Overseas in hand

May 30, 2001 at 12:00 am

Generally, video games are produced in Japan, translated into English, then sold at American retailers. Yet, the handheld market is saturated with imports that will probably never find an audience domestically — fresh and undiscovered. So expand your worldly senses by indulging in the exclusivity of imports:

“Rockman Battle & Fighters” is one potent example of the import-export trade, considering NeoGeo Pocket Color was pulled from U.S. distribution in early 2000. Basically, this is a classic Mega Man title (Rockman is roughly translated to Mega Man) — minus the franchise’s expansive, side-scrolling stages. Only the end-level boss battles are presented here — a tragedy if you ask any fan of the boy-robot series.

Though the visuals are pleasing, this direct arcade transfer of “Rockman: The Power Battles” and “Rockman 2: The Power Fighters” (squeezed into one tiny cartridge) doesn’t offer much time-munching entertainment. Playability is limited by fatal redundancy. Period.

But don’t fret. All hope isn’t lost for airplane jockeys.

“Elevator Action EX” is an excellent reason to plop down, relax and start crunching buttons. An updated version of the coin-operated classic, this skyscraper shooter will keep your Game Boy Color revving for hours on end. The graphics remain retro; though the characters are given a techno flair (hence the neo-cool “EX” in the game’s title).

The concept: always untouched. Players control a gun-toting protagonist, bent on ridding several big city high-rises from terrorists. Everything from trench-coated villains to rabies-infected attack dogs are sent to eliminate the threat of you actually completing the game. Unfortunately, the foaming-at-the-mouth special effect is too small to view on the Game Boy’s tiny screen.

So whether you’re gripping a sawed-off shotgun or have one built into your arm (a la our replicant friend, Mega Man), the Japanese import scene is highly recommended. Try www.japanvideogames.com to get your juices flowing.

Jon M. Gibson investigates the triumphs — and pitfalls — of games and other technological poundcakes. E-mail him at [email protected].