Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Punky Skunk (PSOne) Review

Written: March 2nd-12th, 2019

Hmmm, I feel like I missed an opportunity in the three weeks it took me to review Produce's Elnard (don't think I'll be topping that review for awhile), but I can't quite put my finger on what it might be...  🤔  Oh well, I'm sure it'll come to me--that said, Enix of America sure sabotaged that game's structure and difficulty during its localization process when they turned it into The 7th Saga, and they did it without considering what consequences would come from that, which ultimately resulted in a lesser (not to mention needlessly frustrating and overly tedious) experience than how it originally was the first time around which was a huge disservice to the effort and hard work Produce put into it.
Screengrabbed from watching Phelan "Phelous" Porteous' review of Bevanfield's Rapunzel on YouTube
Ah, that's what I was missing!  =)  Though, come to think of it, that could apply to any company-based decision where no thought was given.  Anyway, now that I got that out of the way, let's cover today's game!
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Received: March 9th, 2015
Alternate Title: Kuri Skunk [ ]
Year: 1996, 1998 | Developed by: Ukiyotei and Visit
Published by: Jaleco
Uhhhhh… that's this game's actual title?  . _ .
Flashforward
Yyyyeah, that title choice is anything but...  >_>
Well, someone's a fan of fifty year old franchises, heheh… heh... hm......  <={
Is he self-aware, or was he saying that to the soldiers who are painted into the background?  But, I'm getting way ahead of myself now.
Japanese-based video game developer Ukiyotei began life by making video games for the Nintendo 16-bit console in 1992 as they made several games for it.  Today's game I'm covering was initially slated for a February 1996 release on the Super Famicom until the popularity of Sony's PlayStation One console at the time changed their mind.  The revised product, directed by Kaori Naruse (who took on assistant duties for Skyblazer/Karuraou) and designed by Kenshi Naruse (who previously designed for Skyblazer and Todd McFarlane's Spawn: The Video Game and also directed Ukiyotei's take on Hook),
Images of the original 1996 and 1999 reprint covers from GameFAQs
wouldn't be released in Japan until that November by Visit, but would eventually see an American PlayStation One release on February 1998 courtesy of Jaleco.
Yeah, Rushing Beat trilogy developer Jaleco, go figure.  I guess there weren't many takers overseas because of that oh so delectable name choice that had the gall to use the word "skunk" in it.  But which scenario is more embarrassing: having the first name "Kuri" or "Punky" followed by the aforementioned word for a last name?  Whichever one wins, we lose, so much so that I refuse to address the title during my review (let's see how long that lasts) as it makes the game sound worse than it actually is.  But never judge a game based on its title, as the adage would go.

At Wolf Base lies the anthropomorphic wolf Badler who's just been informed by a Chew (a mouse-type enemy) that he's spotted Punky who plans to thwart his plans to destroy islands, so Badler instructs the green beret Commander Chew and the other Chews forming up the BB Brigade to do anything they can to impede his progress.
Meanwhile back at Wood Land an anthropomorphic jumpsuit-wearing skunk named Punky (or Kuri in Japan) catches wind of Badler's nefarious scheme and plans to go after him, but he's told by his bunny friend Kelly not to go alone, to which the genius badger Nash reassures her that he won't be ill-prepared for he's created various gadgets that will help Punky on his quest.
After having created a few more gadgets for him and in the midst of making a new one, Nash gets found by Commander Chew and becomes kidnapped in retaliation for Punky's early progress.
It is here that Punky's quest to not just save his friend but more importantly to stop Badler has truly begun.

*tail swish*
In this 2D sidescrolling platformer you take control of Punky, whose controls are simple and intuitive--aside from moving left and right and ducking down the default controls (you can alter them in the options screen if you feel like it) let you jump by pressing the 𝖷 button with your gained altitude dependent on how hard you pressed it, swish Punky's tail with the button which is the regular way of attacking your foes, and with the button you can change into the gear you come across in the present stage which you can unequip by pressing the same button again.

