Okay -- time for a break from the many Japanese games I have no hope of grasping, let alone playing. This week I wanted to have some old-fashioned fun, without any major language barriers, so I booted up Renovation Games/Telenet's Dekoboko Densetsu, or The Legend of Dekoboko, for the PC-Engine CD-ROM system.
It's a comical racing game for up to five players, and a fair sight better than Moto Roader, the only similar title that saw a release on the TurboGrafx-16 here in the US. The player join-in screen does a nice job of showing off the PC-Engine CD-ROM system, controllers and multitap five-player adapter:
The game opens with a sly parody of Japanese racing manga. We see closeups of the driver pulling on his glove, firing up the engine, and shifting into gear -- and then the camera pulls back to reveal the, uh, car toon, with extravagant mag wheels:
We are then treated to the game's very funny theme song -- even though I don't speak Japanese, the male vocalist's goofy tone and the chirpy background singers are clearly not meant to be taken seriously; I found myself hanging around on the title screen long enough to hear the whole thing. But the action is challenging once the arcade-style racing gets underway.
Cars are driven in radio control style, with the player pushing left and right to turn the vehicle's steering wheel, straightening out to go in the current direction. The six colorful vehicles tend to stay neck-and-neck, and the game's pretty difficult as the lone human in the pack. I found it best to stay toward the middle of the screen, so I wasn't forced upwards to keep up with the gang by falling behind at the bottom, but had a little time to see and react to the various hazards thrown in my way.
The comical obstacles generate most of the game's humor and challenge -- the first level features rolling oil barrels, boulders, and giant, hard-working dung beetles:
Before each level, there's a short intermission cartoon, usually depicting one of the cars being abused in slapstick fashion. Players earn points that can be used between levels to purchase upgrades - improving body, tuning, and tires, and acquiring weapons to use against rival vehicles -- the available choices are illustrated, so language isn't a significant issue:
Action is much the same on each level, although it's easy to fall behind the AI cars, as they also get to purchase upgrades and (at least when I'm playing) they usually have more points to spend. But the graphical variety keeps things interesting -- the second level features ducks, sharks, and these dynamite-tossing Ikari Warriors parodies:
The game limits the player to 5 continues, and I didn't get beyond the second level on this first go. But I'll be keeping this one on the "playable" shelf, and the cheery, listenable CD-Audio tracks on my iPod. It's good old-fashioned PC-Engine fun in any language.