Monday, June 14, 2010

Retro Monday - Bosconian

While everyone is busy hitting F5 this week on gaming blogs that sure as heck aren't mine, I thought I'd devote this week to a genre that both makes me happy and causes me to flip off nuns all at the same time: the shmup. Or, shoot 'em up, like 1942 or Raiden for those that don't know the term and just thought I couldn't type every other time I mentioned it. And to start the week off I wanted to give a little nod to quite possibly my favorite Namco game that isn't Galaga or Soul Calibur 4. One that gets mentioned in probably every Ridge Racer game (as a decal or car) but isn't one that got much attention or love over the years. That game is Bosconian.

Bosconian is a shooter that hit arcades in 1981, the same year that Galaga, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Evil Dead, and Fox and the Hound saw the light of day. It's also the same year I was born, so nothing's perfect. The game controls a bit different than most shmups. Instead of hanging out at the bottom of the screen and letting everything come to you, your ship must freely roam a decent sized map destroying each base before moving onto the next stage. In a way, it shares more with the twin-stick shooter, though you always shoot directly ahead and behind the ship and can only move in the standard eight directions. It was also the first game to let you pop in another quarter to continue once you ran out of lives, something unheard of at the time.

In truth, I never played this game up until I bought the Playstation title Namco Museum Vol. 1. At the time, I bought it for Galaga, Pole Position and Pac-Man, but the amount of time I spent on each of those combined didn't total anywhere near what I threw into Bosconian. It might have been my love for things like Gundam and Macross during my high school years, where I enjoyed watching the lone ship fly all over the place and take everything on from all angles. Or it could have just been me growing up in arcades and feeling a need to throw myself into every quarter cruncher from the 80's. Either way, I was hooked, and aside from the somewhat annoying digitized voice I think I'd rate this as equal to Galaga and superior to every other game from that time period as far as how much fun and lasting value it has.

Unfortunately, the game suffered a cruel fate: the board could be converted to Galaga. Not that Galaga is bad, obviously. But it brings a lot more money in and, because of this, Bosconian wasn't long for arcades. Yes, this makes the game rare today and yes, I looked around a lot when I had spare money to burn. A Bosconian tabletop arcade machine, if I can ever find one, is definitely something I'd put in a game room as a prized possession over any other machine that might find its way in there.

These days, anyone who would want to play Bosconian has a few options. PS1 and PS2 owners have specific Namco Museum titles with the game, Namco Museum Volume 1 and Namco Museum 50th Anniversary respectively. The original XBox and GameCube also had 50th Anniversary with Bosconian included. As far as current gen, Wii owners would need access to the Japanese Wii Shop Channel as that's the only way to download the game. 360 owners can look for a copy of Namco Virtual Museum. Not a single one of these options, however, has online leaderboards, and this depresses me. Hopefully the game sees its way onto the XBox Live Arcade or at least the XBox Live Game Room someday, as it truly is one of the more forgotten and underrated arcade shooters from the golden years.

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