This so-called ‘boy’ looks about 35.
For once, I prefer the US cover.
PUBLISHER: Sega (JP/EU), Kaneko (US)
DEVELOPER: Kaneko (port by Inter State?)
RELEASE DATE: 03/19/90 – (JP), 1990 – (US), 05/92 – (EU)
Sega Does exists not just to satisfy my eternal desire to review old Sega games, but to highlight smelly piles like DJ Boy. If you hail from the early 90s, but don’t remember DJ Boy, rest easy. It’s a sadistic beat-em-up that attempts to combine 80s hip hop street culture with a freewheeling Japanese mindset. And while that might sound like a retro lark worth experiencing, the reality is nostalgia worth forgetting. If River City Ransom‘s RPG elements and Streets of Rage 2‘s pulsating spirit elevated the beat-em-up genre to new heights, DJ Boy‘s sloppy mechanics contributed to its eventual end.
Obstructing my field of vision? That’s a paddlin’.
You play as Donald J. Boy (this is not a drill), a young Rollerfighter who has to rescue his fly girl Maria from the Dark Knight crew. Said street knights include Big Mama, a racist caricature of a large black woman who throws pastries; the breakdancing Chippendale Dancer – ’nuff said; Clown Twins that explode into smaller clowns; and various rollerskating gang members that hate that a white kid from the Jersey suburbs calls himself ‘DJ Boy.’
Even in 1990, Kaneko and Sega should have known better.
Unlike other beat-em-ups which force you to use your legs like a sucker, DJ Boy lets you glide on skates with relative ease. While this is certainly better than walking stiffly with your fists close to your chest, the speedy nature of skates makes it difficult to line up your attacks. If the Boy isn’t completely parallel to an enemy before he attempts to hit them, his hit will not land. Meanwhile, the enemy can attack and flail all over the place and still manage to hit the Boy where it counts.
DJ Boy silently judges the energetic dancer.
DJ Boy starts the game as a weak honky, with only four life bars and one life to his ridiculous name. With each level beaten, however, more bars will be added to his life and you’ll have the option to purchase an additional life at the store. The store appears automatically at the end of each level, and once there, you can purchase items with coins obtained from enemies. Items range from more attack power and additional defense to life-refilling burgers and the aforementioned extra life.
A moment of peace.
Even with this help, DJ Boy is shamelessly difficult, and particularly if you play on Normal. Regular enemies take three or four hits to go down, and bosses can take up to several dozen, depending on the size of their life bar. While one hit is enough for DJ Boy’s life bar to dwindle by one, bosses often require several hits just to deplete one bar from their life. Solution: if you must play DJ Boy, play on Easy. It might hurt your pride, but the game will be somewhat fair.
After his brief visit to the Casino, DJ Boy never slept again.
The level design mostly draws inspiration from previous beat-em-ups. Levels 1 and 2 have your stereotypical urban decay look. Girls throw dynamite at you from streetcars passing by, oil slicks slow your roll, and bowling balls tumble from the sky, as if God Himself was begging you to leave well enough alone. Level 3 is a Casino, and while there’s no gambling (you’re still a boy), there are lots of small mohawked clones in bell-bottoms threatening to skate into your shins. Level 4 takes place atop a construction site, and incorporates tricky platforming elements along side the brawling. Levels 5 and 6 bring DJ Boy to an anticlimactic close, with you fighting every boss again, followed by two new bosses.
No fair, look at the size of those platforms!
There are quite a few differences between the console and arcade versions of DJ Boy. In the arcade, you play as either Bob or Tom (Donald is nowhere to be found) and are on a quest to rescue your beloved boombox. The arcade is a simultaneous co-op, featuring obnoxious background vocal accompaniment from “Wolfman Jack” (not the legendary DJ, but a demonic imposter). In the Casino stage, you’re actually in a Casino instead of skating on the outskirts. Rather than an all-boss bonanza after the construction site, you go to a Western stage. Judging by the Youtube playthrough I watched, DJ Boy Arcade looks like a more well-rounded game than its Genesis/Mega Drive counterpart.
One final awkward boss fight for the road.
Two turntables and a microphone? Only for real DJs. DJ Boy comes equipped with awful hit detection, insane difficulty, and little reason for being (why are the last two levels solely comprised of boss fights?). Donald J. Boy will never be a man at this rate. These wacky screenshots might pique your curiosity. I understand. Look at them, shake your head, and move on. DJ Boy is not the funky fresh hip-hop-em-up we want it to be.