Gradius

Reviews
Gradius (Arcade) - Title Screen
Arcade
05/29/1985 (Japan), 1985 (US), 09/1985 (PAL)
グラディウス
Nemesis
Gradius (originally titled "Choujikuu Fighter Gradius") wasn't the first shoot 'em up to grace arcades with its presence, in fact many big names came before it. Space Invaders, Xevious, Galaxian, Ozma Wars, and even western titles like Asteroids and Defender all came first. So why was Gradius significant? Not only did it introduce several "characters" that would reoccur throughout the Konami universe (The very ship that you control called the Vic Viper, Moai heads, etc), but because it fleshed out the details of exactly what the average horizontal shoot 'em up would become: A game about strict power-up management, and pattern observation/memorization, and reaction. This may sound negative, but shoot 'em up fans (myself included) have long since embraced what the genre is, and they really have Gradius to thank for making it that way. Continue Reading

Makai Mura

Reviews
Makai Mura (Arcade) - Title Screen
Arcade
09/1985 (Japan and US)
魔界村
Demon World Village
Ghosts 'n Goblins
"Youkoso irasshai..." (Or "Welcome, come in...") was the slogan for Makai Mura, a fairly early arcade title by (at the time) young development company Capcom that positively dripped with atmosphere for its time. It drew players in with its dark atmosphere full of monsters and demons, and dirge-y but attractive synthesized organ and keyboard sounds. But these things were all hiding what would become known as one of the most difficult games of that time. Continue Reading

Famitsu Special Report – The Mystery of TOSE

Features
The Mystery of TOSE
(The following is a translation from the 04/13/2017 issue of Famitsu magazine) This is the real story behind TOSE: The game development company that's been making games for nearly 38 years (since 1979), but hardly any gamers know.

The Story of the Biggest and Most Beloved Japanese Contract Development Company That's Worked on 2257 Different Games

TOSE logoBack in February, Editor in Chief and author Hayashi went to an office in a business district in the Karasuma area of Kyoto. His destination was the biggest Japanese game development company, TOSE: An independent contract development company. Particularly amazing was the materials room hidden within, shown to us by CEO Shigeru Saitou: The over 1000 games that TOSE developed (excluding digital games) were all lined up in that narrow space. Saitou remarked "It's unfortunate that we can't show everyone all of the software that we've developed". As previously mentioned, TOSE develops games under contract from publishers, so they're rarely able to publicize the games that they develop due to contracts with their clients. Even editors in video games media don't know very much about them. Our Editor in Chief even remarked "Huh? TOSE made that game too?!" several times. What lied there was truly a new history of video games from the Famicom era to the present, unknown to anyone. Continue Reading

Double Dragon

Reviews
Double Dragon Arcade - Title Screen
Arcade
06/1987 (Japan), 1987 (US), 1987 (PAL)
双截龍 (ダブルドラゴン)
Yoshihisa Kishimoto and his team significantly evolved the beat-em-genre with Nekketsu Kouha Kunio kun/Renegade in 1986. Technos Japan naturally wanted them to make more of these games, so they were tasked with just that. June 1987 would be the arcade birth of not only an even bigger success for Technos Japan than Kunio kun, but also the birth of another beat-em-up franchise and further evolution of the genre: Double Dragon. Originally envisioned as a direct sequel to Kunio kun, Kishimoto was given two mandates: This game should allow for 2 players simultaneously and have a bigger international appeal. Given that Kunio kun had to be visually gutted in order to sell it overseas as Renegade, a direct sequel was pretty much out of the question. So instead of taking inspiration from the Tsuppari genre and his own high school fighting experiences, Kishimoto pulled from another source that was dear to him: Bruce Lee. He particularly loved "Enter the Dragon", and so he came up with not only the title of the game but also the names of the protagonists (Billy and Jimmy Lee) from these sources. Continue Reading

Nekketsu Kouha Kunio kun

Reviews
Nekketsu Kouha Kunio kun Arcade - Title Screen
Arcade
05/1986 (Japan), 12/1986 (US)
熱血硬派くにおくん
Hot Blooded Tough Guy Kunio
Renegade
Delinquent high school students talking tough and beating each other up in school uniforms while sporting distinct hair styles is probably not unfamiliar to those who enjoy Japanese media. This genre, called "tsuppari" (or "yankii"/"yankee" as we got into the 90s), was very prevalent in from the 1970s through the 1990s. Technos Japan's Nekketsu Kouha Kunio kun ("Hot Blooded Tough Guy Kunio") was the video game front runner for this genre, proceeding even one of the most well known representations of tsuppari, a manga series called "Crows". It's unclear how much inspiration was actually taken from other media, but in a 2013 interview director Yoshihisa Kishimoto said that the game reflected his own high school experience. Continue Reading