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// review by SoyBomb

Balls, trout, and more balls.

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.

If I reach into my pocket, I'll pull out... five more Simple 1500 Series games?! Oh man, I was hoping for a wad of cash or a tuna fish sandwich. I guess I can't win 'em all. Time now for a look at the Simple 1500 Series Vol. 26 through 30.

Simple 1500 Series Vol. 26: The Tennis

As you probably aren't aware, I do like the occasional tennis video game. Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64 is pretty fun, perhaps admired for its simplicity and accessibility for players who couldn't even discern a tennis racket from an expired salami. That Sega All-Stars tennis extravaganza provided quick bursts of fun, provided you could forget Alex Kidd was ever part of history. And games like the Virtua Tennis series deliver a more serious and realistic edge on the sport.

And then there's The Tennis. Remember: this isn't just tennis. This is THE Tennis. There is no other tennis game like it, and maybe that's for the best. After starting the game and fiddling with the options — oh, sorry, "OPTION" — you choose between the classic Tournament Mode and the presumably less costly Free Mode (for doubles and such). Then it's time to select your player. And ohhhh, what a simply jovial crew we have for your selection pleasure...

Whether you choose the Boy George look-a-like, the Casanova cat-man, or the fuzzy manboy artistically named "Assica", you know you're in for a treat. Provided the treat is deftly rolled in matted dog tufts and granite pebbles, that is. But let's get right into the game, shall we? The graphics are... well, I think they'd be quite suitable for the Game Boy Advance. Everything looks like a horribly underdeveloped clay model only suitable for a screen the size of a beer coaster. Plus, you don't get any music while you play, so if you love listening to the smooth jazz of a tennis ball getting whacked back and forth, you'll be right at home. They should make a relaxation CD of tennis ball bouncing and sell it at dollar stores nationwide.

But it's all about the gameplay, isn't it? And I must say, it's about as inaccurate as could be expected from a budget title. Trying to actually hit the ball shouldn't be so lofty a goal. Heck, even just serving the ball felt like a chore. Then, once I show how much failure means to me, Microsoft Sam tells me how the opposite player gets a point. "15-Love." "30-Love." "40-Love." I have no love for this game, though apparently someone had faith in it and released it in the West as "Tennis" or the more robust "All-Star Tennis".

Be careful not to dent those claymation athletes with the ball.

Simple 1500 Series Vol. 27: The SnowBoard

I'm going to pretend I know a thing or two about snowboarder's lingo, so here we go: whoa, dude, hang some serious snow ten! Time to shred that powder and smack the slopes! Wiggety-wiggety-winter, rad!

Now that we've put that awkwardness out of the way, let's talk about THE SnowBoard, the one type of snowboard that should matter to you more than life itself. It was developed by Atelier Double, a company with a rich history that includes Ranma ½ games, among others (including, and I would not have believed this, a humorous QuickTime-ish money game for the Sega Saturn called "2Tax Gold", which should have put them out of business). They do have other snowboarding games under their belt, including "Zap! Snowboarding Trix" for Sega Saturn, so at least they're not going into this with snow blindness.

But let's get down to business. Upon startup, we get our choices: Race, Trick, or Option. I love fiddling with options, even if there is, according to the menu title, only one. But you can modify the difficulty, whether you want the controller to vibrate inappropriately, and whether you want to enable or disable a handicap. Kind of ableist, but it's your choice. But enough goofing off — let's hit the slopes!

The SnowBoard offers 27 courses. TWENTY-SEVEN. After playing the first one, I scratched my head in confusion. How could they make so many tracks based on snow? I thought I had seen it all in the first course... and I was right. Plus, only the first course is available from the start, and you unlock more by playing them. When you choose to "Race" with single-player mode, you're not really racing against anyone but yourself and the clock, thus making this a rather pathetic "race". Maybe the "race" is merely a metaphor for achieving greatness within oneself. Or maybe it's a poorly-designed game, I don't know. You can also race against a friend, if you have one. Choosing "Trick" is exactly the same, except you're performing cool moves (jumping, basically) as you descend the slope, earning points and trying to beat the previous high score of zero points.

As I played, I said aloud: "The controls could be worse." I'm no expert snowboarder... or novice snowboarder... and I probably qualify more as an actual snowboard than a snowboarder... but the game handled well enough. Oh, sure, my toqued athlete flitted about here and there, but that comes with the territory. Graphics were to be expected, save for some polygonal glitching, allowing me to see through a snow hill to whatever space was behind it, and the actual character models were a little goofy. My snowboarder was Boba Fett in a giant purple suit. You get to select your background music from five different options, none of which are greater than generic.

