The sun also softs.

I’m a lot older now and often too tied down to keep up with new video games, so when someone talks about Elden Ring or Cyberpunk 2069, my eyes tend to glaze over. But bring up classics like Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll or Code Name: Viper, and I’m right there with you.

So, it’s a great pleasure to help announce that Sunsoft is returning to video games in earnest soon. On 12 August, the game maker posted the following teaser trailer on YouTube.

Okay, that wasn’t much at all, but the point is that the name behind all-time greats – such as Batman, Blaster Master, and a string of high-quality Looney Tunes games in the ’90s – is back after largely going inactive since the turn of the century.

However, the tragedy of Sunsoft’s greatness can be seen in the fact that two of the three examples I gave were licensed titles, making them and Sunsoft’s many other licensed titles very difficult to reboot or even rerelease now. Sunsoft was also skilled at porting other company’s games to different consoles such as Lemmings for home consoles or World Heroes on the SNES, again leaving them with little in the way of lasting intellectual property.

They do still have some up their sleeves though, and in their announcement Sunsoft showed off three games in particular, hinting that they may be poised to do something with them in the near future.

First we have the largely forgotten Gimmick! for the NES which boasted some console-pushing visuals and sound, but unfortunately was overshadowed by the advent of 16-bit consoles around the same time. It was a great game that was just a victim of horrible timing.

Then we have Ikki, a title with the dubious honor of being considered the first official kusoge, a Japanese term meaning “crap game.” Kusoge are often dubbed as such because they’re full of bugs or designed so poorly they’re impossible to play in an enjoyable way.

The term was said to have been coined by illustrator Jun Miura when describing Ikki both privately among friends and in a book he published about games. However, Miura’s main beef wasn’t so much with the game itself, but its visuals and underlying flawed concept. In Japanese “ikki” means “uprising” or “revolt”, but in the game there’s just one guy (or two in two-player mode), which is hardly an uprising by any standard.

▼ Apparently Miura had no problem suspending disbelief as a plumber jumping over lava and onto giant turtles…but this was a bridge too far.

Sunsoft was initially annoyed by the unfair labeling of “kusoge” but thanks to the rule that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, they ultimately warmed up to the notoriety and how it gave Ikki a very special place in video game history.
In fact, the company is also acknowledging their 1986 game Mystery of Atlantis (Atlantis no Nazo) lovingly as a “kusoge,” even though it’s not always described as such.

There certainly is a strong case for it though. Mystery of Atlantis is incredibly difficult and convoluted, reminding one of the gold standard kusoge Takeshi’s Challenge. Miura would probably also take issue with the fact that there doesn’t actually seem to be any “mystery” in the game that requires solving, other than how not to die…but that’s not really a mystery limited to Atlantis.

▼ I suppose there is the mystery of why birds are pooping huge coiled turds

Even considering these two games as real kusoge, they’re still vastly outnumbered by a long list of greats. This is in no small part to Sunsoft’s history of squeezing the most out of the consoles they worked with, so image what they could do with the keys to today’s gear. Even a game like Ikki could be updated to simulate a full-scale peasant revolution in feudal Japan with an actual army of rebels on screen at the same time.

We’ll find out next week when Sunsoft holds a virtual event on 19 August, announcing their game plans for 2022 and 2023 via their YouTube channel and new VTuber mascot who will also be revealed then.

Source: PR Times, Phile Web
Images: PR Times
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