Hijinx and mirth for all!
RELEASE DATE: 06/02/88 – (JP)
“Tensai Bakabon” is an anime/manga that stars a family who could be the Japanese equivalent of “The Simpsons.” You have Bakabon, a young scamp who enjoys getting into all manner of hijinx with his father, Bakabon’s Papa (actual name). As with “The Simpsons” and Bart, “Tensai Bakabon”‘s original focus was on Bakabon’s misadventures. After Bakabon’s Papa – an insane angry buffoon – grew in popularity, however, the focus of the series turned to him, just like “The Simpsons” did with Homer. Then there’s Hajime-chan, Bakabon’s genius younger brother standing in for Lisa and Bakabon’s Mama, the ever loving, supportive mother in charge of the crazy clan in place of Marge (my analogy doesn’t play out with Maggie, unfortunately). With “The Simpsons” based on creator Matt Groening’s own family and “Tensei Bakabon” debuting in the late ’60s and never making its way out of Japan, it’s doubtful there’s a connection between the two. Still, given the decades-long popularity of both shows, it’s clear that audiences around the world relate to dysfunctional family portraits.
Papa-san is almost always angry.
In Tensai Bakabon, you play as Bakabon’s Papa, and you’re tasked with finding Hajime-chan, who’s gone missing somewhere in the town. The town itself is nothing more than a few buildings, some freaky looking characters, and a surprisingly intricate sewer system, but you’ll still need to use what little skills Papa has to find the elusive Hajime-chan.
Don’t tell Mama what Papa’s doing in this rundown apartment building.
Tensai Bakabon is an adventure game, which means most of the gameplay takes place in your interactions with the townsfolk. Papa has three actions: talk, hit, and use items. Talking often leads to hitting or vice versa. Either way, you’ll be beating up a lot of people/creatures to get priceless information regarding Hajime-chan. As with many adventure games, most of what you are supposed to do will not make sense. Example: when you’re at the bar, drink whiskey to get into a fight with the bartender, and get your drunk butt thrown out. Then walk back into the bar, drink a beer, and the bartender will inform you that to get to the sewer system, you must jump on the manhole cover three times for them to open. The game likely assumes that you will want to get Papa drunk on the three types of liquor the bartender offers, if only for kicks. But who would assume that the only way to get information is to get kicked out of the bar first, then go back in and drink some more? Scenario writers for adventure games and Japanese children with lots of time on their hands, that’s who.
Welcome to… the sewers?
I should mention that Tensai Bakabon is only in Japanese. There’s no translation available for it on the Internet, and the only way I knew what I was doing was thanks to GameFAQs user Ice Queen Zero’s FAQ for the game. Without the latter, I would still be wandering around the town aimlessly, getting into fights with the bartender and little else.
The bartender must have spiked Papa-san’s sake.
Language barrier aside, Tensai Bakabon is an amusing oddity brought to life by the over-the-top characters and the game’s own freewheeling style. I don’t understand much of what Papa is saying (or anyone else, for that matter), but I love how emotional he gets over what I assume are insignificant trivialities. Other characters, like the always-cool bartender, the scraggly cats, and the town bully, bring charm and personality to the town. Tensai Bakabon breaks free of adventure game boundaries, as well. The aforementioned sewers bring in platforming elements. Later when Papa learns that Hajime-chan crashed a UFO in outer space, he jumps into another UFO to rescue Hajime, and the game turns into a shoot-em-up. I really can’t say whether any of these strange occurrences would appear in the anime/manga, but they kept me entertained for the duration, which is more than I can say about games that I actually understand. Tanoshi katta desu, Sega to Tensai Bakabon.