EDITOR’S NOTE: Howdy there, Cass here! I’m happy to introduce our first article on the Bad Game Hall of Fame written by an outside contributor: Fellow kusogē connoisseur and dear friend of the site, Ant Cooke from Gaming Hell! As part of a little “cultural exchange” between our two sites, I penned an article on the Genesis wrestling title Cutie Suzuki no Ringside Angel for their webzone, while they were kind enough to help cross Dirty Pair: Project Eden off my list. Make sure that you read both articles very thoroughly, piece together all the hidden clues, and mail in the secret code to the usual address!
Of the just-under-twenty games on the Famicom Disk System based on licensed properties- from tokusatsu shows, manga, anime to boy bands, thirteen of them were published by Bandai. That’s more games than Taito and Capcom-published games on the system combined. It shouldn’t be too much of a shock that Bandai dumped a lot of trash on the FDS of course, considering their reputation for publishing inordinate amounts of licensed guff on other systems, but given the relatively small size of the FDS library, it does stick out quite a bit.
They were busiest in 1987, releasing eight games, then four in 1988, and finally petering out with two in 1989, a few years before the FDS would wind down. There’s a smorgasbord of crappy license staples here, such as Kininikkuman, three Ultraman games and the obligatory SD Gundam title, but personally, the most interesting of these is Dirty Pair: Project Eden, as it’s the only video game ever based on the property. A property that the writer happens to be a fan of, so we’ve been assigned by Cass to talk about it. Ant from Gaming Hell, then, will be your guide to the Lovely Angels’ first and only foray into video gaming!
“Over the Top, Go On and Take a Shot, Just Give It All You’ve Got!”
Dirty Pair itself is almost tailor-made for video game adaptation. Originally a light novel series started in 1980 and written by Haruka Takachiho with illustrations by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Dirty Pair was eventually adapted for manga and anime, although there was a lot of different anime adaptations. We won’t go too far into it, but the rough order is the 24-episode TV series in 1985, one double-length OVA (Affair of Nolandia) also in 1985, the movie Project Eden in 1986, then a ten-episode OVA series in 1987, ending with one final double-length OVA (Flight 005 Conspiracy) in 1990. There was a mid-’90s revival, Dirty Pair Flash, but that’s something completely different. Luckily the various shows, OVAs and the movie are all on iTunes** so they’re quite accessible.
Across all these versions, the setup is mostly the same- Yuri (with the blue hair) and Kei (with the red hair) are ‘trouble consultants’ of the World Welfare Works Association (3WA for short) who, along with their space-fluffball-thing pet Muhgi, get sent on missions to help solve problems like illegal drug rings, robot-lead cults, prison uprisings… They’re an anything-goes sort of team. They’d like to be known as the Lovely Angels but unfortunately their habit of leaving a trail of destruction wherever they go has earned them a nickname they can’t stand, the Dirty Pair. If you need a quick fix of aggressively ’80s anime, with all the fluffy hair, technofuture sci-fi, partial nudity and mostly-comic violence you could ever want, Kei and Yuri are your gals.
Now personally, we prefer the TV-sized episodes to the double or feature-length ones, but that’s mostly because the concept just lends itself a little better to short bursts of anarchy in the name of justice. Probably the episode that sums up Dirty Pair best is Episode 4 of the OVA series, “And So, Nobody’s Doing It Anymore”, where the girls dress up all fancy-like to infiltrate a space casino and rescue a former 3WA agent from his gambling habit, which ends with them blowing up the entire gambling planet. Not an uncommon occurrence for them.
With all these animated adaptations, a video game wasn’t too much of a stretch, but if you look at the years on all of these projects, they’re mostly mid to late ’80s. While Dirty Pair could absolutely work as a video game, it was perhaps a bit too early for one to really make the property shine. You’d want to say a Contra-style co-op game would be a perfect fit, with stages themed around a few choice episodes, but sadly the one game based on the property- specifically the 1986 movie- was released a scant four months after the source material, and just barely a month after the arcade version of Contra. In fact, its development was even earlier than that, as a secret message gives the year 1986 instead of its 1987 release!
That secret message, incidentally, also serves as the only in-game credit for the game- there’s no staff roll so the only reason we know it was developed by one Yujix Terada is because he hid his name and the year 1986 in Roman numerals at the bottom of the screen during gameplay in Scenes 1 and 3- NTSC televisions wouldn’t show this, but it’s as clear as day with the right emulator settings. GDRI also says that Daiei Seisakusho’s sound engine was used for the game, and that name is associated with Gokuraku! Chuuka Taisen and Taito Chase H.Q. on PC Engine which Terada also worked on, so while not explicitly stated or completely concrete, one can assume that’s the company behind the game. Regardless of who made it, while half of the game indeed take the form of a run-and-gun game that one could compare to Contra, it was way too early to take inspiration from Konami’s genre-defining effort, and certainly far-removed from its arguably superior Famicom conversion. Needless to say, this is unfortunate, as the game could’ve really done with a game as good as Contra to look at for inspiration, or at least half-heartedly rip off.
