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Gunstar Green
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GG plays Japanese Nintendo Games (Part 4: COCORON)

by Gunstar Green Fri Jul 18, 2014 3:11 pm

Over the past few years in an effort to stave off expensive Nintendo-game-itis I've picked up a few imports for the Famicom and Super Famicom, most are well known but some may be a little more on the obscure side.

With the Retron 5 giving me a new excuse to play through some of them I invite you, the upstanding citizens of the Racket Boy forums to join me on an adventure as I give my impressions.

PART 1: The Great Battle IV (Below)
PART 2: Famicom Frenzy 1! viewtopic.php?p=902913#p902913
PART 3: Famicom Frenzy 2! viewtopic.php?p=1072881#p1072881
PART 4: Cocoron viewtopic.php?p=1103325#p1103325



First up is a game I can hardly find anything about on the Internet, an obscurity from an obscure series that no doubt got lost in the tidal wave of Bandai's SD (super deformed character style)-themed licensed games. It's a game I played back in the early days of emulation and had a hard time rediscovering it in recent years.

Settle in, this is a long one.

The Great Battle IV

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"Hold the boat Gunstar," I hear you saying. "What happened to The Great Battle I through III? What's the big idea?"

Well The Great Battle series as it turns out is a sub-series within Bandai's larger Compati Heroes franchise which covers just about every genre you can think of. Like many of their SD games the Compati Heroes series is a crossover event. In this case they borrow specifically from three of Bandai's biggest franchises: Gundam, Ultraman and Kamen Rider.

The idea is that Bandai's greatest heroes would all be "compatible" and be total buddies with each other or something. In order to get around the obvious scale issue, the heroes are all transformed into person-sized SD caricatures of themselves. These titles often also include an "original" hero character who doesn't belong to any established franchise in order to give the games a bit of their own identity.

"That's great... but that has nothing to do with why you're starting with the fourth game in the series."

Well here's where things get more interesting. Even within the Great Battle segment of the Compati Heroes-verse they aren't able to keep the genre straight.

The first game is a simplistic top-down action game that's kind of fun but isn't very interesting to talk about at length.

The second game changed the genre to a belt-scrolling beat 'em up that feels inspired by Double Dragon or Kunio Kun/River City Ransom, just not quite as good.

The third game changes that formula slightly into a hack 'n slash that seems more than just a little inspired by games like Golden Axe and Knights of the Round. This is where the series starts to actively shout-out to and parody other popular games of the time. It also started the habit of taking on a specific theme (medieval knights in this case).

The fifth game is a straight-up clone/parody of the SNES 3rd-person gallery-shooter Wild Guns, and a capable one at that. If you ever wanted to see a Gundam in a cowboy hat, there you go.

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Backing up to my favorite of the bunch and today's actual topic, the fourth game is a 2D action platformer. The theme of choice this time is Super Sentai, which western audiences might more readily recognize as Power Rangers.

In the game you play as the original hero "Fighter Roar" alongside the licensed characters, V2 Gundam, Ultraman Powered and Kamen Rider ZO. Together you form the "Battle Force" team complete with your own giant Voltron-style combining-mecha with a giant BF emblazoned across its chest.

I like to imagine it means "Best Friends" instead of "Battle Force" but whatever.

The story, or what I understand of it, is standard Super Sentai stuff. An evil emperor is trying to take over. His right hand-guy is your enigmatic rival. You own a giant robot. That's all you need to know apart from a cliche spoiler at the end of the game.

Aside from some standard shared abilities like possessing a shield to block enemies, each character comes with their own set of attacks and abilities:

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Fighter Roar has a fairly weak machine gun though he can both move while firing or stand in place. The machine gun's main gimmick is that the bullets ricochet in tight spaces. He also possesses a grappling hook and a double jump.

V2 Gundam uses a grenade launcher that travels in a short arc making it useful for enemies underneath you. It also has a blast radius that can sometimes reach through walls. For close range it has a beam saber capable of dealing serious damage, though at a risk. His main draw is his booster jets which make him one of the best characters to play through most of the game's platforming segments.

