15 Minutes of Koukiatsu Boy
Part 1: Game Boy Boy
Recently, I had the opportunity to go to Japan. It was an awesome, whirlwind trip, packed full of memorable experiences. Among the many high points of my vacation was my visit to Akihabara.
Like every good weeb, I’ve wanted to visit Japan since forever, and I’ve wanted to visit Akihabara since I knew it existed. Who wouldn’t? It’s the undisputed mecca of tech, anime, and games – aka Heaven on Earth.
Speaking of games, there’s a really cool shop there called Super Potato that has all sorts of old-school gaming consoles and games, like the original Famicom and Virtual Boy. As someone with a serious interest in retro gaming (i.e., 90% of the games I play are emulated NES/SNES games) and with enough curiosity to learn Japanese at a shallow level but not enough discipline to attain any real mastery of the language, this was the butter to my bread.
The great thing about Gameboy games is that, unlike the 3DS or some other modern systems, it’s not region locked at all. You could buy your own copy of Dragon Quest Monsters or Dragon Quest Monsters II and play it on your ‘MURICAN Gameboy and it would work just fine. (Not that I don’t own a Japanese 3DS specifically for Dragon Quest games that don’t come out in America, because the alternative is literal insanity.)
The really great thing about Super Potato is that they sell a bunch of used games for 100 to 300 yen a piece (basically a couple of bucks). So I did the reasonable, logical thing and got a fistful of games in a language I can barely read let alone understand for the sheer novelty of owning them on a system that’s been horribly outdated for over a decade.
I decided to start with the one with the most animu-looking cover art: Koukiatsu Boy.
Now for those of you who don’t know, Koukiatsu Boy is… actually, screw that. Let’s have you experience this masterpiece the same way I did – with no prior information whatsoever. Not because this is some narrative wonder where you really ought to experience the story unspoiled, like Undertale, but simply so that you can experience my frame of mind as I tumble through the game like a misshapen marble in a pinball machine made of landmines and uguu~.
Part 2: It’s Koukiatsu Boy!
Alright, let’s get this going! Right off the bat, there are three English words – hey, that’s three more than I expected! We’re off to a great start!
There’s a clear instruction to follow: “botan o oshite”, or “push button”. I don’t know what it does, but I think I have to push a button to find out. If this triggers some sort of self-destruct, tell my family that I love them.
Immediately, we’re introduced to the main character. What a backstory! What exposition!
Looks like there’s also a Koukiatsu Girl! Is she the support character? The villain? The troubled, but ultimately heroic deuteragonist? Time will tell.
Finally, the world map! We only have one tile that we can walk to, so let’s head there.
OH GOD WHAT.
Okay, so I guess that rules out a platformer. Let’s see what we have to work with: green thing, swirly thing, shiny thing, bubbly thing, and other bubbly thing. And something called “hPa”. This is only part one of two, but I don’t know how to get to page two, so we’ll have to make do with this. Maybe I can get more information about the stuff on this menu…
It seems to be a card! So maybe it’s a card-battling game?
Aww. That’s actually pretty cute. It looks like a bunny, missing an ear, and carrying a shovel, floating on a cloud. Or… something. Anyway, it has an “hPa” of 1013. That’s really strong, right? I sure hope so.
This one’s pretty cute too. Some sort of defective rabbit like the last one, but this time with a small big-eared cat on its head. 1015 hPa, hell yeah.
Look, Koukiatsu Boy. You can’t just create a hideous demon child and then say that it’s a windmill. Don’t try to fool me with that glorious 1014 hPa.
And here we have the runt of the bunch: a frog with a cone for a head. That’s his special ability; his head is pointy (before you write that off as a totally-useless superpower, remember that there is a character who put that to good use). However, with only 1011 hPa, he’ll probably git rekt in any real battle, so we’ll bench him.
This is just sad. We’ve been demoted from rabbits missing ears to just plain dead bunnies. Imagine if you were playing Pokemon, and Professor Oak gave you your choice of a fainted Squirtle, a fainted Charmander, or a fainted Bulbasaur. You’d get it in your party immediately, and then all of your Pokemon would have fainted, so you’d immediately blackout! What nonsense. That trash 1011 hPa is just salt in the wound.
In any case, now I know all the cards I have. Let’s press start and see what happens next.
It looks like we’ve run into our first opponent! They will fight us with THE POWER OF ROCK, but that’s okay, because we have THE POWER OF KOUKIATSU!
Actually, what does koukiatsu mean, anyway?
That’s somehow both awe-inspiring and anti-climactic. Oh well. Let’s do this.
It’s the first match! He sent out some sort of sentient demonic light bulb, but he can’t stand up to the power of my 1015 hPa. Let’s toast him.
I also seem to have attack cards? Thunder is more effective in rain, if Pokemon has taught me anything, so clearly the reverse should be true.
Alright. I was wrong. Kazuguruma isn’t the scariest monster in Koukiatsu Boy. It’s very clearly Senkan, which is basically a perpetually excited ball with poofy feet telekinetically controlling tiny pine trees. My rain power is now +9 instead of +8, so maybe I have some sort of elemental type advantage?
I can get more info about my attack cards! Rain gives a mighty +2 hPa, and under certain circumstances probably grants +3, but I can’t figure that out for the life of me.
Using the shoulder buttons, I can switch out my cards. I could also do a light sphere attack, which looks pretty neat, but it’s still only +8. Let’s keep looking.
A gust of wind attack! And Kazuguruma is a wind-type, so I bet he’ll get a bonus for using this.
Seidenki just looks like it’s running away from something. YEAH, YOU BETTER RUN! I HAVE A +2 RAINDROP ATTACK!
… That was it? I guess I won! 3 wins, 0 losses, perfect. I ROCK AT THIS GAME.
Part 3: Conclusion
For a game that I could barely comprehend, Koukiatsu Boy was pretty easy to play. No convoluted tutorial level, no shoehorned multiplayer mode, and none of its content was DLC. That’s amazing!
The card battling “mechanic” was a bit arcane, but I think I got the basic idea: bigger numbers are better, and match elements when you can.
The monster designs were also pretty solid. I could easily see some of them becoming Pokemon or Dragon Quest monsters. (Except you, Kazuguruma. You’re a nightmare that should stay locked up in the imagination of the game designers.)
If I had any criticism of the game, I wish that the characters were a little more prominent. They did nothing for the battles, and so felt mostly like an add-on.
I give it 7 hPa / 10.