Monday, May 16, 2011

Video Game Hell : Onyanko Town

About a week ago I stumbled across this video. It's a mock unreleased NES Game that goofs on the ridiculous difficulty found in many titles. It certainly rings true from time to time.

As funny as this is, I kept thinking 'there can't be a game this bad can there?' Well, I recently purchased a GBA multicart from a friend. On it were tons of old NES titles. A pure treasure trove of old school fun. I started rediscovering many forgotten games from my childhood. I too had access to a magic 100 in 1 cart back in the very early 90s. As I explored, tons of fond memories flooded back. It got me researching titles and discovering sequels and facts about games that I had long ago forgotten all about.

I was so delighted when I found Onyanko Town on the cart. This game is often called Dog Town, Cat Town, or Pony Town. Despite it's relative obscurity, it seems to creep it's way into every multicart. An undead zombie of a game, the bugger refuses to vanish into the mists of time. Now before I go on, I want to make it clear that I am not one of the great unwashed masses that claims everything on the NES before the advent of Super Mario Bros sucks. Being part of the Atari generation, I actually love arcade style games and the NES has tons of great titles that fit into that category. Sadly Onyanko Town is not one of them. This game is literally the video game equivalent of getting into a car with a stranger after being offered candy. It looks so nice and inviting, but is really pure evil. The people who made the above video must have been totally unaware of this games existence. Had they known, they could have saved hours of time and just shown 10 mins of footage from this game.

The premise is simple and oh so delightful to children. You play as momma cat Milky who needs to save her little boy Michael who has run away from home. So you must venture out to bring him back. The danger in doing so is that the city is full of dogs who want to kill you. Milky needs to move far away from these racist bastards. The game is similar to Pac-Man in that you run around a city set up like a maze looking for Michael. To it's credit the game sports some beautiful graphics for a game made on the NES in 1985. Time was taken to really make the characters as nice as possible. The town is gorgeous and puts RPG towns of some later games to shame. The bonus items all look great as well. Just look at a game like Tower of Druaga then look at this game and you will see what I mean. Sadly I have more then a hunch that the people making this game thought they could do a much better job then the people that made Pac-Man. In their folly they created super smart AI dogs and a town of true horrors. They thought only of challenge and never of how to give the player any kind of slight edge. See the dogs unlike Pac-Mans ghost are relentless. They should have been bumbling comical dogs, but instead got keen AI that turned them into super soldiers. They will never stop perusing you once they have a fix on you. (I.E. you enter a portion of the screen they are on) No one told the programers that it's okay if the enemies are slightly stupid. Milky can attempt to jump over the dogs, an innovation that predates Pac-Mania, but this is hardly worth your effort, as dogs will double back so you will just land on them. Jump over a hedge, or a building and the dogs will circle around from either side to come after you. There is no escaping them! They know you are here, they know where you are!!!! Your main form of protection is opening up man hole covers and hoping the dogs will be stupid enough to fall in. Of course you can share their fate if you are careless. You can then seal them in. However, this doesn't stop them. Spend time setting up a ton of dogs to fall into one man hole and you would think this would open up a 30 second window of free time to look for little Mike right? OH HELL NO. Do this and you will find TONS of more dogs have just kept spawning off screen. These are smarter dogs, faster dogs and the ones you trapped are just waiting for you to be stupid, or desperate enough to open up that man hole cover again, so they can leap out and end your sad life.

Now I lied here a bit, for there is one more power up. You can steal a fish from the market that will make you temporarily invincible to the mutts. Doing so comes with great consequences. For even though you can now for a mere 20 seconds, or so, plow over the dogs, you in effect evoke the anger of the butcher. He's invincible, is at times able to walk over the man holes and will stop at nothing till he has cut you to shreds using his old rusty knife. This chainsaw maniac in Resident Evil has NOTHING on this guy. A bit of an overreaction to taking one measly fish isn't it? There is only one instance where taking it might possibly be of use in very early levels, other then that, it's offer of protection should always be passed by. Every other time I was filled with instant remorse for my gluttony. XD

Then there is the search for Mikey. First off he is placed randomly on the map then wanders all over. Usually it feels like he is doing his best to avoid you. None of the genius programers thought to make any of the bonus items relevant to finding him. There's no compass, or even a hot, or cold meter to tell you if you are on the right track. Each city stage is huge and the longer you linger in the streets the more dangers appear. Time is of the essence and this kid was made to waste it. The best part is, if you do manage to catch up with him you can no longer jump and you walk at half your regular speed. Yes that's right, unlike the carts image of him hanging to his moms arm as she feels in terror, in game you have to hold his hand and walk with all the luster of an old lady crossing the street. So God in heaven help you if you grab on to him halfway across town, or even a screen away from your house. There's no chance in hell you will make it before the hordes reach you. This was the only time I found getting the fish to be helpful and only if the fish is like 2 houses and no more away from yours. Any further then that and the Fish Merchant will slice and dice you both.
So why not just stay around the house and wait for Mike to possibly pass by? Well waste time and eventually the super psycho fish merchant appears. The music changes and this screw ball will hunt you down. Nothing stops him. He simply walks over open man holes and moves very quickly.

Then there are the pylons. Besides the dogs, the serial killer grocer and the cars there are pylons. (Yeah I didn't mention the cars sue me.) They randomly appear around town and block your path. The good thing is you can jump over them, helping you get away from the dogs. The bad thing is you can't do that when you have Mikey in tow. Hand to God, last night while playing I was just about to reach Milkys house when a Pylon appeared right in front of the house, blocking my path and making myself and my child instant dog food. HOLLY FUCK.

Last, but not least some sadistic son of a bitch decided that the man holes needed a touch more of danger to them. Randomly a very viscous sewer snake may pop out of one you open. If he doesn't manage to instant kill you while you open it, he will chase you without fail across the entire city making a horrible sound the entire time, until you trick him into falling back into another open sewer. FUN.
I quickly ported the titles to my R4 emulator on my DS. You see, it has a rewind feature on the NES emulator. I screw up, I just hold L and I make the game rewind to a point in time I deem safe and continue on from there. Even using this, the game is horrendously hard. Even if I think 2, or 3 steps ahead, I still found myself in hopeless situations. After about round 7 I had enough.

While doing research for this blog I found a few ignorant reviews that listed the game as standard easy kiddie fare. Anyone that has seriously tired to play this knows these mother fuckers never even pushed the start button. (Whats wrong with a video game looking like kids stuff btw? I don't get some people...) The game was never ported outside of Japan officially. I don't doubt the kids there had nightmares waking up in sweat far into their teens due to cat and dog related post traumatic stress. XD Okay that's a bit too far!

Every survival horror purist NEEDS, no should be FORCED to play this for hours on end. It's probably the best example of what it is truly like to be in a zombie movie. You're faced with overwhelming hoards that don't stop coming. You are never safe. Your defenses only detour the inevitable. For there is always more evil, nastier, faster creatures ready to take you down before you can even react to the ones your are currently facing. Amo is useless, it only makes them angry. Even the premise is perfect. Risking your own life foolishly by venturing out into the world instead of staying safe at home. Resident Evil? Silent Hill? All cakewalk child's play compared to the sheer hopelessness of the devil town Onyanko.


  1. old school I think that doenst have an english ver ne? - FallenAngel

  2. Nope, no English version, but everything besides the name was in English in the game.



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