Unlike the cartridges Nintendo was using at the time, disks were cheap, re-usable, relatively capacious — and unbelievably inviting to pirates. After a short heyday, during which Nintendo published many of its early classics, cartridge technology caught up to and then surpassed what was possible on the disk system, consigning it to a shady pasture flooded with games of ill repute by companies without the resources or the family-friendly standards to swing a cartridge order with Nintendo. Consequently the software library is highly variegated: smash hits that made their way onto bigger and better systems; lost classics; oddball puzzlers; shoddy PC ports designed to make as much money as possible with as little effort; edutainment; and porn. What follows is a fairly random selection.
Ai Senshi Nicol. The game where your “love warrior” cries “Oh! My God.” And jumps into the abyss.
Bishoujo Control. H: the final frontier. Be sure to defend your “vessel” from enemy scissors, syringes, and condoms. Utterly eclipses Penisian.
Casino de Pink. The award-winning chronicle of a misanthropic card sharp and the brothel he inadvertently saves.
Chitei Tairiku Orudoora (Chinou Game Series 3). A violent, grenade-ridden introduction to the metric system.
Clu Clu Land. Some see video games as a form of escapism. This game will turn your life into a form of escapism.
Cocona World. There are “crazy” Japanese games — with graphics that tread on your favorite taboo and English that looks like it came from a can of paint thinner by way of the translator’s nostrils — and then there are the truly bizarre. The ones that subtly tug at your sanity over time. Cocona World, an adventure starring a witch, is both.
Date de Blackjack. The increasingly base h-games released by competitors left the lads at Hacker International no choice but to grope their way toward maturity. And grope they did — while their rivals were setting new lows, Hacker hit on the following idea: what if, instead of taking her clothes off when you won, Reiko granted you a date? If the date went well, you’d get another opportunity after winning another round of cards. Behave well enough over a long enough period of time, and eventually she might yield to your advances. Thus was conceived the thinking man’s h-game: prim, insufferable, and the paragon of sophistication.
Dead Zone. A jet on the title screen? Please. That is so nineteen eighty si— oh.
Dig Dug. Namco: strategically re-releasing old games until they become classics.
Electrician. Walk around laying cable, reconnecting power, complaining about the super.
Knight Move. Grid-based puzzle game from an “A. Pazhitonov,” starring a chess-piece knight who bounces around the board collecting points. Attract mode is life-affirming.
Kobayashi Hitomi’s Hold Up. Promising intro screen, but, like all games where pixelated breasts are the payoff, frustrating execution. You shoot women with your squirt gun, whether to arouse them or blast their clothes off I can’t say. It’s basically Where’s Waldo? on some girl’s body, except Waldo is one pixel high and invisible.
Konamic Tennis. Nothing to recommend it over Nintendo’s Tennis except the players are women. Lesbian Tennis 2 waiting to happen.
Lipstick #1-#5. Ten sliding block puzzles of poorly drawn hentai. And nothing says hentai like an absolutely abrasive rendition of a classical piece someone thought would connote good taste.
Mahjong. Notable to the mahjong illiterate only for its excellent pause screen (“tea time!”).
Michael English Daibouken. It’s like Space Channel 5 plus Hello Kitty, and you learn English as you play.
Moero Twinbee. Bomb tombstones and they turn into giant bags of cash. When will Twinbee’s associates Gwinbee and Winbee get their own games?
Moeru Yakyuuken. Undress Emi-chan by proving your superiority in rock-paper-scissors. Or: unclench your fist and walk away.
Monty’s Doki Doki Dai Dassou. Escaped con flees through the surrounding wilderness, killing every woodland animal in his path. Highly enjoyable.
Moonball Magic. The sound effects, all pops and modulated bounces, are not bad enough to warrant the word “grating” but they’re pretty annoying for a game (pinball) where sound is so much of the experience.
Mr. Gold. It would be easy to make fun of this game’s musical intro (actual lyrics: “But you in my eyes / look of the good looks / So I’ll be magician / mumble an incantation”), but I find myself extremely intrigued.
Nazo no Murasame Jou. Action game that pits your samurai against droves of ninjas. Throwing stars everywhere. Lush vegetation.
Otocky. A two-dimensional version of Rez, it’s a colorful shoot-em-up where you create and stay in time with the music.
Pachinko Grand Prix. You’re a pachinko-parlor playboy with his sights set on something or other, which involves working your way up a tournament ladder and drawing moral support from bunny girls as you advance through story mode amassing wealth. The actual pachinko is flashy and fast-paced. Brought to you by the good people at Data East.
Professional Mahjong Gokuu. From the “Professional” in the title to the developer’s French name (“Chat Noir”), it’s clear we’re catering to the highbrow mahjong enthusiast.
Puroresu. Due to graft, extortion, and rampant drug abuse, the Famicom Wrestling Association was shut down to ruinous effect on national television. When its wrestlers fled to the United States, the Association’s logo was stricken from promotional materials. In its place was stamped the red and white bars of the American flag, and Pro Wrestling was born.
Puyo Puyo (Famimaga 5). Puyo Puyo’s original incarnation?
