Game Boy World has been dormant for a couple of months, but it’s not dead — I’ve just been largely preoccupied by getting Retronauts off the ground and have been leaning on my familiarity with the material covered in Good Nintentions for a while. But off we go again, with the 83rd episode of Game Boy World, which sees a very familiar character masquerading as a Van Halen reference:
It’s a Bomberman game, or at least an incredibly close spinoff. Atomic Punk, aka Bomber Kid in Japan or Dynablaster in Europe (where Bomberman suffered through years of similar rebranding efforts to the ones he experienced here), hails from the decade span in which most Bomberman games to escape Japan ended up being renamed in the west — sometimes under the auspices of different publishers, despite Hudson having a presence as outside Japan. Atomic Punk was actually published here by Hudson, so it doesn’t even have that excuse going for it. According to a YouTube comment by someone from the On the Stick podcast, Irem distributed an arcade version of Bomberman under the name Atomic Punk in the U.S. around the same time that this shipped in the U.S., so it would seem Hudson actually deferred to another company’s naming convention for one of its own most popular characters. Geez, dudes. Have some backbone.
Anyway, this episode seems pretty timely since it arrives just a few weeks after the launch of a brand-new Bomberman game — and a portable one at that! Game Boy World 83 tidily ties in with the hottest new gaming system on the market. And so does the ouroboros of video game history bear down ever harder on its own tail.
And a huge thank-you to Armen Ashekian for lending me his packaged copy of the game to photograph. Enough Bomberman nerds have caught wind of this one’s origins to send the complete game’s price through the roof. I’m always grateful to people who can spare me the expense of ponying up eBay prices for hard-to-find complete-in-box games for an hour of photography and scanning. The real treasure… was lending.
One really great thing about Game Boy World: Finding strange obscurities that intersect with things I love. Example for today: Battle Ping Pong.
Have you ever heard of Battle Ping Pong before today? I’m going to go ahead and say, “No, you haven’t.” This one was pretty tough to track down (not quite as hard as Hong Kong, since a search on eBay for “Game Boy” “Hong Kong” nets you a lot of Asia-region releases and bootlegs, but still tough), because evidently most people haven’t heard of it — even in Japan. It was worth it, though! It’s one of the very first games created by developer Quest, one of my absolute favorite game studios of yore. Quest created Ogre Battle, Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, and their key personnel has had a hand in the likes of Final Fantasy XII and Crimson Shroud. Quest is awesome. Well, was awesome. R.I.P., Quest.
Battle Ping Pong isn’t really all that awesome, though. This was clearly put together in the “walk before you can run” phase for the studio, and it’s pretty interesting as a curio. But it’s actually kind of crummy as a table tennis sim. It feels weird to use the words “Quest” and “crummy” together in the same mental breath, but, well, sometimes that’s how it goes.
Fortunately the next Game Boy World episode covers a game that, I hope, will bring us out of the doldrums of import obscurity. Please look forward to it in a few weeks.
Game Boy World makes its 2017 debut today. I would like to say the subject at hand is inspirational and sets a great precedent for the year, but that would make me a heckin’ liar. On the contrary, this latest Game Boy release is all kinds of mundane. Not wretched, not enjoyable, just kinda there, a legacy of a publisher’s willingness to peddle a fairly popular license without giving much thought to the quality of the problem attached to it. It’s a shame, because I really like the Patlabor franchise and think it could make a heck of a game in the right hands.
To add to the sorrow: This YouTube video has unfortunately been blocked by Bandai in Japan due to my inclusion of some footage from the anime franchise being covered here. If you happen to be one of the rare few who watch Game Boy World from Japan, I apologize. You can watch via Libsyn instead:
Either way, you’re in for an 11-minute video of which about 7 concern how cool Patlabor (the anime) is, while the rest kind of offers a perfunctory critique of how tedious Patlabor (the Game Boy game) turned out to be. I scraped as much game discussion as I could out of this, but there’s a weird element to the game in which you’re given a password after completing a stage which does not function as the password for continuing the game. I had intended to take the time to translate the dialogue in an attempt to figure out what I needed to do in order to advance, but time constraints kicked in and this is as far as I made it. Patron Max Smith shared a Nico Nico link that shows footage from later in the game and… it’s all the same thing. Just dull turn-based robot fights from start to finish. So, no great loss.
Next episode concerns a game that maybe isn’t great but is definitely weird and comes from an interesting developer, so I’ll try to make up for this episode’s shortcomings there.