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It's not often I come across a co-op puzzle platformer. When I first found Gussun Oyoyo, I spent many fun hours playing alongside a friend. That poor little cartridge got a workout until the wee hours of the next morning. Fully satisfied with this eclectic foreign purchase, I did some research to see if there was more to be had. The wall of Japanese was an easy climb and I was yearning for a sequel.
A quick Google-Fu yielded some baffling results. Gussun Oyoyo is another sad example of a forgotten series that never caught fire beyond the shores of Japan. Honestly, in my line of work, I see this all the time. What I don't see all the time is a screwy licensing mess reminiscent of the Wonder Boy insanity. Thanks to the whoring of Irem, there are three (and a half) takes on the same game done by completely different people. What's more, the franchise burned itself out with nearly a half a dozen entries in just three years. These studios created such similar games literally within weeks of each other. Were they competing? What did this do to their bottom line?
When this quick flurry of activity ended, Gussun Oyoyo would rarely be heard from again. The dust settled and all parties involved quietly went their separate ways. So let's take a look at these rare games, starting at the very beginning. I promise you want to stick around for Zoku Gussun Oyoyo and Gussun Paradise. They are truly excellent titles.
Here begins the story of Gussun and his buddy Oyoyo. They're a couple of treasure hunters plumbing the depths of the local dungeon when an earthquake strikes. Water from the ocean is now pouring into the caves and they must climb out before it's too late!
Gussun (Vic in Risky Challenge)
is the main character. Despite in-game claims to the contrary, he looks like a bald five-year old kid. He screams in terror at everything and will occasionally drown himself in water just to escape your Tetris madness.
Oyoyo (Vinnie in Risky Challenge)
is Gussun's similarly skull-capped buddy. He has a green shirt. This is the beginning and end of his individuality. I refuse to accept him as a mere palette swap, therefore I suggest that he is a buddhist and an excellent dancer.
is the local village girl. She pines for lost love as you try to survive this Hell the game so spitefully creates. She pops up quite a bit and gives you a hand with learning the controls. It's clear from all of her cute outfits that she is the game's Eye Candy.
Yousame (half-naked guy)
rarely pops up. He's described as a really nice guy by the game. His only real purpose is to fill your eyeballs with his gigantic pecs.
Every Gussun Oyoyo game plays in exactly the same manner. Instead of controlling your character directly, the game takes an odd Lemmings + Tetris approach. Gussun walks around like an idiot, content to dive off cliffs, suicide into enemies, and drown in water. Your job is to drop pieces to close the gaps and keep him out of harm's way. Fortunately Gussun will try to co-operate and climb up blocks. If you're real lucky, he'll make it all the way to the exit.
While playing the game, you will discover some cool things you can do:
You can drop a piece near Gussun, scaring him away in the opposite direction.
If you line it up just right, Gussun will walk onto a moving piece. This makes certain levels a breeze.
You can use your piece to push Gussun over large gaps. This is essential for survival in later levels.
Sometimes you get a bomb to fix a mistake or kill an enemy. You will find yourself praying to the Heavens that one appears soon.
You can drop a piece directly on an enemy. This is useful. You can also drop a piece directly on Gussun's bald head. This is not so useful, but it does occasionally make you feel better.
You can trap enemies instead of killing them, taking them off the respawn list and easing your stress.
There are also some things that will consistently infuriate you into a madman's froth:
Pieces will sometimes stack poorly, making you die at the top of the screen.
Gussun will sometimes act so damn stupid, you hope he dies.
The enemies respawn without warning and will sometimes kill you before you can react.
Gussun will sometimes act so damn stupid, you hope he dies. TWICE.
It takes ten Gussun kids for an extra life, which you will likely soon lose.
To counter the punishing difficulty, there are a few useful power-ups that will help you relax. Invincibility, underwater breathing, time stopping, it's all good. What's not so good is they are usually placed in a tricky spot. I guess the game is hard no matter how you look at it.
If you have any volunteers, play this game with a friend. This turns a hectic and frustrating experience into... well, no I suppose having a friend doesn't make the game easier. But at least it's more fun! And only one of you has to make it to the end, which is nice.
This arcade game was the only one to get a release overseas. It came to us as Risky Challenge, with some new (read: inferior) music. Strangely, they didn't bother changing the crazy Japanese voices. There is one odd difference: you can't skip to harder levels in the English version. You always have to start over.
Overall, the first Gussun Oyoyo is a great start for a series continually marred by an insane difficulty curve. Fortunately, some later entries take pity on players and soften the blow.
Before Banpresto came onto the scene, Xing ported the arcade version to the PlayStation. This game is much sleeker than the original with better music and cleaner artwork. It's the sort of improvement you would expect from moving to heavier hardware.
Instead of keeping the original levels, Xing went ahead and made their own. After getting through a few arcade stages, you'll notice the game quickly changes. Soon you're off in Xing land, surrounded by new challenges. If you thought the original was hard, this game has levels that are literally nigh impossible. Personally, I have nothing but hatred for the latter half of this game and I hardly recommend you subject yourself to its content.
Xing ported this title to the Sega Saturn on March 29th, 1996 as Gussun Oyoyo S. Some new levels made it a bit easier to swallow and they added some decent cutscenes. It's definitely the superior version, although that isn't saying much. Gussun Oyoyo S was re-released on the PlayStation in 2000 as part of the Mail Yasu Series (Xing had a habit of releasing 'updated' versions of their games.)
I'm not saying this is a bad game; it's what you'd expect. It's nothing compared to Banpresto's stellar take-over of the franchise. If you insist on picking this one up, I would suggest the updated 'S' version. Or you could be smart and keep reading for much better alternatives.
Many arcade games are graced with a console port. Gussun Oyoyo has the strange honour of being ported TWICE by two different companies at the same time. The first port was Xing's bland offering. This one was done by Banpresto. Why didn't Irem do it themselves? They had published other console games, so why make an exception now? And why give permission to two different developers?
Super Gussun Oyoyo is everything you would expect of an SNES arcade port. It looks authentic, but the music and voices are a bit tinny because of the available sound chip. Also, Yousame is now named George.
The game also has some great and not-great changes. In the new Options menu, you can change Gussun's walking speed. This makes the game less frustrating. You can also choose George over Emily as your idol. This makes the game less heterosexual.
But there are some problems that make this game a nightmare. The arcade version has unlimited continues, but this one doesn't. Since it's so hard to get extra lives, you will scream into your television at some point. All the enemy respawns and other arcade issues have sadly made it here intact. But if Arino can finish the game, that means there is hope for all of us! Of course "finish" is a relative term, because Banpresto added a lot of bonus levels and extra endings to the original content.
A versus mode is added if you want to crush your friend instead. You're both thrown into an arena, tasked with surviving the longest. Drop those pieces to stay out of the water and away from the top. Whomever drowns last is the victor! It's actually pretty fun and feels like a strange twist on Tetris.
For the inner game designer in you, there is an editor which allows you to create your own Gussun Hell. You will then share it with your friend. He or she will likely tear all hair in frustration as they are tortured by products of your evil mind. Once bald as Gussun himself, your friend will pick up the controller and create revenge levels for your displeasure.
I may or may not be speaking from a personal and traumatic experience.
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