Format: Super Famicom
Publisher: T&E Soft
Cu-On-Pa is a puzzle game which, like so many other great games, was only released in Japan. It has, however, been translated by Aeon Genesis Translations, so us English speakers can play it perfectly.
The game is a puzzle game which requires a large amount of thinking. But don't worry, there is a good side to the game as well.
The game centres around a cube, with a different colour on each face. You have to roll the cube around a board made up of square tiles. Some of the tiles are coloured. Some of them are coloured and contain a flashing section in the middle of the relevant colour.
If a panel is coloured and has a flashing section then it is a Life Panel. These are the most important things in the game - to complete a level you have to destroy all the panels. Sometimes there will be a certain number of life panels already there when you begin a level. Sometimes there will be one, and another will be created after you get the first one. Either way, at the top of the screen there is a display showing how many life panels there are per level. There are usually about 15 - 20 of the life panels per level. Clear them all before the time runs out and it's on to the next level. To destroy a life panel, you must get the cube to roll onto it so that the top colour on the cube is the same as the colour of the Life panel. Otherwise you will not be able to move your cube over it.
Trying to stop you from getting rid of all the Life panels are the Colour Panels. These come in the same 6 colours as the Life Panels. They appear and disappear quite steadily and at random, which means that if your cube gets trapped into a corner by one, you can just wait until it disappears if you are unable to manoeuvre over it. Of course, this will lose you a lot of time. When you take out a Colour Panel, it becomes a...
...Thunder Panel. These occupy the same space and are the same colour as the Colour Panels they used to be, but are different in a few ways.
- You can roll over a Thunder Panel, no matter what colour is on the top of the cube.
- No more Colour Panels will be able to appear on a tile that has a Thunder Panel on.
- When a Life Panel of, say, red is destroyed, if there are any red Thunder Panels on the level, they will explode. The explosion will cause any adjacent Life Panels to be destroyed, any adjacent Colour Panels to become Thunder Panels, and any adjacent Thunder Panels to explode. This means if you clear a lot of colour panels and then set them off with a Life Panel you garner huge amounts of points.
You can also accumulate points by clearing panels with successive moves, but this happens only very rarely.
As you might be able to tell from the above, Cu-On-Pa is a very wierd game and quite hard to explain. However, something inside it is profoundly beautiful - the simplistic perfection that it's cube rolling entails. The sound track is wonderful - very tinkly, very fitting for the game. It's also full of Japanese craziness - on a few levels, for absolutely no reason that I can think of, before the cube is warped down to the tiles, a tiny man appears (about the size of the soldiers in Front Mission Gun Hazard) and gets up for a second. He then looks around, before looking upwards, pointing, and then the cube is warped on top of him. I'd like to believe I'm hallucinating this, but it's happened a few times now so I doubt it.
The graphics of the game are also very impressive. The cube is 3D, and the tiles seem to float in space, above a beautifully drawn background. Mode 7 is put to use for the tiles, and a sort of Starfox style effect allows flat Gourard shaded graphics for the cube.
The game has (along with an excellent tutorial which explains everything that I have above in a much easier to understand way, and also teaches some of the basic techniques used to move the cube around) three different modes of play: normal, which is a long slog through levels; easy, which is the same but the cube has only 3 different colours; and puzzle, probably the most interesting, as it gives you a certain number of moves to destroy all the Life Panels. There are no Colour or Thunder Panels in Puzzle mode. All the modes are reasonably challenging (although obviously Easy is a fair bit simpler), and at any time you can simply choose to skip out and replay any level you have already completed.
The game was never released in English, but Gideon Zhi at Aeon Genesis has translated and released it. You can get the patch at http://agtp.romhack.net. The patch isn't really that essential, but it does make the tutorial understandable.
As well as being published in Game Pak form, Cu-On-Pa was also released as a BS ROM over the Satellaview add on for the Super Famicom. This means there are two different ROM versions floating around the Internet. One (the version released on a Game Pak) is called "Cu-On-Pa (J)". The version released over the Satellaview is called "BS Cu-On-Pa (J)". However, at present, only the non-Satellaview version is playable. I just found the other version and tried to play it, only to be greeted with the message:
"This Game Pak is not desigined for your Super Famicom or Super NES"
(sic). Yes, I mean it really does have that spelling mistake.
God knows if anyone will ever bother to sort that out. Somehow, the BS just ain't playing. Anyway, the intro to the game looks the same, so I presume it plays the same, if you can get it working.
NB: there is a very serious emulation bug with Cu-On-Pa at the moment. Not too sure about Snes9x, but the latest version of Zsnes (1.36 at time of writing) is majorly not working with the game. It simply locks up a split second after you get to the menu. To get round this, use the last version of Zsnes that was good, namely 1.337 - this doesn't lock up except when you press start for the menu while playing. Avoid doing that (you'll have to reset the emulator if it does lock up) and you'll be fine.
Overall, Cu-On-Pa is an excellent puzzler, and well worth picking up if you need a break from twitch gaming. The ROM is quite rare, but a decent sized ROM site should have it.
Playing the ROM in Zsnes version 1.337