Editor's Note: Instead of using our traditional reviewing method with breakdowns and a final score, these games were reviewed by giving a short yet concise overview of each game; thus they were not scored.
A few weeks ago, publisher GungHo suddenly released six titles on PSN. They were not just any old PSOne Classics however, but additions to the fairly small library of the Import section. Although GungHo has only started to make a name for themselves in the West, it seems they are hoping to release a great deal of Japanese content for us. So how are the games they just released? Are they all hidden gems or should some have remained in Japan? Are they worth the asking price of $6?
Art Camion Sugorokuden
In Art Camion Sugorokuden, you take the role of a truck driver and navigate around a big board game map. This is accomplished by spinning a wheel and using your amount of moves to try and deliver packages. As you deliver, you gain points which can be spent on decking out your truck. While it may not be familiar to Americans, the fad of â€œArt Trucksâ€ in Japan was big enough to base a game on it.
Of all the GungHo-published titles on PSN, this is the one that should be looked at with most caution. Although it sounds endearingly strange, and very well may be, it is nearly impossible to get into if you don“t read Japanese. The game is riddled with text that is all probably saying helpful stuff. You can understand visually where packages need to be dropped, but other than that, you will have a hard time figuring out what to do.
Finger Flashing is a puzzle game which makes for the perfect type of import release. In this title, you play as a little character traveling constantly upwards. Along their journey, enemies will come down the screen and attempt to destroy you. They fall at increasing speeds and once they reach the level of your character, the game is over. Thankfully, you can repel them by shooting â€œrockâ€, â€œpaperâ€, or â€œscissorsâ€ monsters back at them. Yes, this game is a mix between puzzlers and the classic game of rock, paper, scissors.
At first, it is a little hard to understand simply because the enemies with hand symbols on them are a bit hard to determine. The game is from 1999 after all, so it may not present quite as attractively on a large screen. There is also text always on-screen to show you which button unleashes what hand, but it is written in Japanese so that won“t help you either. Thankfully, if you play for more than a few minutes you“ll get a feel for which button does what and how to match thanks to each monster being one of three colors.
Developer: Datam Polystar
Finger Flashing is not the only oddly-titled puzzle game now available. There is also Lup Salad, which in many ways is a more compelling title. This game places you in the shoes of a young girl named Salad. She takes to a 2D plane where she must push colored blocks to make them match up in groups of three or more to clear them. However, you must push and platform carefully or else Salad may be crushed by falling blocks.
Lup Salad represents (to me) the best game available from this set of Import releases. Although it features Japanese text for menus, it is incredibly easy to understand. All the gameplay is self evident and all required to enjoy it is a brain with a taste for puzzles. It also manages to be tough but beatable for most of its over a hundred levels. For the price, it is a good deal if you like challenging yourself with these types of games.
Makeruna! Makendo 2
Developer: Datam Polystar
There is one fighter in the bunch and it is Makeruna! Makendo 2. It is actually the sequel to what was known as Kendo Rage in America. The sequel was initially a SNES title, but was then brought over to PS systems in Japan. Although it may have missed an American release for all those years, it has now finally received one.
The question is really whether or not it was necessary. By now, many fighting game fans have fallen in love with modern renditions of their favorite series. Makeruna! Makendo 2 does not have much of a following because, even at the time, it was not a highly entertaining game. It does have a cast of weird fighters (more so than many others), but that doesn“t make it worth a purchase. If you simply adore all retro fighting games then pick it up, but otherwise you won“t be missing much.
Developer: Vanguard Works
Aside from Art Camion Sugorokuden, Vehicle Cavalier is the only other game here that requires knowledge of the Japanese language. The game itself is one where you control and fight mechs, but more often than not, you will be tweaking the machine instead of fighting. As you might expect, customizing the machine requires text and lots of it. I managed to figure out how to change the colors and patterns on my mech by fiddling around, but doing anything substantial would require players to read menus.
Once in a battle, things are simpler but not much fun. The world is very empty and fights are not so hectic. Then there is the fact that if you“re unable to upgrade your mech effectively you won“t be in for a very fair fight anyway. Definitely pass on this game unless you can read Japanese or are willing to memorize where specific things are within the various menus.
Zanac X Zanac
If 2D shooters are more your speed then Zanac X Zanac is what you should look into. The game is actually the combination of two releases: Zanac and its sequel Zanac Neo. As it is the same price as the other Imports, it is a better value overall. Those not initiated in the shoot ”em up fandom may not recognize the name but it is actually deemed a classic and has quite a following.
As far as shooters go, it is a fine set of games. The soundtracks are both excellent and the game itself is tough but rewarding. As with the puzzle games, there is no need to understand Japanese. Even better, what little menus there are had already been written in English. Interestingly, the original Zanac did see a release in North America via Wii“s Virtual Console, but Zanac Neo never did.
Overall, this set of PSOne Classic Import games is a success. Unfortunately, some people will probably be turned off by picking Art Camion Sugorokuden or Vehicle Cavalier on a whim. Thankfully, now that you“ve checked out this review you should know what these games expect of players. Of them all it seems that Lup Salad and Zanac X Zanac are the best, with Finger Flashing coming in a close third. Check out the games on PSN if you“re interested just as long as you don“t mind PS1 visuals and overall simplicity. Each game (minus Vehicle Cavalier, which lacks Vita compatibility) can be played on PS3 or PSP, and Vita.