Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Game 64: Bosconian

Genre:Top-Down Shooter
Time:1 hour

Before firing it up, Bosconian seems like an interesting title. A multi-directional shoot 'em up, with diagonal scrolling in 1981? Apparently we in the western world didn't care much for that, but Japan sure seems enamored at the prospect. At least that's how I interpret a bunch of Japanese computers as direct ports. The story is aliens defeated mankind in the "Rock War", enslaved us and now we've built one spaceship to regain our freedom. Bosconian proved to be tricky for me to start, primarily due to me assuming that running it in a MSX emulator would be easy. I'm not going into details, but let's just say I hate building things from source, because it always turns out to screw something up. Also, I should have played the X68000 version.

Starts off simple enough, arrow keys for movement*, space shoots. Back and front, very convenient for my habit of running from combat. Free-scrolling, free movement, even diagonally, but its not swift or anything like that. Slow and steady wins the race. Enemies are mines, ships, missiles, fast ships, squadrons of ships which home in on you, and the starbases you're supposed to destroy. They can take multiple hits, but a well-aimed shot can hit them where it counts. That's the gist of it, but how does it play?
Its very frantic, despite the seeming slow pace. You die in one hit, and its very easy to get hit. Constant squadrons, first of ships, then of missiles, chase after you, requiring you to take them out. And sometimes you encounter a spy ship, who if you leave alive raises the danger level to red. This causes a ton of ships to swarm you, which is very difficult to escape from. This also seems to arrive naturally, if you're taking a while on a single live. In your favor, enemy ships do not harmlessly pass through stationary objects like mines and asteroids, they get hit too.
With that said, its actually fun. I managed to get up to level 6, albeit with save states. The game throws a lot at you, and you don't get much rest. This is both good and bad. This is good because that is what makes this game fun...but with no real save or a respite, its not a simple task to reach whatever qualifies as the end of this game. Winning is a part of video games, even if some of us wish a challenge in getting there.
Simple, yet effective, and the rear laser is a nice touch. 2/10

Typical arcade selection, normal, stationary, fast, target. 2/10


Various preset levels that are more like configurations of enemy placement than a real level. 0/10

Player Agency:
You can move in 8 directions, but I just wish I didn't have to press the two directions together to go diagonally. Also, its very slow. 3/10


Just simple arcade game ambience. 0/10

Simple, quickly understandable graphics. 1/10

Generic excuse story that doesn't matter. 0/10

General arcade-y bloops and blips. 1/10

If my math is correct, that should be 9. I know the rating doesn't reflect that, it never does with simpler games, but this feels like an undiscovered arcade classic. Namco, we'll be seeing their work again real soon, and probably a lot more over the years. So far they're not showing up often on my list, but I'm done on that only up to 1986. They've got at least one game every year up until then. As of this writing I have 13 games in 1981 left on my list. None of them seem impressive, but its 1981 and I'm starting to have a negative opinion on the games that seem big in this time frame.

*If you're wondering why Japan grasped this better than the rest of the world, I believe early arrow positions were not convenient for gaming on early keyboards elsewhere. At least that's how it was with the Spectrum, the C64 had other issues.

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