"Osomatsu-kun: Hachamecha Gekijou is a war of attrition; progression in the game is dependant on what simply breaks first. The gameís surreal presentation or your will to continue onward."
If youíre anything like me, you find it extremely hard to resist the sirenís call of the obscure game. Youíre also tall, need a shave, your first name is Gary, and you break on average of three limbs a year. Well, Gary, should you ever manage to hobble over to Japan and root around in the bargain bins for random Mega Drive titles with unpronounceable names, then youíll probably find yourself quite attracted to Osomatsu-kun: Hachamecha Gekijou, at least enough to bug one of your bilingual chums into providing a rough translation of the name.
Heíll only be able to decode the last word, which means Ďplayí or Ďstageí. Youíll secretly mark him down in your book of insolent people for punishment at a later date.
Forced to do the research yourself, youíll find Osomatsu-kun started life as a manga back in the mid-60ís, making it still considerably younger than Overdrive, that spawned two anime adaptations. The later anime, made in the 80ís, led to the development of the game, which was one of the four initial titles to be released on the Japanese strain of the Mega Drive back on Xmas eve, 1988. A competent reviewer might delve more into the series that founded this title, but I only got into this reviewing game for the bitches and the cash money. Enough time has been wasted.
Itís hard not to be torn right on the offset of Osomatsuís adventure. You join your odd avatar strolling through a nondescript door, only to end up on a strange plain absolutely drowning in oriental backdrops and foregrounds. Green bamboo shoots litter the screen while the rolling mountains in the foreground are illuminated by a vibrant rising sun that flashes reds and oranges, while twanging guitar chords only serve to accent the sheer Japan-ness of the scene. Your character, clad in a light blue tunic and sporting any number of the expected anime expressions depending on his current state of health, can leap around liberally and enjoy infinite blasts from his very short range slingshot. Take a few steps forward, and heíll be accosted immediately by a fire-red infant that leaps into the air and morphs into a ball coloured in a distressing shade of brown. Shoot it out of the air, and it turns into a ribbon.
A few more steps will introduce you to more of these odd creatures, as well as slack-grey beasts rooted to the spot that fire tumbling plasma blasts that limp lethargically across the screen. The new enemy looks like a melted pile of wax thatís been welded to the spot, complete with a gaudy bandana roped around what might once have been a neck and lazy, lackadaisical eyes. You blast its projectiles out of the air with shots of your own, and lay into your new target which takes several hits to fell, each blow either received or dished out resulting in an exaggerated look of pain from the taker. He, too, will die leaving only a ribbon it his wake.
The oddness of Osomatsu-kun is perhaps the second most charming aspect the game has, alongside the fact that you almost feel you could draw a better opposing cast yourself in MSPaint. Continue to explore, and youíll discover a mutated caveman-like creature that towers above you, two horns protruding from a cultivated and well-groomed head of hair. This loin-clothed adorned, pot-bellied baddie, who looks like the victim of a tragic fishing accident that saw a hook get caught in one of his cheeks then pulled so hard it became permanently elongated, holds a mighty club in one hand. Like most of the cast, he only seems to have about three stills of animation, meaning that though he bounds around the screen like a grasshopper on LSD, he does so in the exact same pose employed by standing stock still. Heíll follow the same pattern religiously: one jump forward, one jump back, then whack the ground with his club twice to send chunks of earth flying in your direction. Osomatsu, not being the nimblest of heroes, will find these very hard to dodge. Especially considering how close to his quarry heíll need to stray should he want to actually make contact with his short range attacks.
By the time this latest threat is abolished, Osomatsuís once cheery expression will have turned to one of teary-eyed despair, his mood plummeting with the decrease of his health bar. You can regain heath with the odd food goods defeated enemies drop, but the sheer awkwardness of combat means youíll always be losing more energy then you can sensibly recoup. Osomatsu-kun is a game where combat is often a sad necessity, but itís sometimes possible to take a few hits and run the hell away, a preferred tactic when dealing with dog-faced flies that drop half-chewed bones on your head, or scuttling man-sized crabs. Dodge the bones, leap the crabs -- get right back to exploring!
Here, youíll squeeze the most enjoyment out of a game that allows you to weave you own path through its worlds. Numerous doors lead to differing sections of the stages while sheer drops do not equal death, but access to underground caverns complete with spiral sea shells that give birth to shaven human heads and rain down a torrential shower of umbrellas. Explore enough, and youíll find a mid-level boss you need to see off before you can navigate to the levelís real end and fight what awaits you there. Each time you work over one of the big boys, you get a new slice of health to add to your count and your slingshot finds a little more range. The right path isnít signposted, so itís up to you to tread through your surreal surroundings until you stumble upon it. Along the way, youíll find sausage dogs with traditional samurai hairdos and shops that trade your ribbons for limited power-ups and turns on a slot machine just because.
Itís a wacky, unpredictable game that allows you to get completely lost in a landscape thatís just as likely to have you grab on to a gaggle of balloons and float to safety as it is to hurl a chubby, floating Buddha with a love of dripping lightning at you. But should the veneer of insanity start to crumble, youíre left with a game that has you wandering around aimlessly searching for your exit, and a game that insists you fight simplistic but oft aggravatingly stubborn enemies armed with only a clunky and clumsy battle system.
Maybe you really are just like me and you can start to overlook these flaws enough to plough your way through the game. Perhaps it wonít even bother you that thereís no continue systems and that when your meagre stock of five extras lives is gone, itís a katakana-written game over screen for you. Not to begin with, at least. When youíre on your millionth crusade through the oddball landscapes, when the big-lipped caveman and the cannonball babies are vanquished for the billionth time, their appeal slips into sharp decline. Osomatsu-kun: Hachamecha Gekijou is a game thatís value decreases every time you play it, which makes it quite the drawback that itís also a game you need to play a hell of a lot to get any significant distance in. I saw what awaited me past the rolling mountains and the neon-strobe sunsets, but youíre probably not me. If you were, youíd have stopped reading at the mention of the umbrella-spewing hybrid in an attempt to track the game down.
For the rest of you, Osomatsu-kun: Hachamecha Gekijou is a war of attrition; progression in the game is dependant on what simply breaks first. The gameís surreal presentation or your will to continue onward.
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