Monday, 16 April 2018

Bunmei Korokoro Game Egg (Playstation)

It's really amazing that even though the Playstation is one of the most popular consoles of all time, and even though it's one of the systems that's been featured on this blog most of all, there are still weird obscure little gems to discover in its incredibly vast library. Of course, Bunmei Korokoro Game Egg is one such gem (the title, I believe, translates to something like "Civilisation Rolypoly Game Egg", in case you're wondering).

So the basic premise of the game is that you control some kind of cosmic god-egg, that rolls across flat, barren plains, leaving civilisation in its wake. Of course, you aren't alone in what I assume is a young, fledgling universe, as each plain also has another, differently-coloured egg rolling around in it. A cool little touch is that each colour egg has its own architectural style for the buildings that spring up whereever it goes, and they range from styles based on various realworld civilisations, to futuristic sci-fi type settings, bio-organic growths and even brightly coloured abstract solid shapes.

I haven't been able to play the Versus mode, so unfortunately I can't tell you about that, but the single player mission mode sees you taking on your rival eggs in a series of battles, each with different objectives, like an olympic games for ovoid dieties. But let's not get ahead of ourselves: first, let's describe the basic mechanics, or at least, as much as I've been able to figure out of them.

So, the game is turn-based, and you move your egg by selecting a direction, then chosing your speed on a moving power bar, like the kind you get in old-style golf or bowling games. Most of the time, when you move, you cause buildings to sprout up behind you, but not always! There are five options you can choose from before you move (though the offensive options aren't always available): the egg is the standard movement that lays buildings, the signpost lets you turn already-laid buildings into protective barriers over which your opponent can't roll, the ocean wave and sunrise both cause massive destruction in the surrounding area where your egg stops rolling, and the coloured zig-zags work similarly to the egg, except they cause earthquakes in your wake instead of growth.

It should also be noted that when an area of blank squares is completely surrounded by your buildings, that area will then completely fill up with your buildings too. The first time this happens in a stage, a strange spinning, swirly tower will also spawn. This tower will get taller and more elaborate the more area on the map you've taken over, too. Your egg can take damage, either by bashing into the walls around the edges of the map, by rolling other enemy territory, or by being bashed into by the opponent's egg. I'm not 100% sure on how healing works, but it seems that you slowly heal by rolling over and stopping in your own territory, and sometimes if you stop in a particularly large piece of your own turf, a big cryogenic chamber thing will appear around you, and you'll have healed a lot by the start of your next turn. But like I say, I'm not totally sure on how accurate these methods are, or exactly how to make the chamber appear. Your tower is something of a weakpoint for your empire, too, as if the enemy bashes into it, it'll shrink a level or two, and a whole bunch of your land will disappear.

Now on to the actual missions. I don't know how many missions there are in single player mode, but I got up to mission five, the objective of which I couldn't figure out at all. Each mission takes about 20-30 minutes to get through, as turns go by pretty slowly, and you usually have a pretty hefty task ahead of you. The first two missions are both simple enough to figure out: take over 30% of the map, and bash your opponent's egg until they crumble to bits. Mission three is a little more complex, as the mission is to wait until your opponent has built a tower, then destroy their tower. I had the most success on this stage by eschewing any kind of defensive tactic, and just going straight in to bash their tower down. Waste too much time, and you risk breaking your own shell before you've knocked their tower down. The fourth mission was interesting, but very easy: build your tower up to the maximum height (level nine), which you do by simply claiming a lot of land. The AI was really terrible on this stage, as they seemed more interrested in rolling over very tiny portions of my land to cause me almost unnoticable amounts of damage, while I just went about my busniess claiming more than half the entire map.

So that was a good few hours I got in on this game, and I definitely intend to play more of it, and hopefully get others interested in doing the same so we can all learn more about this strange and original game. Of course this means that this review is ending in an unquestioned recommendation, so go and track it down and play it at the earliest opportunity!

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Cyber Cross - Busou Keiji (PC Engine)

I don't know why, but transformation became something of a theme in single-plane beat em ups during the late 80s, as the genre was in its waning phase and belt-scrolling beat em ups become more popular. In the arcade, there was Altered Beast and Wonder Momo with transformation gimmicks, though they were very different in both execution and theme. Cyber Cross is another to add to those, though it was never in the arcade, being a PC Engine exclusive. And it kind of takes thematic cues from Wonder Momo, and mechanical influence from Altered Beast, but executes both much better than its more famous forbears.

Like Wonder Momo, it's themed around tokusatsu superheroes, though it does this in a much better way than Namco's. While Wonder Momo seeks to replicate live stage shows, Cyber Cross goes directly for a TV show feel, and, despite being on a HuCard rather than a CD, makes a valiant attempt at having a TV-style intro. There's not much animation, and there's no actual vocals, but it does have lyrics displayed onscreen if you're Japanese-literate and want to sing along with the intro to a thirty-year-old videogame.

The mechanical influence from Altered Beast is only very slight, however: you collect items to gradually take on ever more powerful forms. It works in a much more interesting way then Altered Beast, though, as rather than havign a different final form on each stage, there are three kinds of transformation items, and each has a different final form. You start as a regular guy in a red jacket, and the first time you collect one of the items, the only difference between the three is the colour of your costume. If you manage to keep your health higher than 50% until the next time one appears, then you get to take on a slightly more impressive form, with armour and a weapon. The weapon you get depends on which colour item you've collected: red gets you a fairly useless sword, green gets you a slightly useless boomerang, and blue gets you an actually pretty useful gun.

You should always take whatever you're given though, since all the weapons are better than your regular punch and the armour on your sprite in this form isn't just for show: It protects your health bar from three hits before you're shunted back down to the basic transformation. Unlike a lot of tokusatsu-themed games, Cyber Cross doesn't cheap out on the enemies. Though there are a few different varieties of the same foot soldier that appears in every stage, right from the start they're backed up by various other monsters like giant flies, big dung beetle-men, and other buggy fiends. The bosses aren't bug-themed, oddly enough, though they do tend to stick to the human-animal hybrid template. Also, unlike a lot of PC Engine games, it wasn't designed with turbo controllers in mind, as all the bosses will crumple like wet cardboard boxes if you turn on the turbo and crouch next to them punching at maximum speed.

Cyber Cross is a pretty strong entry into a now long-forgotten genre, and if you want to get a real copy, you can get it boxed for pretty cheap. I recommend doing so, too: it might take a while to really click with you, but when it does, it's a really fun little game.