Paragliding behind a rainbow
Depending on the stage you're in and the given scenario around or ahead of you here is all the gear that Nash invented for you that you'll come across: the paraglider equipment which enables you to glide down gently provided you're holding down the 𝖷 button and should be in the middle of a current while holding it down you'll float up to the point where the current ends, with the pogo stick you'll be bouncing on enemies plus bouncing yourself upward by holding down the 𝖷 button with each subsequent bounce sending you higher above ground than the initial bounce, just be mindful of your forward momentum while you're in midair during this state;

*BOING*
with the snowboard you can ride fast on downward slopes, and once you go very fast Punky will flash in yellow rendering him invulnerable to any upcoming enemy on the way, but be sure to jump over gaps lest you wish to fall; with the rollerblades you can move at fast speeds and pounce on enemies after jumping in midair but in order to fully stop you must hold down; and finally there's the digger claws which will not only enable Punky to dig through the dirt (or in a later stage, the snow) in any of the four directions a la Namco's beloved 1982 coin-op Dig Dug (there are even boulders which can fall down in the same fashion like in that game)

Flashing in yellow due to fast boarding
but is also the only gear which doubles as a long range weapon for you can attack any enemy in front of you by launching your claws with the button which will return back to you like a boomerang, however you cannot jump with the claws on so if you wish to jump you'll have to unequip them.  Well, I say "finally", but there is another gear in wait for you but it's not until very late in the proceedings which I'll cover later on.  Throughout the stages you'll come across stars where once you collect a hundred of them you get a life, green orbs to replenish one bit of health at a time (if you find a rainbow one, though, your entire health will be recovered), and 1UP icons to get a new life if you look thoroughly, and occasionally when you vanquish an enemy they might leave behind any one of these things.  In order to clear the stage you must hit in the cymbal-sounding bell beside the pole at the end.

Rollerblading in rocky territory
Before Nash gets kidnapped and right before he gives you new gear for you to use there are bonus events which you'll find in certain stages when you come across a candle which you must dispose of and approach the W symbol in order to access it (sometimes you'll have to look thoroughly) and perfecting the bonus segment will reward you with a quarter of a health icon and should you get all four of them your health capacity will increase by one as you start the game with just three.  There are one of four bonus events that you'll access upon finding a lone candle, and they are:

a friendly flag-based competition against Captain Flag where the objective is to raise or lower any of the two flags before he does depending on the order you're given, and the default controls (which, once again, you can alter in the options if you prefer) for the white (left shoulder buttons) and red (right shoulder buttons) flags are L2 and R2 to lower the respective flag while L1 and R1 raises the respective flag, where you'll be able to perfect it by beating him to the punch eight times; next bonus involves four pump bikes where the goal is to pump each bike by repeatedly tapping the button until the gauge reaches the blue area where you'll have to alternate between them to ensure that all four lights are lit with each gauge having at least a bit of blue in them because if the gauge is left unattended enough then it will gradually reduce the gauge meter, and perfection is accomplished by doing this within sixty seconds or less;
then we have a slot machine where you must push the button for each portion to stop at the icon it lands on, and if you wish to perfect it you must have it land on Punky all across the board (where each subsequent portion gets a little more challenging), it may take some timing, observation, and practice to get it right; and lastly we have a matching-based bonus game where you have to correctly select the tile that matches the one that shows up on the isolated monitor on the right (which involves Punky, Kelly, Nash, and a Chew) and must repeat the process until time's run out, and if you choose the wrong one then the order within the big monitor will be scrambled.

Trekking in the desert
Today's game also falls under the category of a map-based platformer, which Ukiyotei seemed to have a penchant for making given their prior platforming venues as it seemed to be one of their recurring staples as a company, where you can guide Punky to the next segment of the current map once you cleared the present stage or backtrack if you feel the need--selecting the stage will reveal the stage name and have Kelly pop up to give you the option to either save your progress (provided you have a memory card) or to proceed to action, and then once you clear an island (generally after a boss fight in the end) it's off to the next island you go.  And if you wish to do a soft reset just pause in-game and select the option to quit.

Is that the black goo from World of Goo?
Graphic artists and Ukiyotei's Hook graphic designers Midoru Nasu, Sadaki Matsumoto, and Michiyo Komura all return to provide the background design for this platformer, and I personally find that the various areas look really good with their abundance of color and variety in terms of location settings.  I also appreciate that it's entirely in 2D and appears to be largely hand drawn, with some occasional backdrop details that look rendered, fuzzy, and/or photorealistic to give it a sense of visual depth (like the giant floating statue of Badler at the penultimate maze-like stage and the looming trees in one of the forest stages to name a couple examples).

Inanimate frog prince spewing a waterfall
When you first begin the game you're at a canyon-like setting with a well-drawn backdrop adorned with color-layering clouds here and there with occasional rainbows, one stage has got regal frog statues with elegant color layered fountains with stained glass windows behind them sometimes, there are neat stained glass windows looming in the backdrop where the colors differ depending on your position, the inside of the pyramid is littered with quicksand and hieroglyphs abound, the snow segments have got pretty snow laden trees where some of them are decorated with Christmas lights, I like the amount of detail of grain in the dirt digging segments, and in the same portion where Badler's giant statue floats in the background there's lots of shooting stars as well.  And this is just to name some examples of what you'll see.

