One of the best things about the Evercade retro gaming platform is that it doesn’t just focus on the “big hitters” of retro gaming — the games we’ve all played before — but also pays just as much attention to some of the lesser-known developers, publishers and games from throughout the history of the medium — including plenty of great Japanese titles.
The Jaleco Collection 1 cartridge for the Evercade — cartridge number 15 in the library to date — is a great example of this. Jaleco themselves are not nearly as well-known as some of the other companies that have been celebrated in the Evercade library so far, but they put out some great games over the years — and this selection gives us a nice cross-section of their varied output across the 8- and 16-bit console eras.
So let’s take a quick look at each of the games in turn!
The NES version of Astyanax we find on the Jaleco Collection 1 cart for Evercade shares its name with a similar Jaleco arcade game from 1989, but aside from the basic format of the game the two titles have nothing to do with one another.
In Astyanax, we take on the role of a high schooler whose parents apparently had a penchant for Greek mythology when naming him. As these things tend to go, Astyanax finds himself sucked into a strange other world and confronted with a fairy called Cutie, who helpfully informs him that he needs to go save Princess Rosebud because he is “the warrior chosen by this world”. Oh, and by the way, only Princess Rosebud has the power to send him home kthxbye.
Astyanax unfolds as a deliberately paced side-scrolling platformer with some impressively large sprites and light RPG-style mechanics. You can power up Astyanax’s axe with collectible icons — and the weapon will actually change form as it gets more powerful, which is a nice touch — and make use of some devastating magics to clear the screen. Learning the levels is key, because there are times when Astyanax’s magical power is essential to progress.
Astyanax is a solid platformer that becomes more varied and interesting as it progresses, introducing a broader range of enemies as well as vertically scrolling levels where you have to climb rather than simply proceeding forwards. It’s particularly noteworthy for its smooth scrolling and large sprites — Astyanax himself is well-animated, some of the enemies are surprisingly grotesque considering the limited colour palette they use, and there are some massive boss enemies to conclude the stages.
Another arcade conversion, the NES version of Bases Loaded found in the Jaleco Collection 1 cart for Evercade was regarded for a long time as one of the best video game baseball titles out there. And there must have been something to it; it spawned seven sequels across three generations of consoles.
In its native Japan, Bases Loaded was known as Moero!! Pro Yakyuu and was part of a broader series of sports games all prefixed Moero!! — other titles in this series were localised as NES basketball title Hoops, NES tennis game Racket Attack and the NES/SNES soccer series Goal!, the latest installment of which is also found on the Jaleco Collection 1 cartridge.
Bases Loaded has endured so well over the years because it plays a decent game of baseball, but does so without overcomplicating matters for people who don’t know a lot about the sport. It’s an accessible, arcade-style game that is fun to play if you only have a passing knowledge of how baseball works — plus it’s always fun to hear the poor old NES do its best with digitised speech.
One of two beat ’em up titles on the Jaleco Collection 1 cart for Evercade, SNES title Brawl Brothers was originally known as Rushing Beat Ran: Fukusei Toshi (or Rushing beat Chaos: The City of Clones) in Japan.
Brawl Brothers is a solid, enjoyable classic-style belt-scrolling beat ’em up with a varied cast of playable characters, each of whom handles quite differently. In a nice twist on the usual formula for this sort of thing, the characters you don’t pick to play as form the bosses for the first three levels of the game, while the final level features a battle against the game’s main villain.
Brawl Brothers lacks a little of the sense of physical impact from more well-known brawlers such as Final Fight and Streets of Rage, but its varied cast of playable characters and interesting, well-drawn stages make it well worth a play.
Interestingly, if you want to play as the original Japanese version, you can do that — at the “Jaleco” intro screen, repeatedly press A, B, Y, X in sequence on the Evercade until you get to a glitched-looking screen. Then press Start, down three times and Start again. This will bring you to the options screen. Exit the options screen and you’ll see the Japanese title screen. From here, you can enjoy the Japanese version of the game, which is slightly easier — and features a “groin kick” move for one of the characters which Nintendo of America cut from the North American Brawl Brothers release!