As the game we’re talking about today is based on the feature-length movie, we will just take a moment to look at that in a bit more detail. Dirty Pair: Project Eden sees Kei and Yuri investigating some mysterious attacks on mining operations on Argena, a planet full of the precious metal Vizorium, necessary for space travel. Things aren’t as cut-and-dry as the Yuldus and Edia governments want to think (they’re too busy blaming each other) as, with the unwanted assistance of space-thief Carson D. Carson (who spends 90% of his screentime in his boxers), they uncover the plot of Professor Wattsman who has figured out the fossils being processed into Vizorium are actually dormant creatures. He wants to create a new world with the final evolutionary stage of these vicious monsters, and the Dirty Pair accidentally get in his way trying to crack the case. Personally we prefer the shorter TV and OVA episodes, as well as Affair on Nolandia, but the movie has some excellent battle scenes and an absolutely killer soundtrack. It does have just the right plot for video game adaptation though, and so when Bandai picked up the license to turn into a video game, they didn’t muck about and set about it quite quickly.
** English releases of the series get a little messy when it comes to dubbing, though. The 1985 TV series never had an English dub made for it, so all the available versions are subtitled only. The OVA series as well as Affair on Nolandia and Flight 005 Conspiracy were dubbed into English, and these are the ones available on iTunes- if you want them subtitled instead, look for the DVD releases by Rightstuf. As for Project Eden, there were two dubs- one by Streamline Pictures, overseen by Carl Macek and with Wendee Lee as Yuri and Lara Cody as Kei, and a later one by ADV Films that brought back Allison Sumrall and Pam Lauer who did the voicework for previous Dirty Pair dubs. The Rightstuf DVD release has both dubs available, but the iTunes release uses the ADV Films one. ’80s anime releases in English are complicated, what can I say? Now, let me tell you about DVD anime releases in England- you see… [As the talking continues, you decide to stop listening, and just move ahead to the next section of this article.]
“No Matter Where You Are, I’ll Be Your Lucky Star!”
With all the context out the way, we can probably start talking about the game now. Starting up, after picking a 1 or 2 player game you’ll be surprised to see a file select screen- this is a short game, but it’s also on the Famicom Disk System which supported saving without the need for expensive battery back-up, so may as well use it. After registering, you’re given a single-screen briefing by Chief Gooley (who never actually appears in Project Eden but is in other adaptations, the long-suffering supervisor of the Lovely Angels at the 3WA) and then sent off to the first scene, the wasteland on the way to the sabotaged mining plant. This is the first of two gameplay styles used in Scenes 1 and 3, an auto-scrolling run-and-gun affair. We’ll keep comparisons to Contra to ourselves as that’d be quite unsporting, so let’s try and take the game on its own terms.
Both of these run-and-gun sections are split into four fairly-large stages, and Yuri packs just a gun with her to start , but can pick up items that might help her along the way, such as Vizorium bars that can block enemies from advancing and gas bottles that kill everything on-screen (as long as you have a gas mask too, otherwise you die instantly when you use it). A very important item that only appears in these action stages is the earring, which calls down Kei and a flying vehicle- as soon as you get the chance, hop in, because those earrings are rare, you can take an extra hit in the space-jalopy (sort-of) and you can also speed up the scrolling to get through faster (otherwise the screen scrolls at a slow, fixed pace while on-foot).
They’re pretty simple affairs, but even so they’re incredibly aggravating for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, one-hit deaths, no checkpoints. You get hit, you’re starting that stage again. The fact that exploded enemies can still kill you only exacerbates this, and while one-hit deaths were a norm back then, combining it with no checkpoints makes clearing these segments way, way too difficult and frustrating. Not even the flying car helps- if Yuri is hit instead of the car while she’s in it, that counts as a death. Ropey collision detection on projectiles doesn’t make matters any easier, and the turrets on Scene 1-4 are particularly deadly in this regard. Many enemies will also respawn only a second or so after they die until you scroll past their respawning area, so no matter what you do there’s almost always something ready to kill you and send you all the way back to the start.
The slow pace of the scrolling is infuriating too, considering how long these levels are- having the flying car can speed up the scrolling a bit, but you don’t want to scroll it too fast otherwise you’ll slam into something that’s just spawned and either lose the car or a life. The one concession you’re given is that if you die in the car, one will appear at the start of the stage right away, and you can bring it between stages too. While the controls are mostly adequate (at least, not completely broken in some way) Yuri jumps abnormally high for a game like this which can throw you off, and the flying car is difficult to control at high speeds, especially as it has a tendency to drift up and down. Really though, these action scenes are too long, slow and frustrating to be any fun, and FDS owners would’ve done well to just wait for the conversion of Konami’s Green Beret, a much better run-and-gun released just a few months after this game, than waste a disk on this.
