Pu-Li-Ru-La (プリルラ) / Pu-Li-Ru-La Arcade Gears - Arcade, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, FM Towns Marty, PlayStation 2 (1991)
So there's this arcade beat-em-up game by Taito from 1992. It's called Pu-Li-Ru-La, and it's one of the best damn looking game ever made. Note that I didn't say "most high-tech", I said "best looking". Yes, that's saying a lot, but the proof's in the pudding.
Pu-Li-Ru-La takes place in a "wonderland" called Radishland. Its tale begins like so: "In each town,under a keepers control, the time flow was correctly kept with a time key. But, a bad man appeared and stole the time key to stop the time flow. The towns were attacked one by one, the time flow was stopped and they received damage." Apparently, so did the English language. Tragically, it would never recover. Anyway, so then an old man calls two people named Zac and Mel and gives them each an "invented magic stick in order to defend their town." Player one will always control Zac, and Player two will always control Mel, but they play identically. Then you walk outside, and the game begins.
After chatting with a few of the townspeople, a crazy villain pops up out of nowhere and changes a group of animals into evil robots. A quick whack to the face with your staff will change them back, and you can grab a few extra points by walking over the animals before they run off the screen - this happens with every enemy in the game. Then you jump down a manhole into a place filled with huge gears where the time keeper keeps time with that aforementioned time key. You find that the time keeper's been beat down, and the game's first boss is trying to make off with the time key. Even after you pummel on him, he still succeeds with stealing the time key, which causes the town and everybody in it to freeze and go all monochrome. Luckily, your magic stick protects you, which leaves you to "get the time back".
At the beginning of level two each character is visible behind a wall of crystal in the foreground, and everything reflects off of the crystal floor. The best part is the cloudy background, which has a texture to it that I can't quite describe. Like I said, this game is gorgeous. It's also extremely bizarre. You encounter mohawked enemies with distorted faces extending from magic lamps with feet, floating balls of fur with mustachioed faces and tentacles, and bandanna-wearing floating heads that dip straws in walking cups and then blow bubbles at you, among many others. The boss of the level has a giant head topped with two strands of hair in place of its torso. It wears a bikini bottom, knee-high stilettos, and heavy make-up. It also fires laser beams from its eyes, bounces around on its nose like it was a pogo-stick, and attacks with extendible lips. After you beat this thing it changes into a mountain man, who tells you "That town is so head that no persons can live in, and the town people have escaped."
Before we continue, I should mention at this point that hallucinogenic mushrooms were legal in Japan in 1992. What does that have to do with this game? Well, if the above description of the game doesn't make it obvious enough, when you get to level three you are greeted with this image...
... and a woman on a flagpole flapping in the wind like she were a flag (!!!)...
... and then you realize that this is that kind of game.
Then flagpole lady tells you the most nonsense-ridden story that you have ever heard in your entire life. Which goes like this: "This town is controlled by the dream of a megalomania and all places are such circumstances. Do you wake up a person who is sleeping in the deepest place of the town and have him recover the town?" What did I tell you?
Like I said, this is where the game REALLY begins to get insane. In the Japanese version you immediately come across this after flag lady:
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That's nothing! Look at what happens when you whack that green door!
HOLY CRAP! What the hell is going on!? Yes, that's outer space visible through that door! If you haven't already guessed, this glorious non-sequential weirdness is a constant theme throughout, as the amalgamation of imagery that immediately follows the last scene demonstrates:
As if that weren't enough, here's what comes right after that:
When I first played this game, that image above is the point where I realized that I was playing the most insane game ever made, but I never could have expected this to happen:
The final section of the stage has a large mural in the background with two very interesting images. The first image is a geisha that's animated smoking a pipe and blowing smoke. As far as the second image goes, well...
Notice that his belt appears to be drawn on (!). I'll bet that they got a staff member drunk and got them to pose for that. Jesus Christ.
The third level's boss is a kabuki actor who waves his hair at you. After he's defeated he changes into a guy in a robe. Your character tells him that "Also, this town, there is not that doll. Where it has gone." The robed guy then informs you of a shortcut through a desert, which, of course, you take. Not too surprisingly, this desert lacks water, because "A fellow called 'YU-YU-' sucked up all rains." When you beat the giant snail at the end of the stage it begins to rain so much that it floods.
The fourth stage is a monochrome town that's drawn with a deliberately rough looking style, and that's apparently immune to the flood (It ends EXACTLY at its border). There isn't much that's noteworthy about most of the stage, but it does contain what is inarguably the most insane sprite art image ever created for any video game ever. It totally defies description, so I'll let the image speak for itself.
At the end of the level you fight a boss who wears a HORNED CODPIECE (!), and tells you that "you must expect troubles!" After you defeat him he changes into a time keeper, takes his key, and restores the flow of time.
Ever see "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?"
This is followed by a brief section where you have to whack fish with human legs with your magic stick. You can't get hurt here, so it's just for extra points.
The final stage is really just an endless barrage of insane imagery. Take a look at this craziness:
It all culminates with the most inexplicable image in video game history.
The fight against the final boss takes place in a dark room with a crazy disco floor. Whenever he throws fire at you it lights up the room, revealing this:
When you get beyond its graphics you'll find that it's also a rock solid game. It plays like an even more simplified version of your basic hack-n-slash-style beat-em-up. Meaning that your moveset is limited to hacking away with your magic stick and jumping, and there aren't any throws, extra weapons, or specials. However, you'll get better range with your magic stick by holding the joystick in either the Down or Forward position and pushing Attack, and you can swing it behind you by holding Backward during your standard attack animation and pushing Attack. You also have three randomly selected magic spells per credit, like a dancing purple blob, a psychedelic tornado, or a nearly naked superhero who fries every enemy on screen in a giant microwave, and a few others. Most enemies go down with a lone hit, but it's also noticeably faster than most of the genre, and its levels are well paced. Factor in its perfect controls and you've got a game that ranks among the best hack-n-slash games out there.
Pu-Li-Ru-La is a totally awesome combination of brilliance and hallucinogenics. It's well worth your while for its graphics alone, and its gameplay is great. Needless to say, it's a must play game. It wass been ported to PlayStation and Saturn under the title Pu-Li-Ru-La Arcade Gears, though only in Japan. It also came out on the PS2 as part of the Taito Memories Joukan compilation in Japan. This is pretty much identical to the arcade version, although the PSOne and Saturn versions look crisper, since they run at the original resolution without any blur filters. Amazingly, despite its weirdness, the arcade version actually got an international release. Outside of Japan, both of those huge legs were removed from the game and replaced with green doors that don't open. Strangely, the image isn't altered when it's shown during the credits.
One of the stages in Bubble Symphony is based off of Pu-Li-Ru-La. The background consists of gears, and some enemies, like the bug-eyed snails, should look familiar. The boss of the stage is the crazy caped guy with a globe for a head.
Pu-Li-Ru-La in Bubble Symphony