If you’ve followed this website for a while or merely read the most recent entry, you likely noticed my obsession with an unreleased game called Bounty Arms. Data West announced it for the first round of PlayStation games in 1995, and it brought a novel idea. The game’s two anime heroines wander overhead-view stages, much like the protagonists of Mercs or Outzone or dozens of similar shooters. Instead of standard-issue firearms, however, they wield telescoping Relic Arms that serve as whips, grappling hooks, and all-destroying flamethrowers. Alas, Bounty Arms vanished from sight around the middle of 1995, with Data West moving on to another game and subsequently retreating from the industry.
A scrap of Bounty Arms made its way to the public, though. Demo Demo PlayStation, a Japan-only line of discs meant primarily for kiosks, includes a Bounty Arms preview video on its fourth volume and a playable half-stage on its fifth. The demo’s very limited: protagonists Rei Misazaki and Chris Prenaculutaoraroato (which is how I’ll translate her last name for the time being) don’t take damage at all, and the game reboots once they destroy the mid-stage boss. Yet the graphics for the entire first stage appear to be in the demo, and I always hoped that someone would figure out how to play the entire level.
Well, someone did. Human of Mi-Com Age ran the demo alongside Cheat Engine and tricked the game into letting you play the whole first stage, including a clash with the electricity-spewing robotic serpent boss. I’ll let Human’s brilliant post detail the actual method. It’s a relatively easy hack once you figure out Cheat Engine, and I pulled it off despite having no programming knowledge beyond remembering some passwords for the NES version of Strider.
To sum it up, the mid-boss won’t appear when its value is disabled, and this allows Chris and Rei to march beyond the usual cutoff point. From there, the rest of the Bounty Arms demo is yours to explore.
Bounty Arms shouldn’t be anything special. It’s a PlayStation action title from Data West, a boring software publisher that rarely made actual games. This particular game also revolves around an awkward idea: anime heroines using telescoping cybernetic arms as whips, grappling hooks, and flamethrowers. Besides, Bounty Arms was canceled, and that strongly implies something was wrong with it.
For those aware of it, Bounty Arms seemed unlikely to ever show itself. Unreleased Japanese games are hard to lay hand on, and Bounty Arms is quite low-profile. Yet part of it saw an official release. In 1995, a brief demo of the game appeared on the fifth volume of Demo Demo PlayStation, Sony’s early line of discs made for Japanese store kiosks. The demo is incomplete and barely lasts for two minutes of the game’s first stage (five minutes if you take it slow), but it might be all of Bounty Arms we’ll ever play. And it’s better than I ever thought it’d be.
Data West planned to ship Bounty Arms in April 1995, the same month it appeared in Demo Demo PlayStation. Yet the demo included here isn’t finished. That much is apparent even on the title screen, which mentions a lack of “game balance.” One can’t help but catch a whiff of desperation in it, as though Data West itself is confessing that their game isn’t ready and asking you to please patiently enjoy this fine product sample.
The character-select screen presents two playable leads: the dissatisfied, red-haired, red-eyed Rei Misazaki and the blonde, ponytailed, coquettishly grinning Chris Prenacaluto (which is how I’m spelling her mess of a last name until this contest is over). While the artwork recalls a low-rung (and possibly adults-only) 1990s Japanese PC game, it’s an improvement on the washed-out illustration that Data West used in a Bounty Arms ad, and the portraits come close to giving Chris and Rei trace amounts of personality, however stereotyped. They’re identical in gameplay except for one thing: Chris wears her Relic Arm on the right, Rei on the left. It’s a seemingly pointless distinction, but it has subtle effects in battle.
The first level of Bounty Arms is a jungle raid, just like Ikari Warriors and Mercs and every other top-down arcade shooter that might’ve inspired Bounty Arms. Once Chris and Rei get going, their Relic Arms show off the game’s novel approach. Press the one and only attack button, and Chris or Rei whips her Relic Arm like a Castlevania lead, lashing out and retracting the pointy, tentacle-like appendage. The Relic Arm does heavy damage, and any bullets it strikes are bounced back at enemies. Holding down the button charges a meter at the bottom of the screen, and releasing it makes our heroines whirl their Relic Arms in huge circles of flame.
I recently rewrote my Bounty Arms article, partly to clear up errors and partly because I can’t forget about the game. There are scores of unreleased titles to obsess over, but Data West’s Bounty Arms draws my interest like nothing else. After all, I can’t think of another game that combines overhead perspectives, cybernetic grappling arms, flamethrowers, manga-eyed heroines, and strangely substandard production art.
For years my article meandered under the mistaken impression that Bounty Arms is a shooter like Ikari Warriors when the game’s really more like an overhead Bionic Commando with huge explosions. The new article is functional and curt, but it gets the point across. The point being that I want to find Bounty Arms. I’ve posted about it at Lost Levels, I edited Giant Bomb’s entry, and I even worked the game into a list of amazing unreleased things.
Perhaps a contest is the best way to drum up interest in Bounty Arms. See, I can’t translate the last name of Chris, one of the two Bounty Arms characters. Here’s the katakana for it.
The first word is, of course, “Chris,” but I’m mystified by the second one, separated from the first by a dot. The katakana comes out as “Purenakaruto,” which could turn into all sorts of bizarre phrases. None of them seems to be a typical surname, and someone suggested that the word is, in fact, just a bunch of gibberish that wasn’t supposed to be any familiar name.
So that’s the contest: come up with some interpretations of Chris’ last name and post it below. I’ll pick the one that makes the most sense (or, alternatively, amuses me the most). The winner gets a box full of crap, including games, anime DVDs, game-and-anime trinkets, and maybe some magazines. Here’s a katakana chart for reference.