Friday, March 19, 2010

Clueless Gaijin Gaming: Atomic Robo-Kid Special

This week, we're taking a look at another Japanese game I sorely wished had made it to the States back in its day: Atomic Robo-Kid Special for the PC Engine, published by UPL Company Limited in 1989.  It stars a cute, heavily-armed robot, who is out to destroy various other robots for no reason that really matters once the game is underway.  Suffice it to say that the fate of robot civilization is at stake, and no knowledge of Japanese is required:


The game was adapted from the coin-op original for a number of home computer and videogame platforms, although none of the conversions were particularly faithful to the arcade game.  The PC Engine version retains the look of the main character and most of the enemy sprites, but the level designs are quite a bit different.  The multiplane scrolling parallax of the coin-op is replaced by banded layers, changing the look of many levels, and the order of the levels has been rearranged.  There's a fair amount of repetition in the graphics as well -- this fan boss appears in almost every level that isn't a boss battle in and of itself:

The difficulty has also been toned down -- I didn't have much problem making it through the first six stages, with the Act 3 boss battle over before I realized it was such.  But the action is still pretty frenetic, and the design has a sort of super-deformed H.R. Giger look about it that manages to be cute and cybernetically creepy at the same time.

This great-looking Act 5 boss provides more of a challenge, as we have to circle him constantly, whittling down his extra heads and dodging his shots before hitting his core body enough to take him down:

Act 6 resembles Act 1 of the arcade game, with R-Type-esque robot worms that Atomic Robo-Kid must battle in tight quarters:

The action does become repetitive after a while -- the difficulty ramps up, but the basic premise doesn't really change.  Like most arcade games of the late 80's, it was originally designed to extract another token from the player's pocket as often as possible; the continues are limited to three here, so the player does have to develop a bit of skill, but it's not nearly as challenging as the coin-op. 

Everything's in English, and the graphics look lovely in stills, so this is yet another game NEC mysteriously chose not to pursue for release on the American TurboGrafx-16.  A Sega Genesis version did come out in the States, courtesy of small publisher Treco, but while the parallax scrolling was preserved, it didn't look, sound or play quite as nicely as it did on NEC's little white box.

Ah, well.  You can't win 'em all, Atomic Robo-Kid.


  1. started playin this game again on emulator, never could have made it to act 16 without it. know where i can find a FAQ for this game?

  2. I haven't seen one -- at least there doesn't seem to be anything posted in English that goes into any detail. Maybe you should write one, you've made it farther than I have!