Friday, June 10, 2011

Of Import: Steam-Heart's (1995)

This is the most expensive PC Engine game in my collection (though that's not saying much) -- it was a late release, arriving in 1995 toward the end of the system's life-cycle, and as an 18-and-over title, it was unlikely to sell in large quantities, so it's a bit on the rare side today.

The name of the game is Steam-Heart's, a.k.a. Steam Hearts with the distracting original punctuation removed, and was released by Technical Group Laboratory, converted from the Japanese computer game by Giga.  A version also appeared for the Sega Saturn; both were considerably toned down from the more graphic original version, but just the same, I'll warn you that this post is probably NSFW.  While there isn't much actually shown, the implications are clear.

Gameplay-wise, Steam  Hearts is a fairly competent shooter of the sort common on the PC Engine -- the player's lone fighter flies upward, attacking a barrage of enemies while avoiding the requisite hail of bullets.  The CD music is really solid, and the sound effects are impressive too, using some of the system's memory to store full-throated, complex arcade-style sound effects in digitized form.

Graphically, the game also looks quite nice, but the backgrounds are simple and repetitive, with no effect on play, and while the enemy graphics change from level to level, they tend to fall into several basic types.

We can pick up power-ups to improve our weapons, choosing between two basic types, a fire-wave weapon and a laser beam; there are also satellite bodies called fannels, missiles, shields, and damage repair icons available.  All firing is done with the I button, while the II button allows the ship to move faster while held; it's a bit awkward to use this speed-up feature, but it comes in very handy in the later levels.

Steam Hearts is noteworthy mostly for its adult-themed storyline -- our heroes are a male mech pilot named Blondia Varidy and his cat-eared sister Falandia, both of whom seem to be very attractive to the other characters.  (The original game supported two players, but the PC Engine version forces us to choose one or the other; they control exactly the same, it's just that Blondia's ship is blue and Falandia's is pink.)

This is a pretty talky game as shooters go -- each level begins with a conversation between the siblings, fully-voiced in Japanese with a variety of facial expressions in the closeup window.  Then we take on a number of minor enemies, until we meet the boss.  Each level is controlled by a female mech pilot who drives the boss robot, and the Varidy siblings engage her in pre-battle conversation, during which the boss laughs a lot and assures us of certain defeat, until the battle takes place and (with luck) she is the one who is vanquished.

And here's where it gets a little weird.  After each boss is defeated, our heroes must cure her of her evil ways.  And how do they do that?  With good old-fashioned sex:

"Down for the count, bro!" "Awwwyeah."


"I thought you said we FOUGHT to a tie!"

These scenes aren't X-rated or anything -- but the dialogue, though I can't really understand it, sounds pretty racy as the Varidy siblings deliver the, er, treatment.  And, in case we don't understand exactly what's going on, all orgasms are accompanied by the sound of rushing ocean waves.

"A job well done is its own reward." "Awwwwyeah."

Those crazy Japanese!

Of course, we do have to fight our way past the seven bosses to witness all the anime-style debauchery.  I was able (for once) to use the Magic Engine emulator's search feature to create an invicibility cheat code of my own -- if we set up a cheat to freeze the value at memory location F822FC at 7, we won't take any damage, ever.  This means we can play through the whole game in a couple of hours, if we so desire, and even this phallus-equipped boss mech won't stop us for long:

The seventh and final stage involves, per usual, three stages of bosses to deal with, starting with this massive but weakly-equipped and apparently pre-damaged Samurai cyborg:

After the last battle, there's an odd little coda that's stiffly animated using just the ships and closeups for dialogue.

Our heroes escape the innards of a giant bio-mechanical monstrosity, and at last have a little time to contemplate the success of their shared adventures:


This one is a little rare and can be pricey, but if you're interested in a vintage Japanese shtup shmup, or an erogame that you won't be too embarrased to own, you could do worse.  You may be able to find a copy for purchase here.

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