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// review by SoyBomb

Yakyu, Keiba, and Gateball. That's right: THE Gateball.

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.

Now it's time to take another blast into the simple past by taking a gander at Volumes 21 through 25 in another funky installment.

Simple 1500 Series Vol. 21: The Yakyū ~Pro Yakyū Jitsumeiban~

First up is The Yakyū, which is, coincidentally, the ONLY Yakyū that I'm aware of. This one's actually a baseball game, which isn't exactly my forte. I know you have to... uh... hit a... round thing... with a long... thing... Okay, I'm lying (to a degree). I was anticipating a simple baseball game, somewhat along the lines of the ones from the NES days where you just pick a team and start the game. The Yakyū definitely isn't one of those games.

After getting through the lovely dark title screen, complete with hotel lobby music, I was presented with enough menus to fill a restaurant! They're all entirely in Japanese, so navigating them ended up being more difficult than There were stats here and there, but mostly I was traversing each menu with a sense of confusion and wonder. Wonder as to when I would actually get to play baseball instead of Baseball Strategic Management Simulator 2000, that is! At one point, I was asked to choose my team out of a bunch of different symbols from the table of elements. I chose "Ys" because that is a fun game series. The game then pit me against the mighty "C" team. Yeah, C as in contemptible video game. I was able to input a name for myself: a flag and four Michael Jacksons. So... where exactly is the "Actually Play Baseball" button?

I found it. Eventually. As soon as I finally saw a field, I was relieved beyond belief. That is, until I saw that the actual baseball portion of the game looks like an early generation SNES game, complete with small poorly-detailed sprites. Playing wasn't exactly the thrill ride I anticipated. I had difficulty actually hitting the ball for some reason; the button for using the bat was either failing me or working only when it felt like it. The only redeeming quality was that the CPU was somehow worse than I am. Maybe that's a plus.

No, on second thought, this game is a total digiturd.

Still more fun than Stadium Peanut Vendor Simulator 2015.

Simple 1500 Series Vol. 22: The Pro Wrestling

The Yakyū made me feel sad, as though someone had just stomped on my delicious Eskimo Pie. I knew this review session would turn into a bust. That's when Volume 22: The Pro Wrestling appeared in my field of vision. A breath of fresh air... a diamond in the rough... a gold nugget in a pile of manure. Just the title screen alone is epic enough: a wrestler holding what appears to be a giant roast in the air. Maybe this is actually a scene from the concession stand.

Instead of selecting wrestlers, you select strange symbols. I went with one that looked like a youthful Godzilla; my opponent, a symbol representing the touch of death. So I figured I might be a giant lizard... but I ended up more closely resembling a fat Bill Clinton. But within the veins of that behemoth lies the stamina of a beast! I was dropping my opponent to the ground, dropping butt-stomps like $5 dollar bills at a yard sale, and delivering the dreaded wiener crunch to a now very sorry individual. Yeah, things were sweet. Needless to say, I won that round. I liked that there was also a body indicator for each wrestler, showing how weak each body part is becoming. It really helps to show off what you should focus on next.

The second bout was a little less, shall we say, successful. Although the symbols I chose were Tuxedo Mask versus what I thought was a Nazi albatross, I ended up with Larry the Cable Guy against Lou the Luchador. Needless to say, Larry is not so much a wrestler as a sack of potatoes in the ring. That bout left me dazed and surprised, yet I still enjoyed it, simple though it was.

After this little excursion into the ring, I think I'm going to become a pro wrestler. Just give me the time to gain something that resembles a muscle and I'll be set.

I have never grappled so much in my life.

Simple 1500 Series Vol. 23: The Gateball

Gate. Ball. It's not exactly a sport I think of when I try to remember what sports are. I wouldn't have even known what gateball is (er, sorry, THE Gateball) if I hadn't played this game. I had hoped for a wild and futuristic adventure with cybernets and strange force fields everywhere. The title screen arrived, and I discovered the sad truth: gateball is just a fancy name for croquet. Turns out it's a variant of croquet that originated in Japan.

The Gateball was developed by Amedio. That probably doesn't mean a thing to anybody, but considering they also created Vol. 19: The Sugoroku, a Simple series game that defied logic by being good, my hopes have increased a little bit. You start off by selecting one of four teams, each with really ugly Beavis & Butthead reject cartoon heads. You get trash-talked by the other player in Japanese, no doubt something positively seething like "You stink" or "You're going down, bro" or "Your mother eats clay pigeons". Serious business is about to go down.

