An incredible crisis.

Never let it be said that I don’t (eventually) give the public what it wants.

Crisis Force – Konami – 1991

Not a single one of Konami’s Famicom shooters could be considered “bad”, or even “average”. All of them were outstanding. But only a couple of them could be considered “phenomenal”. Crisis Force, Konami’s last Famicom shooter, is one of those rarities.

In the year 199X, Tokyo City is attacked by the mechanized forces of the lost civilization of Atlantis. All seems lost, until two twins, Asuka and Maya, who are descendants of the people of the ancient civilization of Mu, board their Aura Wing fighters and begin a counterattack. Their battle will take them from Tokyo City to the heart of Atlantis, where the Atlantean ruler, Pharaoh, awaits them.

The Aura Wings have three forms. The first, Front Offense Type, is strongest against enemies that attack head-on. Side Offense Type fires both to the front and to the sides, making it the most versatile of the three. The final form, Rear Offense Type, is handy for blasting the enemies that come up from behind you. You switch between the three types by pressing A. You also have a stock of bombs that can be triggered by pressing A, but only while you’re holding down B to fire. This setup can lead to some accidental bomb triggers in the heat of battle, which is one of the only flaws the game has.

There are also the requisite speed power ups, of course, and two types of weapon power-ups that can each be leveled three times. Each weapon is used by each ship differently: for example, the wave shot power up used by the Front Offense Type becomes a homing shot when you switch to the Side Offense Type. There are no shields, but every time you get hit, your shot power goes down a level. If you don’t have any power-ups, that’s instant death.

Then there are the items you pick up that resemble blue jewels. Collect five of those without dying, and the Aura Wing transforms into an invincible laser-spewing killing machine. You have a timer which counts down before reverting back to normal, and every time you take a hit, it goes down faster, but if you collect more blue jewels, additional time will be added to the timer.

Now that the basics are out of the way, it has to be said: Crisis Force is gorgeous. I once called Crisis Force “the Axelay of the Famicom”, and years later, I still stand by what I said. The enemies are all colorful and nicely detailed, several of the bosses are screen-filling monstrosities, each stage has new graphical surprises, and there’s even an insane amount of parallax scrolling! It is one of the games that needs to be seen in action to believe. On top of that, it has one of the best OSTs Konami ever came up with for the Famicom. This isn’t a shock, because Konami’s games are known for their fantastic music, but it’s good that they didn’t drop the ball at the very end.

The Atlanteans are a mixed bunch, ranging from standard robots and ships to craft inspired heavily by the work of the ancient Aztecs, Mayans and Egyptians – especially the Egyptians, starting in the later stages. Stage 5 is nothing but an assault against a fleet of ancient Egyptian-themed battleships, culminating with a boss fight against a beautifully detailed multi-screen mega battleship.

Does the game have flaws? Of course. Besides the one I mentioned earlier, it is a bit on the short and easy side – but on the flip side, you can easily be nailed by some cheap hits. Also, instead of composing different pieces of music for every single stage, a couple of the early stage themes were reused in later levels. But those are the only flaws I can think of.

If you like shooters and NES games, you owe it to yourself to play Crisis Force whatever way you can. Until you’re able to, though, why not check out this longplay?

Intermission.

Sorry guys, I’m not feeling up to writing today (that’s what liver disease can do to you). So for those of you expecting my write-up on Crisis Force, it’ll have to wait. Again. I’ll rest up this weekend and pick up fresh on Monday.

But just to whet your appetite, here’s some cool Crisis Force-related things.

First, the Aura Wing, as it appears in the PlayStation 2 game Airforce Delta Strike.

Second, a remix of the first and sixth stage theme from Crisis Force as heard on the Otomedius Excellent OST, “Re-entry.” Say what you will about the Otomedius games, but they sure did have decent soundtracks with load of remixes from other Konami OSTs.

Let’s talk Turbo.

I’ve had the damnedest time holding onto anything Turbografx-16 related, until just recently. I stupidly traded away my original TG16 setup back in the mid ’90s to a local game store (I had the original CDROM unit and a stack of games, too – only one I kept was Splatterhouse, for obvious reasons). Then I got a Duo and started rebuilding my collection, only to lose it during the event I came to call The Great Crash. If you’ve read Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman, you know what that was all about.

Again, I managed to hold on to Splatterhouse, only by way of sending it to my friend Mike for safekeeping. He sent it back to me after things settled down. Then, around 2011, I got a PC Engine Duo-R and began rebuilding my collection yet again… only to sell it after the prices of Turbo and PC Engine games started to skyrocket around 2016, like an idiot. Even Splatterhouse went that time.

After that, I wrote off ever owning anything Turbo-related ever again. The prices were now simply too high for me to afford.

