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by Kurt Kalata - December 24, 2010

In the English speaking world, the text adventure genre was dominated by the likes of Infocom (Zork), On-Line Systems (Mystery House) and Adventure International (over a dozen games by one Scott Adams.) The evolution in Japan shared in a similar path, though with some different games. Zork was translated into Japanese, while Microcabin had their own Mystery House that was sort of similar to On-Line's, but different enough that they didn't have to license it. One of the earliest Japanese companies developing games in this field was Hudson, who would later go on to become one of the most prolific video games publishers in the late 80s and early 90s. Their most well known entry is Salad no Kuni no Tomato-hime, which was later ported to the Famicom, translated into English, and released as Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom. Their other two prominent titles, Dezeni Land and Dezeni World, are comical parodies set in amusement parks that are ever-so-similar (but not identical) to Walt Disney's. The title is, like most humorous Japanese things, a pun. "Dezeni" sounds like "Disney", of course, but when spelled in kanji ("出銭"), it means something like "a display of wealth".


Dezeni Land (デゼニランド) / Disney Land (디즈니 랜드) - PC-8801, PC-6001mkll, MSX, FM-7, X1, MZ-1500, PC-9801, S1, SPC-1000 (1983)

Japanese S1 Cover

In Dezeni Land, your job is to find your way into the theme park, make your way through its six attractions, find the treasures that lie within and escape on a helicopter. Each of these attractions is patterned after a prominent area of Tokyo Disneyland from the early 80s - the International Bazaar is the World Bazaar (an adaptation of Main Street USA, as it's known in America), The Pirates of the Sento Island Sea is The Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Claws is the Jungle Cruise, Horror Mansion is the Haunted Mansion, Space River is Space Mountain (and features Momotarou taking a spaceship into orbit) and Underneath Plum Manor is a spoof of Meet the World, the equivalent of the Carousel of Progress. The progression through the game is linear, with puzzles often requiring items from previous areas. Most tasks simply revolve around simple lock and key type fetch quests, and are fairly straightforward.

Like many early 80s text adventure games, the visuals are quite basic, and are drawn and colored in while each screen loads. Interestingly, while most of the text is in Japanese, all user input is handled in English. It's tough enough to struggle with a parser in a language you do know, but imagine being a Japanese person with only the most basic knowledge of English gleaned from movies and grade school, and being forced to figure out what to do? The "look" command is kind enough to translate all objects into English so they can be easily interacted with. But many Japanese gamers had complained about the use of more advanced words like "Attach" and "Polish" in order to solve some puzzles.

Beyond the language barrier, the parser is extremely basic and can't even handle prepositions, so a command like "kill lion with dagger" will need to be typed as "kill lion dagger". (Yes, you do need to murder a lion in the jungle ride. But, to be fair, he is in your way.) And strangely, while most English text adventures required that you use the cardinal directions for movement - (N)orth, (S)outh, (E)ast and (W)est, Hudson's games instead use (F)orward, (B)ackward, (L)eft and (R)ight.

Dezeni Land isn't much different from similar types of games of the era, Japanese or otherwise. The color palette is limited but insanely bright, and the pictures are drawn with lots of straight lines and angles, creating a sketchy, though still goofily charming, visual style. (The piano monster in the Horror Mansion is most amusing, and the Hudson Bee shows up in a few places.) It may not be much, but it helped set the tone for the substantially more off-the-wall sequel.

Interestingly, Dezeni Land was ported to the SPC-1000 computers in Korea, where it was actually called Disney Land and featured actual Disney characters on the cover, even though none appear, not even any parodies, in the actual games. The graphics were converted entirely to black and white, although they have also been translated fully into English.


Dezeni Land (PC-9801)

Dezeni Land (PC-9801)

Dezeni Land (PC-9801)

Disney Land (SPC-1000)


Additional Screenshots


Dezeni World (デゼニワールド) - PC-8801, PC-6001mkll, FM-7, FM77AV, X1, MSX, S1 (1986)

Japanese S1 Cover

"Warning: For Crazy People Only" proclaims a sticker on the cover of Dezeni World, a more insane take on the whole theme park treasure hunt theme established by Hudson two years before. This time the player is put in the role of an onscreen character - Dezeni Man, a fat dishevelled loser who bears some kind of resemblance to Hudson spokesperson Toshiyuki Takahashi (also known as Meijin Takahashi, who was also the main character of their Adventure Island series, although he denies the connection.) His goal - to infiltrate Dezeni World and disable the evil computer HAL3 (a parody of the HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, although in Japanese it's pronounced "harumi", a girl's name.)

Dezeni World isn't broken up into attractions like Dezeni Land was, but they took the parody angled and cranked up it up several notches. One of the first characters you meet is a bartender who looks suspiciously like Golgo 13 (a ripoff one of his famous sniper rifles can be found right behind him.) When stumbling into the phone booths, you stumble upon a blond haired Superman (with a katakana "su" on his uniform instead of a "S"). Later you stumble some dude putting on an Ultraman costume in the bathroom, get a taxi ride with Batman, and disable a guard who wears a mask exactly like C-3PO. Disabling the HAL3 works just like it did in 2001, as you remove pieces of its memory while it slowly goes crazy, but before you can completely escape from its clutches, it transfers its conciousness to Butamaru, an alcoholic talking pig, who then turns into the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The flagrant disregard of copyright is quite admirable - they even begin ripping off Hudson's own properties with the appearance of a washed up Prince Lettuce and a statue of Sir Cucumber, both from Princess Tomato and the Salad Kingdom. Other goofy bits include a knockoff of Spaceship Earth (the big golf ball thing in Epcot) called Starship Nagoya, which Dezeniman ends up destroying, and a reset button that, when pressed, will make it seem like you've reset your whole computer. (Don't worry, you haven't.)

The interface has improved over its predecessor, offering substantially quicker loading times. The color palette is still limited, but the quality of the artwork has improved substantially, to the point where most of the humor is communicated through the visuals, thereby making it enjoyable even to non-Japanese speakers. There's also a bit of music, playing a few bars from the famous melodies associated with the characters you meet (the theme from the Richard Donner Superman movies, the 60s Batman TV show song, and so forth.) The game was also packaged with an audio tape with several songs, all painfully 80s, including themes for Dezeni World, Butamaru, HAL3, and, of course, Dezeniman himself. The interface is the same, although the vocabulary isn't as rough, and it's quite a bit easier in general, with less "run around and find the object that fits in this slot"-type puzzles. With a slightly more driving plot, however silly, it also elevates itself above the mere "treasure hunt" quests that comprised so many text adventures of the era.


Dezeni World (PC-9801)

Dezeni World (PC-9801)

Dezeni World (PC-9801)


Additional Screenshots



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