Bokosuka Wars (NES) review
"You'll find no attempts at a witty introduction here, as I'm sure you heard them all already. The constant declarations of "Worst Game Ever," the ridiculous "I'd rather promote massive bodily harm on myself than play this again," and the ever annoying "what kind of illegal substances were the developers ingesting?" have been told far too often. Besides, none of them are true. The developers weren't in an altered state, just lazy and unaware of one or two major design flaws. Playing the game ..."
You'll find no attempts at a witty introduction here, as I'm sure you heard them all already. The constant declarations of "Worst Game Ever," the ridiculous "I'd rather promote massive bodily harm on myself than play this again," and the ever annoying "what kind of illegal substances were the developers ingesting?" have been told far too often. Besides, none of them are true. The developers weren't in an altered state, just lazy and unaware of one or two major design flaws. Playing the game certainly isn't masochistic, headaches not withstanding. And it is most certainly not the worst game I have ever played. Rotten, but it still had some potential.
So anywho, evil ugly king-dude has a massive castle. Good white king guy is attacking the castle for great justice. But he can't do it alone. Some of his soldiers have been mercilessly turned to bushes and trees by the bad guys, and our hero must save them as well. By touching these plants, he turns them back to normal. In return, these knights and peasants join good guy's crusade, accompanying him on his trek to the castle. But it is a long walk - 600 meters (tiles) to the end, and the path is loaded with enemies (hey, the good guys are always the underdogs, right?). The road is treacherous, but you must prevail if you are to win the Bokosuka Wars.
Although it may not sound like it from the description, Bokosuka is best described as a strategy game. There's no action involved - merely move your character into a square occupied by the enemy to initiate combat (a la chess). But unlike chess, hit points and randomness decide who wins the battle. The loser is exterminated, and the victor levels up. Beefing up is certainly helpful, but that must be weighed against the risk of death (and if you lose your king, you lose the game). And so the strategy comes in determining what battles to avoid and what battles to initiate. The other strategy aspect is in creating safe havens for your characters. Battle can only be initiated by you, and so you can use your hordes of followers to block the enemies while your knights and king run through without being caught. This is more difficult then it sounds, though, because you cannot control individual units. You may select all of your peasants, all of your knights, your king, or everyone to move, but not half your peasants or one knight. So figuring out the best way to maneuver, using obstacles on the screen to rearrange your armies, takes a lot of time and patience.
Surprisingly, few of the other reviews here touch on what I consider to be the worst aspect of the game: the controls. Or lack thereof, in this case. Normally, one would reasonably expect that, if you were to press to the right on your D-Pad, your character would move right. Not so here. Sure, he doesn't move left or up or down either, which is kind of a plus. He just doesn't move. Your characters do not always respond to pressing the buttons!!! This is inexcusable, pure and simple. Not only is it frustrating, but it is a complete detriment to the game in three major ways. 1) Occasionally you may want to have your characters make a run for it when the enemies are momentarily out of the way, but you can't do it if your character won't move half the time. 2) It's very difficult to get your peasants in elaborate, effective formations when you have no idea which ones will respond to your commands this time. 3) You can never really be sure you actually checked every bush for a new character, as your button pressing may not register. If there's one legitimate complaint, this is it.
Of course, the main complaint is that it is far too easy to die. Every battle your king gets in could very well be the end of the world, or at least the end of the game. And since there is a significant amount of randomness in battles, any battle is a risk. Clearly, this is not smart. Any game in which all your progress can be destroyed by mere luck is stupid and uncalled for. So now you're stuck in a dilemma. Do you let your king get into battles because he's the strongest, or do you risk severe casualties letting your peasants do the work? Do you allow your king to fight now in order to level up, even though he still has a chance of dying? It's a tough call, and you're risking everything every single time your king gets into a battle. No game should rely on luck.
On the other hand, it's not as bad as some people make it out to be. For one, because you are the only one who can initiate battles, you can try to stay away from the tougher guys. Also, your king can become the most powerful unit in the game. All you have to do is fight battles against the weakest soldiers, pumping your character up and increasing his chances of survival. He usually wins. Heck, I once decided to do nothing but press the left button, blindly charging the enemy base. I managed to make about 280m without avoiding any enemies or calling upon reinforcements. So clearly, it's not like the odds are ridiculously stacked against you. You have a chance.
Of course, that mindless assault of mine brought to light another problem. How exciting can a game be when you can see almost one half of it by holding down a single button? Sadly, it doesn't get much better playing normally. The game is simply boring, moving along at the most snail-like pace imaginable. Navigating your army around obstacles can be a major hassle as your progress grinds to a halt whenever there are large amounts of trees in the way. And if you want to include strategy in the mix, you'll be (im)patiently maneuvering your characters for what seems like hours. There's no saving, no passwords, no nothing - you're in it until the end, whether it be the rare victory or all too crushing defeat. Or, to sum it up as succinctly as possible: life's boring, then you die.
But at least life gets exciting after you die. The "WOW! YOU LOSE!" death screen is classic. It's worth playing just to see it. Seriously.
But better yet is the satisfaction of seeing the "BRAVO! YOU WIN!" screen, in which you get to chase that slimy evil guy far away. It's a great end to one of the most grueling ordeals in video game history - actually beating level 1. After painfully maneuvering your troops through the castle, after faithfully breaking your troops out of prison despite the fact that they're almost useless, after gritting your teeth and hoping your king survives this battle, you will finally reach the end of that trek, and meet up with evil king. Satisfaction!
Surprisingly, the satisfaction of achieving such a stupid goal is pretty strong. And you'll realize that the trip itself wasn't that bad. Oh, objectively speaking, it's horrible. But you ignored all of it by focusing your entire concentration on actually winning. None of the problems seemed apparent as you studied the screen looking for a way to block that particularly nasty enemy, and the thrill of seeing your army mindlessly charge the well-guarded gates is worth the entrance fee. You'll also notice that the level design is rather impressive, with varying landscapes every 100 meters. Each one will force you to take a different strategy, culminating in navigating the maze of the castle itself. For such a bad game, it's surprising that such variety would be found. It's almost worth going through just to see that.
Aw, who am I kidding. Although beating it is a pretty cool experience, you'll soon return to the reality that Bokosuka Wars is a poorly made game with stupid decisions and sloppy programming, not to mention painfully slow and boring. The fact that the satisfaction cannot possibly last once you win and the game repeats itself (it got harder?!? No thanks!) is a testament to this fact. There's no way around it - the game's pathetic. But it is not without its redeeming qualities, which unfortunately many people can't seem to find. This game is no Pit Fighter; it doesn't deserve the extreme bashing it receives. What it deserves is a complete makeover, becoming something that might be worth playing when the flaws are stripped away. The underlying premise is kind of decent, but unfortunately it is besieged by the ugly mechanics.
Community review by mariner (September 24, 2005)
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