Braking to appreciate the piercing rays of
sunshine
Each individual island map is also quaintly designed, I like the design of the overall map and how the island of Mount Wolf is shaped like the head of a wolf, and when you head up to Wolf Base in outer space you can see the planet below you from the stratosphere.  Each character was designed by Teruo Nagato, Rika Ueno, and Tadashi Aoyama--the first of whom was the only one to have prior character design experience for Ukiyotei--and they are all drawn and animated in a lightheartedly cute manner and have enough charm to make them endearing in their own right.  The main protagonist Punky has got an adorable design and displays solid enough animation; I also love how he's got separate animations and different color jumpsuits, idle, ducking, and equip/victory poses for each gear he's got on.
Nowhere near as fluidly animated as Ocean Software's rodent character, however; for the record, Mr. Nutz is awesome and doesn't get enough love
And maybe it's me, but he kinda resembles Mr. Nutz in certain details... though maybe it's the white stripe in the tail that gets to me.
Punky also has an androgynous face about him, and for those who are wondering: yes, that screenshot in the left is the game's loading screen
At least,... I think Punky's supposed to be a "he", anyway...  those sure look like breast implants in that jumpsuit of his if I ever saw one...  o_O

Preparing for a claw attack
Punky also has different poses and animations that are present either when you partake in a bonus event or when you combat against Commander Chew at the end of most islands, and when his (un)equipping animation happens it's done in a manner of seconds as he flashes in yellow.  The Chews forming up the BB Brigade come in different forms, and they animate decently, whether it be their normal state or when dressing up as either as bowling pins or dressed heavily for the snow with gliders on their arms or when they don baseball gear and pitch the ball so fast that they become a literal mini-twister among others.
Badler looks neat with his black outfit and eye patch and animates well when you combat him in the end, and Commander Chew has individual animations of his own whenever you face him, and some of them transpire in front of an audience comprised of the Chews forming up the BB Brigade.
I love the player and audience reaction for when either side scores a point in the volleyball-themed boss battle against him.  XD  Volleyball, truly it doesn't get any deadlier than that... especially since the ball explodes upon touching the floor.
And... wait a minute,... is that Spot?  ………
No, seriously, that's Spot, only colored blue!  Either that's a massive coincidence or the character designing team at Ukiyotei were closet 7 Up drink mascot fans, you make the call!

Wait for him to come out, then attack
If you were to look at these screenshots and did not know any better then you'd think it was a Nintendo 16-bit platformer, especially since it was originally intended as such before being upgraded to 32-bit status, when the reality is that it's an exclusively 2D PlayStation One platformer.  And despite ultimately being made for the PlayStation One there's not much if anything to indicate this on a visual level, as you don't see 3D of any kind, full motion video cutscenes, or nifty visual effects you'd come to expect from Sony's foray video game console.  =)  There are even a couple instances where this disc-based game has Mode 7-like effects wizardry like Nintendo's aforementioned 16-bit powerhouse: whenever you defeat Captain Chew at the end of an island a separate "Island Clear" screen suddenly appears from the center and expands itself until it fills the screen, and finally when you face off against Badler he scales in size with each hit he sustains until eventually he rotates like an inflated ball and scales with each hit, and each instance is sufficiently well done.

Oooh, look at those pyramids over there
The wife and husband team of Harumi and Yasuaki Fujita would provide the music and sounds for this skunk-based Ukiyotei vehicle.  Harumi had been video game composer since 1984 while Yasuaki had provided sounds since 1989, both of whom began their careers contributing for Capcom.  The former is best known for composing music for games like the NES adaptation of the 1988-1989 Moto Kikaku manga Strider Hiryu, Strider, the first Final Fight, Capcom's first Game Boy venue Red Arremer: Makaimura Gaiden/Gargoyle's Quest: Ghosts 'n Goblins, the Nintendo 8-bit video game adaptation of the 1989-1990 Disney animated series Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, and a small handful of tracks for Rockman 3: Dr. Wily's Time to Die!?/Mega Man III (spoilers, Japanese subtitle!  ...sorta) before dropping off the project and leaving Capcom to give birth while her husband Yasuaki completed the soundtrack for her.

