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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
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Posted Sat Jan 16, 2021 11:18 am

There is an oft forgotten arcade game conversion by Konami/Datasoft with the decidedly Japanese name of Pooyan that I believe deserves a closer look by C64 fans. If you're a fan of DataSoft, and if you're a fan of their classic title Bruce Lee (isn't everyone?) read on.

I read somewhere that Pooyan translated literally could mean "little pigs". We've all heard the story of the three little pigs growing up, so the cast of characters is kind of clear (assuming you speak Japanese) but that's about as far as the similarities go.
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For the rest of us, here's the deal. You control Mama Pig. She is in an elevator (yep) while some of her piglets hoist her up and down the screen on a pulley. Some of her other piglets are apparently hiding or locked up in a house. From a giant tree come a pack of wolves, descending to the ground via balloons while they throw rocks at her. Did I mention this is a shooter? It's a shooter. Mama Pig has a bow and arrow and tries to shoot not the wolves, but their balloons. She'd rather watch them plummet to their deaths than shed blood, I suppose.

Every so often she can get a "powerup" shot which consists of a large, heavy hunk of meat. Stay with me. That meat shot can take out every wolf it touches on the way down in a rainbow arc of gravity, and is kind of like a Pacman power pill that lets you eat the ghosts to rack up giant bonuses.

If you miss a wolf he'll land on the ground and climb up some ladders behind Mama Pig to try to bite her while you finish the level.

The game is hard. There are lots of ways to die. What can I say, it was a quarter muncher. But with the cute characters, weird premise and tight controls, it's actually a really fun game once you get the hang of it. It took me two or three plays to "get it" and actually progress in the game. There are two stages to each level and the object of progression changes somewhat depending on the stage.

The game hit arcades in 1982 and by 1983 it was ported to several 8-bit machines including the Atari 8-bits, Atari 2600, Apple II, TRS-80, some of the Japanese computers of the day and the C64.

So yeah, this was pretty early days stuff but it's surprisingly good. Datasoft, after all. The music isn't going to make its way to any classic SID compilations, but the actual gameplay is addicting and the physics - once you figure them out - are very tight. I use my monster joystick with this game for the complete arcade experience.

So, while I think this game deserves a closer look by most in the C64 realm, the main reason I bring it up is actually its sound effects. As I mentioned before, this game came out in 1983 for the C64 and was programmed by Scott Spanburg, which was his first professional title.

For Datasoft, he also programmed the classic Mancopter (1984) and designed and programmed epically-expensive-on-Ebay-if-you-ever-find-it The Goonies (1985).

As you all may recall, Bruce Lee was programmed by Rob Fortier for Datasoft in 1984 - the year after Pooyan's port. Bruce Lee happens to be one of those games that is virtually tattooed in my brain. Every pixel, every sound.

So when I put Pooyan in my 1541-ii and patiently waited for the game to load, I was somewhat surprised when I was greeted with this blank blue screen with white text. Hey, I thought, it's subtle but that reminds me a little bit of the blue intro copyright and player select screen for Bruce Lee that shows Ron Fortier's name. Kinda sorta. Hm...

Then the main graphical title screen loads. Why everything is positioned at the bottom of the screen I've absolutely no idea.
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This title screen is seriously height challenged.

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Another Konami arcade favorite of mine from 1982 would be Time Pilot.

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The controls are simple. You merely go up and down with the joystick and fire away. No rapid-fire, however. Timing and aim is key.

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This is one of my recent high scores. Supposedly the arcade world record is over 1.6M points. (!)

Back to those sound effects. There are at least 3 sounds in the C64 version of Pooyan that sound like carbon copies of FX found in the later Bruce Lee.

I captured one of them here. This sound is when Mama Pig collects a meat bomb.

That right there, my friends, is the EXACT same sound effect when a ninja or The Green Yamo appear on screen. 100% the same!

And as I mentioned there are at least 2 additional Bruce Lee sound effects that I've identified in Pooyan. I'm talking the exact same, and BL fans will know them when they hear them.

I went and double-checked Wikipeida's game credits.

Wikipedia:
Bruce Lee is a video game designed by Ron J. Fortier, with graphics by Kelly Day and music by John A. Fitzpatrick.
No mention of sound effects or Scott Spanburg. So it got me to wondering. Could DataSoft had a sound library to pluck from back then? Could Fitzpatrick have moonlighted to help Spanburg make some of his sounds? Who invented pork rinds, and why?

And check this out. If you know Bruce Lee this will make your eyes pop open. You know how some of his electrically charged floors are actually "nails" that stick straight up and are not just flat earth?
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Check out some of the grass in Pooyan, from the year before. I know this detail seems small, but that's a pretty unusual design choice to magically appear out of nowhere, you know what I mean?
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I wish I could capture the other two sound effects to make this case that much more obvious to the rest of you, but by the time I grab my phone to capture them I'm murdered by the wolves. I'd encourage you gaming history buffs and Bruce Lee fans to check out Pooyan, turn up that volume and listen closely.

You're going to be surprised by what you hear, I guarantee it.





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