Before I start, I just want to say that, yes, there are mushrooms in this game. Mushrooms that look like penises. See?
Okay, now we've hard a good laugh at that, let's get into Konami's 2004 everything-'em-up Gameboy Advance title Pyuu to Fuku! Jaguar: Byuu to Deru! Megane-kun. Enjoy that title while you can, because I sure as hell won't be writing it out in full again.
Pyuu to Fuku Jaguar is based on a manga called, well, Pyuu to Fuku Jaguar. The manga revolves around the titular Jaguar, a musician so talented he can play any instrument to perfection. Sadly, he only wants to play the recorder.
As to the plot of the game, I couldn't tell you. Obviously it's all in Japanese, but as is so often the case with Japanese games being able to read Japanese probably wouldn't make the plot any less baffling. So, I decided to just dive in and start a new game.
It's a street! In Japan! and there's Jaguar, running back and forth, jumping occasionally and attacking with his recorder. It plays like a standard side-scrolling platformer... for now. Soon enough, an enemy hoves into view. It's a sumo wrestler!
Or maybe not. What, just because he's a fat Japanese man in his pants, he has to be a sumo wrestler? You racist. Maybe he has a glandular problem, and someone just mugged him and stole his clothes. I hope that's not the case, because I just battered him to death with a flute. Seems like it's be adding insult (and injury) to injury. The stage is over very quickly, and that's PtF's modus operandi: themed worlds broken into four or five very small stages, perfect for portable gameplay.
After the intro stage, it's onto the first world proper, which is an ancient Japanese temple-slash-floating walkway storage area. There are ninjas and angry-looking dogs to fight, if you're into that kind of thing. The gameplay changes here from being a side-scroller to free-roaming, the first of PtF's many gameplay shifts. The gameplay's nice, with smooth movement and combat, even if it is a little simplistic, and I'm having a jolly old time until I get to area two and encounter these... things.
It's a duck with arms and a cat's head, holding a sword. Not much you can say about that, really. Not much you can say that won't get you locked in a rubber room, anyway. Just beat it with your recorder and move on, don't question it and whatever you do don't look into its beady little eyes.
In addition to your flute, you can also use one of the penis-mushrooms you have so lovingly collected to summon a helper. There's a girl in pink who you can see in the picture above; she helps you out by clobbering enemies, and you can call a guy who throws rocks. You can also summon a disturbingly underdressed Astroboy homage, complete with this rather odd cutscene:
The reasons for PtF not receiving a Western release are becoming clearer.
The next area sees you traversing a maze of floating platforms while being attacked by what I think are evil dolls. Mind you, I think all dolls are evil. When you wake up one morning with your mouth sewn shut and buttons delicately stitched into place where your eyes used to be, a rag-doll whispering "our revenge beginsssss" into your ear, don't say I didn't warn you.
There's a boss fight: it's against one of those duck-cat things. Except he's, y'know, bigger. I accidentally killed him before I could get a picture, but if you're really desperate to see it, just take that picture of the catduck above and zoom in 200%. Lazy, Konami. Anyway, world two!
Underground caverns! Adorable fish-men! Goddamn woodlice falling on your head! After dashing through this short side-scrolling section, it's on to a spooky pirate ship.
There's a widdle skweton with a widdle sword. Dark magic may animate his decaying bones into a blasphemous mockery of life, but that doesn't stop me wanting to give him a hug (the same thing is true of Sir Patrick Moore). The ghost ship has more of an exploration element that previous stages, with lots of little rooms that you can enter to get treasure and to try and escape this cursed ship of death! If you're looking at it and thinking "well golly gee that sure looks a lot like Castlevania", then yes, yes it does.
The next stage is decidedly un-Castlevania-like, because it's an underwater swimming stage. Ugh. I hate swimming stages. They're slow and boring and exist only as an excuse to make the game more difficult by making your character respond to your commands as though they've just swallowed a wheelbarrow full of temazepam. However, PtF redeems itself somewhat by having obstacles that aren't anything as boring as a sea-mine or a jellyfish: oh no, they have cartoon giraffes breathing the pocket of air trapped in an upturned drinking glass. Of course! It's so obvious. Now my plan for an all-giraffe sea invasion of France can begin! I can tell you this much - they'll never be expecting it.
After the swimming, PtF gives up any pretence of not being Castlevania.
I'm not sure how I feel about this. One the one hand, it smacks of Konami lazily retrofitting the GBA Castlevanias to make up a large portion of some licensed game they probably don't care about.
On the other hand, I love Castlevania.
I think my love for Castlevania wins through in the end, mostly because the fishmen have an animation where they fall on their sides and flap around like a freshly beached trout.
The boss is a huge yellow demon wearing a Klan-style pointy hat and his y-fronts. It has to be said that this is not the most menacing combination in the world. He fights a lot like the Balore bosses from, you guessed it, Castlevania. Except in his pants. And in the Klan.
The next world, and it's back to the top-down free-roaming stuff in a jungle environment that sort of reminds me of Secret of Mana. Obviously it's not as good as Secret of Mana, but it does have evil totem poles. What is it with fucking totem poles? Every time they appear in a game, they're always there to screw you over. They're never helpful or friendly, and they frequently have access to advanced laser weaponry. I guess the native Americans got the last laugh over the White Man after all.
Then you're in an Egyptian temple. If videogames have taught me anything, it's that the ancient Egyptian civilisation was entirely based around filling all their buildings with deadly traps, usually involving timed jets of fire and falling masonry. So it proves in PtF, the same as it ever was and forever shall be. Still, it could be worse: it could be a minecart level.
