Friday, 3 June 2011


If B.A. Baracus broke out of the A-Team and formed his own country, completing the citizenship test could mean you'd be classed as a...

And what greater privilege could you have than sharing a name with this 1981 arcade game by Namco? Bosconian is yet another great early arcade game that has evaded my attention for three decades. There's too many of these, and yes, it is another review inspired by Classic Game Room.

Of course, I say I haven't played it up until this point, but I have been fortunate enough to play a real-life Galaga arcade machine in the past. Many Bosconian cabinets were converted to Galaga ones, so there's a chance my manly fingers were controlling a Bosconian cabinet in disguise.

I must say though, it's a shame anyone felt the need to convert this game into a copy of Galaga. Galaga is nice but it's really nothing special - it's Galaxian... but better. Gaplus is Galaga but better, so if you needed your fix of static vertical shooters I'd say go for that one instead. Bosconian houses a completely original idea and has no need for Galaga to give it a helping hand. The fact people didn't play it means they have no taste.

There are, of course, other factors that stopped Bosconian becoming a household name. There are no home console ports. Namco did not feel the need to supply their work to either Atari or Nintendo, which means in order to experience Bosconian in the home, you'd have to invest in a handy dandy 80s home computer. And not one of the good ones I should add - we're talking about the MSX, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 or ZX Spectrum, each equipped to give you their own brand of a lesser Bosconian experience. Granted, it's better than nothing, but look at it - it's screaming for a NES port.

That's not to say Bosconian is a difficult game to get ahold of mind you. Now that we have high density DVDs and Blu Rays, Namco tend to stick this in modern compilations, meaning it's almost as common as Ms. Pac-Man. You can also download it via the Wii's Virtual Console service... in Japan. The VC release has been exclusive to that region for two years, so I guess it's delivers that narrow-minded 1980s way of thinking, where the western consumer had to wait far too long for their share of the game on a Nintendo platform.

There are no ports of Bosconian really worth mentioning... except one - the Sharp X68000 version. This is by far the greatest version of the game because it updates the graphics and adds music, but again, it remained exclusive to Japan. Orange you glad the internet and emulation destroys those borders?

Bosconian is an eight-directional overhead shooter controlled by a control stick. Even more amazing is that by pressing the button, your space ship shoots. Fantastic! And not only that, one bullet flies ahead of your ship while another emerges from behind. That's two bullets! We're living life on the bleeding edge my friend.

Your mission is to destroy the many space stations dotted around the map while making sure not to be killed. Enemies will kill you, flying into obstacles will kill you. Everything will kill you to be honest, but you have twice the amount of firepower to keep you alive. Each space station has six sections which can be blown up individually for more points but if that doesn't float your boat though, a well timed shot can knock out the centre piece, destroying the station entirely for a lesser score.

Being a 1980s arcade game there are, of course, other ways to push that score value up. You can go around and crush all the mines or asteroids in the level because everything counts. However, there are reasons why doing this is a bad idea. The game uses a three colour warning system, identified on the right. Condition green is fine. Condition yellow tends to suggest there are enemies on screen. Condition red will probably mean you're going to be killed. You don't want condition red.

Dawdling for too long will trigger a condition red, and condition red will trigger ships to fly in from all directions attempting to gun you down. You can drop back down to yellow of course, but the weaker men among us will struggle to do so. It's all just a gimmick to show off the game's ability to shout "CONDITION RED" at you.

Generally it's a fun game, but there are other reasons which make it stand out. It has digitised speech that you can barely make out and has the potential to annoy you after short periods of time. It's a game that reminds me of Sinistar - it's not as frantic or as easy on the ears as that game, but you don't need to be insane to succeed.It has its own quirky method of doing things but generally, considering the game is three decades old, I think it's held up rather well. And again, many of the graphical flaws were patched up in the X68000 release.

So in conclusion, Bosconian is another game worth playing, and yet another underdog to add to the ever growing collection. It really does amaze me how many of these things there are out there.

1 comment:

  1. You ought to try the spiritual doujin sequel, Zugya. There's an x68000 version and a free PC version.