Ultraman Powered is the heavy, carrying a huge bazooka with a piercing shot. He's the least agile character possessing only a regular jump but his damage makes him one of the most useful overall. He can also turn into a ball, Samus style, which you will need to progress through the game and locate secrets. He can use the famous Ultraman Cross Beam attack which useful against certain enemies.

Kamen Rider ZO uses a flame thrower which aims similarly to Roar's machine gun but seems to do even less damage (though it's the only weapon effective against swarms of bats). He has the ability to dash which sometimes helps to avoid certain obstacles but is more useful as the lead-up to his dash attack, the powerful Rider Kick. His special mobility gimmick is the ability to wall-jump, Mega Man X-style, and it's the only way to reach certain areas.

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You have the option to change between all four characters on the fly and each has their pros and cons as you traverse the levels. Some will have an easier time getting places than others and occasionally a specific character will be required for use of his abilities to get through a part of the level. You'll undoubtedly end up with your favorites but each character feels like an important part of the game compared to earlier installments of the series where who you played as wasn't very important.

There's a simple experience system at work where your characters power-up a maximum of three times by collecting canisters dropped by enemies or scattered around the level. Every character levels up at the same time, making their attacks more effective. They keep their level ups until you have to use a continue, at which point you have to deal with sucking again like in Gradius. After reaching level three the canisters you collect go towards extra lives.

Also of note, the game supports simultaneous co-op play, but I can't say I've ever been huge on co-op platforming since it tends to just make things harder.

As I said before these games like to borrow a lot from other popular games and that's definitely true for this installment. The most egregious example is Mega Man X, not just for stuff like the wall jump but certain levels have very similar settings and design. One level is a direct rip-off/homage to Storm Eagle's stage. You're also given the Mega Man-ish choice of what order you want to play three of the game's levels in. The intro-level has a distinct Cybernator/Assault Suits Valken feel and the other obvious shout-out is the wild west level which could have been taken straight from Konami's Sunset Riders, complete with a familiar looking stampede.

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At the end of certain levels you occasionally have to combine your giant robot, the Compati Kaiser, to fight another boss. You're given three chances separate from your normal pool of lives to win before being forced to use a continue. Here the game changes into a simplistic one-on-one fighter, complete with Street Fighter-style special moves.

Interestingly, you have an x-ray scanner that you can use on certain parts of the enemy in order to do more damage to their weak spots or to develop a countermeasure to protect against their weaponry. This was the trickiest part of the game to figure out and the least import-friendly aspect but thanks to GameFAQs it was no big deal. Save for the ridiculous final boss, none of these encounters are too difficult (certainly not as bad as Mazin Saga's completely broken attempt at the same thing) and it's sort of entertaining to watch your little characters struggle in the cockpit view at the bottom of the screen.

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The graphics are really nice with occasional touches of Mode 7 that aren't over the top and are just enough to make the visuals pop. Most of the explosions are sufficient and many of the enemies blow apart into satisfying chunks when killed, though this causes occasional slowdown. Character sprites are well animated and cartoony and genuinely fun to look at. The soundtrack, while not particularly memorable, consists of very upbeat rock that fits excellently with the rest of the game. Production-wise it's a very slick game that's come a long way from the bland first entry in the series.

The game is not without its warts though, play control is at times a little less than perfect. At times I've been hit or killed while trying hard to switch characters at the right moment. Instead of having a button to change characters you have one button to select and another to change. This works fine most of the time but it inevitably leads to screw-ups. Another annoyance is that the screen will sometimes scroll while you're at the edge of it instead of when you're in the middle leading to cheap hits and even pit-falls.

The limited continues can make the game feel a little too punishing at times, though the difficulty isn't extreme the enemies in later levels start to hit hard and cheap deaths can cause you to eat through those continues. Luckily there is a password system which somewhat negates this problem but it means you're going to probably be playing through the last level quite a few times until you manage to beat the absolute bullshit final boss.

