--------THE JETSONS: MORE UNDER THE HOOD--------
Welcome back everyone; it's been a while since we've made an update. What's on the agenda this time? Well, we've got a nice little game to tell you about that's developed in-part by one of my favorite game developers, Taito, called The Jetsons: Invasion of the Planet Pirates. To sum the game up simply, it's more or less your standard SNES action/platformer game with one or two distinguishing features that make it worth a playthrough, but there is another element that makes this otherwise mundane video game worth playing. What exactly is it? Look no further than the land of the rising sun.
The famous folks over at Kadokawa Shoten (or in this case, Kadokawa Digital Entertainment) saw a great opportunity to capitalize on a good thing and endorse a game starring a potential iconic gaming character. Even better, they already had the groundwork for it in the form of The Jetsons. There was only one small problem; Kadokawa doesn't typically handle the development of games, only their publication, so they needed a skilled group of programmers to modify the Jetsons game to suit their visions. Well, it didn't take long, since many game developers wouldn't miss an opportunity presented to them by a rich corporation like KS. Sting Entertainment (primarily known for their roleplaying games) answered the call. After months of work, Youkai Buster Ruka no Daibouken was born.
While the edit work isn't so impressive in and of itself, this game was more significant to the company Sting, who was still trying to make a name for themselves in the gaming world. Kadokawa was pleased with the end results and praised the game as well as advertise the game in numerous Japanese publications and one magazine, "Marukatsu Super Famicom Magazine", was particularly supportive of the project, which is unsurprising since the original publication (Marukatsu Famicom Magazine) was funded by the Kadokawa Group. Thus, we have two unusual sides of the same coin, a year apart from each other.
--------THE JETSONS: INVASION OF THE PLANET PIRATES--------
One might suspect that this game is a load of rubbish without even playing it. Why do I make this claim? Well, it's generally stated that the majority of licensed tie-in games are relatively mediocre, gimmicky attempts to cash in on a popular franchise. With that being the case, why would The Jetsons, Hanna-Barbera's nearly antithetical version of the well-received Flintstones be any different? Well, either I have a soft spot for these kinds of games or a lot of these kinds of games (at least during the 8-bit and 16-bit era) weren't all that bad, especially when they were being pumped out by Konami and Taito. I can say that The Jetsons: IotPP manages to break free from the common conventional image made for games of its kind.
Once you skip the whole Hanna-Barbera promotional segment (aka the title screen), you'll witness Taito's game open with an actual story segment. It seems like a typical day for the Jetsons family; Elroy and Astro are just chillin', Judy is jammin' to some spacetacular tunes, Jane is grooming herself and Rosey is cleaning...and George is stressing about his strict and stereotypical boss, Mr. Spacely. The second you think that this family is going through another routine day in their lives, Captain Zoom, one of the heroes of the galaxy, confronts George and tells him that he needs his help. Apparently, Captain Zoom got into a nasty confrontation with "Zora the Space Pirate" and her band of cosmic riffraff and it has left him powerless to stop her continuing reign of terror. So, for whatever reason, he thinks George has what it takes to pick up where he left off. He then gives George the ultimate weapon capable of aiding him on his quest: The Pneumo Osmatic Precipitator (or P.O.P.). With that notion, your family says their one or two lines of filler dialog and you are sent on your way, automatically aware of where you're headed and that failure is not an option.
One thing you should know is that your tool, P.O.P., is a high-powered shop vac! With this tool, you can suck up enemies and objects from a distance and stick to surfaces with its powerful suction abilities. You can even shoot objects and enemies you grab to attack other foes and use it as a breathing apparatus when you're underwater. Amazingly enough, the game takes certain characteristics of the P.O.P. into account, such as if you remove it from your mouth to fight while submerged in water. You'll only get five seconds to breathe, so don't waste too much time! Along with numerous power-ups scattered across the levels to improve your basic abilities and loads of point items, you can dash and thrust yourself through the air using your P.O.P. There are also several bonus stages and a motorcycle riding segment that attempts to help distance this game from its competitors.
The presentation of this game isn't particularly remarkable. Certain things animate relatively well such as George's walking and running animations as well as streams of flowing water that run across the ground. I also like the attention to detail displayed during rare instances such as riding through a patch of thick grass to emerge on the other end covered in tropical fruits and leaves. Still, the game doesn't look particularly great as a whole, but there are more important things in a game besides looks. The game has a relatively good soundtrack, though some of the themes I've come to like that were constantly echoed throughout The Jetsons T.V. show are truncated, annoying imitations of the genuine tunes and loop far too much for their own good. In this regard, I'd have to say that Hideki Takahagi (responsible for the music in this game) let me down a little, since I grew up watching shows like The Jetsons and The Flintstones, among many others. At least the sound effects aren't annoying, and George Jetson sounds like George Jetson when he's hit.
Some more notable issues with this game are that the levels are deviously designed and can throw in some cheap shots. I also dislike a few of the unexpected events with a passion, such as a rising segment on the second level that becomes a pit-hole without a moments notice or walking down a corridor only to get sucked into outer space. With a little work, this game is a breeze to finish, sans the semi-nasty final level. This game is an OK game that's short but sweet for fans of the old Jetsons cartoons.
--------YOUKAI BUSTER RUKA NO DAIBOUKEN--------
While The Jetsons isn't the greatest SNES game by any stretch of the imagination (and while seeking to emulate this game a year later doesn't help), Youkai Buster Ruka no Daibouken is a good novelty piece with a few notable distinctions from its U.S. counterpart, and I'm not just talking about the graphics and story. This game has some subtle programming differences, an extra final boss battle and more. There's a little bit of controversy that goes around regarding this game such as Kadokawa and Sting stealing the engine, though this is very unlikely for a number of reasons.
For starters, even though the Jetsons may seem like a U.S. developed game, it was clearly developed by the Japanese, as is Youkai Buster Ruka. It is also unlikely given the moderate amount of media coverage the game received from Japanese game magazine publications. Lastly, three main programmers and composers for the Jetsons were also responsible in the development process for YBR (Kenjiro Hira who is a big name in the Sting corporation, Satoru Kojima and Mitsuhito Tanaka). In fact, most of the members who have worked on The Jetsons are key officials from Sting, so The Jetsons is more in-part to Sting than Taito. It's very likely the game was given the green light by the original developers and Taito, Sting and Kadokawa Shoten came to an agreement. In any event, this game was obviously altered to appeal to the Japanese gaming populace. I'll give you the general premise of this game in case you can't understand the Japanese characters and the like.
In this game, you'll take control of Ruka-chan, an aggressive demon girl who lives in a monster infested world. Much of her past is shrouded in mystery though some speculate that Ruka is approximately 1013 years old. It's interesting to note that her age is a trend in many Japanese games, where the character's true age is hidden in context. She lives long but has the appearance and temperament of a teenager, in this case, a thirteen year old. This bit of information can give players a little insight to her childish nature and fascination with cute boys, but you won't learn much else about Ruka...except that she's in the service of a talking demon head referred to as "Enma-sama no kubi" (hilariously referred to in the manual as "Elvis", possibly alluding to "The King") who has lost his original body.
Therein lies the problem however... through the course of the game, you'll be tracking down a pretty boy curiously called "Body" who's actually the one who has mystically stolen Enma's body and commands an army of monsters. Now Ruka must reluctantly journey across the land to reclaim the talking head's body and bring down the evil hottie responsible for all the chaos and destruction. If she doesn't help, then Enma might just adopt another body... and this one would have a few additional curves.
Enma's mission is to find Body and devour him so he can regain his true power and thus his true form, but Ruka is the only one who can help him. Unsurprisingly, he functions in an almost identical manner as George Jetsons' P.O.P. All the robots and futuristic backdrops have been replaced with Japanese architecture and original and historically significant mythological demons. For what it's worth, I'd have to say the graphical revisions for this game are almost as nice as the visuals presented by its U.S. counterpart. However, it's really too close to call and falls under personal preference. Some minor things were also changed such as the layout of things like where your power meter and lives are located. Your hearts and "POW" meter also don't do the whole annoying color-changing thing they did in the Jetsons. I can say that the music for this version was put together in a better fashion than the Jetsons and the music isn't as repetitive overall. Additionally, Ruka has additional voice clips from the one or two sounds that George makes, as well as the final boss. These slight touch-ups make the game a little more enjoyable, but there are a few other differences as well. What can they be?
This game has more fluidity and a better construction than The Jetsons. There are a few level differences not present in The Jetsons such as an additional underwater segment, modified bonus stages, a mini-boss on the fourth stage, a water power-up to hose down an evil fire spirit and (as aforementioned) an additional, more climatic final boss battle. Primary weapons like the watermelons are more powerful than the blocks from The Jetsons because they not only can pierce through certain enemies, they can explode upon contact and the flying debris can hit nearby enemies. On that note, the blocks from The Jetsons don't do that and it makes the game just a smidgen more challenging. Bothersome levels like the second stage from The Jetsons (with pits emerging as you rise through one part of the level) have been interconnected through the level in this game; so falling down won't result in a pit fatality (you simply have to try ascending again).
Of course, there is some trade-off. For starters, this game is two main levels shorter than the U.S. game, so the game isn't as long. The motorbike level has been added as a mini-game in Youkai Buster Ruka titled "Furoku Game". Within here, you race through the level trying to grab as many items as possible while attempting to defeat the end level boss as quickly as you can. By doing so, you'll be rated on your performance at the end (ranging from G to A). While it's pretty pointless, getting an "A" did allow me to make an additional caption for this game. This game also has a nice (though pretty unnecessary) training mode that allows beginners to learn how to play in Ruka's own words. If you aren't a fan of the Japanese style presented in this game, you probably won't like this game. In this case, you should just stick with The Jetsons.
Whenever we cover games with any significant differences, we'll outline them separately because we want to maintain our philosophy surrounding "attention to detail". Of course, we have to weed out all our old articles first. With that being said, having played The Jetsons and Youkai Buster Ruka inside-out, I feel that while these games don't particularly showcase any remarkable traits, they are still fun diversions worthy of a playthrough at least once. In the case of the collector, Youkai Buster Ruka no Daibouken is the rarer of the two games and can cost a moderate sum of money at times, but it's an interesting conversation piece among hardcore gamers and collectors alike. You can live without either game, but that can be said about so many games put out on the market. At the same time, with systems as great as the Super Ninentdo, Sega Genesis, and many others, it's very hard to limit your selection down to a mere ten or twenty games, especially when you have as much knowledge about these things as myself. It's almost a curse, but thankfully it's not a burden that I alone share. I'm sure many avid gamers can relate.
If you could only get one of these games, I'd get The Jetsons. Putting my slight bias toward Hanna-Barbera classics aside, the game is cheaper, has more levels and is easier to acquire. Of course, if you can get Youkai Buster Ruka on the cheap or happen to live in Japan or have easy access to Japanese games, then YBR is the game of choice. If I didn't weigh in any of those points however and price wasn't an issue, then I would choose YBR. It's more accessible in terms of playability and I like animes and mangas...not to mention that the idea of manipulating a talking head is a more interesting concept to me than fighting a space pirate with a vacuum. Until next time everybody.
- Written by Bel Cain The Eternal -