The main event is the gateball tournament, and quite frankly, it's a drag. I was led to a drab arena with diarrhea turf and a few hoops littering the field. The background is black. Just black. Completely devoid of all things interesting and motivating. It's the visual equivalent to Atlas Shrugged... if it was being read aloud at a croquet game. Your goal is to knock your ball through the three hoops using a mallet. Of course, other players can knock your ball away (called a "roquet") and be generally irritating. You're just messing with other people's balls, and I can't find much enjoyment in that, especially since the CPU is actually good at this. All the while, I'm being taunted by that type of music people in Hawaiian shirts listen to at resorts: vanilla, tacky, yet upbeat. People would be doing a light samba if this game actually rendered people.

Gateball is about as fun as playing croquet in real life.

The second character from the left is the guy from Hanson.

Simple 1500 Series Vol. 24: The Gun Shooting

There is no game with as direct a title as "The Gun Shooting". It literally is what it sounds like: you are shooting a gun. But here's the interesting part: this game is actually much more polished than your typical budget title. The game boasts anime sequences courtesy of Tatsunoko Production, the popular anime company behind such Japanese hits as Gatchaman, the original Speed Racer, and even — dare I say it — Samurai Pizza Cats. I don't see how this could be beneficial from a financial perspective for a low-cost game.

Oh wait... yes, I can. Or at least I could understand clearly after I actually played the actual game part. Thankfully, the menus were in English, so my navigation with fairly smooth. When you actually start playing, it's a first-person rail shooter. You have no control over any movement except for your reticule, which you use to shoot ridiculous random robots that all want you dead. It's essentially a log ride, just with slightly more murderousness.

The biggest flaw I found was the ever-looming need to reload. Reload a gun makes sense, yes, but not after only one SECOND of gunfire! Because your weapon is essentially rapid-fire, you dispose of your eight-bullet magazine exceptionally quickly, requiring constant reloading, which severely detracts from the action at hand. "I'm busy tryna kill a flyin' purple car! I ain't gat time to reload!" This is especially grueling during boss battles when you're always under fire and need to fight back... but you can't... because you're distracted by having to reload every second or two. Somehow, I managed an "A" rank out of this game. They must be very lenient.

The graphics are decent for a game where details aren't really that important since you're whizzing through the environs so quickly. I did notice that when I visited the entire continent of Africa, there was pretty much nothing but brush and straw huts. Is... is that accurate? But the effort is there. I can't say no to a game that launches a cyborg squid at me early on and then actually has even more ideas after that gem.

The Gun Shooting is... okay. It definitely has that arcade feel, but the overall gameplay is a bit clunky. Only the most dedicated to the genre would get a great kick out of that. Oh, and I think I saw a DeLorean, too. So there's that.

I've got my never-going-to-blend-in-anywhere camouflage jacket on, so we're good to go, dude!

Simple 1500 Series Vol. 25: The Keiba

Last but not least, we have The Keiba. No, I'm not talking about KEiBA, the Kent Excellent in Business Awards, though that is indeed fascinating. There is, however, business going on here in the form of gambling and betting. Yessiree, we're headed to the tracks as we enter the glamorous world of horse racing! I started up a game, and it gave me a very lively neighing sound. Happiness filled the room. Or maybe it was air, I don't know. I think the entire

After inputting my name (or the Japanese equivalent), it was time to first examine the horses and their wicked stats. Aren't they all handsome and exactly the same with a simple palette swap? People have been telling me it's untrue that all horses look alike, and now I know for sure. They're all just a different colour! There are 36 horses in all in this stadium. Variety is the spice of life when it comes to horses. I also got to check out the jockeys, too. They were such jocks. I think their faces may have melted in their profiles, though. Shame, really.

But a horse racing game is nothing without the horse racing, right? I was pretty smug and figured I could pull off the 3000m track, no problem. I can sort of get first place in Mario Kart, so how hard can it be to handle a horse, a machine with fewer carburetors? Upon starting the race, I learned that maybe I should have duct taped more carburetors on its back or something. The only thing I could do is shuffle between lanes to avoid the other horses and whip it like I was going to top a pie slice. Of course, you can only whack a horse so much before it gives up and starts looking for a Denny's. I ended up being dead last, but I crossed the finish line with what little dignity I had left. You know what would have been nice, though? Any music at all.

I lost my will to horse.

*ahem* It's a horsey!

And with that, I can finally stuff another set of Simple 1500 games into the toilet bowl and give it a good clog. If you'll excuse me, I'll just be giving new appreciation to Action 52.

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