The beat 'em up genre has always been a favorite of mine, but it seems after the 16-bit generation there just weren't as many games to choose from. While researching this genre for new games I ran across Nekketsu Oyako and was instantly interested. The game was never released in the US, but it was released for both the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation. Already having an import friendly Saturn I sought out the game, but was turned off by it's high price tag.
Nekketsu Oyako comes packaged in the thicker Playstation cases. It seems this was a common move for many of the PS1 games released outside of the US. Some of the Japanese games have the game title in English on the opposite spine, but this is not one of those. My copy of the game didn't come with the spine card either.
Released in 1994 by Technosoft (of Thunder Force fame), this beat 'em up plays and feels a lot like Capcom's Final Fight or Sega's Streets of Rage. At the start of the game you have animated scenes setting up the story, followed by a player select screen. Each character has their own move set along with rankings for Power, Speed and Skill.
You've got your typical big muscle guy, strong, but slow. You have your female character that is quick on her feet, but not as powerful and then you have your average Joe type character. I chose to go through my first play through with him.
The third level is where some of the level design charm really comes into play. After you defeat the boss at the end of the second level, you fall to the sea underneath the bridge and are swallowed by a whale, Jonah style! The first part of the third level takes place in the belly of the whale. I had a picture taken, but I didn't realize it turned out crappy so I had to nix it. Inside the belly of the whale you are introduced to our first new enemy, boxing glove wearing bi-pedal octopus. I'm beginning to see why this game never made it outside of Japan!
Once you fight your way through the belly, the whale swallows some water and you are rushed off the screen only to be blown out the blow hole on a spout of water. You land on back end of the whale and are forced to fight on top of the whale now. As I was making my way across the back of the barnacle laced whale, I found a beverage that would replace my health! However when I pushed the attack button to pick it up, I was treated with this 'Adult Only!' prompt. Upon closer inspection that beverage was actually a can of beer! I guess only the big guy character is able to drink beer.
Once you fight this karate looking boss a top the whale, you end up back on land and at a amusement park for the fourth level. About half way through the level you end up jumping onto a roller coaster and are attacked by a lot of the common boxer grunts. With the roller coaster car is going up and down on the tracks and the number of enemies on the screen, this is the first time I experienced some slow down to the game. It wasn't too bad, but having to fight so many guys in such a small space while it was going up and down and all around, it was a little hard to find my character in all of the chaos.
The roller coaster ends up going off rail and crashing into a mountain. You end up fighting the last part of the fourth level inside what appears to be a volcano and at the end you face the boss, Hammer. He was the most menacing looking boss yet, but was actually a push over.
The fifth and final level starts off on the first floor of a high rise building. Without knowing this is the last level you can kind of sense you are working your way to the final boss just by the look of the building you're in. You do end up re-fighting the level bosses on each floor, but it seems as if they were much easier to take out this time around. When you finally make it to the top, you find this big bald white dude sitting in a chair watching some monitors. The look of this guy really reminded me of the Kingpen from the Marvel Daredevil comics or even a little of Big Boss from the animated/toy series, C.O.P.S.
In typical fashion, he starts off sitting there and lets others do his dirty work. He whistles in large groups of enemies to dispatch and finally after a few waves he gets up to take you on himself. He was a formidable final boss and I actually ran out of continues by this point. This is where I had to quickly change my controller to player 2 so I could continue. This explains my my character changed in the screen shots.
After you finally take him out and start to have that feeling of accomplishment, the final boss reappears dressed in a very 90's comic book type costume. How that rotund boss reappears as a muscle bound character such as this is pretty comical. This guy was tough too and I ended up continuing several times before I finally was able to widdle his health down to zero.
Apparently the building you were fighting in was on floating island in the sky and after you defeat the final boss you are treated to nice little animated scene of the building collapsing and blowing up.
I'm not sure who I rescued and how I got off a floating island and back down to the ground, but the other two characters thought I was dead by their facial expressions only to be surprised/happy to see me walking up over the horizon. The game ends with several more scenes complete with text, but since I can't read Japanese I really don't know what was going on.
In closing I enjoyed this game. The game play is a little sluggish as your character moves fairly slow. There isn't a lot of variety when it comes to your moves or enemies you fight, however I think the level design helps breath a little life into a slightly above average game. The Playstation didn't get a lot of beat 'em ups like this so for that reason alone it's worth adding to your game library. I like the variety of weapons you can pick up, from knives to guns to grenades; my favorite weapon was this bladed hoop that acted like a boomerang when thrown. As long as you weren't punching when the weapon returned, your character would catch it so you could throw it again. I was able to take out 2 bosses fairly easy with this weapon alone.
I haven't researched to see if the game looks or plays any better on the Saturn, but I do know this Playstation version was ported over to the Saturn in 1995. I also know that the PSX version usually can be had for about half of what the Saturn version sells for. Being that I'm new to the Playstation 1 import scene this was an easy selection for me and it's one that I enjoyed. I do look forward to playing through it again as the girl or seeing if my wife will play with me as it is a two player game, however I can the game will have a low replay ability. If you are fan of the beat 'em up genre I encourage you to check this out.