Monday, April 7, 2014

Diary Entry #24: Roaming the Streets of HOT・B's Psychic City

               I finally got a PC-88 emulator running today, which inspired me to try out In the Psychic City by HOT・B. After messing around with the configurations for a couple minutes, I got the game running.

               Whether this is the HOT・B logo or just the game's title, it looks pretty cool.

               The "demo" option on the main menu is actually a lengthy intro. There's a distinct sci-fi storyline, similar to Psychic City's alleged successor, Hoshi wo Miru Hito. Here, a fetus floats around as primordial men runs around with giant rocks, images ripped straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

               The next screen shows some Klansmen crucifying people. Oddly enough, they're actually harnessing everyone to the crosses rather than nailing them.

               This somehow leads us to the future, where guys with helmets point guns at our fleeing protagonist. The pixel art's not bad for 1984, but the graphics really go downhill from here.

               Tinkering with various options for over ten minutes, I manage to start the game. I evidently named myself 10. All of my stats are also 2, most likely a product of random entry.

               The titular psychic city looks horrible, even by 1984 standards. Everything is tile-based, with your avatar represented by a blue square. All of the buildings are ugly smatterings of color, with entryways denoted by very small rectangles on any edge. While it is one of Japan's earliest computer RPGs, Dragon Slayer, the Black Onyx, and Hydlide, all from the same year, put these graphics to shame. Thankfully, I'm not one to be swayed by paltry things like graphics, so I press onward.

               I slowly figure out that 1 moves left, 2 moves down, 3 moves right, and 5 moves up, not realizing that this is a very intuitive setup if I simply use the keypad. Movement takes a very, very long time, as you have to push the button twice for it to register followed by a one second delay.

               Every door requires an ID card. I only have card number 1, which doesn't work anywhere. After eight attempts, I decide this key has no purpose.

               This revelation is quickly interrupted by an attacking robot! I mash every key until I realize uppercase P, T, and J are my only combat options. What they stand for remains a mystery. The pink text explains enemy attacks, while light blue text shows my actions.

               Although P and T don't seem too effective, J teleports me to this random room filled with brick walls. They recall the brick blocks from the original Super Mario Bros released a year later. Moving slightly to the southeast...

               ...I encounter the white crocodile, an enemy straight out of Hoshi wo Miru Hito. The stats suggest the croc is twice as strong as the previous robot, so I quickly hit J again.

               I find myself in a room with several octagonal shapes. I search the area, yet there's little else of interest in the corridor. With no alternatives, I step on the octagons to the south.

               No idea what's going on here. The game didn't make any fuss when I magically flew away from the robot or the crocodile, but the teleporters deserve a ??!!

               This room has even larger octagons and is the first area that's bordered by a featureless void. Perhaps I've reached the end of the world or at least some sort of ocean. I notice a shape in the distance that looks sort of like a spaceship, a notion that fills me with excitement. 

               As I approach the ship, the game crashes. Disappointment reigns.

               In the Psychic City is probably super innovative for one reason: the overhead world map and static first person battle screens would be featured two years later in the original Dragon Quest, possibly the most influential JRPG of all time. I hope Yuji Horii drew some inspiration from this game.

               HOT・B had big ambitions, and while the language barrier will keep me from uncovering their full execution, I can say they really tried. The locales definitely have more variety than most JRPGs in general. A sewer, a teleporter, a military complex, and a weird hangar all in the first twenty minutes? The battle system seems fun, and the use of inventory items probably puts it one step ahead of the Black Onyx. If I ever find a translation guide for In the Psychic City, I'm going to boot it up right away.

               I picked up a copy of Brain Lord on SNES today, as well as several import Game Boy games: Master Karateka, Double Dragon, Mr. Driller, Maru's Mission, Cave Noir, and SD Gundam something G. The last is on my must play list, featuring gameplay remarkable similar to Zone of Enders: The Fist of Mars on Game Boy Advance.

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