Category Archives: Reviews

X JAPAN Virtual Shock 001

Reviews
X Japan Virtual Shock Title Screen
Hardware: Saturn
10/20/1995 (Japan)
If you're reading this article, there's a good chance that you already know who X Japan is. But if you don't, they're possibly the most internationally popular Japanese rock band. Though they weren't signed to CBS Sony records until 1989, they'd already built a name for themselves on the indie scene long before. And they took the world of rock music by storm in Japan by basing their sound around power/speed metal, with a lot of symphonic influence (from Yoshiki's classical music background, no doubt) that would follow later as they turned into more of a prog metal band. The lineup at the time of this release was Toshi (Vocals), Yoshiki (Drums and Piano), hide (Guitar), Pata (Guitar), and Heath (Bass). Not only was their sound different, but their look as well. Like most successful visual kei bands, they'd eventually switch things up to a more standard rock band look. But they were one of the pioneers of the visual kei movement for much of their earlier career. This made them stand out quite a bit before visual kei really took hold, so their fans (who often mimicked their style) naturally stood out too. To help them feel better about this and thank them for their support, vocalist Toshi would often shout "mune hare!" ("Be proud!") repeatedly to the crowd at the end of their early gigs. Continue Reading

Ninja Ryuukenden

Reviews
Ninja Gaiden - Title Screen
Hardware: Arcade
10/1988 (US and Europe), 02/10/1989 (Japan)
忍者龍剣伝
Legend of the Ninja Dragon Sword
Ninja Gaiden
Shadow Warriors
Taking full advantage of America's lingering ninja boom, the Ninja Gaiden arcade game was released four months earlier in the west than it was in Japan. This game is not to be confused with the much more well known NES/Famicom game by the same name though, and here's where things get a bit confusing! According to this wonderful interview with Hideo Yoshizawa and Keiji Yamagishi by gaming.moe's Heidi Kemps, the two titles were in production at the same time, and retained the same names to achieve name recognition (seemingly at the insistence of the company president). The arcade game hit America quite awhile before the NES game did, but didn't hit Japan until after the Famicom version. Regardless, history has already determined which Ninja Gaiden people would end up caring about. Continue Reading

Seikima II: Akuma no Gyakushuu

Reviews
Seikima II - Title Screen
Hardware: Famicom
12/25/1986 (Japan)
聖飢魔II 悪魔の逆襲
Seikima II: The Demons' Counterattack
One of the earliest examples of a licensed game based around a Japanese band or musician is Seikima II: Akuma no Gyakushuu. Now this isn't part two of a game called "Seikima", the band itself is called "Seikima II". The intended pronunciation is "seikimatsu", which means "end of the century". The kanji used in the band's name as the ones in that word, but rather those for "holy", "starve", and "demon". This is all short for the phrase 聖なる物に飢えている悪魔がII(ふたた)び蘇る (seinaru mono ni ueteiru akuma ga futatabi yomigaeru), or "Demons starving for that which is holy are resurrected once again". Continue Reading

8 and 16 Bit Rhythm Land

Reviews
Rhythm Land - Take A Break
Hardware: Famicom, Mega Drive
02/21/2019 (Japan)
8ビットリズムランド/16ビットリズムランド
Columbus Circle has been responsible for both brand new and revivals of unreleased and out of print software titles on the Famicom and Super Famicom for a little while now. The Rhythm Land series of games marks their entry into the world of brand new Mega Drive releases, which is something that the console has not seen in a very long time (if you're not counting home-brew stuff). Rhythm Land are retro rhythm games released in two distinct versions: 8 Bit Rhythm Land and 16 Bit Rhythm Land. The first for the Famicom, the second for the Mega Drive. Continue Reading

Dracula Densetsu

Reviews
Dracula Densetsu - Title Screen
Hardware: Game Boy
10/27/1989 (Japan), 12/15/1989 (US), 09/28/1990 (EU)
ドラキュラ伝説
The Legend of Dracula
Castlevania: The Adventure
Support from Konami of Nintendo's handheld Game Boy console came quickly, and with titles from recognizable franchises early on. Castlevania was the first of such franchises, releasing right around six months after the platform itself.  Being the first real mainstream portable system, the early days of the Game Boy were a bit of a wild west. A lot of the releases tended to not be optimized for portable game play in one way or another. Castlevania: The Adventure/Dracula Densetsu didn't necessarily have that problem so much as it seemed to have been designed by people who didn't really understand what qualities made the previous Castlevania games good. Or at the very least, their appetite for trying something new and different with the series was just a little too great. Continue Reading
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