Such highly preserved and colorful
hieroglyphics adorning this pyramid
As for the latter, back when Yasuaki worked for the company he generally went under the pseudonym "Bunbun" (he was also the man behind the memorable Nintendo 16-bit Capcom jingle); aside from his aforementioned work for Mega Man III, he also contributed for the Nintendo 8-bit video game adaptation of Disney's first entry of their ten-year Disney Renaissance period The Little Mermaid (which turns thirty this year), the Game Boy video game adaptation of Robert Zemeckis' 1988 live action/animation hybrid film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Nintendo 8-bit video game adaptation of the 1991-1992 animated Disney series Darkwing Duck, was among the pantheon of Capcom's Alph Lyle sound team for the original Breath of Fire turn-based RPG, and of course he contributed a bit of music for Final Fight and also... *sigh* the France and Italy tracks for Final Fight 2Yyyeah, not exactly a good game to momentarily end your relationship with Capcom, especially since the sequel was a lazily halfhearted retread of its predecessor (only involving globetrotting this time).  >_>

So much quicksand inside
Nevertheless, the Fujitas would find a temporary new home at Ukiyotei with games like Skyblazer/Karuraou and Todd McFarlane's Spawn: The Video Game with Harumi composing the music and Yasuaki providing the sound effects (with the latter's real name being credited this time), and this would be their third and final collaborative effort for Ukiyotei together (Yasuaki Fujita alone provided the music for Ukiyotei's Super Famicom exclusive Tarot Mystery).  Both are generally known for making very good music, Harumi especially, and the same applies to this platformer as it's one of this game's high points for it lends an appropriate sense of lighthearted atmosphere and tone.  =)

Time to switch gears
The soundtrack is a very pleasant listen as its compositions are playful and sprinkled at points with an adventurous flair which is aided by the purely instrumental quality of the music.  My favorite song is played near the end at the penultimate stage as it revolves around an airborne maze as the build up is so exquisite that it gives the theme's central climax an epic feel as you're getting close to confronting Badler; the premier theme you hear when you begin the game proper is very engaging and inviting; one of the themes you hear once in awhile sounds elegantly pretty; another theme has got relaxing and befitting composition for a snowy area, and that's just to name a few area themes; the regular boss theme evokes a lightheartedly competitive vibe; Badler's theme when you fight him in the end sounds riveting; and the ending credits theme rewards your efforts with a delightful-sounding fanfare which eventually segues to an initially quiet sequence until it gradually builds to a strong finish that I find apropos for a curtain call.  While this game may resemble a 16-bit game visually, aurally it's a different story as the soundtrack was done with Redbook audio quality with midi sounds thrown in the mix, plus this is also one of those PlayStation One game discs that doubles as a soundtrack when played on a music or CD player.
Tomba! is not among those PlayStation One CDs that doubles as a soundtrack, however
With apologies to Mrs. Fuijta I greatly preferred this game's soundtrack to the following soundtrack she provided for the ill-fated developer Whoopee Camp's inaugural PlayStation One cult classic Ore! Tomba/Tomba!/Tombi! from 1997 (where her husband Yasuaki provided the sound effects).  Now don't take this to mean I found that game's music to be bad, it's just that its compositions were monumentally brief that they could tend to be repetitive with each loop (not helped by certain melodies that would get stuck in your head due to their brevity and lightweight nature) not to mention the more tolerable songs worked primarily when heard in that game's context.
With this Ukiyotei outing the background music had a stronger quality, each main track had a reasonable length therefore wouldn't easily become repetitive with each upcoming loop, the melodies and instrumentation were pleasing for the ears, and the songs in question could easily hold their own when heard in isolation as opposed to just in-game.  =)  Also, the music would keep playing instead of starting over whenever you lose a life (but only for the single-segment stages).

🎵 Critters have feelings (oh critters have feelings),
critters have feelings too 🎵
The sound effects provided by Yasuaki in this game are decent and lowkey; whenever you hit the goal there is a cymbal-like sound effect despite the item you're hitting not looking like one, there is a silent spray-like sound when it comes to Punky's regular attack which I appreciate (no fart noises, thank God), and any time he jumps up in the air there's a jumping sound that sounds a bit similar to the one Mr. Nutz has in his self-titled game.  And, specifically in the American version I presume, there are digitized voice clips for Punky when he gets the gear in-stage ("I got it!"), whenever he sustains damage ("WAH!"), and when you lose a life ("Ohh noo...").