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My reaction to the level design is mixed. It's decent enough and all of the levels vary with their own specific themes. Sometimes they're very straightforward while other times there are side paths to explore. It's not half bad and most of the levels truly look great and sometimes have neat background-effects.

Though it's a licensed game, it has very little to do with its licensed properties which means you don't need to know jack about Gundam, Ultraman or Kamen Rider to enjoy it. The character switching gimmick isn't original by any means but it's used to great effect here with each character playing uniquely and having something to bring to the table.

While the game could stand to have a little more polish it's still a worthy and challenging action-platformer for the Super Famicom and in my opinion, a true hidden gem. If you can ignore the fact that it's a sequel and ignore the fact that it's an SD licensed game and you don't mind the Power Rangers inspired theme it's well worth picking up for genre fans.

I feel like this game has been buried because its original target audience is a niche of a niche but it deserves a closer look. It requires zero knowledge of Japanese and can be had for well under twenty-bucks on eBay.

Gunstar Green's recommendation: Try it!

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Last edited by Gunstar Green on Fri Jun 23, 2017 6:59 pm, edited 10 times in total.
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Re: GG plays Japanese Nintendo Games Part 1: The Great Battl

by SNESdrunk Sat Jul 19, 2014 10:52 am

This is awesome, super informative. I had no idea about this game. Thanks for posting! Sign me up for more
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Re: GG plays Japanese Nintendo Games Part 1: The Great Battl

by Gunstar Green Sat Jul 19, 2014 1:28 pm

Thanks. The third game in the series is worth checking out as well as it's a fairly competent beat'em up and the fifth game is a really cool Wild Guns clone to the point where I have a suspicion that it was developed by Natsume like a lot of Bandai games.

Edit: I just rewatched your Super Famicom videos and noticed Battle Racers. That's another game from the Compati Heroes franchise. You were even playing as Fighter Roar.
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Re: GG plays Japanese Nintendo Games Part 1: The Great Battl

by dsheinem Sun Jul 20, 2014 9:09 am

Great write up - thanks for posting!
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Re: GG plays Japanese Nintendo Games Part 1: The Great Battl

by dunpeal2064 Sun Jul 20, 2014 9:19 am

Yeah this is fantastic. Can't wait for more.
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Re: GG plays Japanese Nintendo Games Part 1: The Great Battl

by Gunstar Green Mon Jul 28, 2014 10:58 am

Part 2: Famicom Frenzy 1!

Instead of going in-depth with all of my Famicom titles I thought I'd give some brief impressions for each. Here's the first batch of three for your consideration.

The Super Dimension Fortress Macross

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If you own a Famicom multi-cart, any Famicom multi-cart, chances are you've played this game. As an early game with a tiny ROM that's based on one of the most popular anime series of all time it became almost synonymous with pirate cartridges. Thanks in part to that, the authentic cartridge is dirt cheap.

Is it worth owning? Maybe. This was was the first Famicom cartridge I ever purchased out of my love for Macross but Scrambled Valkyrie for the Super Famicom it certainly ain't. Typical of early Famicom games it's quite simplistic and basically an infinite-level score chaser like most prototypical shoot'em ups.

The game starts in space as you fight through hordes of quickly moving Zentradi ships and mechs. Though the graphics are simple the gameplay is actually quite fast and exciting. eventually you'll fly past a larger ship and enter it in order to destroy the reactor. Afterwards you start at the beginning again only the enemies are slightly more aggressive. Theoretically this can go on forever.

There are some cool features, like the ability to transform your jet into three different forms as you'd expect from a Macross game but these forms serve little logical purpose in the gameplay and you'll spend most of your time in the in-between "Gerwalk" mode as it's the easiest to control. You can also unleash a flurry of missiles with the select button, a staple that some of the better Macross games left out. It's also surprisingly not a one-hit-kill game which makes the speedy enemies manageable.

