Are you a big fan of the Pocky & Rocky games? Do you appreciate video games that veer off the path of “normal” and spiral deep into the depths of madness? Then Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban was made for you. Tackle 10 bizarre stages featuring even stranger creatures and enemies in a madcap attempt to save the world. The good news? Two guys are up to the task. The bad news? Those two guys aren’t exactly superhero material. Fortunately, they’ve got heart up the wazoo and the game is a friggin’ blast.
When EGM issue #66 came out, January 1995, there was a half page preview on a weird looking action game for the Super Famicom. It struck my fancy and it was just something that never left me. Finally, nearly 16 years later, I got a chance to play Tonosama. To me, one of gaming’s greatest pleasures is crossing Game X off the X Year Curiosity list. There’s something really cool about finally playing that game you had studied a half page preview on some 15+ years ago. Games which you thought back then you would never ever play. Such is the advantage of being older, having more resources and know-how. It seemed like a silly game from EGM’s description, and boy were they spot on. Tonosama is strange as all hell!
THE (CRAZY) STORY GOES…
THE CRAZY ADVENTURE BEGINS
Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban is a one or two player overhead action game. It’s filled with little cultural items and oddities throughout, and the two “heroes” you can play as certainly are not your average video game good guys, so to speak. In fact their names are Baka-dono, which means Lord Stupid, and Baka-ouji, which means Prince Stupid. I’m not making this up. This comes from the actual game translation believe it or not. It gives you a good idea of its slapstick nature.
Lord Stupid and Prince Stupid play differently. Fanboy has a close range attack while the Prince’s roses act as projectiles. In a two player game, it’s nice to have the Prince attacking from afar with Baka-dono striking up front. Unfortunately, there is a bit of slowdown, even in the one player game as the screen can get fairly hectic from time to time with all the enemy sprites rushing in and out. These two also have some special moves you can work out. I personally prefer Baka-dono, despite Rose Boy being the better jumper.
See the yellow % at the bottom there and the 20% icon on the bridge? That’s your TGR. When you press ‘X’ you transform to your father’s muscle bound ways. Every hit you take or deliver drops your %. Once it hits 0 you go back to being Baka-dono or Baka-ouji. Slain enemies may leave behind food, scrolls (magic) or TGR points. The fathers are very strong. Another good thing: as the father, your own health never decreases, only the % points. It’s funky, but it sure is fun!
Tonosama allows you to select your stage order. I always like games that allow you to pick and choose. You can start off with the final boss (blue triangle) first, but if so, you’ll have to run the gauntlet of the purple triangle bosses, with no scrolls or TGR, mind! So I really do not recommend tackling the blue triangle first. Plus, with the cool and crazy locales, you don’t want to miss a thing!
STAGE ONE: DAY OF THE LIVING FAT
That big guy there is sort of a mini boss. His little cronies try to bum rush you. Later on Baka-dono comes face to face with some angry swordsmen.
Your first mid boss encounter (of many) occurs on this cool little red bridge. Baka-dono then calls on his father for some needed assistance.
Ye standard semi-tricky jumping bits are ever present in Tonosama. As you make your way through this deadly dojo, sumo wrestlers parade around trying to slap you down! By the way, I love how this game is filled to the brim with unnecessary explosions. Japanese shoji screens? They even explode in submission. Gotta love it.
And here is your very first boss fight — a ref and two grandmaster sumo wrestlers! It’s your lucky day — you get to maim three for the price of one. Watch out for their rolling attacks and make sure you take out the annoying referee who cowardly stays back, tossing projectiles at ya.
STAGE TWO: THE CURSED VILLAGE
This is one of my favorite stages just because it has a creepy, ominous feel. Things look so bleak and depressing! Along the way you’ll be ambushed by jumping monkeys, ravenous crows and sprinting, shuriken-throwing ninja demons.
Be patient with this waterfall boulders-falling-down bit. Can get a little tight there toward the end. Near the end of the stage you’ll run into some zombies. I love the way they stagger about. When you kill them, they’ll burn up for a couple seconds before biting the dust! It’s a great enemy design that adds to the foreboding atmosphere of this groovy little stage.