Time to do Dig Dug proud!  =D
While Harumi Fujita is still in the music business today her husband Yasuaki retired from the industry in 2000--after making sounds for the Ukiyotei-developed Puzzle Bobble Mini/Bust-A-Move Pocket, Metal Slug 1st Mission, and Metal Slug 2nd Mission for SNK's Neo Geo Pocket Color handheld system but also Capcom's Disney-themed Tetris Adventure Susume Mickey to Nakama-Tachi/Magical Tetris Challenge on the Game Boy Color which his wife Harumi provided music for, making it the first time in years that the Fujitas contributed their talents for Capcom--but would temporarily come out of retirement a decade later in 2010 to compose a song for the Inti Creates-developed Rockman 10: Uchū kara no Kyōi!!/Mega Man 10 (among many other composers who had prior Rockman/Mega Man audio credits under their belt) which is his last audio credit to date.
HA, doofy-eyed Nash!  XD
I said earlier there is one final piece of gear in the form of the jet pack, and that's acquired after defeating a brainwashed Nash at the end of Mount Wolf.
I love how absolutely chill Punky is about the prospect of one of his closest friends wanting to do him in... not that it matters because poor Nash is a real pushover here, and once the badger scientist regains his senses he instructs you on how to use it.
During the entirety of the Wolf Base portion of the map you'll be keeping the jet pack equipped where you can hover around by holding down the 𝖷 button and release it to drop yourself down when warranted for you'll have to do a little maneuvering here, also with the button you can shoot an unlimited array of gas turned fireballs at your airborne foes.  You can't hover forever though since the jet pack took a bit of a beating as a result of defeating Nash so you'll have to find the nearest platform or ground to land on whenever you get the chance so as to momentarily charge up--you'll know it's close to landing time when the jet pack suddenly begins to sputter and spark, and should you wait at the last second to get to safety you'll be forcibly dropping down (preferably towards a platform, otherwise you'll have to start that portion of the stage all over).
My only experience with Ukiyotei before coming across today's game was for their inaugural title Hook based on Steven Spielberg's underrated 1991 film of the same name on the SNES along their second game and vast improvement with the cult classic Skyblazer on the SNES which I got in September 2009 and for my 21st birthday on April 5th, 2012 respectively.  The latter is the one I enjoy the most out of the two, in my opinion.

Unleash the claws
My discovery of today's game that I'm talking about came from wanting to know what other games were in Ukiyotei's catalog over four years ago, and this game popped up which was available for the PlayStation One (I never knew of this game up to that point), and upon looking at screenshots for it on MobyGames I was intrigued because it was entirely in 2D which I found refreshing for a console otherwise populated by 3D titles.  Upon finding out about the game I ordered it on eBay on a whim because I was genuinely curious about it, and upon playing it I was glad I did because I genuinely found it to be fun.  =)

Ohhh, that stained glass window looks amazing
It's no masterpiece, but I found it to be a joy to play as I found it to be charming.  Having played the earlier platformers by Ukiyotei this skunk-based platformer does feel like it's cut from the same cloth: it's map-based, you start out with a low amount of health where the capacity increases with each full health power-up, the controls are intuitive, there's the developer's trademark quirky Japanese charm (such as the enemies' incredulous reactions upon being taken out), losing a life will either send you back to the beginning of the stage (single-segment) or the start of the current portion of it (more than one segment) as there are no checkpoints, and there's at least one stage dedicated to a maze-style layout while the rest are easy to follow.
Left: Pathgrinder II: The Quickening | Right: Pathgrinder III: The Sorcerer/The Magician/The Final Conflict/The Final Dimension or whatever the hell subtitle it went under
And generally each stage has got their own name dedicated to them, for there can be only one... unless you're "Pathgrinder", in which case each iteration received a new Roman numeral.  There is even a stage in an island that is actually titled "Tomb Wader".
Image from Wikipedia
I saw what you did there, sneaky sneaky!  Speaking of TV console video games originally from late 1996...

