Tag Archives: Game Tengoku CruisinMix

Waifus in Bullet Hell

Must… Shoot… Must… Not… Shoot…

The success of PS4 has blessed the console with some surprising releases of which Game Tengoku CruisinMix is probably from the most peculiar end. It’s a port of a 1997 Sega Saturn game which in turn was an enhanced version of a 1995 arcade shooter by Jaleco. Going further, that one recruits six pilots from Jaleco’s arcade lineup from the eighties to step against the mad scientist Yamada who decides to conquer the gaming world by invading the cabinets of a local arcade. If that sounds a bit goofy then it’s perfectly normal as the game is a proud representative of the small but gallant genre of parody shooters, and even after all these years, it turns out to be none too shabby.

The game was originally a six-level vertical shooter that was given two additional stages on Saturn, all of which are focused on bona fide 90’s otaku fan service. You can play as an everyday space fighter jock, a sentient mecha, one of three cute girls, or even as a plump pork. The choice is fairly irrelevant as all of them have their basic gun that fires in some direction and a handful of mega bombs capable of clearing almost the entire screen in one way or another. At the beginning of each stage (or after each death), the game immediately gifts you with a couple of pint-sized helper drones while the main gun can be upgraded a few times with bonus icons picked up on the way. Each character excels in some parts of the game while sucking at others, but their differences are so minor that it’s almost disappointing. Actual shooting isn’t that promising either, introducing a model where constant button mashing only fires off weak shots while holding down the button gives a really short burst of rapid fire before starting to charge for a slow but admittedly powerful shot. That’s tactical, sure, but after a whole day of shooting my thumb is already screaming for mercy.

Each stage takes place in an arcadey setting, themed from an entire venue to pinballs, UFO catchers, racing games, or 80’s retro gems. The stages in the arcade version are mostly good for a wry smile but the additional stages of the Saturn version manage to raise a few genuine laughs. For example, there’s a level in which a cute gal is singing karaoke, filling the screen with hiragana that should either be destroyed quickly in hopes of a better score or desperately avoided so that your inner otaku can enjoy through the whole song. Even JRPG boss battles take a strange turn when Yamada, posing as an evil wizard with hit points and an entire role-playing user interface, faces off against some rapid-firing shoot ’em up justice. Should nothing else raise a smile, the destructive fetish bombs of the loliest character in the roster are likely to make the player both shake and nod at the same time. Oh, endearing Japan, never ever change!

Still, since we are essentially talking about a Japanese shooter, it can be a cold shower straight from the very beginning. I made the mistake of hopping straight into the Saturn port of the arcade version, which on normal difficulty and a 4:3 playing area was nothing short of torture. Bullets fly into your face with such intensity and accuracy that I was lucky to survive for 15 seconds and even if credits are infinite, constant dying ate away gaming enjoyment like a starved squirrel (fond of gaming enjoyment). Utterly demoralized by all this, I switched over to the original arcade version, changed difficulty to Very Easy, upped lives from three to five, and even activated a feature that automatically uses a mega bomb in case of an immediate death. After this, the game began to open up. The arcade mode is obviously even more narrow as far as the whole screen is concerned but at least I finally had time to react to things. Even with every possible training wheel in play, it took a few tries to complete a 1CC run but I’m happy the options were there. This is probably how learning any ruthless shooter begins, anyway.

After enough training, even the bonus stage inclusive story mode of the Saturn version became tolerable. Not only does repetition help in learning the enemy patterns, it also teaches when not to shoot at all. Since each downed enemy fires off one sizable bullet as a bitter thank you gift, it’s often better to concentrate on mere survival rather than a position on the high score table. Also, the story mode has an added benefit of adorable between-stage chibi cinematics. Nonsensical for those of us who don’t understand Japanese but still amusing, even if you can only pick up a word here and there.

One day on the easiest and most pathetic difficulty was perfectly fine to have a grand shoot ’em up time. The game might not have enough oomph to rival Konami’s ever-awesome Parodius series but I’m still thankful to Kadokawa Games for releasing this port of a port, even if only in Japan; at least in this household, silly shooters are always welcome!

Hanami Recharge

The complete lethargy that has been pestering me all this year is hopefully now a thing of the past, cured by the only way I know of. On Easter Monday, I flipped the bird at Finland’s cold and slushy spring and headed back to Tokyo after a break of a couple of years. That same day, the last winter storm hit the country pretty hard but the gallant professionals of Helsinki-Vantaa did a commendable job keeping everything running. Many flights were canceled, sure, but long-haul flights weren’t luckily among them. Although Finnair handled its part immaculately and the plane boarded on time, we still had to wait for connecting passengers from Sweden for over an hour. Because of Murphy’s laws, there also had to be that one poor sod whose luggage was already on the plane but the person was not. Still, we eventually got going and as a pleasant surprise, the originally overbooked plane had a couple of no-shows who would’ve been sitting next to me. The new Airbus 350-900 is a mighty comfortable plane even as-is with but when I had three seats worth of personal space, it was as much luxury as economy class can possibly offer.

