Friday, November 5, 2010

Clueless Gaijin Gaming: Metal Angel

Now that I have an actual PC Engine Duo in the living room, it's high time I got around to playing another game I've had sitting on the shelf for years.  Metal Angel is one of the few games the trusty Magic Engine emulator does not handle correctly -- it plays most of the opening animation, then freezes and never quite gets to the gameplay.  With the genuine hardware up and running, I've finally been able to sample its... admittedly limited... pleasures.

Metal Angel was produced by Pack-In-Video Co. Ltd. and Radical Plan Corp. in 1993, released on the PC Engine's Super CD-ROM format.  Some of the menus are in English, but this is a thoroughly Japanese game when it comes to dialogue, both printed and voiced:

The game has something to do with cute girls in combat mechs -- the opening depicts each of our five colorfully-coiffed heroines in her supposedly normal daily life:

The opening animation is pretty lively, but once we get to the gameplay, the fun grinds to a halt.  Normally I would blame this on my lack of Japanese skills, but in this case I think the design itself is to blame.  Because I can't use the emulator to capture quick, clean screenshots, you'll have to put up with my direct screen photos for what lies beyond this point.  But there isn't that much to see or describe, really.

What happens after the opening is this -- we create a character, complete with name, blood type, and astrological sign, then are given a calendar where we can designate which days are X's and which are O's.  This seems to translate into a workout schedule for the girls -- they have to exercise and train on the O days and relax on the X days.  Because I cluelessly set it up with long strings of O's, the girls had to work pretty hard on my watch.

Occasionally, we see close-up animated portraits of the girls, either thanking us for our coaching assistance (or so I presume) or crying from frustrated exhaustion and half flipping us the bird:

Most of the game, in my experience at least, consists of simply watching the girls go through their daily routine.  The screen shows all five girls at once, as they eat breakfast, study, work out, sleep, shower, study, work out, sleep, shower, eat breakfast, ad infinitum.  If one of our team members is too ill or exhausted to go on, she may spend the whole day sleeping.  After each day, the screen updates each girl's statistics -- too much work and HP will go down, recovering to some degree with a day's rest.

I used to blame Magic Engine for its failure to run Metal Angel properly, but I'm beginning to think my ire is misplaced.  Just in case anyone's wondering whether this game is up to Pack-In Video's usual questionable standards, I present this display glitch, running on authentic PC Engine Duo hardware:

The manual depicts exciting mech battles, with some ability to select moves like a wrestling sim, but boredom set in before I ever got that far.  When I was playing, the days passed rather slowly, with minimal activity as I simply watched the daily routine, or walked away until I heard the music change and could come back to see what the girls had to say.  Holidays on the calendar are celebrated with small animations -- I only stuck with it long enough to see St. Valentine's Day, in which the girl with the kimono and purple hair gave me a gift, while the girl with the T-shirt and pink hair wondered what was up with that.

There are some menus, and I did play with them in a futile effort to get something more interesting to happen.  But after a few hours of letting the girls go through their routines, while I sat idly by, I was ready to play something more interesting.  And I played just long enough to get a glimpse of what I suspect is this game's real reason for being:

Hopefully I can remember this experience next time I am tempted by some import game dealer's low, low prices to buy Metal Angel 2.

I really can't recommend this one -- even without the language barrier, the gameplay seems tedious and unrewarding.  Still, if you insist or can see (which is very possible) where I've completely missed the point of this entertainment, you may be able to purchase a copy at this affiliate link.

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