Saturday, 8 July 2017

Curiosities Vol. 12 - Ultrabox 2 (PC Engine)

It's been a long time since I've covered any discmags, hasn't it? And this oone is especially unusual, since it's for a console, not a computer! Even stranger, it seems to have been aimed at more general audience than "people who really like videogames", being a mix of nerdy stuff with some sort of vaguely lifestylish content and some stuff that's just plain inexplicable. Let's look at each thing one-by one!

First up is Cast: Epitaph from the Pale World, some kind of non-interactive story told in a similar manner to the cutscenes in a lot of PC Engine games: fullscreen pixel art with voice acting and narration. Of course, I can't tell you a lot about it, other than that it's set in 1901, and seems to be about archaeology, UFOs and an alien invasion. An interesting item, kind of a super low budget OAV on a format that couldn't (in 1990 at least) handle any kind of recorded video format. I imagine that if you were a kid with a console in their room but no VCR, this could have been quite a draw.

Next up is Mission, probably the most bizarre item on the disc. What it is, is a database of school uniforms. You pick a uniform, and you're taken to another screen, where you can see that uniform's variations for each season, as well as hear comments from a guy (who I assume is the creator of the section) or a girl (who is different for each uniform). I don't know if the uniforms are original or taken from real schools, but each one also comes with a "data" page that suggests either the creator of this section has way too mcuh time on their hands, or that they are from real schools. Either way, the inclusion of such a feature is totally bizarre.

Third on our itinerary is Kamen Victor, a weird little top-down racing game, in which you play as a parody of Kamen Rider, and ride around collecting hearts and avoiding guys, trying to find the stage's exit before the time runs out. The stages are massive and labyrinthine, so I was only able to get to the third, and it took a fair few attempts just to get past the first. It's a very simple game, but I'm sure some of the more shameless publishers at the time were releasing stuff at full price that wasn't much more filled-out.

Next, there's another game who's title I couldn't read. It's a game in which you and your opponent take turns knocking blocks away from underneath little Darumas. You can knock away as many blocks as you like in a turn, but only from beneath one Daruma. The winner is the one to knock away the last block, and after a few games, I hadn't won a single one.

The next thing is also the biggest and most time-consuming! JJB is a huge gallery of various fan-submitted works, including four-koma comic strips, fanart, letters, a top ten list of what the compilers consider the best of the fanart, with voiceover commentary and what I think is some kind of videogame Q&A advice section. In case you're wondering, the most common subjects for fanart were Dragonball Z, Valkyrie no Densetsu, Ys and Ranma 1/2. For additional context, this disc was released in September 1990.

The last big bit of original content is something just called DATE, which, as you might assume, is a little romantic minigame. It seems to be themed around speed-dating, and there are three girls, who say things to you. Then you can pick from a list of responses, hoping to woo them. At the end, there's a section that I think has you trying to ask a girl of your choice out on another date. Obviously, all the text and speech in this is in Japanese, so I had no idea what I was doing and didn't get anywhere. Never mind.

Other than that, there's a database of available PC Engine games, which includes non-playable demos for the first PCE Ranma game, Ys III and some game that looks like it's based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and an "END" option which lists credits for the disc while playing a cute animation of the Ultrabox mascot dragon flying in front of a sunrise.

Ultrabox 2 is pretty different to other discmags I've seen before, and probably had a broader appeal at the time, though the series only went on until issue 6. They're all available pretty cheap if you shop around online, though, and if you can read and speak Japanese, you could probably have hours of distraction browsing all the content on them, as if they're all like this one, they're packed full of stuff.

1 comment:

  1. Cool! I had no idea such things existed on PC Engine! :)