Thursday, 16 June 2016

Jaki Crush (SNES)

Everyone remembers the PC Engine and Mega Drive entries into Naxat Soft's Crush series of pinall games, right? Well, there was a Japan-only SNES entry too, that never enjoyed the same success as its forbears, and as a result, isn't remembered anywhere near as fondly. The reason it stayed in Japan is easy to figure out: while Alien Crush had a theme that was heavily inspired by the Alien movies, and Devil Crash was themed around European-style occultism and fantasy, Jaki Crush draws its look from traditional Japanese depictions of hell, and as we all know, western companies in the 1980s and 90s were inexplicably obsessed with pretending that Japan didn't exist. There was sort of another entry into the Crush series which was a western exclusive, but that's a topic for another day.

Anyway, if you've played any of the previous games in the series, you'll basically know what to expect from Jaki Crush: a pinball table, stretching upwards across three screens, with a pair of flippers on each screen, and various demons and monsters marching around or standing in formation or even forming part of the the table itself. There's also bonus bossfight-style mini-tables that can be accessed by opening certain holes (often the mouths of demons) and getting the ball in there.

Presentation-wise, Jaki Crush is excellent: the table is full of little details and gimmicks and various things that change over the course of a game, like a demon face on the bottom screen, that eventually turns into a set of traditional pinball bumpers, which themselves change formation a few times (in a bit of a callback to some similarly-acting bumpers that appear in Alien Crush) before eventually disappearing to be replaced with a different demon face. The colour choices are really great too, with lots of purples, greys, pinks and reds giving the game a very visceral, fleshy feel. And as is series tradition, the game has a great, energetic soundtrack to mindlessly hum along with as you play.

The game itself is good, though you'll be playing a lot of practice games if you want to get any enjoyment out of it. It's easily the most difficult pinball videogame I've ever played. The ball seems incredibly eager to go right down the middle of the flippers on the bottom screen, and the fact that the flippers on the middle screen are in some bizarre asymmetrical arrangement makes it really hard to get away from the bottom and stay there. Add this to the fact that it takes a pretty long time to get exciting things happening and portals to bonus stages open and it means it'll take quite a bit of play before you get a lot of enjoyment out of Jaki Crush. If you have the patience for it, though, it is worth it, as seeing the table changing over time is pretty satisfying, and the stuff that happens on the top screen is especially extravagant and cool-looking. There's also even multiball, which I don't think is a feature in any of the other games in the series (though it's been years since I played either of them, so I could be wrong).

So yeah, in conclusion, Jaki Crush is a worthy entry into the series, and it'll reward players who have the patience to get through it's horrific skill barrier.

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