Bokan to Ippatsu: Doronbo Kanpekiban (1997, Banpresto and Tatsunoko for Sega Saturn)

Bokan to Ippatsu: Doronbo Kanpekiban (translated as “Time Bokan: Doronbo Perfect Version) is a member of a videogame sub-genre known as “cute-em-ups,” which were popular in the 1990s on home systems such as the PC Engine/Turbografx-16 and Super NES. If you have ever seen Konami’s Parodious or Red Entertainment’s Air Zonk, you’ll have an idea of what to expect. These games are arcade shoot-em-ups that feature extremely colorful, cartoony graphics and a generally silly style that play out like a semi-parody of videogames.

Time Bokan is based on the 1977 Yatterman anime series from Tatsunoko in Japan, in which a bumbling villainous trio known as the Doronbo Gang are regularly thwarted by an assortment of comic book superheroes. Its tone is much closer to Hanna-Barbera cartoons than anything, and harkens back to a more innocent age of Japanese animation. This game puts you in the hands of the gang in their quest to defeat the Yatterman heroes and, well, shoot at a lot of cartoon pigs and robot contraptions. Before each stage, you are given a choice of zany vehicles that resemble Flintstone drag cars, camels, snails and birds, each with their own unique stats for firepower, mobility and shields. There’s a fair variety between them; it’s fun to play around to find a personal favorite, especially once you’ve collected a couple power-up icons that give you some impressive (and funny) weapons such as flying attack cats. Or are those supposed to be mice or bears? Whatever.

The action plays out in vertical-scrolling style that also pans sideways when you move. It also fills the entire screen, which is a very welcome change of pace from all the vertically-oriented shooters on Sega Saturn (you won’t have to lie down on the couch to play “tate” mode this time). Each stage is quite varied in their environments, from tropical green valleys to arctic glaciers, underwater oceans to futuristic city highways. There are also many obstacles in your way that you can shoot, such as trees and park benches and all those goofy pigs. It probably makes sense to fans of the cartoon show.

Time Bokan: Doronbo is fairly easy to play, certainly when compared to fiendishly difficult shooters like The Game Paradise, Battle Garegga or Soukyugurentai. Expert gamers will probably breeze their way through to the end on a good afternoon, especially if they play two-player co-op mode. Most of the enemies are easily dispatched, and while the large bosses put up a fight, you can learn their patterns in short order. Personally, I find this to be a welcome change of pace. This game is aimed at a broader mainstream audience and not just diehard game fans who can “1CC” every arcade game in their sleep.

I really enjoy the warm color saturation and impressive animations in this game, as well as the extensive use of sprite scaling and rotation. Sega Saturn’s 2D powers are given a fair but not overwhelming workout. The music is also very enjoyable with lots of bang-pop-zoom cartoon effects and lots of chatter from the Doronbo Gang as they throw bombs or get hit. Banpresto doesn’t offer much that we haven’t previously seen on PC Engine, but what is here is very polished and refined.

Players looking for a fun and lighthearted romp will enjoy Time Bokan: Doronbo very much. It has that pick-up-and-play quality that is perfect for casual settings and social hangouts. And it’s very nice to find a quality 2D videogame for Saturn, especially one that doesn’t belong to a long-running franchise. This title was also released on Sony Playstation in Japan, and by all accounts appears to be completely identical. Good news for everyone!

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