ESPN once had a show known as "Stump the Schwab" in which contestants all over the world entered a game show format hosted by Mister Stuart Scott ["BALLLLINNN!" -SS]. Across the table sat the Schwab, a scary-looking overweight man who knew a little TOO much about sports. Very very few contestants stumped the Schwab. Recently, Yakumo and I were discussing obscure Saturn imports on a message board. I suggested this game to the masses, and YAKUMO, it turns out, had never heard of this game before. This was certainly news to me! As someone who has followed Yakumo's excellent segagagadomain.com website since 2003, the man knows it all. His site is chock full of Sega Saturn obscurities and curiosities. Sure enough, I checked the "W" section on his site and did not find a listing of this game. I nearly fell out of my chair. It goes to show you how truly OBSCURE this game is, and what a shame that is. After Yakumo was made aware of this game he tracked down a copy. His next site update will probably have this game as part of the latest batch. I don't mean to steal his thunder but when he doesn't know about a Saturn game's existence, you know it's time to stock up on Aquafina and tin foil hats. Coz when Yak doesn't know, YOU KNOW IT'S BIG TIME!
PULLED FROM THE SHADOWS OF OBSCURITY...
This game eluded me for two and a half years, until I finally found a complete copy in 2004 for $12. I did a write-up for it almost three years ago now, but that write-up has long since faded into obscurity for the most part... until now
This game has a front cover too cute for words. Not to mention the disc cover is sickeningly adorable. It does scream PIKACHU! does it not?
I HAVE A QUESTION FOR YOU....
What's the best game on Saturn with the title "Waku Waku" in it? Most of you would answer, or expect to hear Waku Waku 7. SORRY! On its own it was an OK fighter, but not the best example of a port the Saturn has seen. No, in my book, the best Saturn game with Waku Waku in the title is a little obscure puzzler known as...
In 1998 Altron (makers of the pseudo-cult fave Robo-Pit) released two puzzle games on the Saturn. I was after both for two and a half years. They just never popped up on the internet, and I searched almost night and day
One was called ROX. A dice puzzler that I thought would be a kick-ass combo of Tetris meets Devil Dice. Unfortunately, its overly complicated gameplay system and drab graphics and sound really killed it. MAJOR disappointment. But the other game in the batch, the one I had less expectations for... actually turned out to be a hell of a game
There are six colored pieces (red, purple, white, green, yellow and blue). In order to make a match, 3 or more of the same color must be touching
The blocks/bubbles come in the form of a cute little creature, most similar to a rabbit or hamster (think Hamtaro). The game options also allow you to change the blocks to any of the following:
Yoshi like eggs
Magical Drop style bubbles
Jewels and diamonds
Hey, why not? You gotta love having options at your disposal... never a bad thing so long as it doesn't eat up memory for more important gameplay elements. Myself, I always play with the creature faces, they're just too damn adorable to pass up on
It's a battle of monsters and their caretakers. You can select from a total of 15 monsters (three are unlockable), but there are a total of six caretakers; each one representing roughly three of the monsters. Each caretaker has their own unique "garbage block pattern"
The monsters just give you different animations and sounds. I guess you could say there's really only six characters but in my opinion the monsters have personality so it feels more like 15 different characters
They include the dreaded two-headed red dragon Guren, the pink little bunny (and our animal on the front cover) Myu Myu, the yellow little Pikachu wannabe Pomul, a kangeroo Woodhead, etc.
Let's take a look at the six caretakers and their garbage block pattern:
JUST ANOTHER FACE IN THE CROWD?
So what makes this different from the rest?
1). You drop one block at a time 2). The caretaker appears in small form at the top of your puzzle field 3). Caretaker holds one block in his or her hands 4). One by one, you guide the caretaker left or right and press "A" to drop. Because of this unique twist on the ole Tetris theme, Waku Waku Monster becomes a game of Speed and Hand Eye Coordination. If you ever played Speed the card game, WWM is a good virtual simulation of that. The rush of tapping "A" and "left" and "right"... it's different, and it works for this game. I also love how you can see the next four pieces. Most puzzle games show you the next piece, or the next couple. Show me one that shows me four! HA!