Since my usual go-to- hotel, Ville Fontaine Kayabacho, had raised its prices uncomfortably high at least for the duration of the hanami season, I had to hunt down a slightly cheaper place to stay at. Equally near to the Tokyo City Air Terminal, I found a passable alternative in City Pension Zem. It’s a minuscule, 27-room family hotel that was quite modest and endearingly old-fashioned but as long as you don’t expect anything more than cheap accommodation, free Wi-Fi, and at least a little bit of breakfast every morning, it was most adequate. The sound proofing is abysmal but since each floor only has three or four rooms and fellow passengers were courteous enough to stay quiet most of the time, the nights were peaceful. The biggest drawback of the hotel is probably its location. It takes a five-minute walk just to the nearest metro station of Suitengumae, which isn’t even connected to anything noteworthy. Another five minutes of walking gets you to the slightly better aligned stations of either Ningyocho or Kayabacho but as these trips are always about plenty of walking, even short distances like these quickly add up to eventually murder your feet. Still, the hotel was good value for money and since the service was excellent, it’s certainly worth a recommendation on budget.

As for hanami, last year I was visiting the country a little bit too early and this time around a little bit too late. Japan had a chilly spring but at the last possible moment it turned into an unexpected heatwave that caused cherry blossoms to go crazy. Thankfully the first few days were still good enough to enjoy a bit of leftover spring celebration in Ueno Park, which was still teeming with people enjoying a relaxed picnic and food stalls offering all sorts of festival grub. Even Tokyoites seemed slightly perplexed of temperatures rising as high as 26° C but at least they later got down to more manageable 15-20° C. All in all, the weather was great for the entire week and for the first time ever, I never had to resort to an umbrella.

On whole, this year’s trip was mostly a best of selection from the past visits. I went to Odaiba to play some pinball and retro arcades (can be found from the fourth floor of Decks Mall Tokyo Beach), and enjoyed the new and impressively lit Unicorn Gundam in front of Diver City Plaza. For food, there was yakitori in the ever-wonderful Torigin in Ginza as well as on Omoide Yokocho, also known as Piss Alley, which featured loads of quaint little bars and grills on a narrow alleyway. The mandatory pilgrimage for Yakuza fans, Kabukicho, was also worth a visit. For thirst of culture, there was the Yebisu Museum of Beer, and a new Godzilla statue was featured in Hibiya, although it was a lot smaller than I thought it would be. Then again, the giant, steampunk-inspired Ghibli clock in Shiodome was truly a sight to behold, especially when it puts up an amusing three-minute show a few times a day.

I also checked out Yokohama, an hour away from Tokyo but easily accessible on the Tokaido line. For the second biggest city in Japan, it was a massive letdown. Sure, there was a little Nissan gallery, the observation tower of Minato Mirai, and Chinatown where steamed meat buns could be bought at practically every street corner, but that’s about it. The city is probably quite a bit more impressive during nighttime but as a day trip, it was just a waste of time. Thankfully Kawasaki, halfway between Tokyo and Yokohama, delivered big time. From the Kawasaki station, it’s just a five-minute walk to Anata no Warehouse, which very well might be the most wonderful arcade on this entire planet! This five-story complex, deliberately designed to look decrepit, imitates the Walled City of Kowloon and it’s just plain awesome! The entrance leads to a decontamination chamber good for a small jump scare, after which a dimly lit corridor leads you on a visually and aurally creepy time trip to the past. The elevator and the toilets in particular look like places to lose your life in bizarre circumstances, and the attention to detail is duly impressive. The main attraction, of course, are the games of which there are dozens and dozens, new and old, and many that can be played for just 50 yen a go. It’s a cheap, highly entertaining way to spend even an entire day, should your ears handle the cacophony.

Amid all this, there was naturally Akihabara. After paying a visit to the Kanda Myojin shrine and its wonderful manga prayer plaques, I rummaged through the arcades and game shops with huge fervor and ended up with a nice selection of all sorts of curios. For GBA, there’s Kessakusen! Ganbare Goemon 1+2: Yukihime to Magginesu, which at least looks like to be an action platformer of sorts. On PS2, it’s all about music (Taiko no Tatsujin: Tobikkiri! Anime Special and Taiko no Tatsujin: Wai Wai Happy Rokudaime) and bullet hell shooters (Dodonpachi Daioujou, Mushihimesama, Triggerheart Exelica Enhanced, and Twinklestar Sprites: La Petite Princesse). PSP retro comes in four flavors, namely Dariusburst, Capcom Classics Collection, SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1, and SNK Arcade Classics 0. For the 3DS, SoniPro: Super Sonico in Production promises gravure, rhythm, and idol management while Vita is good for music (DJMax Technika Tune) and shooting (Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours). My PS4 collection is bolstered with the Japanese trio of The Idolm@ster: Stella Stage, Game Tengoku CruisinMix, and Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone DX, and I even happened upon an import shelf that had a EU region copy of Shovel Knight. That’s probably the next summer vacation all sorted out, then.