Other than the gameplay being short and repetitive one of the other downsides is the annoying Lynn Minmay song that plays a few short bars on repeat for the entire game. It's definitely one you're going to want to add your own soundtrack to if you decide to play for a high score.

And that's really all there is to it. If you like Macross and you enjoy old score-chasers it's worth a look but not for any more than a buck or two.

Holy Diver

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What happens when the people over at Irem like the Holy Diver music video by Ronnie James Dio a bit too much? This apparently. While it's not made obvious by the cover art, the in game sprite is as 8-bit Dio as you can get and according Hardcore Gaming 101 (http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/holydi ... ydiver.htm) the plot is chocked full of heavy metal references.

Unfortunately I'm not sure how aware Dio was that this game even existed and because of that, don't expect to hear any 8-bit Dio tunes. The character was also renamed "Randy," short for Randy Johns Deo maybe?

At its core it's essentially a Castlevania clone and does a fairly respectable job of creating a dark and evil atmosphere with its stage graphics and enemy designs. The game also borrows the magic system from The Adventure of Link. Getting through the levels without properly applying that magic is an ordeal because this game isn't taking any prisoners. Take everything you know about the difficulty of games like Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden and just throw it out the window. Holy Diver does everything in its power to crush you.

Some people treat this game like a "lost" Castlevania but I don't quite find it good enough to give it that kind of praise. Irem did much better with their second NES/Famicom platforming attempt Metal Storm, but it would be unfair to compare that vastly different game to this one. It's only real problem is its difficulty which crosses the line from hard to unbalanced.

All that said Holy Diver is fun and a good game to go to if you're the type of person who has already mastered stuff like Ninja Gaiden or if you just want to explore other 8-bit hidden platforming gems. I could definitely recommend it to Castlevania fans, just be forewarned that you shouldn't expect to see the end of this one.

It's puzzling we didn't see this in the west. The name could have been changed if that was a concern and the difficulty could have been adjusted. There's nothing inherently offensive about it, at least nothing worse than Castlevania. I definitely think it would have been a hit or at least garnered a cult following.

Fantasy Zone

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"Now hold on, Fantasy Zone came out here! I have the unlicensed Tengen cartridge!"

Yes indeed, Fantasy Zone saw a release on the NES, but not this Fantasy Zone.

With some Googling I found some people who prefer Tengen's version over this one but I can only conclude that they are either...

A: Certifiably insane.

or

B: Really like kitschy western video game box art and I can't blame them for that. I do too.

I'm being too mean to Tengen version as it's a perfectly playable port, but why they decided to make their own from scratch instead of taking the existing version like they usually did is strange. Sunsoft's port is a very successful 8-bit reworking. In my opinion it even tops the Master System version with better sound and animation.

To the uninitiated, Fantasy Zone is a side-scrolling shoot'em up (or perhaps cute'em up) where you control the scrolling of the screen which eventually wraps around itself. Your ship also has some inertia to it making perfect-piloting a must. Both of these features are borrowed from the classic Williams game, Defender, by Eugene Jarvis.

Instead of rescuing humans from alien invaders you're destroying bases that continually spawn enemies. When the bases are destroyed, you fight that level's boss and move on. Enemies drop money for you to spend at shops that offer lives and both temporary and permanent (at least until you die) upgrades to Opa-Opa, a sentient little space ship.

Thanks to its cute and colorful style this simple formula is highly addictive and way more challenging than it sounds.

The Sunsoft port offers better music, less sprite-flicker, a more colorful palette and smoother screen scrolling than its Tengen counterpart. It's an all-around fantastic port for the Famicom. Unfortunately they had a different team port its sequel from the Master System and the results were not as stellar.