Keep in mind: once you press "A," the caretaker drops the piece straight down. Therefore you can't change its flight once you commit. So... work fast BUT also work accurately! A misplaced block can ruin the game... you can imagine how exhilarating the competition can get as both players make a mad dash across the screen tapping A! Don't press A too fast now, the little guys can rain down in no time flat. If you hold a piece for more than a few seconds, it'll squirm in your hand before dropping on its own. This way the pace of the game stays brisk and semi-frenetic
TO THE MAX!
There is also a power bar. Every time you pop the blocks the bar rises. At any time you can press B to launch an onscreen attack which sends over debris to the opponent's field. Or you can hold off and wait until your bar hits MAX where then it automatically fires debris over to your opponent. The higher the bar, the more garbage blocks you will send over
You can also counter the opponent's power bar attack by pressing B once they've unleashed an attack (provided, of course, that you have some power in your bar)
They may cancel each other out in this case, depending on how much of the bar was charged for both you and your opponent
So there's some strategy for sure. Do you counter and cancel the incoming garbage blocks? Or do you take it and then, knowing full well his bar is at zero, unleash your fury to which he cannot counter? Do you prefer to attack in small quick bunches, or save for one big MAX attack? Good stuff there... adds a bit of a "thinking man's game feel" to the puzzle action
A typical scene in Waku Waku Monster: CHAOS!
TAKE OUT THE TRASH -- OR YOU DON'T GO OUT FRIDAY NIGHT! [YAKETY YAK! -Ed.]
Debris come in the form of black bubbles, which can transform into regular pieces provided you connect three or more regular pieces next to them. This can often times unleash a MAJOR 5+ hit chain as you unlock other garbage pieces as chains pop, pop, POP! before your eyes in an explosion of ecstasy
Follow along now, ya hear?
Yer Dumb [How bout Yer Done? -Ed.]
There you go! Those heavy combos can't be topped
Waku Waku Monster stresses speed and delivering high combos. It's fun to start racking up the chains and watching the monsters yell and duke it out onscreen accompanied by an onslaught of flames and lasers rippin' across the landscape. It can get pretty intense! Especially when both bars are at optimum power
My ex girlfriend absolutely LOVED Puzzle Fighter. But she loved this game even more, for what that's worth. Once I introduced this game to her, it was over. She became a monster, pardon the pun, for Waku Waku Monster [*slaps forehead* -Ed.]
LOOK IN ON THE ACTION
Max bar gets added juice...
SEND IN THE CLONES!!!
Keep sending 'em! I didn't say stop!
Just about overloaded... hurrah!
The makings of a two hitter here, you see?
My animal gets excited as the bar builds...
ATTACK ATTACK DON'T LET 'EM REST
Piece of cake!
Charming creatures, bright, simple graphics, a different gameplay system, nice sound and a whimsical atmosphere adds up for one great package. 2 player mode is awesome flat out competitive fun. If you have a significant other who likes puzzle games I highly recommend this. The animals/monsters are an easy salespitch, but thankfully it has also got some solid (if not downright addicting) gameplay to back it up. It's a shame Waku Waku Monster is as obscure as it is, because it's one of the finer Saturn import puzzle games you could hope to run across. Full of charm, and full of win "You love me... YOU REALLY LOVE ME!"
Special thanks to Kent Rittenhouse for supplying in-game screenshots
DISCLAIMER: In no way do I compare the great YAKUMO, physically, to the great SCHWAB
Just wanna make sure, Mark ;)
And by the way, congratulations on hitting 1,000 Saturn games featured on your great website on your next update. That deserves a standing O! *stands and applauds*