Monday, May 4, 2009

Nintendo Monday, Import Fever

Today's Wii Virtual Console release is Tower Toppler for the C-64, an odd choice given that Cocoto's Platform Jumper, released last week on WiiWare, borrows some of its game concepts from this 8-bit predecessor. And I won't be picking it up on the VC myself because I... well, I'm a geek, and I already own it in TWO different forms. I have the Atari 7800 cartridge version, and the C-64 version on one of those self-contained plug-'n-play TV joystick units. How embarrassing! (Note that were I actually easy to embarrass, I would not even be writing this blog.)

So it's a good day to mention that for the past few years, around summertime when new video game releases slow down, I have devoted some of my gaming time and money to building my retro collection at flea markets and rummage sales, and online.

Lately my intentional collecting has been dominated by the PC Engine, released to little success in the US as the TurboGrafx-16 back in 1989 after being a huge hit in Japan. I have a TG-16 and enjoy its games, but lately I've been more fascinated by the Eastern PC Engine gaming scene, because so many great and bizarre games released over there never reached North America. (Or if they did, they were seriously bowdlerized to protect our delicate American sensibilities.)

I have acquired several quality Japanese PC Engine titles via the Virtual Console, but I have also been importing some actual PC Engine games every summer for a few years now. I don't have the hardware to play the card-based titles, at the moment, but PC emulators can run the CD games right from the original discs. And, since I own so few import games, I can always add a few common titles to my library at very reasonable prices during the slow season.

It felt like summer this weekend, and I have accordingly ordered a handful of PC Engine games. I will likely not be able to play most of them to completion, as I don't read or speak Japanese; translation effort was a big barrier to US release, given the TG-16's poor sales. But I will capture a few screenshots and share my impressions as time permits; some of these titles don't even have Wikipedia entries, so be prepared for some really obscure stuff.

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