Alien Crush/Devil's Crush (1988/1990, Naxat Soft)
Naxat Soft (which eventually became known as Kaga Create before becoming defunct in 2015) was a big swingin' tent pole in the late 1980s in Japan. During this time, they would earn a reputation for producing some insane titles, many of which were made for Hudson's PC Engine. Many of you will remember my rant earlier this year about how cool that console was... the one we came to know as the Turbo Grafx 16. You may even remember my prominent mention of a pair of completely bonkers pinball sims...
The first to hit shelves was Alien Crush, Developed by Naxat and Compile in 1988 and released for the PC Engine. The game is fairly simple and straightforward; you're playing pinball. The interesting twist is that you're playing pinball inside some kind of bio-mechanical alien amalgam, simultaneously trying to defeat it. The main pinball area is divided into two screens, and when your ball goes from one to another the screen will go blank for a moment. This can be disorienting, but I quickly got used to it. There are also a handful of bonus screens, which you access by getting your ball to land certain places. You can “beat” Alien Crush, but it takes a while... longer than I have patience for. It's still a lot of fun to just play it like a regular pinball game though, and see how high you can get your score.
Two years later, Naxat followed up with Devil Crash (Devil's Crush outside of Japan) for the same system. This pinball epic was themed much differently, and is often considered the more memorable because of it; Devil's Crush features prominent and unabashed occult/horror imagery. To phrase that differently, Devil's Crush is metal as hell. A few improvements were made to the concept visually and play-wise, most notably that the main play area's three divisions scroll as one image when your ball moves through them. There are also many more things to do; plenty of little monster men to smash, just as many (if not more) bonus screens to find, and a woman's face that gradually wakes up and turns into a horrid reptilian monster as you drop into certain point-spots.
As evidenced by any screenshot or gameplay video you watch, these games have amazing graphics for the time. The music for both is astounding, and has in fact been reproduced in non-VG format. I particularly like the track “Lunar Eclipse” from Alien Crush, as well as its main title theme, and I consider Devil's Crush's main table theme to be the best music out of the two games.
Devil Crash was released for the Mega Drive and Genesis; its title in America was changed to Dragon's Fury, since our Protestant sensibilities have for so long found horrible fire-breathing dragons far more tolerable than old Scratch. A sequel to that game, Dragon's Revenge, was produced for the MD/Genesis in 1993, but went largely ignored for no good reason. It is a passable game, but a far cry from these originals.
I gladly grant both of these titles a 9 out of 10. Visual/virtual pinball is something you see weave its way in and out of popularity through the time period, with games like Crue Ball and even Sonic Spinball; I feel that the Crush Pinball pair of titles loom over all as the sometimes unsung rulers of the roost.