One of Jaleco’s strangest games, City Connection for NES is a simple arcade-style platformer in which you drive a car in an attempt to “paint” over every square of “road” in the level. Along the way, a combination of police cars and flag-waving cats with a death wish will do their best to stop you as you listen to an increasingly excruciating rock-and-roll rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 from the NES’ beleaguered sound chip as the game progresses.
City Connection is one of numerous examples of games from the NES age which were heavily localised for a western audience. In the original arcade and Famicom versions of City Connection, the game’s main character was a cute blue-haired girl named Clarice who was driving a Honda City around the world in search of love; in the western version, meanwhile, we took on the role of an unnamed male protagonist who had stolen a bunch of white paint and was seemingly determined to leak it over a variety of famous landmarks.
City Connection distinguishes itself from other classic platformers with similar mechanics through its use of a car as the thing you control. This adds more subtlety to the way the game handles than you might think — not only do you have to deal with an actual turning animation while changing direction, you also have to wait for the car to accelerate enough to pop a wheelie before you can jump. This means that you need to allow plenty of room for manoeuvring when trying to move up and down the levels of each stage — and you can bet those damned cats will get in the way while you do.
City Connection is one of those ’80s arcade-style games that initially feels absolutely impossible — but once you get your head around the basic mechanics, it becomes surprisingly addictive. If at first you don’t succeed with this one, practice a bit; it’s worth the effort if you’re in the mood for a quick hit of arcadey fun, and it’s one of the more addictive titles in Jaleco Collection 1 for Evercade.
Earth Defense Force
First things first: this game is nothing to do with the cult hit series of insect-blasting games from D3 Publisher, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out. In fact, it fills what has been a bit of a gap in the Evercade’s library up until this point: speedy, slick, 16-bit shoot ’em ups.
Earth Defense Force is another arcade port, though in this case it’s more of an adaptation; the SNES version we find on the Jaleco Collection 1 cartridge for Evercade actually has more features over and above the arcade original; notably, it adds some additional graphical flourishes and, more significantly, the opportunity to choose a weapon before you start the game. And these weapons change the way the game plays considerably.
One of Earth Defense Force’s most interesting features is that rather than making use of a conventional shoot ’em up power-up system, it has an experience and levelling system; blast more enemies, get more experience, get more powerful when you level up. Pleasingly, your experience and level persists if you use a continue — welcome news given the pretty monstrous difficulty of this game.
Earth Defense Force puts up a very stiff challenge, but it’s an enjoyable one — and there’s plenty of beautiful 16-bit pixel art, parallax scrolling and SNES music to enjoy along the way.
Operation Logic Bomb
Operation Logic Bomb — known as Ikari no Yousai in Japan — is a top-down action adventure originally released for SNES. It’s a good example of Jaleco’s 16-bit output in the early ’90s, as it’s a game that was very clearly designed for play in the home rather than providing a quick-hit arcade-style experience — in fact, in many ways, the design and structure of this game feels very much like the format of a number of first-person shooters from over the years.
In Operation Logic Bomb, you play Agent Logan, a cybernetic trooper who has been sent in to investigate a laboratory that has been having a spot of bother with interdimensional rifts. You’ll have to blast enemies, rescue allies and discover the truth of what happened by viewing recordings on the base’s surviving computers.
If it was released as a brand new game today, Operation Logic Bomb would probably be a twin-stick shooter, but since it originally came out on a platform with just one D-pad, it instead uses a system where holding a shoulder button can “lock” the direction your character is facing while you strafe around. It takes a little getting used to if you’re more accustomed to traditional twin-stick controls — or indeed the directional shooting found in Xeno Crisis elsewhere in the Evercade library — but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find Logan is quite manoeuvrable.
Operation Logic Bomb presents a fairly stiff challenge with a stingy number of continues — but you can always save-state your way through to the end on Jaleco Collection 1 for Evercade. It’s a journey worth taking; this is a great top-down action adventure that has doubtless passed a lot of people by over the years.
