Saturday, October 9, 2021

Games 285-286: Minky Monkey & Tag Team Wrestling

Technōs Japan is best known in the U.S. for the Double Dragon series and River City Ransom, and not much else, though I personally have fond memories of Crash 'n the Boys Street Challenge. Founded in 1981 by Data East members, their earliest whale, Tag Team Wrestling, is preceded in 1982 by Minky Monkey, a title so obscure that Mobygames has no record of it.

Game 285: Minky Monkey


 

I guess everyone had to start somewhere, and Technōs started off with this strange little Donkey Kong Jr. knock-off where your character looks like an eternally screaming bomb and has to follow a monkey's directions while another monkey tries to screw you up and/or kill you, much to the first monkey's delight.

At the top of the screen, the first monkey scribbles orders like "🍎 BRING UP" and "🍋 BRING DOWN" and you just have to make your way to the indicated fruit and bring in in that direction before the other monkey reaches it first. Sometimes you'll realize that you have no chance of beating him to it - if he has a head start, it's often impossible to, but that's okay as you can fail up to four times per stage without penalty.

And I don't know what else to say here, other than that I encountered a bug, seen around the 5:00 mark in which I jumped to a climbable pole and got stuck in a walking animation instead of a climbing one, clipped to the other side of the screen, and died. That was the first gameplay session I bothered recording, and I didn't bother trying to replay or improve on my score.

GAB rating: Bad. Minky Monkey is weird, but it isn't particularly interesting, or any fun.

 

Game 286: Tag Team Wrestling


Not featuring: Franz Liebkind, King Hippo, Hägar the Horrible, sunburnt Grimace, Party City Dracula, or Billy the Kid.
Scan provided by FlyerFever.
 

Tag Team Wrestling holds the distinction of being the earliest wrestling video game listed on Mobygames.

I don't really get wrestling games. Maybe they make more intuitive sense to players who actually watch it, but my limited experience with such games has always more or less been pressing random buttons, which sometimes did a move on my opponent, and sometimes did nothing, with no clear feedback mechanism to tell me why one player "wins" a particular grapple or not, or why I'd want to use any given move over another.

Such was my initial experience with Tag Team Wrestling, in which at first, just figuring out how to do moves at all was a struggle. Sometimes after grappling, the word "NUTTER" would flash on the screen and I'd put him in a headlock. Most of the time I'd just get thrown against the ropes and drop kicked on the rebound. Sometimes I'd get thrown out of the ring, where a turbaned man would sometimes throttle me with a cane, and if I was lucky, I'd be able to climb back in before time ran out, or if I wasn't lucky, get slammed into the post repeatedly by an ornery heel who doesn't give a damn if we both ring out together.

But eventually I figured out Tag Team Wrastlin's game, and found it to be pretty easy to win, at least until later matches where it becomes basically impossible.

 

Tag Team Wrestling can be played two player as well, but not exactly simultaneously - it simply means control is given to player 2 whenever you tag in your partner. I did play a few rounds with "D" this way, but she didn't pull off any moves other than headlocks, and generally didn't attack aggressively enough.

The rule for grappling is is that if your arms are up and his are down, you may execute a move. Otherwise, it's the heel's move, but you have several seconds to break the grapple first. However, if you don't grapple for awhile, the heel will turn red and charge at you with an unbreakable grapple.

The timing on the arms is hard to anticipate, but it's not really necessary. Just be aggressive so that you don't trigger red mode - if you hear a beep it means the grapple was successful and you should select a move. If not, just back off and immediately try again until you succeed. With this strategy I was nearly invulnerable until about the tenth round, when the heels turn red so fast that you don't really have a chance of beating them.

The move selection part is very awkward - it's a menu-based interface where you cycle through a list of moves with the secondary action button, and execute with the primary. If you execute a W. Lariat, for instance, you must tap the second button eight times and the first button once, and you've only got three seconds to do it. It's awkward, but reliably doable with practice.

I did some analysis to figure out what moves are worth using - everything that follows is an educated guess about the inner workings of the game.

  • You and the masked heel both have 16 stamina points.
  • The fat heel has 15, but is invulnerable to the heavier moves and will counter you right out of them.
  • When a heel's stamina drops to 5 or below, he'll try to tag in his partner.
  • Each time a player is tagged in, they start with two points less stamina than before, down to a minimum of 8.
  • Pins are only successful if the wrestler's stamina is reduced to zero.
  • The rear drop automatically pins the masked heel if his stamina is 4 or less.
  • The cobra twist is a submission hold and will be successful if the masked heel's stamina is 4 or less.
 

The move list - each move costs you stamina to execute. Heels expend no stamina to do moves on you.

Move Cost Damage Points vs.
masked heel
Points vs.
fat heel
Reversal
Nutter 2 2 200 300 No
Kick 2 2 200 300 Yes
Straight Jab 2 2 200 300 No
Karate Chop 3 2 200 300 No
Drop Kick 3 3 500 700 Yes
Body Slam 3 3 500 700 Yes
Rabbit Killer 3 3 800 900 No
Pile Driver 4 4 700 50 No
W. Lariat 4 5 1000 50 No
Brain Buster 4 5 800 50 Yes
Rear Drop 4 5 600 50 Yes
Cobra Twist 4 2 600 50 No
 

So the optimal strategy? Use a reversal move to get the masked heel on the left side of the ring so that he can't tag in his partner, and then two more heavy moves, followed by a cobra twist. For the fat heel, use one reversal and four Rabbit Killers instead, and then pin. The only challenging part is selecting the move.

There's one big gotcha - I never found a way to reliably survive being thrown out of the ring, to the point where if I accidentally threw my opponent out, I'd just let them climb back in. It seems that outside of the ring, your opponent gains super powers and will easily lock you into a chain of unbreakable grapples, trapping you in the corner until time runs out. A mutual ring out is still a game over for you. You can also pull off some devastating moves outside the ring, but the risk of suffering a corner trap is just too great to be worth it. And incidentally, this is how almost all of my games ended.

GAB rating: Below Average. Tag Team Wrestling was kind of fun for a little bit, but with puddle shallow mechanics hidden behind layers of obtuseness, there's no lasting value. Time will tell if later, more sophisticated wrestlers appeal to me any better.

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