Monday, 3 December 2012

Weird Japanese Games - Gekisha Boy (PC Engine)

Having played retro games for more years than I care to mention, I am used to the oddness that comes out of Japan. Games featuring bodily functions, sexual assaults, samurai cats, unidentifiable creatures spouting profanities, or just any weird shit you can think of, are commonplace in the land of the rising sun. So a game about a photographer taking pictures of exciting newsworthy events in order to impress his boss doesn't seem too odd does it? The game was released in 1992 on the PC Engine, a console that was hugely popular in Japan, but never really took off in the USA or Europe. The 8-bit machine was home to some extremely bizarre titles, such as Kato-Chan & Ken-Chan, a cutesy platform game that included fart attacks and urination.

The fact it never saw the light of day outside its homeland, and was on a console known for weird games, was enough to set the oddness alarms bells ringing, so it was with some hesitation and curiousity that I fired up Gekisha Boy.

You play as a young photographer, with super deformed head and manic grin, who is tasked by his angry boss to take some great action photos for whatever publication he runs, probably some terrible celeb gossip mag I'd imagine. The text is all in Japanese of course, but the plot is pretty obvious via the static screen cutscenes.

The game is a 2D side scrolling platformer, and whilst there are no platforms as such, you still have to jump to avoid obstacles so it can be vaguely classed as such. The d-pad moves not only your character, but the on-screen cursor representing your camera lens. It works pretty well considering, though can still trip you up when you are trying to aim the camera and avoid things at the same time. You are armed with limited film so must choose your shots wisely. Photos of passers by and cars will net you 100 points, while slightly more interesting shots of planes and such will gain more. The main scoring lies in finding the action shots, set occurrences that you have only limited time to snap, rewarding you with 500 points and extra rolls of film. The events you must photograph can range from UFO sightings and seedy men flashing in public, to wanted criminals, falling underwear, and even an appearance of the Back To The Future DeLorean. While you are trying to keep a keen eye on proceedings, obstacles such as skateboards and balls can hit you, losing you precious rolls of film, but luckily they can be photographed, removing them and netting you a few points. The game is quite tough and requires multiple plays to memorise where the special events are triggered. It is enjoyable to do so though, and after numerous tries you will finally nail all the bizarre happenings and earn a score high enough to allow you to progress to the next stage.

The bizarreness level is pretty high as expected. You will find yourself snapping photos of multiple naked men and women, 80's celebrity look-a-likes, falling underwear and comic book characters. At one point you are even walking along the sea bed in a scuba mask taking pictures of fish getting married. My personal theory is that Gekisha Boy is a crazed junkie who took too many hallucinogenic drugs and is now running around his local town taking random photos of anything and everything at the request of an imaginary boss. This would explain his wild eyes and insane grimace, and would also go some way to explaining why every two seconds he sees a UFO, superhero, or other anomaly. The graphics are very colourful and have that deformed look the Japanese enjoy, though there are some pretty dubious racial stereotypes on display here, though you could argue that everyone looks equally disfigured up so no harm done, right?

Anyway, I digress, the game is an enjoyable romp and holds more appeal to casual gamers than a lot of odd Japanese releases. It even gained a sequel on the PS2, released in 2011, which I am yet to play but looks awesome. If you have access to a Japanese PS2 then I urge you to track it down. In the meantime, this PC Engine title will keep you entertained with its wild and wacky graphics and original gameplay.

Play it now in its original form on PC Engine, or on Sony Playstation – released in Japan only as Simple 1500 Series Vol. 94: The Cameraman.