Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Impressions: Libble Rabble (SFC)

Received: December 25th, 2012 / Written: February 12th-13th, 2013
Year: 1983, 1994 | Developed and Published by: Namco | [ O ]

This is a game I knew about since I was a child, believe it or not.  When I was little I was introduced to Namco Museum Volume 1 on the original PlayStation console, the first ever compilation title I ever played (Microsoft Return of Arcade for PC not counting).  The great thing about the compilation was how there were so many games in one disc, as well as an interactive museum with all the memorabilia and items pertaining to the games in question, making for what I consider to be a true video game compilation; plus, the museum aspect is what made the first Namco Museum excellent for me.  In one of the rooms you could view some past magazine covers, listen to music and sounds from the games in a jukebox, and even a list of games made and released by Namco up until 1995 (yet for some strange reason Ms. Pac-Man was omitted).  Under the year "1983" I saw the title: Libble Rabble.  Ah, 1983!  =)  I can't think of many Namco games that came out during that magical year.
That doesn't count unfortunately, since it was both developed and released by Bally Midway, which resulted in Namco cutting off ties with them.  It's a shame too, since Jr. Pac-Man is a very good game, in my opinion, and the only available port around is the Atari 2600 version (officially speaking).  =(
(Jewish sheriff star?)
Oh, now who could forget about this classic?  The well-known, literal cat-and-mouse title that is Mappy!  Has a catchy theme too!
A lot of people don't like this one, but I didn't think it was that bad.
Don't remember too much about this one, but I recall having played it on Namco Museum Volume 3.  =/
Oh, yes, I love this game!  =D  What could be better than Pac-Man teaming up with a baby ghost who is defying her kin?  =)  ...  That's a rhetorical question, by the way, there is seriously no competition; it automatically wins!  I know it's my opinion, but it just sounds too awesome a concept to not be cool and work.

Okay, so there were a lot of Namco games that came out in '83, including the game of the hour Libble Rabble.  Turns out that it's a colorful coin-op with similar gameplay elements to Taito's Qix (however you pronounce that) that was solely released in Japan during its heyday.  Roughly thirty years after its conception it still hasn't been released in the West; there weren't that many re-releases (but never in compilations), and as a result the game is obscure and rare outside the Land of the Rising Sun.  However, it was released on the Japanese Wii Virtual Console more than three years ago and it received a straight Super Famicom port back in 1994.  After looking up information about the game I found out that it was the first 16-bit title by Namco.  Oh how nice, what better treatment to give a 16-bit game than... a 16-bit conversion?  On Christmas day of '12 I got the SFC game along with box and manual, and I was about to play a game that I've been curious about for so long.  =)

In a big introductory sequence (with Japanese language in it) a couple of farmers are cultivating and working on the farm to provide for themselves.  One day they are shown and given a couple "arrows" tied together by rope, a red one and a blue one.  Realizing that with these arrows they can catch and clear out the critters without fail, the farmers are ecstatic and are on their way to take them on throughout the seasons.  However, hooded creatures (Hobblins) and other such creatures as devils and fireballs are not okay with this and wish to put a stop to their plans, so they must be very careful.  In case you didn't catch on, you're the pair of farmers, and turns out you're playing as the bad guy(s)?  I thought I was gonna control those cute little furballs on the cover.  Um, yay?  =/

So, I said it shared some gameplay elements from Qix earlier, but it doesn't necessarily mean it plays the same.  In Libble Rabble you take simultaneous control of two arrows, the red one with the Control Pad and the blue arrow with the ABXY buttons.  Wait... what??  O_O  Yes, you read that right, you guide both arrows as opposed to one, and if that sounds like it's gonna take a bit of time to adjust to, well you wouldn't be far off.  But once you get to grips with the controls then the game will control like a charm.  =)  In each stage are a set of poles (several will have a lot of them while some will have a few), so you can use these poles to wind the rope around them to create an opening and then you close them to create loops in order to trap the critters that are inside.  The more creatures you trap the more points you score.  You'll have to be careful though, because there are some scissor-like enemies that will snip out the rope which will become smaller as a result.  Sometimes you can have the blue arrow in the place of the red one, but it will make things confusing if only for a little bit.

You'll notice that the more loops you create, the more the dirt will take its place.  You're not invulnerable however should a Hobblin or any other non-Mushlin (mushrooms) enemy come into contact with either arrow, then you lose a life.  If you form a loop around a treasure chest (visible or non-visible), a treasure inside will be found; not only that, but the six cute little furballs will pop out from it as well.  If you gather all of them (not necessarily in the same stage) then you'll have all the letters (i.e. Flower) which will bring you to a bonus stage.  You'll be scoring a life any time you reach a certain high score.

