Wonder Momo Review
Posted by Sean Aaron
A guilty pleasure for import PC Engine fans
You cannot be blamed for not having heard of Wonder Momo, a Namco arcade game from the mid-late 80s which was never released outside of Japan. It belongs in the box of "odd" Japanese games, being a beat-em-up with the unusual setting of a Super Sentai (Power Rangers to the gaijin amongst you) stage show, like you'd find performed in Japanese shopping malls or outdoor venues.
Although there's no musical numbers, there is an audience of fist-pumping teenagers watching Momo - the title character with the poofiest hair this side of a John Hughes film - walk back-and-forth across a stage battling assorted enemies with deftly executed high kicks, picking up the odd power-up to help her dispatch them. Levels are separated by a curtain lowering and raising, maintaining the stage show theme.
The basic gameplay is pretty good even if the setting is a bit unusual: Momo scrolls to-and-fro on a playfield a few screens wide and can jump and kick her way through enemies that either rise up out of the floor and wander aimlessly like the walking dead or come in from "backstage" intending to muss her hairdo. There are bosses to fight at the end of each level; as you progress you'll find them returning; often in pairs for added challenge.
Not to worry though, because Momo can become Wonder Momo complete with flashing hula hoop weapon! Close to the time each level's final boss appears a little whirlwind will drop down from above and move across the stage; if Momo enters it she spins around and dons a lovely suit of orange armour with which to fight the baddies! Of course if you need to transform earlier in the stage you can do so - provided your "Wonder" gauge has been sufficiently filled via beating up baddies - by repeatedly pressing the kick button. You'll only remain Wonder Momo for as long as the gauge lasts, so it's better to practice those kicks and reserve the "wundah" for the bosses.
Bosses take the form of bug monsters with menacing claws, blocky yellow robots that throw blocky yellow beach balls at you and what honestly looks like an alien linebacker from an American football game. None of them are terribly hard to beat until the fifth or sixth stage when you encounter a blue robot jumping ball that's fiendishly difficult to get a bead on - the others just require running up and rapidly kicking them in the head until they die. The biggest hazard Momo faces are irritating floating gun turrets that follow her everywhere and can only be taken out with precisely-timed jump kicks and often appear in pairs or even three at a time! Rather than having multiple lives, Momo has a single life gauge; if it runs out she collapses on stage and sobs her eyes out (she is a girl after all - welcome to the 80s) as the curtain falls.
Other than enemies Momo's biggest threat is a photographer in the crowd who pops up trying to get a "pantie-shot," a palpable risk since her skirt does go up when she does a big jump. If he happens to get lucky she'll be stunned momentairly and vulnerable to enemy attack; which brings us to the "guilty pleasure" aspect of the game.
Whilst this isn't an "H" title (as the Japanese would discretely say), it is a bit risqué for the time. In the arcade game the curtain that drops between stages displays images of Momo in various cheeky poses that become a little more naughty as players progress, e.g., lying naked facing players whilst strategically holding a heart in front of her chest. The PC Engine version only has one curtain image: a little chibi Momo with a pink heart, but it more than makes up for that with some rather high quality interstitials.
The two we saw featured Momo wearing a schoolgirl outfit on a patch of grass spread out with her head back taking in some sun and then one of her in a one-piece bathing suit with a crab crawling onto her cleavage complete with her measurements - in metric of course (82 57 84, if you're curious). Whilst it doesn't fit the definition of porn, we can imagine teenage Japanese boys being quite excited to discover these naughty niceties from Namco.
This is a nice representation of Japanese kitch, and we think it's good fun. Wonder Momo's only other console appearance we're aware of is on the Japan-only Namco Museum R (where we first played it), so we definitely wouldn't expect a VC release of either this or the original game to ever get an overseas release. Whilst the VCA version does have better sound, this is a very faithful port and if you're "interested" in the extra "content" then you'll end up with a good port of the game and save 200 Points in the process.