The SnowBoard could've been a lot worse, but it could've been a little more interesting, too. 1080° Snowboarding, this ain't. AIN'T.


The last time I tried a tailgrab, I got banned from of the zoo.

Simple 1500 Series Vol. 28: The Dungeon RPG

So far, I have seen many types of games. Board games such as The Reversi and The Igo; card games such as the well-titled The Card; and indeed sports games, including everyone's favourite, The Yakyū ~Pro Yakyū Jitsumeiban~. But now I ask a question: where are the fun games, the platformers, the RPGs, the adventure titles? Can we not create one of these on a strict budget? Up to this point, I would have said yes, but thank goodness for The Dungeon RPG for reviving my spirit! There is hope!

The Dungeon RPG was brought to us by the fine people at... huh? The developer is listed on the title screen as "Mint/PLOPHET". Plophet. PLOPHET.

From the highest mountain peaks, we call to thee, O Great Plophet! Give us your greatest gifts from above, and we shall praise thee and shower thee with illustrious unconditional lo—oh. Turns out "Plophet" is actually the pseudonym of Yoshihisa Kishimoto, the creator of the Double Dragon and Kunio-kun game series. Looks like he had his hand in this. We can also attribute the game to Mint, of course. Not the sensuous herb, mind you, but the developer behind such other classics as "Otoboke Ninja Colosseum" and "Shishunki: And I Love Her". And...that' *eherm* Yes.

But The Dungeon RPG is exactly what it sounds like. And right from the title screen, you know things are going to be crazy. Oh, what's that, knight on the front? You say you don't need a BACK for your armor? Truly a daring fellow, you are indeed! After picking a new file (complete with a background that reminds me of a bad corn trip) and choosing your character name, it's off to...a brief story cutscene, featuring the greatest production value in a Simple Series game yet: a pre-rendered cutscene of purple orb surrounded by flame as Japanese text flows by. Can't read it. Doesn't matter, though, because it's immediately off to the dungeons with us! No time to pretend we can read: there is trouble afoot o'er the kingdom!

Aaaaaand you start in the dark. Can't use a torch, so I'm now shuffling around in search of a way out. Thank goodness for a pixely map up top, eh? After a bit of exploration (and the hip discovery I can actually move on a diagonal), I found my way to a lit room, and I soon discover that I can make the sound of my sword swishing, but the sprite doesn't actually DO anything. Wandering further leads to a new room with an enemy: a squeaky green blob...thing. The only way to attack it, upon discovery, is to ram the thing, just like in the early Ys games. When you push yourself into it, your sword will swing, and then the blob will take its turn attacking, starting up a fun little back'n'forth of jabs before someone reigns victorious. As an added bonus, when I walk around, I get my HP restored! B-B-Bone-Us!

Your goal is to find the staircase and move to the next floor down. That gets... a little tedious and drab, especially since the SNES-quality graphics only do so much for me, and the environments all look the same. If this does not interest you, know that you can pick up consumable items that are just laying around in the dungeon, but your inventory is quite limited in space, so you'll probably be full by the second floor down. Wait... that probably didn't appeal, either.

For dungeon-crawling fans, this may have been a cheap godsend, but I would have expected more from such a darling plophet. The Dungeon RPG is quaint, but you get what you pay for. At least it's not another junky mahjong game.

They probably had an issue with the original title, "The Poorly-Lit RPG".

Simple 1500 Series Vol. 29: The Tsuri

I'm waiting for Phil Collins to pop his bald head into my door and sing "Tsu-tsu-tsuRIIIIII..." before promptly exiting and returning to whatever it is he does these days. Make appearances at charity aid benefits and not reuniting with Genesis, I suppose.

I still can't speak or read Japanese. Kiragana, katakana, it's all the same to me. So, coming into a game called "The Tsuri", I really couldn't have guessed what it was. The title screen majestically appeared, and I knew immediately what the word meant. "Tsuri" means "fishing". I'm no avid fisherman; I once caught a small fish at a young age, but that doesn't make me the Captain Ahab of our time. Luckily, the introductory music eased me into the experience.

And the weird fishing cat with green shorts on the next screen gave me pause.

You can easily imagine what The Tsuri is. It's a fishing game, so your goal is (naturally) to catch the biggest fish you can. And, rather than just going to your fish market and selecting the juiciest-looking halibut on the rack, you have to work for your rewards. So... pick your location, pick your fishing rod, pick your nose, and then it's off to the lake for some relaxing angling. Too bad the music is so damn dramatic! It makes me feel as though Nicolas Cage going to creep up behind me and appear frightened but determined to succeed in these tough times. Also, explosions.

