Friday, January 17, 2014
20 Japan-only Famicom Releases that I Kind of Like
I have a lot of Famicom games. Living in Japan I have never noticed much distinction between the ones which were released only in Japan and the ones which were released everywhere - I`ve pretty much had equal access to all of them since I first got into the Famicom about 5 years ago.
Nonetheless I figured it would be cool to do a post about some of the Japan-only releases that I like. I`ve chosen 20 of them to highlight in this post. I thought I would do a `Top 20!` list or something but abandoned the idea. It is too hard to rank them and there are so many worthy ones that making a list of only 20 is going to leave a lot of deserving ones out. So this is basically just a list of 20 Japan-only Famicom games in my collection which I kind of like. Some of them are actually total crap games like Transformers Mystery of Comvoy which I nonetheless like for its awfulness. Others are actually really fantastic games to play, like Crisis Force.
In terms of numbers, most of the Japan-only releases are games that are probably of limited interest overseas - Pachinko, Mahjong and RPG games. I have avoided these in this list and focused on games that were playable without Japanese language and which have something - be it good game play or some bizarre feature - that I thought made them interesting. Generally I`ve also ignored the super-expensive rare stuff and focused on games that can be found cheap (Crisis Force is about the only game on here that goes for more than $15 or so loose, most of them are way cheaper than that).
Anyway, here they are, in no particular order.
Gorby No Pipeline
This is one of those games that is awesome on two levels. First, it is a pretty good puzzle game. In a Tetris/Dr. Mario -ish type of way, pieces of pipe fall from the top of the screen and you have to arrange them so as to make a pipeline pumping water from one side to the other. Its fun, though it would have benefited from a multiplayer option. The second way it is awesome is the ....everything else about it. It is a game named after a Soviet Premier and featuring him prominently on the cover art, birth mark and all. Enough said. Awesome game.
This is one of those games which I cannot understand why it was never released on the NES. It is a kind of Boulder Dash type game in which you dig through dirt in order to collect various things and make it to the end of the screen. As it is a puzzle game you have to do things in correct order, otherwise you end up trapped. I like this way more than Boulder Dash though, its just a lot more fun. The sound effects are really great too.
This is another game that should have been released for the NES but for whatever reason was not. It is actually one of my favorite games and I keep a copy near my Famicom at all times. You have to simultaneously control two penguins as they move through a maze and arrange it so that they meet at one point at the exact same time. It is kind of aunique way of structuring a game and it works.
This game rocks. It is a really good platformer, you control an armadillo. He can curl up into a ball and hurl himself around, which makes for a very unique attempting-to-control-a-game-character experience. I don't know why this wasn't released on the NES.
I wouldn`t say that this is a really fun game to play, but I thought it deserved mention because it is both cute and unusual. You play a bird who has to feed her young. The birds are cute. It is kind of neat. Therefore I like it!
Bomber King is kind of an overlooked game. If I had to describe it simply, I would say "Bomberman, but not as good." Actually that kind of sums it up sufficiently. Not as good as Bomberman, but sometimes I like to play it.
Crisis Force is a really good shoot em up. The graphics are impressive, almost what you would except from a Super Famicom game. Unfortunately it is a hard one to come by since it was released relatively late in the console's life and didn't become a huge hit.
Technically this isn't a Japan only release since I think it was sold in Europe, but it never made it to the NES in North America so I'm including it anyway. It has a lot of religious stuff in it, but not in a preachy way. Its basically a maze like game that looks a bit like Pac Man but has some unique features (notably the need to avoid getting squished against the edge of the screen as the wall moves) which distinguish it.
This is not a fun game to play. Whenever somebody compiles a "Worst Famicom Games" list, this is on it. I think this criticism is somewhat overstated. To be sure, it sucks, but once you get used to it....it sucks a bit less.
Returning to games that are actually fun to play, we have Flying Hero. I like this game a lot. You control some firefighters carrying a tarp who have to catch (or bounce) stuff falling out of the windows of a burning building. The game play feels a lot like Arkanoid actually, but the look is completely different. You put out the fire by bouncing stuff into the burning windows, which doesn't make much sense but I like that.
And back to games with a bad reputation. I actually like Front Line. You are an infantryman and basically you have to shoot the enemy while running across the screen towards their base. Thematically it is similar to Dough Boy, but this is a much better game.
I play this game, and the sequel, a lot with my wife. She had it as a kid and is much better than me. It is an adventure game and is the only game on this list which requires a bit of Japanese to complete. It has a really good cooperative mode, which most Famicom games lack.
Hello Kitty World
There are a lot of Hello Kitty themed games for the Famicom, but this is the only one I like. It is conceptutally a bit like Balloon Fight. Kitty Chan is suspended by balloons and you have to avoid having her (his?) balloons popped. It is simple and actually not bad to play.
Hi no Tori
This game I play more often than any game on this list except for Binary Land. It is an awesome platformer. You play Gaou, who basically does a bunch of platformer stuff as he moves in an exciting way from the left of the screen to the right of the screen. The most innovative feature is that Gaou can vomit up these concrete blocks which he can use to make stairs to climb over stuff. Its really neat.
I also like this game for the mood it creates. Somehow with the limited 8 bit graphics and sound they do a good job of giving it an ancient Japan feeling.
Joy Mecha Fight
This is a neat game. You control a very unique looking character who bascially engages in one-on-one fights Street Fighter style as he advances. I haven't played this game enough to actually become good at it, I always use the easy level and never get far. I like it though.
King Kong 2
There was no King Kong 1 video game, this is actually from the movie King Kong 2, released in 1986 (the game's cover art comes straight from the movie poster). You control King Kong as he fights screen to screen in an attempt to ultimately rescue his girlfriend. Its a somewhat enjoyable action game, I haven't seen the movie but apparently it strays from the script quite a bit!
Route 16 Turbo
This is a fun game that I play a lot. It is a maze game in which you control a car that has to navigate various mazes in order to collect items while avoiding being hit by enemy cars that are chasing you. I'm not sure why it was never released overseas, but it may have something to do with the fact that the walls on one of the mazes are noticably arranged to look like swastikas (which in Japan are a fairly common sight since they are an ancient symbol used to denote Buddhist temples on maps).
This game is awesome mainly because it is based on an 80s Japanese heavy metal band who come from another dimension and use heavy metal music to propogate satan. That is not the story of the game - that is the story of the actual band this game is based on. Which is totally awesome!!
Transformers Mystery of Comvoy
Suckiest game ever. But I like it. I was in Osaka last year and my wife and I started playing this game at a retro game shop and that was the moment I realized that sucky games can be fun too.
This must be the most well-known Japan only release on the Famicom. Its a really good platformer based exclusively on not eating food that is constantly being thrown at you. It is relatively easy to finish, as evidence by the fact that a guy as bad at video games as myself has actually completed it.
The Namco Star Wars game on the Famicom is pretty awesome. It is a very fun platformer and it has that weird place in Star Wars nerd-dom too since it completely messes up the storyline from the film and introduces all sorts of oddities (Darth Vader turning into a scorpion, a level populated by frogs, etc).
How could I not include this game? Worst game of all time or act of sheer genius? Hard to tell, but this is a must have game.