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Virtually Overlooked: Time Cruise


Welcome to our weekly feature, Virtually Overlooked, wherein we talk about games that aren't on the Virtual Console yet, but should be. Call it a retro-speculative.

If you've read Wii Fanboy for any amount of time, you know that we appreciate Turbografx-16 pinball games. It's pretty likely that if you glance at the site at any random moment, you'll see the words Devil's and Crush somewhere on the screen, usually under a "JC Fletcher" byline. The pinball games more than justify the system, especially now that you don't need a Turbografx-16 system to play them.

As awesome as it is to have two great TG16 pinball games on the Virtual Console, it would be more awesome to have three. Obviously. Time Cruise is the elusive, lesser-known Turbografx-16 pinball game.

The first thing you'll notice about Face's Time Cruise, unfortunately, is that it isn't nearly as pretty as either of the Crush games. There's not nearly as much motion or weird stuff as the other two, and instead of the stone-and-iron heavy metal theme of Devil's Crush or the techno-organic H.R. Giger motif found in Alien Crush, Time Cruise's playing field is mostly brick. With some wood floors. It's precisely as exciting as it sounds.

What it lacks in graphical flourish, though, it makes up for in volume. The playing field is absolutely, staggeringly, enormous, something like 3 screens by 3 screens. It's something that could not possibly be pulled off on a real pinball machine, even if real pinball machines still existed. Screens have passageways that lead to the left and right, into other screens. All the screens are kind of samey, with the same brick structures leading to the same little flashy time machine things, but it almost doesn't matter what the ball is bouncing off of as long as there are a lot of things for the ball to hit.

Time Cruise has an excellent pinball feel. The flippers, of which there are many, are responsive and quick, and the ball moves more quickly than any other pinball video game we can think of. It would have to with so much ground to cover. At that speed, the game rapidly becomes frantic. Eventually, once you've hit enough little light-up doodads (you'll have no idea what you did, of course), you'll shoot into a big time machine that will transport you through time. Which, in terms of a pinball game, means bonus rounds.

Whereas the other two pinball games had you fighting monsters using normal pinball mechanics, the "future" of Time Cruise puts you in weird minigames, such as a game in which you lean platforms to aim the ball toward an "Extra Ball" hole, and a Marble Madness/Labyrinth game in which you lean the stage to direct the ball toward the goal.

We've spent the whole column comparing Time Cruise to the Crushes, but that's not fair. On any other system, Time Cruise would easily be the premiere pinball game. It just happened to be released on the only other system with any real competition. Time Cruise would definitely still be worth the pinball fan's time; the innovative minigames, epic playing field, and extremely quick ball movement make for an exciting pinball game with unusually long play sessions.

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