Retro Game Of The Week: Bikkuriman World (PC Engine)

Bikkuriman World (PC Engine)
Bikkuriman World is a game based on a Japanese chocolate wafer… and it’s almost instantly recognisable if you’ve been around retro gaming for any length of time at all.

In Retro Game Of The Week I pull a game from my collection and write about why it’s important or interesting. Or in some cases, badly dated and rubbish.

Chances are that you’re not all that au fait with Bikkuriman. I wouldn’t blame you, because it’s genuinely a Japanese-only phenomenon, built around a chocolate snack wafer sold to younger children with the promise of a sticker inside the pack.

Think Kinder Surprise, but less based around a plastic egg toy, basically, but with storylines… of a sort.

Make what sense you can of this.

Bikkuriman really picked up steam in the 1980s with a sticker set built around a theme of devils vs angels (“Akuma vs Tenshi”), becoming an absolute phenomenon that saw Japanese kids buy the wafers with no intent of eating them — so much so that makers Lotte put out commandments instructing them that they should do so to avoid wastage — and leading to a lot of spinoff merchandise, including this week’s retro game of the week, Bikkuriman World.

Now, typically when you get a game built around some kind of external IP in the 1980s or 1990s, and especially food ones, they’re… not very good. The McDonaldLand games, for example, though I will give Cool Spot a small amount of credit for at least being tolerable. Licensed games just weren’t very good, as a rule.

Bikkuriman World is an excellent game, one of the very best of its era… but that’s for a reason. The best way I can describe it is to say that it’s WonderBoy in Monster World.

Not that it’s like WonderBoy in Monster World.

Bikkuriman World
I can’t shake the feeling I’ve seen this somewhere before.

It literally is WonderBoy in Monster World, Sega’s classic platform fantasy romp, but with a large quantity of character sprites — your hero and the main bosses — replaced with Bikkuriman sticker characters instead.

Bikkuriman World

Pink armour with white boots was all the rage in the 80s. You had to be there to understand.

This is no cheesy ROM hack to turn characters nekkid or anything; it’s a fully authorised port that only saw light of day on the PC Engine in Japan that’s remarkably close to the arcade original.

Bikkuriman World

I have this sudden urge to stab a clown in the nose. Several times.

That does mean that while it starts off pretty simply, it does get considerably harder later on, especially if you haven’t balanced your spending around armour, shields and boots, as well as upgrading your sword as and when you can.

Being a Japan-only game, character text is all in Japanese… which could be challenging if you’re a first-time Monster World player. If you are au fait with Monster World, while you’d miss some character nuances (a bit) without the Japanese, you’d totally be able to get on with playing it without too many issues. You’d even know where a decent quantity of the secrets in the game lie, too.

Bikkuriman World

What could possibly lie behind the door of mystery?

Do you need to play Bikkuriman World if you’ve already played a lot of Monster World? Not entirely, but it is an interesting representation of what could be done with existing game code done well.

Bikkuriman World

Obligatory: Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!

There are a few other examples of this kind of re-use I can think of — the awful remix of Turrican into Universal Soldier for example — but it’s quite pleasing to see a game where the core gameplay shines through some interesting character redesigns.

How to play Bikkuriman World (PC Engine) now

Bikkuriman World

That’s my copy above; a card-only copy that I scored not that long ago in Friends in Akihabara for 1,000 yen.

Bikkuriman World is a Wonder Boy game in all but name, and I noted with annoyance when I reviewed the Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection for Digitally Downloaded that it was a shame that it wasn’t included there to show the depth of what was done with that series. I can only presume it’s a licensing matter holding it back.

Bikkuriman has continued in game form over the years on a variety of platforms, all Japan-only, but there’s never (as far as I can tell) been any kind of port of this particular game off the HuCard format.

Which means if you want it (legally, obviously emulators exist, etc…) then you’ll need a PC Engine to play it on, and a copy of the HuCard.

It’s not terribly common to see sold outside of Japan — and be careful, because there’s an identically named Bikkuriman World game for the Famicom that’s a totally different title — but a quick search of eBay suggests that loose cards go for around $20-$30 and full cased copies run from $50-$80 typically.

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