Film is Life
Looking at screenshots of Tomcat Systems and Irem’s Gekisha Boy you’d think it was a happy-go-lucky game about a photographer who finds himself in all sorts of outlandish environments and risqué situations, and in a way you’d be right, but underneath it’s cute graphics lays a dark and depressing plot.
David Goldman’s dream is to become the best photographer the world has ever known. To begin on his road to stardom, he decides to enroll himself in Los Angles Photography School. Determined to become a famous photographer, he spent his savings on top-of-the-line photography equipment instead of a car, which in turn means traveling by crowded public transit (as pictured in the game by showing David’s head crushed between two pairs of buxom bosoms while on a crowded train car). Everything is looking up for our young strong-minded protagonist, but on one fateful day David receives a phone call with some dreadful news. His loving parents have perished in a plane crash and now he’s left all alone in a world that used to hold so much promise. Falling into a deep depression and having nothing else to live for, David decides to drop out of photography school and drink himself into oblivion. Upon hearing this the school’s dean pleads for David to continue his studies and makes him an amazing offer. David must travel to different locations around the world to get 8 difficult photographs and if he’s able to do this, he will pass his class and graduate from LA Photography School. David decides to take the dean up on his offer and accepts his first ludicrous mission: Get a picture of a “flying car”.
Gekisha Boy is unlike any game I have ever played. The only way to explain the gameplay is just to say it’s a on-rails shooter, but your camera acts as your gun. It’s up to you to decide what background happenings will make for a good photo, but you’ll also need to make sure David, who’s in the foreground, doesn’t get hit by numerous obstacles flying around, angry enemies, or pieces of debris being hurled his way. You’ll have the ability to jump out of the way of obstacles and also maneuver left and right to avoid bouncing enemies that could stun David, causing him to miss the perfect photo. Any photographer will tell you that film is life, and in Gekisha Boy that phrase couldn’t be more literal. Whenever David takes a hit, he’s stunned for a number of seconds and could miss the main objective shot. Getting hit also causes film to spill out of David’s pockets and onto the ground. If David runs out of all his film it’s game over and he’s whisked back to the dean’s office to receive a failing grade. Even if you complete a stage you can also get a failing grade if you managed to miss the main picture David was tasked of obtaining, or didn’t meet the score requirement the dean asks of you to begin the stage. It’s not all bad though, as Gekisha Boy generously grants unlimited continues.
No shooter would be complete without power-ups, and Gekisha Boy has you covered. If David takes a photo of something his dean would consider “good” he will be given either a power up or more film. These special shots are extraordinary happenings in the environment such as seeing Michael Jackson (yes Michael is in the game) or Spider-Man (yes, Spidey makes a cameo as well). Good photos can also be inanimate objects that you catch moving, such as a statue, or even obvious wacky occurrences, like a girl strapped to a rocket ship being shot into space. I can’t forget to mention window photos of girls in their skivvies that you can take if voyeurism is your thing. There are two power ups in the game: increased cursor speed and a larger lens, and to make things a bit easier on the player the power ups carry over from stage to stage.
The 8 stages in the game are all amazing and ultimately are what pushed me to complete the grueling final two stages. I just wanted to see what Gekisha Boy had in store next. The first stage where you need to get a photo of a flying car, which is a Delorean mind you, was overall pretty normal. It’s after that where things get very memorable. The second stage is the ghetto, where David is tasked to get a photo of someone in trouble. Shockingly, the person in trouble is a child that gets hit by a car, and the only way to pass the stage is to make sure to get a shot of her flying through the air after being struck. One of my favorite stages has David tasked with donning scuba gear to get a photo of a fish wedding. Each and every stage is so full of charm that you won’t mind playing them over and over, which is what you’ll be doing since memorization is key to completing the game. Thankfully, each stage’s music is very catchy, so you won’t mind hearing the same songs time and time again as you try to increase your score and get a photo of the main objective.
This is one of those special games that I, as a retro gamer, was so happy to find out about even though it’s almost a quarter century old. Gekisha Boy is the type of game that you will only find on the PC Engine. If you’re interested in playing it and don’t understand Japanese, there are a few translated hacks you could throw on an Everdrive (how I played it) or your emulator of choice. If you do decide to give it a play please let me know what you think in the comments below.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Released on: PC Engine (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Irem ; Developer: Tomcat System ; Year released: 1992