Storming the castle
Over the years today's game has been seen as a "curiosity", and when I first beat it I looked a little more into it and I was shocked to find that back when it came out in America in 1998 it received negative reviews.  I couldn't understand why; it's neither unplayable nor unreasonable, it's competently made, and there was nothing in the game that I found to be objectively bad.  The best I can do is speculate the reasoning behind its contemporary reception: the game had received heavy criticism for its title choice, which I concur with wholeheartedly--skunks aren't exactly the most appealing of animal creatures generally speaking (for... obvious reasons) and to attach the word "Punky" in front of it didn't do it any favors despite it being his name; one can make likable skunk characters in fictional media (except Pepé Le Pew, that's one Warner Bros. character that has not aged well at all), but unfortunately the first thing people think of when it comes to these animal creatures isn't their personality and charisma.
Image on the left from GameFAQs
The American cover art with the funky title font also doesn't help either: it's one of those uninteresting covers that largely doubles as the in-game title screen, and apart from seeing that it centers around a skunk, what exactly does the front cover tell you about the game?  Nothing, really.  No one's going to look at the cover and suddenly be interested to play it based on looking only at its front.  And while Jaleco may have distributed the game outside Japan I have a feeling even they weren't all that into it as the manual is wafer-thin at twelve black and white pages and doesn't even expand on, let alone tell you, the story in the written text for it just has the general gameplay explanation, some scans of Kuri's original design from Japan, and one large screenshot from the game.  The only Jaleco credits to appear in-game are those of vice president-consumer division Greg Hasler with Jarik R. Sikat who was the localized version's product manager and wrote the English script.

Another factor that may have contributed to its negative reception is unfortunate circumstance due to bad timing.  After Sega's 16-bit classic Sonic the Hedgehog debuted in 1991 there were developers who wanted to cash in on the Blue Blur's success by creating speed-based platformers with anthropomorphic animals with an attitude, dubbed under the "mascot platformer" movement.  One of the first contenders to take on Sonic?
Accolade's Bubsy the Bobcat, created by Michael Berlyn.  The Rob Paulsen-voiced character and his first game had a lot of positive hype built up for them prior to release, but when Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind came out the overall reception wasn't quite as kind and over time received worse ratings with the main character receiving apathic levels of hate from most who were acquainted with him and/or his games, which is harsh.  The bad taste gamers had from his games at the time must've made them hyper-cautious whenever they saw a new game that appeared to try to be the new Sonic, regardless of whether it was the developer's intention, out of fear that they would be like Bubsy all over again when it didn't always turn out to be the case more often than not; some games actually turned out to be really good but got snubbed or written off because of the aforementioned game series' lingering backlash.
Screengrabbed from the Pickford Brothers' Zee-3 Digital Publishing website
Even Plok creators John and Ste Pickford took a jab at Bubsy in their Plok-based webcomic sequel series twenty years after the Nintendo 16-bit Software Creations cult classic came out, for it was among the games mistakenly presumed to be a "mascot platformer" at the time.

Includes ninjas
And I imagine that by the time today's Ukiyotei platformer came out in 1998 the American gaming populace had grown sick, tired, or weary of any game they perceived to be Sonic-wannabes so they didn't react too kindly to it and lashed out as a knee-jerk reaction to it.  And while Punky may be an animal, I found him to be very chill with no signs of attitude; it's not exactly fast-paced throughout except when you have two pieces of gear on for the pacing is steady otherwise.  But then, it may have been a case of Jaleco not advertising the game properly and misrepresenting it as something it was not.  I don't think of this game as a "mascot platformer", personally I think of it as a solid enough game that unfortunately got saddled with a terrible name.

Airtime
Apparently this platformer wasn't finished upon release; there's been no specifics as to the extent of how unfinished it was or what was never incorporated in the final product (at least not as far as I know), only that it wasn't complete.  This game was originally intended as a Nintendo 16-bit vehicle as I said earlier and at the Famimaga Earth World 95 a mascot appeared who looked just like the main protagonist.  Considering the boost from 16-bit cartridge format to 32-bit game disc format it visually resembles a Nintendo 16-bit title, and while one could argue that a loading screen would have been uncharacteristic for a cartridge-based title to have, I've only seen a handful of instances of a Nintendo 16-bit cartridge-based game having those between sequences (the console port of Delphine Software's Out of this World, the SNES version of Travellers' Tales' Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse, and Probe Software's infamous video game adaptation of Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever).
Image from the Super Famicom incarnation's page from the Unseen64 archive website
The only proof there is of this game's originally intended destination are through some magazine scans that were found several years ago, but nothing else has surfaced.  While I enjoyed the PlayStation One game for what it was, I do wonder what the Nintendo 16-bit version would've been like had it been released in that format as the SFC/SNES is my favorite video game console of all time.

