Panic in Nakayoshi World is an almost unbearably cute game about magical princesses… and wholesale murder. Somehow, it all works.
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.
Once again, I used the entirely scientifically valid* method of selecting this week’s retro game of the week of closing my eyes and randomly pointing at a section of my retro games shelf. The finger of power landed on 1994’s Panic In Nakayoshi World, a Japan-only game that (for example) Wikipedia describes as a “puzzle” game.
Here’s a shock: Wikipedia’s quite wrong about this one, because if I was going to categorise Panic in Nakayoshi World, I wouldn’t call it a puzzle game. It’s more acccurately a top down shooter, one part Gauntlet, one part Gain Ground, maybe a little bit by the way of Yoshi’s Island… and astonishingly cute and sweet and bubbly.
Do you like bubbly tunes and super-saturated cartoon colours and foes?
Gritty and dark might have been very “in” in the 1990s,
but Panic in Nakayoshi World will have none of it.
That’s because the Nakayoshi in Nakayoshi World relates to the long-running and insanely successful Nakayoshi shōjo manga magazine. All of the playable characters in Panic In Nakayoshi World are drawn from its pages, with the notable highlight (from a Western perspective) without a doubt being Sailor Moon. Chances are you’ve probably heard of Sailor Moon.
Yep, that Sailor Moon.
Alongside Sailor Moon, there’s also characters from Kingyo Chuuihou (“Goldfish Warning”), Kurumi to 7 Ninnokobitotachi (“Kurumi & the 7 Dwarves”) and Chou Kuseni Narisou (“I’ll Make a Habit of It”), and I 100% know who they are because I looked it up online, and not at all in any way that I’m a 90s era shōjo expert.
There’s actually not a lot written about Panic In Nakayoshi World online, to be honest. If I write this week’s game up to my usual length, it will probably be the single longest article written about it to date, I suspect.
Playing Panic In Nakayoshi World is quite simple; you pick from one of four characters in either single or two player modes and enter a top down, level by level shooter with a light protection/guardian mission twist.
Usagi has to avoid being touched by the enemies, or she gets very shocked.
No, not like that. Get your mind out of the gutter.
Clearing each stage involves either defeating every monster in a level or at least defeating enough for a magic door to appear. Guide your protection character (again, drawn I presume from the pages of Nakayoshi and probably a lot more pertinent to 90s era manga fans) to the door and you finish the level. Lose all your lives or let the very cutesy monsters get to your protection character, and it’s game over.
In the words of Hudson, Game Over Man. Game Over.
That’s the game in a nutshell, although after every four stages you get a bonus level to hoover up power-ups before taking on a boss character. It’s highly reminiscent of a lot of games of this type, only this time you’re mostly cutesy, generally female characters doing all the brutal murdering.
KILL THEM ALL. That is the game.
Sure, sure, Panic In Nakayoshi World, tell me that they’re fighting for justice and love and overall pinkness all you like, but I’m still out there slaughtering cute woodland creatures by the mass-grave-load, and there’s no real denying that.
What’s behind the pink door? More murdering.
There’s also a secondary battle mode which brings Super Bomberman to mind, but this is a more limited two-player only affair that’s less compelling than Bomberman really is. There’s other Bomberman clones for the SNES that I’d track down before Panic In Nakayoshi World for this kind of action, frankly.
As Bowie put it so famously, ‘There’s a Starman… waiting to be killed…’
Panic In Nakayoshi World isn’t the toughest SNES game by a wide margin, but it does have a couple of annoyances built in.
As you play you can power up your character’s weapon — they’re different for each character chosen — but you lose all those power-ups on death in the classic shoot-em-up style.
Fully powered up Usagi is a fearsome sight.
That’s fine on regular levels where you can generally find more, but on the boss fight levels if you die once, you’re in for a tough battle with just your regular weapon unless you’ve already done significant damage.
Two player cute murder is also an option. But not four player
(though that might get a little crowded).
Then there’s your protection character. Running into them will make them follow you around, but you can optionally (and strategically) press a button to get them to stop in a specific area. All good and fine, but if you leave them alone for long enough on any level… they start crying.
Ever played Yoshi’s Island? I suspect you have, and if you’ve ever thought that Baby Mario had an annoying howl… well, you’re right, but it turns out he wasn’t the only one. The bawling that your protection character engages in when you ignore them for more than about 10 seconds is downright infuriating.
IF YOU DON’T CEASE THE BAWLING, I’LL COME DOWN THERE AND SHOOT YOU MYSELF!
It’s absolutely designed to get you back to them pronto, but I’m not a fan of deliberately enraging the player as a gameplay mechanic.
As a Japan-only title, Panic In Nakayoshi World features Japanese language prominently, but not to a huge degree; you genuinely could get by with a little trial and error to get into the game pretty quickly without any Japanese language knowledge.
For what it’s worth, if you’ve got something like a Retron 5, there is an English language translation patch that does work rather nicely.
How to play Panic In Nakayoshi World now
My own copy — like so very, very much of my SNES collection — is a loose copy, because I chanced upon it on one of my Japan game buying adventures, noted Sailor Moon on the cover and my better half insisted we buy it. As memory serves, it cost around 1,000 yen or so at the time, but that was quite a few years ago.
The licensed nature of the characters in Panic in Nakayoshi World means that this is absolutely one of those games that is super-unlikely to get any kind of re-release any time soon.
As such, if you want to play it legitimately, you’ll need a cartridge to do so.
For loose copies, you’re typically looking at around $20-30, while boxed copies are out there for a wide range of asking prices, anywhere from $60 up to $500. One is more ludicrous than the other, naturally, but this is a title that doesn’t seem to have a lot of regular sales data to give a more complete picture of actual paid prices.