Ultimately Sunsoft made up for this with Super Fantasy Zone on the Mega Drive, the third and arguably best game in the series, but us poor saps in the USA were left with no choice but to import it.
Last edited by Gunstar Green on Sat Dec 10, 2016 5:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: GG plays Japanese Nintendo Games Part 2: Famicom Frenzy

by brunoafh Sun Aug 03, 2014 12:05 am

The Great Battle series is a lot of fun. Definitely an underrated franchise. IV is easily the best, but I like III a lot too. Pretty solid hack n slash, it holds its own against the contemporaries as far as I'm concerned. It's too bad we didn't see some more of these games, although there has been something of a revival in the past few years. I love the Super Robot Taisen games, but it would be more interesting if Banpresto would more than occasionally do something other than SRPGs anymore.

Speaking of Compati Hero, Project Olympus is another pretty solid title.

And great work on the write up, information of this quality in English for super obscure stuff is virtually impossible to come by.
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Famicom Frenzy 2!

by Gunstar Green Sat Dec 10, 2016 5:38 pm

Part 3: Famicom Frenzy 2!

What? An ancient thread returns? Let's look at some more Famicom games.

Nuts & Milk

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What is this unassuming blue cart with a weird name? Why, it's Nuts & Milk of course. Still not sounding that exciting? Well play it anyway because this is a fun single screen platformer from the Famicom's early days.

This 1983 game actually has a quite a bit of historical relevance as it's the first ever third-party game on a Nintendo system! Nintendo and Hudson Soft were pretty tight for a little while, with the former even put in charge of porting Super Mario Bros. to a few Japanese computers of the time in the form of Super Mario Bros. Special.

The game actually uses quite a few graphical assets from other early Nintendo titles like Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong showing just how early an effort it was. The gameplay is pretty simple. You go around as a pink blob with feet named Milk while being chased by your rival named Nuts. Your goal is to collect all the fruit in a level which reveals Yogurt, Milk's female blob love interest, who you then must reach to end the level. It's pretty standard and basic stuff but that doesn't mean it's not sometimes difficult or that it's not entertaining.

One neat aspect is when you fall from high up instead of dying like Mario would in Donkey Kong you're only stunned for a short period of time but you risk being caught by Nuts while you're vulnerable. However falling from great height is something you'll have to do occasionally so timing your recovery period is critical. The game has its flaws of course, the jumping feels really unresponsive sometimes and there are parts where you really have to be pixel perfect. Nuts' AI is also understandably a little suspect. There's nothing that really kills the experience though.

There are fifty levels and if you get stuck on one, pressing the select button will skip to the next level which is kind of a cool feature for this kind of game. Nuts & Milk is definitely worth a look for its historical value alone but it's also a fine little game. As an early game with a tiny ROM size if you have a pirate multicart or a Famiclone with built in games you probably already have it.

Kidou Senshi Z-Gundam: Hot Scramble

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The subtitle "Hot Scramble" always makes me hungry for scrambled eggs.

Anyway if you haven't already guessed this is a video game tie-in with the landmark anime Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, and like Nuts & Milk this is actually a pretty historic game.

Kidou Senshi Z-Gundam: Hot Scramble is the first Gundam game ever to be released on a home video game console (though not the first Gundam video game ever, Kidou Senshi Gundam: Last Shooting on the MSX beats it by a few years). Since Gundam and Famicom were two of the biggest things in 1986 Japan it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that this game sold an insane number of copies for Bandai. It's still remembered pretty fondly and nostalgically in Japan and even had a limited collectors item re-release for the GBA.

Another aspect of this game that made it exciting in its day was the fact that it was developed by ex-Namco developer Masanobu Endō, famous for creating games like Xevious and Tower of Druaga which made him a legendary figure in Japan.

Enough of that though, how did the game itself turn out? Well... It's alright and it's not really bad at all for an anime tie-in of the time.

The game is broken up into three segments. The first segment is an ambitious first person shooting game with a checkerboard ground reminiscent of Sega's Space Harrier. The controls are simple with B to shoot and A to accelerate to crazy speeds. After a while you're taken to the second segment which is essentially the same thing in space. The fake scaling is simplistic but effective enough and all-in-all it's a fun arcade shooting experience though it can be a little too hectic and sometimes feel like your performance relies more on luck than skill.

