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by Sotenga - June 26, 2011

Trio the Punch: Never Forget Me... (トリオ・ザ・パンチ) - Arcade, PlayStation 2 (1990)

Japanese Arcade Flyer

Some games refuse to be classified by any conventional definition. Trio the Punch's existence defies all explanations and laws of reality, as it establishes its residence right on the junction of "kusoge" and "amazement." Its genre is difficult to accurately classify, but it comes closest to the school of 2D beat-em-ups started from Irem's Kung Fu Master. Most of those games have you fight waves of humans who mindlessly rush forward before you punch them off the screen. Trio the Punch has you battle a giant bronze statue of Data East's de facto mascot, Karnov, carried around by four tiny Karnovs as it shoots out streams of fireballs from its foot. As the very first boss of the game, no less. And yes, it only gets worse from therec or better if you have a David Lynch-esque appreciation for the bizarre.

Trio the Punch makes absolutely no sense, nor is there any explanation accounting for why it is as much of a virtual drug trip as it is. One thing is clear, though: This game is no accident. Data East may not have been a paragon of programming in their heyday, but they made some fine games that were generally admired for their time, including Burgertime and Bad Dudes. When it comes to Trio the Punch, it almost seems as if it they tried their hardest to confuse and/or disturb their customers. At the same time, it is almost inconceivable that any mere human could be responsible for this sanity-defying masterpiece. Trio the Punch is like a visual representation of the writings of William S. Burroughs if he was a Japanese video game designer. For starters, the game's subtitle, "Never Forget Me..." sounds like a tagline from a cheesy romance movie, yet this is a pure action game without any semblance of plot. Somewhat appropriate to the game's name, you have a trio of characters from which to choose:

Characters

Santos

A tough-guy brawler with a dorky backwards cap who moves at a decent pace and grows a giant head when performing magic attacks. He fights barehanded on default but can also beat enemies into oblivion with a gym bag, as well as using claws and gaining the ability to slide punch.

Kamakura-kun

The obligatory ninja, this Shredder-looking fellow runs fast across the ground but attacks with a pitifully ranged dagger. However, his strength lies in being able to toss shurikens mid-jump. He also transforms into a log a la Hanzo from Samurai Shodown when hurt.

Rose Sub

This oddly-named barbarian bears a striking resemblance to Taito's Rastan in how he holds his weapon, be it a torch, sword, or morning star. He's the slowest of the three but has the best reach with his weapons, able to shoot flames from his blade (also like Rastan) at max power.

These three warriors are trained by Master Chin, a strange old dude who'll fight you in a couple of levels and pops up in between stages to power you up (or down if unlucky). The levels themselves often end really quickly where the goal is to destroy as many enemies as necessary until they drop yellow hearts (or else the stages keep looping over until you snag them). The bottom of the screen indicates how many hearts you need to collect until the stage boss appears, and you complete the stage upon termination of the boss. Your characters attack with their main weapons and can perform a magic attack once per stage, most of which clear the screen of enemies almost instantly. After beating each stage, Master Chin appears with a roulette wheel where you can gain more life, power up your main or sub weapon, and get the chance to switch between the three characters if you decide you're not fond of your current choice. You can also hit a bad result on the wheel and downgrade a weapon level.

This would all be straightforward if it were not for some of the wackiest enemies in the history of forever, though very few reach the level of insanity as the aforementioned Karnov statue. However, you will get to fight many more Karnovs throughout the first third or so of stages. Everyone's favorite mustachioed Russian strongman has somehow been cloned by the dozens and can be found in normal, winged, diving helmet, or purple-skinned projectile-hurling incarnations. He is even joined by Atomic Runner Chelnov, another one of Data East's characters, who shows up as a fairly tough boss sporting a comically oversized hammer. You will also face off against bosses like a large floating bronze fist, a massive totem pole topped with an evil knight chess piece, and a massive bronze foot which can be foiled in a fashion similar to Bowser at the end of Super Mario Bros. 3. One particularly amusing boss is a pink sheep which fires smaller sheep at you, and after you beat it, you get "cursed" and transform into this sheep for the next stage! Another level has you fight Master Chin, who hides in a tortoise shell for some reason before assaulting you with large feet and having his head grow large like Santos.

