punch but kick, flame, bombs, rollerskates and poison) make things more frantic with the classic Bomberman Battle music just adding to the all out franticness.

Which Bomberman game to buy is definitely subjective. Bomberman ’94 is definitely the much grander game with more scrolling levels in the Normal Mode and more options, more arenas, more poison, different Bombermen to choose and Louie the Kangaroo (think Yoshi) to ride in the Battle Mode. The more stripped down nature of Bomberman ’93 doesn’t inherently make it the inferior purchase as the later 16-bit games (Super Bomberman 4 and 5) added too much content. Personally I prefer ’94 but Bomberfans (and even more-so those yet to experience the franchise) can do far far worse than spend to ¥617 on this awesome game.


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Neutopia mini review

Originally released on the PC Engine, Neutopia is quite clearly Hudson Soft’s answer to The Legend of Zelda. Until I actually played the game, I was unaware just how much so. If I submitted this game as an essay, I would have been accused of plagiarism. Fortunately for us the gamer, Nintendo’s original Action RPG is a pretty good game to attempt to replicate. Graphically however, the PC Engine far outshines the Famicom thus Neutopia is strikingly more high definition than Link’s first outing looking more like A Link to the Past.

There’s a fair bit of Japanese text in Neutopia but it doesn’t affect playability much at all. The basic storyline (is again) similar to Zelda: rescue the princess and collect eight medallions from all eight dungeons. Even dungeon lay-outs strongly resemble Zelda, at least early on. The main weapon is the sword although the fire rod is certainly an improvement. Also not found in Zelda are the angel wings that transport you to the world’s entrance. Medicine too is a welcome addition although the bombs are straight outta Hyrule.

Overall Neutopia is mostly a fun game to play. There’s at least a dozen hours of gameplay and the Wii U release is the preferred version due to Save States >>> Passwords. The overworld is large-ish with four worlds (two dungeons per world). The graphics are fine for the most part although the character design (again) often resembles Zelda and seems uninspired. The soundtrack is nothing special but gameplay is where it matters with Neutopia’s combat slightly easier than Zelda and with some great boss battles to boot.

Unfortunately Neutopia’s main problem doesn’t lie in its plagiarism but in the collision detection. Jazeta (the protagonist) moves in just four directions where-as the enemies move, bounce or fly in any manner of direction leaving you to resemble Lyoto Machida with the jab and run approach. Your chin more resembles Andrei Arlovski’s with the said collision detection. It’s not quite a game-breaker and Neutopia (and sequel) are certainly recommended to Wii U owners, just don’t expect serious competition to A Link to the Past.


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Alien Crush review

Whilst excitedly awaiting the second Triptykon album ‘Melana Chasmata’ where the only teasers I’ve had thus far are a couple of Amazon clips and the awesome HR Giger cover art, it’s only fitting that I’ve recently been consumed by what is essentially the videogame tribute to the Alien designer. Originally released on the PC Engine by Naxat Soft in 1988 and preceding both Devil’s Crush and the Super Famicom Jaki Crush (I’ll ignore the WiiWare sequel).

Beginning with an awesome title screen and even better theme music you have just two options: Speed select (fast or slow – effectively hard or easy) and Music select (Lunar’s Eclipse or Demon’s Undulate) before being thrown immediately into the game. Requiring no Japanese language to play (quite simply the d-pad controls the left flipper and the buttons the right flipper with the R button and touchscreen the Virtual Console screen). It’s immediacy is overwhelming.

Similarly overwhelming are the amazing graphics and excellent soundtrack which both have aged incredibly well. Also ageing incredibly well is the gameplay. With a two screened main table there are a number of single screen bonus tables including a shoot-em-up looking one and one involving what appears to be Slimer! While some younger gamers may regard the content somewhat lacking in Alien Crush, what Naxat Soft have delivered they’ve delivered impeccably.

The graphics aren’t just here for show as the alien attractions integrate with the gameplay with some amazing visual effects altering the action and ensuring that Alien Crush always feels arcadey in its pace where Naxat Soft have amazingly seemingly made a videogame that happens to be a pinball game as opposed to a pinball game that happens to be a videogame. Perhaps the only valid criticism is that Alien Crush isn’t a 3D Classic with both screens visible.

Alien Crush is also perfectly suited to the portable screen with the ball and other sprites beefy enough to be seen at all times (I’m using an LL). The PC Engine Virtual Console options (screen and button remapping) alongside the standard Save States which break up long play sessions (and enable cheating!) make the 3DS Virtual Console version possibly the greatest version of one of the greatest videogame pinball games and an essential purchase at just ¥600.


R-Type review

I probably spent close to as much time as a child in the Bydo Empire as I did in The Mushroom Kingdom, Hyrule and Potos although whilst Bowser, Ganondorf and Thanatos have all been slain multiple times; I never quite defeated the Empire. Hello Save States and welcome to the Virtual Console the classic Irem shoot-em-up: R-Type.

Without the definitive shoot-em-up on the system; the Virtual Console plays host to the likes of Recca, Gradius and Salamander which whilst awesome played on a home console are ‘just’ excellent on a portable screen due to the sprites/bullets being a bit too chotto. Chain Blaster and StreetPass Squad both resolve the sprite size issue and whilst both excellent games are hardly definitive. Again, welcome R-Type.

