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Ikki (いっき) - Arcade / Famicom / Windows / Playstation / Mobile (1985)

by Kurt Kalata

Japanese Cover

Ikki (Famicom)

Ikki (Famicom)

The game that caused the word "kusoge" to enter into the Japanese gaming lexicon, Ikki is about a farmer in feudal Japan staging a rebellion against his tyrannical lord. Unfortunately, it's a very poorly though-out rebellion, because only two people are taking part - the hero, Gonbe, and his pal, Tago, who only shows up in two player mode. It's an overhead action game, but rather than moving forward or simply killing everything, the goal is to pick up the coins strewn throughout each level, which encompasses a few screens in size. Unlike similar games like Ninja Princess, where you fired in whatever direction you were facing, or Robotron 2084, with the dual joysticks, your character auto aims in Ikki, tossing a sickle in the direction of the nearest enemy. It actually works pretty well.

But that's about the only remotely functional part of Ikki. The screen doesn't tend to scroll unless you get uncomfortably close to the edge of the screen, making it nearly impossible to see what's in front of you. It's not like it would matter, because bad guys will materalize out of thin air and attack with such speed that it's nearly impossible to dodge. Randomly you'll also be accosted by a horrifying man-woman thing which won't technically kill you, but will temporarily stop you in your tracks, rendering you vulnerable to other attacks. What is she doing, exactly? It is probably best to not ask.

There are no visible boundaries on the playing field - you simply walk into an invisible wall, even though there's clearly terrain right beyond it. One of the power-ups, a bamboo pole, usually works to your disadvantage, because not only is it short ranged, but you can only attack upwards. And like most early games, it's incredibly brief, peaking out at a mere four stages before repeating infinitely until the cheap deaths and claustrophic scrolling drive you mad.

Incidentally, it's really only the Famicom version of Ikki that falls into "kusoge" status. The original arcade version, known as Farmer's Rebellion in English territories, is quite a bit better - the scrolling is still off, but your character moves faster, and enemy attacks aren't as sudden. There's also a map which indicates where all of the coins in the level are, and there are eight levels in total rather than four. It's not a spectacular game by any means, but at least it's playable. Anyone's guess why it's the terrible Famicom version that ends up in all of the compilations - probably because it's the one most Japanese gamers are familiar with, plus it'd be easier to emulate.

Ikki (Famicom)

Ikki (Arcade)


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Awesome Possum... Kicks Dr. Machino's Butt - Genesis (1993)

by Jave

American Cover

Awesome Possum

Awesome Possum

Awesome Possum was Tengen's entry in the then burgeoning bandwagon of mascot platform games that really, really wanted to be Sonic the Hedgehog. He's a sarcastic, tracksuit wearing possum with a strangely tacked-on environmentalist slant. As a character, he feels a lot more fleshed out than most of his mascot brethren, thanks largely to the massive (by 1993 standards) amount of speech samples available in the game. He'd complain when hit, brag when killing an enemy, announce when getting a 1-up, chastise the player for not moving, and repeatedly point out how cool he is. His personality wasn't much to write home about, but at least he had a personality, which was more than you could say about the likes of Rocky Rodent or Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel.

The downside of this: HE NEVER SHUTS UP!

Mercifully, you can disable speech in the options menu, but doing so removes the only competently designed part of the whole game. As a platformer, "Awesome Possum... Kicks Dr. Machino's Butt" (and yes, that really is the full title) is an absolute train wreck.

Awesome flings himself around the screen at unmanageable speeds in a desperate bid to further copy Sonic, but without the benefit of Sonic's level design. It's not uncommon to run into the same stationary obstacle multiple times, even less common to find yourself running full throttle into enemies you never saw coming from multiple directions. All three buttons jump, also just like Sonic, but in order to kill any of the enemies, you need to land on top of them. Good luck with that, especially against anything positioned even sightly above you, or anything that moves for that matter. Powerups exist that boost your speed or jumping ability, so naturally, you're going to want to avoid them like the plague, lest you wish to be flung around the level like a pinball even more than you already are.

Levels themselves are just a mishmash of things that look as if they're supposed to be in a platform game, but there's no rhyme or reason to any of it. Platforms, powerups and enemies litter the place with little or no thought as to how to pull them all together. At best, it makes no sense, at worst, you'll get stuck in one of many choke points, where the only way forward is straight through a gauntlet of pain. The appearance of checkpoints is equally random. Sometimes they'll be literally seconds away from one another. Apart from bad design, there's bad programming to go with it. The game runs at a framerate that ought to be ashamed of itself, hit detection is a best guess, and anything that moves will inevitably find itself clipping through walls at one point or another, sometimes getting stuck and necessitating a reset. The music is also a mess.

What makes Awesome Possum a truly surreal experience, however, is the bizarre grafting of environmental issues onto the game. The equivalent to Sonic's rings in this game are recyclable bits of trash like bottles, cans and newspapers, and different stages of the game represent different environmental issues; the rainforest, the ocean, the Arctic circle, and a massive landfill, respectively. (At least there's no mine cart level.) Between each stage, for seemingly no reason, you'll be confronted with a multiple choice question about some environmental factoid. Get it wrong, and nothing happens. Get it right, and you earn bonus points, but since points never actually amount to anything remotely beneficial, it's about as good as if nothing happened, unless you were just dying to know how long blue whales could hold their breath. Driving the point home that the environment is important, the game over screen is the stuff nightmares are made of.

Awesome Possum

Awesome Possum

Awesome Possum


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Record of Agarest War / Agarest: Generations of War / Agarest Senki (アガレスト戦記) - PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 (2009)

European Cover

Record of Agarest War

Record of Agarest War

In Japan, Idea Factory (アイディアファクトリー) is so renowned for making kusoge it's affectionately referred to as Idea Fuck (アイディアファック); not so much the place where ideas are born, rather where they go to be ruined. Agarest's inclusion as kusoge is because it schizophrenically can't decide whether it's an extremely hardcore SRPG or the Kafkaesque work of a lunatic.