STAGE THREE: FREE MILLY
The enemy roster goes from weird to weirder. I love that water part even though the dashing bald dudes can be fairly frustrating. Just love the way you can see the reflection of clouds in the water. It’s little graphical touches like this that draw you even deeper into a game.
Careful you don’t slip and drown! Poor Baka-dono doesn’t know how to swim (nor does his father, for that matter). Thankfully you just lose a little health and not a life. Mr. Fatso there serves as the mid boss of this level. He swings and chucks some sort of slingshot.
Next up you come to this little beach area where vicious spear-tossing madmen (!) do their damnedest to make sure you don’t advance any farther. Then you find three of them stabbing an innocent dolphin that’s been washed ashore! It’s sick and perverted yet makes you say, “Wow, that was different.” Kill the savages and rescue the dolphin. Free Milly!
Milly the dolphin thanks you and gives you a ride to Ganryujima Island. When necessary, jump from one dolphin friend to the next. It’s your standard force-scrolling section. I really like this one, though. It’s actually kind of fun and more than just tolerable while you wait for the next regular action bit to present itself.
After reaching the island you make your way through this creepy cave. The zombies return from the Cursed Village, and after crossing that bridge you come face to face with a most peculiar… ALIEN!? Sure looks like it… but what’s an alien doing there blocking the bridge passage? Bizarre, but deliciously imaginative and thought-provoking!
It helps to either have a Super Famicom controller (to know which color button is which) or to do a quick Google image search. Your reward is increased TGR beyond even 100%!
STAGE FOUR: THE BIG BAD OLD MAN
I love this boss. It’s a fun simple fight and he’s a hoot to pound and punch at. But he’s not the final boss of the game. After defeating him you’ll be transported to the next area where more levels await. Just when you thought things were already bizarre enough, prepare for more wacky strangeness that only the Japanese can seem to muster!
TO THE SECOND ZONE WE GO
STAGE FIVE: MR. VAMPIRE LIVES
Yes, you get to kill, believe it or not, Chinese hopping vampires! Oh goodness, when I first saw them buggers hopping about, I nearly fell out of my chair in disbelief. Anyone who ever saw the 1985 classic MR. VAMPIRE will surely appreciate this. It’s things like this that help make Tonosama something that will stick in your memory vault for a long time to come. Later on there’s a semi-tricky jumping spot to work out.
That mid boss dude is tough. After defeating him, the stones give way falling to the abyss below. Don’t just stand there looking aloof — get a move on it!
Transformed into your overly muscular dead father, a mad flock of hopping vampires and mutant locusts quickly come your way. Now if THAT sentence doesn’t perfectly sum up the weirdness and awesomeness of Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban, I don’t know what will! A little later on you’ll even run into some Bruce Lee wannabes because, why not?
You even face off against giant turtles (Gamera, anyone?) and bamboo-shooting pandas. At this point, are you even really surprised?
STAGE SIX: OPERATION DUMBO DEATH
This might be the most bizarre moment in the entire game. As the little boat carries you along, creepy ladies fly across the screen and some yoga dude is zapping away nonstop. To boot, yes, you can kill the chickens! Very weird but very fun stuff. After reaching land you’ll find a bevy of those yoga laser spewing henchmen strewn about.
Some half-naked dudes start bouncing your way. Later you come to what appears to be the Taj Mahal with wild bulls and curry plate-chucking (!) Indians. Ah, I wonder what the game designers were smoking when they made this?
The caretaker tries to whip you, but focus on killing the elephant. Doing so takes out the guy as well. Tonosama‘s bosses flash just like bosses used to in the good old days.
STAGE SEVEN: DOWN WITH THE KING!
Here you’ll be attacked from all sides by fencers and, yes, what looks to be broom-riding witches and cherubs. Did you expect anything less, at this point?
This mini boss thinks he’s all rough and tough but once you rid of his external, you’ll find a rather limp and sorry guy on the inside. Not so big and bad now are we?
This dining hall is absolutely loaded with goodies. However, in the room above, just like in pretty much every RPG, beware of treasure chests masquerading as the real McCoy…
STAGE EIGHT: ABRA KADABRA
Abra deals out a lot of fiery attacks, but the only way to harm him is to send that drum back at him. It will take 12 hits to kill him. Be patient while you wait for the drum cans and dodge all the various fire tricks he dishes out.
