Quite a few Famicom games, in particular Famicom Disk games, came in very fancy packaging. Many came in large boxes with extra stuff like figurines, cassette tapes, large format manuals, and in some cases even more outrageous things, like Exciting Boxing‘s giant inflatable controller. These are not like modern special editions, as in most cases these were the only release of the game.
For classy packaging, it’s pretty hard to go past Bothtec’s Relics: Ankoku Yōsai.
Inside the huge PC-game style outer slip is a metal case.
And inside the case, you have a large full colour manual, a sticker sheet, a disk-sized full colour monster manual, and the disk itself.
The disk case and monster manual fit inside foam slots, presented as valuable items.
The case allows removal of some of the foam, so if you want you can use the metal case to store 4-6 FDS games in style.
The monster manual gives every character in the game in a two page spread.
And the large manual is even nicer. Beautiful artwork is used throughout the presentation, and it does its job of making you excited to get into the game.
The game itself is almost as ambitious as the packaging. A Metroid-style sprawling action-adventure, it features huge sprites (for the time), large environments and a huge list of enemies and items. Set in a post-apocalytic world where dark forces have enslaved humanity, in the game you play as some kind of robot spirit guy who can possess the bodies of the dead. You must defeat all the enemies in a ‘sun fortress’ to free the good spirits (as well as the ubiquitous princess) to save humanity.
The graphics are pretty good for the time, and the music is catchy. Despite the immediately noticeably clunky controls, it is not hard to be impressed early on, as the world of Relics is intriguing.
Unfortunately the game doesn’t live up to its ambitions. Bothtec’s roots were in PC games (including some predecessors to this game) and it Relics plays very much like a home computer game of this type, it’s quite rough around the edges. Controls are not only clunky but glitchy, and it’s very very difficult to outmanoeuvre many enemies. It gets better as you power up later on, but getting to that point is a huge slog.
Worse than this are the load times. This game is always loading, I have not experienced any other FDS game like it. It does big loads every time you change screen, but there are small loads even within a loaded scrolling area when a new type of enemy appears. It’s really quite horrendous.
Despite these flaws, the adventure and exploring elements work quite decently in the traditional ‘try every direction in every order with every item’ classic 80s kind of way. Finding keys and power-ups in order to progress and remembering paths is always kind of fun when the world looks this mysterious, it’s just that it’s buried under layers of clunk.
It still feels like a somewhat genuine retro experience, playing a game like this with the large manuals and packaging in front of you. But I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone except 80s adventure fetishists.