Cheesy
I don't think Ukiyotei did a bad job with this game, but sadly American gamers wouldn't know who the developer was until the internet would go in full bloom many years ago because as far as their Nintendo 16-bit venues were concerned whenever the company name popped up in the credits it was in kanji, and in today's game their name doesn't appear in the credits (just the Japanese version's publisher Visit).  You think if people played Hook and Skyblazer side by side but didn't know any better then they would put two and two together and arrive at the conclusion that they was developed by the same company?  Same if they played either of those titles and today's game side by side?  You think if people liked the earlier titles and acknowledged that back when it came out in America in 1998 then maybe its contemporary reception would not have been as needlessly harsh... or would people have reacted harshly regardless?  I don't understand people sometimes.  -_-
Good thing the PlayStation One ports of the Ludimedia-developed Rayman and Crystal Dynamics' Gex came out when they did
A part of me finds it miraculous that this purely 2D platformer arrived in American shores at all, because once 3D started becoming the norm in the mid '90s Sony of America kind of adopted a "3D or bust" mentality for awhile when it came to most PlayStation One platformers during this period, which explains why certain games such as Media.Vision's Gunners Heaven/Rapid Reload and the PlayStation One version of Travellers' Tales' Mickey Mania, Mickey's Wild Adventure, never came out in America.  I suppose Sony's American division eased up a bit by 1998 and weren't as strict in their policy, and that's how we got today's game.  I don't mind 3D, but 2D is something I like a lot of people have a soft spot for; just because 3D was a hot commodity it didn't mean people would completely abandon 2D.

Chews acting like flying squirrels
And really, today's game isn't exactly devoid of charm, as I did find it endearing through and through, and I liked the quirkiness behind some of its lighthearted charm, there are a couple of sentient platforms who spontaneously change expression upon stepping on them--the one that bawls suddenly beams up and waves at the screen before descending below while the gruff one salutes the screen as it rises up only to descend fast below the moment it reaches its apex--which I liked, I liked the intuitive nature of the controls and the different gear you change into depending on the current situation, and when you beat the game all the main players including the bad guys walk down the steps one by one and once they're all front and center they hold hands and bow down to the audience as the curtain draws down.  I can't say I played many games that bookended on a literal curtain call, so I appreciated that very highly.  =)

Suddenly I wish it were Christmas again 🎄
But just like this PlayStation One vehicle adopted many of the tropes you expect from an Ukiyotei platformer, so too did it adopt the lesser aspects of those games: the invincibility time is barely existent the moment you receive a hit, the areas are short which makes for a short game, it lacks an alternate difficulty setting, and it's largely easy unless you're not careful with the hardest part (being a genuine challenge, I might add) usually reserved for the final boss until you have the proper strategy and/or pattern figured out.  No lie, it took me several tries to defeat Badler the first time I played it, same for my recent playthrough until I paid attention and remembered what to do.  Even the maze in the penultimate airborne stage gave me some trouble for a bit which had me go in circles until I found the right solution (follow the stars).

Dig-a-dig-a-dig-a-dig
Something I could've done without was having Punky's bunny friend Kelly waltz in and tell you what to do during the different battles against Commander Chew and then waltz out so that when the battle you starts you can do exactly as she tells you.  If the solutions to the battles in Hook and Skyblazer were largely to easy to decipher on your own, I feel that the same would've been the case here.  The only time she doesn't instruct you are for when you contend with a brainwashed Nash, the last battle against Commander Chew, and immediately after confronting Badler himself, so at least you were spared from hand-holding during those moments near the end.

Pogo stick equipped pose
I also would've liked a properly established backstory; the first time you're at the title screen if you don't press anything for a bit you'll see a scene where Badler gets informed about Punky, and it's clear there's a history between the two when he says something along the likes of "I knew I should've gotten rid of him when I had the chance!" but unfortunately there isn't any expansion on that, and neither is it expanded on from the other side.  The story is not present in the manual either and seeing that it's not based on a pre-existing license you're simply grasping for plot details.  I'm not saying this platformer needs a highly detailed plot, just something to work with.

Timing is imperative
There were some moments when certain area designs or area details (like trees that you slowly sink in) reminded me of Ukiyotei's Skyblazer, there are even air currents that are drawn and utilized similarly to that game.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing, just something that would fly over the heads of people playing this game that did not previously play the Nintendo 16-bit cult classic.  Five people worked on the programming of this PlayStation One platformer: three of them had prior programming experience (Norihiro Tokeshi, Tadakatsu Makiuchi, and Yasushi Kamiya) while the other two (TaKeru Yamada and Satoshi Kuroda) contributed to video games for the first time with today's game (Yamada wouldn't have another video game credit until Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIV Online: Shinzei Eorzea/A Realm Reborn in 2013 followed by Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood in 2017), and I think they largely did a solid job.