STAGE NINE: MAYHEM ON MARS
You get to kill astronauts on Mars. I know. Later you encounter aliens IN LOVE (!?!!?) and rabbits scurrying around with hammers. The reason for the latter is the Japanese believe, apparently, that sometimes you can see a rabbit and a hammer in the moon. Go figure…
This is just an awesome mid boss fight. It attacks with its eyes and even its head which is detachable from its body! The more you hurt it, the more it flashes until it blinks red like you’re at some frenetic rave party. Sweet.
Take the teleporter to this space station-like area. You can see Earth below.
Another deadly mid boss. Stay behind it if you want to cheat and save your life.
STAGE TEN: ALIEN ASSAULT
Ah, the alien perishes and what we have left here is actually, according to the in-game text, a monkey! Say WHAAAA?!
Escorting the monkey, the two of you are magically whisked off back to planet Earth. You’ve saved the entire universe from a dreadful fate and also have handed over the single most precious discovery in the history of civilization. Congratulations, Baka!
Tonosama features a healthy heap of boss flashing and excessive explosions galore. Watch in sheer joy as mid bosses and end level guardians flash red and white alike! There’s a certain TMNT II: The Arcade Game nostalgic feeling about seeing big bosses flash red as they weaken, and the more they suffer damage the more they blink. Until at long last… KA-BOOM! I always think of Rocksteady whenever I see bosses flashing. There’s something real 1990 about it, and Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban definitely conjures memories of days gone by. Also, when you’re transformed into your muscular father, each punch dealt causes the screen to erupt in a massive explosion. It doesn’t take much for the screen to start resembling something you would see on the 4th of July! It’s all very over-the-top campy fun, and as you can easily see, the game doesn’t take itself seriously.
Other than Pocky & Rocky, you know what games Tonosama remind me of? Prikura Daisakusen and Psychic Assassin Taromaru. Prikura is an isometric shooter with smart bombs, huge flashing bosses, a crazy atmosphere and also an option to turn into a big steroid-pumped protagonist. Tonosama also produces shades of Taromaru for me in the sense that both games feature an impressive amount of mid and mini bosses, a distinctively peculiar atmosphere (though Taromaru is more on the creepy side) and some of the bosses from Tonosama remind me of some of the bosses from Taromaru.
I’ve played a few strange games in my career. Some were good while others relied more on gimmick to get by and leave an impression. Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban might be the weirdest game I’ve ever played, but it’s much more than a mere gimmick. It hooks you in — you can’t help but want to see what outlandish enemies lie just around the corner. Thankfully the game itself is actually quite fun to boot. There’s more to Tonosama than a coat of weirdness. Behind the eclectic exterior lies a rock solid action game. It’s made even better with the two player mode where you and a friend can really complement each other with Baka-dono’s close combat skills and Baka-ouji’s mastery of long distance warfare. Yes, there are bits of slowdown here and there; sometimes there’s just too much going on at once but nothing too crippling. If you’re like me, you’ll be too busy anyway laughing and shaking your head at all the on-screen silliness rather than denouncing the game for its semi-periodic slowdown. The game hovers on the easy side with plenty of lives and continues. It’s definitely not as hard (or frustrating) as the two Pocky & Rocky SNES games. Sometimes you just want to play a fun game and not have to worry about it being overly difficult. This game fits that bill.
The game’s soundtrack fits nicely with themes appropriate to each unique world. I really liked the sound effects, too. They add to the game’s charm, of which it has plenty. The graphics are the weakest part of the game; they’re not quite up to early 1995 SNES standards. Still, the game has plenty of cool looking enemies for you to slay along the way. What draws you in though is the game’s personality and its insanely self-deprecating lunacy. And that is also exactly what will bring you back again and again. It never set out to be the best action game on your Super Nintendo, but it succeeds at being ridiculously quirky and mega weird. I mean, where else can you kill hopping vampires, astronauts on Mars, giant bamboo-eating panda bears, rotting zombies, aliens, ninjas, knights and Bruce Lee wannabes while transforming into a large steroid-injected muscle maniac who just happens to be the spirit of your deceased father? There’s only one, folks, and its name is Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban. It’s not as good as Pocky & Rocky, but it’s a uniquely solid game that true diehard SNES fans will want to play with a like-minded friend in tow.