Once you eventually make it to the mining plant, Scene 2 begins and we’re introduced to the second style of gameplay, the exploratory scenes. Nintendo’s Metroid had come out the previous year on FDS, so there’s a small chance these sections were inspired by that, but the implementation here is very, very different. Now, Yuri can move in and out of the screen (awkwardly at that, shifting left or right as she does so) and has to find eight discs scattered throughout the facility (which takes the form of a flick-screen maze) to move to the next scene. You can’t bring the vehicle in here, but there are some other items you won’t find in the action scenes- specifically explosives and keycards used to open different kinds of doors- as well as the action scene items. Despite the change in perspective, it still plays mostly the same, complete with one-hit deaths, but at least losing a life here only makes you restart the current room you’re in. Once you find seven of the eight disks, the final one appears near the roof of the facility, and then you’ll be allowed to leave, so have fun with this little scavenger hunt!
These sections are definitely the more ambitious of the two gameplay styles, and in concept I actually like them. It’s not especially in the spirit of Dirty Pair (not enough explosions for that) but it’s fairly novel for a game of this vintage, and with the right implementation it could’ve been quite entertaining! As you might’ve guessed though, that’s absolutely not the case, and this potentially-interesting gameplay premise is done in by even worse collision detection and harsher difficulty, as well as some new problems. While Yuri can move in and out of the screen, the enemies do not care- you touch any part of them, you die. This also means you have to line up your shots properly, and because Yuri moves horizontally when you go up or down the screen and enemies move about all over the place with no rhyme or reason, that can be difficult and you’re also likely to blunder into an enemy. Making this worse, if you lose all your lives, your disk count is reset, so your progress is entirely in the hands of the erratically-moving enemies.
The two worst elements of this gameplay style are the enemy spawning and the doors, though, turning these scenes into an exercise in frustration. As with the action scenes, enemies will pretty much spawn instantly when one’s taken out, but as each screen is static, they will never stop until you leave that screen, and worse still some enemies will spawn at the edge of the screen as you’re trying to leave, killing you with no recourse. Adding to this,Yuri’s greatest foe in these exploratory scenes is the doors, as you have to stand in a very specific spot and press a button to open them. Lining yourself requires precision, and with enemies constantly spawning in, it’s very possible to die just while trying to open the door. Worse still, doors that require keycards need you to use them by pressing Select then choosing the keycard in front of the door… But if you’re not standing in exactly the right spot, the keycard is instead discarded, and you’ll have to go and find another one in the maze. Now that’s player-hostile game design!
The second half of the game is very much like the first, but worse, so we can zip through them, for brevity’s sake. Scene 3- on the way to Professor Wattsman’s lab- is another four action sections but the earring no longer appears, meaning you’re on foot with one-hit kills. Have fun. In particular, Scene 3-4 is one of the worst areas in the game, partly because there’s several pipes you have to walk across, and some parts of them you just fall through and instantly die with no indication that these are different from the rest of the pipes. Nice.
Scene 4 is the final scene in the game, an even larger maze area in Wattsman’s lab with eight more discs to find, but it also includes the worst enemies in the game, weird floating hands that move erratically and will absolutely catch you out as you’re desperately trying to open those bloody doors. There’s genuinely no advancement or escalation from before, it’s just more of the same but longer and just as badly-designed, and so there’s really little else to even say about them. However, the final scene is notable for being large, sprawling, full of those awful hands, and ending with a ‘final boss’ of sorts, a giant computer that Wattsman runs away from. Just a few shots will blow it up, and you’ll get your ending.
With the meat of the game dealt with, there’s a few other loose ends to clean up. For a start, what about Kei? The Dirty Pair are a team, after all, and while she does appear in the flying car when playing on your own, there is, surprisingly, a co-op mode. It even has two separate save files so each player has their name listed in the file name, which is a cute touch. However, unless you’d really like to put your friendship through a rigorous test, co-op is not recommended. While player two does get to play as Kei on-foot, and you can even share the flying car (and jump in facing the other way, if you’d like to cover your back), it’s still one-hit deaths, and even if only one player dies, both have to restart the stage. Even the exploratory scenes are co-op, and again, only one player needs to die for both to be taken out of play. The level of teamwork and patience required to beat this game in co-op is almost certainly beyond most players, so it’s recommended you don’t even humour the notion of a fun co-operative time playing as Yuri and Kei. It won’t happen.