Found a candle to keep me warm
If I had to guess as to how this game was unfinished, remember when I said that if you look thoroughly in certain stages then you would find a candle which will transport you to a bonus segment after you blow it away?  Well, if you failed to perfect the bonus and looked in the same exact spot you found that candle, you'd be allowed to try again--indefinitely if you failed again.  I have a feeling that maybe you weren't supposed to have an unlimited amount of attempts to clear the bonus in the final game during the same playthrough of these specific stages (which you can revisit upon clearing them); and the way I presented these screenshots is the way the game regularly looks,
but what I haven't shown you is the wafer-thin black garbage area at the bottom which sometimes certain elements will overlap which I doubt was meant to happen depending on your positioning (whoever lost during the motorboat race as they go down, the stars, the sentient platforms, et al) which Ukiyotei probably didn't have time to fix in time.

I didn't know the Very Hungry Caterpillar
became an amusement park decoration!
Out of the Ukiyotei platformers I played I wouldn't put this game above Skyblazer as I did find that game to be the most polished and enjoyable one out of the bunch in spite of its brevity and easy difficulty (which could be applied to the other two Ukiyotei platformers, really), but I would personally rank it above Hook as unlike their inaugural game at least the pacing of this game is acceptably steady and not needlessly slow (even if you held down the attack button to run in that game) with occasionally floaty and awkward jumping mechanics.  Funny thing about Hook is that lately I've been drawing a parallel to it with Produce's first (and only) platformer Takahashi Meijin no Daibōken Jima/Super Adventure Island,

Dancing under a beautiful night sky
and they are similar in that they were 1992 16-bit platformers hampered by the unnecessarily awkward slow pacing, questionable design in aspects, and lack of experience on the developer's part where each respective company would create better content afterwards (at least, based on what I've played by Produce and Ukiyotei anyway); Hook has the edge though because unlike Super Adventure Island it at least had interesting and more varying area designs and was slightly less tedious.  I'm glad Ukiyotei fixed the speed issue for Skyblazer (no holding the button necessary, now you run all the time) and made the pacing tolerable for this platformer, because otherwise I would not have been a happy camper.  Slow pacing isn't a problem per se, but there has to be a point to it, and Ukiyotei's Hook video game adaptation did not have one in my opinion.

The BB Brigade wouldn't have an issue here
if they simply learned how to aim
This game is short, but if you don't feel you have the time to play it all in one sitting there's at least the option to save your progress which you can load from the title screen upon coming back to resume it.  For those who are wondering though: yes, it is possible to play through this game in one sitting (shouldn't take longer than an hour if not an hour and a half), which I did for my most recent playthrough for it, but just in case you plan on doing that you should always save just in case of a potential power-outage should you be playing it during stormy weather or if you don't feel you can pull through in one go.  Just be sure not to take too long playing it, otherwise your console will feel warm after hours of keeping it on (my excuse is that I was getting screenshots for today's game and planned on reviewing it as soon as possible).

The battle to end Badler's schemes
What's also really good about this game is just how self-contained it is and makes no attempt to hint or imply that it would be followed by a sequel, which I approve because unfulfilled sequel baiting is one of my pet peeves as many games in the '90s did this which is personally frustrating.  If you have a PlayStation One console but are in the mood for a simple 2D platformer which brings to mind a Nintendo 16-bit one in terms of aesthetic, then I think you might like this game; don't let the title fool you, the game in of itself is not as pungent as the name it was given would lead one to believe, and I feel the negative reception it initially had was blown way out of proportion.  It's not great 2D entertainment, but it's charming and likable platforming fun (certain blemishes notwithstanding) and for Ukiyotei to have it revolve around a skunk and not stinking up the package they deserve credit for that.  It doesn't cost very much on eBay if you were curious about it, but if you're willing to overlook the brevity and easy difficulty (and walk into it with an open mind) then you may find a pleasant surprise.  =)
My Personal Score: 7.0/10
d(^-^)bTO EACH THEIR OWNd(^-^)b
Movies I saw recently: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World on the 5th which I thought was a really great trilogy ender for this great animated franchise with breathtaking animation and an involving narrative, also Toothless and the Light Fury make a great OTP; then on the 10th I saw Captain Marvel and I really enjoyed it, Brie Larson is likable as the title character plus she and Samuel L. Jackson have got great chemistry together, and I liked that it was set during the '90s, makes me look forward even more to Avengers: Endgame next month.  =)
HA!!!  Stupid surprised skunkXD  …  Ahem, inspired by one of Phelous' jokes.

Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think (neither spam nor NSFW allowed); hope you have a great day, take care!  =)
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Alright, I managed to go through the entire review without saying Punky Skunk once, YE--  ...  O.O  Aw, dammit, I said it, now my review is ruined!  T.T