The third section is where things really fall apart. You play through a 2D side-scrolling maze with very basic graphics and rough, Thexder-like controls. Reportedly this was either because testers complained you never saw the Zeta Gundam in a game about Zeta Gundam or possibly because the higher ups at Bandai thought players would complain about it. I've also read that early versions of the game were tested with young children who had difficulty grasping the original concept of hunting enemies in a pseudo 3D space.

Whatever the case, the result was these basic 2D levels that were very easy to beat, ugly to look at and not very fun. Though the graphics change slightly as you progress through the game they're all pretty much the same. You collect items like a shield that boosts defense or a rifle that boosts attack (which is only for the boss because all other enemies die in one hit) as well as random boxes that give you either health or points and they all end in a silly boss fight with the reactor from Bionic Commando. Thankfully these segments are short and playable and don't detract too much from the game.

The basic nature of these levels can probably be contributed to the possibility that they were added late in development but there's also the issue of memory. This game has a lot of sprites. Pretty much every enemy unit in the Zeta Gundam anime (and there are a lot of them) is represented here in 8-bits. You can tell they were really proud of this as the game's eyecatch shows off most of them.

There are 16 levels before you get to see the credits roll and then the game loops infinitely. The difficulty starts to get really intense by the time you're halfway through but with infinite continues the game is beatable. However the game is most fun as a score-chaser and you lose all of your points if you continue.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Final Version. Bandai seemingly listened to people's complaints about the 2D segments and released an updated game that removed them completely and is supposedly more in-line with Endō's original vision for the game.

Unfortunately this silver colored cartridge was limited to a mere 1000 copies. In this version of the game your HUD is more simulator-styled and when you get hit it shows what part of the Gundam has been damaged. There's also arrow indicators (that aren't terribly useful) which show you what direction the enemy is in and this addition increases the sense that the game has 360 degrees of motion. They also updated the graphics, space is a lot more detailed and the enemy animations are improved. You can even see enemies moving in formation in the background which looks really cool.

Although it was a nice treat for Gundam fans, the Final Version is also one of the rarest and most sought after Famicom games in Japan (not to mention the most expensive). It's a holy grail for both video game and Gundam collections. Thankfully the original version of the game is still pretty fun if you're a curious Gundam fanatic and it only costs a few bucks because it happens to be one of the most common games on the Famicom.

Ninja Ryukenden III

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It's Ninja Gaiden III! Why am I talking about this? Well for anyone who was disappointed by the game's limited continues and its enemies who hit like extinction-event level meteor impacts, you need to give this game a look.

It seems like when games get a reputation for being HARDCORE in the United States, that the people in charge of game localization make sure it stays HARDCORE. And that's likely how Ninja Ryukenden III went from being the easiest game in its series, to the hardest when it became Ninja Gaiden III. A similar thing seemed to happen to Contra: Hard Corps on the Genesis.

I don't have much to say about this game other than the fairer enemy damage and the return of unlimited continues makes it a far more fun and playable experience and it's my recommended version to cap off the trilogy with. Some people still consider this a weak game compared to its predecessors but that's like saying it's your third favorite pizza. It's still delicious and Ninja Ryukenden III is one of the best platformers you could ask for on the Famicom.
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Re: GG plays Japanese Nintendo Games (Part 3 added)

by Gunstar Green Fri Jun 23, 2017 4:18 pm

COCORON

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I had more to say about this game when I beat it last year, but I put off talking about it so I'll just give the "short" version of my opinions. The screenshots come from the Retron 5 with a translation patch.

Cocoron as many of you probably already know was directed by Akira Kitamura, the man behind the first two Mega Man games and one of the founders of the short lived studio, Takeru, probably best known for the infamously high-priced NES title, Little Samson. The Kitamura connection alone made it something I wanted to hunt down.