Then the Turbografx-16 Mini was announced. I debated on getting one after seeing that despite a lot of great games were being included, there were no Namco games, which meant no Splatterhouse. Of course, shortly before it was originally intended to be released, the bombshell dropped that some Namco games were going to be added, including Splatterhouse, which just sealed the deal for me. I immediately went to Amazon and slammed the pre-order button.

Then Covid happened, and the Mini was indefinitely delayed. ARGH. Luckily Amazon Japan eventually started selling them, so I cancelled my U.S. pre-order and just bought one outright from Amazon Japan. Finally I had a Turbografx-16 again, even if it was a mini console with no way to play actual HuCard or CDROM games on it, and several of my favorite games were missing. But still! So many great shooters, Supergrafx games, an Arcade Card game, Akumajo Dracula X: Chi no Rondo, multiple Gradius games… and of course, Splatterhouse. I was happy.

However, as time went on, I found myself missing the games I liked that had been left off in favor of some rather questionable choices, like Moto Roader and Appare! Gateball. Where was The Legendary Axe? The Legendary Axe II? Gate of Thunder? Even Keith Courage in Alpha Zones, the pack-in game when the Turbo was released in the U.S. back in 1989, was missing.

“O Keith, Keith, wherefore art thou, Keith Courage?”

But given the stupid prices that the original console and games command now, I ultimately decided to be content that I had some kind of Turbo console again.

Fast forward to a little over a week ago.

A friend of mine on Instagram was selling off an original Turbografx-16 console, with everything needed to connect it. The price was too high for me to afford, but I sent a half-joking message to him saying that if I had what he was asking for it, I’d be all over that deal. To my complete surprise, he countered with a price that was extraordinarily reasonable for what he was asking.

Needless to say, I jumped at the offer. He packed it up and sent it off shortly thereafter. At the same time, I saw that someone else I knew on Instagram was selling a couple of loose HuCards on Mercari, and after making a reasonable offer on them, he agreed and I was able to get a couple new games for my new Turbo. Both packages arrived this past Friday – I got them right after I slipped on some mud in the driveway and took a header that left me with a bruised left knee and aching legs. Ouch.

It’s been so long…

My new Turbo certainly helped ease the pain somewhat. I even found a couple of sports games packed in with the Turbo, so my library was already off to a good start. I had picked up a copy of Splatterhouse from a friend of mine on Facebook a couple years back, just to have it in my collection, so of course that immediately got pulled out.

A promising start.

I had to play through it. Would you expect any less from me?

BURN IT ALL DOWN.

So what next? Stone Age Gamer is selling Turbo Everdrives (and they’re about to start their Black Friday sales), so that’s on the list of things to pick up. One of those will give me access to the entire TG16/PCE HuCard library, so I won’t have to worry about paying insane prices just to get a decent collection again… although I would like to have physical copies of Ninja Spirit, The Legendary Axe II and Pac-Land (yes, Pac-Land) again, just because. And if I ever find them at a decent price, I will pick them up.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m feeling the need to go kill stuff with an axe… a legendary axe, as it were.

We’ve got a heartbeat!

Damn, it’s been almost two years since the last time I updated. Here I thought I’d take a break for a couple months, then post something. Guess that didn’t happen.

Anyway, rather than focusing on all the stuff I said I was going to two years ago, I’d decided that this is just going to be my megaphone for shouting whatever’s on my mind about gaming. Don’t expect me to say much about modern gaming (when do I ever, really?), but I’ve been discovering all sorts of new ways to play my classics. Game collecting is something that I just don’t do anymore. Not only can I not afford it anymore, for the most part, but at this point I’d mainly be repurchasing games I already owned at one point or another, and I don’t see a reason to do that.

There are exceptions, of course. Over the past few years, I’ve really gotten into the Atari 2600 and Atari 7800 homebrew scene, and am able to buy the occasional cartridge from atariage.com, which is nice. I’m more in it for the 7800 games, to be honest, because that console had such a small library to begin with, and homebrews are released so infrequently that it’s easy to save up for a new one. So there is that.

I also finally got into Everdrives. Those original carts aren’t getting any younger, so it’s nice to have an entire library available without having to expose original carts to more wear and tear. Plus there’s the added bonus of being able to add homebrew games, hacks, translations and all sorts of cool stuff like that.

Anyway, that’s it for now. One other thing I want to mention, though: I recently reopened my long-closed website West Mansion: The Splatterhouse Homepage – splatterhouse.kontek.net – and the response on social media has been so positive. I’m thrilled to see that so many people are happy I’ve reopened the site, and I hope I can continue to supply them with the same top-notch Splatterhouse coverage that I did for a decade.

I also released a new book, but more about that later.