games reviews

Shusse Ozumo (Or Why I Love Digital Marketplaces)

I understand that I’m not the average gamer anymore, but have evolved Pokémon-style into a curmudgeon. I don’t give a rat’s ass about how pretty a game is, how “enhanced” the tech gets, how many polygons a piece of hardware can push, any of that. Maybe I’ve aged out of the main age group of gamers… I know I’ve disconnected just enough that my finger isn’t as “on the pulse” of the industry as it used to be.

In short, that means mostly Overwatch these days, the occasional RPG (Persona 4 Golden is still a classic), a moment with one of the various classics collections (the Sega Genesis Classics version of Altered Beasts won’t play itself, y’know). But that doesn’t mean I don’t still, occasionally, enjoy a new release with all the promise that brings.

This (and all screenshots) taken by my from my personal Nintendo Switch.

Like how I just downloaded Arcade Archives Shusse Ozumo, an arcade game previously exclusive to Japan, released in 1984, and made available to me here in the US on July 11th, 2019.

OK, so maybe it’s not THAT new. But it’s still new to me, and the rest of the US, dammit.

For anybody not in the know, sumo is an awesome sport. It’s about as simple as things get: push your opponent out of the ring, or have them touch the ground with something other than the bottom of their feet. You’re DQed if you strike with a closed fist, pull hair, or hit below the belt. Easy. (There might be something else as well, but I’ve not encountered it.)

And because it’s a straightforward sport, and a national sport in Japan, it’s ready made for the video game world. While I don’t think it’s an obscure sport–everyone I’ve ever mentioned sumo to has at least passing knowledge of “fat dudes in diapers pushing each other”–it’s obscure enough that the multiple games made have never really left Japan. And there were PLENTY over multiple platforms, from the NES and Game Boy with generalized characters, as recently as the PS2 (the latest I could find) featuring actual rikishi/wrestlers from the era it was published. Again, few of these were ever released outside of Japan, and so nobody in my neck of the woods would’ve played any outside of emulation or importing. Even buying my own lone sumo title, Terao no Dosukoi Oozumou, was difficult… I’ve only ever come across a sumo title at a convention, only once, and I’m happy I grabbed it when I did.

Love how the dude has only a line for his lips and his eyes are a little wonky.

It’s not surprising it wasn’t released in the US, what with the limit of sumo knowledge being (again) “fat dudes pushing”. When Shusse Ozumo was initially released in 1984 there just wasn’t a market for it. The internet was in its infancy outside of big colleges, so the only serious outlet would’ve been in gaming and sports enthusiast magazines, and while they had pages to fill, the more unusual stuff was relegated to a paragraph or passing mention, if there at all. Coming from publishing online you’ve still got a lot on your plate to write and report about, and the weird stuff (which was my bread and butter) still couldn’t find much time to cover region-specific games… not when there’s plenty of unique and interesting games releasing in the US to smaller and more fragmented audiences already. I was lucky enough to get paid to play Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure, my editors weren’t about to let me wax on about Famicom games that never saw the light of day across the Pacific. (For the record, I did try a few times anyway.)

Those old games with lapsing/lapsed licenses from bought-out companies can see some new life on digital platforms, provided any other possible license holders can get their beaks wet with a little cash. Which is fantastic news for me, since it means there’s a chance I’ll eventually see a translated port of Game Center CX 2 (legally) translated and ported in the far-flung future. I mean, I’ve already played quite a lot of it from an import copy, but some titles took a fan guide to work through for more playable games, so yeah. I wanna see more unusual games that never saw a US release, please!

You might have noticed I haven’t said much about the game I actually bought. So, let’s cover it now:

Don’t sumo while sunburned, kids.

Arcade Archives Shusse Ozumo is an arcade game that looks good for 1984 arcade games, plays a bit button-mashy until you figure out how timing works with an opponent, and is designed to eat your quarter by increasingly difficult opponents. It’s straightforward enough: push or throw ‘em out. Simple controls and easy-to-grasp presentation, though it only offers a few traditional nods to the sport’s origins (it’s not a history lesson at any stretch). It feels a little cheap at the edges, where you might think you’re safe but when your legs reposition you’re stepping out of the ring, but otherwise it’s fun to play for a few afternoons (and when you forget you have it, then fire it back up for a shot of nostalgia).

Developers even included the bow twirling (yumitori-shiki) ceremony.

Judging it by its era, I’d give it a “B-”: fun if you’re into it, but the novelty gets old quick. Being a niche game for eight bucks it’s not really for everybody… but it’s still for me, and I support this kind of release for the future. Can we see some more advanced sumo/ozumo please?

Stand Tall, friends. May your mawashi be securely tied… don’t need any inspiration for “flash” photography, do we?