There’s also the presentation to discuss- it’s mostly poor (with lifeless, dull backdrops, fairly crude spritework and awful music) but there’s a surprising amount taken directly from the film, so it’s hardly a NES Predator-esque video game reinterpretation. The various green creatures throughout the game vaguely resemble the Sandinga evolutions from the movie (although changed from purple to green, perhaps to make them stand out better against the backgrounds), the vehicle is loosely based on the flying platform that Kei and Yuri use to make it to Wattsman’s base, the awful hand enemies from Scene 4 are straight from the film too (they’re controlled by Wattsman) and both Wattsman and his butler Bruno appear in Scene 4, albeit briefly (Bruno steals a keycard from you if you walk past him, and Wattsman runs off-screen as you fight the final boss). While it only follows the very broadest strokes of the film’s plot, and puts characters in there haphazardly (such as Mughi showing up on the planet’s surface, which never happens in the film), I got the feeling that the developer at least watched part of the film, which actually puts it above some licensed games out there. Sadly, they must’ve watched it with the sound off, as there’s no FDS renditions of any of the fantastic music- you get two songs, one for each kind of scene, and there’s nothing nice to say about either of them.
On the plus side, there is replayability… Sort-of. There’s a few different endings available depending on your firing accuracy and the time it took you to beat the game. But sadly, all of them are single-screens of text. The very same screen that you saw at the start of the game with Chief Gooley, no less, just with the text changed. In fact, the earlier translation patch you’ll find on the internet for the game accidentally left the translation for most of these endings out, something fixed with the more recent patch. It’s a short game in theory, so if you really want, you can go back and see what the different endings are… But the image we’ve chosen to end this article with is the ending we got, as fitting an ending as we were hoping we’d get.
“It’s So Nice to Have a Bath During a Mission… I Only Wish I Had a Bottle of Wine.”
As for how the game was received, we can’t really find any contemporary reviews, but a cursory look for the game on the Japanese-speaking web reveals a few blog posts and guides that aren’t especially favourable to the game, with particular disdain shown towards the exploratory scenes and their collision detection. You’ll also find a few standard-issue YouTube reviews on the subject (although they eventually peter out and you just start getting actual Dirty Pair episodes, a sign that maybe you should watch those instead). The game also has its own full-page entry in HG101’s The Complete Guide to the Famicom Disk System, which starts “Dirty Pair: Project Eden is, unfortunately, what you might expect from a licensed game by Bandai…that is to say, absolutely terrible.” It then goes on to summarize the game as ‘unfairly hard’- another point we’re not going to argue with. Aside from that, there’s not a lot to read up on the game beyond its little easter eggs documented by The Cutting Room Floor.
So ends the only video game adventure the Dirty Pair ever embarked upon. The series was just a bit too early to get the adaptation that’d do it justice. The closest you’ll get, at least in terms of tone and aesthetics, is Taito’s laserdisc game Time Gal from 1985 which stars Reika Kirishima, a space bikini-sporting, laser pistol-toting heroine who could very well pose as a third member of the Dirty Pair at a stretch. The real Dirty Pair game, though, is a sad way for the Lovely Angels to start and end their video game career.
It’s fair to say that Dirty Pair’s role in the pantheon of bad video games is that unsung one- the bad, mostly-forgotten licensed cash-in, made quickly and then doomed to obscurity, with the only truly notable thing about it being it’s the only Dirty Pair video game. It makes sense, as the diskettes used by the FDS were far, far cheaper to produce than cartridges, and that’s probably what allowed Bandai to dump as many awful licensed games onto the thing as they managed to. Not that expense ever stopped Bandai from clogging later consoles with licensed guff, but it was especially prevalent on the FDS given its small library, and if nothing else, Dirty Pair: Project Eden can represent their ‘contribution’ to the FDS, just one of many bad licensed games. Truly, a game for no-one- not for fans of the show, not for people looking for a competent run-and-gun or decent exploratory action game, and now that you’ve seen everything you need to see of this game, not for would-be game historians.
‘Ello there! Thanks for making it this far. This is Ant, the webmaster of Gaming Hell, who wrote this little thing on Dirty Pair: Project Eden as a special guest! Cass was kind enough to invite us to her corner of the internet to write an article all about a bad game based on a license we’re a fan of and we were more than happy to oblige! If you like this sort of thing, you might enjoy our little website- it’s just over 10 years old now (which is several millennia in internet years) and is about weird, obscure games that interest us. We mostly stick to what we’re comfortable with- so plenty of articles about arcade action and platformer games like Metal Slug, City Connection and The NewZealand Story, but we sometimes go off the rails and cover games like the Numan Athletics duology and the Project DIVA series. Do give it a browse! We’re also on the Game & Love webring too, populated by lots of other cool people, so have a look there too~ In any case, we did our best to emulate Cass’ informative and in-depth writing style, so we hope you enjoyed this look at a terrible licensed cash-in! Thanks again for inviting us, Cass! See you next game.