He was somewhat of a mystery in the gaming world since after Takeru folded he just sort of vanished, leaving the industry despite being behind the birth of one of gaming's most recognizable franchises. In more recent years he's given a few brief interviews and the Internet discovered his personal blog: http://aknote.hatenablog.com/entry/gameplanning.002

In any case, Cocoron was a game he directed and released in 1991, reasonably late for a Famicom title though not extremely so. It takes place in a dream world similar in concept to the Kirby games. The gameplay however is more rooted in Mega Man as you'd expect. In many ways Cocoron is sort of an evolution of Mega Man's concepts. Instead of just getting new weapons from bosses, you can completely customize your character changing things like their speed, durability and jump height. It's entirely possible to create a character that doesn't work at all because they can barely jump which is probably why you're able to test them before accepting. Some of the parts reference Japanese pop culture like Gundam, Cyborg 009 and Astro Boy while others are just cool things like ninjas and dragons or weird things like a random smiley face.

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The game starts out simple enough story-wise. A magic anteater thing that looks like Hypno the Pokemon shows up and tells your character it needs your imagination to save a princess and battle an evil wizard and you use that imagination to create your first hero (there's a plot twist though I won't spoil it here).

You then go on to choose levels in any order like Mega Man and at the end of each you're allowed to create a new hero with your remaining parts. One of the interesting gimmicks to the level select is it's kind-of-sort-of an open world. You select where you're going but the game starts you off in the level you were previously in so you have to travel through a middle segment to get to the level you chose. More on that later.

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The character creation is great, but a little flawed. Once you hit on a combination that does everything you need it to you're likely to stick with that character throughout the entire game. The level design tries to encourage you to experiment with the tank treads which can go over lethal spikes or the boat body which allows you to float in water but the platforming isn't so difficult (until the final level) that you'll ever need to worry about it. This is exacerbated a little by the fact that some weapons are better than others. You also level up your weapon until it becomes so powerful that you might not want to bother with anything else.

That low difficulty is a positive or negative depending on how you look at it. Cocoron is definitely aimed at a younger audience and isn't nearly as challenging as any Mega Man title, but it's not exactly a pushover either. It's a fun game to fly through if you're a fan of platformers and an accessible one if you're not. The controls aren't really as tight as Mega Man either, partially because of the changing physics depending on your hero build and partially because you slip off of uneven slopes which is usually more annoying than anything else. The difficulty does spike in the final levels as I mentioned earlier and some questionable level design contributes to it. It also goes with the multi-stage Wily Fortress model where if you game over, you start from the beginning again.

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Another cool aspect is you can revisit levels and the bosses you defeated will still be there and will talk to you. They'll either say something funny or give you a hint as to the location of the princess. Unlike in Mega Man after you defeat the bosses you don't just automatically get to the final stages, you have to find a giant egg that the princes is trapped in, hidden in one of those in-between levels. To do this you must find the right path based on the hints that the defeated bosses give you. The levels are short enough that this isn't too annoying, especially if you've built yourself a powerful hero. This is really the only part of the game that isn't English-friendly if you're not using a translation patch, outside of the character creation itself (which is easy enough to figure out). You can still find the princess through trial and error or just find her location using a FAQ's help so it's not a big deal.

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The level design is unfortunately kind of hit and miss. There are some cool gimmicks but nothing that really stands out as spectacular. The bizarre visuals work for the dream world they're going for and there is a good bit of variety to them. There are some really great details like the penguin houses built into the walls of the ice level. The giant bosses are really cool and range from a Santa Claus kidnapping ice dragon to a flying pirate ship. Their patterns are quite simple though and with the right weapon none of them are really a challenge, even the final boss. Oddly enough the rest of the enemy design isn't that imaginative but there are a lot of adorable sprite animals.

Overall Cocoron is a fine game and an above average Famicom platformer. It's too rough around the edges to be a classic but as an experimental title that takes the ideas of Mega Man and evolves them in interesting ways, it's well worth playing. I'd highly recommend it to both fans of that series and people just looking for a breezy, casual 8-bit platformer. If this had been released in the west, it might have become a pretty sought after hidden gem.

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