Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Virtual Console Review - Digital Champs

Digital Champ - Naxat for PC Engine/Turbografx-16 - 2/10

This is the song that doesn't end...Yes it goes on and on, my friend...Some start singing it not knowing was it was...And then they'll start singing forever just because...This is the song that doesn't end...

I'm really beginning to think Devil's Crush was the only great game Naxat ever made. How else can I explain a clunker like Digital Champ? This boxing game is terrible. In fact, it's worse than terrible: it's mindlessly boring. I won't give out extremely low scores in my reviews unless the video game is somehow broken or unplayable, and such things are often subjective. But I say this game qualifies.

Digital Champ is a boxing game that appeared on the PC Engine in 1989. It should have stayed in Japan. This is a game so mindless, so dull, so lacking in tension or passion that it barely qualifies as anything more than a glorious 16-bit graphics demo. Yes, the large fighters were impressive at the time, especially when compared to NES/Famicom games. But shallow beauty fades; there's no depth beneath the surface.

Obviously, when any gamer thinks of boxing, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out immediately comes to mind. It's a classic game - fast, intense, challenging, fun. Digital Champ is like a mirror image; it gets nearly everything disastrously wrong. Punching is all button mashing and zero strategy. The opposing boxer shifts into the center of the screen, where they can be hit, sliding like a cardboard cutout. You can only throw high or low punches, and only angled to the center.

Moving or dodging is strangely sluggish. You have to press the joypad and then release it before moving. This renders strategy useless, since you cannot dodge incoming punches. You can try to bob and weave, but you're just shaking the camera around. And you can't throw punches when moving or devise combos. It's just tap-tap-tap. The computer opponent slides around, even moves into the background. So I'm reduced to tapping button and hoping he walks into the punch, like a cheap carnival attraction.

The worst offense? This game is agonizingly, dreadfully slow. One useless round grinds into another. My first opponent, a Rocky Balboa ripoff, took my endless barrage of punches, but he would never go down. After two or three rounds, I finally knocked him to the canvas. Count to eight, he rises again, and his strength is nearly full again. Augh! I must have punched this guy a hundred times, and he just gets back up and take a hundred more. Finally, after an eternity of button mashing, Rocky finally goes down in the 7th for good. Turn it off, off, OFF. Sigh.

Hudson did an excellent job bringing the US Turbografx titles to Virtual Console. Now they need to be careful about bringing the strongest PC Engine games, not the clunkers. There are still many great games - Gradius 1, Salamander, Twin Cobra, Tatsujin, Daisenpu, Raiden, Xevious, Image Fight...shooters, yes, but those were the PC Engine's bread and butter. I don't see what the hangup is. These are free rom dumps; it's free money. Please, Hudson, don't drop the ball now.

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