Cocoron
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Famicom
  • Developer:
    • K2
  • Publisher:
    • Takeru
  • Released:
    • JP 05/03/1991
Score: 80%

This review was published on 01/16/2017.

Cocoron is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by K2 and published by Takeru for the Famicom in Japan on May 3, 1991. There are several interesting things to mention about this title, like that the planner and character designer of the original Mega Man, Akira Kitamura, actually directed this game. Due to that, this game bears some strong resemblance to Mega Man, though it does do some fairly unique things to set it apart. Kitamura later went on to create Little Samson for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1992, which is another game bearing certain similarities to Mega Man. Another important thing Cocoron has in common with Little Samson is that it's really gosh darn good. It's a shame, then, that unlike Little Samson, the game was never officially released outside of Japan. Thankfully, the emulation community has you covered with a translation patch, so you can play the game in English if you grab a ROM and emulator.

Image

In the middle of the night, a strange tapir-like being wearing a clown getup and wielding an umbrella sneaks into a kid's house. No, this isn't describing the events leading up to a horrible crime; it's the story of the game. The creepy tapir-like creature reveals his name to be, well, Tapir. Tapir claims that he means the child no harm and simply wants to give out a special dream. The self declared "wizard of the dream world," Tapir states that he has the power to give people any dream they desire. He gives the child a choice between a fun dream, sad dream, pleasant dream, or magical dream. It's implied, but not explicitly stated, that the child choose the last option. After that, Tapir does a silly dance on the roof of the child's home, transporting both of them to the magical dream world. The dream Tapir custom created for the kid is a typical damsel in distress story, wherein Rua, princess of the dream kingdom, has been kidnapped by evil forces. Obviously, the kid is the hero of this dream.

Image

Before the dreamy adventure begins, Tapir informs the child that he can take on any form he wishes. In other words, you can create your very own character. A created character is divided into three parts: a face, body, and arms. Faces and bodies each have different HP values that determine the character's life meter, whereas arms have different attacks and attack power. Additionally, each part has a different weight value that influences a character's movement speed and jumping height. Generally, better parts come at the cost of being heavier, weighing the character down. Further, all faces have passive effects that trigger when you grab a special power-up item, such as temporarily increasing attack power or fully restoring the life meter. On top of that, some bodies have special abilities, like how the boat body can move across water without sinking, the tank body doesn't slip on slopes, and the jet body can fly briefly. The character creation system in this game is surprisingly complex.

Image

There are eight faces, bodies, and arms, all with different stats and abilities. Also, each face has three visual variances and each body has two. This allows you to assemble countless combinations, some of which can look pretty goofy. For instance, you can make a dragon with the face of a Gundam, a tank with the head of an alien attached to it, a skeleton faced ninja, a robot with a huge smiley face grafted onto it, and a knight with a samurai head. Some faces and bodies do pair together from a visual standpoint, though, so you don't necessarily have to create a mismatched Frankenstein abomination. However, the combinations with the best stats and abilities aren't usually the prettiest. It's really all up to your imagination, which should be a boon if you're the creative sort. The character creation system is the main thing that stands out about this game and it's awesome.

Image

Regardless of what your character is armed with in the arms category, all attacks in this game consist of projectiles. However, in addition to each one having a different attack power and weight value, they also all have different trajectories. They're also all pretty weird. For example, there are parasols that move in an upwards arc, boomerangs that return after thrown, shurikens that can go through walls, baseballs that fall down after hitting a wall, pencils that are shot straight ahead, crystals that are thrown in a downwards arc like grenades, seeds that explode into flowers, and a musical note that travels in an oscillating pattern. All weapons start out weak, but can be leveled up by picking up power-ups that are broken out of eggs enemies usually drop when defeated. Every five levels, weapons will become stronger, usually causing the projectiles to grow in size and number. Almost all weapons are quite useful when fully leveled up, and if you reach the end of a stage, they'll stay that way even if you die. It's a neat system in a game filled with neat systems.

Image

Character creation is initially done at the beginning of the game, but it's also done after beating every boss, allowing you to have a whole entourage of custom heroes. However, if one character is using a particular face or body variation, then the other characters will be unable to use it. This forces you to make different types of characters instead of making everyone the same. The idea is to create a hero for every situation, so if one character doesn't work too well in a particular stage, then you could try someone else. The only issue is that you can't easily change characters, as it's only possible to do so after beating a stage or dying. An event also occurs later in the game wherein all the characters you currently aren't using are kidnapped, and you have to rescue them one by one from the last few stages. Due to this portion of the game, you want one character to be as versatile as possible.

Image

The main objective of the game is to defeat all the bosses. These are marked as pink stars on the map, which also functions as the stage select screen. There are approximately eight stages, but their layouts change drastically depending on how you approach them from the map. The reason for this is because you essentially have to pass through other stages while on the way to the stage you selected, and depending on which angle you're approaching from, the stage layout will be different. You may even have to traverse a stage in reverse. It's confusing, but interesting, because you get to see the environments change in real time as you travel from one stage to the next. This gives the game a more fluid feel, making the whole world feel connected. Plus, due to how significantly the layouts change when doing stages in different orders, it adds replay value. By the way, this is one of the few NES games with an actual save system, but you must get a Game Over by losing all your lives in order to access it.

Image

Given the dream motif, the environments for this game are absolutely wacky. One stage is made entirely out of cheese with milk you swim through as if it were water. You even spot a milk carton in the background near the end of this area. Another stage is filled with billboards with various drawings on them. There's also a mountain that eventually transitions into a jaunt in outer space, complete with falling stars. The bosses are equally creative, like a pirate ship that fires skeleton pirates at you, a king that attacks you with a bunch of cards, a giant ice dragon you slowly break apart to reach the tiny dragon inside of it, and you even pick a fight with the moon itself. You save Santa Claus at some point during the journey, too. It's all extremely surreal, making this game far more intriguing than your average Mega Man clone.

Image

Innovative and fun, Cocoron is a true lost gem. There was really nothing like it at the time, and even now, it's quite original. That's not to even mention the fact that the music is positively fantastic and the graphics aren't too far off from earning that label, either. A Japanese magazine from 1994 had a preview for a port or sequel of Cocoron that was planned to come out for the PC Engine later that year. Unfortunately, it was canceled, likely due to Takeru going out of business in 1994. That's quite sad, because this game is good, and seeing the concept expanded further in a sequel would have been interesting.

Word Count: 1,469

Tweet