The game is ugly, plain and simple. You wouldn't show this off at an abstract art exhibit. This isn't year 2000 game quality. This is 1993 MS-DOS game quality. You choose a spot in the three-frame river (as in, there's only three-frames of animation to this water, making it look quite unrealistic) and toss that lure in. Waggle it about, and a fish might give it a good chomp. If you make a "HIT!!", the game will switch to a reeling-in simulator, as seen from below the water level. Unless you've thoroughly studied a manual or currently non-existent GameFAQs walkthrough, you'll be confounded, FLOUNDERED even, if I may through the pun out there, as to what to do. It's silly, but at least I met my goal, and the game gave me a wonderful "Congra tulation!" Then a picture of a vomit-spewing trout appears, and I walk away.

Congratulation! You have caught a sardine! Best player!

Simple 1500 Series Vol. 30: The Basket - 1on1 Plus

I know all about this craze called "basketball". If the constant barrage of internet news stories about how a basketball player or coach said something damaging wasn't enough to remind me, the many video games surrounding the sport will do the trick. The NBA 2Ks, the NBA Lives, the NBA Jams... it's enough to make my head spin, thus causing significant neck injury. But never, in discussing popular basketball games, does anyone ever mention The Basketball 1-on-1, which is a shame, because it's worth discussion.

If only for its ridiculous take on basketball.

We can thank Jorudan for developing this one. Yes, Jorudan, the famed company behind such legendary classic titles as "Arbalester", "Hamster Club: Awasete Chu", and... guhhh... "Petz: Hamsterz 2". I guess their strong affection for hamsters has earned them some clout in the virtual life simulation game industry. Plus, I couldn't tell you at the moment what an "arbalester" is, but I imagine it should be imprisoned. Originally, Jorudan had self-published this game under the name "One on One", but apparently that wasn't enough to gain it popularity (the name alone sounds like it's more of a dating sim than a sports title), so D3 Publisher picked it up and slapped "The Basket" on there.

The Basket - 1on1 Plus tries to be "street". The gangsta rap on the title screen is enough to make the eyes of the entire human race roll in unison, making quite the sloppy sound effect. But the title screen art itself says nothing of basketball. In fact, I'd wager these are the other band members of Smashing Pumpkins I couldn't name. Why would basketball players wear such ridiculous trippy outfits? Why are they staring at me like that? Why is the word "THE" in English but "Basket" isn't?! Why am I playing this?

Calm down, me. Maybe I — you — whoever is talking to whom — am overreacting. Maybe the game will be good! I get my choice of 1-on-1, just as the game's title predicted — no, wait, this says "One On One Government". WHA——?! Are we actually playing basketball against our country's leaders? That would be pretty great, although I'd still get my butt handed to me in a duffle bag. Oh, and there's 2-on-2. It's not government-related. That's a community matter.

The character select screen is equally bizarre. Who ARE these characters? These don't look like basketball players to me. There's a monkey man named Manbe, for crying out loud! As in, wants to BE a MAN? There's a guy named Mash who's basically Coolio after he faceplanted a tackle box, and Dr. T. an out-of-place pastel-drawn cartoon character straight out of an episode of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. But let's get right into the game. No more messing around looking at chimpfolk or women named Laheesha.

It stinks. It stinks. It stinks. (Yes, Mr. Sherman. Everything stinks.) Okay, perhaps I exaggerate. I only know how to perform a few moves: run around like a confused mailman, jump in the air, and perform a kick, which I didn't know was part of standard basketball. Needless to say, equipped with these moves, I lost badly to Laheesha. If you play the 2-on-2, however, things do get more fun, as your computer comrade seems to actually know what he or she is doing. Together, we were a dream team. The crowds were cheering with glee. Well, they would've been cheering if they had actually been there. We were just playing on random courts in the city. The majestic backdrop of average apartment buildings glistened as the evening sunset shone rays of orange over them, and the winning combo of Bobble Head Boy and Fish Lure Coolio showed their A-game. It was then that I realized that The Basket - 1on1 Plus was more than a mere video game: it was an analogy for life itself. Remember this: if you work hard, play hard, and team up with an oversized buff man, you will succeed. Aim high, people!

Bust a move... as well as a few vertebrae, apparently.

So ends another rousing look at five more of those Simple 1500 Series games. We've now covered 30 of them, so that just leaves... 74 more?! I'm not sure I can handle this! Keep watching Random.access, and maybe — just maybe — I'll subject myself to more electronic torture.

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