All Together Then: Bishi Bashi Special
The retro compilation, like pop, will eat itself. Bishi Bashi Special is a Europe-only compilation for PlayStation 1 that comprises two Japanese compilations, 1998’s Bishi Bashi Special 1 and 1999’s Bishi Bashi Special 2. These two releases are themselves compilations (heavy sigh) of the arcade games Bishi Bashi Champ, Super Bishi Bashi Champ and Handle Champ (Bishi Bashi Special 1), and Hyper Bishi Bashi Champ and Gachaga Champ (Bishi Bashi Special 2). So, the subject of today’s All Together Then – Bishi Bashi Special (PAL) is a compilation of two compilations. To make things even more confusing, booting the game offers the choice of two titles – Super Bishi Bashi and Hyper Bishi Bashi, which are simply re-titlings of the included compilations (Bishi Bashi Special and Bishi Bashi Special 2, respectively). Ouroborous.
Got all that? Good. Let’s talk about what Bishi Bashi Special actually is.
Well! It’s a series of truly madcap multiplayer minigame collections from Konami, comprising such joyous lunacy as competing to shake up a can of pop (only for it to blast into outer space), a rhythm-action challenge to incrementally enlarge your character’s afro until it dwarfs the entire screen, and sprint a bride down a church aisle to hurl a custard pie into her wedding congregation – who react with rapturous applause.
It’s akin to Namco’s Point Blank, in a sense, but without the lightgun element; minigames are quickfire, with instructions given prior to each task, though they’re never especially complex. A lot of attention is given to the PlayStation’s colourful face buttons – Triangle (green), Circle (red) and X (blue) replace the enormous buttons of the original coin-op releases. For example, one minigame has you taking out a large totem pole by mashing the button that’s the same colour of the current bottommost segment of the pillar.
The structure is extremely freeform. There’s no “story mode”, per se, you just choose the number of minigames you want to play and, er, play them. You can pick individual minigames from the menu, you can string together round robin tournaments, it’s all very easy to get going. The focus on multiplayer is welcome, because while the games are fun when played against the computer, it just isn’t the same. The games don’t really change between attempts, which is a disappointment – the Guitar minigame (an homage to Konami’sGuitar Freaks) is the same song each time, the patterns in the more linear games are always identical. It’s a shame because it does necessarily lower the replay value, especially alone. But play with others – up to eight players are supported – and you will have a blast. The more overtly “versus” based games that put you in direct competition with one another are mostly found on the Super Bishi Bashi half of the package, but Hyper Bishi Bashi is more polished and unusual, with games that are overall more fun and dynamic.
Bishi Bashi Special is available for a mere £3.99 on the PSN Store, but seemingly only in Europe. It’s well worth your time to seek out a copy as it’s one of Konami’s coolest, weirdest games. Its arcade roots are pretty apparent and I can see the appeal of crowding round a Bishi Bashi cabinet with your friends, all slamming the big buttons to make photo-realistic giant-headed Cavemen eat beans in the correct order. The raucous madness translates very well to the PlayStation 1 and makes Bishi Bashi Special an essential party game up there with Poy Poy and Bomberman Land.