Ouji Binbin no Monogatari

Story of Prince Binbin. Binbin has a couple of translations, neither of which especially make sense in context of the game so far, so you can figure out the title however you want.

This seems like a good Dragon Quest-style RPG, though. It has all the typical elements of a solid RPG, from (slightly) customizable stats that grow as your character levels up, upgradeable equipment, and an open world with a good assortment of fantasy creatures.

I haven’t progressed a whole lot yet, but here is a quick look at the game so far. You start out in this castle, but the king and queen won’t talk to you until you finish their quest, saving the princess. If you leave the castle, you can’t get back in, which led to me restarting the game. There’s a person who gives you 100 credits and, at least on my first attempt, the game proved very difficult without them!

Once you leave the castle, you may want to save at the Save Store, but a word of caution: you can only save one game. This means if you start a new character, your old character will be erased!

One thing a bit brutal about the game is that you will meet enemies above your level even very near the opening area. You can often run away from them, but one hit from a strong enemy can leave you in a bad way.

The characters are quite varied and often have interesting names and designs. There is a kidney bean (it’s not a slime!) and a pile of dookie, but my personal favorite is the rock-bird-snake, which I feel bears a strong resemblance to Uma.

The nearest town is not far at all, but it took me quite a long time to get there, because I went every wrong direction first, dying multiple times in the process. Protip: someone in the castle tells you which way to go.

The town has the kinds of things you might expect in an RPG of this nature: townsfolk with helpful advice, townsfolk who waste your time, a place to sleep, a place to buy equipment and that sort of thing.

The game uses quite a bit of humor. For example, one enemy – Middle-aged Reggae Man – has an attack where he rubs his body against you. It doesn’t do any damage, but it apparently smells bad. The weapons and armor vendor in the first town starts off by trying to sell you souvenirs from the Philippines, until he remembers that was his old job. And, well, the big pile of dookie.

Eventually you die, and this guy brings you back to life. This is really strange because sometimes he is the one that kills you (either him or his blue twin brother).

Unfortunately, before I knew what would happen, I started a new character so I could get a picture of the castle, and when I did, I lost my progress so far. But I am anxious to try again!

Anti-piracy Appeal

I went to load a game on my Sharp X1 Turbo Z, but I was greeted by this horse:

The kanji character in yellow and red means “prohibited”, and it doesn’t allow me to continue from this screen, so I think it’s probably an anti-piracy mechanism.

I’ve named her Uma, the Copy-Protection horse, and I’ve grown kind of fond of her, but unfortunately I can’t remember which game caused her to appear.

Shanghai

Growing up in America, I thought Mahjong was a game of picking up matching tiles. I had OS/2 and it included a game called Mahjong which was exactly that. But in Japan, Mahjong is very different, a complicated game of strategy often centered around covert gambling that I don’t even remotely understand. In Japan, what we call Mahjong, they call Shanghai, and is often played with Mahjong tiles.

This game is simple and the only sound effect it produces is a beep, hardly fitting of the machine’s multimedia capabilities. But actually, it is designed for the Turbo series. It probably works on older machines, too, but it uses two features that the Turbo series has to offer: high-res graphics mode and the mouse.

High-res graphics are not unusual for the Turbo series. But this is a shining example of how different it is. On a tile, there are a variety of objects and pictures: numbers 1 to 9 in various formats, directions (North, South, East, West), trees (orchid, bamboo, plum, chrysanthemum), etc. The high-res graphics mode offers such a crisper image that makes them much easier on the eyes.

Mouse support, on the other hand, that’s rare! The graphics tool and music composer that were included with the X1 Turbo Z both use it, but as for games, this is the only one I’ve run across so far that has mouse support. It can also be played with the joystick or keyboard, but the mouse is o much more natural for this kind of game.

Shanghai appears to be a game of mere chance and persistence, but actually there is a bit of strategy involved, too. For example, usually you have to pick up identical tiles, but the four trees and the four seasons can be matched amongst themselves, so it pays to leave those until you need to play them, so you know which ones will be most beneficial. Or if there are three of a tile free, making sure you pick the tile that will allow access to a new tile, or get you closer to a tile that you want to access. Still, there are definitely unwinnable rounds, because two matching tiles can be stacked upon one another at the end.

Here is a progression of the board as I go down from 100% to 75% to 50% to 25% to 12.5%.

And finally the winning screen. I didn’t actually win tonight’s game, I got stuck at 12.5%, but I’d won and taken a picture of it before, so there it is, the reward for my persistence.

Don’t think of it as a spoiler, it looks much nicer in person! Give it a (few) tries!

Jelda II

I am not big on cockpit-view flight games of any kind, but this game has a very pleasant aesthetic and I enjoyed it a bit just to see how the scenes changed throughout the game. As expected, it’s a bit sluggish as it’s trying to render even these simple graphics, it is how I remember every flight sim of the day. But it has a certain charm. Not a bad way to have spent thirty minutes. Don’t think I’ll be rushing back to it, but I won’t say I’ll never try it again.

Punch Ball Mario Bros.

Now this is a fairly odd one. It is definitely Mario Bros., but at the same time, kind of different. The main premise of this game is, instead of jumping, you throw a ball at your enemies to flip them over. Then you can kick them off the level like usual. You can still jump, but that’s not the way to kill your enemies. Although kind of counter-intuitive, there is only one button active in this game, so you have to learn the timing to make sure you’re jumping when you want to jump, and throwing when you want to throw.

The coin level on phase three is nearly the same. The same selection of baddies try to attack you. The fireballs come out at level three. Your partner in crime – Luigi, is also available for the fight. So there is a lot of familiarity in this game if you’ve played Mario Bros. before.

But sometimes there are surprises, too. For example, the top and bottom platforms on level 5 move, which is something you really need to take into consideration when an enemy may stay on the platform longer or shorter than expected depending on the direction of the movement. Another example, instead of a coin coming along after you kill every enemy, a single coin appears at the top of the screen. However, it doesn’t move, and if you don’t get the coin after each enemy, you lose the opportunity to collect that enemy’s coin.

Another unique point about this game is that it runs in 400-line (high-res) mode. This is the first arcade classic (albeit with a big twist) that I’ve encountered where you can choose to run in 400-line mode.