Radical Bomber Jirai-kun. Although the wires, rivets, and coordinated jumpsuits scream “Mega Man,” Jirai-kun probably has more in common with Bomberman than the Blue Bomber. (Kill me.) You’re on a grid, acting one turn at a time, and you have to wait for everyone else on the board to move before you get another turn — for a game where the objective is to blow things up, it moves awfully slow.
Reflect World. If it’s cold in space, your robot in Reflect World is an absolute glacier. You seem to have landed on an alien world, but you move so slowly traversal takes minutes and evasion is impossible. Dead ends are agony. Inflicted on us by the folks at “East Cube,” which has a nice ring to it even when their games hit a wrong note. (See also Red Company, Sugar & Rockets.)
Risa no Yousei Densetsu. Adventure game from Konami (co-)starring pop star Risa Tachibana. You know you’ve arrived when some of the pictures in your graphical adventure game are animated.
Roger Rabbit. Nothing to do with the the Roger Rabbit game that came out here in the States. Rather, it’s “a lot like Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle. A lot like Crazy Castle. Which is funny because they’re both, you know, lapine. Wait a minute — didn’t Kemco also produce . . . hey, this is Crazy Castle. Bastards!” Still a good game, though, with those haunting Kemco synths that made Shadowgate so effective. I’ll be humming the main theme on my deathbed, I’m sure.
Sailor Fuku Bishoujo Zukan, volumes 1-6. Far superior to Lipstick (Mimi’s other line of FDS h-games) the Sailor Fuku series is still pretty depressing. Guide a desperate man — as implied by his brown suit — up a lattice of conveyor-belt ladders to a girl at the top who impedes his progress by throwing down an endless supply of syringes, octopuses, and other household items. If this were anything but hentai I’d say “hard as hell” and be done with it, but that kind of unintentional pun could, in this case, be read as an endorsement of the images contained herein. So instead I’ll say this: the extreme difficulty is not likely to relieve frustration of any kind.
Santa Claus no Takarabako. This disk lets you create your own Christmas card. Afterwards, it’s happy to serve as a bingo selector, roulette wheel, and dice roller. Apparently, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without some form of gambling.
Super Boy Allan. Unlike other pretenders to Zelda’s crown, this features, at no additional cost, puzzles designed to teach you how to add mixed numbers. I find it endearing because it makes no attempt to disguise its educational goals. The “epic quest” context is so half-hearted, its source so obvious, you have to admire the game’s developers.
Super Mario Bros. 2. The lost levels before anyone knew they were missing. I still wonder why Nintendo passed on this for U.S. release — did they think we couldn’t handle it? “Goombas I can accept. Mushrooms that double your size? Fine. Magical beanstalks that lead to a cloud world where you collect floating coins larger than your head? Okay, great. But wind? That’s sick. No one’ll go for it. Now. What’s the status on the Chubby Cherub project?”
Tanigawa Kouji no Shougi Shinan II. The Roger Clemens MVP Baseball of Japanese chess.
Tantei Jinguuji Saburou: Kikenna Futari. Detective adventure from Data East. In addition to the usual SPEAK and LISTEN commands, there’s a SMOKE option.
Tantei Jinguuji Saburou: Shinjuku Chuuou Kouen Satsujin Jiken. “Mr. Saburo Jinguji: Age 29, male, single. The notorious detective with a sharp mind and warm heart.” And, judging by all the tobacco references, an imminent case of lung cancer. (There are two smoking cigarettes on the title screen alone.) Featuring a unique overhead view, so now you can watch and directly control the detective as he speaks and listens and smokes.
Tarot. I didn’t get very far into my LOVE reading because every time you select a card to flip, the game has to locate and decompress the graphics. I found that to be a disturbing metaphor.
Tennis. I love how, when you win a trophy, it says something like, “You’ve won $10,000!” You can’t buy new rackets with that. You can’t do anything — the game doesn’t even keep track of your winnings.
Titanic Mystery. Explore the most famous shipwreck of the last century in a one-piece bathing suit. Getting tired? Running out of air? Simply pop back into your bathysphere to take a relaxing nap.
Winter Games. I suppose it’s too much to ask for a game based on the Olympics that’s not a collection of attention-sapping mini-games. Now that I’ve played Winter Games I’ll settle for anything that doesn’t assault you with random bass spasms and spontaneous PCM shrieks.
Wrecking Crew. What makes Mario such a successful plumber? Explosives.
Yume Koujou Doki Doki Panic. As strange as it is to get five cherries, grab the star, and not hear the Mario invincibility music, I can only imagine how weird it must have been when Mario All Stars came out in Japan — finding Mario’s face plastered all over one of your personal childhood favorites. It’s enough to drive a man to kill. (Be right back.)
Yuu Maze. A futuristic version of Pac Man that gets too fast to think about. You’ll probably end up relying solely on your reflexes, which the folks at Taito have tried to enhance with the hard-driving theme song.
Zanac. Much beloved shoot-em-up, now available over the counter.
Zatsugaku Olympic Part 2. Answer multiple choice questions correctly to unscramble the X-rated pics. What kind of lesson are we learning here?
Zelda no Densetsu. Go find the “8” units “Link” to save her.