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Virtually Overlooked: Jaki Crush


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.

Whenever possible, I like to freak out on the Internet about how awesome Naxat Soft's Crush series of pinball games is. Alien Crush and Devil's Crush are not only the best pinball games ever made for a not-pinball-machine, they also happen to be the best games on the Virtual Console (I am allowed to have opinions!) When we gave away a bundle of VC games, I made sure that Devil's Crush was part of the bundle.

Jaki Crush is another one of those. It's another Crush game. That's really the only motivation I need to freak out.

Alien Crush had an Aliens/H.R. Giger kind of techno-organic theme; Devil's Crush was creepy-occult-metal-album. Jaki Crush (Jaki translates to "demon" or "evil spirit") uses traditional Japanese monsters as its visual theme. For the most part, this manifests as a game that looks like a mixture of the previous two: like Alien Crush, much of the architecture is made up of bones, creepy bug-things (including the two coccoon creatures directly above the flippers) and reptilian creatures; like Devil's Crush, werewolves and other demonic creatures wander the playfield. The iconic face that is the most familiar visual trademark of the series is an illusory devil who becomes more opaque as you collide with a small slime creature directly above the face. When he becomes fully corporeal, as expected, his mouth opens. If you land the shot, he moves into the top tier of the board, where the walking fish-head things from Devil's Crush circle him.

Jaki Crush's playfield is roughly three-tiered; it's hard to define it precisely because the tiers are larger than one screen tall, and scrolling is constant. It's hard to count the number of screens. Flippers are found basically all over the place, in at least one traditional configuration per screen plus an extra flipper now and then. Like the other games, creepy-crawly stuff is all over the place to hit with a pinball. Often you'll be sent into a bonus stage containing some boss creature; occasionally (as when you destroy the devil face at the top of the field) you'll be sent into a multiball mode. In video pinball, which requires the screen to scroll to follow the ball, multiball is chaotic. You just can't see one of the two pinballs most of the time.

Speaking of seeing, despite the hardware upgrade (Jaki Crush is a Super Famicom game), the newer game fails to stand up visually to the superior PC Engine games. I have no idea if there was a budget issue or if Naxat just failed to learn the Super Famicom hardware, but both Alien Crush and Devil's Crush are more interesting visually, more colorful and more animated, than Jaki Crush. But with the crazy bonus stages and the usually excellent pinball physics, Jaki Crush is merely the third best video pinball game.

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