This is all incredibly insane and only entails roughly the first fourth of the game. It is this ridiculousness upon which Trio the Punch is remembered today, not its decidedly mediocre gameplay. However, it could be said that Trio the Punch is even more memorable because of how badly it plays. It is incredibly difficult to hit enemies sometimes, especially if you are not Kamakura-kun with his ability to toss shurikens across the screen. It gets somewhat redundant after a while to have to vanquish enemies until the boss appears, and bosses are sometimes just normal enemies powered up to take more damage. A few segments require some platform jumping, which often turns out to be rather screwy. There are several bizarre glitches that could happen, such as an early one where you fall through the floor and are totally screwed unless you restart the machine. There's nothing too game-breaking besides that, but the off-kilter collision makes it tricky to hit certain enemies, especially those in the last few stages. Considering that Trio the Punch isn't really a great game by technical definition, you may wonder why it's worth playing to the end. For the answer, just put a quarter into the machine at the continue screen and press start to observe the face of a statue suddenly morph into a happy clown mask.

Trio the Punch

It's the absolute weirdness of this game that completely defines its identity, such as the fight against Colonel Sanders whose head explodes to release a goofy purple bird who assaults you with small chicken drumsticks. This takes place in the second part of the game, which is ostensibly some sort of zombie-ridden cityscape. One bit has you fighting some red-clothed zombies in front of a carousel as you are shrunken down to size while the moon in the background violates the laws of perspective and bounces around the screen. There's also the obligatory obnoxious sewer level which includes some of the aforementioned bad platforming, but it's worth something when you get to beat on alligators and Road Warrior-esque barbarians. The third set of levels takes place in old-style Japan complete with bamboo forests, a large castle wall full of sickle-dropping ninjas, floating katanas serving as platforms, and a moonlit field where the action freezes after "WEEBLES FALL DOWN!" spells out on the screen. Oh, and don't neglect the fight against the gigantic lucky cat statue or the obligatory castle rooftop showdown against a myriad of large flying fish.

The fourth collective of levels is where the goofiness wears off and you fight a bunch of brightly-colored blobs and tough robots in a sci-fi scenario. This segment is somewhat boring except for some of the blobs morphing into bipedal lizardmen, and it's also insanely frustrating due to how tough it can be to kill the armored blobs and robots. Even if this part of the game is lackluster compared to what came before it, you MUST fight on to the final level as a simple description of what happens is inadequate to express its brilliant confusion. You find yourself in a public park and reach a fountain as a seemingly harmless bird flies about in the air. However, to end the game, you must kill this bird, as well as a dog, butterfly, and another bird. Cryptic messages pop up on the screen as you murder these poor defenseless animals, one of which spells out "CRUETY." It is an anticlimactic fight that somehow causes a large scary pair of eyes to appear underneath you, and the screen pans out to reveal that you are on top of some massive cosmic horror which promptly sinks back into the ground and presumably disappears forever. What. Were you really a bad guy who demonstrated your vile nature by slaying innocent creatures? Were those giant eyeballs possessing the animals and intended to reincarnate itself through these unlikely vessels? Has this game been one long opium trip that you snap out of when the eyes disappear because, in fact, those eyes were yours? Any theory made for this is as valid as it is probably false, but one thing is for sure: Your brain is officially liquid goo at this point.

There's not much else than can be said about Trio the Punch except for the aesthetics. The graphics are okay, nothing technically outstanding but they get the job done. They adequately suffice for the screwy character designs, to be sure. Why have Mode 7 and polygon models when you can have a ballerina whose lower body is a large man-eating fish? The music can be somewhat redundant as there are only three major pieces of music, a different one for each of the three characters. They're fairly catchy tunes if nothing too outstanding, but it could be said that the lack of variety adds to the overall kusoge nature of Trio the Punch. Nothing about this game is done well, and yet everything just meshes together so perfectly with the huge dose of nonsense to compliment the whole package. This game is very much worth playing, but don't go in expecting anything beside the unexpected.

Trio the Punch remained solely in the arcades, until its release on the PlayStation 2 as part of the Oretachi Geisen Zoku series. Like other titles of the type, it's pretty much just MAME and the ROMs on a disc, plus a bonus DVD with useless footage and a mini music CD containing the soundtrack.

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Trio the Punch (Arcade)

Trio the Punch (Arcade)

Trio the Punch (Arcade)

Trio the Punch (Arcade)

Trio the Punch (Arcade)

Trio the Punch (Arcade)

Trio the Punch (Arcade)

Trio the Punch (Arcade)


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