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LaserRot #4: Time Gal



(Taito - 1985)

The year 2015 sure sounds like it's "The Future" (Despite SNK always assuring me previously that the future "is now") but as I peer out the windows chez orochileona I see that old sci-fi movies and 1940's Bugs Bunny shorts have lied to us all. I have no hoverboard, no laser-gun, no spaceship car and The Running Man isn't a legitimate gameshow.

What I'm missing most of all though, is super cool anime girls gunning through history in space pants. For that, I still have a few thousand years wait left, and until then, 1985 will have to suffice.

It seems like a whole bunch of videogame companies had at least one stab at the short-lived Laserdisc jackpot, and arcade giants Taito (then of Elevator Action and Zoo Keeper fame) were no exception.
Taito's first LD release was 1983's Ninja Hayate (which we may look at another time) but their most well-known foray into the genre is the subject of today's entry. A tale of angry dudes, determined gals, courage, danger, and massive chronological anachronisms.

Remember the year 2001? Sure ya do:

Time Gal is an arcade game in the vein of Dragon's Lair. You know how these work: video sequences play out and you engage linear controls with split-second timing to prevent the hero from a grisly demise. It's an infamous misstep in the annals of player interaction, and a solid lesson was learned by everybody not named David Cage.

In Time Gal, the player controls Reika, who appears to be some kinda Timecop from the year 4001. Reika's story begins with the evil and beardy criminal Luda stealing a time-travelling capsule and, laughing like only a cartoon villain can, he disappears into the fabric of history, hoping to wreak unspecified havoc, or perhaps to just bet some money on the Cubbies.

Quick-thinking Reika is hot on his case. Using a small gemstone encased in her smaller costume, rather than say, a phone booth, the green-haired narc journeys across sixteen different time periods. From the Prehistoric era and the Roman empire to World War I and the far future, Our heroine fights her way through every deadly situation known, and not-yet-known, to man/woman/animegirl.

Armed with a laser pistol and the ability to briefly pause the action with a cry of "TIME STOPPU!" Reika must track down Luda and stoppu him before any paradoxical damage can be done. Basically, Reika is Sarah Conner and Luda is Miles Bennet Dyson.

Time Gal is one of the better Laserdisc games, with classic anime art and a range of fast, fun and action-packed scenes that take great pleasure in rewriting events that may or may not have even happened. For example, did you know that the world was full of ghosts and demons during the year 666AD? or that motherfucking Godzilla roamed planet Earth in the year 70000000BC?

Time Gal can certainly teach you a lot of history that would appear to be missing from most contemporary textbooks.

So Dostoevskian is Taito's game, that it also correctly predicts the Gulf War, then still five years away, by having the "1990AD" level take place on a tank-filled, middle-Eastern battlefield.

In fact, screw the textbooks, Let's just campaign to make Time Gal an official part of the education curriculum. I'll get a Kickstarter going, you send me your money and I'll be sure to cancel before completion and not send you your stretch goal rewards.

I love Time Gal, the game and the gal. One of my fave game girls ever, Reika is a beautiful, capable and lovable heroine, her arguably sexist design (inspired/stolen from Urusei Yatsura's Lum) somewhat counter-balanced with her skillfull abilities, smart mouth and quick wits. Given the game's '85 release date, this legitimately makes Reika one of gaming's earliest female protagonists.

Time Gal is still a Laserdisc game, however, and thus suffers all the perils and pitfalls that are linked with the genre: linear gameplay, lack of control, scene repetition and much trial and error.
But it also has a lot going for it as a wonderful nostalgia piece: great art, nice tunes, humourous "death" scenes, a happy-go-lucky vibe and a delightfully 80's style, more so than any other LD game I've played (and I've played 'em all)

Taito's second Laserdisc game was also their last. Time Gal, fashionably late to the party, did not receive any Western distribution, though many players would eventually encounter it years later, when a so-so port (complete with some silly censor edits and a new theme) was released for the all-new Sega CD system.

In 1995 an arcade authentic port, featuring luscious MPEG video, was released for the Japanese Sony Playstation market. Anyone wishing to check the game out would be wise to root out this version, though it's incredibly scarce today.

Reika herself is surprisingly yet to make a full-time comeback in the gaming world, although she does cameo in Castle of Shikigama III and, more recently, in Elevator Action Deluxe.
Despite her origin adventure suffering from the same flaws as its laserdisc brethren, it still remains a very cool game with a fast n' fun action aesthetic, an imaginative gallery of stages, gorgeous visuals and an overall style that, just like its awesome heroine, remains absolutely timeless.

Thanks for reading brothers and sisters. Time Gal is one of the better known of the Japanese LD games, due to the aforementioned Sega CD release. I'm always interested in hearing your thoughts, memories, or general comments. So grab the mic, friends..

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About Chris Moyseone of us since 4:22 AM on 06.18.2010

Chris has been playing video games since video games began... still terrible at them. Former Saturday Night Slam Master, rambles nostalgically like Abe Simpson. I ain't here to fight, so let's not waste our time.

Mind like an encyclopedia.
Face like a phonebook.

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"My pen shall heal, not hurt.”
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