Firstly, let's get one thing straight: Agarest has little to do with salacious imagery. Most places are eager to show the game's scantily clad women, but these scenes are so rare, and in some cases so difficult to achieve, that you might as well assume they don't exist. Secondly, after showcasing the non-existent porn, most places are likely to talk about the game's brutally difficult strategy battles. Except, while they do technically exist, most of your time will be spent unravelling the feverish nightmare that is the guild system. In reality Agarest is all about administration.

For example: a key point of the game is the ability to capture monsters. To do this you need to learn the Capture Skill. To learn this skill you first need to know what it is, and to know what it is you need to own the Essential Arts IV book. This can be traded at the Guild for 75 TP, which is an extremely precious currency you earn from battles. You'll also need gold - except it's physically impossible to earn enough gold through battles to complete the game. So every so often you need to spend 25 TP buying a Vessel of Life to be sold for 50k gold. Once you have the book you can research the Capture Skill at the guild, requiring 3000 gold, plus a Longhorn, Shotgun and Poison Guard. These items can only be had at the Smithy, who will alchemize them if you bring several items plus more gold.

Before he can alchemize weapons though you need to bring him basic weapons books, so back to the guild to trade them for TP and then to the item store to buy the rest. In fact before anything can be researched or made, you'll need the books for the corresponding items or skills - and there are over 100 books throughout the game. Once the Smithy knows how to make the above items you'll need to bring him the following: iron break, handgun, horn of devilkin x 2, beast claw, bone guard, poison petal, poison needle, plus 1750G. Some items can be bought, others are item drops, while a few have to in themselves be alchemized, assuming you have the right books. Then it's back to the guild to trade for your Capture Skill. Except once you've got the skill you discover it's useless without another skill which reduces enemy health to only 1HP, and that can only be had through the exact same rigmarole as above. Cue uncontrollable screaming.

There are easier ways to get the Capture Skill, but that's not the point - the point is that everything in Agarest revolves around the same bureaucratic madness to achieve, to the point where you're seldom actually fighting any battles (some of which are borderline impossible unless you've gone to silly lengths to alchemize the right equipment). What's even more perverse about this is that after a time, much like a chimp performing in a zoo cage, you almost come to regard this set-up as normal. Why simply buy ITEM A when you can enjoy an hour running around turning some items into other items to trade for items that allow you to make the items that will eventually buy you your needed item? No wonder they're called Idea Fuck.

Record of Agarest War

Record of Agarest War

Record of Agarest War


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Gordo 106: The Mutated Lab Monkey - Lynx (1991)

by Bobinator

American Cover

Gordo 106

Gordo 106

The golden era of the late 70s and early 80s was ruled by Atari, with them and other publishers often coming up with increasingly ridiculous ideas for video games. Of course, with anything innovative there's a hazy line between "clever" and "stupid". That very notion ran through Atari's lifeblood up until the days of the Lynx, although most of its original endeavors fall into the latter category. It's hard to tell which it lamer: Kung Food, which is exactly as it sounds, or Gordo 106: The Mutated Lab Monkey, which is sadly the closest thing the Lynx had to a mascot platformer.

The story is that Gordo (which means "fat" in Spanish) is a monkey trapped deep within the labs of N. Human, whose name sounds like a rejected Crash Bandicoot villian. Gordo ends up drinking an "experimental nuclear potion" that gives him the intelligence to escape the labs (you know he is smart because he is wearing a hat and carries a purse?), freeing other trapped animals along the way. The anvillicious way the game phrases the plot in the intro scene makes it sound like something PETA would come up with if they were making games back in those days. The worst part is that it plays like one, too.

The game is split into six levels with three sub-stages each, with each level being a different part of N. Human Industries. You're not just running through labs though, with inexplicable levels like fashion shows, hunters conventions and puppy farms. The problem is that each stage is more of a graphical reskin instead of really adding any new tricks or level gimmicks. There are also a lot of caged animals laying around the levels, but they're only good for bonus points and can be skipped entirely, kind of undermining the moral of the game, if it indeed had one. The animation is one of the most amusing parts of the experience, as watching Gordo wildly flail his arms as he runs is a sight to behold - for a "genius" monkey he still looks incredibly ridiculous. Also, if you cross the finish line of a level, any of the oddly animated enemies will fall right off the screen as Gordo does his victory dance, as if they had simply given up. Truly perplexing.

Probably the most interesting (read: annoying) feature of the game are the giant holes plastered everywhere. Instead of killing you like the bottomless pits in nearly every other platformer, it'll instead drop you into one of the giant medieval dungons inexplicably under N. Human Industries. There's several of them, and it seems to be random which ones you'll go every time you fall in a hole. Some of them are full of fruit and caged animals, and some of them will drop you in a room full of instant-death flame jets that burn Gordo into a pile of ash, morbidly enough.

To be fair, as a game, Gordo 106 is only sub-mediocre, which is a compliment as far as Lynx games go. The cramped resolution makes it hard to get a grip on your surroundings, but there's little more than simplistic platforming chllanges and brainless enemies. It's technically playable, though, and with enough practice it's possible to reach the ending, where all of the freed mammals dance on the rooftops and the local city puts on a fireworks display in your honor. Is it worth it? Probably not. But if you can't laugh at a monkey falling into a hole at a fashion show and ending up in a stone dungeon full of flamethrowers and lava, maybe kusoge just isn't for you.

Gordo 106

Gordo 106

Gordo 106


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