Saturday 14 April 2012

Jaki Crush

"I wonder what Squirrel will post next..."

Surprise! It's an obsolete pinball game from twenty years ago! Jaki Crush, for the Super Famicom, built by Naxat Soft. We're living it large, friends.

Jaki Crush follows cult classics Devil Crush (sometimes known as Devil "Crash" because who needs translations) and Alien Crush, standing third in a series of surreal "Crush" pinball games from the late 80s and early 90s. Typically people don't claim to be fans of pinball... something about the genre being dull and uneventful, or plagued with other similar non-issues. These people are wrong, though it's easy to see where they're coming from when it comes to pinball video games.

Truth is, most video game interpretations of pinball fail to capture the brilliance of real-life pinball. The atmosphere is often lost due to weaknesses in graphics and audio, and in order to do the genre justice, you need a physics engine which works, which suggests you'll need to have someone on your team with some leet maths skillz. Pinball also isn't the most captivating of concepts - here's a static table, why not flick a ball around it for points? And then we'll sell it to fans of Super Mario World!

For me though, pinball returns to the heart of video gaming. The competitive nature of the genre means that Pinball FX 2 continues to devour hours of my time nearly a year after reviewing it for this blog. Modern pinball games stand as a great way to quantify my greatness - I can cruise down the street knowing I'm 652nd best in the world with hundreds of millions of points, while you're only 2953rd according to the online leaderboards. This supposedly gives me a higher chance of getting laid. Evidence forthcoming.

Based on Japanese culture, Jaki Crush has you shoot at little monsters, bugs and devils to rank up a high score. There is one "main" table and six or so little hidden ones, and your objective is generally to hit things in the face for reasons unknown to man. As you can imagine, many of the things it tries are almost impossible to do in reality, which to a 1992 audience makes the package more interesting than many other pinball games on the market.

But Jaki Crush is a bit of an awkward pinball game. The layout can lead to several cheap drains, and in general it doesn't seem to be as forgiving as Devil or Alien Crush. It's a fan of awkward pauses and disrupting the flow of your game to show pointless screens, and though it's silly to expect perfection from a game of this age, I can't see a reason for the interruptions.

Like all the Crush games you'll find there is quite a lot of depth to this one if you're to sit and play for a considerable time, but as is so often the case with the genre, I think the package is a bit too small to be charging a high price at launch. It's effectively one fancy table, and an average player isn't destined to get very far on it. Unless your friends are pinball maniacs there's little reason to keep coming back to this one.

The physics are far better than what I would have expected from this era, giving the player plenty of control over where your ball goes, but again, it could be more pleasant in its delivery - you have the ability to aim, but not to see what you're aiming at. However, even though it's two decades old and runs on a console I don't particularly like, I'd say Jaki Crush has stood the test of time quite well in this area. It also makes an attempt at multiball, though this mode doesn't get on well with the camera.

Jaki Crush also has some nice graphics, usually surpassing those of previous Crush outings. I can't say the same about the music, however - I find it far more tedious and repetitive than perhaps it should be. It's also a game that doesn't really play to the console's strengths, and though it's not fair to expect a mind-blowing experience from a pinball game, I can't see why it had to miss the PC Engine and Mega Drive.

Still, this is an interesting release - maybe not one to buy, but certainly one to note.

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