Originally released on the PC Engine on two game cards (split into four levels apiece as the game was too packed for the tiny card) but stuffed into one card for the TurboGrafx release and just 31 blocks on the 3DS. If the shoot-em-up check list includes excellent power-ups and awesome power-ups then arguably one should add beefy sprites to the list where a portable system is involved.

And the answers are a capslocked YES, lower-case yes and a somewhat. The power-ups of R-Type are second to absolutely none with the detachable Force pod being simply awesome. Boss-wise R-Type is impressive but unfortunately peaks with the level-one Giger-y Dobkeratops (pictured). The sprite size issue is mostly alleviated although the backdrops and franticness of the latter stages are somewhat problematic (not game breakingly so, and the final stage is again clean).

R-Type has indeed aged incredibly well with great graphics, a very good soundtrack and a solid difficulty curve. Great level design too with an emphasis not necessarily in total carnage but more-so in tactical carnage, letting some of the Bydo Empire survive in order to preserve your own survival which is somewhat fitting due to the Darwin-esque origins of the R-Type name.

Again benefitted not only in the Save State function of the Virtual Console but in the added PC Engine screen resizing and button remapping features which make the 3DS version of R-Type objectively the best of the portable versions; superior to when played on the PC Engine GT or indeed the excellent Game Boy’s original version and the GBC’s DX colourised version

Not to say R-Type is perfect as not only several aforementioned faults (the clutter of stages 5-7), the inconsistency of the boss graphics, but also in the highest speed power-up being largely uncontrollable and the frustration of the un-killable four inverted swastika like obstacles that haunt you on what I assume is the final boss (still not beat!) but all fail to prevent R-Type being simply a delight to play and what is now the shoot-em-up to beat on the 3DS.


More PC Engine on 3DS

Two more PC Engine games are coming to the 3DS Virtual Console next week: R-Type and Alien Crush priced at ¥600 each. Bought and bought! Also coming to the Virtual Console is the Famicom game Street Fighter 2010 at ¥500.

Gradius review

Years before vertical shoot-em-ups were the norm (and years after for that matter if we include the genres routes) horizontal shoot-em-ups were king. One home console also became the true home to this exciting genre and showcased the best home conversions: the PC Engine. Arguing amongst which PC Engine shmup is the greatest is obviously subjective, arguing that Gradius reigns amongst them is more of an objective statement. And arguably the PC Engine conversion is regarded as probably the best.

Each Gradius level is split into three sections: power up, the main stage and big boss time. Powering up is revolutionary in the Gradius series with a million in-game customisable options that are extremely simple to implement. All power-ups are lost upon being shot so there is some discrepancy there but not unlike those found in R-Type etc. The boss (Big Core) is similar to Star Soldier in that he is found on every level but fortunately there are other pre-Big Core bosses later on.

With Gradius already found on the 3DS Virtual Console with the very good Famicom version, the PC Engine version is absolutely superior aesthetically with improved graphics and sound. The PC Engine version also features the graveyard level found in the MSX version and not in the Famicom (nor Arcade) versions. The PC Engine emulator allows for button re-mapping and screen re-sizing with the obvious Save States from the Nintendo emulators included. And in-case you’re wondering – the Konami code is still intact!

Despite of my arguing for objective truths that Gradius is amongst one the the best horizontal shoot-em-ups, the PC Engine is one of the best home to the genre and that the PC Engine version of Gradius is the best of the home conversions, this is not exactly a review of the PC Engine version. It is a review of the PC Engine version played on a 3DS and sadly despite the screen-stretching abilities; the bullets are just too small (more-so your own than enemy fire) and this is being played with an LL. Add-in some horrendous slow-down and this objectively classic game sadly becomes but a subjective purchase.


The Kung Fu review

The Kung Fu (China Warrior in the West) was another game released early on in a system’s life (much like Altered Beast) which works more like a technical demo emphasising the graphical capabilities of the new system than a game taking the Super Mario World/64 route of emphasis on the gameplay capabilities of the new system. Featuring huge (and I mean HUGE) sprites with you controlling a roided up Bruce Lee horizontally scrolling left-to-right with you able to punch, kick, crouch and punch (no side Russian leg-sweep crouch and kick), and jump and kick (but no tiger uppercut jump and punch) and defeat a host of enemies including some monk looking humans, giant wasps (or are they birds?), rocks and bosses.

The first boss (pictured) is a hard-as-fuck Guile and Iron Shiek lookalike, the second boss being a rematch with the same boss. This sucks. If this is where the niceties end in the review then they ended far earlier during the actual gameplay. If my Gaist Crusher review complained of repetition then at least triple this for The Kung Fu with the only breaks in the punch and kick formula being the bonus stages featuring your roided up Bruce Lee striking a vase with a nunchuck. Why the nunchuck isn’t usable in the rest if the game is beyond me. I didn’t realise how much chivalry was expected in battling rocks, giant wasps, monks and fat Guile and Iron Shiek clones.

It’s not just the high difficulty and repetitive aspects that make the game equally frustrating and boring, there is just too much restriction with too few moves, too few (variances in) enemies and one my all-time pet hates with the up button being used for jump (just like accelerate in some racing games). The few saving graces are the PC Engine Virtual Console options including button re-mapping and screen size altering (I used stretch in the picture above), the size of the sprites are fantastic and the soundtrack is pretty great too although all fail to even remotely save an absolute travesty of a game and what worked fine as a technical demo over a quarter of a century ago works little more than showcasing PC Engine nostalgia today, nostalgia that should be relived in almost any other PC Engine game.