Okay. I have been putting off trying to write about this one for a while, because for once, I find myself genuinely, completely, blank-facedly clueless, and very nearly speechless. My latest attempt to wade into the crazy Japanese gaming waters involves a CD-ROM title from Hudson Soft called Bikkuriman Daijikai. It was published in 1988, runs on the original PC Engine 1.0 System Card, and remains almost completely impenetrable to my Western eyes and gaming fingers.
The disc opens innocuously, even comprehensibly, with the arrival of a friendly fairy, whose high-pitched dialogue invites us to open a book and read or perhaps write or perhaps simply enjoy an amazing tale:
And then we are taken to a colorful title screen featuring a host of cartoon characters, some with an Arabian/Hindu theme. If we stick around, we are treated to a brief theme song with vocals, none of which helps us figure out what we're doing here.
We can't do much here but press START, which takes us to a scrollable map -- with only one stop initially accessible, but it's probably safe to assume that others will open up as we satisfy the game by putting some sort of effort into the stop at hand:
Once we enter an available location, we are permitted to scroll through a series of still images depicting a variety of bizarre characters, with what I presume are their names displayed in Japanese:
I have no idea who any of these characters are, but the often-useful Wikipedia informs us that these characters may have originated as collectible stickers associated with a chocolate-and-peanut treat called Super Bikkuriman, a craze in the late 1980s which in turn inspired popular manga and anime series. The closest cultural touchstone I can fumble towards would be the American T&C Surf Designs characters -- interesting cartoon figures, employed for merchandising purposes, with no real backstories or personalities.
The disc is full of them, at any rate:
If we click on the icon in the lower left-hand corner, a couple of additional cards pop up; Wikipedia indicates that the demons were the most common and least valuable, so if the snake-headed, fanged Egyptian creature is one of the demons, that might explain the yellow background color:
We can select any of the three characters displayed to view their details in the main screen:
And... that seems to be about it. There's not really a game here that I could discern; Bikkuriman Daijikai is really just a reference work on CD-ROM, presumably for fans of the series, or kids trying to collect the stickers. I tried to check the manual to see what I was missing, but it's as much a manual as the disc is a game; it's more of a fold-out, with a colorful poster similar to the title screen on one side, and some screenshots similar to the ones above on the "useful" side.
Since I can't be of much help here, I will refer interested readers to the excellent PC Engine Software Bible and its comparatively more informative entry on this game. I was grateful to learn that I haven't missed much beyond the occasional quiz questions that pop up, presumably to befuddle me further with unparseable conundra and colorful penalties. A lot of Bikkuriman titles have been released in Japan over the years, on various platforms including Nintendo's latest handheld, the 3DS.
Really, you don't have to. But if, for some reason, you would like a copy of this one for your very own, you might be able to find it for sale here. The vendor also has many of the other Bikkuriman titles and DVDs for sale.