Thursday, April 12, 2012

Famicom Rocky: Best Manga Ever

In addition to Famicom games I also like to collect other random Famicom stuff from back in the 80s.

Most of this stuff, like the box of Amada mini cards I bought last year, I just stumble across in my travels without having even been aware that it existed.

Today I found one such thing while browsing the aisles at Mandarake. Allow me to introduce Famicom Rocky - the most amazing* manga ever published. Ever.
I found it in their comic section which has thousands of books that I have never heard of. I don`t know how I found it but somehow it managed to grab my attention.

This was published back in 1985 and, with the possible exception of the Mattel and Mars Bar Quick Energy Chocobot Hour, constitutes what must be the most shameless example of art-as-nothing-more-than-blatant-medium-for-product-placement in world history.
The basic premise is that the main character, Rocky, is a young genius with the Famicom who is faced with various challenges in each issue that all somehow involve him playing the Famicom well in order to defeat the bad guys.

Each issue features a different game. After purchasing it I had a seat at a cafe, ordered a coffee (well, actually I ordered a coffee then took a seat at the cafe but...not important) and read the first chapter, which had its own story arc.

The story in this one involved the game Star Force, the cart of which appears on page 23:
I thought this was a little interesting because the Famicom Star Force cart looks like this:
The cart in the comic on the other hand looks a lot like Championship Lode Runner:
Being the anal retentive nitpicking type this bothered me. Why did they draw Star Force like that? Then I realized that from an ease-of-drawing perspective Championship Lode Runner scores quite highly relative to Star Force, which would probably be one of the more difficult carts out there to draw accurately. Championship Lode Runner you could probably draw in about ten seconds while a good depiction of the Star Force cart would take a lot of time and effort to get right.

This made me wonder if there may have been some tension between the story writer and the illustrator on this point. Perhaps the conversation would have gone like:

Writer: `OK, the next issue is going to involve Rocky playing Star Force well in order to defeat the antagonist`s evil plot. Got it?`

Illustrator: `Fantastic! Love it! Oh, but you know what? I love that idea, LOVE IT, that sounds dyn-o-mite! about if instead of Star Force we do Championship Lode Runner? Huh? Yeah, you know what I mean! Championship Lode Runner, high five! Oh Yeah!` (raises hand to do high five)

Writer: (not returning the high five) `No, we`re doing Star Force.`

Illustrator: `Oh OK great, no problem at all. I LOVE that Star Force idea. Umh....just totally out of curiosity have you ever actually seen the Famicom Star Force cart?`

Writer: `No, what does it look like?`

Illustrator: `It looks like Championship Lode Runner.`

Anyway, the story I read was pretty damn awesome. The bad guy has planted a bomb in a hospital where Rocky is visiting his friend. The bomb will go off in one hour - which doesn`t leave enough time to evacuate the hospital`s many patients. The only way to find the bomb is to play to the last level of Star Force. This is no ordinary copy of Star Force though, for after completing the last level a map will appear on the screen showing the location of the bomb.

Normally finishing the game in an hour would be impossible but Rocky is aided by a new Famicom Joy Stick (3900 yen, kids, tell your moms):
And he plays his guts out, wins and saves the day. The end. So exciting!

Anyway, if this manga sounds at all intriguing to you then I have good news, an English translation of the first couple of stories is available online! After returning home I did a little Google search and discovered Pepsiman`s post here on Giant Bomb in which he introduces Famicom Rocky and presents his own fantastic translation. The story in my copy which I summarized above isn`t on his site (I bought volume 2 in the series), but you have to check his stuff out, its quite good.

I hasten to note that my glowing review of the comic is meant to be taken in a somewhat ironic manner. Pepsiman`s review, told from the perspective of someone who probably isn`t as enfatuated with Famicom stuff as I am, is perhaps a bit more objective:
The character designs are hideous, turning what are supposed to be kids of an indeterminate age into adults with profoundly strange proportions. The writing is so vapid and the plot so stupid that they take what might have been a good-dumb premise in better hands and just turn Famicom Rocky into abysmal-bad.

Seriously though, I think a copy of Famicom Rocky is a must have for any serious Famicom collection!


  1. Heh, I remember this from the Cannes episode of Game Center CX. You must've felt like Arino reading it at a cafe.

    Weird cartidge inconsistencies aside, all that button pressing was pretty intense.

  2. Could it also perhaps be Raid on Bungeling Bay? Great blog by the way, it really makes me want to visit Japan and buy a Famicom. =D

  3. Kaibun: Haha, I was thinking of GCCX too. Was this the one that was only released in six volumes and when Arino turned to the last page of the 6th volume, it showed that it was supposed to continue but got canceled?

  4. Kaibun and Nate - I haven`t seen that episode of Game Centre CX but now I really want to! Did he make fun of it?

    Nick - Thanks. Yes, Raid on Bungling Bay also looks like that. I`m not a huge fan of that early Hudson cart design (Nuts and Milk and Lode Runner also have it), but it certainly is simple!

  5. Yeah, in one of the seasons they had a segment where he read manga about the Famicom in a cafe. They were all pretty bad so he'd make fun of them for that.

    Further proving that GCCX really is the ultimate culmination of all things in this Famicom collecting world of ours.

  6. LOL, now I HAVE to buy those DVDs! I see them in almost every game shop in town....maybe put them on my birthday wish list or something:)

  7. This manga was pretty grotesque when he presses the button so fast blood is spraying from his hand haha...manga sometimes has a tendency to take something simple and push it beyond absurdity.


    Right on this episode, Sean. See if you can count how many times Rocky's girlfriend gets a panty shot.

  9. Awesome, thanks for that link! That chapter that he reviewed was actually the exact same one that I read and reviewed in this post! They even showed that Star Force cart.

    I noticed the excessive panty shots myself, they seemed a bit...ill-placed in a comic like this.

  10. I just watched the rest of that episode, that is really good. Arino even reviewed my beloved Epoch Cassette Vision and Sega SG 1000 II!

  11. Hahaha, this manga looks amazing! You always find the most glorious things.

  12. THanks, I do enjoy finding little bits and pieces of Famicom stuff like this!

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  14. if it is translated into English, id read it