Originally known as Rushing Beat in Japan, this is technically the prequel to Brawl Brothers, though the localised releases of the two games found on the Jaleco Collection 1 cartridge for Evercade make it look as if they have nothing to do with one another. It’s another beat ’em up, this time with a notably “stiffer” feel to its controls and combat than its successor; it hasn’t been received all that well over the years but it actually plays surprisingly well if you give it a chance.
Rival Turf is interesting for having an unusual scoring system; rather than the usual beat ’em up approach of scoring points for landing blows and defeating enemies, the game instead keeps track of how many enemies you have knocked out with “badges” at the top of the screen.
There’s a nice variety of enemies, each of which have their own distinct reach and variety of moves with which they will attempt to kick your bottom, and despite the two playable characters not having all that many moves between them, you’ll find you need to vary up your strategy and control space effectively in order to succeed in Rival Turf.
Super Goal! 2
Another part of the Moero!! series in Japan, Super Goal 2 is a Super NES soccer game with an attractive tilted 3D perspective and fun arcade-style gameplay, making it a great fit for the Jaleco Collection 1 cart for Evercade.
The game offers 24 playable teams from around the world — with made-up player names due to the lack of any sort of licensing — plus the ability to play a single exhibition match, a full cup or a penalty shootout. Matches can be customised quite a bit, with the option to turn on and off elements such as fouls, back passes, overtime and the offside rule as well as set a custom time limit.
In the game, Super Goal! 2 follows the mould of Bases Loaded by offering a game that is broadly accessible even to those only with a passing knowledge of the sport. Play is responsive and fun with a distinctly arcadey feel — helped along by the optional musical accompaniment to the match — and the Mode 7-powered 3D perspective looks nice without obscuring the action too much.
The Ignition Factor
One of the most interesting games on the Jaleco Collection 1 cartridge for Evercade, The Ignition Factor casts you in the role of a firefighter and tasks you with completing a series of increasingly perilous missions in burning buildings. You’ll usually have to rescue a series of survivors within a strict time limit, but sometimes various events around the level make things a bit more interesting.
In The Ignition Factor, you’ll need to carefully prioritise exploration of the building, fighting the fires and seeking resupplies from allies when needed. While it’s tempting to try and clean up all the fires you see, in practice this will cause you to run out of time quickly. Your priority is to rescue the hostages and secure a safe route to the exit; anything else you might be able to achieve on the way is a bonus, and you are rewarded accordingly at the end of a stage with additional points if you manage to discover things in the level.
This is a highly unusual game that is quite unlike anything else from the 16-bit era. Although some critics at the time of its original release claimed it was “a repackaged version of Capcom’s Command and Sega’s Alien Syndrome”, in many respects the game has more in common with classic survival horror titles than all-action shootouts. It’s certainly one of Jaleco’s most memorable games — and while not everyone will get on with its deliberately paced, strategic gameplay, it’s well worth at least giving a go to see how you get on.
The last game in the Jaleco Collection 1 cartridge for Evercade is NES title Totally Rad, another game which underwent extremely heavy localisation in its journey to the west. Originally known as Magic John for its Famicom release, the game originally featured two Japanese children as its lead characters, but in the western localisation these were turned into Californian teenagers who speak in surfer lingo.
Totally Rad is a Mega Man-style side-scrolling platformer with an interesting twist: you have a variety of magical abilities available to you from the outset which allow you to do things like heal yourself or transform into creatures with varied attack styles. Much like in Mega Man, these transformations and their alternative weapons are often crucial to success in the game’s various boss fights.
Although tonally inconsistent thanks to the overzealous localisation clashing somewhat with the presentation of the actual game action, Totally Rad is a solid and enjoyable side-scroller that is presented well. It’s particularly impressive to see some smooth parallax scrolling on the NES — and like in Astyanax, there are some huge bosses in the mix; it may not surprise you to learn that Astyanax and Totally Rad were developed by the same team.
All in all, there are some great titles in the Jaleco Collection 1 cart for Evercade, and it’s a solid investment for anyone interested in classic Japanese gaming — particularly those titles which haven’t had quite so much attention and love over the years.
That’s what the Evercade is all about — a love of all aspects of retro gaming, not just the super-popular bits — and the Jaleco Collection 1 cart is one of the best examples to date of just that.
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