Given that it's a game from 1983, it amazes me that Namco retained the look and sound from the original coin-op.  Since it's an '80s title, it would look just like you expect it to: with bright and colorful visuals.  And honestly the visuals, as simple and basic as they are, are quite nice to look at.  The game starts with a rather visually impressive for its time introductory sequence, feeling like an anime with really great attention to detail.  The stage layouts, though basic, are nice, as whenever you start off a game and after you lost a life it will all start out as bright green.  But the more loops you create and overlap, the less green the ground will become, resulting in a mish-mash of greens, tans, and browns until you lose a life.  The enemies are designed and animated decently (especially when the Hobblins start becoming angry and charge towards the arrows), and I like how any time you begin a stage a tree representing a season (spring, summer, fall, winter) will fill up the screen in a circular fashion and then do the reverse as the stage commences.  I think it's a very nice touch.  The music is good (there is even a sound test), and the sound effects are decent considering the time period it originally debuted.  =)

So I honestly felt that Libble Rabble is a really, really good game.  The visuals and sound are nice, the gameplay is solid but will take some time to absorb, and I thought the amount of challenge was good.  What's neat about the game is how the game was presented in classic format, not to mention there is an option setting--DIP SW--where you can enable, disable, or alter some settings to your liking.  You could change it to Arcade or Normal, adjust the difficulty setting to Easy or Normal, turn on or off the ability to pause, and even allow for a third player to join (not sure how that would work) among other settings.  The DIP SW screen even looks like an actual DIP switch, which manages to emulate an arcade feel.  As a result of that, it's great.  =)

Since it's an arcade game, it's one of those types of games that go on indefinitely until you lose all your lives.  Getting the critters without being attacked yourself can prove to be challenging, and while the first several stages the treasure chest will be visible thanks to its outlines, you'll have to properly guess where it is afterwards since there are no hints for its random position.  Rounding up the critters can be fun, and trying to catch the furballs emerging from their chests can be exciting too.  Libble Rabble will be very challenging to play and get around unless you're very careful, especially with the Hobblins and the clipper-like enemies trying to impede your progress.  I do have to wonder why Namco never brought it to Western soil all these years, or even think of putting it on a compilation; I mean, it's inoffensive and nothing too quriky.  I surmise that one of the reasons it remained a Japan-exclusive all this time was due to the challenge factor.  And since part of the challenge comes from learning how to manage the controls by controlling two arrows at the same time, Namco probably felt that gamers would be really offput by that; I don't know for a fact if that's the case, but it's just a guess.  The designs of the critters and the furballs are nice in the game, but they're especially more cartoon-like and detailed in the cover art and the manual.  They're pretty neat designs to look at (the furball characters have even got personality and even look cute), and the manual is surprisingly bulky for a game that leans more to the arcade genre at forty-five pages.  There is even an azure chip you can place on top of the ABXY buttons to "help" recognize the directional controls for the right arrow, though let's be honest: it wouldn't make much of a difference.

Overall Libble Rabble is a fun game despite its initial flaws, and Namco has done a very good with it in my opinion.  It's nice, but as far as my top favorite Namco arcade games go, just give me Galaga and Dig Dug any day of the week.  If you're curious and fascinated by this game, I recommend you give it a try and import it.  It might take a bit to adapt yourself to the controls but once you do, I think you'll have a good time.  =)  It's too bad that it was never given a chance outside Japan, but hey, 2013 is it's thirtieth year, so we'll see how it pans out.

My Impressions: 8.0/10
Thank you for reading, please leave a comment!  =)
P.S.: I was serious about liking Pac & Pal more than any other Pac-Man game, by the way, including the original.
P.S. 2: This is my ninth Super Famicom cart, with the eighth one being the Japanese version of Final Fight 2.
P.S. 3: The farmers' expressions in the intro when they dance with joy are priceless.
P.S. 4: Namco sure did a good job at not revealing the controllable characters until you played it.  Boy, did that cover ever fool me or what?
P.S. 5: Images of Jr. Pac-Man and Pac & Pal are from Wikipedia.  Mappy, Pole Position II, and Phozon images were lifted from KLOV.com.

2 comments:

  1. This game looks a little bit like Cacoma Knight in Bizyland - a SNES game that I like. Maybe I'll try to hunt down a copy of this and give it a try.

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    Replies
    1. I'm sure you'll like it. I have heard of Cacoma Knight, but I have yet to play it; perhaps I'll give it a go one day.

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