Friday, March 9, 2012

Clueless Gaijin Gaming: Shiawase Usagi II Toraware Usagi Sailor Z

As the first videogame console to make use of CD-ROM technology, the PC Engine left a few security loopholes open.  While Japanese HuCard cartridges could not be played on the American TurboGrafx-16, and vice-versa, CDs for both platforms were interchangeable.  This technical openness also allowed unlicensed third-party publishers to release CD-ROM games on the platform without seeking NEC and Hudson's permission and approval; while few if any mainstream titles were released through this "underground" channel, a handful of "adult" hentai titles made it to market in this quasi-legal form.  Such a game is Shiawase Usagi II Toraware Usagi Sailor Z, a title I will translate extremely roughly as Happy Rabbit II / Captive Sailor Moon Z.

There's no date or publisher cited in any of the packaging or onscreen; there's not even a manual, just a color insert in the CD case, featuring two female characters who as far as I can tell do not actually appear in the game.  Inside the case we find a very plain disc with the title on it; there's not so much as a copyright notice that might allow tracing the game back to its source.  It all feels very much like the X-rated Tijuana Bible comic-strip pamphlets of the early 20th century -- distributed through unofficial channels as anonymously as possible to satisfy a small but devoted market.  So all we have to go on is the content of the game itself -- and even then I won't be able to share many of the specifics here.  But one of my goals for this blog is to document some more obscure games that haven't been written about to any great degree in the West, so I'll try to couch things as carefully as I can.

The game is a double-feature of sorts -- each of the two games included has its own title screen.  Shiawase Usagi II is presumably a sequel, and opens with the game's heroine/victim tied up in a corner:

Toraware Usagi Sailor Z features a saucy, scantily-clad parody of Usagi, known in the US as main sailor Serena from the Sailor Moon series:

There's not much gameplay to be had here at all -- I don't think that stepping through menus in a fixed order can even be called gameplay -- and the entire disc can be experienced viewed in about an hour, roughly 30 minutes per story.

Shiawase Usagi II concerns a rather slow and deliberate, um, invasion of the Alps and points south, shall we say.  There is some generic CD-Audio music of exactly the sort one would expect, some looping digitized audio of the female protagonist, um, breathing and giggling, and a series of full-color, half-screen illustrations.  The interface is extremely simple -- the player can select a hand (action) icon, an eye (observation -- details are provided in Japanese text), a mouth (speech -- color-coded conversational text is displayed -- why, what were you thinking?), and a "next" button.  This sounds more complex than it actually is, however -- the player is not allowed to pick any old icon at random, but must always select the hand, the eye, the mouth, and the next button, in that precise order.  Then the image changes and the story, such as it is, continues.

This game would probably have hit certain dealers' shelves -- or more likely, turned up beneath the counter -- in the early 1990's, and whenever the visuals become explicit the old-fashioned Japanese obscuring matrix trick is used.  As implemented on the PC Engine, the censoring has the effect of making the image look even dirtier than it actually is, because the flashing colors of the matrix suggest movement going on beneath the obscuring enlarged pixels.  Here's one of the few images I can share here, which does NOT involve any visual censorship:

I'll leave the specifics of the story to the reader's imagination.  There's no violence involved here, but there's a seediness to the proceedings that's generally off-putting.  After all of the events are finished, it's made clear that this has all been a bit of adult play-acting, as our heroine is in a good mood and none the worse for wear after she takes off the blindfold -- but she does look seriously stoned and puffy-eyed, so one still wonders:


 Toraware Usagi Sailor Z is more broadly comic in tone, with the other Sailor Scouts taken out of commission almost immediately, leaving Sailor Z herself to take on the main villain, who appears to be a, erm, sausage with eyes, nose and mouth glued on, outfitted with a robe and epaulets.

This one doesn't even make an attempt at a game interface -- the player just hits a button on the controller to advance the story, presumably to keep one hand free for, uh, taking notes.  The villain ties Sailor Z up with one set of rubbery tentacles, and makes unseemly advances with the others.  At least he's considerate enough to outfit them with, um, balloons decorated with goofy faces.  Sailor Z takes it all in stride, making what we may presume to be sarcastic remarks about his master plan:

In the end, Sailor Z's magical powers of, shall we say, argument prove devastating to the bad guy's, by the same token, penetrating insights, and he is defeated in a climactic explosion big finale.  All of the sailor scouts escape, leaving the Tuxedo Kamen character in an uncomfortably compromising position involving a funnel and a weight in diametric opposition to each other, which is very funny but completely unsuitable for publication here.

Shiawase Usagi II Toraware Usagi Sailor Z isn't so much a game as a novelty, with interactivity far below the standard of even the digital comic format.  But it's an interesting example of a product from the PC Engine underground that clearly existed during the height of the system's popularity.  

For once, at least, I don't have to consider the question of why NEC didn't bring this Japanese title to the US.  I'm sure Johnny Turbo was very disappointed.

No comments:

Post a Comment