*deep breath* Heisei Tensai Bakabon Susume! Bakabons (Saturn)

Here’s an odd one for you. Based on the famous manga/anime Tensai Bakabon series, Heisei Tensai is an early Saturn release, and it really shows, so I’ll keep this post mercifully brief. I’m just going to say it: this game is kind of charming, but thoroughly unspectacular. There’s really very little to the actual game play – it’s a Puyo Puyo clone, with the gimmick that you have to “surround” pairs of coloured blobs. Visually the “surround the blocks” concept is not at all intuitive in the way that, for instance, Tetris is. Also, bizarrely, you can only rotate your blocks clockwise (?!).

There’s a multiplayer versus mode and a singleplayer story mode where you face the usual AI opponents in order, and the latter is what you’d expect but the multiplayer is limited in scope to the point that it doesn’t even keep tracks of wins and losses. (Do you expect me to use pen and paper to play this game?!) Issues aside, what is interesting about Heisei Tensai are its cutscenes, which are all finely tuned visions of insanity.

heisei tensai bakabon 9

Get ready for a trip down the rabbit hole…

What follows are some highlights – let’s call it the Tama treatment.

The game opens with an anime scene, set somewhere in the Land of the Rising Sun.

heisei tensai bakabon 2

A man is sleeping.

On this particular morning, a father is sleeping.

A woman is performing beside a vacuum cleaner.

A mother is performing beside a vacuum cleaner.

A child is smiling.

A child is smiling.

And that’s all you need to know. We take on the part of the father, although the why, how, etc go unaddressed. But who cares. Any excuse to drop blocks, right? In singleplayer mode you face off against a bunch of opponents in a bid to complete this dot-to-dot puzzle. That’s what it looks like anyway.

Does this sound like a plot to you?

Does this look like a plot to you?

Each level you face a new foe, who is introduced through a cutscene. This video shows off the first cutscene in singleplayer mode, which presents itself as a B-movie called ‘Scream from the Dark Forest’, directed by one John Doe. This is essential viewing. Doe’s evident mastery of the horror genre and unique style elevates his name to the same status as the other horror masters, Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, Todd Hooper, etc.

Some highlights:

*ominous music*

*ominous music*

heisei tensai bakabon 27

I love how nonsensical the whole thing is. Yes, clearly the cottage is mysterious. I think this was already established with the creepy music and shots of the cottage.

This shadow guy grabs an axe and sneaks up on...

This shadow guy grabs an axe and attempts to sneak up on…

This guy. I'm deadly serious. End of film.

…this guy. I’m deadly serious. End of film.

And so this lovely image forms the background for our first level.

Why?!

A few minutes later...

Since the attempted murder didn’t come off, the pair decide in customary fashion to settle their differences through a block-dropping duel.

Easy AI here on this first level. Surrounding the blocks means getting a minimum of two blocks of the same colour bookended at both ends by blocks of another colour. From left to right, a successful formation will read blue-green-green-blue, for instance. You can do this vertically, horizontally or diagonally. There’s also those metal looking things in the bottom corners. These act like wildcards, impersonating any colour. Just to reiterate, the central concept here is not simply unintuitive – it’s obscure. Other block dropping puzzlers like Baku Baku Animal and Kururin Pa! use unique looking “blocks” to visually communicate how you need to place them:

baku baku animal saturn

Baku Baku Animal

kururin pa saturn

Kururin Pa!

Regardless, let’s move to the second cutscene in Heisei Tensai. This one is a little more upfront.

Something tells me this might be our next opponent.

Something tells me this might be our next opponent.

heisei tensai bakabon 46

heisei tensai bakabon 47

Novel way of chopping potatoes.

heisei tensai bakabon 52

The cutscene goes on and on like this, him shooting towards camera over and over.

And when it finally concludes, we're confronted with this terrifying image.

And when the shooting finally concludes, we’re confronted with this terrifying image.

heisei tensai bakabon 58

Oh god, it’s the backdrop for this level.

The combination of the disturbing backdrop, challenging AI and the irregular means of scoring means the game becomes rather tedious before long. So I’d like to end with the game’s pause screen.

I hit Start, only for the game to load this bizarre pause screen.

Pause the game and this cat-tadpole hybrid appears for your amusement. It has its own theme tune and swirls and bounces whilst you dance. Not exactly Battletoads on the NES, but it’s close.

And there you have it. That was Heisei Tensai Bakabon Susume! Bakabons. As this post hopefully makes clear, compelling cutscenes aside, this game is not really my thing. So, in the words of a song by Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac fame, ‘that’s enough for me’.

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2 comments

  1. moresleepneeded

    This seems like a strange game. I suppose it would make more sense if I was more familiar with the original manga/anime series the game is based on. I am relieved that I finally know what this kind of game is called (Puyo Puyo) as I just said they were similar to Columns or Tetris. Seems like this game was just a way of getting money from a cheap product using a popular series, similar to how a lot of games franchises and TV series produced Puyo Puyo games based on the show or games. I like the joke captions.

    • veryverygaming

      Yeah, I’m not familiar with the anime, even though it was a very successful show from what I understand. I heard that it is (was?) regularly shown on childrens TV throughout Asia and the Middle East at least, although I had never heard of it or seen it in the UK. A cash-in game sounds like a good diagnosis. It’s a shame because there are other anime-licenced puzzle games on the Saturn that are apparently quite good – there’s a Tenchi Muyo one called “Tenchi Muyo Rensa Hitsuyou” (short review here: http://www.sega-saturn.com/saturn/software/reviews/tenchipuzzle-1.htm).

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