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by Kurt Kalata - 2004/2005

Tarosuke - from Shadow Land / Yōkai Dōchūki

The little dude with the huge creepy eyes starred in this bizarre 1986 arcade game. You play as Tarosuke as he ventures through the shadowy underworld, which is a rather nasty place filled with Japanese demons. In spitre of this, it does carry a slightly comical tone. Tarosuke wields a sort of spirit-boomerang attack, and calls up a floating spirit guardian to fight boss battles. The graphics are really squished, since the entire top half of the screen is taken up by a useless status bar and map. The frog that hosts the dice games makes an appearance in Namco × Capcom as well. It's an okay game but nothing terribly special - it did get a PC Engine release in 1987.



Kagekiyo - from Genpei Tōma Den / The Genji and the Heike Clans

Kagekiyo is an undead Japanese samurai, which is why it makes sense that he's teamed up with Tarosuke. Genpei Tōma Den was a 1986 arcade game featuring three different views: a side-view with tiny characters, another side-view but extremely zoomed in, and an overhead view. The huge characters in the zoomed-in view look nice, especially since they're very well animated, but it's glitchy, hard to control, and frustratingly difficult. It later ported to the PC Engine and the Namco Classic Vol 4 for the PlayStation. There was also a sequel (Genpei Tōma Den: Kan no Ni) for the PC Engine that actually came to America under the name Samurai-Ghost - it focused solely on the close-up scenes and refined them to make them playable, but it's still not a spectacular game.



Toby Masuyo - from Baraduke / Alien Sector

Baraduke is a shooter vaguely similar to Abadox and Section Z. The game is comprised of several dozen small rooms, each of which must be cleared before moving onto the next. For a game made in 1985, Baraduke looks outstanding. The creepiness of the caverns is almost offset by the alarmingly cute, one eyed creature who proclaims "I'm your friend!" at the beginning of the game. Although your character is in a bio-suit for the entire game, the ending shows that your character is actually a female, thus predating Samus Aran by about a year. Her name in the game is actually "Kissy", although when Namco brought her back to play a role in the Mr. Driller games, they named her "Toby Masuyo". Baraduke also saw release on Namco Classics Volume 5 for the PlayStation.



Hiromi Tengenji - from Burning Force

Burning Force has 3D graphics very similar to Space Harrier, except your character is riding a vehicle. In most of the levels, this means you can only move left and right, although boss stages grant you the ability to fly. Although this sounds pretty limited, there are plenty of changes from Sega's classic - your arsenal is much wider, including spread guns, lasers and homing missiles. It's a pretty fun game overall, although it was only ported to the Genesis. While Sega's 16-bit console couldn't handle the sprite scaling as well as the arcade version, it goes a pretty good job replicating the experience. It's also a fair bit easier, as you can take a few hits before losing a life.

Read the full article for this game here.



Gilgamesh and Ki - from The Tower of Druaga

Back in 1984, Namco created the devilish Tower of Druaga for the arcades. The object seemed simple in the first few levels - ram into slimes with your sword, get keys, find the exit to the next level. Not too far into the game, you'll get tossed devlishly difficult and insanely obscure puzzles to solve. The Tower of Druaga was extremely popular in Japan when it was released, and is one of Namco's greatest properties. But it never came out in America way back when, so we look at it now and wonder what all of the fuss was about. It was featured on Namco Museum Volume 3 for the PlayStation, and got ports to the Famicom, Game Boy, and PC Engine (the latter with nicer graphics and somewhat more user-friendly play.) There were a few sequels, including Return of Ishtar (which is the theme song used for Namco × Capcom) and Quest of Ki. Namco also released a dungeon crawler rendition of the game titled Nightmare of Druaga: Fushigi no Dungeon. Oddly enough, Namco chose to translate and release it outside of Japan. The Tower of Druaga also shows up as an amusing cameo in Baten Kaitos. 1UP has an excellent article on the series, and NTSC-UK has a hilarious retrospective on how suicidally difficult The Tower of Druaga is.



Bravoman - from Bravoman

Bravoman (also known as "Berabōman", which is a literal translation of the title) was a side scrolling arcade game featuring the usual superhero shtick: Bravoman is an ordinary Japanese business man, but morphs into a champion of justice to fight evil and whatnot. Bravoman's big deal is that his arms, legs, head and god-knows-what-else can extend and attack enemies from far away. While some of the graphics and designs are creative (your broccoli-haired nemesis gives you instructions before every stage, and enemies include totem poles and ninjas), but it's a pretty average game overall. The arcade game has terrible jumping controls, but this was fixed in the PC Engine home release, which was actually released in America.



Wonder Momo - from Wonder Momo

I suppose Wonder Momo gets an award for being one of the first video game heroines that isn't a yellow ball with lipstick. The developers of this 1987 arcade game gave personality to Wonder Momo, who mimics the MGM lion roar when you first start and reveals quite a bit of leg when she kicks (she pretty much invented the saying "she kicks high" well before any of the Dead or Alive girls.) The backgrounds are set up like a stage, as if Momo is part of a children's play, fighting evil bugmen and creepy men in black leotards - the end of the level is even signified by a falling curtain (which also shows up in Namco × Capcom after during a special attack.) The game itself is a shoddy Kung-Fu ripoff, made immensely frustrating due to Momo's extremely short range attacks. You can change into her alternate form, where she wields a glowing hula hoop that she can hurl at her enemies, but just getting to that stage without getting walloped is needlessly difficult. Wonder Momo received a PC Engine port, and also showed up on the Namco Encore collection for the PlayStation (only released in Japan).



Valkyrie, Xandra and Sabine - from Valkyrie no Densetsu / The Legend of Valkyrie

Valkyrie's legacy starts off in the trash Legend of Zelda ripoff The Adventure of Valkyrie for the Famicom, but first hits it bigtime with the action-adventure arcade game The Legend of Valkyrie. It's an excellent overhead action game that combines some shooter, platformer and RPGs elements into one extremely fun experience. It was ported to the PC Engine and came to America in the Namco Museum Volume 5 collection. A remake of the first game (drastically different from the Famicom title) also came out in Japan on the Namco Anthology 2. Valkyrie is the main character, while the green dude is Xandra, who shows up as the second player. Sabine is the little girl in the cloak, and shows up as an NPC.

Read the full article for this series here.



Taizo Hori - from Dig Dug

Yes, the badass with the spikegun is actually Dig Dug, one's of Namco's first classic characters. Once again, he was nameless until Namco stuck him in the Mr. Driller games, where they granted him the name "Taizo Hori" and decided that he was the father of the main character, Susumu Hori. His theme is a drastic remix of the "begin" theme from Dig Dug II.

Read the full article for this series here.



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