This cover says both nothing and everything about the game.
We’re gonna dance the night away! (cheers to Nick P and Aya H for their English translation)
RELEASE DATE: 12/15/86 – (JP)
High School! Kimengumi isn’t the first Japanese-only Mark III game I’ve reviewed (that would be Great Baseball), but it’s definitely the kinkiest. Based on the popular mid-80s manga/anime of the same name, you play as a pink-haired high school girl named Kawa Yui (a pun for “kawaii” or “cute”), whose seeking payback on a gang of lecherous boys called the Kimengumi for pinching her butt. Not exactly politically correct material in today’s “let’s all get offended over everything” society, but hey, at least you play as the girl and not one of the Kimengumi members?
It could be worse: you could be forced to play as Gilbert Gottfried over there.
Kimengumi is an adventure game, so you won’t be moving from left to right or beating up hordes of pimply teens on the way to destroying the Kimengumi. Instead, you search the different rooms of the school and look for items that might help you in your quest. Like most adventure games, the items that make the most difference are the most ridiculous: a rope to tie up the Kimengumi members; a love letter to distract one of the boys; chalk to stun the punks and nerds that loiter in the rooms; a harmonica to make the headmaster of the school fall asleep. Not every item is useful, but every item is guaranteed to cause something strange and hilarious to happen, if used in the right place.
The headmaster gets drowsy when he hears the Harmonica Blues.
Each of the fifteen rooms in the school are available to search from the outset – daunting, perhaps, for gamers used to playing more linear affairs. The game gives you absolutely no direction as to where to go or what to do, so it’s up to you to experiment. Thankfully, the items you need in each room look larger and bolder than other items, making them easier to identify. What proves more difficult than finding the items is figuring out where and on whom they need to be used. Your menu only has a few actions to choose from – Take, Use, Throw, Talk, and Back, all of which are self-explanatory – but even if the right item is selected next to the right person in the right room, the action won’t always work. The rope, for example, must be used when you’re as close to a Kimengumi member as possible. Otherwise, a text screen will appear saying, “The Rope can’t be used here,” even when it can and must be used right there.
At its core, Kimengumi is a beginner’s adventure game made frustrating by clunky mechanics and lack of direction (the latter could be because the game was only released in Japan, and thus, English/French/Spanish readers don’t have access to a translated manual for the game). The game progresses thusly: search the high school for certain items, find the boys, get their attention, tie them up, and then your green-haired friend, Uru Chie, will come in and kick them off the screen – and presumably, out of Kawa Yui’s life. If you know what you’re doing – i.e. you rely too heavily on an FAQ – you can beat this game in ten minutes. On the flip side, if you don’t utilize an FAQ at all, you might never figure out what to do and turn off the game in disgust. My recommendation is to use an FAQ sparingly: enough to get you through the aforementioned foggy points, but not enough for you to race through the game.
Wake up that poor sick monkey, then hog tie ’em – proper revenge for busy hands.
Even if adventure games aren’t your cuppa, you owe it to yourself to luxuriate in Kimengumi‘s spectacular graphics and atmosphere. This is one of the most attractive 8-bit games I’ve ever seen. The sprites are large, detailed and full of personality, while the high school is painstakingly rendered. It’s the little things: the picture of Beethoven scowling in the music room, the skeleton in the lab, the sleeping headmaster at his desk, and the hilarious animations of the Kimengumi, both before and after they’re caught by Kawa Yui. Sega went all out in recreating both the characters of the manga and the high school itself in stunning detail – so much so that I wish the game worked slightly better as a whole.
Look at the tiny drawers on the desks and the wheels on the chairs!
I’m not surprised that Sega didn’t bring High School! Kimengumi out of Japan. The manga/anime never ventured beyond their shores (except for France – does that count?), so nobody outside of Japan would have known who these characters were or why they should have cared about the game. Then again, Sega brought a lot of much crappier, blander games to both the States and Europe – games that required little to no translation, and thus, very little effort to bring over. They should have taken a chance on this frustrating, but endearing high school romp – if only to diversify their lineup and to further distinguish themselves from Nintendo.