It is the 90's. And in Japan, someone at Masaya / NCS thinks the world has time for -- Wallaby!
Wallaby! is a HuCard game for the PC Engine, with design credited to TENKY. And while the cartoon artwork might lead one to guess it's a comical platformer for kids, Wallaby! is actually...
A gambling game based around wallaby racing:
The game does include some RPG story elements to add a bit of depth. We begin play by selecting one of four available rabbit heroes/heroines and naming him or her; not speaking or reading Japanese, I picked some random symbols. Next, we enter the town of Wallaby, which is sort of a Maple Town for cute and cuddly Australian animals with gambling addictions. You can almost smell the cute and cuddly desperation:
The town's musical theme only enhances this impression -- the pacing is upbeat, but it's slightly out of tune and rhythm, as if the musicians are depressed or drunk. Here, our hero wanders around town, interacting with the various merchants and citizens, none of whom your clueless host can understand, of course, as they all speak fluent Japanese and I do not. I was able to get what seemed to be a list of races and possibly odds or tips from one character, and a beefy koala bear prevented me from entering the track's VIP suite.
We can also visit the merchants, also uniformly warm and fuzzy, although Western eyes may be surprised to see that a couple of them are heavy smokers -- Mr. Mouse smokes a fatherly pipe:
While Mr. Koala prefers a filtered cigarette:
After spending a little time in town, our hero goes to the track and wastes his hard-earned cash betting on the wallabies (wallabies are a smaller relative of the kangaroo.) There's some drama in the races themselves, but since the player doesn't really participate beyond placing a bet and using the controller to focus on one or another of the exploited beasties during the race-in-progress, Wallaby! is quickly reduced to a spectator sport.
We can watch the races even if we haven't placed a bet, but if we have, our fortunes grow or shrink accordingly once the race is over. Then we're off to wander around town some more before the next race, talking to the cute and cuddly citizens and reviewing the cute and cuddly racing form:
That's about all I can make out. Perhaps if I understood the language I'd be able to have all kinds of fun doping the wallabies with magic carrots, accepting the propositions of the buxom lady rabbits who hang around the track, and influencing the results with the help of the mercenary wombats and mice in the stalls outside. But without benefit of interpretation, and no need to speculate about why this particular title never came to the States, I'll call Wallaby! sampled, and set it aside.
Those partial to the wildlife Down Under might find Wallaby! a novelty worth owning -- it's not very expensive, and can often be found for sale here or here: