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// review by SoyBomb

Simply Resistable!

In Japan, Culture Publishers (and later D3 Publisher) released a series of budget titles for the PlayStation (and a variety of consoles, including the PlayStation 2, PSP, Dreamcast, Nintendo DS, and the Wii), all under the "Simple" moniker. The PlayStation series was called "Simple 1500", the 1500 representing the cost of each game (1500 yen, which was indeed relatively cheap compared to full-priced retail games at the time). The games were developed by a variety of smaller companies, and the Simple series was a great way to give the little guys a voice, a method similar to the modern Steam/PSN/XBLA/eShop. Some of these games made it overseas thanks to a few gung-ho American and European publishers who saw promise in this little titles, the most prolific at the time being Agetec.

And now, without further ado, it's time for five more swan dives into the world of budget gaming with Simple 1500 Series Volume 11 through 15.


Simple 1500 Series Vol. 11: The Pinball

First up is The Pinball 3D, also known as "Pinball" if you're aware that other pinball games exist out there and that this is not the only one. It was developed by Nekogumi, a company that would late make a name for itself with its Japan-only series of Hamster Club games for the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance. After Hamster Club 4, no one has heard from since. Rumour has it the hamsters revolted...

Oh! That main menu music! Looks like I fell out my window and into a 1997 music video featuring Usher! That is just the grooviest groove I have heard since disco was a thing. Oh! It just oozes out of the speakers with the grace of table syrup! Alright, enough about that, let's get down to pinbusiness!

From the main menu, you get to choose between several different pinball layouts. There's one that looks like perhaps Amelia Earhart is giving me the OK to play pinball on her face, while another shows a couple of soldiers preparing for combat with the word BOMB overlayed on them. There's also... oh, wait, nope, I forgot: this is a budget game. You only get two boards.

The L1 and R1 buttons control your paddles, and you can also use the directional pad to simulate giving the pinball machine a good rattling to put things in your favour (if that works at all). It's all very simple. One thing that's a bit irritating is that sometimes the game likes to stop the action and give you brief announcements about what each part of the board does as you hit it. Hey... guys... it's pinball. I get it. Try to hit EVERYTHING. If it flashes, dings, bounces, smiles, grunts, exists, flaps, moves, philosophizes, ricochets, rickrolls, or gurgles, then you aim for it! That's the way pinball works. No questions asked, no money back guarantee.

The graphics are somewhat decent. The boards look like they were taken directly from an arcade (complete with warning label on the bottom). It's a shame they stopped at two, though. The music is far more uplifting and is possibly the best I've seen so far from the past 11 Simple Series games or so. But The Pinball is not entirely copacetic... When the ball fell between the two paddles, the game made such a deep euphoric moan that I felt very uncomfortable. Pinball wasn't meant to be sexual, but they sure made me feel dirty playing, or at least losing.

It's a shame the gameplay is dry. This pinball game is actually rather difficult! They have a high score of 90 million posted. I... don't think I'll be surpassing that. I don't think I surpassed 2 million points.


Needless to say, I'll be dead before I reach that lofty high score.


Simple 1500 Series Vol. 12: The Quiz

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention, please! I'm about to use my brain for a moment, and I need complete silence from the audiOH GEEZ THAT HAPPY-GO-LUCKY MUSIC...

Welcome to "The Quiz", which supercedes any other quizzes you may have taken. School quiz? Pfff! Pfaff! Pfizer! That's nothing compared to The Quiz. Developed by both Tears and Ichikawa Software, both of which have fallen off the face of the planet, The Quiz naturally puts you in the hot seat as you are asked questions on a variety of topics, including fashion, manga, and definitely TV, which consistuted about 50% of all questions asked of me. You are given four possible answers, each associated with one of the four shape buttons on the controller. Pick the right one, and you hear the joyous jingle of success. Fail, and you get a fart.

I started the game up, I let it go, and... hmmm... well, I ended up playing against only myself. The thrill certainly isn't in full effect when your only competition is yourself. Although I did manage to win, even solely with Japanese text and a bit of cunning (when in doubt, pick Circle), it was disappointing. A second player probably would have made all the difference. To make matters worse, The Quiz isn't even particularly flashy. There was no quiz-style introduction to ease me into the experience. I'm just thrown directly into the questions. What a joke!

After a bit more digging around, I found an "All Around Japan Mode", where you can visit all of Japan's little prefectures and conquer them with very short quizzes of two or three questions. I suppose that's exciting to somebody. But that somebody is not me.

The Quiz boasts dull gameplay (less interesting than most quiz games, at least), tepid graphics, and impressively cheesy background music. We're talking melted edam in sound waves here. Then again, isn't all game show music a tad on the cornball side? I was really hoping I would enjoy The Quiz because I do tend to enjoy that type of game. This one made me sad.


When in doubt, just pick good ol' trusty Circle. Always Circle...


Simple 1500 Series Vol. 13: The Race

Volume 13, boasting an unlucky number, is entitled "The Race". I decided to make an assumption that this game would be a racing game and not a game about racism. Race-ism beats racism any day in my book! This was developed by Tamsoft, who would later go on to develop such gems as the Choro Q series, Onechanbara, Tokyo Beat Down, and Hyperdimension Neptunia Producing Perfection. I believe fellow staffer EscapeRouteBritish doesn't approve of their existence. We're a family here at Random.access, so I'll support him.

As expected, The Race is all about putting you behind the wheel of a kick-butt car! Well, okay, mine was more a neon fuchsia and pulled straight out of the 80s, but it managed to get going once I figured out the controls for the gas pedal. Once you have your vehicle selected, it's off to the tracks! The races aren't exactly dentures-out-the-window speed, but it's... sort of fast enough. Everything is rendered in decent-looking 3D, especially for PlayStation. I know that chunky little white box can barely handle Crazy Eights, so this must be torture, but it worked out.

The game itself was moderately difficult, though you won't find the exhilaration of Gran Turismo in here. Apparently, I take corners like I take vitamins: once a day, and while driving on the lawn.

While playing The Race, I was really hoping the music would be as awesome as this:

Turns out, no, nothing of the sort. All I get is stock racing music, courtesy of your local bargain bin knockoff CD. It could be worse: I could be listening to that dull music they repeated for Vol. 1-4... In any case, The Race is a nice alternative to those expensive shiny racing games that top the charts, especially if you don't have many yen in your bank account, and you don't mind driving a Volvor.


The Race: Now with realistic boreal forest for a hard head-on collision.


Simple 1500 Series Vol. 14: The Block Kuzushi

Next up is The Block Kuzuski, a game whose name sounds as threatening as possible. Just say its name with a gruff tone, and you're on your way to scaring people. This one, like The Race, was also developed by Tamsoft, but they couldn't be further apart from each other. The Race is about racing. The Block Kuzushi is about kuzushiing... sort of. "Kuzushi" is the Japanese word for when you knock down an opponent amidst a battle of martial arts. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) But you're not knocking down any senseis here; instead, you're breaking blocks.

Yup, it's an Arkanoid clone.

It has, however, a sassy little twist that actually gives this version a bit of an advantage. In Arkanoid, the ball bounces in whatever direction and remains traveling until it hits a wall. In The Block Kuzushi, my ball actually LOST momentum and started to arc downward. That isn't supposed to happen in any blockbuster game! To counteract things even stranger, you can use your paddle to not only add momentum, but you can also make the ball actually zoom off course in a curve, even in the opposite direction that it's flying, defying all odds, as well as your Grade 12 Physics course! Tamsoft sure was playful in the office that day.

Then came... the Warp Holes. Those stupid dark blue chasms of Valhalla's bane. When your ball enters one of them, it pops out of another. Doesn't sound too complicated, but there are two problems with these. One, you're too busy watching where your ball goes and have little time to react when it suddenly pops up somewhere else, just in case it's ready to come your way. Two, sometimes the ball gets stuck in a bouncy loop between two warp holes, especially if a wall is involved. Eventually it will free itself, but how long will that take? A minute or two of waiting really messes up the game's flow.

There are also powerups, which you gain when they are struck by the ball.

Also, try to hit as many blocks in a row as possible for big point bonuses and praise from the game itself. I am told my combos are often good, and occasionally WONDERFUL! Ohhh...

I really enjoyed this one, though its high speeds and crazy warp holes can make this more than a lighthearted challenge. It's not particularly long, and there isn't much in the way of graphics or sound (the action plays without music at all), but with branching level pathways, just like in Bust-A-Move games, at least there's some replay value here. Fork out those yen!


I've always dreamed of firing a microscopic bouncy ball at a baby chick. My opportunity has arrived.


Simple 1500 Series Vol. 15: The Pachinko

To put it bluntly, Japan breathes pachinko. Humanity does only three things in the Land of the Rising Sun: eat, sleep, and play pachinko. It's played both for amusement and gambling purposes, though the latter is the more common use. Pachinko is basically played as follows: you put money into the machine, and it starts dropping all these little metal balls like crazy. As they fall, they bounce off all sorts of pins in the front of the machine. Special holders try to catch the falling balls, and those that are caught can be exchanged for prizes. Sounds simple enough when there are hundreds of those little balls tumbling along: how can you NOT win?

That being said, I imagine this game sold about 50 million copies.

It probably didn't, but The Pachinko is still a lower-risk substitute for the glamour of the Japanese pachinko parlour atmosphere. It gives you three different options of which machine you'd prefer: the Love^2 Project which oozes pink like the dickens, Starrobot for the unequivocally manly man, and something sunny in Japanese. Don't make me read. After making your selection, you can actually choose between a bunch of the same machines, just like in a real parlour. Feeling a good vibe from pachinko machine #5? Get it before the after-hours gambling crowd takes over.

I'm pretty confident in my masculinity, so the Love^2 Project is my first destination. And it's... pachinko. I get to modify the strength of how far the balls will shoot, so that helps me out. Other than that, it's pachinko. Frankly, I don't see the thrill in this game. It gets boring after about a minute of watching little shiny fripperies falling to their demise one after another. It's like watching the rain fall: exciting for a few seconds, then mundane. The graphics are decent for a static ball-popping machine, and the audio does its job (making me feel like I'm in a smoke-filled casino), but I just don't get the thrill personally.

As far as pachinko games go, this game is about pachinko.


Hail to the Muscle King, baby!


There you have it, folks: five more reviews to five yen-tastic games. Now, let's have a nap and dream of space octagons.


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