After a quick dash around a treetop maze, Jaguar finds himself heading through a bazaar. This bazaar in noteworthy for two reasons. First of all, look at the enemies in the picture above. If you're looking for an enemy that makes a swimming giraffe in an upside-down cup look normal, a depressed-looking pig wearing shorts and boxing gloves who sits dejectedly in your path and attacks by firing snot at you will do it.
Secondly, the music. It's a homage to The A-Team!
Which is odd, because there's literally nothing in this stage that would remind you of The A-Team. If you were riding around in a black van and maybe getting hired if people could find you I'd understand it, but you do nothing of the sort. Unless there was an episode I missed where Hannibal and the team fight an army of mournful boxing pigs, I'll just have to chalk it up to whimsy.
Oh, and the boss is a giant enemy crab. I don't think I need to add anything more.
On to the next world, and I hope you all have your nostalgia goggles firmly affixed, because this is NES World!
Aww, isn't that nice. Yes, Konami went the whole hog in giving PtF an eight-bit makeover, even giving this stage a rather jolly chiptune soundtrack:
And it's always nice to see the Moai heads make a return. The first stage has Jaguar travelling through a series of doors that warp him around the stage. Sadly, a shift to NES aesthetics also means a regression back to eight-bit gameplay mechanics, and the whole stage is a tedious slog, culminating in a decision to hide the final door in a hole that would normally kill you if you fell into it. So, if you fancy giving PtF a try, that's my one piece of advice to save you from getting caught in a long, dull loop: jump down a bloody hole.
The next area is a maze full of locked doors, and you have to collect the keys to progress. That's all well and good, but rather frustratingly you spend 90% of the stage waiting for elevators. Just standing there, waiting for a slow-moving pink block to come close enough for you to jump on before it begins its inexorable upward climb. Except, you mistimed your jump, and now you have to wait for the elevator to come back around and you realise that you're distractedly trying to slit your wrists with the GBA's (sadly) rounded edges.
Then there's a box-puzzle section that repeats the same puzzles several times but with more boxes and is pretty dull, but then it gets a bit better with the next stage...
...because it's just Zelda. There's not much more I can add to that, except to say that it's a fun section of the game, even if the disturbing catducks have made a return.
The final stage of the NES World is a rather accurate recreation of an 80's one-on-one fighter, specifically Konami's own Yie Ar Kung Fu, in which Jaguar has to battle several opponents to proceed. Now, I have no idea if they're characters from the manga, but I'm going to go on record as saying that this "Blee" fellow is obviously the coolest because he has a "regent" style hairdo. The most impressive thing about this stage is that it really does feel like you're playing a forgotten arcade game; the only difference is that it's possible to complete this one.
The NES World is complete, and the graphics go back to the way they were, and suddenly you're in space! Luckily, Jaguar came prepared with a jetpack, and that's a problem. PtF has been straddling a line for the whole game, with my opinion of it balanced between "good fun with nice parodies" and "lazy and frustrating", but this stage is tipping it towards the latter. You see, this stage has you floating in space, using a jetpack to get around. Okay, that's fine. However, Konami simply took the (already shonky) underwater mechanics and simply changed to graphics from underwater theme to space theme. This means you can't control Jaguar properly and you're constantly being dragged downwards, which sort of defeats the purpose of a jetpack in the first place. Why don't you just walk!? There's a perfectly serviceable floor right there. It would have been quicker that trying to navigate the stage using a jetpack that appears to consist of a random assortment of fireworks crammed into a duffelbag.
On the plus side, the background looks like Cybertron. Hey, I'll take my comforts wherever I can find them.
There are a couple more standard platforming stages, including the one above with what looks like a Metroid in it. Hey, Mr. Metroid. I still remember Metroid II, and as revenge I'm going to beat you to death with this flute.
You know what I said about the jetpack stage? Forget it, PtF is redeemed by the next stage.
It's a remake of Gradius' first stage, further establishing that all things are improved with a liberal sprinkling (or wholesale recreation) of Gradius; see also this. Jaguar rides around on... something and attacks by firing energy out of his flute, hurr hurr. There are volcanoes and Moais with ripple lasers, and at the end you have to face...
Big Core: Giant Ninja Head Edition! Well, it had to be a Big Core of some description, right? You know what to do. Sadly, once the boss is destroyed it's back to regular ol' non-Gradius reality and a battle with a robot head with legs coming out of its ears.
I'd like to point out the placement and shape of his gun. That is all.
Once he's dead, the final final boss arrives. I think it's a ninja in a Victorian bathing suit riding the head of the previous boss, although I will admit that is open to other interpretations. He fights be extending tentacles of deadly light and spinning around like some demented disco octopus. The way to beat him, and in fact the way to beat every boss in this game, is to stand right next to him and mash attack. It's no Demon's Souls, that's for sure, and almost as quickly as the fight starts, it's over and Jaguar is victorious.
Pyuu to Fuku is an odd game, and not just because of its bizarre source material. At times it feels shallow and rushed, which is par for the course for a licensed game for a handheld console based on an obscure manga. But then, surprisingly, it's still good fun. the graphics are solid and the music is often very nice. Lazy, sure; copying Castlevania feels like an easy way out, but luckily my huge stockpiles of affection for Castlevania saw me through. In the end though, I think the Gradius stage swung it for me. Conclusion: time spent playing PtF was not time wasted. Just.
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