Friday, August 5, 2011

Clueless Gaijin Gaming: Pachio-Kun Maboroshi no Densetsu (1990)

I think we're overdue for a more off-the-wall Japanese PC Engine game, so this week's selection is Pachio-Kun Maboroshi no Densetsu, published in 1990 by a company called Coconuts Japan for the original PC Engine CD-ROM System 1.0 format.  It's an RPG of sorts, starring a walking pachinko ball, and all of the action is centered around... playing pachinko.  

This game was released as a fancy-box special edition with a pachinko-themed PC Engine controller; I only own the CD, but it plays just fine with the standard D-pad (and only actually uses one of the two available buttons.)  There were four of these Pachio-Kun games released in Japan for the PC Engine, so it must have been a successful series there, but it's not a very exciting game by Western standards.

While the production values are generally high, this disc doesn't feature a traditional title screen -- instead, at startup we are given the option of two play modes (manual and automatic -- the latter choice making even less of a game out of it) and can decide whether to begin a new game or continue a previously saved game.

A brief bit of well-wishing from Ms. Pachio-Kun starts the game proper:

And then Pachio-Kun is off to the city, to visit the elaborate urban pachinko parlors and presumably make some progress toward the story's conclusion.

Inside each establishment, our hero can stroll around and converse with the players and staff; I don't read Japanese, but I did find it amusing that everyone's text is displayed to the sound of electronic pachinko machine sound effects.  These people live, eat, and breathe pachinko.

We can visit the staff to (I think) save our game in progress:

And we can sample a variety of pachinko machines -- there are several different themes on display, but some of the designs feature exactly the same layout of pins.  The object of pachinko -- a game I never really learned to appreciate -- is to send a series of small metal balls cascading down the playfield and into the highest-scoring targets.  It's like the original concept of pinball, except we have very little control over the action, so it never feels like much of a game.  In the manual mode, we can adjust the speed at which the balls come out and influence their trajectory that way; in the automatic mode, all we can do is watch 'em roll, and quit if we decide to move to a different machine.

There's a magnifying glass option for the die-hard fan, which we can use to examine the pin layout carefully and see where gaps and ricochets might help us get the balls into the highest-scoring pockets:

Beyond that, it's just pachinko -- this table is themed after Sir Isaac Newton, with apples:

This table features everyone's favorite off-brand giant gorilla, Kong Kong:

There are a number of other designs available -- there's a UFO table, and at least 6 additional designs shown in the manual -- but a stultifying sameness sets in soon after we start playing.  It's a relief when we run out of, er, spheres, and are greeted with the soothing evidence that our pain is at an end:

I know the game of pachinko has its fans, but I don't think I can count myself among them, and so Pachio-Kun's story will remain forever untold here.  But it's always amusing to check out these more unusual Japanese games, and I'm glad I had a chance to sample his adventures.  Briefly.  I'm glad I sampled them briefly.

If you must, you must.  You may be able to find a copy of Pachio-Kun Maboroshi no Densetsu here.

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